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Archive for November, 2013

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-26

Many times when I know on short notice that someone is coming over to my house, I will do a few things to try to make up for not doing a full house cleaning.  I will sweep the floors and put everything in its place. That goes a long way towards giving the appearance of a clean house, but just a little bit of a closer inspection will reveal that things are not as they seem.  A layer of dust on a table or a cobweb in a corner reveals the true state of things.  The man in verses 24-26 had done just such a thing with his life.  He cleaned it up a bit, got it in order.  The world would have applauded him, but it was all superficial.  There was no heart purity, no filling of the life with the Spirit of Jesus.  And when the tempter comes again, there are no resources for resistance, for everything is merely smoke and mirrors, an illusion that brought a degree of comfort or sense of achievement in the improvement of the life.  It’s like someone who goes through rehab and gets free of an alochol addiction only to find themselves soon a slave to pills.  Swept and put in order, but still empty.  Something will come to fill it.

Many times we find ourselves in this condition.  Rather than the effort and sweat and tears needed to get before God for a complete work, we find ourselves content with a quick pass of the broom and shoving everything into the spiritual closet.  And so things are not dealt with, only suppressed and hidden.  We are not healed and cleansed and the enemy retains his access into our lives.  We have not submitted to God, and the enemy will not flee.  We want merely to be free of the bad feelings of conviction.  We refused to be thoroughly and completely dealt with by God.  The fullness of life that He desires to give us, we do without…..and remain empty.

And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.  Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?  Luke 11:37-40

The Pharisees would have appeared to everyone to have it all together.  Their lives were so carefully lived in obedience to the law that few would have looked beyond that.  But Jesus saw into the heart and He knew that even with all their outwardly righteous living, they were most unrighteous on the inside.  We see this demonstrated over and over as they raged against the good works that Jesus did and His help to the people. The true state of their heart was revealed in the fruit of their life and their attitude toward Jesus and His works.  ( Luke 6:43-45) When confronted with a true holiness, superficial religious performance lashes out.  Jealous over the beauty of it but unwilling to submit to the obtaining of it.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.” Luke 11:44

On the surface everything appears to be fine.  And maybe people can get very close and still not realize the uncleaness because it is so prettily covered up by religion.  But just beneath the surface there is something of death that will contaminate those who come in contact with it. (Num 19:16).  If the people had known who these Pharisees really were in their heart they would never have held them in such high regard or sought to be taught the things of God by them, but would rather have avoided them lest they also be one contaminated by the pollution of their unholy and unclean hearts.

The true condition of our heart can be disguised and hidden from most people, but God sees through all our attempts at deception. And He desires to bring us into the reality of everything this life is meant to be. It won’t necessarily be easy. The dealings of God rarely are.  But the outcome is glorious, for it is “that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Amen!

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Becoming convinced

Reading the story of Gideon in Judges 6:36-7:15…..a man chosen by God for a great work. Yet he struggled to believe it could be true that he would be chosen for such a task as delivering the people of Israel from their enemies. He was an insignificant man from an insignificant family.  He realized that he couldn’t step out into the plans of God with such doubt.  Thus Gideon requested the fleece, which God so mercifully answered. Still there was doubt, so he requested another sign which God also granted. But still Gideon did not have the faith needed to embark into the purposes of God for his life. The questions he thought he needed answered, the things he thought he needed God to do to convince him, did not help. They did not strengthen his faith.  And although he began to step out into obedience and assemble the army, yet his heart remained unconvinced.   But when Gideon has exhausted all his questions, all his fleeces, and determines to step out into a fearful obedience solely based on what God has said, then God brings a word to him that settles the matter in his heart.  Gideon no longer questions, but worships.  And the purpose that God had declared to him (“arise, go down against the camp, for I have delivered it into your hand” 7:9) now becomes the faith filled cry of his own heart as he gives the command to his army – “arise, for The Lord has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand.” 7:15.  Gideon has become convinced.

We are often so confident that if God would just answer this question or provide that confirming sign that we could then be steadfast and immovable in God’s purposes.  However I have found, like Gideon, that this is so often insufficient. But the God who made this heart knows how to persuade this heart and utterly convince me and bring me to a place of settled faith about a thing.  May we learn from Gideon and be obedient to our Lord, even when it is a fearful obedience.  Marching forward into His purposes, with an ear open toward heaven, we too will surely receive the faith we need to finish our course victoriously and with great joy.  Amen!

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On the road to Emmaus there were two disciples walking and talking with Jesus.  Scripture tells us in Luke 24 that “they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther.  But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us…

They constrained Him.  They didn’t just ask.  They urged and insisted and compelled Him.  There is an element of force implied in the word.  Jesus planned on going further, but I get the impression that they weren’t going to take no for an answer.  And as he came in to share a meal with them, it says “their eyes were opened and they knew Him”

When Jesus came to the disciples walking on water (Mark 6) it says He would have passed them by.  But they cried out and immediately He talked with them and said to them “Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid”.  Jesus got into the boat and the storm was calmed. Their desperation stopped Him and brought His peace into their situation.

The blind man at Jericho (Luke 18) heard that Jesus was passing by and he cried out.  The word there indiciates that he was shouting in a tumultuous way.  Probably embarrassing the people that were standing near, so they told him to be quiet.  Yet he cried out all the more.  Jesus called for him and restored his sight.  Had he been afraid of what everyone else might think about him, he may have held his peace and died a blind man.

In all three of these accounts Jesus is right there, but about to pass by.  Yet when someone cried out and insisted on His presence, He stopped.   Why did He stop?  Because there was a longing, a desperation for His Presence.  How many times have we felt that same thing rising up within us, yet because such a crying out isn’t “proper” or “acceptable”, we suppress the longing and ignore the desperation as Jesus passes by.

I want to constrain Him.  I want to stir myself up to take hold of Him.  I want to know Him; to experience His miraculous peace in every storm; to have my vision restored.  I am not content that He should ever pass by.

And the wonder of it all is that He isn’t either.

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Kelsy

Last Saturday I was with the ministry team on Bourbon Street during the VooDoo Fest weekend.  The street was crowded and filled with people in all kinds of outlandish costumes.  We had many people who stopped to talk and we were able to share the gospel with them and pray for them.  Sometimes there are people that stand out in your memory.  Kelsy is one of those people.  She had been standing by the cross for several minutes listening to the preaching.  As I made my way over to her she made eye contact with me and I began to talk to her about the content of the message being preached.  She didn’t say much, but listened intently as I shared the gospel message with her.  She had a mask over her eyes, but it couldn’t hide the tears that were rolling down her face.   She let me pray with her and she gave me her phone number.   Please pray that the Lord would open her heart to the message of His grace and that I would be able to maintain contact with her.

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And the Lord said “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.  So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians….” Exodus 3:7-8

His words to Israel in Egypt are the same words He has spoken to us in Christ:

I have seen

I have heard

I know

So I have come down to deliver

Dead religion offers no hope of deliverance.  It offers only the certainly of a vicious cycle of trying really hard and failing yet again.

But the living God sees

The living God hears

The living God knows

And He came down…..to rescue us.

And even now, when Egypt is a distant memory….He sees….He hears….He knows…..and He comes down.

Sometimes there are these moments when I realize that He is so much more wonderful than I ever imagined.

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