WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BRING?

PSALM 31:14-16: “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!” ESV

OBSERVATION: What will the future bring? I find myself asking this question as my present situation is one of uncertain change. At this present moment I am completing a long term pastorate with a congregation that I greatly love. My wife and I also have our house up for sale and are relocating to a new state and a new beginning. There are many uncertainties and many questions. Like the Psalmist in the midst of his distress, I too must cry,

  • “But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand…”

In life we all face the uncertainty of the unknown. Will my job last? How long will I live? Will I have enough money to retire? What does the future hold? Will my children be successful and serve the Lord? As we ponder these questions we realize how much they are out of our control. How does a person without faith navigate these precarious waters?

It is faith that sustains and assures us – “My times are in your hand…”

In David’s confession of faith, he also cries out for protection. “…Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!” This reminds me of the construction of the Lord’s Prayer. It begins with worship, a surrender of will, a call for provision and forgiveness, a petition for protection, and a proclamation of faith.

  • Worship: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
  • Surrender: Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
  • Provision: Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
  • Protection: And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
  • Proclamation: For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-10, 12-13 NKJV

In the course of life there will always be a new unknown. The challenges and situations will change, but the dynamic stays the same. In all of the changing situations of life we have a Father who loves us. He truly does hold our times in His hand. This is called sovereignty from a theological perspective. However, from a practical perspective this is called love. It is God’s love for us that assures us that we can face each day with confidence because we know He hold our life in His hands.

This morning Lord, I understand the model of your prayer in a new way. Each day as I face uncertainty I must face it with worship and a surrender of my will to Your’s. The answers to all the unanswered questions in my life are not to be found in my striving or worrying, but in my resting and trusting. My part is not to break down doors, but to be ready and willing to walk through the doors that You open, moment by moment, day by day. Waiting upon You is not inactivity, it is a preservation of strength so that I am able to act and obey at the appropriate time.

  • “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV

In Jesus Name!

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HOW DO WE FACE THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE?

PSALM 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ESV

OBSERVATION: How do we face the death of a loved one? Over the years I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death personally with the loss of my parents and two of my closest friends, and with many individuals who have lost spouses, children, and loved ones in my many years as a pastor. What have I learned?

The loss of a parent, a spouse, a child, or a friend is extremely difficult. As believers in Christ, even though we have the hope of eternal life, we still go through deep struggles and grief. Our grief is not without hope, yet it is still grief. It truly is the valley of the shadow of death. At times it is dark and lonely. We feel isolated and alone. And we wonder if we will ever get through it. Yet, the promise of Psalm 23 can sustain us and give us hope.

The beginning of the Psalm proclaims – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” In the next verses we see that the Shepherd leads us to green pastures so we can be refreshed and find rest. The Shepherd leads us to still waters so that we can be renewed and restored. And the Shepherd leads us in the pathway of righteousness for His Name’s sake. The common thread of all of these points is this – He leads us!

This brings us to the valley of the shadow of death. We never pass through this alone. The Good Shepherd is still leading us. He is going before us in the darkness, and He is guiding us through this valley. This does not mean that we will not have sorrow or grief. Yet it does assure us that we will pass through it, that He will not abandon or leave us there. We are assured that there is comfort, healing, and restoration awaiting us on the other side.

The Psalmist assures us – “…I will fear no evil, for you are with me…

Then the Psalmist makes a proclamation. He says – “Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” What does this mean? The Shepherd used his rod to protect His sheep. The Lord promises to protect us from the pitfalls of the valley, as well as the attacks of the enemy. If we stay close to His path, He will not allow the enemy of our souls to overcome us in our times of weakness and sorrow. The Lord stands as our defender. He holds His rod in hand to overcome the enemy during our greatest times of sorrow and weakness.

The Shepherd also carries His staff. The staff was used to guide, correct, and keep the sheep on the right path. If a sheep wandered away from the path the staff would be used to guide him back, and to rescue him if he was in peril. The staff is a symbol of God’s love that watches over us in our times of deepest sorrow and grief. At these times we are the most vulnerable to losing our way. Yet, the Shepherd guides and restores us with the staff of His grace, mercy, and love. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep – at all times.

I have witnessed the power of His rod and staff in my life, and in the life of so many who have faced and walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Everyone grieves differently, yet the Good Shepherd cares for us each according to our individual needs. The one common denominator that I have seen for everyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ is – they have made it through! They have discovered, in time, that the Lord was there with them, every step of the way.

His rod and His staff were comforting them, even when they were not aware of it.

Talking about death is hard. No one wants to experience the death of a loved one. Yet, death is something that we will all deal with, both in our lifetime, and ultimately when we meet the Lord at the end of our life. The blessed assurance that we have in both instances is that the Shepherd awaits to lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. When we lose a loved one, He will lead us through. When we come to the end of our life, He will usher us into His glory in heaven. Therefore, with the Psalmist we can boldly proclaim,

“…I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Lord, this morning I want to thank you for leading me through the valley of the shadow of death when I have lost those whom I have loved. I want to thank you for Your faithfulness that I have witnessed in the many people I have walked with through their own personal losses. And I want to thank you that I know, that I know, that I know, that at the end of my days You stand waiting to receive me as my Good Shepherd to lead me into eternal life. Lord, may You bring this comfort and assurance to all those in need of it today!

In Jesus Name!

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The BIBLE, CHRISTIANITY, and ENVIRONMENTALISM…

PSALM 8:4-9: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalms 8:4-9 ESV

OBSERVATION: Is Christianity and environmentalism opposed to one another? Does the Bible teach the principles of conservation or exploitation? If you listen to the news reports the answer is a bit cloudy. However, if you consider the Biblical record the answer is quite clear.

I will never forget a class I took when I was finishing my degree in College. Somehow I came to the end of my degree program and discovered that I was short two science courses to graduate. Truth be told, science was not my favorite subject. In fact, I would rather take Greek than science. Be that as it may, I enrolled in two easy science courses at my local community college. The two courses were Astronomy and Man and the Environment.

The two courses had something in common. In both of these courses the professor had strong opinions about the Bible and Christianity. They were not favorable to say the least. Since I was older than most of the students in the classes I was the only one to speak in defense of my faith and the Biblical record. And when I did I referred to this Scripture, as well as the Genesis account. The Bible and Christianity do not teach the principles of exploitation. They teach the principles of stewardship!

There is prerequisite to this understanding. Unashamedly I believe the Bible is the Word of God without error, and I also believe that God created the world as reported in the Book of Genesis. This understanding of creation only heightens the call to stewardship. And the Psalmist agrees. When he considers all that has been placed into man’s care he utters – “…What is man that you are mindful of him…?”

God honored his creation of mankind by giving them the position of stewardship over His entire creation. If you think of this it is a pretty awesome and amazing thing. There is not another part of God’s creation that has been given this awesome responsibility. It is up to mankind to steward the entire earth. And his call to stewardship is one of personal responsibility and worship to His Creator. If we love our Creator we will also love His creation. This is the height of stewardship.

However, loving God’s creation is not worshipping it. God has given us His creation to steward and to use for the benefit of mankind. This means that it is alright to use all of the natural resources He has entrusted us for the benefit of mankind. Albeit, we are to use them in a responsible manner. Yet, we are still given the stewardship to use them.

  • “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:27-31 ESV

This means that a true Biblical view of the stewardship of the earth is to use all that God has given us for the benefit of mankind. In this use we are not to abuse the earth, but we are to take care of it. To pollute and to pillage the earth are not Biblical tenets. However, neither is putting God’s creation above the benefit of mankind a Biblical tenet. The call is to use and steward the earth with balance and with compassion. Therefore, one who holds a truly Biblical view of stewardship is really the greatest conservationist of all. Why? Because he is stewarding the earth according to command and will of the Creator, not his own.

What we need in the discussion of conservation in our day and age is balance and common sense. Without a faith in God one is led to believe that man is in control of his environment rather than just a steward. The panic over climate change and the use of fossil fuels is simply the result of this view. However, if we truly believe that God is in control, and that we are just stewards, if we steward the resources of the earth in a responsible manner we have faith and confidence that God will provide. The responsible uses of these resources will not melt the icecaps, and if one resource runs out, the Lord will provide another.

This viewpoint will seem naive to some. They will accuse a position of faith as ignorance and putting one’s head in the sand. Yet, truth be told, to embrace theoretical positions such as evolution and climate change as hard fact, when there is so much missing empirical evidence, takes greater faith than trusting the Creator of the Universe and His Word. If I have to make a choice, I choose to trust in God! I choose to be a wise steward of the resources that He has entrusted to my care. And I choose to have confidence that until Jesus Christ returns He will continue to provide for His creation’s needs!

  • “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:20-22 ESV

Lord, what is man that You are mindful of him? He is blessed to be given the high privilege and calling of steward of the earth.

In Jesus Name!

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DO YOU HAVE TROUBLE SLEEPING?

Baby NappingPSALM 4:3-8: “But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The LORD will hear when I call to Him. Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD. There are many who say, “Who will show us any good?” LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart, More than in the season that their grain and wine increased. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Have you ever had trouble sleeping? Is your heart so filled with the concerns of this life that you toss and turn each night? God has a wonderful promise for all of His children. It is a promise of joy, peace, and a good night’s sleep.

I know what it is like to toss and turn. Traveling as much as I do, I have spent more time in uncomfortable hotel beds than most. And, to make matters worse, my trips are always filled with challenges and stress. Many people think that it is a joy to travel for your work. It may be exciting for a while, but when you have done it for over 25 years, it becomes old. Time and time again I have had to return to these wonderful verses in Psalms 4:3-8.

Then there are the times in life when we face great sorrow, disappointment, and pain. These too can rob us of our joy, peace, and the blessing of a good night’s sleep. How do we find rest when our hearts are aching? How can we sleep when there is an emptiness in our lives, when someone we loved dearly is no longer with us? Can the word’s of the Psalmist speak even to us in these times? Let’s look at the wonderful promises David pens from the anguish of his own heart.

  • “But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The LORD will hear when I call to Him. “

The Lord’s promise is sure! The Lord will never leave us or forsake us! We are set apart by the Lord – for Himself! This means that He is personally standing with us in the very midst of our deepest struggles and our greatest losses. He is not only standing with us, His ear is attentive to our cry. He is listening to the groanings of our heart and to the prayers we utter that are bathed in tears. And He is always extending His grace and mercy to us in our time of need.

  • “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.” Selah

The term “Selah” in the Psalms means to pause. We must pause each night and examine our hearts before we lie down to sleep. Are we harboring anger in our hearts against others, or against the Lord? We all experience anger. It is a normal part of the grieving process when we lose someone or something dear and precious to us. However, we must not live in anger. We must not close our day in anger. When we lie down to sleep we have a choice to make. We can either rehearse the pain and foster the anger, or we can meditate upon God’s Word and His Promises. God’s Word brings peace and life. It soothes the hurting heart and renews the mind. It prepares us for a good night’s sleep!

  • “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD. There are many who say, “Who will show us any good?” LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.”

When we are facing times of great anguish and pain, the natural tendency in our lives is to shut down. We are prone to isolate ourselves from others, and to pull away from any activities or responsibilities that we have. This is especially true with our spiritual disciplines. The first to go is our church attendance, then reading the Bible, and finally prayer. This is exactly what the enemy of our souls wants us to do. However, God calls us to offer the sacrifices of righteousness and to put our trust in Him. Some object saying – “I can’t, for that would be hypocritical. My heart is not in it.” It is never hypocritical to do what is right when you do not feel like it. IT IS CALLED FAITH! And when we run to Him in faith, He extends to us the light of His countenance – His grace, mercy, and favor!

  • “You have put gladness in my heart, More than in the season that their grain and wine increased. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

Most of the healing that takes place in a believer’s life is not instantaneous or miraculous. It is steady and gradual. Struggles, pain, suffering, and grief don’t disappear by simply reading a few verses. However, when we begin to understand that God is for us, when we begin to lay down our anger and meditate upon His word, when we keep offering the sacrifices of righteousness, something wonderful begins to happen. I call it the “Great Exchange.” Where there was sorrow, we begin to experience joy. Where there was confusion and emptiness, we begin to experience peace. And where there was sleeplessness, we begin to experience the rest of the Lord, both spiritually and physically.

In times of physical and spiritual challenge, I have found His peace and His protection. In times of disappointment, loss, and grief, I have found His comfort and strength. And in an ever increasing way, I have found the blessed provision of sleep to refresh my body and soul. I pray that these verses will also lead you to a new revelation of His promise to give you rest, spiritually and emotionally, and that each night when you lay your head down – you will experience the blessing of a good night’s sleep!

  • “It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.” Psalms 127:2 NKJV

Lord, bless us tonight with Your gift of sleep!

In Jesus Name

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AM I AWARE OF MY BLIND SPOTS?

II CHRONICLES 35:20-24: “After all this, when Josiah had set the House in order, King Neco of Egypt came up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went out to engage him. But Neco sent messengers to him saying, “What is there between me and you, king of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house that wars with me and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your sake from meddling with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you!” Josiah, however, would not turn away from him but disguised himself in order to fight him. He did not listen to Neco’s words from the mouth of God and went to fight him in the plain of Megiddo. Archers shot King Josiah and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am seriously wounded.” So his servants carried him out of the chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had. They brought him to Jerusalem where he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned over Josiah.” TLV

OBSERVATION: Am I aware of my blind spots? Am I open to God’s direction for my life, even when it comes from unexpected sources? The closing chapter in King Josiah’s life speaks volumes to these questions.

King Josiah was undoubtedly one of the finest kings of Judah. He brought both civil and religious reform. He worked to restore the Temple, repented when the Torah of Moses was read to him, and led the entire nation of Judah in repentance and a covenant to serve the Lord God. When Josiah led all of Judah and Jerusalem in celebrating the Passover, it is recorded,

  • “The Bnei-Yisrael (Children of Israel) present celebrated the Passover at that time and observed the Feast of Matzot (Unleavened Bread) for seven days. Passover had not been celebrated like that in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet, and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the kohanim (priests), the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This Passover was celebrated in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah.” 2 Chronicles 35:17-19 TLV

How could such a godly man miss it? To answer this question all I really have to do is look in the mirror. How many times have I missed it?

The Apostle Paul was familiar with the problem of blind spots.

  • “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:11-13 NKJV

God’s Word has been given to us so that we can learn from other’s victories and failures. The reason why this is so important is that we are all only one step away from falling. We need a constant light to shine on our path. We need a constant warning to protect us from our blind spots. In everything we face, on every path, there is a choice to make. The key is learning to make the right choice.

So what can we learn from Josiah’s incorrect choice? Josiah did not recognize God’s warning coming to him from a source with which he was not familiar. Why he was provoked to go into battle with King Necho of Egypt is not fully revealed in this text. In II Kings we read that King Necho was making an alliance to help the King of Assyria. Perhaps Josiah viewed this as a threat to Judah. Regardless of the reason, God honored His covenant with Josiah and tried to warn him.

  • “What is there between me and you, king of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house that wars with me and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your sake from meddling with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you!”

However, Josiah did not heed this warning. Instead, he disguised himself and went up against King Necho. And in this attack he was mortally wounded. What was Josiah’s blind spot?

When we don’t have a verse of Scripture to rely on, a word from the Lord, or when the pathway is unclear, what do we do? Josiah’s failure gives us an answer. Solomon also reminds us of the answer in his instruction from the Book of Proverbs.

  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7 NKJV

When we are on a path that is unfamiliar, when we don’t have a clear Scriptural answer to the question that is at hand, we are called to trust in the Lord and acknowledge Him in sincere and diligent prayer. Prayer is the opposite of presumption. Presumption pushes us to action. Prayer calls us to stop, consider, and listen. It is the overriding counsel of Scripture, and the still small voice of the Spirit, that is the key in these times. If Josiah would have prayed, if he would have listened, he might have finished out his days in peace. After all, if God can speak through the mouth of a donkey, why can’t he speak through the mouth of a Gentile King?

Experience in life can become a trap that leads us into our blind spots. We cannot simply assume that we know the path that God wants us to take because we have passed this way before. We must always call upon His name, listen to His voice, and be willing to lay down our presuppositions for His divine revelation. This is hard to do, but not impossible. We are given every opportunity by God’s Grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit, to make a wise choice, the right choice, the choice that is according to His counsel and His will. Like Josiah, we have all become victims of our blinds spots. Yet, God is speaking to us to help us avoid living in the pathway of wrong choices. In this example from Josiah’s life the Lord is calling us to live in the pathway of His ever increasing light!

  • But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18 NKJV

Lord, shine your light upon my path today. Keep me from presumptuous sin, and protect me from my blind spots. Help me to call upon You at all times, to acknowledge You in all my ways, and to listen to the still small voice of Your Holy Spirit.

In Jesus Name!

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A NEW LOOK AT THE GIFT OF TONGUES…

II CHRONICLES 5:13-14: “…indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Have you ever wanted to see the Presence of God? As Solomon dedicated the Temple, as the priests placed the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, as the trumpeters and singers were as one praising and thanking the Lord, the manifest presence of God was physically seen by all. It was the cloud of God’s glory filling the Temple.

This history of Israel is replete with physical manifestations of God’s presence. As the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, the presence of God was seen as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. When Moses would meet with the Lord in the tent of meeting, the cloud of God’s presence would overshadow the tent, and all Israel would stand at the door of their tents from a distance looking on. When Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to meet with God, they witnessed thundering, the sound of a trumpet, and a thick cloud.

Why doesn’t the Lord show Himself like this today?

There are testimonies by some of these types of encounters. Yet, the vast majority have not seen a physical sign of the manifest presence of God. In all my years of pastoring I have felt the presence of God, but I have never seen a cloud or pillar of fire. I have never heard the sounding of thundering or a mighty trumpet. And I have often wondered why. Why doesn’t the Lord manifest Himself on a regular basis today? And as I pondered this thought today I realized – He has!

There is something wonderful in the opening account of the dedication of the Temple that is easily missed. It is the following words,

  • “…indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one…”

Not only were the trumpeters and singers as one, the entire nation of Israel stood before Solomon and the Temple as one. There was a united heart that was directed in worship to the Lord. And then I remembered another account in the Bible when these same conditions existed.

  • “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts‬ ‭2:1-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Note, they were gathered together to worship the Lord, they were all with one accord in one place, and they witnessed the manifest presence of God. There were some manifestations of God’s presence that were unique to this encounter, and some that continued. We do not read again in the Book of Acts that there was the sound of a rushing mighty wind, or that tongues of fire appeared upon the heads of those who believed. However, we do see a pattern of an outward manifestation that continued and was recognized as the sign of God’s presence.

It was the gift of praying in the spirit, the gift of speaking in tongues.

Over and over again in the book of Acts we see that when the Apostles laid their hands upon believers to receive the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues.

  • “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? ”. ‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:44-47‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As Peter preached to the house of Cornelius, God manifested His presence in the lives of these Gentile converts. They believed the message of Christ, and even before Peter could ask them to repent and be baptized, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. What was Peter’s response?

  • “Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? ”. ‭

Peter recognized the manifest presence of God through the physical manifestation of speaking in tongues. Why is this so important? It show a dramatic shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant the children of Israel could only view the presence of God from a distance. Even though these manifestations were dramatic and earthshaking, they had little effect upon the heart of the individual and the nation. The awe soon wore away, and their hearts were unchanged.

However, in the New Covenant, believers in Jesus Christ are not called to stand at the door of their tent and watch as one person experiences the manifest presence of God. Rather, each believer is in-dwelt with the manifest presence of God. Each believer is part of the Temple of God that is made with living stones. And each stone is invited to enter into the manifest presence of God. This is not simply a theological viewpoint, it is a dynamic experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. And the wonderful confirmation of this event is the gift of praying in the Holy Spirit, or praying in tongues.

As a Pentecostal believer, I am so glad that I can daily be reminded of the manifest presence of God as I have the joy and privilege of praying in the spirit (praying in tongues). This gift is not for exhibition or abuse. It is an intimate reminder of the indwelling presence of the precious Holy Spirit in my life. It is the call to partner with the Lord in prayer as an intercessor before the throne of God. It is a call to enter into worship with words that cannot be uttered with my understanding, but can be released to heaven in my heavenly language.

There are so many Scriptures in the New Testament that deal with this truth. This outward sign of God’s manifest presence did not cease when the canon of Scripture was completed or when the apostles died. In fact, the same Peter who witnessed the Lord pour out His manifest presence upon the Gentiles proclaimed,

  • “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts‬ ‭2:38-39‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The good news is that God is still calling people. As long as God is calling, He is also saving and filling people with His manifest presence. As a young Lutheran student, who believed in the gifts of the Spirit, but did not participate in them, I discovered the manifest presence in a small prayer room. As I knelt crying out to God for a friend who was gravely ill, I found I had no words to express. When I groaned before Him, the manifest presence of God fell upon me, and I began praying in a language I had never learned. My life was markedly different from that day forward.

Like the children of Israel, experiencing the manifest presence of God does not make one perfect. Yet, I now realize why the enemy does not want me to pray in the spirit. I now realize why he constantly tries to get believers to argue and fight over this gift. It is because the enemy of our souls does not want us to be daily reminded of the manifest presence in our lives. As we are reminded, we are drawn closer to God. And as we are drawn closer to God, the enemy will have to flee!

  • Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James‬ ‭4:7-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Praying in the Spirit builds up our faith! It draws us closer to the love of God through the Holy Spirit. It keeps us focused on the Kingdom of God rather than the things of this life.

  • “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude‬ ‭1:20-21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

If you have never experienced this wonderful gift, all you have to do is ask. If a young Lutheran student can encounter the manifest presence of God in a small prayer chapel – you can too!

Lord, may I give You praise today, with my understanding, and with my spirit! May I abide in the manifest presence of God!

  • “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans‬ ‭8:26-27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” I Corinthians‬ ‭14:14-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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THE PITFALL OF PRIDE…

1 CHRONICLES 21:1-7: “Then satan stood up against Israel and incited David to count Israel. So David told Joab and the leaders of the people, “Go, count Israel from Beersheba to Dan. Then bring me a report so I may know their number.” But Joab said, “May ADONAI multiply His people 100 times over! But my master the king, are they not all my master’s servants? Why does my master require this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and finally came back to Jerusalem. Joab gave the number of the census of the people to David: in all Israel there were 1,100,000 sword-wielding men; Judah had 470,000 sword-wielding men. But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s word was detestable to Joab. But God was displeased with this thing and He struck Israel.”

OBSERVATION: Am I guarding my heart from the pitfall of pride? Am I aware that this is one of the principle weapons the enemy uses to attack my life when I am experiencing victories from the Lord? The book of Proverbs is very clear,

  • “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit with the afflicted than to share the spoil with the proud.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:18-19‬ ‭TLV‬‬

How could David, a man after God’s own heart, fall prey to such an obvious attack of the enemy? And why was God’s punishment on Israel so severe? At first glance it simply appears that David was requesting a census, something that Israel had done before, under the direction of the Lord. However, the Lord had not directed David to do this, and it was not motivated out of obedience to the Lord. David’s census was motivated out of pride.

The previous chapter in 1 Chronicles listed the victories that David and Israel had accomplished over the Ammonites and the Philistines. It even listed their victory over the descendants of Goliath. It was in this setting of victory that Satan attacked David. And it was in this setting of victory that David succumbed to the pitfall of pride.

How easy it is for us to begin to think that we have something to do with the victories in our life. All I really need to do is listen to the words coming out of my mouth to see if I am close to this pitfall. When the pronoun “I” is used more than “He”, then I am moving ever closer to the pitfall of pride. David was reveling in his victories. He began to think that his military prowess and the size of his army was the reason for these victories. David stood at the intersection of pride and humility, and at this juncture David chose pride.

Pride can blind us to so many things. David’s momentary lapse of pride caused him to ignore the warnings of his general Joab who had fought side by side with him in so many battles. God uses those closest to us to help us see our blind spots. When we find ourselves refusing to listen to those speaking into our life, we are at the edge of the pitfall of pride. David also was blinded to his own motivation. Pride is insidious. It convinces us that our motives are pure, while deep down we know that we are entering into forbidden territory.

Israel was created to be the people of God. The Lord was to be their true King, and His Word was to be their true sword. It was this devotion to the true and living God, and His Word, that differentiated Israel from all other nations on the face of the earth. David’s actions threatened the very core of this uniqueness. If David, the man after God’s own heart, began to follow the ways of the nations around Him, what would happen to the entire nation of Israel? God’s punishment upon Israel was severe because so much was at stake!

The enemy could not stop the powerful hand of the Lord that brought these victories in David’s life. The only way the enemy could defeat David was if David defeated himself. This is also true for all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus has won the victory. There is nothing that the enemy of our souls can do that can thwart the victory that Jesus has already won on the cross. The only way he can win over our lives is if he incites us to trust in our own power, rather than the power of God. And he does this by inciting us to the pitfall of pride.

There is a victory over pride! It is not found in our actions, it is found in our position. Pride incites us to action, humility calls us to position. The position of humility is surrender. It is found on our knees as we acknowledge our pride and as we place ourselves once again in the mighty hands of God. God will always resist the proud, but He will always pour out His manifold grace upon those who position themselves in humility!

  • “But He gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded! Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of ADONAI, and He shall lift you up.” ‭‭Jacob (James)‬ ‭4:6-10‬ ‭TLV‬‬

This is what the Lord did for David and Israel, and this is what He will do for each one of us as we humble ourselves under HIs mighty hand! When we are positioned in humility, when we recognize that everything we are, have, and do, is a gift of God’s grace – the enemy will flee! Our victory is not in the battle, our victory is in the Cross! It is in the Cross of Christ that we find our rest and our victory. He alone is our victory, and He alone will lift us up.

Lord, cleanse my heart this morning from all pride. Forgive me for the times when I have taken credit for the works of Your grace. Today, I choose to humble myself under Your mighty hand. Today I choose to draw heart to You! Be my victory!

In Jesus Name!

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