Thanksgiving

part 1

Monday, November 23, 2020

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul told of an extraordinary experience.  He was caught up to the third heaven (which he also called paradise).  Inexpressible things were revealed to him, unutterable either by their celestial characteristics, or by a prohibition against describing them. So great and incredible was this experience - in fact, this experience was so incredible and, as far as we know, Paul was the only one to have such an experience – that Paul was told not to tell of all he had seen and experienced.

 

This whole thing brought about a “thorn in the flesh,” to torment him for the rest of his life. And from what we know from Scripture, this “thorn” was allowed as an ongoing pain, preventing Paul from being puffed up with pride because the singular privilege he had enjoyed. (Understand that a full fourteen years passed before Paul even told that much of his experience.)

About 50 years after Paul’s experience in Paradise, the Apostle John (we talked some about this in our Sunday message yesterday) was taken to heaven into the very presence of God on His throne. It was there that John saw in the throne-room of God, the 24 elders around the throne seated themselves on thrones and four living “creatures” on either side of the throne. John writes, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” Revelation 5:6a ESV. 

And John saw many other things, however, unlike Paul he was not only allowed, but commanded to write and tell about them; one exception being what the seven thunders said about which he was told, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down” Revelation 10:4b ESV.

In this scene, I want to focus on the 24 elders before the throne of God. What were they doing? Revelation 11:16-17 “And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.” (To anyone’s knowledge, they are still, and forever will be, before the throne thanking God.)
 
Let’s move on to verse 18, “The nations raged, but Your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding Your servants, the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your Name, both small and the great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” ESV.
 

THE 24 ELDERS WERE GIVING GOD THANKS FOR HIS JUSTICE

With all that in mind: This week, as we approach Thanksgiving, I want to offer some thoughts that came to mind.

In the Old Testament one of the offerings prescribed under the law was, specifically, a thank offering. (At some level, all of the prescribed offerings, implied, or explicitly expressed, thankfulness to God.) You can read the instructions for the “thank offering” as they were given in Leviticus 7:12-15; 22:29. Like all the offerings, thank offerings were to be given at the place God chose for His Name to dwell after the Israelites entered the Promised Land. (It was more than 400 years before that place was shown to be Jerusalem.)

 

Continued tomorrow

Thanksgiving

part 2

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

During the approximately 380 years of the Judges, and for years afterward, Shiloh was the center of worship. Shiloh is where the boy, Samuel, served under the tutelage of the high priest, Eli. Years later, when Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, the glory of the Lord filled the temple and the Lord spoke directly to Solomon. Let’s look together at 2 Chronicles 7:12: “Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice” ESV.

“The place chosen for the Lord’s Name to dwell,” then, was the temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. It was then that Jerusalem became the center of worship and was the place where offerings were to be made (unless the person lived too far away). (That “unless” will be significant later this week.)

When the Ark of the Covenant was finally brought to Jerusalem, David assigned Asaph and his relatives, to give thanks to the Lord. Asaph was one of David’s chief musicians; at least 13 of the Psalms were titled “A Psalm of Asaph.” His duty was to lead the Israelites in giving thanks to God when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem. Look at 1 Chronicles 16:7-8: “Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers. 8 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His Name; make known His deeds among the peoples!" ESV.

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 is that whole prayer of thanks, closing in verse 34 with: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” And in verse 36, we read, “Then all the people said, ‘Amen,’ and praised the Lord” ESV.

600 years later, at the dedication of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, under the leadership of Nehemiah, we see two great choirs standing on top of the wall giving thanks. Take a look at the story in Nehemiah 12:27-46Verse 43 says, “… the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” 

Also notice with me verse 46, where is says, “For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.” Those songs of praise and thanksgiving to God must have been incredible! I say that because, 600 years later, in Nehemiah’s time, those songs of were still known and talked about. WOW!

The Old Testament has a recurring theme of thankfulness to God. There is one particular sentence, it says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” That sentence occurs 81 times in the Old Testament: 10 times in 1 Chronicles, 20 times in 2 Chronicles, 5 times in Ezra, 40 times in the Psalms, and 6 times in the book of Jeremiah.

 

Continued tomorrow

Thanksgiving

part 3

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

It would seem that giving thanks to God is NO SMALL MATTER. And yet...

Thanks are a regular part of ordinary human interaction. We commonly express thanks for the smallest of favors received. We thank the server in a restaurant who refills our glass with water, or a stranger exiting a building who holds a door open while we enter or exit. We thank the person who takes our money at the coffee shop.

It seems important to me that when I make a purchase in a store the person who takes payment for the purchase thanks me. Maybe it’s routine and obligatory for them, a part of their training (and often means nothing to the person who says it, much like “Have a nice day,”). But I do notice it when the person checking my purchase out doesn’t thank me. And if I realize I have left someone un-thanked, it haunts me - usually until I go back and thank them.

Thankfulness is an attitude… not just a meaningless word. And the truth is: Attitudes are contagious.

Along these lines, I read a funny story a while back (from Paul Stookey, I think) about a sidewalk newspaper vendor in New York City. A man came cheerfully tooling down the street, picked up a newspaper, paid for it, smiled and said, “Thank you so much… Oh… and have a nice day!” before striding on down the street, whistling a happy tune.  The newspaper vendor frowned and growled as if he was angry, “WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HIM?!” A moment later another customer purchased a paper. As he was walking away, the newspaper vendor frowned and growled in an angry-sounding voice, “HAVE A NICE DAY!”

 

The story ended this way: “See, attitudes are contagious. It needed a little polishing, but it was a start.”

Giving thanks is part and parcel with our relationship with God. Thanksgiving isn’t just some obligatory duty on a checklist of things that God requires, while we maintain the attitude, “I deserve everything I’ve worked for. I have nothing to thank God for.”

In the movie, Shenandoah, Charlie Anderson prayed this way: “Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here, and we wouldn’t be eating it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every single crumb and morsel, but, we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat. Amen.”

Consider the Pharisee’s thanksgiving: In fact, let’s just take a moment and look at it – Luke 18:10-14 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” ESV.

The Pharisee pretended to give God credit for his imagined superiority. Even to the point of saying, “I am thankful, God, that I am better than this man is.”

Though both Charlie and the Pharisee said thanks, do you see a true attitude of thankfulness in either of their prayers? Neither is a model for thankful prayer. The two are similar: both reek with self-congratulation, standing out like a sore thumb among the people. God will not justify a self-promoting, self-praising person.

Thanksgiving glorifies God, unlike the Pharisee and Charlie Anderson, whose prayers glorified themselves.

 

Continued tomorrow

Thanksgiving

part 4

Thursday, November 26, 2020

2 Corinthians 4:15 “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” The reality is that God does not need our thanks or our approval of His actions as if His judgment were in question without our reinforcing stamp of approval. The need for thanksgiving is contained within our very reason for existing and that being to glorify God. While He is deserving of our thankfulness, God is also glorified by it. That appears to be its purpose and directly or indirectly the normal response to God’s Grace.

Thanking God for everything is fitting even when there are some unhappy things in our lives. I think of my brother, who, three years ago this week, was in surgery having a quadruple bypass done. The following Monday, he said to me that he understood all of that to be God’s answer to his prayer for help in changing his eating and exercising habits (due to his medical emergency/condition). And he was thanking God for that answer.

Thanksgiving is a sacrifice, but not like the kind where we do without something we want or need. It was noticeably so for Daniel. Daniel 6 tells the story of Daniel in Babylon, in the service of a pagan king. Incited by Daniel’s enemies, the king decreed that, “Whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:7). Daniel chose to face the lions instead of not praying.

 

What was so important in Daniel’s prayer? Well, let’s take a look, Daniel 6:10 “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” The only specific thing we are told about this prayer is that he “gave thanks.”

What did Daniel possibly have that made him appreciative enough to thank God – and at great personal risk? He was in captivity in a foreign country, his homeland had been conquered, the kingdom toppled, its capital city of Jerusalem lying in ruins, just as Jeremiah had prophesied in Jeremiah 9:11.

(And why, you might be wondering, did Daniel face toward the conquered capital city of Jerusalem to give thanks? Because God had long before declared it to be a sacred place, choosing it as a place for His Name to dwell. Look at Deuteronomy 12:10-11 with me: “But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make His Name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the Lord.” Daniel could not return to Jerusalem, so he faced the place God had chosen for His Name to dwell.)

 

Friends, we need to remember that prayer is our avenue for thanking God. If we give thanks - a lot – we, like Daniel, are praying a lot.

King David, the mess of his life notwithstanding, thanked God incessantly, even though his life story includes:
His son, Amnon, violating his (Amnon’s) half-sister, Tamar
Absalom, Tamar’s brother, plotted and carried out Ammon’s death. 
Joab, one of David’s inner circle, in direct violation of David’s orders, put Absalom to death. 
David sinned, through a lustful, adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, a married woman
David then plotted the death of her husband Uriah and it was successfully carried out.
Because of David’s sins, the child he conceived with Bathsheba died in infancy.

The reality is, David led a troubled life. Yet the Psalms are full of David’s expressions of thankfulness to God. In fact, Thankfulness is expressed in 56 different Psalms. And there are many other, “Psalms of Thankfulness,” that are not included within the 150 chapters of the “Book of Psalms."

 

Continued tomorrow

Thanksgiving

Part 5

Friday, November 27, 2020

Jesus gave thanks for the bread and cup that were to be the symbols of His own death (Luke 22:17-19 & Matthew 26:27). Was Jesus simply thankful that food was provided for the occasion? Or was it for the meaning He was about to assign to that meal: His own suffering and death? How could Jesus be thankful for what He knew the bread and cup meant?! Because He fully understood the purpose in them.

Giving thanks neutralizes our differences before God, making us equals even if we seem to be at odds. The one who eats and the one who abstains do so “in honor of the Lord” since they both give thanks, is what we are told in Romans 14:6 “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

Thanks vs Complaining. Did you ever give someone a gift and instead of thanking you, for it they criticize the gift and complained that it’s not something else? God has often gotten that response for His gifts. Thanksgiving and complaining are like oil and water. The Israelites complained that they were hungry. When God gave them manna to eat, they complained that it wasn’t the fine food they had in Egypt. It seemed they were out of Egypt, but Egypt wasn’t out of them. God gives us what is best and provides everything we need - though it may, at times, seem otherwise. Friends, God will never send anything our way that isn’t for our own good. Thanksgiving or complaining, these words express, two incompatible attitudes found in God’s children in regard to His dealings with them.  

Thanksgiving is more than just “an American holiday” where we get to enjoy turkey, pumpkin pie, and football. It is a godly way of life; a thankful heart is the Will of God, for His people: Psalm 100:3-5 “Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His Name. 5 For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation” NLT.
 

Be thankful at All Times and for Everything!

Ephesians 5:18-20 “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ” NLT.

Notice where verses 17-19 lead: “give thanks for everything” (v 20). Do we do that? Can we do that? How would even Jesus do that? Rejoice always and give thanks. God doesn’t want us to be thankful only when things are going well. He wants us to rise to a higher and more challenging plane: give thanks in all circumstances. The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything. The soul that complains finds comfort in nothing.

My counsel for each of us today, this week, is this: enjoy the season, enjoy your family, good food and be thankful for all of it. Do not let dark clouds or a pandemic destroy your thankfulness for what is good in life. Take this season, and all times, as occasions to glorify God with your thanks. END

 

Do You Know Him?

Part 1

Monday, November 16, 2020

Acts 22:6-13 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ 8 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ He replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of Him who was speaking to me. 10 ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. 12 A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.”   

There are two notable things here. As Paul was sharing his testimony, he first makes mention of those who were traveling with him. In verse 9 he says, “My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.” Then in verse 13 he mentions a man named Ananias who spoke words of healing to Paul and restored his sight. Obviously, Paul would rank among “the known ones” when it comes to the New Testament. But his companions, who saw the light but did not understand the voice, and Ananias, would fall into the category of “the unknowns.” We really know nothing of Paul’s companions and we know very little of Ananias.  

What would have become of Paul’s ministry if it were not for Ananias being willing to pray for Paul, and bring faith for his healing? What if Paul never had received his sight because God could not find a man devout enough to accomplish the task?

 

I’m going to divert from our text today and focus more on those unknown ones who work diligently in God’s Kingdom. 

Paul typically gets most of the attention when it comes to the book of Acts, because he accomplished so much for Jesus. But the greater work in the Kingdom of God is being done by those who may be unknown to the masses, but known to God.

 

Whether you are known or unknown, the only way to be effective in the Kingdom is to  know our God. Daniel 11:32 “But the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits” KJV. The NIV puts it this way, “But the people who know their God will firmly resist him.”

The Greek word for resist here refers to being strong. But the question is, “Be strong against whom?” The Anti-Christ! Daniel 11:31-32 “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. 32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” 

What Daniel is prophesying is the Anti-Christ’s rise to power and how he will eventually try to set himself up as the God of this earth, that’s what the phrase; the abomination that causes desolation, in verse 31 refers to. However, even in the midst of that, the people who know their God will be able to resist him and accomplish great things for God. 

 

Continued tomorrow

Do You Know Him?

Part 2

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

How many of you believe we are living in perilous times, and, most likely, the very last days? That is always an interesting topic of study, but the reality is that probably every generation (including the days of the first disciples) has felt they were living in the very last days. I’m not making light of this by any means, just noting the reality. I do believe we are living in the last of the last days.

 

Let’s go on with this week’s study.

Daniel 11:31 talks about “his armed forces.” As I see it, there are two forces in the world: there are forces of good and forces of evil. The devil is using his forces of evil to corrupt people. There is great opposition to the Gospel, subsequently, God is looking to His army of men and women, men and women who know Him, who will continue fighting against the enemy by doing the type of things Ananias did for Paul. Things that bring glory to God, things that advance the Kingdom of God on earth.  

Look again at Daniel 11:32. The last part of that verse begins with the little word, “but.” That little word “but” changes everything. This whole event that Daniel is referring to is preceded by visions of the rise and fall of great world powers.

 

Up to this point we see the great “known” men and their individual influence, their armies and their conquests, the kings and their empires with their far-reaching sway. There is a great pageant of the dominions of the world as they proceed and recede. They come in splendor upon the world stage, and then pass altogether out of the great world drama, never to be heard of again.

Then finally it reaches this point, and you get a “BUT” - and from that point onward, the whole scene changes. “But the people that know their God” - the outlook is entirely different now. The scale of values has changed completely. From this point on, it is no longer a question of numbers and wealth or human importance, or any of the things which the world calls great. There now appears on the scene a comparatively unknown company, a group of men and women whom the world will despise and reject, and relegate to the category of the unfit. The world will not count them among its mighty, or its valiant. They will be overlooked when the world is in search of those it requires to do its big things. On the human side these people will be altogether disregarded.   

Yet this small, despised company of unknown men and women will move out with some secret vital force at their center (we call it the Holy Spirit), and they will go forth to conquer. Before them, the great systems of the world will give way and go down in defeat. Before them, modern medicine gives way to miraculous healings. Before them, society’s hopeless and forgotten are redeemed and forgiven. This company of people are those who fill the pews of the church each and every Sunday. We are the ones who pray to Him, worship Him and love Him. We are the ones who know our God and are strong. We are the ones to whom God looks to do great exploits for Him, and to resist the devil. Those who know Him are the ones who actually keep the Kingdom of God moving forward on earth.

 

Do you know Him? If only it were possible for us to understand the depth of that declaration of “those who know their God.” Possibly then we could realize all that is summarized in that statement. There is something infinitely more in knowing the Lord than we have yet recognized: “The people that know their God will be strong.” (You might recognize it as a song we sing here).   

Do you want to know what knowing God means? It includes a knowledge of God in His power as Sovereign, in His executive authority, in His supremacy. But the knowledge goes deeper than that. It is not merely knowing God as Sovereign, but rather it’s knowing Him in a way that energizes His sovereignty and causes it to function through the people that know Him. Ananias knew God that way. He understood the executive authority of God and operated in that as he prayed sight back into the eyes of Paul.   

It is knowing God in a vital relationship and union and oneness, which makes the exercise and execution of the power possible in this world through those who possess this knowledge. God is on the Throne, and He has all power and all the resources necessary for dealing with the world situation. But He has so chosen and ordained that the exercise and the demonstration of His fullness of power and might and glory should be through those who have been brought into a vital union with Him on the basis of a personal knowledge of Him in His fullness.

 

Do you know Him?

 

Continued tomorrow

Do You Know Him?

part 3

WEdnesday, November 18, 2020

We must first remember that this knowledge of God is by revelation. We can never get this knowledge of God merely by reading, listening, and/or attending meetings. I sometimes wonder just how many “Christians” gained their knowledge of God by personal revelation, or by hearing what have others said. If this thing is not given to you by the Holy Spirit, working it into your very being and making it a part of you in a personal revelation and an inward birth, then you may hear all the truth possible and still not really or fully understand.   

Let’s go back to what Paul said about his companions. In Acts 22:9 he says, “My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.” The little phrase from Daniel 11“The people who know their God will be strong and able to resist the devil” implies that; “Those who do not know God will not be strong or able to resist the devil.” Paul’s companions had no revelation; they were in the presence of the light but could not understand anything.  

Some people have only a mental apprehension of God. They know the terms and the verses and use them, but fail in the dynamic of this thing. Can we know God by reason? I don’t think so, it may be a beginning point but until your knowledge is wrought deep within your heart by the Spirit of God you might just have a knowledge of God without really knowing Him. 

The following was posted by a blogger named Natasha:

The other day something reminded me of the popular 1993 book, “The Celestine Prophecy.” “The Celestine Prophecy” is a fiction book that discusses ideas rooted in New Age spirituality. The book sold 20 million copies and practically spawned its own cult-like religion, with groups popping up all over the country to study the insights and apply them to life.

I discovered this book when I was fresh out of high school and was enamored by it. The insights were exciting and it proposed interesting ideas about spirituality that seemed totally plausible to my young mind. I couldn’t stop talking about it. I told all my friends about it. I started paying attention to how the nine insights in the book applied to my life. I suddenly felt life was more meaningful.

The problem? I was a “Christian” but it never even occurred to me that these New Age ideas should have been immediately rendered false by the beliefs I claimed to have. My faith was so shallow that the first exciting philosophy I encountered after high school swept me off my feet – without so much as an inkling that it was in conflict with everything I had been taught.

When I randomly remembered this book last week, I marveled at how I had developed such a shallow faith, despite the fact I had gone to church for 18 years and grew up surrounded by family members who deeply loved the Lord.

The number one sign your kids are just borrowing your faith is that they rarely, if ever, ask questions about what they believe.

 

Isn’t that interesting? Rarely do those who live on mom and dad’s faith care about what they believe. Subsequently, they don’t ask questions about it and therefore do not know how to defend their faith or even recognize something that goes contrary to their faith. Natasha started off talking about how she got caught up with a “new age” book because she didn’t recognize how it went against her beliefs as a Christian.  

If you are living on mom and dad’s faith then you are going to have a difficult time defending what you believe. If we don’t know God then we can’t defend our faith, nor can we resist the attacks of the enemy. It is only those who know God who can be strong and resist.

 

Continued tomorrow

Do You Know Him?

part 4

Thursday, November 19, 2020

If ever a case could be made for family devotions it’s here. Huge percentages of our high school graduates head off to college and leave their faith behind. However, I want to emphasize that it’s more than just living in front of them as Christians. It’s helping them come into a true revelation of who God is and why He died for them. It’s praying for them. It’s seeing to it that they get baptized in the Holy Spirit. It’s challenging them to read God’s Word, and to ask you questions about it. And then beg God for them to get a revelation of all that you taught them.   

Deuteronomy 6 has some advice for parents. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” One of the best ways to explain to your children why you love God so much is to never forget the things your eyes have seen, reminding them often of where you were before you met Christ. Moses suggests that we talk of what God has done when we sit, when we walk, when we lie down, and when we rise up. There is nothing to be ashamed of in your past because it’s all been forgiven. In fact, the worse your past is, the more others can see the value of grace and what Jesus did to forgive you! If you act like you are ashamed of your past, and feel you must hide it from your kids, you are teaching your kids to never talk to you about their shortcomings. Subsequently, they will never understand grace.             

Deuteronomy 6:20, 21 “When your son asks you in the future, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees, statutes, and ordinances, which the LORD our God has commanded you?’ 21 tell him…” Tell them the meaning of the things of God with the hopes that one day it will become revelation to them and not just historical facts, and not merely “this is what our family believes.”

 

Everyone needs a personal revelation of Him. Paul made a point of this. Look at what the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 1:12: “I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Paul received this by revelation, on the road to Damascus. He goes on to talk about what he did directly after God re-opened his eyes. In Galatians verses 16 and 17, he tells us that he went to the desert in Arabia. He was there for three years until this revelation was wrought in him by the Holy Spirit.  
 

Do you know Him? Or do you just know about Him? 

A couple of weeks ago, a pastor friend and his team of men put on a Men’s Breakfast. It was a great time of fellowship as well as challenging. In that setting, a man named Dan shared his testimony of how he grew up in the church but never really came into his own faith. He was living on the faith of his parents. He eventually got involved in drugs, using them and dealing them. He did time in prison twice because of drugs. At one point, he said, he could never imagine himself doing anything other than selling drugs – he saw no way out. 

To make a long story short he eventually turned back to God when he lost everything - including his job. Very hesitant about it initially, he eventually came into the fullness of the Spirit. He talked to us about the value of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and how it totally changed his life and perspective. The man is now completely sold out to and doing great things for Jesus. Now that he knows God, he is able to resist the devil and advance the Kingdom of God.

What’s interesting about this is that his 17-year old son was in the audience listening to his dad talk about his sordid past. Dan didn’t seem to have a problem at all sharing some of the more gruesome details of his past. He was basically doing what Moses told the men of his day to do: “Don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children.” 

Dan was telling us how motivated he is to go to the streets and share Christ with others. He told us how one day he was in a rough part of town when he came upon some girls who hang out with a certain gang in his town. As he was sharing with them he said to them, “Right now you are feeling something inside of you as I talk to you aren’t you?” One of the girls said how did you know that? He said, “because of the story of Mary and Elizabeth when they were pregnant, one with the Messiah, the other with John the Baptist.” Luke 1:39-41 “Now at this time Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Dan explained that, as a Christian, he represents Jesus to a lost world, so when Jesus came into the room, even though He was still in the womb of Mary, John the Baptist leaped in the womb of his mother and in essence said, He's the One! He's the one this is all about, Messiah!” Dan went on to explain to these girls that they were sensing the Holy Spirit telling them that Jesus is the One.

 

Continued tomorrow

Do You Know Him?

PArt 5

Friday, November 20, 2020

That is the kind of Spirit-witness every born-again Christian has when they enter into the presence of the Lord. Over in Romans 8:16 we read this “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

I have had many people tell me over the years that when they walk into our church, the Spirit of God in them witnesses to them that there is something here. There is a presence here that witnesses to the Spirit of God within them.

 

If you don’t have that kind of witness, if your heart does not hold a longing for His presence, then you are most likely living on your parent’s faith. And that is not going to get you very far - and it won’t get you into heaven. When someone asks you why you believe what you believe, if all you can say is, “Well I believe it because my mom and dad believe it,” then you will get argued under the table by every liberal teacher you encounter (and you’ll most likely give in to the next thing that feels/sounds logical or good to you). But if someone comes to you and asks you why you are a Christian, and the Holy Spirit leaps within you and you say, “It's because Jesus is as real to me as you are standing right here in front of me. I know Him personally,” then, you are on solid ground. Do you know Him?  

I was a part of a conversation not long ago discussing the issue of people being born-again without any real understanding of what it means. I shared how Charles Finney would have what he called “inquirers meetings” after he preached. Finney preached his message, and would then ask anyone who would like to inquire about what it means to be converted to come to another room to talk.

 

They based these discussions on Psalms 66:18 “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”  Finney said that, not until you are willing to repent of all known sin, will God even hear your prayer for salvation. Cherishing sin is different from struggling with sin. To struggle indicates that you understand the error of your ways. To cherish or regard sin is to not care that you are living in sin. You cannot regard, or cherish, or harbor sin in your heart and expect God to hear you when you call out to Him. 

Do you know Him? Have you had a true born-again experience? or did you get saved because everybody in your family is saved and you thought maybe you should be, too? Or did you surrender your life to Christ because your love for Him was greater than your love for your former life?  

God has been speaking to me lately about revival so I started re-reading Finney’s Lectures on Revival. He said there are six signs that a church needs revival:

1. When there is a lack of brotherly love among those who call themselves Christian, there is a need for revival. Whenever there is unforgiveness within the body of Christ, we need revival.

2. When there are arguments and jealousies among God’s people, there is a need for revival. When we envy what another person has rather than rejoicing in how God has blessed them, we need revival.

3. When there is a worldly spirit in the church, there is a need for revival (worldly spirit: conforming to the world in dress, parties, seeking worldly amusements, reading worldly novels, listening to music that does not lead you to worship your God.)

4. When the church finds its members in gross and scandalous sins, there is a need for revival. I remember talking to an Evangelist friend of mine who was talking to a group of Pastor’s in Romania. He casually mentioned that many pastors and church members have fallen morally. They stopped him and said, “That can’t happen in the church.” Endeavoring to “set them straight” the American evangelist said, “Well, it happens all the time.” Then they set him straight in their response: “Perhaps the American church is not saved.” 

5. When the wicked triumph over the church, there is a need for revival.

6. When sinners are careless and sinking into hell unconcerned, it is time for the church to stir itself. It is as much the duty of the church to awake, as it is of firemen to awaken when a fire breaks out.

The fact is that Christians are more to blame for not being revived, than sinners are for not being converted. A revival is nothing more than a new beginning of obedience to Christ. Psalms 85:6 “Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again, That Thy people may rejoice in Thee?”   END