Saturday we had some friends over for dinner and we decided on a whim to make an apple crisp for dessert. We dove in wholeheartedly peeling and slicing apples, melting butter and mixing it all up. All was going well until we discovered we were missing baking powder. Who knew you needed baking powder in an apple crisp? I knew we had some in an unpacked box SOMEWHERE!
As I looked at the mountain of boxes in the garage, I decided I didn't have the courage to face
that task so Shanda decided to call the neighbors and borrow some. She called and they had just left for the evening but told us to go on in and get what we needed. They said that if the door was locked just go around back and go in one of the two there, surely one was bound to be open. Shanda sent me off and reminded me to hurry it up! Well, you guessed it, every door, window and crack was locked tight. (Paranoid I guess!) I peeked in the kitchen window and there were all the supplies I needed but to my dismay I could not gain access to them.
This makes me think of how different it is when we are sent on a mission by Jesus. Here's what Jesus said:
"Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you." Then He
breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:21-22 NLT)
When the Father sent Jesus, He had everything necessary to accomplish His mission.
1. He knew exactly what He was supposed to do and why. (Luke 19:10, 1Jn. 3:8)
2. He had access (authority) from the Father to do what needed to be done. (Matt. 28:18)
3. He was thoroughly equipped to accomplish His mission. (Matt. 3:15-17)
4. He was passionate about His mission. (John 2:16-17,Luke 19:41)
5. He accomplished His mission. (John 19:30)
When Shanda sent me to get baking powder, my mission was clear, I knew exactly what I needed; I had lots of passion because I love apple crisp; the problem was I was not equipped properly with the authority to access the place where the provision was. I had permission but no authority (the keys) to do what needed to be done.
When the Father sent Jesus here to do the work of Redemption, he not only provided everything Jesus needed, He was given authority and access to the provision in order to get the job done (Matt. 16:19). Jesus does the same for us. He has given us His Holy Spirit, we have the same power and authority He had. We now have access to all that we need to accomplish His mission.
"For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father." (Ephesians
So, let's be determined about out our mission since Jesus died to fulﬁll it. Let's be thankful because God has provided all we need to accomplish our mission. Let's be bold because Jesus gave us His authority when He ﬁlled us with His Holy Spirit.
This is kingdom living.
As for the apple crisp, we skipped the baking powder. It turned out just ﬁne, tasted great but just a little watery. (I ate most of it myself!)
In our city there is a man who by all accounts is very confused. About six feet two inches tall, quite hairy and by most criteria, a fairly "manly" man. For some reason this man in his brokenness and pain chooses to wear a miniskirt, bikini top, gaudy makeup, high-healed shoes and call himself "Mary" (name changed here).The first time I encountered "Mary", we were riding our bikes downtown with six kids in tow. As we were crossing the street we had a seven year old straggler who had gotten detached from the pack, "Mary" kindly warned us of the straggler and to be careful. My kids eyes got as big as dinner plates when they heard the deep baritone voice coming out of the makeup sodden, dress-clad person that they had previously assumed was just a very ugly woman with too much body hair. Then came the barrage of questions which I did my best to answer in a very fatherly, "Christian" way all the time being ticked at "Mary" for introducing my kids to a whole other world that I wasn't ready for them to be exposed to.
When the Mary's of life cross our path, what do we see? Those that are broken down, worn out, distressed, hopeless, in despair, dirty, sinful - even wretched, what do we see? That is the question that God asked Ezekiel in this passage:
Then he asked me, "Son of man, can these bones become living people again?""O Sovereign Lord ," I replied, "you alone know the answer to that." (Ezekiel 37:3 NLT)
Let me paraphrase the conversation for a moment. "What do you see Ezekiel?" All that remains of a life that was once was alive, vibrant and thriving, just a pile of bones. That was pretty much Ezekiel's response, "Nothing much Lord, just a pile of dried up ole bones." What do we see when we encounter the Mary's of life, those that or torn and ravaged by sin and Satan? Do we cross the street to avoid the encounter? Do we turn our eyes away and busy ourselves with something else to block out the possibility of having to engage in conversation?
The Lord's next question is even more revealing as to the condition of our hearts, "Ezekiel, can these bones live?" God, are you kidding me? These are worthless, dried up old bones. No value here, their time is long gone there is no hope left for them. Ezekiel's reply was one that didn't have much faith in it, he said, "Lord only you know!" Often times that is the extent of my faith. I can't see anything worth salvaging, all I see is a wrecked life, lost career, an empty house, hope destroyed, ravaged by sin, beaten by life, friendless, vision less, hopeless, worthless - a pile of bones. Thank you Jesus for the power of grace, I see bones Jesus sees an army.
What God says next is the most incredible thing yet. The same God that shouted to a dead man to come out of the grave commands His prophet to: "Speak to these bones and say, 'Dry bones, listen to the Word of the Lord...I will put breath in you and you will come back to life.'"
Just as Lazarus had no choice but to come out of that grave, when the prophet spoke the word of the Lord over those bones, they sprung back to life and became a great army (abridged version). No matter how wrecked, hopeless and ravaged a life is; yours, mine or another's; when the Word of the Lord comes, it changes everything. What was dead becomes alive, what what was once considered hopeless has hope restored. Just like Ezekiel spoke the will and Word of God into a hopeless situation, so we too must speak the word of The Lord over our situation, over that person who has no strength or inclination to find the One who can change everything. He sends us out filled with His Spirit and clothed with His power into the hopeless, dark sea of humanity and says "Prophesy O man, O woman, speak My Word, bring My power, change a situation, bring hope, bring help, make a difference in the world around you!"
The next time you see a person or a situation that seems like it is beyond help or beyond hope, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit asking "What do you see?" Remember the power of the one who set the stars in their place and say, "Others may see bones but I see and army!"
"The purpose of this decree is that the whole world may understand that the
Most High rules over the kingdoms of the World and gives them to anyone he
chooses - even to the lowliest of humans." Daniel 4:17b
God had given King Nebuchadnezzar victory over all the kings of the world at that time. His was the
biggest, richest, and most powerful kingdom on earth. The Lord had caused every other kingdom to
crumple under the power of Babylon and her might. The Lord spoke prophetically that this was to be
the case. He even prophesied that the longest reigning superpower, Egypt, would become a servant
to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar got caught up in the glory of his success and refused to acknowledge
that it was the Lord who had made him successful and had given him all the wealth and power that
he now enjoyed. Because of his pride, God caused Nebuchadnezzar to go insane until he learned
that, "Heaven rules" (Vs. 26). Finally at the end of seven years of insanity, wandering the fields
like an animal, Nebuchadnezzar's sanity and kingdom were restored to him and he, "Praised, glorified
and honored the King of Heaven" (Vs. 37).
What does this mean for us in our situation and circumstance? This is how I see it.
Heaven rules whether or not I feel it, see it or believe it. That means God's plan and purpose will
prevail - no matter what. If I am obedient to His plan, His will shall be done. If I am disobedient to His
plan, His will shall be done. If I hear His voice clearly and accurately, His will shall be done. If I don't
hear his voice clearly and accurately, His will shall be done. Why? How? Because heaven rules
regardless of my obedience, willingness or participation. If I am unwilling or disobedient, I get to sit
on the bench while the game goes on and another gets to carry the ball into the end zone instead of
me. And I, like Nebuchadnezzar, learn that the Most High rules in the affairs of men.
I also see that God can move the hearts of kings and influential people in order to accomplish His
plan and purpose. John Maxwell points out that people in general have either an abundance mindset
or a scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset believes that there is only a limited amount of resources
available and once it's gone, it's gone. It is a "Rob Peter to pay Paul" mentality. These people never
rise much above the status quo in their lives because they subsist on only what they themselves
can produce. On the other hand, an abundance mindset believes that there is an unlimited supply
available for those bold enough to go after it. When they see blessing being distributed, they get
in line. They believe that as the resource runs out in one pool, there is always another that is just
waiting to be opened up. They believe: "If someone is going to be blessed, it might as well be me."
Isn't that what Daniel is telling us here, that God will give His blessing and resources to whomever
he chooses whether they are influential or lowly, important or common? I want to believe what Paul
spoke about our God, "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above
all that we could ask or think..." (Ephesians 3:29).
Since God is wanting to reveal Himself, glorify Jesus and bring more people into His family in our city,
let's get in line for His blessing and limitless supply so that we can accomplish His will through His
grace and power not our own strength and resource.
Dream big because Heaven rules, God has a limitless supply and He is looking for someone
committed to His will with enough faith to go for the impossible!
Stay the Course
But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded.”
2 Chronicles 15:7
There was war, problems and trouble going on all over the nation and the world at this
time. Everyone was ﬁghting everyone else. In the middle of the chaos, the Lord gives a
promise to Asa and the kingdom of Judah. He wanted to reassure him of his favor and
protection as long as he remained faithful to the Lord.
We all have times in our lives when it seems as if the world is caving in around us.
There is conﬂict and battle everywhere. We can begin to get edgy, critical and
suspicious. We wonder if we have any friends and allies. Our natural inclination is to
draw back into mistrust and protection mode. For me, I get irritable and sometimes
fearful. I may even doubt the calling and blessing of God upon my life. The word of the
Lord to Asa was to be courageous because his work would be regarded if he just
remained trusting and faithful. That is the same word for me. Stay the course. I can't
allow fear, failure or weakness pull me off mission, God will come through for me, He
will ﬁght for me if I am wholeheartedly engaged in His mission. Stay the course, my
efforts will pay off eventually.
Father, I can tend towards faint-heartedness at times. Help me to see what you see.
Help me to be a courageous man who is both dependent on and conﬁdent in you and
your faithfulness and goodness. I love you Father
Spiritual Gift Mandates
1 Peter 4:10-11
"God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to
serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God
himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all
the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to
God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen."
There are six declarations that Peter gives us here in this passage. When it comes to
spiritual gifts, we look at them like we would a birthday present or any other gift given to
us. We are honored and grateful to receive them but we feel that they are given to us for
our enjoyment and betterment we believe that we can use them at our leisure; when we
choose, how we choose and IF we choose. Unfortunately, God doesn't see it that way.
He sees them more as an investment and a responsibility. More like a stewardship. God
is a wise investor and He expects a good return on His investment read Matthew
chapter 25 for more about that. When He deposits spiritual gifts in us, He expects us to
use them and grow them.
Peter's declarations on spiritual gifts in this passage are:
1. Be accepting! God HAS given you gifts whether you realize it or not.
2. Be responsible! He expects us to use them and manage them well.
3. Be intentional! When we use our gifts appropriately, God is pouring His love, favor
and generosity out upon all whom we minister to while using those gifts. It is Him
working His will and power through us. His strength and power become ours.
4. Be bold! When we speak about Jesus, realize that God Himself is speaking through
5. Be assured! When we bless, help and encourage others; the Holy Spirit supplies the
grace, energy, strength and provision needed to do the job. You won't burn out or go
bust because He supplies everything needed
6. Be joyful! When we bless and serve others for Jesus' sake, He is gloriﬁed and made
great in the eyes of the world and those who don't yet know Him are drawn to Him.
Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return.
They will enter Jerusalem singing,
crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
and they will be filled with joy and gladness. (Isaiah 51:11 NLT)
What a great promise the Lord lays out for those who put their trust in Him.
I know we go back and forth with what we should expect the effects of the Gospel message to be. I have even preached it that God died to make us holy not necessarily happy. This is true but the bottom line is that Jesus wants to bring joy and gladness into a believers life. Ps. 34:8 says to "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who trust in Him."
Jesus promises a joy that comes from forgiveness and a gladness that comes from freedom. We need to remember this as we tell His story to others. Jesus wants people to experience real joy now and in eternity. The Gospel is really really good news.
“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the LORD rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance. (Isaiah 60:1-3 NLT)
The darker the night, the brighter the light. God's plan has always been to love and bless His people so that everyone around them will see it and give Him glory and yearn for that same relationship. Psalm 31:19 says He lavishes us with His favor and blesses us before the watching world.
God desires to bless us because
1. He loves us and takes good care of us
2. It displayed his power and goodness
3. It causes those who don't know Him to desire Him
4. Through us, He is able to bless a fallen, hurting world.
His goodness and glory reflect on us and causes us to reflect that glory to a dark and dying world. Jesus loves people and desires for us to be filled with the joy of His presence. As we spend time with Him, we are transformed and we then reflect who He is and how He loves to those around us.
His desire is that His church would shine so brightly that the world would be drawn to us not repelled from us. We need a paradigm shift, God wants to love the world through us so that they might come to know Him. The church should not be the voice of criticism and judgement in the world but the voice of hope and salvation for all that are drawn to our light.
Pastors Phil Harris of Epikos Church in Bend, Oregon.