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Archive for December, 2009

And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:20-24

The crossing of the Jordan River was a historical event for Israel, but more significantly it is a picture of a faithful footstep towards the Spirit-filled life. It is a divine illustration of being baptized in the Holy Spirit and receiving God’s power to do Godly service. Therefore, our Spirit-filled life is for His glory, not ours. If this is true (and it is), how can we tell if we have received this Holy Spirit anointing? Is it just about prophesying and speaking in tongues? I submit to you that those things are merely components of the true sign.

What it the True Sign?

It’s all in the stones. In the biblical account we see that the Lord mandated twelve stones be taken out of the riverbed as a memorial. Not one stone, but many linked together; not finished, but unrefined. And where did they come from—the extreme bottom. Hopefully you can plainly see that those river-rocks point to us; once at the bottom, but now pulled out and set aside for an abundant life in Christ Jesus and for Christ Jesus.

…You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

But Rocks Don’t Talk

These rocks do! Every time a child looked at them, their inquisitive minds would prompt them to ask, “Yo pops, what’s up with all those rocks,” to which dad would reply, “Let me tell you about that rock pile son.”

These stones of remembrance were contact points knit together for the purpose of triggering testimony. Is that not what the Spirit-filled church (aka: Body of Christ) is designed to be? Did God not divide turbulent waters to bring us upon solid ground where we might stand as living memorials to His greatness? He most certainly did!

So How Do You Know?

Sure, you’re saved, but how do you know if you have received this baptism of the Holy Spirit? I suggest that you ponder the fundamental elements of these four Bible passages:

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me… Acts 1:8

Do we speak in tongues, prophesy, or heal? That’s wonderful, but to whose glory do we do these things and for what purpose? Does all our steam go towards tooting the whistle or propelling the engine? If these things draw attention to us rather than Jesus, then chances we have a filling of another type.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Where is the love? We can do tremendous things in His name, but if we swap-out love for any other attitude, emotion, or passion, then our efforts are nothing more then annoyances. Frankly, where there is no love there is no sating of the Spirit.

“Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24b

Do we operate in remembrance of Him or ourselves? Is our witness a brag-a-mony of our worldly exploits or a testimony of the One who saved us from our sin? Those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit have the power to turn the spotlight off self and onto Jesus.

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Here’s the bottom line on Spiritual baptism: are you a loving witness for Jesus Christ. That’s it in a nutshell. How do you become a loving witness baptized in the Holy Spirit? I would start by asking.

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13


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And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” So it was…that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. Joshua 3:13 + 16

The Sermon You May Have Heard

Many a sermon has been written on Joshua 3:13, spotlighting the issue of stepping out in faith so that God’s power might be revealed. The doctrine is rightly supported upon the fact that the waters of the (then) mighty Jordan River were divinely split after the priests stepped into the torrent flood waters. It takes faith to act in such a manner and any teaching in that regard is certainly a valid one. Conversely, it stands to reason that to not plunk your sole (or soul) into the water is to be dry in the most spiritual sense of the word. If you are spiritually dry, you might further consider obediently diving into these uncharted waters.

Take notice that those who endorse the seeing-is-believing position typically don’t trust what they observe, but those who ascribe to the believing-is-seeing principle often get to witness that which they believe. Belief is made manifest in Holy Spirit-guided action and revelation is the byproduct of active faith.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

The Sermon You May Not Have Heard

I am intrigued by the understated significance of verse sixteen; the waters of the Jordan River were heaped up at a far away placed called Adam, beside the city called Zaretan. We know from the opening text that the Israelites stood on the shores of the Jordan River at Acacia Grove (aka Shittim). That puts Zaretan about nineteen miles upstream.

Why is that significant?

It’s meaningful because it clearly demonstrates how our Father in Heaven is working historically behind the scenes to make things happen in anticipation of our being obedient at a future time. So while it’s true God heaped up the waters as the priests dipped their tootsies in the water, it’s truer still that God acted beforehand having foreknowledge of their faithfulness. In other words, if that water was moving along at ten miles per hour, God stopped the river’s flow two hours before the first toe hit the water, but to those priests the miracle was seemingly instantaneous. The passage reminds us that while we may be fearful to step out in faith before the Lord provides a sign, that very signal may have already been given– it just hasn’t caught up to us yet. Turn away and it may never be seen.

God’s Timing is Perfect

In order for this miracle to be perfectly revealed, God’s timing and foreknowledge had to be faultless. What if the priests were faithless; what if by disobedience their timing was off? We can only imagine how the scenario would have played out—maybe the nation of Israel would have been turned back around to spend another forty years in the wilderness—we just don’t know. That alone should give every believer pause.

Has the Holy Spirit ever nudged you to do something and you delayed in doing it or chose to ignore Him completely?

“Go pray for that person,” God asks, but you linger.

“Sing that praise song I have laid on your heart,” He says, but you wait for someone else to start.

Speak to Me in that sacred tongue,” but you outright refuse.

Have you ever wondered about the miracle laying upstream; the one that was revealed to another because your timing was off or not at all because you emphatically rejected the urgings of the Holy Spirit? Please know that God still does miracles and consistently reveals them to those who walk by faith. If your walk is dry it’s likely because you have not dipped your feet in the stream.


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Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them–the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.” Joshua 1:2-3

It’s a Done-Deal

The Promised Land that God is referring to is approximately three hundred thousand square miles—a region about the size of Texas. God had effectively said this was a done-deal–it’s yours, just enter in and possess it. However, the most Israel has ever taken possession of was thirty-thousand square miles and that was during King Solomon’s reign. That’s about one tenth of what God desired to give them. The other ninety percent is still available.

What Does That Mean to Me?

The focus of today’s blog is not going to revolve around the territory modern-day Israel is due, but rather on how this passage is applicable to every Christian today. In other words, ‘What has God promised me and what, if anything, have I taken possession of?”

First Things First

We need to know that these Old Testament stories are much more then records of ancient history. They are in fact prophetic illustrations of that which would ultimately come in and through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Every single New Testament principle has an Old Testament picture that exemplifies it. So while the Book of Joshua is a precise account of Joshua taking Israel into the Promised Land, it most accurately depicts the born-again believer crossing over and taking possession of the Spirit-filled life. How do we know this to be true? Consider this passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples… 1 Corinthians 10:1-7a

The word example in the text is ‘tupos’ in the Greek which is where we get our word type. Here Paul uses it to mean a person or thing prefiguring a future person or thing.

“Don’t be ignorant of these things,” Paul is saying, “these Old Testament stories are types of things which have come to be in Christ Jesus.

So it is true Israel was held captive in Egypt, but Egypt is a picture of our bondage to sin. Its true God raised-up Moses as a deliverer, but he was a picture (or type) of our Deliverer Jesus. Its true Israel crossed through the Red Sea, but it was an illustration of the outward sign of water baptism. And its true Israel received water from a rock in the desert, but that Rock is a picture of Jesus Christ and the living water only He can provide.

The Second Baptism

The Promised Land spoken of in the Old Testament is not a picture of Heaven, but the spirit-filled life available to every believer here on earth. Therefore, the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land is a picture of becoming baptized in the Holy Spirit and receiving the Spirit-filled life that God has promised us. By His Spirit and for His pleasure, God has much for us. The question that remains is whether or not we have taken possession of these things for His honor, glory, and praise.

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly John 10:10b


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I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. Romans 16:1-2

A large portion of the last chapter of the Book of Romans is dedicated to the Apostle Paul’s friends; thirty-three people that Paul mentions specifically by name. It’s one of those sections that some might wonder why is included in God’s word. I submit to you that as you pour through the chapter, God reveals both His character and the character of those who choose to follow Him.

Starting with Phoebe, Paul commends her because she is a precious servant of the Lord. I found it interesting that the word ‘servant’ in the Greek is ‘diakonos’ from which we get our contemporary word deacon or in this case deaconess. We find throughout scripture that these servants in the early church cared for the poor and the sick, took charge of and dispensed the collections, and specifically in the case of women, taught other women. We also see that women served in the early church.

Other Notables

Priscilla and Aquila were close friends of Paul and met because they shared the same tent-making craft. After Paul had led them to Christ, they in turn led many others to Christ, including Apollos! They also maintained Christian fellowships within their homes and put their own lives on the line in order to protect Paul. Already we see with these first three people, Paul is establishing the components of a faithful believer.

Paul remembers Epaenetus, the first person he led to Christ in Achaia and Mary, a saint who labored much for the evangelical mission. Again I am intrigued by Paul’s choice of words because the Greek word used here for labor means to toil with wearisome effort. Personally, I have trouble recalling the last time I toiled for Jesus.

He makes mention of Andronicus and Junia, two apostles who served with him in jail ministry. The valuable insight we can gain from this notation is that the Lord is still in the apostle-appointing business. Some believe that after Jesus appointed the original twelve there were no more—this entry destroys that myth.

Two of my personal favorites are Apelles and Philologus, whose name literally means, ‘lover of the Word’. Of Apelles, Paul wrote that he was ‘approved in Christ’. Of course that begs the questions, “What must one do to be approved in Christ?” That answer is implied here and confirmed later in Second Timothy.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

I prefer the King James Version of this particular verse because it plainly states, ‘Study to show yourself to be approved by God.’ Want to be approved? Be a ‘Philologus’—be a lover of God’s word.

Tertius and Quartus are two more favorites. Tertius we know was a secretary of sorts for Paul, recording much (if not all) of this letter for him. What I soaked in is that their titles are slave-names: Tertius means ‘Third’ and Quartus means ‘Fourth’. What a powerful reminder the next time I get the urge to make a name for myself.

“So What,” You Say

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name. Malachi 3:16

I tell you so what. Paul has illustrated in this Epistle to the Romans what God has been doing all along—recording in His Book of Remembrance the faithful acts of His saints. When a Christian serves and/or speaks-up on behalf of the Lord, He puts it in His memory book. It kind of reminds me how my wife puts all our kids’ masterpieces on the refrigerator, despite misspelled words and rough artwork. To Mom, it doesn’t matter—she’s showing off her children. It doesn’t matter to the Father either—if you love and serve the Lord, you are on His refrigerator.


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Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient–in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God… Romans 16:17-19a

Have You Been Confirmed?

I am not talking about those confirmation classes your mom made you take when you were back in Sunday school, but God’s direct confirmation of your ministry. Just to be clear, every single Christian has a ministry, so I suppose the question I am really asking is if you are in the right one. How do we find out? The Apostle Paul gives us the first clue when he fearlessly pronounces that the work he does is not his, but God’s. As a result, the signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit follow him.

And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. Mark 16:17-18

Are You Being Followed?

If God’s signs and wonders are not following you, it may be an indication that you are pursuing God’s miracles rather than God. The truth be told, those guys who play with rattlesnakes or speak in unknown tongues merely to prove God is with them, eventually get bitten. Ultimately what is proven is that they’re unendorsed [by the Father] in their fleshly ministry. Paul demonstrates that as we move in submissive obedience to God’s plan, His signs and wonders, miraculous or otherwise, will follow us in due season.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me Acts 1:8a

How do we know when we see the true power of the Holy Spirit being displayed? The verse from Acts makes it incredibly easy to determine: is the supposed sign and wonder pointing to the Christian or to Christ? If it’s not pointing to Jesus, then what you’re witnessing is a work of a person’s flesh. That alone does not necessarily signify that person is not a born again believer, but rather he or she is being guided by something else other that the Holy Spirit.

Where’s the Fruit?

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. Numbers 17:8

Fruit is often a seasonal thing, so lack of it may not be a sign you’re in the wrong ministry—you just might have to wait for it to come into season. The story of Aaron’s rod is a wonderful illustration of the principle. However, if there never was any fruit and the seasons have come and past, the likelihood exists that you’re out of position–you might be on the right farm, but you’re standing beneath the wrong tree.

Now What

Have you been ignoring one mission field because you were off in the wrong one? If so don’t be alarmed, depressed or discouraged—it happens to many and it has happened to me. The good news is that floundering in a mistaken ministry is easy to remedy—simply stop what you’re doing. Then ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal His plan. Chances are your ministry is right under your nose; perhaps your family or children. Humble yourself and ask Him where to take up the path again.


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We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” Romans 15:1-3

Missions 101

The last chapter (Romans 14) concludes that the compliant Christian’s agenda should be Christ-centered; summarily, we need to care less about the nonessential components of our faith. Recognizing that judging others in these supplementary matters is divisive, frees us up to love on one another and spotlight the mission of bringing the Good News to a lost world. Why does the Apostle Paul pick up the subject matter again? I suspect it’s because most Christians are guilty (myself included) and therefore the message is worthy of a do-over.

We’re reminded that the weak referenced in this chapter are frequently (but not always) the legalistic ones who strive to ram their personal convictions down the throats of others. Paul stipulates that in response to this rhetoric we should not thrust our contrasting convictions upon them, but rather yield in tolerance, demonstrating loving patience towards their principles and/or their insecurities. Additionally we should not exercise our liberties in a fashion that we might cause a weaker brother to stumble.

Case in Point

There was a man who enjoyed an occasional drink. He was not a drunkard or an abuser of alcohol, but enjoyed a glass of good wine with his meal. One day he left his home to purchase a bottle of wine and as he walked the snow-lined sidewalk he took notice that his 5 year old had followed him out of the house. He paused and said lovingly to his boy, “Where are you going mister?”

Looking down at the snow the child replied, “I’m just following in your foot steps.” Discerning the negative inference to his boy’s remark, the man turned and went back into the house, realizing that his liberty could adversely affect his child. This is how Paul proposes we regard our freedoms.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.

Paul has just concluded emphasizing the importance of dealing patiently with those weak in the faith, but then follows it up with the need to educate them for their own good. This is not a contradiction, nor is it some kind of temperance with teaching balancing act, but an inspired prompt to pursue the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, led by the Spirit, rarely if ever let someone wallow in ignorance, but rather corrected folks in such a way that was both edifying and enlightening. In this, Jesus never snubbed an ignoring soul, but chose to continue about His Father’s business.

And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” Luke 14:3-5

Likewise, we should walk by the Spirit’s leading and allow the Father to determine how and when we make these applications. There is a time to bear patiently and there is a time to gently and lovingly instruct—those are the only two options we’re given. The stronger in the faith is the one who is connected to the Lord and who determinedly follows His commands.


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Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Romans 14:1-3

Who Is My Weaker Brother?

My weaker brother is not necessarily who I thought it was. I was in fact surprised to discover that not infrequently this weaker brother is me! The person weak in faith that Paul is describing is not the one who lacks faith, but rather the one who errantly exercises the faith he has been given ~and~ attempts to impose their personal convictions on others. In today’s vernacular, we might call these folks legalists.

These guys (in Paul’s day) abstained from eating the meat being sold in the marketplace because it had been sacrificed to idols. They of course wanted to lay their vegetarian rap on everyone else because, they concluded, God would approve. The irony is that when a non-legalist is outwardly opposed to the yak of a legalist; to the point of controversy, the non-legalist is just as offensive as the legalist was initially. For this reason, God would say, “Let the brother be.”

Paul has effectively told us that God does not care about these matters. Christians are to accept each other and dismiss those matters that do not pertain to sin and the Biblical essentials of our faith. Whether it is the food or beverages we consume, the day we choose to worship, or any other inconsequential thing, tolerate your brother and avoid conflict. St Augustine summed it up pretty well when he said.

In Essentials,
Unity;
In Non-essentials,
Liberty;
In All Things,
Charity”

…For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Romans 14:17-18

It doesn’t get much clear than that. Is God interested in what we eat, what we drink, or when and where we worship? No, but obviously let us not sin in our liberty. What is God into? Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Want to be acceptable to God and approved by men? Then let these three things be our focus in Christ’s Holy name.


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