Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘cross’

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, 2And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. 3For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

4Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

(Jonah 2:1-4)

He could hear the waves crashing behind him, sweeping the water up the sand, never quite coming close to his feet. The whale lay there half in and half out of the water, its life running out of it with every last wheezing breath. Jonah was alone on the beach. He was alive, but more than that, God had heard him down in the whale’s belly and had brought him forth into the daylight that he had almost despaired of seeing again.

But here he was, standing alone on the beach on dry land, next to this great dying body of a fish that had committed suicide to bring him here. God had delivered him so completely that he hadn’t even gotten his feet wet. And now it was time for the mission that he had run away from not even a week ago.

Jonah is not a classic example of gratitude. Jonah cared more about himself than the salvation of 120,000 people. He went ahead and prophesied to the Ninevites as he was commanded to do, but his heart wasn’t in it. He was actually more grateful for a tree that gave him shade than the great deliverance God had done for him.

Why is that? As a young Christian, I was taught that if you had a thankful heart, you would never backslide, and I have seen the truth of that over the years, but how does one develop a thankful heart?

I don’t believe gratitude comes from circumstances or things that have happened to you as much as it does from a thankful heart that has already been planted within you. Gratitude is more the blossoming of an attitude you already have rather than the genesis of a new one.  And I believe it is tied to charity.

One of the six principles of revival that I preach about is that the gospel is not about you; it is about others. This is the central message of the Cross; it is the essence of who and what Christ was. Charity is the essential element, not only to entering into a vibrant and deep walk in God, but to seeing the power of God work in your life. Charity is Jesus Christ working in you.

You would think that gratitude would be about what happens to us rather than to others, but the seeds of gratitude cannot find a place to grow in the stony rock of a cold heart. They can only find purchase in the cultivated soil of a heart that is not only thankful, but is softened with that thing about charity that turns our focus to others, dismisses our own situation, and rejoices in what God has done for all.

Gratitude is tied to the Cross.

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Charity never faileth …” (1 Cor. 13: 4-8)

 

Read Full Post »

“Where’s the Beef?”  (old Wendy’s commercial)
We all want the same thing … well, pretty much all of us.  Everybody wants to go to Heaven and be right with God.  And the ones that don’t are just hoping that at least there is no Hell.  The problem is that we want to go on our terms.  That makes it a tricky issue.  Who’s to say which the right way is?

I have an answer for that.  It’s in 1st John.  We know we are in Him by the Spirit that He has given us.

You would think that would make it simple.  Either you got it or you don’t.  But now we have to debate over how you determine if you have the Spirit or not.  (Scheesh!  Does it ever end?)

To that, all I can say is that if you have to figure it out, you ain’t got it.

But there are those who think they feel the Spirit every time they feel a gust of wind, or get all worked up in when they’re singing in services.  I see them twirling around and bouncing up and down, and getting all happy.  Well, at least that’s better than handling snakes just to prove you’re in the Spirit.

But where’s the beef?

I believe that the Spirit of God responds in a very real way to worship.  But is that all there is?  When we go home after a rousing service, what happens then?  After the euphoria wears off, are we left in the same old flesh, just waiting for our next fix?  There has to be something more.

Real depth in God comes from elements that are not associated with singing and dancing.  It’s the more serious side of the Gospel that brings us to that secret place of the Most High that pulls us out of our flesh and into a deeper walk with God.  The suffering of the Cross is supposed to be manifest in our lives. (And please, I’m not talking about whipping yourself or anything weird like that.)

What about a crucified walk?  Or how about being grieved for lost souls?  Or allowing yourself to go through the fire, or letting God take you through valleys to strip away your flesh?

I could go on and on.  I know you’ve read about this stuff, but not many want to think about that side of the Gospel.  You see that’s the stuff that makes a real Christian — the walks in the valleys, not the experiences on the mountaintops.

To put it succinctly, we don’t want to face our own death.  And yet, that is exactly where the Lord wants to take us if we are ever going to have power in God. A friend once told me, “God isn’t trying to change you. He’s trying to kill you!” Amen. But that ol’ flesh just doesn’t want to die.

It takes serious depths in the Word of God and desperate prayer to bring us to the point where we are willing to allow God to break our hearts and strip us down.  Without that we are just like kindergarteners running around on the playground, having a good time, but not going anywhere.

Revivals are birthed in heartbreak and sacrifice — not the instant, cheap ‘n’ easy version that echoes the Lottery mentality of this generation.  There is a price for everything in God.

God is looking for those with a serious dedication to serve the Lord and stand against the powers of darkness.  That comes from a battle-hardened determination to overcome all things and carry the Cross.

It may not be as much fun as we’d like, but it is the path that leads to Calvary.

Read Full Post »

“If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous. Though thy beginning was small, yet they latter end should greatly increase.”   Bildad the Shuhite (Job 8:6)

————————————————————————————————————

“…For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Paul, (Philippians 1:29)

There has been a shift in our view of the personality of God.  I noticed it taking hold of the evangelical church world about 30 years ago, and it has established itself more firmly ever since.

The old fashioned view of a God of judgment was mollified to one of a kinder, gentler God who was more attuned to a loving relationship with His children.  The old brush arbor revivalists were considered too hard in their outlook, mocked in Hollywood films, and brushed aside as narrow-minded zealots who did not understand the mercy of God.  We assumed that we had a better understanding of God because we are somehow more enlightened.

We shifted our focus to the blessings, the love and mercy, and the goodness of God.  Yes, judgment was still there, but was more relegated to the shadows off-stage than out in the spotlight.  The Fear of God, although undeniably written in the Word of God, was analytically digested and has been presented as being more by the precept of men (Isaiah 29) than the emotionally charged issue of actual dread and fear.  God is now our Daddy.

Because there was no momentous outpouring of the Holy Spirit in recent memory, we, like the Israelites of Sinai, felt that Moses had taken too long to come down from the mountain, so we’ve fashioned our own gods that have supposedly delivered us out of Egypt.

Seems to work pretty good.  It feels much better, and it is much more palatable than walking around under the cloud of intense holiness like our forefathers did.

After all, it makes much more sense to the carnal mind.  If you get saved, God will love you and pour out His unconditional Love all over you.  No more dark valleys to walk through, no more refining fire to strip away your flesh, and no more sufferings of the Cross to bear.

It made sense to Bildad the Shuhite.

But not to Paul.

We are inundated with an easy Gospel that promises a wonderful time in Jesus.  We proclaim that there will be a great revival soon, and we sing and dance to the rhythm of the message, but we have not considered the price.  Our pastors who have taken the pulpits in the last 20-some-odd years have regurgitated the message they heard in Bible College, and are not even aware that something is missing.  But hey, it sure feels good, doesn’t it?

So we continue to sing and dance, and line up for someone can touch us so we can fall down on the floor in euphoria, but we never notice our lack of depth and brokenness, nor do we consider that old crucified walk that our fathers have trod to establish the Church.

We want to touch the Cross; not bear it.

Read Full Post »

I have a friend that I love hanging around. His main desire in life is to serve the Lord. He doesn’t care if he is rich or poor — he just wants to seek the face of the Lord.

Now, when you have that kind of desire, you’re always faced with the shortcomings of your flesh that keeps you from getting to that place in God that you’re striving for. That’s just the way it is. The Apostle Paul referred to it as struggling with his “vile flesh” that was always trying to hold him back. You want to get to a consecrated walk with God and be totally in the Spirit, but your flesh, of course, has other ideas. It’s a struggle that never ends.

This friend of mine was praying the other day and out of frustration with himself and his constant shortcomings, he asked God, “Why don’t you just break me?”

The Lord answered him on the spot, “Because you don’t trust Me enough.”

Whoa. That’s a mouthful! But in that answer lies the essence of the Cross.

Now, my first thought would have been, “Lord, I’m not 100% sure I want to trust you that much.” But I also know that if I ever want to be anything in God, I have to be willing to let Him take me through those valleys to break me and empty me out so that He can fashion me into a vessel that is “meet for the Master’s use”.

All the ego and pride and all the desires for self and what we want in life has to go. In it’s place there has to be a willingness to humble ourselves in total surrender. Until we are emptied out and broken, God can’t use us in any great and mighty way. How could He? Our egos would be trying to share the glory with God.

But in order to allow God to break you, you have to trust Him, and in order to trust Him that much, you have to know that you are right with Him. There are those who will tell you that your faith and trust are based upon the Blood of Jesus and faith in God – and they are correct and that all sounds so very good and “spiritual”, but the truth is that peace will never come as long as there is sin in your life. You are in a covenant relationship with Him. That means that you have made a deal with God that you will keep His commandments just as He has promised to keep His promisies to you. Only when you have the kind of deep solid confidence that comes from knowing you are right with God will you be able to completely surrender and allow Him to be in total control of your life so that, no matter what happens, you will be willing to go through whatever comes your way for the glory of God.

That can be tough sometimes. Are you sick and afflicted? Are you broke and oppressed? Does everyone else seem to be cruising along in Life while you’re trudging along in the mud? Has Life dealt you a crummy hand and you seem to have ended up with the fuzzy end of the lollipop?

Do you trust God?

The Prosperity Prophets out there tell us that God is supposed to pour out blessings on us no matter what, but this isn’t about us – this is about others. We are called to the Cross, not the Crown, and that crucified walk in God to give up the things that we want in life takes a brokenness in your spirit that doesn’t come easy. It takes a deep, surrendered trust in God to be able to allow Him to take us there – a trust so deep that, as Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

God has a Plan, and if you want to be part of it, you have to yield and let Him take control of your life. It’s only when we surrender to it and trust Him completely that we will find that place of perfect peace that passes all understanding.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:6,7

Read Full Post »

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ…“  Revelations 1:9

There has always been something about the recurring theme of the sufferings of the Body of Christ that has eluded me.  It is written throughout Scripture, but it is not something that is sought after very much.  It’s almost like huge boulders in our path that we acknowledge are there, but try our best to find a way around them. 

What is it about this theme of suffering that weaves though the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, that is so elemental to the Christian experience?  No one wants pain (at least those of us who are sane), so we are naturally drawn to a more peaceful picture of the Gospel.  Peace, blessings, love, prosperity – these are good things, and the promise of them stand out in the Bible as the rewards to those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

But follow where?  Jesus went to the Cross, and commanded us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.   That’s not exactly what I would consider a favorite vacation destination (let’s bring the kids and take lots of pictures!), and yet it stands out as a strong beacon to those who would follow Christ.

In America, we do not suffer the level of persecution for the Gospel that we read about in the New Testament, neither have we experienced the depths of suffering that our forefathers went through to establish the religious freedoms we enjoy.  We have resistance, to be sure, but nothing like what we read about in times past.

There are places around the world today where real Christians endure unspeakable persecution and suffering.  The stories that come to us from these places are hard to believe and impossible to get a real grasp on.  None of us would willingly trade places with those in such desperate pain.  We feel horrible for what they have to go through, even angst, and we wish their lives were as good as ours. 

And yet, they often feel sorry for us because we do not know Christ through suffering.  That’s the part that always gets me.

Just recently, a pastor in China was pardoned from serving a long sentence of torture because he was winning too many souls in prison.  He refused the offer for an early release, and demanded his right to serve out the rest of his sentence so he could continue to minister. 

Another pastor in Africa was attacked in the middle of services by armed soldiers who grabbed his baby boy and crushed him right in front of the whole church.  His response to a visitor who expressed how sorry they felt for him was that he felt sorry for us because we do not know persecution. 

I have spoken to men of God who have suffered like things, and their responses are almost always the same.  They glorify God for the honor of suffering for His name’s sake.  How do you answer something like that?

When you read the introductions in each of the Epistles, you can feel the intense fervor and passion that the Apostles had for the Lord and His church.  That passion and intensity comes only through suffering. 

Could it be that we in the West are missing something?  In our prosperity and relative peace, is it too hard for us to perceive an aspect of the Grace of God that defies carnal understanding?  I know there will be those who will answer me that we are supposed to live under the blessings of God, but there is something more to the path of the Cross than easy living.

Richard Wurmbrand, the author of Tortured for Christ, once said that those who have not suffered such persecution can never understand the glories of the grace of God that these martyrs have experienced.

Perhaps we should re-evaluate what our faith is based on and see from a very different perspective than what we are used to, so that we can understand with a new clarity the desperate war between Light and Darkness and the power of the Blood of Jesus Christ. 

It might change our view of our own Christianity.

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; … That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”
(Phillipians 1:29, 3:10)

Dalen Garris
dale@revivalfire.org

 

Read Full Post »