The Supernatural Gospel

Peter Larson makes one of my favorite quotes about Jesus: “Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: “a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb”. Jesus entered our world through a door marked,”No Entrance” and left through a door marked “No Exit.”

The relevance of the Christian message relies wholly upon natural impossibilities: the Holy Spirit’s impregnation of Mary, the birth of Jesus, His history altering death, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven. The gospel is meaningless separated from the supernatural power and activity of God. Once Jesus ascended He promised that the Holy Spirit would come to us in a power experiencing way: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…(Acts 1:8). Interestingly, when the disciples of Jesus asked Him for wisdom in verse 6 (‘Lord will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel’) Wisdom Incarnate explained that what they needed was power! That word is actually ‘dunamis’ defined as ‘miraculous power, usually by implication, a miracle itself’. From it we get the English words, ‘dynamite’, ‘dynamic’, and ‘dynamo’, all words that describe aspects of power.

Jesus Himself and the writers of the New Testament emphasized the importance of the power of God. Jesus said in Mark 12:24 (NET translation), “Aren’t you deceived for this reason, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God?” Some translate the word deceived as ‘mistaken’ or ‘do err’, but the essence is that because you do not know both the scriptures and ‘the supernatural power of God’ you have ‘gone astray’, ‘wandered from the truth’, or ‘have been seduced’. Many emphasize the importance of the scripture as the sole means of being orthodox. Other emphasize the power of God as being essential. Jesus said that both are!

Consider well the words of Paul the apostle: “but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:24-25). When the real Jesus is preached, encountered, and believed in both wisdom and power must be in attendance.

In our generation some will try to seduce us with human wisdom, concluding and expounding falsely that the miraculous power of God is no longer available. That kind of wisdom is not wisdom at all: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Our very faith must be rooted in the very power of God!

Consider also the strong warning Paul gave us for our times: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The kind of power the gospel offers not only heals people, it changes them and enables them to live supernatural and exemplary lives. We must be those that embrace that kind of gospel.

If you don’t have power, find out why. Its not wrong to expect it. Its not wrong to believe in it and for it. Its wrong not to have it. We won’t get the job done without it. Don’t settle for a sub-par, watered down, false-wisdom based message or life style! Its not the gospel!

Naming Simon bar Jonah

The New Testament identifies Simon Bar Jonah as Peter the majority of times he is mentioned in the text. Jesus only did so four times; once when He first met Peter, again when He revealed Peter's high purpose, and a third time when He warned him of his impending failure. Every other time Jesus called him Simon or Simon bar Jonah. I find the DNA of God's kindness and mercy embedded in the times Jesus chose to address his beloved friend as Peter. The first time the two of them met, Jesus gave him a new name, an inkling from the very genesis of their relationship that Simon did not yet truly know who he was. The second time Jesus called him Peter He revealed Simon's true identity; a rock worthy of helping to sustain a new kingdom that would eventually rule the world. The third time Jesus addressed him as Peter when He sternly warned him that before dawn he would deny Him with oaths and cursing. That failure could have destroyed him. Jesus used the name Peter then to remind him of his true identity and calling, and that though his failure was imminent so too was his high calling.

A fourth and strategic time Jesus referred to Simon as Peter. After he denied the Lord and Jesus was crucified and resurrected a man in sparkling robes sitting outside the empty tomb relayed this message to the ladies who came there,  "But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you" (Mark 16:7). Jesus used the name Peter to remind the fallen apostle of his high calling. Jesus was not through with His beloved fisherman. When He first warned Peter of his denial He also said, "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:32).

I am sure Peter didn't understand all that as it happened but I bet it made a lot of sense to him later as he struggled with his calling and his failure. Jesus promised all of us that He would never leave us nor forsake us. He was with Peter the whole way in more ways than he could readily understand. Take heart. He is with us as well.

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The Processes of the Lord Part 2: Bridging the Gap

Upon the heels of many encouraging promises from the Lord the opposite begins to happen. Have you ever noticed that?  It isn't just that way for us. We are in good company. In scripture we see in the life of the nation of Israel that between their promise and promised land lay the Sinai wilderness. We see in the life of Joseph a 22 year period of testing between his dreams and their fulfillment. One day Joseph sees everyone bowing down to him. The next day he is being brought down to Egypt sold as a slave. One day John baptizes Jesus in water. Jesus and others hear the audible voice of His father affirm His love. The Holy Spirit literally fills Him. Everyone sees the sign of the literal dove light upon Him. Then He is 'driven' into the wilderness to be tempted. Why is there this 'gap' between the promise and fulfillment? It can be quite discouraging, particularly to one who doesn't understand this aspect of spiritual development. We can begin to wonder if we have done something wrong or not done something right. We can doubt that we heard correctly from the Lord. Even worse, we can succumb to the  temptation to doubt the Lord's goodness towards us.

The difficult time between the promise and the fulfillment is the goodness of the Lord! Its the opportunity God provides for us to develop sufficient faith to obtain and maintain the promise. He really wants us to benefit from His kindness. The Proverbs tell us that "An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning will not be blessed at the end" (Proverbs 20:21). Some have gotten inheritances who didn't have the faith and character to keep them. It is sort of like the poor folks who win the multi-million $ lottery. In a few years they are living in the trailer park again in worse shape than before they won it. The gap between the promise and the fulfillment must be bridged by a new more substantial level of faith and character or one will not be able to successfully stand in the new higher place of blessing.

It's time to build the level of faith and character that will bridge the gap between the promise and its fulfillment.

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Life Without Regret

A dear lady named Ms. Bronnie Ware worked for years with the dying and compiled a list of the top 5 regrets people told her on their deathbeds. I have heard that the important things of life often become crystal clear when death is imminent. If these are the things that are important to people when their lives are quickly coming to a close could we not take note now, adjust our priorities, and die without regret? 1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Who Do Men Say That I Am -Pt. 2

I am intrigued by what men from different periods of history have had to say about Jesus. Here are a few more. Sir Lionel Luckhoo is considered by Guinness book of world records to be one of the worlds most successful trial lawyers. He won a world record 245 murder acquittals in a row. As such Sir Lionel is well versed in the appreciation and understanding of the conclusiveness of evidence. He stated: “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

“Jewish authors would never have invented either that style or that morality; and the Gospel has marks of truth so great, so striking, so utterly inimitable, that the invention of it would be more astonishing than the hero. Shall we suppose that the evangelical history is a mere fiction? Indeed it bears no marks of fiction; on the contrary, the history of Socrates, which no one presumes to doubt, is not so well attested to as that of Jesus Christ.” Jean Jacques Rousseau

"I have always been impressed by the fact that God is happy - and that this ineffable and continuous joy lived in the soul of Christ. Joy is for me a transport, a state of drunkenness in the 'maddest' sense of the term." Olivier Messiaen

"I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history." -H.G. Wells

"Jesus promised His disciples three things: that they would be entirely fearless, absurdly happy, and that they would get into trouble." -W. Russell Maltby

Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair. -Blaise Pascal

"God may thunder His commands from Mount Sinai and men may fear, yet remain at heart exactly as they were before. But let a man once see his God down in the arena as a Man--suffering, tempted, sweating, and agonized, finally dying a criminal's death--and he is a hard man indeed who is untouched". -J.B. Phillips

"For thirty five years of my life I was, in the proper acceptation of the word, nihilist, a man who believed in nothing. Five years ago my faith came to me. I believed in the doctrine of Jesus Christ and my whole life underwent a sudden transformation. Life and death ceased to be evil. Instead of despair, I tasted joy and happiness that death could not take away.” — Leo Tolstoy

And finally:

A one-time atheist, Lew Wallace was a military general and literary genius, who along with Robert Ingersoll agreed together they would write a book that would forever destroy the myth of Christianity. Mr. Wallace studied for two years in the leading libraries of Europe and America for information to destroy Christianity. While writing the second chapter of his book, he suddenly found himself on his knees, crying out, “My Lord and my God.” The evidence was overwhelmingly conclusive.

“After six years given to the impartial investigation of Christianity as to its truth or falsity, I have come to the deliberate conclusion that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of the Jews, the Savior of the world and my own personal Redeemer.” — General Lew Wallace

 

What do you say about Him?

 

Who Do Men Say That I Am Pt. 1

Jesus Himself once asked His disciples 'Who do men say that I am?'. There is no more significant question than this one. An accurate, heart felt, faith-filled, revelation based answer insures eternal life. Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'. Upon that revelational rock the Lord built and continues building His church, His earthly governmental called out ones empowered with the keys of the kingdom, of which the gates of hell will not prevail.

Some of the great men of history, as well as some lesser known men and even unidentified ones have made remarkable observations about Jesus of Nazareth. Albert Einstein, old 'E=MC squared' himself said:

"As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."

'No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus'. Albert's words sound like he may have truly known the 'luminous figure of the Nazarene'! However, by his own admission Einstein did not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God in the sense that one would who had saving faith, but could not but recognize the uniqueness of His person. Complicated huh? Such was Albert Einstein. From interviews and reports Einstein did not believe in a personal God, (to simplify: couldn't get by the reality of evil being in the world a personal God would create).

Napoleon Bonaparte bounded through history as few men ever have. Born on the Island of Corsica a year after France absorbed it from Italy, Napoleon attended religious and military school in France where he trained as an artillery officer. Through courage, guile, political savvy, opportunism, luck, and political savvy, he became Emperor of France and involved every nation in Europe in major wars in his 51 short years. Here's what he said about Jesus:

"I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."

Napoleon identified Jesus as 'no mere man' who built 'His empire on love' for whom 'this hour millions of men would die'!

Peter Larson makes one of my all-time favorite statements about Jesus:

"Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: "a virgin's womb and an empty tomb". Jesus entered our world through a door marked,"No Entrance" and left through a door marked "No Exit."

 Over the years some people with whom I have discussed the divinity and claims of Jesus have admitted that He is a brilliant historic figure but won't accept His claims of being the Son of God. Of this conclusion C.S. Lewis remarked:

           

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: Im ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I dont accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Sholem Asch commented much in the same vein as Lewis:

"Jesus Christ is to me the outstanding personality of all time, all history, both as Son of God and as Son of Man. Everything he ever said or did has value for us today and that is something you can say of no other man, dead or alive. There is no easy middle ground to stroll upon. You either accept Jesus or reject him."

 

John Knox the great reformer said:

 "No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world which Jesus holds. Other gods have been as devoutly worshipped; no other man has been so devoutly loved."

From unknown sources we find:

"Buddha never claimed to be God. Moses never claimed to be Jehovah. Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Yet Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God. Buddha simply said, "I am a teacher in search of the truth." Jesus said, "I am the Truth." Confucius said, "I never claimed to be holy." Jesus said, "Who convicts me of sin?" Mohammed said, "Unless God throws his cloak of mercy over me, I have no hope." Jesus said, "Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins."

Simon Peter said of Him: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". We need to know Him.

The Processes of the Lord

(You may be going through a season you don't understand. I know a lot of folks are. This may help you!) Leviticus chapter 8:5-13 describes a very clear process that the Lord uses to prepare His servants. Four successive and progressive steps are involved: stripping, washing, clothing, and then anointing. Each step in this process is important and can not be avoided if we are to be truly effective in representing and serving the Lord. One problematic aspect of this process is that it often happens, not in a cave somewhere but in the plain view of many others. In this short note I will address the first aspect of the process.

                “And Moses said unto the congregation, This is the thing which the LORD commanded to be done.And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water. And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith. And he put the breastplate upon him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim. And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the LORD commanded Moses. And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them. And he sprinkled thereof upon the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all his vessels, both the laver and his foot, to sanctify them. And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him. And Moses brought Aaron’s sons, and put coats upon them, and girded them with girdles, and put bonnets upon them; as the LORD commanded Moses."

Stripping

 Prior to Aaron’s washing, Moses was instructed to invite the entire nation to appear at the door of the tabernacle of meeting as witnesses of the stripping, washing, clothing, and anointing of Aaron and his sons. This event was entirely public. Some believe that Aaron was literally stripped while others believe that the act was symbolic. The text does not explicitly determine that he was stripped but does say that Moses washed him before he clothed him with the priestly garments.

It is difficult for me to conclude that Aaron was washed fully clothed and then clothed again with the priestly garments. Moses also preceded his actions with this comment: “This is what the LORD commanded to be done.” I also would preface such an action with this command of the Lord. Wouldn’t you?

Being stripped publicly is humiliating. No one wants to have his weaknesses openly displayed. Yet many in ministry go through periods of time when they feelnaked and barren. In a real way they are. The stripping process is the purpose of the Lord and is intended to do at least five different things in each of us;

1) bring us to a new place of dependence upon God, 2) deal with our pride, 3) show us how every man feels, 4) reveal unhealed wounds, 5) identify us as true children of God.

Becoming Dependent

 One of the purposes for stripping is to make us more dependent upon theLord. In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve failed the dependence test. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil empowered them to express independence from God. Both the act of disobedience and the fruit of the tree separated them from Him. No longer did they need to confer with the Lord about situations that arose. Now they possessed an inner source to aid them in determining what was good, but how good could it be if God forbade them to have it? Satan promised them that the tree would enable them to become gods, inferring that the Lord had withheld something from them that He should have given them. The original children of God took that bait and we have been doing the same ever since. We must return to a place of absolute dependence upon the Lord. We discover our need for consistent grace from Him when we are stripped and also find ways to lean upon Him during those painful yet precious times. During times of vulnerability, we determine whether we are going to look to Him for His covering or, like Adam and Eve, provide a substitute of our own.

Humbling Ourselves

 Times of being barren provide opportunities for us to choose God, to admit our need for Him, and receive His grace. The hardness of our hearts and the natural inclination towards covering ourselves keep us from being fully restored to the Lord and thus become more effective in ministering to His people. God does not forgive our excuses but our sins. It is important for us to be honest with ourselves and the Lord. This process effects humility and positions to receive His grace for our need, and find the place where we live to God -not to men.

I once read that humility is not thinking less of ourselves as much as it is thinking of ourselves less. The stripping process positions us to be cleansed, healed, and clothed to enable us to do just that.

Becoming Compassionate

 According to Isaiah 53:3 Jesus was “...a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He was able to understand the plight of man, having become one with our basic limitations and temptations. Other scripture also reveals this aspect of Christ’s humanity:

            “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

           “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Jesus was a merciful High Priest because He had been made like His brethren. He can sympathize with our weaknesses because of the process of temptation He endured. Temptation is not real unless one feels the strength of it is or the reality of its weakness. He sat where we sat. He walked in our shoes. The stripping process we experience helps us to identify with lives of the common man. Compassion can come from knowing the depths of our own personal needs and allowing the experience to help us identify with others who also suffer.

Unhealed Wounds

Another purpose for the stripping process is to enable us to clearly identify unhealed wounds that are festering under the surface. These wounds can disqualify us from ministry. When we minister from a place of wounding we can easily misrepresent the Lord to others. It is clear from the Levitical requirements that scabs disqualified priests from ministry. Scabs speak of the wounds that are not healed. For many, during barren times we are faced with incomplete personal issues that can rise to bite us, and ultimately destroy us and others. Therefore the Lord often uses this season of stripping to help identify areas that need to be addressed. Many times we are blind to our needs, but as we see these unhealed areas in our lives, we can give them to the Lord and be restored.

Confirming Our Place in His Family

 The book of Hebrews has some very troubling scriptures in it, troubling that is until we are in a place to see them and appreciate them accurately.

            “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (Hebrews 12:5-8).

 The writer of Hebrews confirms a very important truth; chastening and scourging from the Lord are essential and are one way He acknowledges us as His children. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” The word receives may also be translated ‘delight’, ‘accept near’, or ‘to acknowledge as one’. His chastening and scourging come from His love and prove that we are His. Rather than being discouraged we should take heart that He is disciplining us as His own.

The writer continues:

            “For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10-11).

Being stripped can be quite fruitful. If we respond well it can be a method God uses to impart to us His holiness. If we allow Him to train us in this particular way, it will produce in us His true peace as fruits of righteousness. Such is the benefit of the stripping of the Lord.

Conclusion

 The process of being stripped is but the first and most difficult part of the process in the life of those who are called to stand for Him. As much as we might hope, this does not only happen once, but is an ongoing aspect of our experience in God. Years ago I heard this statement from a dear friend of mine.

            “Each time Joseph advanced in his spiritual experience it was at the expense of his clothing”!

 Joseph’s spiritual journey began when his jealous and hate filled brothers stripped him of his coat of many colors. After being sold into slavery his owner’s wife forced him to flee from her sexual advances, leaving his garment in the her hands. Her false accusations put him in prison.

In prison Joseph accurately interpreted several dreams ultimately bringing him to the attention of the ruler of Egypt. Before Joseph could approach Pharoah he, compelled by propriety and custom, changed his clothes once more. When Pharoah made Joseph second in command in all of Egypt he put a ring on his hand, a gold chain around his neck and, yes, once again made him change his clothes, giving him garments of fine linen. Joseph became so accustomed to this process that before he died he determined to exchange a tomb embedded in the clothing of Egyptian soil for one he yearned for in his own homeland.

            “Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and you shall carry my bones from hence” (Genesis 50:25).

 Right up to the end of his life, and even beyond, Joseph submitted to this process. He did not want to remain clothed with Egyptian soil. Some have surmised of him that he foresaw the resurrection of Jesus and wanted to be buried near Jerusalem for that remarkable event. If that is true he could have once again changed clothes, this time trading the garment of flesh for a resurrection body as recorded in Matthew 27:52-53:

           “and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”

 I can hear Joseph now, testifying as he walked through the streets of Jerusalem with some of the historic patriarchs of Israel: “Look at what the Lord has done. Is it not marvelous in your eyes!”

The ongoing stripping of Joseph’s typified his spiritual progress. Our progress will come the same way. Paul exhorted the Ephesian saints in this manner;

            “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22).

 And to the church in Rome Paul encourages them to clothe themselves with the Lord:

                        “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the             flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

I once read that humility is not 'thinking less of yourself' but 'thinking of yourself less'. We are called to put on, not ourselves, but the Lord Jesus Christ. We have deliverance in looking to Him, not in looking at ourselves to somehow fix ourselves.

The Lord Himself endured public humiliation as part of His cross. Know that this process is an experiential aspect of the cross that we are encouraged to bear on a daily basis.

            “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him” (Matthew 27:27-28).

                        “Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:

             “They divided My garments among them and for My clothing they cast lots” (Matthew 27:35)

 Jesus Christ was altogether perfect and yet he endured just such treatment. Shall we escape the same. If we are to walk in the power of His resurrection shall we not also participate with Him in the fellowship of His sufferings? Paul prayed for just such reality in his own life:

            “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

 It is important to understand that this process is part of our walk with the Lord so that we will not respond poorly in the midst of His on-going preparation and dealing. The statement Moses made, “This is what the LORD commanded to be done” (Leviticus 8:5), was not just a disclaimer to comfort and justify him as he obeyed the Lord in a very difficult situation. It was a prophetic statement that continues to ring down through the ages, penetrating and challenging the hearts of servants of the Lord in each proceeding generation. This process of stripping, washing, clothing, and anointing will be our experience on a continual seasonal basis.

Two mountain climbers, one ascending, another descending. The one who had yet to reach the summit inquired of the climber who was returning from the summit:

“Is the climb steep” he questioned?

“Yes”, came the response, “all the way to the top.”

Some aspects of this life with the Lord will always be a challenge. Knowing and walking with Him will be a continual life of climbing. But our climb will be and must be with Him, all the way to the top.

Finding Your Identity

Simon, son of Jonah thought he was a fisherman. Like Andrew, his brother that is what he was told. He was expected to follow the way of life his family had known for generations. His forefathers raised the sails and cast the nets to make their livings. He grew up in Bethsaida and lived in Capernaum, two cities located near the Sea of Galilee. He partnered with cousins James and John, the sons of his uncle Zebedee. This trade marked his body and formed his physique. Hauling nets and cleaning fish made his hands rough and his back and shoulders broad. For years, six days each week he cast his nets into the sea dragging them into his boat. He lived in a family of fisherman in a culture and society dominated and identified by two things, fishing and their love for the God of Israel. Simon, son of Jonah was not a fisherman, at least not the kind society told him he was. He was a world changer, a foundational pillar of a holy new society with whom the Lord Jesus would construct a spiritual society that would change the entire course of human history. One of the foundations of the new Jerusalem would bear his name. He would call into awesome destiny the nations of the earth and help establish a whole new order of people. His life would be marked by the life of Jesus of Nazareth and he would die a similar cruel and painful death. How could catching fish ever compare to his true calling?

Jesus gave him a new and different name, Cephas, meaning rock or stone. We know him as Peter, one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Why did Jesus give him that name? Because, until he met Jesus, Simon, son of Jonah did not know who he was. None of us do until we know who Jesus is and until He tells us who we are! It's the responsibility and privilege of parents to name their children but only heaven can accurately identify you. Family and friends, society and culture, habit and relational imposition all try to 'name' us, but only heaven can do so accurately.

Much of life involves the discovery and process of realizing who He says we are. Even after meeting Jesus and having Him give him a new name Peter wavered and failed. That is not unusual. Each of us must learn how to walk in what He shows us. We never stop needing heavens input.

Who you are and what you are called to do are closely connected, but they are two different things. They must be separate in our minds. You are not your assignment, but until you know who you are you are not likely to know what you have been assigned to do. Until you know who you are you will be tempted with identity crises whenever your assignment changes, and change it will from season to season.

Who are you? Let Jesus tell you and let Him walk you through it to the end. You are much more than you think you are.

Power of Thanksgiving

Spiritual filled people function differently than the rest of the world. Paul the apostle was one of them. He hinted several times as to how he lived in a constant state of victory: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you". (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) And, "...giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ..." (Ephesians 5:20). Notice ...in everything, for everything, give thanks!

For a number of years I wondered how anyone could pray without ceasing and always rejoice. Is it that you pray in tongues under your breath all the time? That may be part of it, but I feel the truth lies somewhere else even simpler. Its by being thankful. Thanksgiving is the practical outworking of the exhortation to rejoice always and offer unceasing prayer to God.

Thanksgiving is not just an action, it is a state of being: "That we who first trusted in Christ should 'be' to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12).

Some find it hard to give thanks in everything but eventually find a way to do it. Many have great conflict in thanking God for everything. 'Why would I thank God for evil people, bad circumstances, crooked politicians...et al?' First of all, because Paul said to, and secondly, because the power of thanksgiving doesn't lie within that for which we are thankful. It lies within itself. Thanksgiving contains redemptive and creative powers. At the very least it will transform you. At times it will even change your circumstances. Its power lies within the practice, not the object.

Prior to takeoff but after settling down in my seat on an airplane, I picked up my backpack from under the seat in front of me and searched for my iPad. I couldn't find it and began to feel that sick sense one gets when you lose something of value. I thought I must have left it at security when I sent my electronics through the x-ray machine. I became frustrated, anxious about it, and began to complain. I was on a ministry trip and my messages were on the iPad. As I complained the Lord reminded me to be thankful that I had lost it. That challenged me, because I was not thankful. Against all reason and personal feeling I began to thank Him that I had lost my iPad. I also called my wife before we took off and asked her to call airport security to see if it had been turned in. As I did, a person in the row behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if the iPad she had found on the floor was mine. Maybe I would have found it later. The person who found it could have kept it. Who knows? I believe my act of thanksgiving was the key to its return.

Thanksgiving is not just an aspect of the will of God. It is the will of God. Without it we will not become all He has called us to be and we will not find our ultimate fulfillment in Him.

 

I.D. -How to Get Yours.

After our Queen City Church meeting some college students interviewed me concerning the idea of personal identity. After answering their questions I began to think about how folks get their identities and how I've gotten mine. As you can see from the photo we meet in the old Visulite Movie Theater in downtown Charlotte, NC, renting it each Sunday night. The theater has been converted into a band venue/bar which may be rented by traveling bands and acts of other ilk when they come through our neck of the woods. The theater advertises our weekly meeting on their marquee. This particular week we were sandwiched between 'Big Mama's Burlesque', and 'The Band of Heathens'. I don't know anything about the 'Band of Heathens' although that's a pretty good description of most of the folks who attend QCC, at least before they met Jesus. I have heard that 'Big Momma's Burlesque' is  a group of strippers whose specialty is balloon dancing. The less any of us know about that the better. I only know that because the owner told me about them a while back. Bill Johnson told me that he pastored a church that met in a working cinema years ago. Once his church was advertised on their marquee just above the movie 'The God's Must be Crazy'. (He got a lot of interesting comments about that!.) It still doesn't beat our listing. One place I don't get my identity from is where we meet. It comes another way. None of us should get our identities from the external world, what we do, what people say about us, what we have, or what we've done or not done, what we look like or wished we looked like, or any of the many ways we may try to answer that all too significant question.

When asked by the young interviewers "Robin, where do you get your identity", I quickly answered, 'from being loved by Jesus.' I told them that like the apostle John, who described himself as 'the disciple whom Jesus loves', I too am the disciple whom Jesus loves. Turns out I am his favorite person. You may find that hard to believe, but its true. As I was waking up years ago the Lord once whispered to me, "Each of My children is My own personal favorite". His response captured my attention. His next comment gripped me as well; "but most don't believe it". I do believe it. You should believe that about yourself too.  That's who you are. It will change your life.