Made Strong

Psalm 105: 37

Then He brought them out with silver and gold; and among His tribes there was not one who stumbled.

I recently heard Pastor Joseph Prince teaching on communion. It is a brilliant teaching. The part that made the greatest impact on me was when he spoke about the Hebrew children leaving Egypt in the great exodus. He used today’s scripture in his message. The Amplified version says that there was not one feeble among their tribes. Prince ascribed that miracle to the immediate previous actions of the Israelites. They had just partaken of Passover. The people took unblemished lambs; slew them and used the blood to mark the entrance to their homes. Then they ate the meat of the lamb. You can see there the communion message because in our communion we partake of the body of the perfect lamb as represented by the bread. Since Jesus took all disease and physical ailment in his body we are able to live free of sickness and disease. The Passover looked forward to the slaying of the perfect lamb while our communion looks back to the sacrifice of our Lord. In both instances our sickness was born in his stripes (see Isaiah 53: 4 – 5, 1 Peter 2: 24).  

Joseph Prince’s teaching taught about the power in communion when you understand it and it is not merely a ritual. If it is done apart from faith, then it is meaningless. When, however, you mix your faith with the giving and receiving of the body of Christ then the miraculous can truly happen. That is what the bread is. It represents the body of Christ Jesus which was broken for us. Referring back to the fact that no one among the Israelites was feeble, Prince said that the partaking of Jesus makes you strong. If, therefore, you need healing in your body, it can be found in the broken body of Jesus, so receive the communion bread in faith expecting the healing power of Jesus to touch your body.

As I wrote earlier, I think it is a brilliant teaching but I am really trying to arrive at a different message by using Joseph Prince’s message as the foundation. When I heard him say that partaking of Jesus makes you strong my mind left the thoughts of the body of Christ which was broken for our healing and went to inner healing and inner strength. Partaking of the body makes your body strong but also partaking of the Spirit of Jesus and the Words of Jesus makes your inner person strong. 

Most of us have scars and injuries in the inner person and those injuries make us weak. They make us dance to other people’s tunes rather than living in true freedom. They incapacitate us and they steal life from us. However, if we will fill ourselves with Jesus we will be healed in the innermost parts and we will become strong. You can have everything you want if you will receive Jesus’ healing. It takes some courage perhaps. Too many of us are afraid to feel and afraid to make ourselves vulnerable even to the Lord. If you will let him, though, Jesus will make you strong in your body, mind and emotions. Of what are you afraid? Let him touch your heart. Partake of his spirit and his word and you shall be made strong. Of you it will be said, “Not one among them was found to be feeble.”

Holy Partakers

Hebrews 3: 1

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.

The writer of Hebrews addresses his audience in a peculiar way. He calls us partakers. To partake, according to the American Heritage Dictionary means to: 1. take part or have a share: participate, 2. to take or be given part or portion. Applying that definition to today’s passage means that we, each, have been given a part or a portion of a heavenly calling and further, that we take part, have a share in and participate in this heavenly calling. What, then, is this heavenly calling of which the author speaks?

Jesus is our part and portion. Jesus the Apostle, Jesus the High Priest operates in those two offices to this day. He was anointed to these offices. We see his anointing and the job classification in Isaiah 61: 1 – 3. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” it says, “because the Lord has anointed me to . . . .” You can read on to see what the anointing was intended to do which is the job description, if you will. Obviously this passage in Isaiah was written long before Jesus entered the earth as the Messiah but not before God’s great plan and the anticipation of the great savior. So, think of this passage, if you will, as the job posting. God posted a job opening on the bulletin board listing its qualifications and requirements as well as the job duties. No one was able to accept that job until Luke 4: 18 when Jesus entered the temple and accepted the position. Beginning in verse 16 of Luke 4 we read, “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him and He opened the book ad found the place where it was written, ‘THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO . . . .’”  Enter the King, Priest and Apostle of our faith.

Some years ago God gave me Isaiah 61: 1 – 3 as a prophetic word for my life. Initially I rejected it because I read it with the eyes of ego. In other words, when I read it my eyes were on me and I was overwhelmed. A false sense of humility overcame me resulting in my rejection of this Word from the Lord. I say that it was a false sense of humility rather than an honest one because I was looking at myself rather than at the Lord. A truly humble person does not have their eyes on themselves. Well, this is just proof that God can use anyone who will humble themselves which I soon did. Once having submitted my rather out of control ego to the Lord I realized that each of us is called under this same chapter and verse. Yes, it is our anointing in a sense because we are all called to partake of Jesus’ mission. The anointing I operate under, then, is not my own but rather that portion and part of Jesus’ which he has shared with me. I do not have my own anointing but I am anointed by him and of him for the equipping of the saints and for all those job duties that you read about in Isaiah 61 and Luke 4. We are all called to serve in the department of ministry under our chief administrator, Jesus.

This somewhat complex spiritual truth becomes easily understandable when I view it in these terms. We are all partakers of Jesus’ heavenly calling. Realizing that we are all a part of Jesus’ department may also take some of the self-imposed pressure off of us. We are not called to take on this assignment alone but rather as a part of a department with many others and with a department head who is all capable. Not only is Jesus super-capable but additionally he gives us his authority and power each time he assigns us a task. That means you do not have to succeed in the task in your own name or strength but rather that you proceed in the name and power of the head. Isn’t that a relief? Whatever God has given you to do you can do it because Jesus is authorizing the project in his name. Whooo Hoo!  

We are partakers, co-laborers with Jesus, anointed with a portion of his anointing, empowered with his might, armed with his authority. We do not have to bring much to the table; only obedience and humble submission. We must be willing to be led and directed according to his wisdom and instructions. Success is assured when we understand this paradigm because it is all done in the power of Jesus and his anointing. The weight is not upon our shoulders but rather on his and he can well bear it. We have only to do as he leads and all will be well.

Security in Humility

Nahum 1: 7

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.

It is good to know that in the day of trouble we have a refuge into which we can run. Our God is a stronghold, a mighty fortress. We recognize these words like refuge and stronghold as words of strength and power. We may imagine a well-fortified castle with its reinforced walls and parapets. This image conjures up feelings of security and well-being. We know that within the walls of this fortress we are safe. God is a bastion of safe habitation but we must take up our residence within His walls. He gives us an open invitation to reside within His walls but we are the ones who must make the move to come within His protection. This is not the prayer of salvation. This is a decision that happens after we have made Jesus the Lord of our lives and it is not a once and for all decision. Every day you have the choice of whether to live within the walls of His protection or to set your abode outside His gates.

Choosing to run into the security of the Lord is a matter of humility. It is a matter of submission. You can well imagine a prideful person who in the day of trouble stands out on his little farm facing the onslaught because he is too proud to run to his Lord. He relies in his own strength, to his detriment, when he could lean on the strength of the Lord. 

God’s protection is not automatic. We have all been given a choice to accept it or reject it. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord we were given the right to take up abode in the castle whenever we want, the right to God’s strength and protection. We were not, however, rounded up and forced to take up residence within His walls. He gave an invitation which only we can accept. We must humble ourselves before the Lord, not asking if He will give us permission to enter but rather acknowledging that He, rather than we, is the source of strength and power. Only He can save us in the day of trouble. For some people this can be a difficult admission but there is freedom in yielding to truth. There is always great freedom and empowerment in submitting to the Lord. He infuses us with His strength and love when we allow Him open access to our hearts. This can only be done in a yielded attitude and that requires humility. When we finally reject ourselves as the Lord of our life then we can make room for God’s sovereignty. If we will make an honest self-assessment and humble ourselves before the Lord Almighty, then we will be able, at last, to enjoy that incomprehensible peace of Jesus.

From Disgrace to Wisdom

Proverb 11: 2       NIV

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Yesterday we learned from the life of Uzziah that when we fall into the trap of pride and arrogance we are headed for a great fall. We also saw a clear warning about pride and arrogance in Proverb 16: 18. In today’s proverb King Solomon teaches that pride is accompanied by disgrace. Because none of us wants to suffer disgrace Solomon warns us off of pride. Happily Solomon shows us the other side of the coin. Humility leads to wisdom.  

The Amplified version says “When swelling and pride come, then emptiness and shame come also, but with the humble (those who are lowly, who have been pruned or chiseled by trial, and renounce self) are skillful and godly Wisdom and soundness.” It seems that humility comes through that process whereby God prunes us as Jesus spoke about in John 15: 2. We do learn humility through that process of tutoring that God leads us through. It seems that as we grow we become more and more humble. The more we know, the more humble we become. So, humility is actually a sign of our growth and maturity. I am not speaking about a false humility though. We are to be confident in the things of God and in His might and power. That never leads us to considering ourselves as worms in the dirt. We are the very children of God; His prize and His treasure. 

It also seems clear from this passage that in order for us to gain wisdom we have to venture forth in a spirit of humility. That only makes sense though, doesn’t it? If we are arrogant then we think that we already know a lot. When we think so highly of ourselves it is very hard to receive wisdom from others and frankly in our arrogance we don’t even go to God and solicit His advice. Wisdom is for those who have renounced self. It is for those who have been pruned and chiseled by the hand of God. When we submit ourselves to be molded and sculpted by God we must do so in spirit of humility. It is through our submissiveness that God transforms us and gives us His wisdom. Therefore, repent of arrogance and pride and give way to humility. In this way God can fill you with His wisdom which will bless your life in every way.

Pride

2 Chronicles 26: 3 – 5, 16

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem.  He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success. 

16 But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God.

How many of us have fallen in the same trap, the trap of arrogance? We begin a project or some new undertaking and are in the beginning so keenly aware of our shortcomings and inadequate skill set. We are humble and prayerful. God meets us at the point of our need and makes us successful in spite of ourselves. In our humility we give God all of the glory, all of the credit. We are almost painfully aware of how inadequate we are for the task and how God is carrying the load for us. He makes us look good for which we are immensely grateful. Unfortunately, like poor old Uzziah here, we eventually begin to believe in our prowess. We slowly stop giving God the glory and ultimately begin to think that we are the source of our success. Then comes the great fall.  

Proverb 16: 18 reads, “Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall” (God’s Word Translation). Arrogance is always a problem and always leads to problems. We need to learn to be confident, yes, but that confidence should reside in knowing who our God is. The minute we begin to believe our own press we are doomed for failure.

I caught myself stepping woefully close to the rim of the great chasm which is pride recently. I have played bridge a couple of times lately. By the grace of God I have enjoyed a bit of success. I don’t play often so even as I acquire a bit of skill it is difficult to maintain any level of proficiency. But I have the good fortune to play with some wonderful partners. Not only are they largely responsible for our success but they also compliment me and build my confidence. They are beautiful people who attempt to build up those around them. I began to believe my own press though and that is very dangerous. All of a sudden I heard myself think, “Hey, maybe I am kinda good.” Praise God that when that thought went through my mind it set off alarm bells. It is not I, who is skillful, but my Lord and God, He carries me. He causes me to be able to do things which I could not do in my power.

Never let yourself be too impressed with yourself. As soon as you do, you are headed for a great fall. Be confident but let your confidence be in the Lord. He really can empower you so that you can do all things but it is only because of his strength, wisdom and guidance. Do not let your success go to your head but instead let it go to your heart and praise the Lord God Almighty.

Jew or Gentile

Isaiah 11: 10       NKJV

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.

Did you think that the gentiles coming to Christ was a New Testament idea? Didn’t we all? Apparently, it was not. I really appreciate these consistent pieces of evidence that show that throughout the millennia God has not changed. He had a plan in the beginning before there ever even was an earth and that plan is being fulfilled right now. And, you are, and always were, a part of God’s master plan.  

God raised up a people to be His own but those people were supposed to be a lamp unto the world. The rest of us were supposed to see the majesty of God through their lives. Today, Christians are that lamp. Our lives are supposed to so shine that all people will seek the Christ. His name is a banner to all people saying, “Come. This is the way.” All people are called to Jesus. He is the banner that we lift up and glorify.

But God is the Father of all. There is no one, I mean no one, who is outside the family. That does not mean that everyone chooses to accept their position but it is, none the less, available to them. He had His eye on the Gentiles since the beginning of time so that they might come into the family and live with Him throughout eternity.

I like that because it is indicative of God’s great love for us all. He always meant to include all of humanity. God is love. If we can ever wrap our heads around that everything else will make sense. There was so much turmoil and debate over the Gentiles coming into “the church.” This was a really big issue in the days of Paul. Now we look back to the book of Isaiah and find that it was foretold long before. If the people complaining about the Gentiles had actually paid attention to their holy writings they would have known that this was always in God’s plan. Much conflict could have been avoided. This should inform us today as well. There is no one, no class of people, no segregated group, not even Muslims, left out of God’s plan. Everyone is welcome. Whether Jew or Gentile, all have the banner of his glorious name lifted up for them so that they may seek him and come into the family.

The Contemplative Life

Proverb 20: 15        NIV

Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

In reading this verse, I am struck by how out of place it is in today’s culture. First of all, who would say such a thing? Preachers, I think, might still say these sorts of things but that is probably the limit of it. I ask myself why and find many answers vying for my attention. The most pronounced, though, is that this speaks to ideals that are outside our value system. So, what is in our value system or more plainly stated, what is it that we value? That question is most easily answered by observing what we, as a culture, spend our time, energy and money on. The contemplative life does not seem to make the list and seeking out the one person who has made meditative study a priority is even of lesser importance to us.

Individually we get swept up in the tide of the culture, few of us ever stopping long enough to ask ourselves what is really important. There are images painted for us in media, advertising and literature and we integrate those images into our psyche’s and begin to hotly pursue them without ever questioning whether those things have any real value in them or if they add value to our lives. The first realization we have is that we have no time in our lives. Everyone is so busy. We have no time for the real friends so we have to have virtual friends. Our friends and family are nothing more than social media entries. We have no time them much less for quiet study, meditation and contemplation because we have three other places we need to be. But if we could be honest with ourselves for one minute we would have to accept that we are only as busy as our value system allows. We do what is important to us. If we say that we are too busy for any particular thing it is only because we have not placed a high enough value on that item. So, now when I hear someone say they are “too busy” for something in particular I understand that they are really saying that it just is not important enough for them.

I have this picture in my mind of people sitting at the feet of the sage listening intently to words of wisdom. It is a very tranquil image. It is also a fallacy. Even if we purposely slow our lives a bit then ego interferes. We have become a nation of egomaniacs. Who knows better than we? Is there anyone smarter, wiser or more informed than I? If so, do I value that person or shun them? This is not true for everyone for there are some of you who really do have humility but for many of us we ostracize one who has answers and wisdom because our self-esteems are so low that we see their wisdom as a threat. So those of you who do seek out teachers keep gaining knowledge while those of us who so desperately need guidance cannot receive wisdom because of our outsized egos.

Israel had the same problem. People didn’t listen to the prophets even though God spoke to them through the prophet. So they lacked guidance. I am sure they thought they knew it all just as we do today. We don’t need anyone to speak wisdom into our lives because we are the smartest people we know. It is all very cyclical. We think we are wise, or we allow our tiny self-esteems convince us this is so we do not pursue the teachings of those who could, in fact, help us. Secondarily, we have become so deceived by the devil as to what is important that we do not pursue God in our own time. There are few wise people because few people spend time with God. And then those few who actually have made the contemplative life a priority get shunned because they are wiser than the rest of us. Israel suffered greatly because they wouldn’t listen to the prophets but today we are even worse because we won’t even give anyone the title prophet or teacher even when they have been appointed by God to those positions. 

I wish that by writing this Word of the Day I could change the culture but if it provokes one or two people to a deeper life then it will be successful. Those of you who are thoughtful and meditative, pull on your teachers. Make a demand on them. Teachers, your followers have a right to draw on what God is teaching you and you may have to increase your study. It is your responsibility to feed the sheep and Jesus is the bread of life, so study.

If we could just take one month away from our worldly pursuits, away from seeking pleasure and direct that energy to seeking God, we would not only transform our own lives but our families and communities as well. Consider your time, your obligations and your God. Take time to think about what is really important in life. Then allocate some time to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. Seek out teachers. Honor them and make a demand on their knowledge base. Make the pursuit of the knowledge of God a priority in your life.