Ode To Ravi Zacharias

Luke 12.1-3

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

I never met you, Mr. Zacharias, but I did at least twice listen to one of your messages and a debate. Not often, as I must admit I was not too familiar with you. I did not subscribe to any of your publications. Nor did I ever read any of your books. But people I know well sure admired the way you communicated your faith. The way you “sat in the dock” and defended the faith – our faith – so eloquently and forcefully. I might say, Ravi, that I heard in you perhaps a combination of Francis Schaeffer and C.S. Lewis.

There was a strength there. An understanding. Some might even consider it an anointing. You were convicted of what you believed, and you were able to clearly, and it seemed in love, communicate the heart of the Gospel. You were familiar with the Word of God. It was apparent that you were well acquainted with Holy Spirit, for no man can understand the depths of the Scriptures without Holy Spirit.

Ravi, Your love for Jesus Christ seemed real. Unshakeable. Strong. Deep. I appreciated the way you handled yourself. I respected you. I “wished” that I could be so vocal and convincing.

The platform God gave you to “go into all the world” was truly impressive. The way you, like Paul, stood before the most learned folk in the world, the most virulent, the most antagonistic, and verse by verse, line by line, challenged them all to consider the claims of Christ, is something the entire Christian community should celebrate.

And then, Ravi, God called you home. I have no doubt (I think) that you, in this moment that I write, dwell in the very presence of Him who you proclaimed as Savior and Lord. And that the blood of Christ has proven to be just what you preached it was. A “Saving Blood.” A blood that redeems both you and I from our sins, and our sin. A blood that is at the heart of our plea, “But that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidst me come to Thee, I come!”

So here we are, Ravi, left here on our sojourn a few more days. You’ve gone on, we remain. And now we – the world – the Christian community – Ravi Zacharias Ministries – a significant number of particular women – and your family – have to deal with what you left behind.

I am not pointing fingers at you, Ravi. I know all too well my own failures. I have “things hidden” like many of us. I may not be “chief of sinners” but I have my share. I have hurt people. I may yet hurt more. It seems inevitable that while we live in this “earthsuit” that we will fail. We will try to cover up. We will lie. We will deceive.

Maybe I should concentrate and worry about my own stuff, Ravi, instead of wondering about yours. And I do, actually. I am concerned about what I am going to leave behind. I am concerned about my reputation. I am concerned about my “honor.” I am concerned about whether or not my Father will one day say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter in the joy of My presence.” I am concerned whether my own family – children – grandchildren – realm of friends – circle of fellow believers – will remember that my life counted for something. Whether it was successful, you might say. Whether or not I was faithful.

Ravi, I sure do not pretend to know what level of consciousness one has in heaven. Are you able to reflect on your time on earth? Are you even aware of “the book of your life?” Can you even know in any way what your life on earth left as you went beyond the veil?

So maybe you do not know that the past few days have revealed some horrible things about your time here. Maybe horrible is the wrong word. Appalling. Sick. Disgusting. And I use these words alongside the praise I wrote earlier.

You knew the Scriptures better than I do. So I know that you could quote Jeremiah 17.9

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick (wicked); Who can understand it?

I have no proof at hand, but I would guess that you quoted this on many occasions. And it is so true. Without the indwelling Spirit, we are continually evil. And even then, with the indwelling of the Spirit, it seems that we struggle to continually “do right” wouldn’t you say, Ravi?

If I am aware of so many other prominent brothers and sisters who have “fallen” I am sure that you were as well. Swaggart, Bakker, Tilton, Haggard, McDonald. The list is long. And now, Ravi, your name has been added. The difference is, you are not here to face your accusers or the consequences. Someone else must do that for you.

So I am thinking, Ravi, that if you had a message to convey to your accusers, what would it be? What would you say to your family? Your children? Your wife? Your trusted associates? “I’m sorry?” “Forgive me?”

And what would you say to the rest of us? To me? “Do as I have said, and not as I have done?” “Control your heart better?”

It was painful for me to read about your “secret closet.” It was painful for me to read about your “deeds done in darkness” being “shouted from the housetops.”

It is indeed a fearful thought – this Scripture. To know that those things I thought were so well buried, so carefully concealed will one day be exposed. In your case, the exposure came after your “graduation.” In my case, who knows? Sometimes the revelation comes while we yet live.

So maybe for you personally, Ravi, you do not have to physically deal with it. Maybe that is in some grotesque way, a blessing. But it seems to me that it is, in my way of thinking, a curse. You don’t have to stand in the dock, or debate, or testify, or preach about your failures. You don’t have to deal with the earth-side of this tragedy. Many others will have to do that for you. And that is in itself a tragedy. It seems to me that we should at least have to face our own music.

But that was not God’s plan for you, nor your family and ministry. So I yield to the Father.

So, at the very least, Ravi, for me, I have been reminded once again of the desperate condition of my heart. And I have been reminded once again of my desperate need to walk in the light, to live as if before an audience of One, and to yield second by second to the presence and power of Holy Spirit in hopes that I can truly be a man that “is holy as He is holy” (1Peter 1.16)

And, finally, my prayer, Ravi, that you have spurred me to renew, is this:

“Lord, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on Your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart

and has no slander on his tongue and casts no slur on his fellowman…” (Psalm 15.1-3)

Heading toward home, Ravi.

Joy to the World: It’s Not Just For Christmas Anymore!

In the 1970’s the Florida Orange Juice Growers began a TV ad campaign promoting — yes — orange juice! The slogan was, “orange juice, it’s not just for breakfast anymore.” So that is the inspiration for this title. JOY to the WORLD! It’s Not Just For Christmas Anymore!

I fully realize that this is ‘just a song.” It is not inspired in the same way that our Bible is. But Isaac Watts, writing the words in 1719, did have inspiration. And there is a lot of Bible in this amazing song.

Joy! Great pleasure, happiness, delight. And my favorite — excited, amazed admiration. Why/ Because the Lord has come! The Lord – Kyrios. This word, this title means someone having authority, power, influence. A master, a ruler. It has been said and rightfully so, that Jesus is Lord of ALL, or not Lord at all. There can be no middle ground. He is either Lord – my Lord – or He is something else. Just as there is but one Savior, there is only one Lord. And He has come! He has been revealed to us and now each of us must choose. We must decide what we believe about Him. It is the greatest decision of our lives. It is the decision that determines my eternity. Either Jesus is Who He says He is – Lord and Savior – or He is a liar or lunatic.

So earth! The substance and diversity of life on this planet. So earth! Every rock, tree, grain of sand, snowflake, raindrop. Indeed, every inch and every person on every inch. Receive your King! Receive your Sovereign. Your Master. Your Ruler. Your Prince of Peace. Your Redeemer.

Prepare Him room! Empty yourself of yourself. Every thought, every action, every desire and hope. Every sin. Move over. Move out!

Paul writes in Romans 10.9: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved” and you will have prepared Him room. And when the Lord – the King – enters the room – enters your being, you will be a new creation. A new person. Your old way of living, thinking, speaking, acting, and believing will pass away because He makes all things new (2 Cor. 5.17).

Jesus says to each person, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with him.” (Rev.3.20)

So heaven, and nature SING! The opportunity for me, for you, for “the world” to be restored to a right relationship with God our Creator is before us. The relationship He meant for us to have at the beginning.

Isaac Watts must have been familiar with Psalm 96. “Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” (I strongly encourage you to read the entire Psalm)

Men and women – brothers and sisters – people of God! You who were once lost, once hopeless fearful, afraid of death. You who were once enemies, scorners, scoffers. You who have now been brought near to the Holy of Holies, by the precious blood of our living, reigning King. You – lead the way! Break out into song! Employ your songs! Proclaim good tidings in English. In Chinese. In Spanish. In tongues. Proclaim it in any and every way possible. But Sing. Sing. Sing!

We have something to sing about! And if we do not, then the rocks and fields, and hills and plains will! And I for one would love to hear that happen, but ONLY AFTER REPEATING AFTER ME!

Again, Isaac Watts read Psalm 95. “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (And, yes, read the entire Psalm)

Praise breaks the barriers. Praise is spiritual dynamite. Praise is God’s address. For He inhabits the praises of His people. Praise breaks chains. Praise is victorious. Praise brings the presence of Holy Spirit. So, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

No more let sins and sorrows grow. Nor thorns infest the ground.

He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

The curse. The Hebrew word is arar, and it first appears in Genesis 3.14 where God, after the yielding to temptation by Adam and Eve, speaks a curse on the serpent and then on Adam and Eve.

A curse is judgement. It is a pronouncement of a penalty. It severed the perfect, original relationship between God and mankind.

And this curse extended to the earth itself. Thorns and thistles would grow. It would be difficult for Adam to live. He – and all mankind to follow – would now have to toil and sweat and suffer and ache and worry. Mankind would now be subject to fear. Mankind would now have to deal with a broken relationship between the Creator and creation. No more would Adam and Eve stroll peacefully in the garden, plucking ripe fruit from trees that they did not plant, nor cultivate. Sins and sorrows would grow and multiply. And today, thousands of years later, our world seems overtaken by thorns of all kinds, economic, political, social.

Fast forward hundreds of years to Deuteronomy 27 and the law under Moses. There are a multitude of specific curses listed. And in Deut. 28.1-8 we find these words: “Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and when you go out.”

So this idea, this reality of the curse is always linked to its opposite – the blessing.

We must – like Joshua in 24.15 – we must determine – today – in this hour – whom we will serve. “Choose you this day.” Shall we continue to walk under and live under the curse of the law, or receive the majestic gift that we are being offered in and through Christ Jesus.

“Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith that are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse, for it is written, “Cursed is every one who does not abide by the things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”

“Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident, for “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree”

“in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3.6-14

Just as the curse extended to every inch of the earth so does the promises of God!

Ding-dong! The witch is dead! Which old witch? The wicked witch!

The curse is broken. Satan has lost. The serpent’s head has been bruised.

HE COMES TO MAKE HIS BLESSINGS FLOW. FAR AS THE CURSE IS FOUND!

How far? Every inch of the earth. How far? Every inch of my life! The blessing has come. Adam’s rebellion has been checked. The Creator and His creation can now be one. What Adam lost is now restored.

And now I must believe this. I must believe that this is true. And I must keep His word. I must love His laws. I must walk in His ways. And if I do, then my life will be NOTHING BUT AN EXPERIENCE OF MY FATHER’S blessing.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord,. And in His law he meditates day and night.

And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1.1-3

He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love.

This is a present reality. This is not some far-off distant hope. Psalm 24.1 tells us that “the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains – the world and those who dwell in it.”

So do not despair. Neither Covid-19 nor any created thing, in heaven or on earth, can separate us from the love of Jesus. Nothing happens, nor can happen on this earth without the “expressed consent” of our Lord. HE RULES THE WORLD.

And one day, one fine day, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

So, in this Christmas season, perhaps a season that is without precedent, Jesus Christ is still on the throne! And with that, may we strive to walk in the entire blessing of God!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits;

Who pardons ALL my iniquities;

Who heals ALL my diseases;

Who redeems my life from the pit;

Who crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion

Who satisfies my years with good things

So that my youth is renewed like the eagle.”

Whew! And that is enough, for now.

I STILL Do Not Go to Church!

1 Corinthians 3.16 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 

2 Corinthians 6.16 “…we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

I realize that many who see this will say, “Oh come on, relax. Don’t be so obnoxious.”

I get it. Yet I wonder, do you think that words meant something to Jesus? Do you think that the choice and use of words was important to Him?

There are times in life when words SHOULD mean something specific.

When I stood with Gayle on November 29, 1975, our wedding day, I had already told her I loved her.  It had passed from “I like you” to something more. And when Dean Simpson asked me to repeat after him my wedding vows, I did NOT say, “I might”, I said “I DO.” 

Do you believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord? I think this question DEMANDS a precise answer. “I think I do” will not be enough. “I might” will not be enough.

I do not know how I grew into this “mess,” but words have become increasingly important to me over the last decade or so.

One of my “pet peeves” is to point out phrases we humans use that I find “interesting.”

One of them is the common response you hear from a receptionist at an office. He or she will often say, “May I ask who’s calling?”

And my reply is, “Yes.”

There is almost always a pause as I wait for them to ask me, “who’s calling?”

Here is another one.

Certainly you have heard, and many of you may even use this one, “I’ll be honest with you.”

Okay. Think about this. A person has been talking with you for a few minutes. They have shared some information with you. You have been listening. Then, the phrase “I’ll be honest with you” is inserted and they share something else.

Now, what does this mean? Does this mean that everything, or most everything that they had just told you was “not honest?”

Come on now! This is one of the most worthless phrases humans use! Or, maybe they really mean it.

I will confess, “I HAVE NEVER USED IT!” And I won’t!

Imagine Jesus using this!

I do not have time or space here to fully explain the Hebrew use of language. If you are interested, you can study this philosophy on your own. Suffice it to say, the Hebrew language is a concrete language. It is not abstract. In other words, if I said to you, “You turkey!” then you would probably sense you I was joking with you about something kinda dumb that you did or said. In Hebrew, however, that is not the case. In Hebrew, I would LITERALLY see you as a turkey.

There is a big difference.

Some of you have already heard me talk about the word “lucky.”

When I was coaching, often someone would say “good luck, coach.” For many years I would just say, “thank you.” Then I began to get convicted. YES, CONVICTED!

To say that I am lucky, to me, is a slap in the face of my LORD! Nothing happens in my life that does not come by way of Jesus. There is no luck involved! Nothing happens by chance!

So I began to reply in this manner. “Thank you for your encouragement, but I am a Christian and I do not believe in luck.”

As you can imagine, the “good luck coach” greeting soon diminished!

I just want to speak truth.

And this brings us to this blog’s theme. I still do not go to church.

Like many or perhaps all of you, I have had hundreds – if not more – of people ask me “where do you go to church?” over the years. I must confess that I myself have asked folks the same question. (FULL DISCLOSURE HERE)

But many years ago, like with using the word “lucky,” I became convicted again.

IF I AM THE CHURCH (well, part of it) THEN HOW DO I GO TO CHURCH!? The church goes to church?

To me, this is not Biblical. In fact, to say I “go to church” reinforces the error that it is the building that lives and is important, not people.

Some have remarked with the hope, in this current “crisis” we find ourselves in, that many believers will get a new sense of what “the Church” really means. Since we are not physically gathering together, the importance of the building is greatly diminished.

I met with the other elders of our local congregation the other day at our building. One of the brothers remarked, “it sure seems lonely doesn’t it.” And I thought, “Well, yes it is. And there are massive cathedrals all over the world, and million dollar buildings across the United States that sit empty.”

But “church” has continued. And maybe, just maybe, the church is flourishing in a way that other believers in other countries have experienced for years under persecution. The “underground church” in China for instance. And other times and places where “the church” has been driven into isolation.

So when sometime says to me, “Where do you go to church,” it becomes a little awkward, but I have to explain that “I do not go to church.” I fellowship with other believers at Franklin Covenant and in a home meeting in Sylva, but I do not go to church.

Jesus says the truth. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am.” (Matthew 18.20)

The church exists in a locked jail cell. The church exists around my dining room table. The church exists in a submarine or space shuttle.

The church has no walls, no boundaries. It has no heating and air conditioning. It has no sound system (other than my voice!) The church is not confined or defined by brick, metal or mortar.

The church is a living organism! WE ARE THE CHURCH, the TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD!

The same is true when someone says “Your church.” What is “your church” doing for Sunday morning these days? Or, doesn’t your church meet just off the Highlands Road?

But it has never been “my church.” I do not have a church. It does not belong to me.

So when I reply that “I do not have a church,” it sometimes makes for awkward conversation, but to me, it is an opportunity to SPEAK BIBLICALLY, which is to speak TRUTH.

The church belongs to Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, I am not going to judge you or try to “correct” you in your own use of language. So please do not change anything you say (or do) because of me. This is where I am in my walk with Christ. You are where you are.

But, I STILL DO NOT GO TO CHURCH!

And that is enough, for now.

 

A Cure For Cabin Fever; or Cavelife 2020

1 Samuel 22.1

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.

Here we are, holed up at home. The corona-virus continues its silent, stealthy, steady spread, seeking somebody to succumb. (HOW’S THAT FOR ALLITERATION?)

Considering our present circumstances, I’ve decided to share the essence of a message I first shared in 1992. The implications of today, the spring of 2020, should be obvious.

I think there are lessons here that we can learn from the life of David that can help us focus on the things that matter. Eternal things. Things that are true. In fact, we don’t need a virus scare to benefit from the Word of God.

In other words, I am going to choose to focus on truth, and that, my friends, is a cure for cabin fever.

David had just killed Goliath, and people were singing his praises. Most experts place David’s age at about 16. Jealousy rises up in King Saul. He becomes determined to kill David.

David flees for his life. He finds safety in the cave of Adullam. It was apparently a large cave, for soon David’s brothers and his father’s household join him, making a total of about 400 hundred men. (1 Samuel 22.1-2)

But, responding to a word from the prophet Gad, David soon flees to the forest of Hereth. Saul, “spear in hand’ (1 Samuel 22.6) continues his relentless pursuit.

The chase continues. David moves on to desert strongholds and the hills of Ziph. From there to the desert of En Gedi.

You get the picture. God had chosen David. Anointed David. Gifted David. Used David.

While Saul was a “head and shoulders man” (he was tall) David began as a small, simple shepherd boy.

Every Christian is called by God. Whether we realize it or not, each of us has been chosen, anointed, gifted. Maybe not like David. We do not all have the same gifts.

But here we find ourselves “chased” by a certain “king.” Slowly we have retreated to our places of safety. To our caves, to our forests, to our deserts. We have fortified ourselves with toilet paper, face-masks, and hand sanitizer.

David, for all his victories, all his anointing, all his giftings, still came to a place where he felt overwhelmed. Where he feared for his life. Where he wondered if God would really deliver him. Where he wondered if he would ever escape “cavelife.”

I guess you could say he had moments of “cabin fever” or “cave fever.”

Read his words from Psalm 143

O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me: my heart within me is dismayed.

The whirlwind named Saul had driven David into hiding. David’s circumstances were dangerous. Feeding 400 men was a daily challenge, and this went on for months.

But the question for David, as it is for us, is this. “Am I going to be dictated to by circumstances, or by God?” Yes, you might argue, these circumstances were “part of God’s plan” for David. You might argue that COVID-19 and all the resulting circumstances are “part of God’s plan.”

I “get it.” I have read the part of the Bible where it says that “all things work together for my good.” I believe that.

But I also realize that I am sometimes all too human. David was. Here, in Psalm 143 he exhibits his humanity. He hopes for a good result, an early deliverance. And so do I.

I don’t know any professional spelunkers. But some of you have explored caves. Dark. Wet. Cold. Bats. Creepy things. Here was the king to be, the anointed, the called of God, often miserable in a cave. His spirit overwhelmed. His heart desolate. His life “crushed.” His soul persecuted.

Maybe some of us feel like that. Breathless. Depressed. Discouraged. Confused. In a dark cave with no easy way out it seems. David said “my heart is desolate, dismayed.”

The Bible reads like The New York Times.

But, there is an answer. A way out even while trapped!

Psalm 143.5-6

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

I remember.

In the midst of the storm, it is easy to forget all God has done for me. So I concentrate on “the days of long ago” and the days of not so long ago.

Twice that I know of He saved my life. I fell into a well 120 feet straight down just before my 5th birthday. There was about 3 feet of water in it.

Not a scratch. It must have been angels that cushioned my fall.

My salvation day. September 29, 1973.

The day I first saw Gayle!!

The birth of our 4 children.

So many amazing moments. Special times that my Father gave me. Things I never thought I would do. Places I never thought I would see.

The day I led someone to Christ. The day I became a grandfather.

I could go on.

Yes, dark clouds pass over my life from time to time, but not a sparrow falls to the ground without my Father knowing it. And am I not more precious to Him!

I muse. I meditate.

I have a friend who, when things get a little out of whack, takes a long walk trough the woods, or paddles out to the middle of the lake. He drives along a stretch of road that is familiar, and forces himself to concentrate on the beauty around as if it is the first time he has ever seen it.

Look up at a starry sky. The budding of spring trees. The delicate intricacies of the flowers.

“Lord, if You put all those stars in place and called them by their names, and the majestic beauty around me, then You are bigger than my problems!” HOW GREAT THOU ART. HOW GREAT THOU ART!

I consider.

“And when I think, that God, His Son, not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee!

I spread out my hands.

The actual Hebrew meaning of this is, “I stretch forth my hands like a little child waiting for his father to pick him up.” There is not a father alive who can resist that.

My soul thirsts for You.

A dried up, cracked lake is begging for water. A soul isolated in a cave is begging for release.

This is the process. When I have eliminated the power of circumstances that are challenging me, I rediscover that truth that I am a child of THE KING. I open myself to my Father once again, anew, fresh.

So, even though our present circumstances are trying, and they may get worse, I choose today, the joy of the Lord, for that is my strength!

Well, enough for now.

2020 Vision Pt. 3 Be on the Alert

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe is me!” I cried, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?” And I said, “Here am I, send me.” Isaiah 6.1-8

How many “parts” can 2020 vision have? I was thinking 52. As I write today we are in mid-March, nearly 1/4 of the way through this year.

In part one, we discussed “Where Are You,” an attempt to encourage us to evaluate our walk with Jesus. Every “trip” has a starting point.. Then came”Looking for a City,” which is our destination. So we’ve entered into our spiritual GPS our beginning and our end. Now a few words about the middle.

God gives us life. I did not ask to be born. My birth, my life, my days are all a gift. Every breath, every heartbeat is a gift. It is often said about an injured athlete that he or she is “day to day.” Well, aren’t we all?

Today is my 24,647th day of life. Some of those 24,647 days have been awesome, amazing, wonderful, treasured. Some of been forgettable, wasted, lost. But most days are in the middle. Most days seem to be much the same – not particularly exciting or bad – just ordinary, plain. Another day of work. Another meal. Another night’s sleep.

I recall seeing a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin joyfully exits school on a Friday afternoon. Then by sunset, he is absolutely depressed. His mom asked why. Calvin said that he could not possibly enjoy the weekend because Monday was only 2 days away.

I don’t think that was ever God’s plan, but if you are like me, it just seems to be –human nature to look on the dim side. To see possible darkness up ahead and let that rob you of the joy of today. And, for a while now I have been trying to focus every day on appreciating and enjoying each day as a precious gift – a gift to me from my Father. After all, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in IT.

IN Mark 6.21 there is a Greek word that only occurs once in the entire New Testament. It is the word “eukaron,” translated as timely, opportune, convenient or strategic. There in Mark it is used to describe the day of the banquet when Herod had John the Baptist beheaded. It was a strategic day, a convenient day.

We have significant days like that. Memorable days – days we can re-live in our memories. Ask people of my generation where they were on November 22, 1963 and nearly all can tell you something like this: I was in the 6th grade and Mrs. Greer came into the classroom to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot.

Or 9/11.

There are other days that may stand out. Your day of conception! Your birth! Your first days of school (well, I don’t remember it, but mothers tend to)

1st day of high school. I do remember that day because I went into the wrong room thinking I was in 1st period but saw quickly that these people looked very much older than me.

13th birthday (a teenager!!) 16th birthday (I can drive! I can be free!) 18th birthday (I am legal! I can vote!) 21st birthday (really legal!) The day I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. The day I was Spirit-baptized. The day of my wedding. The births of my children.

Some of these days I knew would happen in advance. I could plan for them. We started planning our wedding months in advance. For days like these, excitement builds (or maybe anxiety!) People gather. We celebrate. We take pictures and videos. Those are one-of-a-kind days.

But most days are not like these. Most days are rather ordinary, and a few (well, hopefully a few) we’d rather forget.

In 1948, a show aired on network TV that lasted in different forms for 66 years, until 2014. The show began with the words “Don’t be surprised if sometime, somewhere, someplace, when you least expect it, someone steps up to you and says “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”

Candid Camera utilized a myriad of practical jokes. We’ve heard the term, practical joke. But what is it? A practical joke is one that causes the “victim” embarrassment, perplexity, confusion and/or discomfort.

Many of us have perhaps played a practical joke on someone, or had one played on us. And, usually, after our initial embarrassment or confusion we find a way to laugh or smile.

But sometimes – sometimes – a day unfolds on us from above. Isaiah had a day like that. When he woke up that morning I don’t think he had any clue as to what he would experience that day. It started out like any other day. The routines of the morning.

But it was to be a strategic day. An opportune day. A life-changing day. A day Isaiah would never forget. I day that, perhaps, he would come to wish that he could experience again and again.

Isaiah’s response is the response that we all should have when we look into the face our the Lord Almighty. “Woe is me!I am unclean! My sin is great. I cannot stand before You.”

You might call this embarrassment. You might call it confusion. You might call it discomfort.

But I can assure you of this one thing. It was NOT a practical joke. God meant business.

Thanks be to God! His mercy! His grace! His lovingkindness! The cross touches our lips and stamps pardon on our souls!

And we can stand! Only by grace and mercy can we enter and stand before Him. Only by the blood of the Lamb. Stand face-to-face before the God of creation – My creator. And there. in the Light, all things become shadows, all the things of earth grow strangely dim.

And then, and only then, can we be equipped and empowered to do that which He has called us to do.

Isaiah did not initiate this encounter. God did. God came to Isaiah. He came to Isaiah with a mission, with a job that needed to be done. God needed a human.

It was a strategic day in Isaiah’s life. It was a strategic day in the life of the world.

And what about Abraham? We find him in Genesis chapter 12 living peacefully among his family and friends in Haran and then one day – one day – God speaks to him. God needed a man.

Moses is going about his daily routine in Exodus 3, pasturing the flocks in Midian. And one day – one day – as he is heading up a mountainside, he sees a bush on fire. But this bush does not burn up. Moses could have walked on by, but his curiosity got the best of him. So he approaches the bush and then the Lord God called his name. God had a job, and He needed a man.

Moses, like Isaiah, hid his face, but God said, “I am sending you and I will empower you with everything you need to face Pharoah and liberate My people.”

And you don’t need Paul Harvey to know the rest of the story.

Gideon? In Judges 6 we see Gideon, hiding in a winepress to thresh wheat. And one day – one day – out of the blue, the angel of the Lord, sitting under an oak tree, calls out “the Lord is with you, mighty man of valor.”

“Who, me?”

Again, God came seeking a man for a mission. And with that mission would come God’s anointing.

How about David? Just a teenager tending sheep. David was not looking for fortune or fame. He is putting in a day’s work when one day- one day – he finds himself in the presence of the king and then slaying Goliath.

Samuel, Nehemiah, Rahab, Noah, Samson. One day going about their daily lives – just one of a 1000 – and the next moment face to face with the Lord in a life changing encounter.

Mary. Just another day, planning her wedding, washing clothes, combing her hair. And in walks Gabriel. And the young girl, selected out of all the girls in Israel by the Lord Himself, responds to His call, and is empowered to deliver the child who would one day deliver her.

The disciples? Casting their nets. Fishing. Collecting taxes. Laboring. And one day – one day – Jesus speaks to them.

Saul? Breathing fire and seeking the persecution of the Lord’s people. Until one day – one day – off the horse he went!

What do I do between Where I Am and Looking for a City? Between my starting point and my destination?

I am faithful to what I know. I am faithful day by day to His Word. I walk in Truth and holiness. In righteousness. I am faithful in my marriage, in my relationships, at work. I am true to my place, my calling. I grow and seek to be fruitful in the place I am planted. Ecclesiastes 3.10-11 says “I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time.”  

And Paul, writing in Colossians 3.17 “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God our Father through Him.”

I am not looking for some special, heroic deed or call of God. I do not look around at the situation I am in and say “God must be trying to tell me something.” No! God is always trying to tell me something! He and I live together. I in Him and He in me. I live before an audience of one.

I don’t need one more meeting to get ready. I don’t need one more sermon. I don’t need one more day of fasting. Jesus says TODAY! There may not be a tomorrow!

By being faithful each and every day to His calling – to what I know – I encounter the living Lord.

Would I like to have an Isaiah moment? An Abraham moment? A burning bush? A voice from above?

No one knows the day or the hour. I don’t know when, or if, I might experience that moment. There might be a day when somewhere, someplace when I least expect it is a burning bush, an angel under an oak tree, a Gabriel in the room, the voice of my Father.

I want to be on guard. I want to be awake. I want to be on the alert. I want to be found faithful.

It might be a vision, it might be a dream.

So Lord, if you see fit to surprise me one day, here I am, use me.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Well, that’s enough. For now.

2020 VISION: Part 2 – LOOKING FOR A CITY

In Part 1 of this 2020 Vision, we determined (or tried to encourage) our starting point. Although I do not own a GPS system, I have used Mapquest. In order for this to function, you need a starting point and a destination. In our “spiritual GPS” we also need a starting point. “Where Are You?” Where are you in relation to your current place in your walk with Jesus? In regards to your fulfillment of His wonderful plan for your life? Are you functioning in your gifts and callings? Are you – in this hour – where He wants you to be?

Having established the answers to these questions (and others) we now discuss our destination. We are a people “looking for a city.”

Genesis 10 gives us the background on a man called Nimrod. Nimrod was the great grandson of Noah. Nimrod was a builder of cities, like Resen, called the “great city” and Babel. Nimrod was also renowned for his ability to hunt, for a proverb sprang up, “like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.”

Wherever Nimrod went, people followed. His cities became filled with citizens. He had a “formula” you might say.

All of us, to some extent, try to “build” around our ideas, our impressions, our truths. Business people try to build a clientele. Stores want to expand.

We spend our lives looking for some place to settle in, spiritually, geographically. Some truth around which we build our lives. Some group with whom we are like-minded. It is human nature to want to settle down. It is a God-given desire to look for a city.

Babel is perhaps Nimrod’s most famous city if only for the verses dedicated to it in Genesis 11. 1-9. You know the story. The citizens there decided to build a tower that “reaches the heavens.” A tower so high and mighty that would “make a name for themselves.” It was to be a tower made of tar and brick, instead of mortar and stone. And God confused their language and scattered them. The tower was never completed.

Read these verses from Matthew 9.16-17 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”         

All the wine in Europe is useless unless it has some container to hold it. A container, be it a vat or a bottle, gives the wine definition, shape, form. We identify new wine, symbolically, with Holy Spirit. And so what Jesus is saying is that when new wine flows, it MUST have new new containers, new forms. The old ones must change. All our “towers,” all our institutions, all our congregations must be ever poised to change as Holy Spirit moves in us.

Sadly, it is also man’s tendency to resist change. Here in Genesis, the Word says that at Babel, they tried to use brick and tar. Bricks are man-made. Bricks are not natural. Tar is like glue. 1 Peter 2.48 tells us that we, God’s people, are “living stones, choice and precious to God.” And we, are being built up into a spiritual house. A city.

Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians 3.9 where he calls us “God’s building.” And again in Ephesians 2.20-22 that we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”   

Bricks were never God’s way. Anything man-made, however great it may seem for a moment, will crumble to dust under God’s mighty hand. He will not share His glory.

Morticing is messy work. It takes hammer and chisel. Some want a little dab to do them. But God is notching His people. It is His building method. And He desires – requires – living stones.

Nimrod would have made a name for himself. And any person, or group, or denomination that tries to build its own tower, will find its tower, eventually, crumble. So too will those who seek to perpetuate themselves and refuse to recognize the move of the Spirit.

Anytime we seek to preserve self we are operating in the flesh.

There is a great difference between making a name for ourselves, and receiving one.

Jesus says in Revelation 2.17 “to him who overcomes, I will give a new name, written on a white stone which no one knows except the one who receives it.”

Building a tower is risky business. Trying to build a round a truth or a revelation can put us in a precarious position. You can fall off towers. Others may try to push you off. And the higher you are, the greater the fall.

You’ve heard of Trump Tower. Sears Tower. Eiffel Tower. The Tower of Pisa.

How about Calvinism Tower? Baptist Tower? Charismatic Tower? King James Bible Tower? Covenant Tower?

Are we perched on some tower today? Think you are safe and comfortable in the city of your own little revelation?

Abraham caught God’s vision. Abraham seemed quite content where he was. He had wealth, family, security. But God showed him a land, a nation, a city. Abraham had built up an accumulation, but God saw in him a man willing to “move into a new wineskin.”

Like Abraham, we should never build anything that we cannot fold up, round up and move. Abraham dwelt in tents. He became a pilgrim, a sojourner.

Hebrews 11.8-10. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking for a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”     

The city of Babel is a rubble heap, a nearly forgotten memory. But the family of Abraham, the pilgrim, the man looking for a city, gave us Moses, Joshua, Elijah, David and the Messiah. And he is still giving to the world.

When the towers are gone, when the bricks of man have crumbled, when the tar has melted, the family lives on. The living stones through whom God lives and manifests Himself is growing into that city.

A pilgrim may do a lot of wandering, but he has direction. He has a goal, a destination. His GPS is set. A wanderer on the other hand, has no direction. He is aimless. Both are on the move, but only one is going somewhere.

Every one of us qualifies as either a wanderer or a pilgrim. Israel left Egypt as a pilgrim people, but due to their disobedience became wanderers. Have we, too, started off this great journey full of promise and hope? Full of a Savior who set us free from our bondage, and blessed us with every necessary for life and godliness? And now, like the Israelites who refused to believe the report of the spies who saw the land of milk and honey, yet also saw the giants, but said we can defeat them – are we going to enter a new bondage – the bondage of disbelief – the bondage of weariness?

Have we lost sight of that great promise that Abraham saw and gave his life to? Will we veer away from our destination? Will we, having started off with our foundation firm, stumble toward the finish line, or even find ourselves or a path or our own making?

May it never be!

Let us, like the host of brethren before us, continue to faithfully and joyfully pursue “Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb.12.22)

In Genesis 28 we find Jacob having a dream about a ladder let down from heaven. He saw angels walking up and down. He awoke from that dream, set up a stone pillar, poured oil on it and called it “the house of God.”

For 400 years, Jacob’s descendants believed that that area around the pillar was God’s house.

Generations later, God took Moses and showed him a plan for a tabernacle which could be pitched in the wilderness, folded up and moved from place to place. No longer did Israel look to Jacob’s rock as God’s house. Now they turned to the tabernacle of Moses.

Years passed. Along comes David, who desires to build a more permanent dwelling, greater than the tabernacle. So he makes plans and when he dies his son Solomon builds that temple. And God fills it with His Shekinah glory. No longer did Israel worship before a portable tabernacle.

But even though it was a building of majestic splendor, it was not to be the fullest revelation of the house of God.

Jesus. Jesus is the fullest and greatest manifestation of God’s house, the chief cornerstone of a many membered corporate house that God would build (and is building) out of His living stones. FOR HE DWELLS IN US!

And as God purges out, through His morticing action, all darkness within us, the day will come when our brilliance will be like the stone of crystal clear jaspar, and as we are changed into a holy people, without spot or blemish we see ourselves becoming not just the house of God but the city of God – that city which we seek.

Well, that is enough, for now.

 

2020 VISION: WHERE ARE YOU?

It just seemed fitting that 2020 vision and the year 2020 go together. Maybe it is that, as  I age, time seems so much more important to me. My relationship with Jesus seems more vivid, more important, than ever before. In the culture we live in, with all its fog and uncertainty, lies and deception, we need more than ever to be lucid. To have our eyes opened, and fixed, on truth.

And so the genesis of these messages lies in Genesis, 3.8-10: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”   

Adam thought he’d play a little game of hide and seek. Now if Adam, like dirt, can’t hide from intensified Tide, how is he going to hide from God Almighty? And why was he hiding?

Fear.

He and Eve had made a mistake, a huge mistake. They had listened to Satan’s lying voice and yielded to temptation. It is like someone wearing a coat with 50 pockets, and I am free to explore 49, but I am told to never open or try to look in the one. Well, like most of us, suddenly I am not interested in the 49.

Disobedience brings fear. Fear makes you hide – hide from people, hide from what you were created to be, try to hide from God.

So God comes walking – seeking Adam. Looking for His masterpiece, His workmanship – man. (Yes, God created human life, and has endowed us with value)

IF WE ARE TO HAVE 2020 VISION, WE MUST KNOW OUR STARTING POINT. A GPS (which I do not own) needs both a starting point, and a destination. In this message, I am focusing on the starting point.

Adam, Ayekba, where are you? I don’t need to tell you that is it certain that God knew exactly where Adam was. The question is, did Adam know where Adam was? Whether it was a giant Sequoia or a scrubby jack pine is not the issue. For the question applies to every human on earth. Where are you? God wants us to know.

Adam embodies the mystery of all human life. From the beginning it was God and Adam. When God speaks to Adam, He speaks to us all.

Adam where do you stand in this world?

Adam, where is your place in  history?

Adam, what have you done with your life?

Adam, what are you doing with your life?

Adam, have you thought about tomorrow?

Adam, where do you stand in relationship to ME?

It is the first, and perhaps greatest question that can be asked. It is the question that we all need to contemplate and answer. Today. Now.

Am I the son, the daughter that I am meant to be?

Am I the man, the woman, that I am created to be?

Am I the brother, the sister, the friend, the companion, that I am called to be?

Am I living in the fullness of what Christ has provided me?

Am I walking in holiness, faithfulness? Walking in hope and victory?

Am I using the gifts and talents that the Lord God has graciously allotted me?

Or am I hiding behind some tree thinking I can fool or trick Him? Hiding in fear. Hiding in shame. Hiding in apathy. Hiding in despair. Living a half-life.

Today, yes even in this moment, Jesus is “walking in the cool of the day,” calling my name. He is seeking me! He wants me to see clearly. To go from 20/2million to 2020.

He wants us to know that He created us. He values us. He loves us. And He will walk the garden seeking us even as we run and try to hide from Him. (But He knows when you are sleeping – He knows when you’re awake!!)

I CAN BE THE SON, THE DAUGHTER I WAS CREATED TO BE!

I CAN BE THE MAN, THE WOMAN I AM MEANT TO BE!

I CAN EXPERIENCE THE ABUNDANT LIFE OF JESUS!

Now we know that Satan has a plan for my life. John 10.10 tells us that “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” 

Like that “havoc” guy on TV ads, our enemy is constantly on the prowl. Yes, he would kill us if he can. He would steal my hope, destroy my peace. Disrupt my confidence. He would force me behind a tree, cowering in fear.

But my God, my Jesus, has another plan. His plan includes eternal life through Jesus Christ my Lord. But His plan also includes my life on earth. A plan for my good. A plan of freedom, of love, of hope, of joy. A plan of righteousness.

Yes, Bill Bright, God does indeed have a wonderful plan for my life!

Where am I? Where am I? Isn’t it time to get focused, and stay focused on Him? Isn’t it time for my eyes to have and maintain a fixation on Jesus? Isn’t it time to leave the tree once and for all?

For me to have 2020 vision in this year 2020, I must see myself for who I am and where I stand today. I must make a self-assessment. I must be brutally honest.

I must know – beyond all doubt – that my Father seeks my good. He seeks to liberate me from every hiding place. He seeks to set me free from everything that would make me want to skulk behind a tree.

So knowing where I am, I can then – confidently – approach HIS THRONE OF GRACE – knowing that HE IS FAITHFUL TO FORGIVE AND CLEANSE – and restore me in every possible way.

Then, and only then, can I walk in His amazing, awesome, magnificent plans for me. I can please Him.

I can have 2020 vision.

Well, enough for now!

 

What Now, My Love?

Gayle and I had the pleasure of hosting Brother Joe Ewen for 2 nights recently. Joe is from Scotland, and God has gifted him with prophetic insight. I asked Joe if he had ever met Derek Prince. If you are not familiar with Derek Prince, here is a little about him.

Derek, from England, had a major impact on Christianity in the 1970s and 80s. He still does, although he passed in 2003, the broadcast of his teaching still today reaches worldwide in over 20 languages. Derek often came to Franklin, NC. I was privileged to hear him many times.

Joe said, “Yes, I was Derek’s taxi driver.” He had hauled Derek around Great Britain a couple of times. Joe said he did this just to be near Derek, to perhaps gain something from him.

Then the name of my favorite Bible teacher came up, Bob Mumford. Bob was also a powerful (still is!) teacher of the Word who was influential worldwide and in my life.  In fact, I was present at a conference in Montreat, NC in 1974 and heard this with my own ears. Billy Graham, who lived there in Montreat, was invited to the platform to address the crowd of about 3000 people. Billy Graham said, and I quote, “Bob Mumford is my favorite Bible teacher.”

Once again, Joe told me that he had also been Bob Mumford’s “taxi driver.”

So now I am proud to say that I have been Joe Ewen’s taxi driver!

Joe was at our local fellowship for 2 days of teaching on the prophetic last fall. It was a tremendous weekend. So this is my response to that weekend of renewal and encouragement.

I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to allowing a mighty word from the Father slip away. It is kinda like so many “new year’s resolutions.” (which I stopped many, many years ago) How long do they last? I once started out abstaining from all desserts but then I went over to Alice Marie Pendergast’s house and she had a pie in the oven. I came to covered dish, and Fred Crane had one of his famous cakes there. Oh the shame. The guilt! The condemnation I have felt over breaking my promises to God!

But that is in the past. It is today that concerns me. What am I going to do – what are we going to do – now? I don’t want ANYTHING God has spoken to me to slip away.

Read these words from Isaiah 60.1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

And again from 2 Corinthians 4.6-7 “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.”

This was the prophetic word to us. Arise. Shine. Your light has come. The LIGHT has come.

The light has come to me. It is bright. It is focused and directed on that area of my life that has been dormant. On that area of my life that has been asleep. That has been neglected. That has been complacent.

That which may have been left for dead. That situation which I thought could never be changed.

CHILD OF GOD- ARISE! ARISE IN FAITH. PROCLAIM THAT THE DOOR IS OPEN! THE GATE OF POWER! THE GATE OF HEALING!

Jesus would say to me – to us – in this hour – WHAT NOW, MY LOVE?!

Do I believe that my Father is speaking? And if I do, then I must – I must now do something. I have to open my doors – the doors of my mind. The doors of my spirit. The doors of my soul. I must release doubt, fear, and unbelief. GOD’S WORD IS NOT A SUGGESTION! God gives PROMISES, and COMMANDS.

When our children were young, and learning discipline, we had the “2 time” rule. It may sound strict to you, but it was what we decided on. If we told one of the kids to do something, we were only going to say it twice. After that, well – you better start looking for a cushion!

HOW MANY TIMES MUST GOD SPEAK UNTIL WE MOVE!!!!

How many times have I been stirred by a word, a retreat, a leading, only to let it slip away after a few days, or even hours? It hurts to think about it.

WHAT NOW, MY LOVE?

“And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” The glory. The majesty. The power. The almost unspeakable awesomeness of our God.

Paul writes in Romans 8.11 “If the Spirit of Him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will also quicken (give life to) your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”    

The same Spirit who raised Jesus LIVES IN ME. And His glory has risen — not just on you — but IN YOU.

When Stephen was being killed in Acts 7, as he was dying he saw Jesus- Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenlies – standing. STANDING! Standing to receive Stephen.

Something has broken loose. The doors are open. Apathy has been smashed. Glory has risen. Light has come.

Don’t you feel the mountains tremble! Don’t you hear the oceans roar? We can see that God, You are moving. A might river through the nations. SWING WIDE YOU HEAVENLY GATES! OPEN UP THE DOOR. LET THE MUSIC PLAY.

Jesus is saying, What Now, My Love? Earnestly, tenderly, but urgently, Jesus is calling. He has spoken. We have heard. Now we must respond. And keep on responding.

“Behold I stand at the door, and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.”  Rev. 3.20

Lord, I hasten, I run to the door. I will arise. This is my part. This is the action I must take.

I am not going to just crack it open, with the safety chain attached. NO. I will swing it wide.

I don’t know where and what the future will look like. But I know this. If my Lord Jesus is in command, I I know He is, then I do not need to know. Just to the future’s His forever!

Well, enough, for now.

To Play My Best For Him (part 2)

Three times in the past year, I have shared from 2 Samuel 6. Each time the “twist” has been a bit different, but basically the same essential message.  Here’s 12-23 (sorry, it IS necessary)

“David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought up the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts.  — But when David returned to bless his household, Michal came out to meet him, and said “How the King of Israel distinguished himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maidsas one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself.!” So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord. And, I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.”

And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.    

The Philistines has captured the Ark and had taken it to Ashdod, placing it in their pagan temple of Dagon. Now after 20 years, David and his army had recovered it and now it is coming home.

David is so excited. He dancing and leaping and probably shouting – full of joy – celebrating with all his might. He has thrown off his royal robes. He is down to his “undergarments.”

David is “clicking his heels.” Carrying on with abandonment. Focused on one thing. The Ark of the Covenant – the Ark of Father, is home at last.

And I say – again – when we see what David saw, when we feel what David felt – when we are so absorbed in the presence of God as David was – we’ll do what David did!!

But Michal- his wife, daughter of Saul, sees him, looking through a window. And she despises him for his actions. One translation says that she accused him of acting “vulgar.”

She was his wife. I suppose you might call her Queen Michal. Her opinion mattered.

But this is the presence of God we are talking about!

Several years ago, I was at a meeting at the Inn of the Last Resort (Christian Training Center International) in Franklin, NC. Charles Carrin was the speaker that night. Now, if you know me, I tend to be rather stoic and reticent about most things. Rather unemotional. My attitude has been, “I may see other people fall under the power of the Spirit, but no one is going to push me down!”

So I was standing along the edge of the crowd as Charles prayed for people. Many were falling down under the power of the Spirit. Then, he caught my eye and motioned for me to come forward. I did, and “plop”, down I went. He had barely – barely- touched me.

I laid there quite a while. The I roused myself up into a sitting position. I sat there for some time as well.

Soon a lady fell – very close to me. I did not know her. I watched as she was “laid to rest.” Not more than 2 seconds later, she reached up and adjusted the collar of her lovely white sweater.

Instantly, Charles Carrin knelt down to her, took her arm, and said something I wont’ forget. Something profound.

“Oh, don’t be so proper.”

Why do I fond that profound? Because as quickly as Charles said that to her, Holy Spirit spoke this to me,

“You cannot fix your eyes on Jesus and at the same time be self-conscious.”

After a moment chewing on that word, (and I invite you – friend – to chew for a moment or three) I looked around and saw Sally Fesperman laying on the carpet.

Many of you know Sally. And if you do, then you obviously know her well dressed she ALWAYS is. Looks like a model (which, I think she had been) even when doing yard work. Never a hair out of place. Meticulously dressed. Make-up perfect.

But on this night, Sally Fesperman was an absolute mess. One shoe was off. One arm was flung over a man’s leg. She was oblivious to her appearance.

And I thought – which one of these pictures do I want to describe me? Total, absolute fixation and abandonment to Jesus – or self conscious, prim and proper.

David told Michal. “You ain’t seen nothing yet! I will celebrate and I will become even more undignified than this!. I will risk humiliation even in my own eyes.”

And Michal, David’s wife, had no child until the day of her death. Why is this verse in there?

When we stiff-arm God. When we refuse to join in. When we remain a spectator, instead of a participant. When we become a critic instead of a celebrator. When we fail to understand that HE IS WORTHY and GIVE HIM THE GLORY DUE HIS MIGHTY NAME – then a barrenness comes to our spiritual lives. Our joy leaves. Our excitement dissipates. Apathy sets in. Bitterness grows.

It is time that I – time that WE – get out of the house of Michal and into the street where the river is flowing, where the wind is blowing, where the fire is burning.

To bring our gifts before the King in celebration.

So come – come as you are. Come to the waters. You who have no money, come buy and eat. Delight yourself in the Lord!

And when we bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord, Jesus will smile at you, just as he did at the little drummer boy!

Well, enough for now.  Oh, one more thing. Let’s make this our 20/20 vision.

To Play My Best For Him

There are many wonderful Christmas songs that I never tired of hearing or singing. O Holy Night, Silent Night, Joy to the World. Many “secular” songs that are timeless. The Christmas Song, Silver Bells, I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

But the very worst – the worst – Christmas song (YES- I know – maybe you’ll respond to this!) is The Little Drummer Boy. The version that is most popular has 23 “parumpapumpums” in it. That is about 22 too many! I turn it off every time. My hands move toward my ears.

 

But. But. I decided to look more closely at the words. And when I get beyond the parumpapumpums, the words are marvelous.

Come, they told me a new born King to see

Our finest gifts we bring to lay before the King

So to honor Him when we come

Little baby, I am a poor boy too

I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give a King

Shall I play for you, on my drum

Mary nodded, the ox and lamb kept time

I played my drum for Him, I played my best for Him

Then He smiled at me, me and my drum.

In the beginning there was a sense of awe. These newly converted, water baptized, Spirit-filled believers were full of awe. Acts tells us that they were in awe at the mighty signs and wonders that God was doing in and through them. There was an air of expectancy. They wanted to be together. They did not want to miss a thing. At any moment something spectacular might happen. And they continued together in one mind, and in gladness and sincerity of heart, with joy.

When I first trusted Christ and was Spirit baptized some 46 years ago, I began attending a little meeting in Cullowhee at WCU. It was just about 10 or 12 college students, and a couple of professors. We met on Saturday nights in a house. Here we were, 18-19-20 year old students using our Saturday night in worship and study while the rest of the campus was “out and about.” I’ve been there. Many of you have as well.

How I looked forward to that meeting. I did not want to miss it. There was such anticipation. We started calling it “Saturday Night Live.” We were getting to know our Savior, and with each chorus, each Scripture song, we seemed to grow closer. More in love. We were young. We were foolish. We came early and stayed late. It was a celebration.

Then. I got married. Then I got a job. Then I had kids. Then I had responsibilities. Then I got busy. I “matured.” And the excitement, the anticipation began to wane. And, then I discovered that many times I found excuses to skip.

What happened? Obviously God moved, right? He changed, right? Well we know the answers to those 2 questions. It’s all on me.

The closest pattern to New Testament worship meeting guidelines that I can find is in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.

1 Cor. 14.26 “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

Paul writes in chapter 14 and verse 26 “When you assemble”. When you assemble. Just this Sunday morning I was “assembled.” And in this assembly there is the possibility that EACH ONE has something. to give. Something to offer. Something to strengthen the Body. Jesus revealing Himself in and through the Body.

Did I – did you – enter “the assembly” today presenting ourselves to our Father as a living sacrifice, making ourselves available to Him. Did I come with gladness and sincerity of heart? Did I come with anticipation? Did I bring my drum – my gift – and “play my best for Him?”

Paul continues, in verse 6, to say that God works all things in all persons. To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. One has a word of wisdom, another has a word of knowledge. Another has faith. Another has a prophecy. Another effects miracles.

Surely there is a mistake!!

I have no gift to bring! I am just a poor boy! I have nothing fit for a King! I am not part of the “each one.” I am excluded from “all.”

If this is my attitude, then I may as well turn my face away from Jesus and call Him a liar! The drummer boy was poor, but he had a drum. And so do I.

AND —I can rediscover my joy. My anticipation. My excitement.

When you assemble! Each one! Holy Spirit in me. Same Holy Spirit in you!

There are many different meetings that we can attend. I guess all are good. Bible studies. Prayer groups. Women’s meetings. But there is normally only one corporate meeting per week for most of us. It should be special. It should be something I do not want to miss.It should be something that produces awe, because at any moment God could and might do something unforgettable.

And what have I brought? Maybe I only have a little bitty drum. A broken tambourine. A rusty gift that used to be vibrant in me. So I say today, to myself first, and to you, that we should refocus ourselves on this time together. I COME TODAY WITH WHAT I HAVE. LORD, USE ME IF YOU PLEASE. WHAT I HAVE I YIELD TO YOU, AND IF YOU DESIRE TO MINISTER THROUGH ME TODAY TO STRENGTHEN SOMEONE THEN I WILL BE BLESSED AND HONORED.

I OFFER YOU MY DRUM. I WILL PLAY MY BEST FOR YOU  – TODAY.

And in my spirit, I believe that the Lord Himself will smile at us, when we come together offering what we have and believing that He delights in seeing His church built up.

So create in me a clean heart. O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of salvation.

 

Well, enough for now. I have more to add. But maybe another day.

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