Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reaching Our Potential

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Revelation 3:7-8 NKJV

I don't know about you, but I was one of those kids who normally was absolutely terrified when the time arrived to receive my report card at school. I think some of my best work as a student revolved around constructing logical and convincing arguments for abolishing report cards, none of which bore any kind of fruit whatsoever.

The seven letters to the churches of Revelation is exactly that however, a report card of their success or failure to do God's will. Since we have been looking at the subject of "spiritual fitness" for some weeks now, and last week about knowing God's will for our lives, I thought we might look at the only church in Revelation that Jesus had no complaint against. In other words, they got a passing grade! Why was that, and what exactly were they doing that the other churches were not?

" I know your works". The first thing Jesus tells them is that He knows of their works. The one thing a report card shows is what you are doing right, and what you are doing wrong. By mentioning their "works" first, I believe Jesus is telling them that this is the most important part of their success, and everything else follows as a result.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 NKJV

As we saw last week, believers, when given the gift of the Holy Spirit, receive the power needed to live the life that God has chosen for us "beforehand". Created to do "good works", we need to be busy "doing" in order to please God.

"I have set before you an open door".The second thing Jesus says is that He has opened a door for them to walk through. As a youth pastor for many years, the one question I probably heard more than any other is "how do I know what God's will for my life is"? What I have told so many kids is this; in order to know what God's will for your life is, you need to be busy "doing" in order to find the open doors. So many believers simply sit still in one place waiting for something to happen before they take a step, when the key to finding an open door is to walk!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Jesus makes it clear in this passage that He alone has the power to open or shut a door, and the only way we will find them is to "move" by doing good works and serving Him. As we move God promises to direct our paths while we find which doors are open, and which ones are shut.

"For you have a little strength".

So this is my favorite part. How strong do we need to be in order to be used of God? That's right; not much. The Greek word for little used here is "mikros", which might sound like where we get the word micro? An excuse I have heard a lot, and unfortunately used myself, is "I'm not strong enough to do that". "Maybe later after I have matured and grown stronger as a believer I will be up for that." We as believers tend to think that the greatest accomplishments have to be performed by those with the greatest strength. Mikros? There goes our excuse.

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9a NKJV

It's obviously not our strength that matters, rather God's strength that carries the day. What is required of us is to have just enough strength to "do", and God then opens the doors and does the heavy lifting.

"have kept My word, and have not denied My name".

Why is Jesus pleased with the church at Philadelphia? I think what this phrase is telling us is that everything that is occurring in this church is a result of their faithfullness. They are busy "doing" with what little strength that they have, and remaining "faithful" to keep God's word and to give Him the glory. In some ways many believers might argue that what we are called to do, and what these verses teach, is really rather simplistic. Yet on the other hand, these same people might complain that they don't have the ability to do great things. When I was young, I knew what it would take to get a good grade on my report card. The problem was I had no interest in doing the work it would take to accomplish that.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV

The message Jesus has for the church at Philadelphia is twofold. They receive a high mark on their report card because they choose to remain faithful to give God the glory in all that they do and say, and they obtain the promise that more doors will open so they will have even more opportunities to serve.

Yet there is even more that Jesus has in store for those believers who choose to imitate the example of the Philadelphia church, and this is a series of rewards outlined in the next few verses. These rewards should be of particular interest to us as believers right now, considering what we see happening all around us. Next week we will examine what God has in store for us if we choose to be "overcomers".

Keep watching.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Power In You

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8 NKJV

I often find myself answering questions about how the Holy Spirit works, and how exactly we hear God speak through Him in our lives. I find, too, that many are unfamiliar with the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, so today I want to possibly clarify that role and explain how the Spirit works through us.

First of all, I want to share a few verses with you, and identify an often overlooked point which is very important concerning how the Holy Spirit works.

"But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. John 15:26 NKJV

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:7-11 NKJV

I think the most important word in all of the verses we have read so far is the word you. Why is that? Because so often I find believers thinking the Holy Spirit is all around us, "here" somewhere, as well as inside of us. However I think Jesus was trying very hard to make the point in these verses, as well as others, that the Holy Spirit is in us and not the world around us. Jesus specifically states that the Holy Spirit would be sent to believers, and would then do His work through us.

What then is His work, and how does He accomplish that through us? Look carefully at verse 8 where is says plainly that His work on this earth is to convict. Then, if it will help, insert the words "to you" after the phrase "when He comes". You see, even though they are not there, after saying it so many times previously, and examining the context carefully, Jesus is plainly stating that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world "through us". Since the Holy Spirit comes to us, our lives become the means by which He convicts the world.

Jesus then goes on to state there are three specific things He is concerned with and wants to convict the world of. These are sin, righteousness, and judgement. When we consider the term "convict", we oftentimes feel it has a negative, damning sort of condemnation type of feeling. I don't believe, however, that this is exactly what was intended. I want to share an explanation that has helped me see the idea of "convicting" in a different light, and it comes from Charles C. Ryrie, who has an excellent Study Bible with notes that I have used for many many years in my own personal study. This explanation is in his footnotes for this passage.

"To convict means to set forth the truth of the Gospel in such a clear light that men are able to accept or reject it intelligently: i.e., to convince men of the truthfullness of the Gospel."

In other words, the Holy Spirit will do His work as others are exposed to the truth of the Gospel based on what they see in our lives, and what we say in order to explain why we live the way we do. Understand that in a world without the knowledge of God, there is no conviction because there are no absolutes. This is Satan's master plan; convincing people there is no reason to feel guilty because there is no God, and no such thing as sin. This then, explains the three points the Holy Spirit is concerned with "convicting" the world about.

One...Sin. When the world looks at us, they should see Jesus. In v.9 Jesus says the world is not convicted of sin "because they do not believe in me". The purpose of the church, the body of believers, is to bring Jesus before the world for them to see. The whole purpose of Christ's life, death, and ressurrection was to atone for sin. We need to make the world aware of the person of Jesus.

Two...Righteousness. In v.10 Jesus says when the world looks at us, they should see a different way of life, with different standards of behavior. That is why Jesus said He was going to the Father; with Him gone, the world would now look to His followers to see what they once saw in Jesus' life. We need to imitate the life Jesus led so the world can see Him through us and be convinced there is a different way to live, a life with standards and moral absolutes.

Three...Judgement. The last thing the world needs to be convinced of is that judgement has already been passed on Satan and his way of life. He loses, and anyone who follows him has chosen the losing side. We the church should show the world that the philosophy of Jesus Christ is the winning one by the victory we can already have in this life by the deliverance we can experience from the fears and insecurities of the world. Our lives should reflect the knowledge that we as believers have chosen the winning side.

So the question becomes; "Am I living my life by the power of the Holy Spirit in such a way as the world can look at me and be "convinced" that the Gospel is truth?"
If you have made the decision to follow Christ, and have asked Him to come into your life, you then have received the "power" to live the life that you should. May we all use that power in such a way as to show the world the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Keep watching.

PS. Thank you to those who responded to last weeks post and also those who requested copies of my book. If you haven't yet, remember they are free and you can receive a copy by simply e-mailing me at and asking for one. It will come to you by e-mail as an attached PDF file and you can make as many copies as you want and send it to anyone you think might appreciate it. No surprise, there were at least four articles I have seen so far in the past two days on the internet referring to the possibility of the imminent fulfillment of the Isaiah 17 prophecy. Notice the use of the word "ruinous" in both Isaiah 17:1 and the headline in the Jerusalem Post. Just coincidence?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rumors of Wars and Purim

And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who [were] in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them, because Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that [is], the lot), to consume them and destroy them; but when [Esther] came before the king, he commanded by letter that this wicked plot which [Haman] had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, Esther 9:20-26 NKJV

The festival of Purim is a yearly celebration of the deliverance of the Jews from a plot by Haman to completely anihlate them. The story of Esther occurs during the Babylonian Captivity after the Babylonians had been conquered by the Persians. Haman, advisor to King Ahasuerus (identified by Josephus and others as King Artaxerxes), devises a plan to kill all of the Jews because of personal animosity towards Queen Esther's cousin Mordecai, who was a Jew. The plot is foiled, and Haman is hanged while the Jews are allowed to defend themselves against any attacks they might suffer.

This celebration in Israel is one of the most joyous, including the giving of gifts, wearing costumes, singing, eating, drinking, and of course reading the Book of Esther in the synagogue. The fourteenth of Adar occurs in our month of February or March, and this year it lands on Sunday, February 28th. So if this is such a happy time in Israel, why am I bringing it up in relation to "Rumors of Wars"?

In late 2002, the United States began a building up of forces in the Middle East with the apparent intent of deposing the ruler of Iraq, Sadaam Hussein, who was pursuing the capability of weapons of mass destruction with the stated intent of using them on the nation of Israel. I had been invited to lecture on the situation in the Middle East in early 2003 and was in the process of preparing when I noticed the Festival of Purim on my calendar was just a couple of weeks away. Reminded of the story of Esther, the first thought that went through my mind was what if history was about to repeat itself with God's sense of timing thrown in for good measure? As the world was watching and waiting, I contacted a few friends in the ministry and shared my thoughts about the possibility that an attack on Iraq could occur on the very anniversary of the deliverance of Israel some 2500 years earlier. So surprise?The festival of Purim, the 14th of Adar, occurred on Wednesday March 19, 2003, the very day the first bombs dropped on Baghdad.

Why do I bring this up? Well, after what has been happening in the Middle East over the past few months, and the increasingly virulent rhetoric emanating from Israel's enemies in the region, many believe another war is just on the horizon. Between Iran and their stated desire to wipe Israel of the map, and increasing tension with Syria and Lebanon to the North and Hamas in Gaza to the West, the future of Israel seems to be another major conflict. I am listing a few links to only a small part of what has been written over the past couple of weeks, but I encourage you to keep an eye on the news about that region of the world. Is history about to repeat itself again with a conflict occurring on Purim? I have no idea, but as the Bible says, we all need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Keep watching.

PS My apologies if you looked earlier in the week for this blog, but no surprise, as I began to work on it Tuesday, another virus attacked my computer and it was back to the computer doctor again. Sort of makes you wonder doesn't it?,2506,L-3846910,00.html,7340,L-3844111,00.html,7340,L-3847529,00.html

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Run This Way

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain [it]. And everyone who competes [for the prize] is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a perishable crown, but we [for] an imperishable [crown]. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as [one who] beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring [it] into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV

I started running track when I was 13 years old, and continued to run competitively until I graduated from college some 10 or 11 years later. I learned many lessons from my participation which I have carried with me ever since, and which have applied to many facets of my life. This passage of scripture has always been one of my favorites, not just because it refers to our lives as believers as a race to be run, but because it teaches some of the very same principles I was taught during my years as an runner. I want to share those with you this morning and hopefully, without boring you, use a few memorable moments from my experiences to illustrate them. I will call these the four "be" rules of running.

1. Be Victorious. In verse 24 Paul says we should run to win! We should not just be satisfied to be in the race, but rather run in order to win the prize. What we are being told here is that we are required as believers to run for first place, and give our maximum effort for God. I recall the first time I was selected to participate in an invitational only competition while in college. This of course was the sort of recognition most of us lived for then. Yet imagine my feelings when I arrived at the competition and found I was the last one selected for my event, and my qualifying time was the slowest in the field. Of course I could have given my very best effort in front of a stadium full of people, but in reality I was so affected by the knowledge I was outclassed I not only came in last, I actually ran slower than my qualifying time. By not running to win, I not only lost, but looked pretty bad doing it. My coach later made sure I understood the lesson with a little pointed critique in language no one could misunderstand. It must have worked, for I never forgot it, and later had an opportunity to redeem myself against some of the very same competition.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. 1 John 5:4 NKJV

Run to win, for the victory is already ours!

2. Be Disciplined. Verse 25 tells us that if we want to compete, we need to be "temperate" in everything. Temperate here is another word for self-control, or to be steadfast and unmovable. Have you ever looked closely at what athletes, especially runners, eat and don't eat? As someone who has always thought of pizza being at the very top of the food pyramid, imagine how hard it was for me to control what I ate while competing. Eat this, don't eat that, and don't even think of drinking cola. Of course there was also the obligatory carb chowdown the night before the competition where spaghetti was king. (I am amazed I still like it!) Then there was the eight hours (minimum) sleep every night, and no staying out late on weekends etc. and especially avoid any "high risk" activities with friends that might result in an accidental injury. Boy, what fun. Yet I forced myself to do these things with the knowledge it would pay off in the end.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV

The do's and don'ts of the Christian life may at times seem to be a burden, yet we are told without question that our efforts to live life as God wants is not in vain.

3. Be Efficient. Paul uses a great illustration of running in verse 26 that I have always liked. He actually paints a picture that most of us could recognize, and that is of someone trying to run while beating at the air with their hands. I had the opportunity to observe many other competitors running styles over the years, and always wondered about my own. While in college I took a class called The Biomechanics of Human Movement where I learned the principles that govern our ability to walk and to run. One of the most important rules of running is to be sure all of your movements are focused in the direction you want to go. In other words, don't flap your arms like you want to fly when you are trying to run. In order to perform a self-critique, I had my coach film me running in a straight line, and wouldn't you know it, I had some very "inefficient" habits to break. After only a couple of weeks my times improved dramatically solely because I was obeying the number one rule of running.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Romans 6:12 NKJV

If Satan can get us to form habits not "in line" with Gods' will for us, we become inefficient runners.

4. Be Focused. We are told in verse 27 that Paul had to mentally bring his body into subjection in order to run the race without being disqualified. His point here is to say that there are rules to follow, and by breaking the rules he stood the chance of being disqualified. Pauls' "race" was as an apostle spreading the message of Jesus to an unbelieving world. If he violated the rules he preached to others, his ministry would then become ineffective. So Paul "focused" on the rules in order not to fail. When I first started running I developed a bad habit that cost me quite a few races, and that was looking around to see where everyone else was in order to know how I was doing. By not looking ahead, and focusing on the finish line, I actually got disqualified from a couple of races for running out of my lane. In order not to be disqualified, we as believers need to focus our eyes on the finish line and not be distracted by the things going on around us. Remember what happened to Peter when he lost focus?

But when he saw that the wind [was] boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" Matthew 14:30 NKJV

We know what awaits us at the finish line at the end of our race. Our focus should be on that, the finish, and nothing else.

The Christian life is a race to be run, and running has rules that help us to run the best race that we can. As you run your race every day I hope these four simple rules will help you to run the race you are capable of running, and achieve the victory that is already ours thanks to our faith in God above, and the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Have a victorious week.

Keep Watching.

P.S. There have been a few troubling developments in the Middle East this week that I feel I should make you aware of, especially as it concerns the prophetic future of Israel. I will most likely post a mid-week blog detailing these and what the implications may be, so if you are used to just checking in on Sundays, check this week as well. Allan