I guess today marks the beginning of a lot of waiting. Waiting…it used to be an inconvenience- a real irritant. Now- I am waiting with a purpose- waiting on Him- waiting on a miracle….another one. The scriptures tell us that those who wait on the Lord will walk, run and soar. I'm ready for the flight. It's like being on the runway at LaGuardia on your way to God knows where…and God does know where….and that's what I am counting on….So today I am content to wait…
For those of you who used to follow me years ago, hi! From this point on the purpose of this blog is no longer inspirational nor will it be tied to any of my teaching. I have since moved away from the desolate spiritual wasteland of institutionalized spirituality (not sure that’s possible anyway!) and have committed myself to the care of hurting souls, bringing to them the healing power of grace in Christ, in relationship, in the undisturbed and undistracted context of a counseling office! God is so good.
The purpose of renewing this blog is to begin a new adventure and perhaps a difficult one. This week my sweet bride was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. Neither of us have ever been down a road like this. We yearn for God in the midst of it all and already sense Him drawing closer to us as the medical contingency draw up her treatment plan. This season of blog positing will have everything to do with witnessing to the movement of God’s spirit in our lives as we both travel down this somewhat dark and un-illuminated road.
Years ago I heard it quoted from King George- ‘put your hand in the hand of God. It is much better than light and much safer than the known!’ AMEN! Here we go!!!
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
There is nothing that shakes man more than being faced with the stark reality that the passing of time is beyond our control. For everything there is a season- a time to live and a time to die. Honestly, while life has its difficulties, it’s not the living that rattles us, it’s the dying. Statisticians tell us that the average life span of man is 70+ years, but truth be told, no one truly knows the moment they will pass. And as our hearts groan in anticipation of our coming redemption, Jesus makes it clear in Mark 13, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” No one knows when…
Jesus continues, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:33)
Be on guard? Be alert? Be on the lookout? For what? Our King Jesus. How will we know? “ ‘In the last days, God says … I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below…” (Acts 2.17,19) There will be signs.
One thing I love about Hollywood is that it is frighteningly consistent. How many ‘doomsday’ movies do they have to produce and why is it that they characterize the last day as so horrible and filled with so much devastation (Armageddon, I am Legend)? Where are the stories of God’s redeemed people in the last days? They see rightly the ‘signage’ that tells us of the coming age- the punishment of those who have rejected God’s love. They fear it because they should…the unbelieving end IS terrifying!! There is no hope in unbelief.
If, as a Christian, however, you believe that your last days will be filled with divine wrath and suffering, you have been seduced by the lies of our enemy. For us, Christ’s return is a glorious thing- our blessed redemption and glorification- the return of our Savior and King. Yes, we will be judged for our sin, and yet, if we are in Christ, we are justified and acquitted not by our own merit, but His. If you are that person, that ‘day’ ushers in the fullness of eternity, the absence of pain, suffering, sin and death. We will be released into a world of beauty untold. Then we shall reign with Him on high and we will be filled with fullness and majesty of heaven itself. We will see things as they really are…no more shadows…no more fear, no more doubt, no more shame. The richest fare at the grandest feast. Love beyond our ability to comprehend. And at the center of it all is the Object of our Affection- Jesus Himself. If you are united to Christ by faith, then the signs of this last day will fill us with anticipation- we are almost home. And though the journey is long and fraught with the burdens of the day, we will endure. It is the power of hope.
If your soul longs for Him, longs for His appearing, if your soul aches for the coming His coming Kingdom, if it aches for a place called home, if you believe that even now Jesus is preparing a place for you there, then the signs are for you, “you’re almost home.” The Apostle Paul says it this way, “17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
ACTS: When God Moves… ”The Last Days, Pt 2”Week 17- Day 1
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
Day 1 Getting on down the Road-
Didn’t you just love road trips? I did. There’s nothing like loading up with some good friends and heading off into adventure-land in search of who knows what.
I am older now and I have traded in the raucous weekend jaunts for the annual cross-country odyssey to see the ‘grandparents’ at the beach. Hard to turn down! So we pile in the SUV, fill the tank and head off for the coast. Twelve hours of endless mileage markers and road signs.
At the start, there is a buzz in the car. We were off on an adventure. There’s lots of conversation, game-playing, loud music with mostly bad singing and laughter. But it doesn’t take long before the ride takes a very different shape. Impatience sets in. Territories get marked in the back seats. The battle lines are drawn. The inevitable looms.
So we intervene before the bloodshed and we fire up the DVD player, the Game Boys, DS Lites, iPODS or whatever we can to distract and entertain them. It always works…for a while…then the journey either gets bumpy or boring until the last leg.
We always know that we are in the last leg of the trip when one thing occurs. We see signs…Waycross 31 miles, Brunswick 14 miles and so on. The closer we get the more pronounced the signs get- Brogen’s Bar & Grill ahead in the Village. The stench of the paper plant becomes more pungent. Something changes inside each one of us when we see those signs. We perk up. We feel that giddy feeling inside that tells us we are almost there.
I don’t know how many times I have heard the analogy of the “spiritual life” being a journey. Poets and musicians alike seem to agree. “Life is a highway,” were the words Tom Cochrane penned over a fifteen years ago. So does God… Proverbs 3:6 “He will make your paths straight… “ And John 14– “I am the Way….” And like all true journeys, it has its seasons. Consider the different seasons of your own journey this morning. Are you just beginning this adventure with Jesus? Have you been at it a while?
The first leg of the journey is full of excitement and imaginings. I am a new creation! There is a kindness and charity among the others because of the common joy they share. New birth is always captivating. The middle leg of life’s journey, however, often becomes more problematic in this spiritual life. We too, begin to stake out territory. We have to move through the complexities of constantly shifting worlds. We draw battle lines over theological gnats. Sometimes the battle lines are drawn over things like which side of the kitchen freezer the Women of the Church get to use. We lose the tenderness that comes from mercy and protect our ‘rightness’ with an ungodly viscousness. And then there are times of charity and compassion. Basically, the ride gets long, filled with trial, and unfortunately, sometimes, it can be rather unpleasant.
But then there are the signs that tell us that we are not far from home… we’re almost there!
We are in the “Last Days, ” the last leg of the journey, and, “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams
Where are you on that journey?
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
ACTS: When God Moves… ”The Last Days” Week 16- Day 3
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…”
Don’t you hate getting caught in the middle? It’s one of my children’s’ favorite games to play in the pool. You know, ‘Monkey in the Middle.” And when you are vertically challenged (like me), you get totally abused. No matter how high you jump, no matter how intently you keep your eye on the ball, no matter how intensely you want it, it is always just out of reach.
Another time I loathe is waiting for a contract to go through on a sale, be it a house, some property or what have you. After all the parties have ‘signed’ the contract and then the thirty day wait for the “banking gods” to determine whether the buyers are worthy is perhaps the most awful of them all. You have the paperwork done, the contract is signed, money is coming, but no matter what you do, it is not in your hands. Will it come through? Will the bank re-nig? If you are like me, you tend to lean on the negative side of that question, always fearing the worst possible outcome.
Sometimes I sense that this represents my approach to the Christian life. The paperwork has been signed in blood by Jesus Christ Himself, the contract is solid, everlasting life is coming, but not yet…. It is the ‘Already…not yet” that can and often arouses deep doubt in all of us. Is it really sure? Am I really saved? Our fear and insecurity drive us to crazy things to try and prove or justify that we are. Maybe it is over zealousness, or by rigidity (false piety). Certainly God will like us because he sees our dedication to these things, right? Ask someone who is about to die. They will tell you.
It’s an interesting phenomenon that one observes when another knows they are approaching ‘the end.’ They stop trying to prove that they are worthy. They inherently understand that nothing they ever did gains them access to the celestial home.
My dear Father-in Law passed away a few years ago from Parkinson’s disease. The disease had ravaged his body and when he was near the end he asked me, “Ted, do you swear I am going to get a new body?” I never heard his voice again. His question wasn’t the plea of a confident man but a man who understood that everything he would receive was by grace. He couldn’t claim it, or demand it. He knew and loved Jesus. But he also knew that whatever he received was not up to him. Heaven was out of his reach. It would have to come to Him.
It did. Jesus came, lived and died, ascended and sent the Holy Spirit to us to bring us home. In these last days, we are in the middle. The contract has been signed, sealed and delivered. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price. The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee. We need not fear in life or in death. The Holy Spirit Himself is our assurance.
My oldest son asked me last week, “Dad, do you know what my life verse is?” I, sadly, did not. He showed me….. 1Co 15:51-52 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Amen, and Amen.
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…”
One of my favorite words in all of the Bible is the word ‘abide.’ Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “to continue, persist; go on, keep on, run on, hold on; keep, pursue, stick to its course, take its course, maintain its course; carry on, keep up. The heart of its meaning then, as you can see, is the willing activity of perseverance. Jesus uses it, however, somewhat differently.
In John 15, the apostle John records Jesus’ words, “Abide in me and I will abide in you…”
There are many seasons of my life in which I have had to abide in the season- to hang in there. The current season is one such season. Financial strain, employment insecurity, developing adolescent children have all contributed to a very taxing experience. Sometimes I feel like a little boy in a great big world. When people say, “hang in there,” it doesn’t necessarily bring great comfort and feels more like a ‘just pull up your socks and you’ll make it through it” or a “keep a stiff upper lip” kind of comment. In other words, “go against the grain, I know you don’t want to, but now is the time to be a big boy.”
But Jesus’ call to abide is much more that a call to persistence in the midst of trial. It is an invitation to rest in relationship. It is a consequence of intimacy.
There were times when I was a little boy when I would lay my head on my mother’s lap and she would gently run her fingers through my hair. Her love relaxed me and I would simply melt into her lap falling fast asleep. They were times of great intimacy- great nearness, that gave great confidence and comfort to a little boy in a great big world. It was easy then to abide in her because of her care for me.
With Pentecost came a treasure that, I fear, few of us truly experience in its fullness or take advantage of in our lives. The nearness of God in the Old Testament was experienced through the glory cloud and the pillar of fire that filled the Temple. God was near to His people. They hid themselves in His shadow of protection. In the New Testament , however, the cloud and the fire (the Holy Spirit) comes not near to His people, but now dwells “within” His people. God in His great love, sees the insecure and frightened ‘little boy (or girl)’ in all of us, and comes close- real close. And as we looked at last time, it is not a single momentary filling, but a continual and ‘abiding’ presence- a pouring out of such intimacy, such love, that does much more than ‘hangs in there’ with us, but brings to our lives such fruit beyond compare (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control…).
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of men and women is an eternal and unbreakable promise that He is always with us and that He will never give up on us…til His Kingdom come. He will abide. Heb 13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Paul said it this way, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
John 15:4, 7
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me… Abide in my love.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
I thought the ‘last days’ were going to be like “Left Behind,” someone said. “Surely these aren’t those days. Things aren’t that bad yet!” Sadly, that is the perspective that most believing Christians have concerning what the Bible calls the ‘last days.’ We often think of horrendous war and moral degradation, outbreaks of apostasy, a charismatic, likeable yet wicked ruler who wins the affection of the world, and things like that. Brothers and sisters from other theological persuasions are constantly on the lookout for ‘signs.’ God help me if that is a central disposition of the Christian life!!!!!
The Bible, however, is clear on this issue. These days are the last days. Hebrews 1:1-2, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.” 1 Peter 1:20, “Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the last of the times for your sake.” 1 Corinthians 10:11, “These things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come.” Peter, Paul, and Luke all agree. The coming of Christ ushered in the ‘last days.’
Yes, there will be great moral decline, war and apostasy. Yes, there is and will be great resistance against the very name of Jesus. Many will and have walked away as a result. But notice how Luke describes the last days quoting the prophet Joel. “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” The last days are also marked by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. It will also be a time of a great embracing of redemption in Christ. All ‘people,” or ‘people groups’ will experience a great outpouring of God’s presence and many will bow the knee (Phil 2:11).
Here’s the point: The Scriptures tell us that these are the last days. What is the evidence of the last days? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Is this outpouring just simply about ‘conversion?’ The text reads, “I will pour out My Spirit..,” or “ I will continue to pour out My Spirit.” Luke is not referring to a one time outpouring of the Holy Spirit (i.e. Pentecost), but God’s continual pouring out of His power and presence in his people throughout the last days. And as the Holy Spirit moves us to submission to Christ in all aspects of our lives, the continual posture of one filled by the Spirit is one of radical submission of our will and our lives to Christ’s care. The mark of the Holy Spirit’s presence is the continual abiding in Him.
It’s the key to healthy marriages, healthy parenting, healthy families, healthy community, healthy anything for that matter…an intentional and radical submission to Him of our whole selves, our thoughts, our minds, our wills, abiding in Him…not half of ourselves, or three-quarters of ourselves…all of ourselves. In these last days, God did not pour out part of His Spirit upon us that we might have partially saved lives…Jesus did not submit only part of Himself to the Father for our partial purchase…He gave it all that we might have it all…not just in the last days, but forever.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Have you, are you, do you submit only part of yourself to Him? What are you holding back from Him? Ask your heavenly Father to reveal to you where you have only offered part of yourselves in submission to Him, and then, ask Him to grant you the power to overcome your fear and courage to release it to Him that you might embrace the fullness of the power of the Spirit within you.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,