Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where Do I Get the Power?

Where do we get the power to do God's work in the world? An interesting example was the story of King Saul. Saul needed God's empowerment for his new role as king. Samuel the prophet told him what he needed to do. He was to go to the oak of Tabor and meet three men, one with three kids, one with three loaves, and one with a jug of wine, and they would give him two loaves of bread. Then he was to go the hill of God, where the Philistine garrison was, and meet a group of prophets playing musical instruments. Saul did so, and the Spirit came upon him mightily (see 1 Samuel 10:1-13). Now no one today, or even in the past, has held that this is the standard way to obtain God's empowerment to serve Him. But the point is that Saul did what God had told him to do, and God gave him the needed power through the Spirit. The way to have God's power is to do what He has you in particular to do; there is no standard procedure.

Also, God gives a new empowerment to face new situations. Peter and John were faced with the need to confess their faith to the very men who had put Jesus to death, and Peter was filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:8). Now Peter had been among those who had been filled at Pentecost (Acts 2:4). I see no reason to believe he had lapsed into some form of carnality since then. But God gave Him a new filling to meet the new situation, and then also gave later a new empowerment for the body as a whole (Acts 4:31). Also Saul, who was to become the Apostle Paul, was filled with the Spirit at conversion (Acts 9:17), but was later filled again to deal with the challenge of an evil magician (Acts 13:9). Therefore, I would conclude that as we obey God, He will give us the empowering to meet the situation we are in.

Now I do believe that the Holy Spirit is at work within all genuine believers (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13) and He will empower them to minister as He wills (2 Corinthians 3:5,6; Ephesians 2:10). So as we obey Him (Galatians 5:16; Colossians 2:6,7) and trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2), He will provide us with the power we need when we need it. But He will do it according to His plan, not ours.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dancing in the Dungeon

Sometimes the best thing to do in a difficult time is to rejoice in God and praise Him. Paul and Silas were in a jail in Philippi and were praying and singing hymns of praise (Acts 16:22-25). I do not believe this was because Paul and Silas were super-spiritual and did not feel the difficulties of their situation, but because they did and rejoiced in response. We are told rejoicing is an appropriate response to trouble (James 1:2-4; Matthew 5:11,12) and that we can rejoice in the Lord even if the situation is dark (Philippians 4:4). I remember a time when the church I was in was going through tough times. An accusation had been made against the pastor and it had to be dealt with. I remember shortly after I learned of this doing what I call my "prayer dance." It consists of playing praise music and praying as I dance to the music. I have often felt God's presence powerfully in these sessions. Afterward, my wife kiddingly asked me if I had enjoyed myself. I replied this was not a dance of joy but a dance of defiance. I was dancing despite the situation and everything that principalities and powers could throw at us as a church. Sometimes when the times get tough, the best thing to do is rejoice and praise God (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do Not Be Surprised

Jesus said that we should not be surprised if the world hates us when we follow Him, because it hated Him (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; Matthew 10:16-22). However, sometimes Christians, especially in safe places like the United States, can get the idea that we can follow Christ and expect those around us to respect us and applaud us. But Scripture does not encourage us in this. Now if we have come to expect this, when we do not meet it we can overreact. Instead of speaking the truth in love as we should (Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 2:23-26; 1 Peter 3:15), we can react in anger and vitriol. Or we can compromise our principles in a desperate to get people to agree with us, and thereby disobey God (Galatians 1:10; Proverbs 29:25; Romans 12:2).  Therefore, we need to avoid false expectations so that we may respond to those who oppose us with the proper firmness and love.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The People Factory

There was a young lady, who wanted to serve the King. And she was told that to do so she must go to the People Factory, so she set out. As she approached the People Factory, she was meet by a fashionably dressed man with the look of a salesman.

"Welcome to the People Factory," the man said, "We have all the newest models, along with the sentimental favorites. All these are here to make you over into a true servant of the King. Now what type of servant are you interested in becoming?"

"You mean I have to decide?" replied the girl.

"We are a full service People Factory. You have a variety of options--just to suit a discerning customer like you. Feel free to come in and look around. We think our inventory speaks for itself."

The People Factory was a huge squat building of brick and steel with a corrugated steel roof and three chimneys spewing smoke. Between her and the barn-door-type entrance stood a long line of people waiting to get in. On the other side there was a series of doors, and out of each came a different stream of people.

Out of one door marched an army of smartly dressed men and women. The men all wore suits and ties, and the women rather long dresses. They had the stern, determined look of people around whom you should watch you're p's and q's. The next group were more casually dressed and moved with a relaxed, ambling gait. They smiled and chatted cheerfully as they walked by. But somehow, they seemed a little fake; their smiles looked painted on and their talk seemed superficial. The next group did not walk; they danced, and some did cartwheels. They were singing and shouting and waving banners as they cavorted by. Then she saw a group of what looked like young people (though she spied traces of gray hair). These wore t-shirts and jeans, with tattoos and with all manner of jewelry decorating their body piercings. She stood perplexed, wondering which, if any of these,  the King really wanted her to become. And as she stared she saw a number of other groups, all different. 

The salesman kept insisting she must make a choice, but she managed to sneak away by herself. She was sitting under a tree thinking when an older woman approached her. "You look confused. Can I be of assistance?" said the woman.

"Do I need to go through the People Factory to serve the King?" the girl blurted out helplessly.

"Not at all," the woman responded, "The King's instructions say we are related to Him as parts to a body, each with its own nature and function. There are general rules, but we were not meant to be all duplicates." The girl rose up and walked away slowly with the woman, discussing these things. And the People Factory vanished away into the distance.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Remember the Flesh

"The devil made me do it." This is a false excuse used to duck responsibility for our actions. While I believe, and believe strongly, in the existence of demonic powers (Ephesians 2:2), it is a mistake to try to blame our wrong behavior on them. The basic source for our evil desires is within ourselves (James 1:14,15; Romans 7:17-20; Jeremiah 17:9). And while Satan and his demons may encourage us to do wrong (2 Timothy 2:26; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 7:5), we are ultimately responsible for our own sins. Nowhere in Scripture is casting out demons put forth as the standard procedure for dealing with sin, but rather, it is God's progressive working in us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:16; Philippians 2:13).  And while I am convinced there is a place for dealing with demonic influence (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8,9), this should not be used as an excuse to avoid responsibility, nor should casting out demons be regarded as a quick fix to obtain instant spirituality.  We must recognize that we are sinners, responsible for our own acts (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), and while God will forgive our sins through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:23-26), He is not going to let us excuse them.