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Archive for March, 2015

Joy and happiness are not the same.  Happiness is the light-hearted feeling we get when something goes our way.  An unexpected gift, our sports team winning, loved ones gathering together are all events that can produce happiness.  However happiness is transient.  When the positive stimuli is removed happiness drains away like water from a tub when the stopper is removed.  Happiness is based upon circumstances.  Therefore it ebbs and flows as our circumstances change.  Happiness is nice, but joy is so much better.

Joy is the uplifted feeling we have based upon the knowledge of spiritual truth.  Joy is first cousin to Peace.  They both emanate from a relationship with the living Lord and are responses to His promises and activity in our life.  Let’s follow the progression.  In John 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed in Him Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  In John 20:19 – 22 Jesus returned to the disciples immediately after His resurrection. He twice blessed them with His Peace and then breathed upon them imparting the Holy Spirit to them.  They were prepared to experience the Joy of the Lord in an on-going manner.  We have only to look at what happened a few weeks later at Pentecost (Acts 2) to see how the Lord poured out His Holy Spirit in a mighty, joy-filled torrent that stirred the city of Jerusalem and brought thousands into the church with one inspired teaching.

One way Joy is distinctly different from happiness is that it is independent of our circumstances.  Corrie Ten Boom was a believer imprisoned by the Nazi’s for aiding Jews.  In the midst of the horrid conditions of a Nazi concentration camp Corrie experienced the Joy of the Lord.  I think of the Stephen in His defense of the faith in Acts chapter 7.  The Word describes his beautiful countenance just prior to being martyred and I believe the Joy of the Lord was upon him.

Scripture tells us numerous times that the Joy of the Lord is our strength.  In a war it is vitally important to fight from a position of strength.  In military parlance that means things like holding the high ground, possessing detailed information about the enemy and their strategy, building superior forces through weaponry, training, and numbers.  In the spiritual realm it is just as important to fight from a position of strength.  Lest anyone fail to recognize that as a believer we are in a war, I simply point out that the world, the flesh, and the devil are all active antagonists against the church and those who follow the Lord Jesus.  So one crucial element of our position of strength is the Joy the Lord.  The parallel with physical warfare is that Joy is spiritual high ground.

Sadly many who profess the name of Jesus as Lord fail to walk in the Joy of the Lord.  All of us will have times when we struggle with our relationships.  Our relationship with the Lord is the foundation from which the Joy wells up.  Let me be clear, we are not to seek joy for the sake of having a constant happy feeling.  We are to seek the Lord and one by-product of that intimacy is the Joy of the Lord.  If your life does not reflect an over-riding, exuberant Joy at times, let me encourage you not to give up believing that it exists and is available to you.  The Lord’s desire is that we walk in intimacy with Him and experience His Joy is abundance.  Here are some practical steps to that end.

  1. Enter into a relationship with the Jesus.  We do this by recognizing we are separated from Him due to sin.  He has made a way though.  We simply turn away from our sin, believing that He died in our place, ask Him to come into our life, and then confess the truth that Jesus is Lord to others.
  2. Seek to grow in that grace by constantly looking for and taking your next step of faith.  If you just came to faith then find a bible-believing church and be baptized.  Another next step is to get involved in serving others through a local church.
  3. Read the Word of God consistently and prayerfully and do what it says.  I suggest a focus upon the teachings of Jesus, but include some from the old testament and the other books of the new testament as well.  When you read ask the Lord to make it come alive.
  4. Pray often.  Prayer is a dialogue with God.  He wants to speak to us.  One important balance that I have found is that when the Lord speaks to me it is often through His Word.  The times it is not specifically words from the bible it is always aligned with what the bible teaches.
  5. Ask the Lord to fill you with His Holy Spirit that you may understand more and more of what He is calling you to do and how to live.  As I look back over my life I see that Joy was present when I was obedient to what the Lord asked me to do.  And conversely, a lack of Joy describes the times when I was not actively seeking to know and please the Lord.

Don’t settle for less than God’s best.  Don’t substitute the world’s happiness for God’s joy.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His (our heavenly Father’s) kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” As we pour ourselves into knowing, growing, and pleasing God, He will fill our cup with everything we need… including a joy that will run out and over the cup touching lives around us in dramatic, life-changing ways.

Have a most blessed day today my friend.  An don’t forget to let your light so shine before men that they see and recognize your Father in Heaven.

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The unbridled pursuit of power has resulted in destruction and carnage throughout history.  Actions resulting from the struggle for power and domination headline the news today.  Whether it is Iran pursuing nuclear capability, ISIS striving to extend its realm of influence, or political leaders in the US seeking to push their agenda, the wielding of power comes at a great price.  Following these three conflicts too closely has a power of its own.  It is easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the real and potential consequences of these conflicts.  All three of these headline-dominating topics fall short of the most powerful force in the universe though.  And that makes all the difference.  That of course is the power of God available to and through His children through intercessory prayer.  From Ephesians 1:19b and following.  “That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

The point today is not to spend a lot of time discussing God’s power.  From creating the universe, raising Jesus from the dead, and guiding the fledgling Church from 12 frightened disciples to the worldwide instrument of good that it is today – His credentials are solid.  Ultimate power resides in the Lord God Almighty.  I have been stirred lately that the Lord has a message for the Church today that we have a role to play in releasing His power in our day.  And that comes when we enter into intercessory prayer.

Prayer is simply communication with God.  It is meant to be a dialogue.  It is not meant to be a rote recitation of sacred words.  It is not meant to be an obligation we dutifully fulfill.  It is a conversation between two parties who love and respect each other.  God condescends to meet us where we are.  And through our time together He lifts us bit by bit to a higher place.  The more time spent with God in intimate fellowship, the less the cares and worries of this world hold and control us.  This intimacy is flooded with the Word of God.  Repeatedly the scriptures come to mind as I fellowship with the Father.  This is a primary way the Lord will speak to us.  He makes His Word come alive in our hearts.  The end result is that more and more we transformed and the mind of Christ takes shape within us.

As we spend time together with the Father, His desires become our desires.  This is where intercessory prayer begins.  It is as simple as longing for and expressing God’s desires into being through our lives and with our mouth.  We ask for those things that God desires to see happen in the world.

Jesus modeled this in His ministry.  He would begin the day in time alone with the Father.  He would then come down with purpose and launch into the day’s activity.  His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is instructive.  He knew what God’s plan was long before he entered that final private time with the Father.  He had foreshadowed to the disciples what was going to happen on numerous occasions.  Yet when the time actually arrived His disciples didn’t recognize it.  Jesus himself agonized over what was to take place offering up one more petition for a Plan B.  He even asked, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  He communed with His Father consistently. He understood what the Father’s plan was.  He acted upon it and He spoke it into being.  In John chapter 17 Jesus begins with a brief petition for Himself and then intercedes for His disciples and then all who would become believers.  Through His obedience the world was forever changed and lives continue to be transformed to this day … salvation, deliverance, healing, restoration, death to life all through Jesus’ life, death, and faithful obedience to the Father.

When Jesus ascended into heaven He promised to send the Holy Spirit to the Church.  The Holy Spirit is God living and abiding in the believer.  He is our counselor who always points the way to Jesus and the Father.  Jesus speaks to who the Holy Spirit is and what He will do in John chapters 14 – 16.  In John 14:12 Jesus tells His disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  Jesus is passing on His mantle to whoever believes in me.  That is us!  And that is amazing!!

One of the less visible, but vitally crucial roles God has given the church is that of intercessory prayer.  Missionaries are absolutely dependent upon the financial support from home to continue their work.  I would argue that it is an even greater need for the prayer support from home to remain unceasing.  The same God who was able to put a coin into the mouth of a fish for Peter and Jesus’ taxes is the same God who will meet the needs of a missionary in the field if the intercessory prayer is taking place.

Rees Howell was the President of the Bible College of Wales during WWII.  His greatest calling though was that of an intercessor.  During the war there were numerous times when the Holy Spirit would lay the burden of intercession heavy upon Mr. Howell.  One instance the burden was so great that He was moved to cancel classes and call for the entire school to enter into intercessory prayer.  As the hours marched on, hundreds of students and faculty were on their face before God, interceding for God’s hand of protection upon those in great peril.  At times the mood in the chapel would shift as the Lord’s Spirit impressed the urgency of the situation upon the group gathered together.  Late at night the Holy Spirit let Rees know the work was completed.  A few days later news came from Italy of a miraculous intervention as the Allies moved across the Island of Sicily.  The Allies were surrounded and facing certain annihilation. Reinforcements were not going to arrive in time and the German and Italian bombardment was taking a tremendous toll.  It was simply a matter of time before the outgunned Allied soldiers were decimated.  The commanders had considered surrender, but decided to hold until they could hold no longer which wouldn’t be long.  Suddenly and inexplicably the bombardment stopped.  The bombing ceased in the night at exactly the time that the word was given to the intercessors that their immediate work was through.

Now this begs the question – does God take sides in a conflict?  The answer is simple.  God is Holy and He is His own.  We need to seek His face, grow in our intimacy with Him and then we join His side.  In the present conflict with ISIS, just like in World War II there is a very clear evil at work on one side of the conflict.  While it is surprising that a clear plan of action has not come forward to deal with ISIS this simply means we still have time to intercede.  You and I are called to pray the desires of God into existence.  He wants us to partner with Him in the redemption of the world and intercession is one of the ways we do that.

Go back to Ephesians where we started.  Pick it up at Ephesian 1:18 – 19a.  “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.”  Friends I encourage you to ask God to put a burden on your heart to join Him in intercession.  Consider a healthy dis-satisfaction with evil as a starting place and ask God to give you the words and perseverance to pray through.  When He does launch into it with all you are.  When we do we are tying into God’s incomparable great power for us who believe.

Be blessed and be a blessing to those the Father puts in your path and on your heart today.

 

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