Sunday, April 28, 2013

Power with Purpose

I read an interesting stat recently. Ninety-five percent of the SUV’s produced never leave the road. They are designed for a purpose for which they are rarely, if ever used. Sadly to say many believers who have experienced the infilling of the Spirit’s power never use Him productively. They treat Him like a 4-wheel drive vehicle that is never taken off the road. They have power for a purpose they are not utilizing. In Acts 1:8 we read “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will……..” Luke continues and gives us His purpose; “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Notice I chose to leave the verse incomplete so that you can fill it in yourself.  The Spirit provides the power for us to do multiple things in our lives.  However, we choose how we will allow Him to work through us. Given the opportunity the Holy Spirit will give us the power to emulate Christ with our lives. Power to do the things He did - and greater. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (Jn. 14:12). It has been stated, "You can make it to heaven without the baptism in the Spirit. But we need that baptism to live here on earth until we get to heaven." We need Him to help us live like Jesus. But we also need Him to help us be proper witnesses. We should witness every day and on some days use words. It is only by the Spirit’s help that we find ourselves having the boldness to share quietly as well as audibly without reservation. Most importantly we need Him to help us pray. It was Paul who stated, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26). Most Christians struggle in their prayer-life. They find it really difficult spending any quality time praying. Beyond that they are at a loss knowing what to pray for and how to pray about things. Even greater is the aspect of our performing in the Spirit to the point that miraculous signs follow. Mark gives record of this privilege when he wrote, “these signs will accompany those who believe.”  You might be inclined to say, “Oh this is super-Christianity.” No, it’s just normal New Testament living. Like the four-wheel drive SUV, the Spirit has purpose.  We can keep both on the road living lives of caution, or we can venture off the path of boredom in reckless faith allowing a mighty demonstration of power. If we do we will find ourselves conquering muddy diversions, challenging hills, and aggravating obstacles. Utilizing the Holy Spirit in this way allows Him to release His power with purpose.        

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Are you Going to Minister or Ministering as You Go?

I heard a sermon some years ago that has never been forgotten. In it a professor talked about the story of the Good Samaritan.  His points reflected upon the busy schedule of the priest and Levite and their total lack of interest in helping the person who had been robbed.  He spoke of how they were most likely headed to the temple or some function to fulfill their religious duties and then asked the question, “Are you going to minister or ministering as you go?” The point he so poignantly made was that we should capitalize upon those moments when we are inconvenienced in ministry. If not we will pass many opportunities to reach out and touch someone’s life. The following story stresses this truth further. In an earlier century, there lay a large boulder in the middle of the roadway. Traveler after traveler walked past the boulder, veering off the side of the road to get around it. All the while, they were shaking their head and muttering, "Can you believe that? Someone should get that big thing out of the way. What an inconvenience!" Finally, a man came along and, seeing the boulder, took a branch from a tree and pried the boulder enough to get it rolling and rolled it off to the side of the road. Lying underneath the rock, he found a small bag with a note. The man picked up the note and read it. It read as follows: "Thank you for being a true servant of the kingdom. Many have passed this way and complained because of the state of the problem and spoken of what ought to be done. But you have taken the responsibility upon yourself to serve the kingdom instead. You are the type of citizen we need more of in this kingdom. Please accept this bag of gold that traveler after traveler have walked by simply because they didn’t care enough about the kingdom to serve." I wonder how many "bags of gold" we have missed because we were too busy trying to get to our final destination. There are those occasions when God places destiny in our paths just to see if we will take the time to receive it.  It is my prayer that we will not be so focused on the end of the road that we bypass ministry in the middle of the road. By all means go minister but be sure you minister as you go.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hope and Desperation

I read a joke recently entitled ‘The New Guy.’ It went like this: “We all need real hope. There were four ladies in a nursing home one time that were sitting there talking, and the nurse brings in a new man to the facility. He was quite dapper for an older man, and one of the ladies asked him where he had been for so long. He responded by saying he had been in prison 25-years for killing his wife. One lady perked up, smiled, and said, “So, you’re single then?” While humorous these jovial words provide great insight into the aspect of human nature.  We strive for hope therefore there are those occasions when we grasp for any sign that might just fill the void; in doing so we often violate the admonitions given to us in scripture to be patient. James declared that this little attribute can bring us to a state of perfection resulting in our wanting nothing. Luke chimed in by repeating the words of Jesus, “In your patience possess you your souls.” However, the problem with humanity is, we work in desperation trying to manufacture something that is to be a natural experience in all of us. When we engage in the acceptance of anything for the sake of something—hope, then we circumvent the hand and heart of Sovereignty. But when we do it God’s way there is that Divine exchange where He provides all that we need if we will trust Him with all that we have. This means we are willing to be patient, because patience turns desperation into hope.  We wait for the appropriate time and the specific thing that God wants to give us. Just think how many divorces could have been avoided if the husband or wife would have passed up the imprisoned has-been in order to wait for their liberated soul-mate? Think of how many successful temptations would have been rendered null and void if the individual had not toyed with false-hope; not to mention the careers, the gifts, the talents, and the lives that could have been saved. When we operate out of desperation we fracture our faith, force the future, and most of all frustrate God. We have been given the promise of hope; sometimes it comes with great ease, other times you have to be patient and just wait for it.      



Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Tomb is Empty

Sometimes the most unlikely candidate can teach us a powerful lesson. I think the following story taken from Leadership magazine says it all. “Little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday school class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about the young man and accept him as part of the group, though not fully. The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought in Legg’s pantyhose containers--the kind that looks like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion. After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one was opened whether it be a flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh. Then one was opened revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, "That’s stupid. That’s not fair. Somebody didn’t do their assignment." Philip spoke up, "That’s mine." "Philip, you don’t ever do things right!" a student retorted. "There’s nothing there!" I did so do it," Philip insisted. "I did do it. It’s empty. The tomb was empty!" Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class. He died not long afterward from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar not with flowers, but with their Sunday school teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose egg.” Truly, out of the mouth of babes comes wisdom beyond our comprehension. I have been privileged to travel to Israel on multiple occasions and to observe the various places where Jesus supposedly was buried. The site changes according to the different faith traditions. However, there is one unique thing about every tomb. They are all empty.  Little Phillip got it right “The tomb was, is, and will forever be empty.”