Category Archives: Divine Power

Charitable Giving Horror Stories

There are some stories in the Bible that make you just think, “What? Why did that happen? This doesn’t seem like the God that I know?”

One that has stood out to be since my childhood is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. The short version is that a man and his wife sell property and donate the proceeds to the early church. The only problem is that they held back part of the money for themselves but made others believe that they gave all. In today’s world, this may seem like just a clerical error, but it wasn’t a little thing to God. When Ananias came into the church fellowship to make his presentation he died. So, did his wife a few hours later when she came looking for Ananias.

As a child, I remember learning a song that I never forgot. It was all about Ananias and Sapphira and being a cheerful giver. I will save you the horror. But it left a strong impression on me that trying to make a show of what you do for God doesn’t win you in any brownie points in heaven.

The amount they gave wasn’t the problem. The issue was that Ananias and Sapphira conspired to deceive the church and God. Why did this happen at that point? I am sure that many other people since then have done the same thing or far worse and lived to tell about it. I believe this is more an indictment of our churches and society today than it is a warning about things that happened in the early church. Back then the Spirit of God was moving so strongly that deception in the camp could have disastrous consequences.

When the Holy Spirit moves, He strongly encounters demonic lies and spirits that come against God’s standard. Holiness is serious business. I am reminded of the man who accidentally touched the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and immediately died. Our sin results in death. That is why we need Jesus and His righteousness.

Today, the warning is about spiritual showmanship or exhibitionism. Any time we do something for public praise, we are on dangerous ground. It is better for us to do something in secret and let God bring it to the forefront if He so desires. Jesus did amazing miracles and then told people to keep it quiet. But today if something happens where God’s power shows up, some are too quick to take credit for it.

There is a thin line here because sometimes we need to go tell others about what God is doing. We need to proclaim righteous causes from the mountain tops, but we just need to check our motives and make sure we are really doing whatever it is for the right reasons.

Are we sharing about a situation to inspire others? Do we want to call others to join the effort? Those are usually good reasons. Or do we want somebody to give us praise?
The deepest lesson here is that even when we deceive others, we will never fool God. In God’s Kingdom, honesty is the best policy because the enemy tends to lurk in the shadows of our lies.

Beyond Mere Words — Prayer

Prayer

By George Herbert
Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
         God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
         The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
         Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
         The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
         Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
         Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
         Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
         The land of spices; something understood.

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This poem captures well the difficulties in explaining or defining prayer. Prayer is so much more than just giving God our wish list or telling Him what He already knows. Prayer goes beyond recognizing God as God, praising Him for His mighty deeds,  or calling Him to move in the struggles and trials of life. Prayer cannot be broken down to just a simple formula because Scripture is full of many different types of prayers. And each life situation seems to call for something different.

I particularly like the line, “The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,” because I think of prayer more as a journey than anything else. It helps us put to words what is going on inside of us, and more importantly start to imagine what is God’s response. Prayer positions us to explore our true self and identify the areas that most need the power of  the cross. Prayer is not as much about self discovery as it is surrender to Christ and recognition of His higher truth.

We never really “arrive at a final destination” when it comes to mastering prayer. We simply delve deeper and deeper into a treasure that is boundless and difficult to explain. The goal is not knowledge alone but relationship.

Sometimes we may feel that we are doing it wrong — a failure in prayer. But God is not grading our progress as much as He is calling us closer to His point of view. Honestly, we may doubt and feel that we are truly alone. We may wonder if God is really there and start to think that we are merely talking to the wind, but even in this honest admission, we discover God’s grace. The Lord allows the silence because His constant expression might be too much for us to bear. Or He simply may not desire to speak for some reason. He may just want to listen to what His children have to say.

Prayer is based on the reality that we are loved and have access to God. In faith, we must rest assured in the truth that even if He never says another word to us, God has loudly declared His love for us by His sacrifice on the cross and the revelation of His Holy Word. Amen!

Knowing Jesus Changes Everything

I just got joy bombed, or at least that is what I call it after listening to Joy Dawson speak on the subject of following Jesus and the glory of God. Dawson is an internationally known speaker and evangelist. But the real important thing is that she listens to the Holy Spirit and seeks to promote Jesus as the model for how we should live.

Dawson said, “We don’t know Jesus yet. We don’t understand what we are asking when we ask to see God’s glory.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. The apostle John spent years walking and living with Jesus during His earthly ministry. But when he received a revelation of the glory of Christ while exiled on the island of Patmos, he fell down as dead before the One he had known so well. This was Jesus in holiness and in fire. This was God in just part of His glory, and John was undone.

Have I ever experienced God like this? The answer is no. Few of us have. The apostle John received a great revelation that day. We still study it today in the book of Revelation – the unveiling of the glory of God. John received this great revelation while on a prison island – a dark place meant to isolate John could not keep him from what God wanted to reveal. This gives me hope.

Dawson said, “We can go through anything if we focus on Jesus, but it is a choice.” That is so true. The apostle John could have let his circumstances cloud out his heart for Christ. But that didn’t happen, because he chose to seek God even in the midst of darkness and isolation. Do you really want to have a deep, loving relationship with God? It is possible. But it does come at a great price. Jesus paid that price on the cross. And we have to pay a price to follow Him, but it is worth the cost.

Dawson said that Jesus came down to the earth for five basic reasons. These were to 1.) Show us what the Father is like, 2.) Die on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, 3.) Defeat satan and demonic powers, 4.) Show us how to live, and 5.) To be our life.
And Dawson asked what does the Lord require of His followers. She said, “Obedience is all that Jesus wants at any one time.”

The message of Jesus was simple. He put little children in front of the disciples as an example of the kind of faith they should have. Dawson added that Jesus called His followers to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and to obey Him, and to go do and tell what was commanded. It really is quite simple as long as you stay close to God and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This brought to mind a question that I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Can Jesus be your savior if He is not your Lord? Dawson suggested that obedience is a prerequisite to be a disciple of Christ. We spend too much time playing church and not enough of our lives being the Church. She said, “Satan doesn’t care how much that you sing to God in a church building if you do not get radical and go out and what Jesus did.”

Jesus preached the Gospel. Why don’t we? Jesus fed the poor? Why don’t we? Jesus comforted the broken hearted. Why don’t we? Jesus healed the sick. Why don’t we? Jesus challenged dead religion. Why don’t we? Jesus spoke in power and under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t we?

Sure, some Christians do some of these things. But many of us don’t follow Christ’s example as much as we should in our daily lives.

As Dawson finished speaking this morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read I John 2:1-6. I particularly noticed a connection with what Dawson said and verses 3-6. The apostle John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

The apostle John clearly stated that those who know Christ should live as He did and obey His commands. Jesus gave a commission to His followers to spread His message and make disciples. Jesus has called us to preach to the lost and pray for the sick. Jesus declared that those who come after Him would do greater things than He did because He was leaving the work of the Church to us. While we will never be God nor ransom the world from sin and death, we do have the awesome privilege of caring the influence of Christ around the globe.

So do you really know Jesus? One true encounter with Him changes everything.

Closer

There is a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God. And there is also a big difference between God with us and God in us. And that difference is closeness. In John’s Gospel, Jesus told the disciples that as great as it was for Him to walk and live among the people, there is something greater than the physical proximity of Jesus standing right next to us. And that is the Lord putting the Holy Spirit within His people. But too often I don’t recognize how glorious this really is. And I know that I am not alone. While the hearts cry of many Christians is closeness to God, we don’t understand how close we already are if we simply take hold of the reality by faith and silence distractions and other pursuits in our lives.

Prayer for Intimacy
Holy Spirit, forgive me for seeking after everything else but Your voice.
Open my eyes to see the wonder of what angels longed to see — God’s Spirit dwelling in His people.
Cause me to burn with passion for the things that move Your heart and bring You glory.
Keep me from distractions and unbelief that would rob me of Your best realized by faith.
May I be a vessel for Your fire so that I can be pure and holy.
May my prayers be an incense coming up to Your throne, moving against the realms of darkness.
For the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. And Jesus, You have made me righteous.
Refine my desires to be what matter most, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.
For God, You are a consuming fire.
Amen!

Tool Kit

God does not leave us empty handed to fight battles against sin, evil spirits and darkness.

No, God gives us tools.

But if you don’t us those tools, you will lose battles that really should be won. In reality, the hard work has been done. After all, Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished!” And Jesus meant what He said.

So if you have just experienced a breakthrough or victory in your life, don’t be surprised if sin, temptation, lies and demonic influences come back. But if you use the tools in your tool kit, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. The Bible says, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

So, what you waiting for? Open up that tool kit and get busy…

Here are the tools that Jesus has given His Church …

1.)    Listening prayer – By quieting the noise around us and taking authority over the influences in our lives, we can position ourselves to hear from God. Too often our prayers focus on talking and don’t involve enough listening. If you listen for the “voice” of God, He will reveal His will as well as His love and affirmation. The Holy Spirit will identify areas you need to surrender, things you need to repent of and actions steps you should take in faith.

2.)    Confession and repentance – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. The Lord also helps us repent by His power. Repentance is sweet although too many people think of it as something to be avoided or feared. Repentance frees us from the power of sin and gives us hope to be different.

3.)    Surrender – By letting go of the things that hold us back, we can be free to become who God always intended us to be. Surrender helps us come to the point where we rely on the power of Jesus to change our heart. It is the launch pad where we ask for the Holy Spirit to empower us to develop godly character and values. Surrender is the path to success in the kingdom of God because it recognizes our weakness and taps into God’s strength.

4.)    Break Agreement with Foundational Lies – You are not your sin. You are not the sum of your thoughts. Actually, many of the thoughts that pop into your head don’t reveal your real mind about a situation or person. This thought doesn’t become yours until you accept it as truth and make it part of your worldview. If you make agreement with a
lie, you look at yourself, God and the world in a skewed way
. Many times we make agreements with lies about our identity, which robs us of the dignity that God has given us. We are beautiful and beloved in God’s sight. What lie have you believed about yourself? Break your agreement with that lie, deny it and speak the truth over your life. This is more than just the power of positive thinking. It is the power of having a Christ-like mind.

5.)    Forgive Again – When we forgive others, we set ourselves free and provide the potential for future reconciliation with that person. By holding a grudge, we sit in judgment on the other person. Even if they have wronged us, there is power in forgiving that person in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we trust them or allow somebody to hurt us. But it does cancel the debt and allows us to view the person without having the feeling that we are owed something. Jesus told His followers to make a habit of forgiveness because the measure to which we forgive impacts the freedom of our heart to receive God’s forgiveness.

6.)    Life Together – You are not in this battle alone. God has positioned people around you to help. While we should first rely on God to be our source of strength, there is nothing wrong with calling in some reinforcements. Sometimes we need other peoples to listen to us, give a shoulder to cry on, provide advice, serve a need or pick us up when we are down. You may need to reach out to other believers because your need may not be obvious to others. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Admitting you need help is a sign of strength not weakness.

7.)    Worship – The best kind of worship comes when we are facing a trial or recently experienced a loss. We could give up or curse God. But instead, we worship Him in song or prayer. That is the revelation of a heart that truly values and glorifies God above everything else. Worship causes our hearts to soar and helps build faith. It also positions us to receive from God and stand firm despite opposition. It fills our love tank and honors God. This mindset realizes that we praise God because He is worthy. We shouldn’t praise God just for all the things He had done to bless us. Even if all the blessings from God evaporate, we should still worship God alone. Worship will calibrate your life to focus on God and others.

8.)    Serve – It is hard to be down about your problems when you are helping other people with whatever hardships they face. Instead of looking inward, we can find strength, purpose and stress relief when we reach out to help others in the name of Jesus. May you find somebody who is worse off and bless them. That will keep you busy and help you avoid the trap that can come when boredom leads to sin.

9.)    Develop Spiritual Gifts – Rely on supernatural gifts to help you battle evil spirits and darkness. This requires believers to request gifts from the Holy Spirit and step out in faith to activate them as prompted by God. These gifts are to be grounded in love and should be used to glorify and bless the Church.

10.)                        Practice Generous Assumptions/Speak Words of Life – Your words can land you into trouble or liberate your situation. Speaking kindness to somebody who is angry can soften their wrath. It can position their hearts to forgive and seek reconciliation. Also, if we assume the worse, we tend to get bad outcomes. The reverse happens if we think good thoughts and practice generous assumptions about others. This calls us to look for the good and hope for the best. But thinking the worst drives you to look to be offended and ignores the good things about a person or situation. This attitude blocks hope and sows seeds of further disharmony.

Tired/Weary – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 6

John 4:6 (ESV)
Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Prayer
Jesus, You know what it is like to be exhausted from a long journey. Far from easy, Your life consisted of many endless trials, challenges and homeless nights. Walk, walk, walk – Your constant travels kept You on the move. Even though You are God, You were also human. Jesus, Your body was just as limited by physical exhaustion as the next person. You can relate with my fatigue after a busy day at work or school. You know what it is like to fall asleep from exhaustion or desire nothing more than to take a nap.

I am comforted by the fact that You can relate with my limitations. Yet, You show that it is possible to live a righteous life if each step is kept in tune with the Holy Spirit. Overcome by life, help me Lord. I am tired. May I seek a drink from the well that contains Your Living Water. May I be refreshed in the middle of the noon-day sun. May I seek rest under the shade of Your love.

Cause me to rest and enter Your best. For when I am spent, You can sustain me. As I come to the end of myself, I discover there is plenty of strength in You. Amen!

Consumed by Zeal for God’s House — Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 3

John 2:15-17 (ESV)
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Prayer
Jesus, You boldly confronted the religious systems of Your day. Consumed with passion for Your Father’s house, You overturned tables and called for pure worship. This was not a passive enthusiasm that only desired for God’s best and failed to act. No, you acted in earnest. You took time to deliberately prepare to purge those things that were not as they should be. You made a whip to overturn the exploitation and abuse of Your holy temple. May I have the same zeal for things that consume Your heart. May I see religiosity for the dead end it is.

Help me to see past the man-made systems and religious facades that deny Your true power. May my zeal be directed by the Holy Spirit. Beyond mere enthusiasm, may I be zealous for the things that matter most. May my heart beat as one with Yours. May I see clearly enough to allow You to turnover the tables that don’t belong in my life. Amen!