Category Archives: Spirituality

Truth for the New Year

eternity[This post is a little different from what I usually write at Out of the Fire, but I feel it is what the Lord is currently putting on my heart. Perhaps it will speak to some of my readers personally, or maybe you will wish to share it with people you know.]

In today’s world, it is common for people to make up their own system of spirituality. Finding God on one’s own terms has become the norm. This even goes on among some who call themselves Christians.

But there’s a problem. You can believe things of your own making, but that doesn’t make them really true, just because they sound good to you. If there is a real God (and there is), and He doesn’t agree with you, what then? Who do you think will win in this contest? Will you be able to persuade Him that your way of trying to reach Him was good enough? Hardly.

His answer to such ideas is, “I provided one way for you — one way only. I sent My Son Jesus to die for you. If you refuse Him, there is no alternate path to Me.”

If you consulted a doctor, and he flatly stated that the medicine he was going to prescribe was the only one which would cure you, what would you do? Would you decide that you had a better idea? Whose fault would it then be if you did not get well?

It’s the same with how we reach God and assure our place in heaven. One way has been provided — Jesus. If we choose to reject Him, we will eventually find out, to our everlasting grief, that we have been arrogant and deceived. This is serious business!

You may not believe in hell. But what if God says it exists? (He does.) Deciding that you don’t want to accept God’s way of deliverance from hell (Jesus is that way) means you will end up there. So much for not believing hell exists. It is hard to keep that belief while you are spending a horrible eternity there.

What’s the solution?

If you want to be accepted by God, it’s rather simple, yet it will dearly cost you at the same time. It’s simple in that all you have to do is embrace Jesus as the only One Who can reconcile you to God. It’s costly in that you must humble yourself to admit that you sin, and that you cannot make yourself good enough to please God by your own will or actions. You will have to ask Him to forgive you for all you have done which offends His purity. It’s also costly in that you must lay down your desires in deference to His. Life can no longer be lived on your terms.

Jesus said it is important to “count the cost” (Luke 14:27, 28). The short-term cost of belonging to Him is that you must be willing to stop doing whatever you please, and start letting Him lead you into His plans. The long-term cost? If you decide you don’t like that idea, there is everlasting misery and excruciating pain ahead once you leave this earth. It’s better to plan for the long-term!

If you’ve counted the cost and want the solution, here’s what you need to do:

1.) Tell God you need Jesus. Ask Him to forgive you and take you as His own. He will gladly receive you.

2.) Tell Jesus you are willing to receive Him not only as your Savior, but also as your Lord. Ask Him to guide you from now on and to help you live for Him. He will give you the grace to do that.

3.) Knowing God is not just about getting your ticket out of hell and into heaven. It doesn’t stop there. It is about having deep, ongoing relationship with Him (which is an exciting adventure!). You grow in knowing Him by praying and reading the Bible often. (The books listed below can help you a lot in getting started in your new life with God.)

4.) Connect with other people who love Jesus — through a church, Bible study, and/or home fellowship. You will need other believers to pray for you, encourage you, and help you grow in knowing the Lord. We all need supportive people in our lives.

How will you know you have found a good bunch of people to be with? They will talk a lot about Jesus and what He has done for us through the cross. They will also emphasize living out the truths found in the Bible. And they will demonstrate love for others.

5.) Tell other people that you are now a follower of Jesus and why you came to that decision, so that they will want to know Him, too.

I would enjoy hearing from you, if you have given your life to Jesus through reading this post!

Now those books I mentioned:

 

How to Pray and Read the Bible

 

 

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God

 

 

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The Season of Sifting (Part 1)

sifterSome time ago, I wrote a series meant mainly for intercessors, called Knowing Your Seasons of Prayer. Today’s post is about a more general season that any believer might go through — the season of sifting.

We can encounter a sifting season in a couple of ways. The first type involves us being sifted directly and personally. The Lord allows us to go through testings and trials to see how we will respond under pressure. He already knows what we will do, but we must still live it out experientially, or it would not be real and would not profit us in any way.

Job is the most prominent example in the Bible of this kind of sifting. In Job 1:8 and 2:3, twice we see God initiating a conversation with Satan: “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” The devil did not come up with the idea to afflict Job all on his own; God deliberately brought Job to his attention! Why did He do that? So that He could prove Job through severe testing and display him as a shining example of integrity to inspire believers throughout many centuries to come. God received glory through Job’s triumph over his troubles — but Job also received eternal honor from this episode in his life. God knows how to compensate His beloved saints for the trials they go through.

Peter was also sifted. Although he intended to do the right thing, he trusted in his own power to stay faithful to Jesus no matter what. Jesus gravely informed him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat: but I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail, and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31, 32). Unlike Job, Peter did not pass his test, yet in tender mercy, the Lord used Peter’s failure to teach him to lean upon the Lord’s grace, instead of glorying in his own integrity. The outcome was a far better Peter than ever would have existed without the test.

King Hezekiah was tested more than once by the Lord to see what he would do under pressure. In the matter of the Assyrians attacking Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:1-23), he made all the right choices. He trusted the Lord with all his might, assured the people that God would act on their behalf, and prayed the situation through until they saw an undeniably miraculous deliverance. God also supernaturally healed him of a terminal illness, in response to his prayers. But his heart became proud, and he did not give God the gratitude which was due. Although he repented and humbled himself, when Babylonian ambassadors came for a visit, “God left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (v. 31). Passing one test does not mean we have arrived and we’re done. The Christian life is a bit like a video game: succeeding at one level just means you get to do it again at a new level — with different circumstances to conquer.

When we go through a season where God either sifts us directly or uses circumstances, our own carnal appetites, or even the enemy of our souls to try us, His ultimate purpose is to refine us by driving us to the realization that we cannot manage on our own, and that our complete dependence must be placed in Him. The crux of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden was a desire to be self-sufficient and independent from God. Ever since then, the Lord has been working to bring us back into alignment with Him — and that alignment demands acknowledgement that we are helpless without Him. Whether we learn to cleave to the Lord in the midst of a trial, and thereby pass the test, or whether we fail miserably and learn dependence through the experience, the goal is the same — that we will become yielded, humble people, free of the rebellious nature, people who are transformed into the likeness of Jesus.

So that’s one type of sifting season. Next time, we’ll examine the season where we are the ones doing the sifting.

 

Being Jesus’ Friend

I’ve been thinking some new thoughts, and I’m going to share them with you in their raw form.

You know, we sometimes have pretty rigid ideas of what prayer is.  We think we have to either be repenting, worshiping, or asking for things for ourselves and others  (and thanking God for the answers).   Additionally, maybe we get the concept of listening to the Spirit so that He can guide us.  If we’re REALLY spiritual, we might even “soak” — so that we can receive really cool supernatural revelation.

But I got to thinking:  I wonder if Jesus ever wants us to just be friends with Him without having some huge purpose attached to it.  Maybe you’re thinking, “Duh!  Where has this woman been?  I’ve known this for years!”  (Well, good for you.  I’m having a higher revelation moment for me.  Can’t help it if I should have thought of this years ago.  It’s just coming now!)

What started my wheels turning was a story that James Goll told, about how for twenty years, God woke him up every night at 2:00 a.m. — not to intercede, not to worship, not even to receive prophetic revelation.  He just wanted Mr. Goll to “watch” with Him.  So he got out of bed, every night, and sat in his favorite chair for a short time just to do that — watch with Him, be with Him.  For twenty years.  Mr. Goll didn’t do or say anything during those nightly visits.  As I understand it, he didn’t receive momentous revelatory information, either.  He was just being with Jesus.

I got to thinking about how common it is for people who are in ministry to only have friendships that are all about ministry.  If they’re not pouring into someone they want to bring up higher in the Lord, they are intent on useful connections to bring themselves up higher.  Probably due to being too busy too much of the time and having so many people wanting something from them continuously, they don’t have a mindset of nurturing  friendships with people who do not have an obvious purpose in the scheme of ministry as they see it.

And I began to wonder if I’ve been like that with the Lord way too much — spending my time with Him for all the clearly purposeful stuff, like  intercession and much-needed revelation — guidance for my life, what to teach, how to pray.  But then there have been the times I have said, “Tell me what’s on Your heart, Lord,” because I know that listening to Him is … well … ministering to Him (there we go with that purposeful stuff again!).

Now, I understand that all of the above types of prayer are aspects of being God’s friend.  And the last part — listening to know His heart, just because I love Him — that’s starting to sound like really intimate friendship, isn’t it.

But I think there is something more yet that He would like.  Real friends spend time with each other without having to see an obvious accomplishment coming out of the time spent.  That is a hard concept for purpose-filled people to get hold of.

In Gethsemane, Jesus took his three closest friends aside with Him and said, “Watch with Me.”  A little later, finding them asleep, He asked them, “Could you not watch with Me one hour?”  Yes, He added that they should watch and pray so that they would not succumb to temptation.  And most of the time this passage (Matthew 26:37-41) is used to exhort us to pray diligently for a minimum of one hour a day, once again, to get a job done.  Whole books have been written on that subject.

But there is something about that word “watch” that keeps pulling at me.  And something about real friendship with Jesus being entirely about time with Him without having to have any purpose at all, just because we love each other.

Thanking My Way to Gladness

Today,  I want to share with you a personal truth that I have been learning — the power of thanksgiving.

Although having a grateful heart toward the Lord has been part of who I am for a long time, recently I’ve come to understand thankfulness at a whole new level.

It started with taking hold in a deeper way for healings that I needed and that I just didn’t seem to be making any headway toward receiving.  I already understood the principles of receiving healing:

1.)  It is the Lord’s desire for us to be  healed (Psalm 103:3).
2.)  Jesus paid the full price for our healing through the cross and the scourging leading up to the cross.  (“With His stripes we are healed.” — Isaiah 53:5)
3.)  Our healing (along with many other things) was fully accomplished at the cross.  That’s why Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 
4.)  We can ask the Lord for healing in Jesus’ Name and then appropriate (receive) it by simply believing it is already done for us (Mark 11:24).  

However, what I hadn’t ever quite gotten hold of as well as I should was that I could just rest in Jesus’ finished work of healing for me and thank Him that it was a done deal — even if the symptoms did still persist for a while — and the health problems would clear up.

I read Joseph Prince’s books, Destined to Reign and Unmerited Favor, learned a whole lot more about grace and the finished work of Jesus than I’d ever known before,  and began to catch hold of what it is to dwell in the rest of God — and to be thankful in the midst of that rest, knowing that the work has  already been done on my behalf. 

After a while, I noticed something else about thanking God: it does something to the inner man.  I began to feel supernatural faith arise inside for whatever healing I needed.  In fact, as I persisted in thanking God that Jesus had already done it for me, I found myself really settling down deep into that faith.  I really believed I was healed.

And as I thanked God, my heart became joyful — and peaceful too.  I found that my thoughts were focusing on Jesus instead of the health issue.  It is about coming into the abiding place that Jesus talked about in John 15 — including that wonderful promise in verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done for you.”   And here is the best part of all: I found that thanking the Lord led me into a deeper love for Him, and that as I thanked Him from my heart His Presence gathered around me.

I’m now expanding what I’ve learned about thanking God for the answer to other things besides healing.  There are many things Jesus purchased for us at the cross, and the “ask, rest, and be thankful” principle can be applied to those as well.  Whatever the need, Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be care-filled about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  When we do that, “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

When circumstances appear overwhelming and prayer about them feels like it isn’t getting through, when I begin thanking the Lord aloud that He has heard me and is already pouring out the answer, I get real happy in a hurry.  Anxiety just can’t hang around.  Neither can the temptation to doubt.  Faith and joy bubble up inside, and Isaiah 12:3 becomes tangible reality: “Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.”

Thanksgiving: Gateway to Answered Prayer

The Nature of God: The King of Kings

The Son

We see that the three Persons of the Godhead love and honor one another: Jesus honored the Holy Spirit by warning that blaspheming Him would not be forgiven (Matthew 12:31, 32), both the Father and the Holy Spirit honored Jesus by showing up at His baptism (Matthew 3:16, 17), and Jesus continuously glorified His Father by doing and speaking only what His Father instructed (John 8:28, 29).

As it was Jesus’ greatest pleasure to glorify His Father while here on earth, even so, it is the Father’s greatest pleasure to glorify His Son.  Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3)– the highest place of honor that is possible in heaven.  Hundreds of years before the incarnation (the point in time when Jesus became man), King David prophesied of Him, “The LORD said to my Lord [Jesus], ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool'” (Psalm 110:1).

He is seated there as both fully God and fully man.  He has a glorified human body, which still bears the nail and spear scars, the marks of His crucifixion (John 20:24-27) — a forever testimony to His selfless love for mankind.  A new thing took place when God the Son walked the earth in human flesh, and now a new thing has also taken place in heaven, where the Son of man retains His humanity while at the same time exercising His full function within the Godhead, which is to rule and reign over the universe.  He is the “firstborn among many sons” (Romans 8:29), for He has paved the way so that we will one day also walk heaven’s halls in glorified bodies.

In heaven, God the Son has been honored with all reverence from eternity, but in ways which we cannot fully understand, He now receives still greater honor and glory than the limitless glory which was already His. Philippians 2:8 tells us that this greater glory is due to His humbling of Himself in becoming a man and His obedience to the Father in enduring the cross, “Wherefore God [the Father] also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Jesus bears the formal title of KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16), He holds all power in both heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), and at this time He is preparing for the day when all things will be put in subjection to Him, and even His enemies will acknowledge His Lordship with complete obeisance.

In 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, we are told that in the end of time, a shift in absolute Lordship from the Son to the Father will take place.  Christ will hand over the Kingdom to His Father, after He has subdued and abolished all opposing dominions and powers.  Before the Kingdom is transferred, He must finish the task of utterly conquering his enemies, including death, the final enemy. In essence, this was already a finished work at the time of His triumph at the cross and His subsequent resurrection. He already holds the keys of death and hell (Revelation 1:18). But here we are talking about the mop-up operation — enforcing His victory by ensuring that all rebellion will cease.  “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him [the Father] who put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

What will Jesus be doing after He has handed over the Kingdom to His Father? We may have a hint, in Revelation 21.  This is the era of the Bridegroom fully enjoying His union with His bride, the Church.  Verse 4 tells us He will wipe away all her tears.  Verse 3 says that “the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, … and God himself shall be with them ….”  We will fully know Him as Immanuel, “God with us.”

The Nature of God Index    
Previous: The Restorer
Next: The Breath 

Excerpted from Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God — available in print from Full Gospel Family Publications and Amazon and in e-book form from many fine ebook sellers.

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The Nature of God: The Restorer

The Son

Jesus the Son is the Restorer of all things.  We talked in an earlier post about Him being the “last Adam,” a man without the sin nature, Who, unlike the first Adam, retained His purity throughout life, never once doing anything that displeased His heavenly Father.  By His victorious life, atoning death on the cross, and triumph over the grave, He restored back to man dominion over the terrestrial realm, which the first Adam had abdicated through his rebellion against God.

How do we know He has restored man’s original position?  That is a lengthy topic in itself, but the short answer is this: Jesus said to his disciples after His resurrection, “All authority is given to me in heaven and in earth.  Go, therefore …” (Matthew 28:18, 19).  Before the cross, He had promised, “I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).  He did not give them this wholesale “whatsoever” authority to bind and release then.  He said, “I will give you ….”  But once he held all authority because of His triumph over sin, death, and hell, he delegated to us his authority in the earth realm.  The last Adam restored what had been abdicated by the first Adam.

While on earth, Jesus demonstrated His role as Restorer through healing, delivering people from demons, raising the dead, and bringing people out of sin and into transformed lives.  He has commissioned us to join with Him in His restorative work: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, now freely give” (Matthew 10:8) and, “He who believes on me, the works that I do he shall do as well; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to be with my Father” (John 14:12).

The Son’s role as Restorer is a progressive work.  Although at the cross, He declared the full victory, “It is finished” (John 19:30), we do not yet see the restoration in its completeness. Hebrews 2:8 tells us God the Father “has put all things in subjection under his feet. For in putting all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.”  Paul also mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:24-27 the progressive nature of the restoration: “Then shall the end come … when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. For he must reign, until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he has put all things under his feet….” 

The full restoration will be revealed when Jesus returns to earth as the conquering King.  Peter mentioned a coming day “when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.  And he shall send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21).

We eagerly anticipate that day, and say with the Apostle John,  “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

The Nature of God Index
Previous: Jesus the Intercessor
Next: King of Kings 

Excerpted from Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God — available in print from Full Gospel Family Publications and Amazon and in e-book form from many fine ebook sellers.

BeforeWhomWeStandsm

The Nature of God: Jesus the Intercessor

The Son

While on earth, Jesus was involved in intercessory prayer.  He told Peter, “Satan has desired to have you, so that he may sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail” (Luke 22:31).  John 17 records Jesus’ prayer, right before His suffering and death, for his disciples and all the believers who would ever come after.  Jesus taught his followers at length about intercession from the position of being an intercessor Himself.  Even in His death, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

That was then, this is now: Jesus, in His present state of glory, continues in His role of intercessor: “He is able also to save them to the uttermost who come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus the Son is in heaven today as our Advocate, actively petitioning the Father on our behalf.

Romans 8:34 mentions His position as well: “… It is Christ who died, or rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”  Hidden in those words, “It is Christ who died … who is risen … who makes intercession” is a significant concept, if we will pay attention.  Picture Jesus, seated in the highest place, a place of the greatest intimacy, right next to His Father.  He still bears the crucifixion scars in His hands and feet, as a forever-reminder of the redemption He has purchased for us.  Not only do Jesus’ words intercede for us, but His scars and His blood forever intercede for us. 

Jesus sees our needs, weaknesses, discouragements, temptations, and heartfelt desires, and He pleads on our behalf.  All that He asks for us is already completely in line with what God the Father is eager to do, and yet it is not accomplished until He requests it on our behalf.  Intercession is a mystery.  It would seem that nothing is enacted without it.

We have been given the awesome privilege of participating with Jesus in His perpetual role of intercessor.  When we intercede on behalf of another person, a city, a region, or a cause, we are partnering with Him in what He is already doing.  Assuming that we are praying biblically, according to God’s will, we are adding our agreeing “amen” to what Jesus is already asking the Father for — which is also what Father desires to give.

 Corporate gatherings for prayer are important to Jesus — so important that He desires to participate in them.  This is why He said in Matthew 18:19, 20, “Again I say to you, if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  (Many is the time in our own prayer gatherings when one of us has, in a vision, seen Jesus enter the room.)  If Jesus thinks gathering together with others for prayer is important, we should likewise make it a priority in our lives.

The Nature of God Index
Previous: Jesus the Healer   
Next: The Restorer 

Excerpted from Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God — available in print from Full Gospel Family Publications and Amazon and in e-book form from many fine ebook sellers.

BeforeWhomWeStandsm