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Archive for April, 2014

The upward life is about the presence of God. Yes, He is everywhere all the time. We accept this truth by faith. But sometimes He makes the reality of His presence so tangible to us that the very atmosphere is charged and we feel as though if we stretched out our hand we might touch Him.

King David was a man who loved God’s presence. The account of the ark of God being brought back to Jerusalem is a joyous celebration. 2 Samuel 6:12-15 says: Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.

David didn’t take the presence of God for granted. To him it was very precious.

For Moses, the presence of God was necessary. Exodus 33:15 tells us: Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. Moses preferred a wilderness with God, rather than a promised land without Him.

But for others the presence of God is substituted. Jeremiah 2:13 says: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.. The Lord’s command to those who have become content with other things, even if they are good and spiritual things, is “remember….and repent”. (Revelation 2:4-5)

The Old Testament Jews were not allowed to draw near to God. One man, once a year was allowed into the Holy of Holies. But this new covenant in Jesus’s blood is a covenant of nearness. Many verses exhort us to come near (James 4:8, Hebrews 7:19, Hebrews 10:22, Ephesians 2:13)

When the arms of Jesus were spread open on the cross, the arms of the Father were opened to us, with the invitation to draw near. The tragedy of our day is that we too often remain content with the broken cisterns of religious activity.

The upward life is about separation to God. The Song of Solomon is a story of love between the beloved and the Shulamite, which symbolizes the love between Jesus and His people. Read what the beloved (Jesus) says about the Shulamite (us).

A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with pleasant fruits, fragrant henna with spikenard, spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices— A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Song of Solomon 4:12-15

This garden, which is her life, is full of beautiful and pleasant fruits and spices. Many precious things are growing there. But she is a garden enclosed….a spring shut up…a fountain sealed. All the beautiful fruit of the life is locked away and hidden. No one benefits from the lovely fragrance or the sweet fruit.

His words stir something in her and she responds (Song of Solomon 4:16) “Jesus, all the beautiful fruit of my life, it is for You Lord. Come and benefit from the precious things You have grown in my life. Come and receive of what is Yours”

And He does! (The BelovedI have come to my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Song of Solomon 5:1a) He comes to the garden and takes possession of it…”I have come to my garden”. She has given it entirely to Him. This garden, her life, is separated to the beloved….His possession now. And this life, now fully given over to the Beloved, He flings wide open for the benefit of the world! (Song of Solomon 5:1b) (To His Friends) Eat, O friends! Drink, yes, drink deeply, O beloved ones!

This is the prepared life…..one that is fully given over….an entirely God-possessed life.

Today you can purpose to be upwardly prepared – a man or woman fully surrendered to God.

 

 

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But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use]. So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 amplified

The passage above tells us that the use of the vessel is in proportion to the preparation of the vessel. So as we desire to be useful and profitable to the Lord Jesus, we must prepare ourselves to be suitable for those things He has prepared for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Part 1 will focus on the preparation of the inward life

The inward life is really all about the condition of the heart. The great danger for us as believers is developing a hardened or calloused heart. Each time we come into the house of God, He desires to speak to us. But if we are not careful, the ministry of the Word of God into our lives can become to us nothing more than a form of entertainment as it was for the people in Ezekiel’s day. “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. (Ezekiel 33:30-33)

It is when we come to the Word of God with a humble and teachable spirit (whether in a church service or in our own personal reading and studying) that we will experience the full benefit of its work of preparing our life for useful service to Jesus.

The Word of God reveals ourselves to us. Hebrews 4:12 says: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Every motive, attitude, all the hidden things that no one can see, and that we often aren’t aware of, all of these things are revealed by the powerful working of the Word of God in our hearts, but only as we make ourselves open and vulnerable to the Word and do not close our hearts to the Spirit’s correction. It can be very painful to experience revelation of ourselves, but it is necessary.

The Word of God renews our perspective. Romans 12:1-3 tells us: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Not only does it help us to relate rightly to this world, but it helps us to think rightly about ourselves. In 10,000 different ways pride will attempt to find a home in our hearts, but the Word of God will successfully expose this deadly enemy and keep us in a proper attitude of humility. Without humility, ministry can be destructive.

Not only is the inward life prepared by the Word of God, but also by prayer. Nothing of kingdom significance will be done without prayer, either in the world or in our own lives. It was as the early church was set apart in the upper room in prayer that the Holy Spirit was poured out. In prayer our desires to draw near to God are stirred. Through prayer, Jesus promised we could receive what we ask for. Mark 11:24 states: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

The word “desire” in this verse is a strong word. It means to crave, beg or require. It is more than a casual asking and then moving on to the next thing. There is something of a desperation and urgency that just can’t let go of the need being presented until heaven answers. There is far too little of this in our day. We often come to God in prayer, yet our desire to have that which we’ve asked for is not strong enough for us to continue until the answer comes. We aren’t engaged in our own prayer lives and then wonder why our prayers aren’t answered.

The preparation of a life is a call to fervent, intense prayer. No longer is there the option of “now I lay me down to sleep” prayers. It is a life that travails before the throne of God, often with tears and sleepless nights, pacing the floor….not willing to see prayers continue to go unanswered.

There are many accounts in the gospels when whole cities would line up to see Jesus.   Can you imagine how long all those people must have had to stand there and wait for a chance to get close enough to Jesus to get their need met? But in each account it tells us that ALL were healed. Everybody got their need met……except those that got tired of waiting and went home.

Today you can purpose to be inwardly prepared – a man or woman of the Word and prayer.

 

 

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I am an earthen vessel
Nothing special
Common at best

Yet inside
A treasure resides
The glory of One who died

To put an end to sin
Who rose again and lives within
This is my faithful Friend

His excellent presence
Frees me from pretense
And I can just love Him

Unashamed to be made of clay
And broken in some places
That He might receive praise

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Life!

“The One who existed from the beginning is the One we have heard and seen. We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. This One who is life from God was shown to us, and we have seen Him. And now we testify and announce to you that He is the One who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then He was shown to us.” 1 John 1:1-2

Not only is personal, intimate experience with the Lord Jesus a vital necessity for our own life and ministry, it is the absolute delight of the believer.  We desperately need to “see Him with our own eyes and touch Him with our own hands”.  Otherwise we will be like the seven sons of Sceva – living in defeat because we use the name of a Jesus we don’t even know.  Personal relationship with Christ must be cultivated, maintained and protected.  The cares of life – both the good cares and the bad cares – will always attempt to crowd Him out, but we must guard this relationship jealously. Because Christ is our life!   Without a real walk with Him, everything becomes stale and monotonous….. just one of many shades of grey. But with Him!! Oh, with Him there is joy unspeakable and full of glory! Even in the midst of our greatest difficulties and heartaches we have this testimony – my God is with me….and He is enough!   And out of the intimacy of our relationship with Him, our heart will overflow with testimonies of the Jesus we have come to know personally and in reality.  How much more compelling is our witness when others perceive that we are not speaking of a dead Savior, but a living Lord and Friend!  One who is able to save to the uttermost. One that we know and that knows us and Whose presence we find abundantly satisfying.

“This One who is life from God” is the One we testify of.  The world’s experience of dead religion keeps them from our gatherings and from our Jesus.  But when we expose them to the One who is life from God, this One we have seen and touched, they will begin to see Christianity as it has forever been meant to be – full of life.

In Him is life…..

A very blessed Resurrection Day!

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I watched a parable unfolding before my eyes…..

Every day on my way to work I pass by the Baton Rouge main library. Recently a new main library was built, making the old one unnecessary. One day I noticed that a fence had been built around the old building. Soon afterwards there were pieces of heavy equipment on site. Each day that I passed by there was less and less of the building standing. This week all that remains are piles of rubble that will soon be picked up and carried away to be disposed of.

Each day as I passed by the destruction of this building I thought on the destruction of a life. It very rarely happens all at once, but is a slow and subtle process, sometimes undetectable. But one little sin is allowed to remain in the life. The Holy Spirit deals with the heart, but this sin is enjoyed and clung to. So the life retains the sin….and the fence is built. It signifies the hardness that enters our heart as we resist the ministry of the Holy Spirit as He works to pry our hands off of that treasured sin. And this sin that we think we cannot live without, or perhaps view as insignificant, begins its work of destruction in our lives. Little by little, fellowship with God is torn down. Little by little, our desires for His word, His presence, His ministry into our lives becomes weaker. And little by little, sin destroys us until our life lies in ruins.

Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?  Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? Proverbs 6:27-28

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. James 1:14-16

The Lord would not have us be deceived…..sin brings forth death. Always. It can never do anything else. But Jesus offers LIFE!!

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10b

While sin appears desirable and pleasurable, we must remember that this is only an illusion. It is a lie! There may be pleasure in sin for a season, but there are pleasures at His right hand forevermore! It is an unbelievably short-sighted trade off when we treasure our sin rather than treasuring Jesus. Our glorious Christ has given us a gloriously complete salvation. He has freed us from the power of sin so that it is no longer our master. However sin will still come and invite us to serve it. Now we must choose. Today is a brand new opportunity for us to choose to treasure Jesus above everything else. This is the only reasonable choice!

 

 

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Baton Rouge Bridge cover2

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