Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fullness of Joy

What is your beloved more than another beloved,
    O most beautiful among women?
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
    that you thus adjure us?
Song of Solomon 5:9

The world asks Christians this same question every day. "What is your God more than any other god? Who are you to say your god is better then mine? What is it about your God that makes you so sure He is the only one?" Believers better be prepared to answer this question just as the bride-to-be in the Song of Solomon was. She replies, "My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand" (Song of Solomon 5:10).

That there is no other god like our God is fundamental to Christianity. but we no longer extol God's glories in our churches. Our sermons focus more on the duties of man than the glories of God. We shy away from reveling in God's beauty for fear that it sounds too spiritual or too mystic. Or perhaps we have simply fallen out of love with God altogether. Perhaps we have lost our sense of awe at who He is. When spending time meditating on His Word or communing with Him in prayer feels like drudgery to you, you know you're in trouble.

To enter into God's presence, to gaze on His beauty, to study His wisdom, to gain knowledge of the divine, these are the greatest gifts a human could dare hope to receive. This isn't drudgery. This is the very fullness of joy!
You make known to me the path of life;
   in your presence there is fullness of joy;   at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11- emphasis added)

You may find some measure of happiness or even joy apart from God in this world, but fullness of joy is found nowhere else but in His presence. There is joy unspeakable in the private prayer time spent in the presence of God. There are tears of joy, heart-bursting hope, doubt-smashing faith, clarity of thinking and the boldness to persevere even when all seems lost- these are all found in God's presence alone.

When we lose sight of this, we can no longer satisfactorily answer the world's question "What is your God more than any other god?" But more than this, we have lost our own way. When we cease to see God as that which will make us supremely happy, we start to turn to lesser gods for our happiness. As the prophet Jeremiah said, "my people have... forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water" Jeremiah 2:13.

Turn back to God and find fullness of joy in Him alone. I promise you He is the only place you will find it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:1, 4-5

I recently read a biography on the lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, and Hudson Taylor. To be honest I didn't much care for the book, but nearly 100 pages into it, one little sentence grabbed me. It was exactly what I needed to hear from the Lord in that moment. It spoke into the last ten years of my life spent in ministry, all the heartache and anxiety. It spoke into all the times I have felt like a failure and decided to work harder in an attempt to grow my ministry.  Here's what it said.
"...the fruit of the vine comes from abiding, not striving."*

It may not seem that earth shattering to you. In fact, it's almost a direct quote from John 15. Yet I had never considered that passage in quite this context before. Could it really be that simple? Is being used by God more about our relationship with Him than having the right strategy? Could how near I am to God really be more important than using the best and newest methods in my ministry? More and more I am convinced that it is. That doesn't mean there isn't room for some serious consideration of ministry strategies, but lack of strategy isn't what is causing the church in America to shrink. It's a downright lack of pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers, men, women and teens who are truly near to God. It's a lack of abiding in Him or of "remaining" in Him as several Bible versions translate it. 

Jesus makes us fruitful. The power of the Spirit's presence in our lives working in us and through us makes us fruitful. God brings the harvest. I also believe He gives us the strategies, funds and means to that harvest in His time. But first, you must have men and women of God who abide in Him. 

Abiding/Remaining is about staying connected to that life-giving source so that you can bear fruit. The branches must continually receive the sap from the vine (the trunk) of the grape plant. This idea of a constant flow of spiritual life from the Spirit to us and through us to the world reminds me of something else Jesus said:
Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Our churches need more faithful workers it's true. But what we need more than anything else are believers who are filled with the power of God. Men, women, teens and children who rise early in the morning to spend time alone with God in prayer, Bible study and Scripture meditation.  We need Christians who practice the spiritual disciplines of fasting, Scripture memory, evangelism, and worship. We don't need more people, we need deeper people. I need to go deeper.

Spend more time with God this week. Quit striving. Start abiding and see what He will do with your life.

*Piper, John. A Camaraderie of Confidence: The Fruit of Unfailing Faith in the Lives of Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, and Hudson Taylor. p. 98 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fan the Flames

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
I Timothy 1:6

Anyone who has ever built a campfire will tell you they have to be tended or they die down. Fires need attention. You have to stir them up, add fresh wood, blow on the flames every now and then to keep them burning at their hottest. In this passage the Apostle Paul tells us that our spiritual gifts are the same. 

God has gifted every believer with the gifts she needs to accomplish the purpose for which God made her. God has a purpose, a destiny even, for each believer (Eph 2:10). He not only calls us to fulfill our purpose but He equips us to do it with the gifts of the Spirit. But we ought not let these gifts lay dormant. Just like a campfire our spiritual lives must be tended or they will grow cold after a while. We have to fan the flames of our passion for God. We should stir up the embers by trying new ways of using our gifts, and add fresh fuel to our fires by regularly engaging in Bible study and prayer. 

Take your spiritual temperature today. How hot is your passion for winning the lost? Are you talking to people about Jesus? How hot is your passion for prayer, for spending time with the Lord, for teaching your children about Jesus. Maybe your passion has grown cold. Paul would say "Fan the flames!" Rekindle that fire. Stoke up your passion.

Here the believer finds encouragement because anyone who has been around fires will also tell you that often when it looks like a fire is completely dead it isn't. There is still some heat down in those dying embers, there’s still life in it. Tragically, unattended campfires are the cause of so many of our forest fires. Someone thinks their fire has died down and they leave it. Then a fresh wind blows and stokes it up, a spark leaves the fire pit and finds some fresh fuel and the fire is off and running. As a cause of forest fires this is a tragedy, but as a spiritual metaphor this gives us hope. No matter how dead you feel spiritually, just a little movement on the Spirit's part can ignite your flame again. If the Spirit blew but a small breeze across your heart, it could kindle a spiritual flame that would change your city 

Never forget I John 4:4, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." So don't shrink back from the attacks of this world. Don't allow yourself to be silenced. Instead stoke up the flames of your spiritual passion. Nurture and grow your love for the Lord. Look for new ways to engage in serving Him. (Mix it up! Try something new.) And pray that God's powerful Spirit would blow a fresh wind into your life today like He did on the day of Pentecost. Who knows what God might do through you!