Fresh Oil

Can I tell you something? And I’m talking to followers of Jesus now. If tomorrow we were to wake up and find all racism gone, all prejudice erased, world-wide peace and harmony, every conspiracy theory solved, and “justice” meted out on a global scale; it would not be enough to satisfy our hearts. We are His, and He alone can fill us.

My dear brothers and sisters, what we need today is not to be found in anything birthed by the flesh. No , it is a fresh revelation of the wonder of the Son of the living God. Once again we need to go to that secret place where only those who worship him in Spirit in truth may go and gaze anew upon the beauty of the glory of Jesus. He is the radiance of the unseen God and the exact imprint of his substance, all that we need in this age or in any age to come.

It is the love of God in Christ, eclipsing all other loves that alone can soothe the storm in our hearts. There is nothing that this world has to offer that can bring the peace and joy that he alone extends to us in his Spirit. Once more we need to cry out to God that the eyes of our hearts may be opened that we may see the One through whom all that is or ever will be was brought into being. There is nothing: no system or authority or dominion or powers seen or unseen over which he is not God. And this God almighty has called us to himself!

May we turn away from lesser things that vie for our attention and affection and return again to our First Love. Forsaking all others, let us hold fast to that which we have first believed, knowing that he is faithful to give us all things. We are heirs of everything, joint heirs with Jesus, recipients of every spiritual blessing God has to bestow. And he shouts with a lion’s roar, “Come away with me my beloved!!”

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. Let us run again to that name and do the things we did when we first believed, and find him again in all of his majesty. Faithful One, Holy One, First Born and Ruler of all creation. It is he who anoints our heads with fresh oil and binds our hearts together as the love of God is poured out in us by his Spirit. We return again to the fountain of living water, and shall thirst no more.

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1:51

Unto you O Lord do I lift up my soul.

I will seek Your face for you are continually before me.

How wonderful it is that I awake to find you calling me,

Extending to me Your steadfast love.

 

It is Your faithfulness my God that keeps me,

          Your strong right hand that upholds me.

And though I cannot see my way before me,

You, O Lord, know the path that I should walk.

 

I entrust to you my family, their perpetual care.

I know that you love them perfectly.

My wife, my children, my mother, brother, my in-loves,

All whom you have given to me I commit into Your hand.

 

 

As for me, I will dwell in the secret place of the Most High.

I will call upon the name of the God of my youth, the Faithful One

Who has sustained me even as I walked through the darkness.

I will trust in the God who hears my cry and delivers me.

 

I know that your intentions towards me are good.

Let me regard You in faithfulness.

May I not sin against You with an evil, unbelieving heart.

For I have seen you power and received Your tender care.

                                                   I know that You are with me.

 

I will sing praises to you upon my guitar.

I will magnify the name of my God before creation awakes.

In the stillness of the hour I will greatly rejoice.

Unto You alone will I sing.

For I know that you are with me.

 

Down and Out in Israeli Hills

I usually chuckle to myself when I ask a fellow Christian how they’re doing and they reply with, “Oh, I’m blessed and highly favored! I am the head and not the tail, above and not beneath! I am more than a conqueror.” You probably know people like this, believers who always seem to be on top of the world, and insist that you should be as well. I understand (for the most part) where these guys are coming from; however, the reality I find in the Bible is a little different from all of that. Sometimes, even if you know the Lord; things can get you down. Christians are not immune to depression.

In Psalm 42/43 (most likely these were originally one Psalm), we see the Psalmist in a state of depression. He remembers how things use to be (42:4), and as he considers where he is at the present time; it seems like God has abandoned him. He asks, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? O God my rock, I cry, Why have you forgotten me? Why have you tossed me aside? Why must I wander around in grief” (42: 5, 9; 43:2) Have you ever felt like that? Has it ever seemed like all hope is gone, and just when you need him most; the Lord has left the building? You are not alone; so did the author of Psalm 42/43.

I read recently that in a given year, between 13-14million people will experience a depressive disorder. Approximately 7 million women in the United States are clinically depressed. Up to 2.5 percent of American children suffer from depression (http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/depression-there-cure-0/). Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the U.S., with approximately 25,000 suicides. Currently, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the  U.S (http://www.christianliferesources.com/article/suicide-facts-and-statistics-114). These are indeed sobering statistics, and Christians are right there in the mix. Let’s look back into Psalm 42/43.

In this Psalm, the ups and downs of depression are vividly described for us. While we do indeed find our Psalmist in a state of depression, he appears to transition out of it, not because his circumstances change, but rather; he himself changes as he places his hope in the Lord. We see that the depression has produced a deep, spiritual thirst in the author, and he longs to be with God. He compares himself to a deer that is in the slow agony of water deprivation. (42:1, 2) Then, in the midst of the struggle; he tells himself to hope in God, for he will praise him again. Once more in 42:6, he reflects back into the past and again becomes discouraged. He reminds himself that “…each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me…” Down into the pits he goes again in 42: 9, 10:

“O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?”
Their taunts break my bones.
They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”

42:11 finds him questioning himself as to why he feels this way. Once again, he says, “I will hope in God.” In 43:2, he asks God why he has been forgotten. Can’t we see ourselves in this Psalm? Up one moment and down the next, our emotions are all messed up. It seems like we’ll never recover, but then; we remember that our hope is in God. And, that’s the game changer!

“Send out your light and your truth;
let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
O God, my God!” (43: 3, 4)

Our Psalmist understands that it is only in God’s presence that he can “get his mind right.” He asks for God’s light and truth so that he can find his way back to where his heart longs to be, in the presence of God. The answer is not in the past, in what use to be, but rather in communing with the Lord right there in the midst of his trouble. He understands that it is God who is the source of his joy, and this realization prompts him to break out into a song of praise!

It may seem like all hope is gone. You may even feel forgotten and abandoned by God. You are not alone! As we have seen, depression was even a part of the lives of those whom God’s Spirit used to pen the Bible. Run to Jesus; pour out your heart to him. He cares about your trouble and wants to heal you of your depression. He himself is the peace you seek. What’s so cool is, even though your circumstances may not immediately change; you will! He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy, and depression cannot stand before him.

The Meaning of Life

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:1-3 ESV)

When you ask most folks to define eternal life, they most always say, “Eternal life means living forever.” Well, that may be an aspect of eternal life, but that is not what eternal life is. In fact, eternal life is not a what, it’s a who. In the passage above, John says that he and the Apostles actually saw, heard, and touched eternal life. Say what? Yep, John tells his readers that the eternal life (τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον) which was with the Father, was made manifest, and they had interacted with “it.” (Doesn’t this put you in mind of what John said in his gospel? “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”)  In the Greek, this seeing and hearing the life is in the “Perfect Indicative Active,” and it carries with it a certain nuance that we sometimes miss.  John is saying, “Guys, what we saw and heard in Jesus affected us at the time we experienced it, and it is still impacting us today.” Eternal life was not merely something John looked forward to. He tells his readers that eternal life was revealed to them in the person of Jesus when he walked among them, and as a result; they are enjoying intimacy with God in the “right now.” And, John wanted those to whom he had written (and us) to participate in the same fellowship.

Another cool thing we can see in this passage has to do with the word with. πρὸς τὸν πατέρα or “with the Father” is jam packed with awesomeness! πρὸς or with actually denotes a moving towards, to “interface with.” It implies interaction and reciprocity.  Do you see the implications of this? This actually shows the distinctiveness of the Son (the life), and his interaction with the Father! In this one phrase, we get a glimpse into the very nature and life of God. We see Jesus the life, the Son, and the second “person” in the Trinity, in relationship with the Father from all of eternity. And John says that the Father and the Son, who have been eternally knowing, loving, and communing together, have invited us to share in the eternal life of God! Hallelujah!! Remember, it was John’s gospel that quotes Jesus as saying, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Friends, not only has your sin been atoned for, you have been invited to share in the very life of God! As you come to Jesus, as you become more deeply in love with him; you get to know and fellowship with God. In Jesus, you experience eternal life right now.

God loved us so much that he gave us Jesus, his only begotten Son who is life himself. Knowing him now means you will never die, for in him; you already possess eternal life.

 

 

 

 

Jiffy Lube, “Bruce Almighty,” and Our Need for Communion

What do Jiffy Lube, and “Bruce Almighty” have to do with man’s need for communion? I’ve been thinking about the Trinity a lot lately (thanks Dr. Gifford). I’ve begun to realize that because God is Triune in his nature, all that God is and does should be considered with that fact in mind. Creation, salvation, you and me, everything is affected by the Triune nature of God, and can really only be properly understood with that in mind. When you think about God, with his Triune nature in mind, it’s easy to see why we (who have been created in his image) have such a desire for communion. So, let me tell you a story.

A few weeks ago I took my car to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. Recently, I’ve noticed that they have begun playing DVDs in the lobby as you wait for them to service your car. That day, the movie being played was “Bruce Almighty.” So, here I am sitting in the lobby with four complete strangers, trying to ignore the movie and concentrate on the book I brought with me. Well, if you’ve seen the movie, you may recall the part where Bruce’s rival is trying to deliver the evening news broadcast, and Bruce messes with him, causing him to just be able to speak gibberish, which I think is totally hilarious. Anyhow, I’m trying to keep it together in front of these strangers, not wanting to just bust out laughing in front of them in the lobby of the local Jiffy Lube; but, I couldn’t do it. I lost it, and just died laughing. And, so did everybody else. It was like we were all waiting for somebody to break the ice  and make it okay to laugh. For a brief moment, it felt like we were old friends, completely comfortable with each other. It seemed we all felt a bond at that moment, we wanted to laugh together, but just didn’t know how. That got me to thinking.

Because God is Triune in his nature, and we are created in his image; there is this innate, God created desire within us for communion. Even folks who don’t know the Lord need and seek intimacy with others. We have been created for fellowship, with God and each other. Sin, has disrupted and corrupted this whole thing. First off, as this relates to the body of Christ; the most natural thing in the world should be for us to enjoy Jesus together, but all too often we don our religious masks and refuse to let anyone see what’s really going on in our hearts. We put on airs, and refuse to expose our weaknesses to one another, and this keeps us from truly enjoying the communion we so desperately need. Put plainly, we are afraid to be real and many times opt to show each other the fake self we believe is safe for others to see. We don’t want others to see us make mistakes or get it wrong. As a result, the communion we are to have with each other, which by the way is to lead us into deeper intimacy with Jesus, is shallow and often disingenuous. How can we teach and admonish each other in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, when we are uncomfortable around each other?

Consider God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally communing with each other in absolute holiness. Our relationships within the body of Christ are to reflect the communion of the Triune God. In fact, the only way you can mature properly in the Lord is in communion with your brothers and sisters. Yes, we are to have that personal walk with God, but you’ll only go so far by yourself. In each other, we visibly see God at work and are built up in the faith. You weren’t designed to know it all, or be the high and lofty anointed one. We need each other to be whole. It’s the way He set it up.

All of this means we have to willing to be vulnerable, and guess what; may be it is you who needs to be the one to “break the ice” in your fellowship. You could be the one the Lord uses to bring freedom and renewal in the lives of those with whom you commune. Try this. The next time someone asks you, “How’s it going?” tell them the truth. Spend time with Jesus, let his word abide in you, and then pour into someone else. They need you and you need them. I’ll leave you with this:

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

 

 

Let Us Pray: Why?

Why must I pray? How am I supposed to pray? How do I know if  I’m praying the will of God? These are just a few of the questions about prayer that most of us ask. While I would not even begin to claim that I understand everything about prayer, I would like to share some thoughts on the subject. So, please join me as we  see what we can learn about this thing called prayer.

The first thing about prayer that stands out to me is the fact that when we pray, we are intentionally placing ourselves in a position to encounter God. We read in the Bible things about seeking the Lord, waiting on God, crying out to the Lord, and coming into his presence, well what does all of that mean? How do you do that? It’s in prayer. We cant (at this point) physically come into the presence of God. I can’t physically “enter his gates.”  Prayer is the way I come to the Lord. Prayer is how I encounter the presence of the living God. (I understand about community & the Body, but we’re just talking about prayer right now.) I can  come and talk to God, and what’s more, I can hear him speak to me. (Yeah, I said it.)  No wonder we meet so much opposition when we endeavor to develop our prayer life.  Through prayer I am communing with the living God. Why must I pray? I should think the answer is pretty obvious! In prayer, I’m meeting with God and he has the tendency to “rub off” on you. (And to rub stuff off of you as well!) It has been said that demons get alarmed when a Christian begins to read the Bible, but they TREMBLE when Christians begin to pray.

I heard pastor Dennis Hall once say that “how much we depend on God is a gauge of sorts as to a Christian’s maturity.” The mature disciple is one that depends upon God and prayer is perhaps the ultimate sign of this dependence. “But I thought that the more one matures the more independent he becomes.” Isn’t that what they tell us? Once again we need to be reminded that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. We seek a spiritual maturity that only comes through surrender and dependence on God. Our heart before the new birth cries out for independence and maturity according to the flesh, but the heart of the disciple relates maturity to his relationship with God. Let me ask you this, when Jesus said, “I do nothing of myself. I only do and say what I see and hear from the Father,” how do you suppose he saw and heard those things? You already know the answer-prayer, communing with the Father. What an example he gave us to follow!

Simply put, when we pray, we are meeting with God. We can’t really meet with him and not come away changed.

To be continued…