Archive for the ‘Church Culture’ Category

POSSESSING THE REIGN – Blessed are the Poor

June 5, 2009

Glory –

It’s what His heart’s been set on from the beginning. Not just before Adam, but before the creation of all things. It’s what His heart is set on: to bring His reign into His new temple, into a living dwelling place that is capable of (which is hard to fathom) displaying His glory, the radiance of His beauty, the radiance of His very nature throughout all creation. And there is not a single star or solar planet that is able to reveal glory like this throughout the entire universe. But He is preparing a sun, a light, a star that will leave no shadows anywhere and will speak, will manifest His very nature throughout His creation. And it is called man, it is called his bride. Is that not a fantastic promise?

Why are we so busy with lesser things? We must give up our small ambitions. Who could grasp anything like this? Who could even think of something greater than what is being offered to the sons of Adam in Christ Jesus?

Now, go back to verse 3 in Matthew 5 and see the Universal Principal.

 “Blessed are the poor…” In Luke 6 it says, “Blessed are the poor and woe to the rich.”

Having wealth is an awesome responsibility and an easy trap. We think it’s ours. And we think it’s for us. And we even think that it came to us because of something inherently good or right or better about us.

Ugly Americans –

 All you have to do to understand this is to see Americans overseas. I’ve traveled overseas. Americans are not pretty people overseas. They are ugly overseas. There is a reason the world has a leaning against Americans. They admire us on the one hand and on the other hand they can hardly stand us. You have to spend some time elsewhere to understand that. We think we’ve deserved what we have. Most of the world has worked harder from day break until dusk just to eat, just to eat. And we think that our abundance has something to do with us. That’s a lie from the pit.

Really Poor –

My father was a godly man who always knew more than I’ll ever know. And he had to work two to three jobs at a time to feed our family. He dropped out of medical school in the depression. I was raised in a four room house with no running water. Poor! It was not because my father was not smart or did not work harder that I have ever worked.

And in high school I had a drafting teacher that took an interest in me and taught me how to do house plans and I was in business my second year out of school and thought it was because of me.

Woe to the rich!

It does not mean it’s impossible. All things with God are possible. But it’s extremely hard for Americans to come into the reign. I believe that’s applicable. It’s extremely hard. The most difficult mission field in the world is here in the West, in America. The church is growing; the kingdom is increasing by leaps and bounds in third-world countries. Percentiles are in the 1000s. And we are dying here.

And we are so arrogant that we believe that if God’s going to move in the earth it’s going to begin here. All you have to do is listen to what we are saying publicly. Listen to our mission endeavors. We see ourselves as the largest mission country in the world. That’s a lie. That’s a lie. We are the largest funded, do it on an American scale, mission country in the world. And God has used the mission movement in America. I’m not decrying that. But I am here to tell you that there are churches in China that are sending out thousands with nothing; no purse, no bread, no support. They are doing it. Thousands! And they are looking to the Middle East and they’re praying for America and the west. And we are so trapped by that but even when we hear it from a John Brown, if we had a choice between two fronts, we’ll pick the one where we are losing. Is it starting to register a little?

We’ve got to change our paradigm. We’ve got to see out of His eyes. We cannot say that it is a mistake in Luke because it does not say, “poor in spirit.” You cannot say that’s an error; that’s a half truth, that’s not a full truth. It is a full truth, but He has something more to say.

POSSESSING THE REIGN – Sermon on the Mount

May 4, 2009

We will begin in Luke chapter 6.

In the Gospels, actually there are more than two places, but there are two places particularly, you will find the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew it is very clearly in chapters 5, 6, and 7. In Luke, it’s broken up in pieces and there is a piece or two even in Mark.

What conclusion did we arrive at as to why the Holy Spirit would use up so many pages or texts to say the same thing? Why would the Holy Spirit repeat Himself when all the things that Jesus did and spoke would fill up so many volumes that the would could not contain them, according to John 21:25? And yet there are those things that He repeats. Why? God hides things with the intent that can only be found by searching them out. If you discover that the same incident is repeated in two of the Gospels, know that the accounts are given so that in either one you do not find by itself the whole truth. It’s the hiding of a mystery. So, if you want the word to open up to you and there is a repeat of the same account, the same situation in another text, compare them to each other because in that which is not in both, there will be a truth that is very significant.

Here in Luke chapter 6 we discover something right from the beginning. Let’s begin in verse 17.

Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples…”

“A large crowd of His disciples…” that’s more than twelve isn’t it?

…and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

 

There is not only a large crowd of His disciples but there is a multitude of other than His disciples. I want you to see that distinction here in the gathering.

…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

 

So we see here the beginning of the beatitudes. This is the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapter 5. But we discover something different here in the Luke text, and if we go back to verse 12 we find out what is really taking place.

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.

 

And now He names the apostles and at the end of naming the apostles we find Him facing His crowd of disciples as well as the multitude of those who were not His disciples.

And this is how I see this. It’s not new with me. Many see it somewhat similar. Jesus has spent His night in prayer and in this night in prayer the Father has said to Him, “I want You to choose, out from among the larger number of disciples, twelve.” And the Father gives Him the names. You discover that in John 17:6 and other verses. The Father tells Jesus who the twelve are to be, including Judas Iscariot. And it is to these twelve in particular, as in the presence of the multitude of these other disciples as well as the larger multitude of non-disciples, that we find Jesus preaching this sermon.

I see it as more an ordination address, more as an explanation of what it’s going to mean to follow Him. And we find in here the attitudes and the principles and the law of the realm. The Sermon on the Mount is very important. It is usually handled as a series of teachings that are like targets to aim at, never really expecting to hit. And when you read it, it sounds like that to Adam’s ears, but it’s not that at all. He’s now describing the normal Christian life. He is describing what it is to be the children of the reign, disciples of the reign. And if you do not see it from that perspective you will never take it as a life to be expected. You will never see it as norm, it will always be out there untouchable.

And it almost seems that way to Adam’s ears. But to the man born of the Spirit, to the regenerated spirit, it is the coming in of the Holy Spirit, as in Ezekiel 36, who will cause you to walk in the ways of the Lord. The difference between Adam and the new man is Adam could not, and it was not in him. It was impossible for him to walk in the ways of the Lord. The Law was given to prove that very thing. The Law was given as a tutor to show us that man cannot live by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man needs regeneration. He needs this Second Man.

Again, 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus was both the last Adam and the second man. He was the first of a whole new race. It takes this other life force; this other life force lives the Sermon on the Mount. It’s His breath, His air, His food. It isn’t something to be imposed upon disciples; it is something that is exposed in their life. Yes, there are new commandments in it; there are new laws in it. Yes, there are! Jesus ends His time on earth by admonishing His disciples, saying to His disciples, “Teach them to observe all the things that I commanded you.”

The difference is, by nature we can’t live it. It’s not by our nature, but by our new nature, in Christ. The old man can’t keep from going back to the mud. The new man has no taste for the mud. By nature the new man is caused by his spirit in it, his life in it, to live this other life. Ezekiel 36 again says, “And I will put My Spirit,” right after He has said, “I will give you a new spirit.” That’s the regeneration, the new birth. “And then I will put My Spirit within you and He shall cause you to keep my statutes and to walk in My ways.” Aren’t you wanting that? Aren’t you wanting to be able to be what you know God’s created us to be without striving? It’s called entering into the rest.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Believing vs. Doing

March 20, 2009

Let’s continue in John chapter 12. I want you to see that in the Scriptures there is no separation between believing and doing. Faith has as its fruit the doing of, the obedience to.

Verse 44 of John 12:

And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

It is this faith that enables us to surrender our will and move from the domain of darkness into light.

If anyone hears My saying and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me…” (which is synonymous “with hears my sayings and does not keep them”) “…and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life.”

This is the commandment. Jesus commanded something. And to those who have turned their back on their own reign and who have turned their back on their own will, who have surrendered their own will and have surrendered their own reign to receive His, receive the commandment of eternal life.

“…therefore the things I speak I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

In John chapter 17, verse 3, Jesus prays.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God; and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

We would like to describe eternal life in many ways but this is its simplest interpretation or understanding; eternal life is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. And it’s not just know about Him; it’s knowing Him. He manifests Himself to those who believe upon Him.

Now go down to verse 8.

“…for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

What does it mean to believe “that You sent Me?” What is eternal life? From John 17:3 it is to know the Father and the Son. Eternal life is to know Him.

Now turn to 1 John chapter 2, verse 4.

The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Then verses 5 and 6:

…but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

You can not separate the believing from the doing. How is it that we have allowed a faith that does not require the doing? Has it been out of a false sense of the Law?

Jesus said to His disciples, “Teach them to observe everything that I commanded you.” “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Is there an option there? If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you have surrendered your reign and your will. As I’ve said it’s not a reign of demand; it’s a reign of offer, an offer that is received by surrender.

Catch this: knowing Him, that word is intimately knowing Him, like a husband knows his wife, it’s like Adam knew Eve; it’s entering into an abiding relationship with: knowing Him.

How do you suppose the commandment is kept? It’s not a demand. It isn’t observing everything that He has commanded but it is just simply turning it to Him that He might perform it. He has both spoken it and He will do it, the writer of 1 Thessalonians said. He will do it. Now if you come about it as if doing it proves it or doing it makes it, you are back to demand. I can tell you that many in our churches do not believe this and do not know Him. This is evident because they are not doing even the minimal of what we would observe in those who have entered into His life.

It may not mean what I’ve just said it means, but it means something. You give it meaning. You get before the Lord and you give it meaning. If you feet and hands aren’t in keeping with His life, maybe there is a surrender that must take place: a surrender of our reign and a surrender of our will. Believe on Him and allow Him to perform it; do it. He is the only one that can live the Christian life. None of us can live the Christian life. He’s the only one.

But we can not know Him if we are not willing to surrender our reign and our will; if we are not willing to repent of our reign; if we are not willing to repent of our will and believe on Him. It is not the knowing or the doing, it’s a counterfeit. It’s intellectual ascent to some concept. It’s not faith.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Provision for the Church

March 19, 2009

It is God’s provision. Faith is God’s provision. Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s provision that delivers us from our own will that enables us to surrender our will to His will. And it is this surrender of both our reign and will that enables us to receive the offer of His reign in our heart.

And I’m convinced that many in the modern church have never made that transaction. I’m convinced that for many in what we know as the church there has never been that surrender because He’s not reigning. And His will is not coming forth in their lives. I believe the most fruitful mission field in the world is in the American church because I believe there are untold multitudes within the church that are hungry for reality and they’ve never heard about how to surrender their reign and their will and to receive His reign and His will into their heart. That’s why the Lord has led me to write this book, so that you can take this teaching back into the church and into your Sunday school classes and in your small groups and in your relationships. You can share the good news that God is offering us His reign and His will to our hearts. And it is not a demand – he has made provision by way of repentance and faith.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – The Gospel Jesus Preached

March 14, 2009

Let’s go to Mark chapter 1. The question now is how do we surrender self reign? What is God’s provision to enable us to surrender self-reign. Mark chapter 1, verses 14 and 15. These are two verses that you need to memorize. You’ll find the entire gospel in these two verses: what it is, where He is taking us, and what it’s all about.

Now after John had been taken unto custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

What was He preaching? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God (the reign of God) is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The gospel of God that Jesus came preaching was the gospel that the time is fulfilled, and that which all of creation has been waiting for from the fall of Adam, is now fulfilled in Christ. The reign of God is now available to the heart of man. The reign of God is here to deal with the rebellion. And unlike what Israel was expecting, God has chosen to first establish that which He intended to establish first in the Garden, and first in the heart of man. And so, in secret almost, in hidden places nearly, He is establishing His reign where it cannot be clearly seen. They cannot say, “Look, here it is or there it is,” for behold, the kingdom of God is within you, the reign of God is within you.

He has first come to establish this kingdom which is both a now kingdom and a future kingdom. It really is not fulfilled in fullness yet. It is going to remain in the heart of man until the return of Christ. And then for a millennium it is expanded over the nations of men. It is not until the end of the millennium that it finally conquers the last enemy which is what? Death!

And so progressively, in a three fold way, God is establishing His kingdom but he is first establishing it within us. But He gives in this passage two provisions for the surrender of self-rule and His provision for surrendering self-will.

About Face!

The first provision is found in verse 15.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…”

And then what does it say?

Repent!

Repentance is God’s provision for surrender of self-rule. Now follow with me if you would. What does repentance mean? Does it mean to turn from your sins? Yes… Or does it mean to change your mind? That is usually the definition that is given because change is at the root. But we are living in an age where changing the mind may not affect the feet or the hands. Changing the mind is an intellectual concept change. To the Hebrew mind and to the Greek mind, there is no change of mind that is not expressed in life. And so that is the way it is expressed in scripture.

Actually, the Hebrew word for repentance is a military word and it means literally, “about face”. In other words, I’m going this direction but now I’m going the opposite direction. It is turning my back on where I was set for, bound for, and then moving in an opposite direction. Repentance literally means a change of mind that affects hands and feet. It’s a change of mind that is a turning from both in the head and in the expression of life. When there is no legitimate turning, if it is just a change of mind, that’s not repentance. Repentance is not just a change of mind. The Greek does not allow it to be just a change of mind nor do the texts in the New Testament allow repentance just to be a change of mind.

The scribes and Pharisees depended upon their heads and their intellect. When they encountered John the Baptist preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” how did they handle it? How did the Sadducees handle it? Well, they accepted John’s teaching but there was no fruit of repentance, because John said, “Bring me fruit of your repentance.” There is no repentance without its accompanying fruit, without it being expressed in hands and feet. Am I coming through?

We are doing others a disfavor to suggest that salvation is just a change of mind. Because we have come to believe that faith is an intellectual thing. Faith is not an intellectual thing. Faith is a heart thing. “For with the heart man believes.” We keep talking about getting what we believe in our head down to our heart. It’s not just believing it in our head because we live out of what we believe in our heart.

No matter what you say you believe, I’ll tell you what you believe by what your feet and hands do when someone runs in to the church worship center and yells, “FIRE!” I’ll tell you what you believe in the next ten seconds. I’ll know whether or not they’ve convinced you that the church building is on fire by what you do with your hands and your feet. You will not sit there and analyze the statement. If one of your church’s deacons comes running into the Sunday morning service and yells, “FIRE!” what would you do? Debate the issue? Consider the pros and cons of whether or not there is enough smoke to determine if there is a fire that would endanger you? What would you do?

I’ll tell you what you would do. You would make a change. And you would find the nearest exit. And you would hope the life of Christ reigns and the men would not run over the women and children on the way out.

But, it’s what we believe in our heart that rules. Actually it is not only the righteous man that lives by faith. The unrighteous man lives by faith too. The unrighteous man lives by what he believes in his heart too. And you can tell whether or not we are living in righteousness or unrighteousness by what our hands and our feet are doing, no matter what we say we believe. We’re talking about true repentance.

Let’s go to Matthew chapter 3, verse 1.

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Repent! Once again we have this requirement.

Now we’ll go to chapter 4, verse 17 and we see Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Both Jesus and John the Baptist are preaching a gospel of repent for the reign of God is at hand.

I want to ask you a question: repent of what? Now think about it. Don’t be quick. Is Jesus preaching against sin? You would be hard pressed to find anywhere in the Gospels a reference of Jesus speaking against sin. I challenge you. He refers to it on occasion. There are a couple of occasions where someone is taken in sin but He never deals with His teaching to them or His parables to them or His speaking to them about sin other than, “Go, and sin no more.” That’s the longest one in the Gospels.

But He does talk a lot about the gospel of the reign being here. Repent! What we need to repent of is who reigns. What we are to turn our back on and turn to is turning our back on self-reign and turning to His reign. Many have gone over their sins and repented but have yet to repent of their own reign. That’s why the church is so filled with so much sin. Because the sin issue cannot be dealt with by constantly confessing and leaving the issue of who reigns un-dealt with.

That’s why we are in such trouble in the church. That’s why marriages are in trouble in the church. That’s why our wives and daughters in the church are getting abortions at the same rate as the world is getting abortions. That’s why couples in the church are divorcing at the same rate as the world. It’s because we’ve never dealt with the issue of who reigns. And if you are going to repent of your sins without repenting about your reign, you’re just going to repeat your sin. Can you see the significance of this? It’s the Gospel of the Kingdom.

He came preaching the gospel of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled. The reign of God is here. Repent, and believe the good news!”

We need a repentance party. We need a surrender party. Some of us, maybe many of us need to go through the exercise of dealing with who’s reigning. It is the means where by we surrender our reign. We surrender our reign by turning our back to our reign and unto His. It’s the surrender of our reign that repentance is all about.

Let’s go to Romans chapter 10, verses 9 and 10.

…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

It’s turning to the Lord. It is confessing Jesus as Lord and believing in your heart.

Let’s go to Acts chapter 2, verse 37.

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Here we see both the repentance and the believing but focusing on the repentance,

“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”

Here is this repentance, this turning from the reign of self in our hearts, turning to the reign of Christ. It is turning from our reign to the reign of our Lord, and that is called repentance. Repentance is God’s provision for surrender of self-rule.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – A New Lifestyle

March 11, 2009

We are going to begin in Romans chapter 1, verse 16.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel. What is the gospel? Well, it is the gospel of the reign. “For I am not ashamed of the reign” would be another way to put it.

When Christ comes to rule in our heart, we live differently. We look different. I’m not saying it requires a particular kind of clothing but our countenance is changed because our reign is taken out and everything that goes with self reign and self will; all is removed. And when you think about it, it’s a lot of uncomely things: pride, arrogance, ambition, greed, all of those things that mark self-reign, and self-will.

Self-exaltation, striving for position, a working to get on top, considering my needs as more important than another’s; all of these things relate to self-reign, and self-will. And, when His reign comes, we take on a whole new countenance, we take on a whole new life style; we are unlike the children of the world. And out being like the children of the world, with a carnal mind set, should leave us ashamed.

Jesus, no doubt, came across to many as a wimp. He perplexed those who were His enemies among the scribes or Pharisees, and the council of Israel, because He would not defend Himself. He would not do battle with them. He always answered them with gentleness, even though His words were often very cutting because they were the truth. It was prophesied of Him, “He did not lift his voice in the streets. He would not bend a bruised reed.” (See Is. 42:2-3) He was gentle in all of His ways and all of His character. He was kind. He moved out of love, because He was love. God is love. It isn’t just what He does, it’s how He is. And Jesus lived in that realm. The divine nature was always working in Him. And if you were to look at what that divine nature looks like, for example, in 1 Corinthians 13, “It bears all things, it believes all things.”

An example of this is in the story of His encounter with the woman at the well. She comes up to him, and what was that dialogue where He knew truth? “You’re right, you have no husband. You’ve had five husbands. And the one you are living with is not your husband at all.” He said it in a way that did not put her off. He said it in a way that did not judge her. She did not respond as if she was judged.

Jesus says in John 12, “I did not come to judge.” He did not move in judgment. He did not put them down. He could have, but He did not. Wouldn’t it be something to see that in the church? Wouldn’t it be something, where our countenance and our words and our lives expressed, “We are not here to judge. We are here to bear. We are here to cover. We are here to always choose to believe the best.”

Boy, that’s contrary to much of the carnal life that is in the church. Wouldn’t it be something if we were to choose to believe the best, to choose to hear what we are hearing in the best light, to choose it? I may know that it may not be; I may know it’s probably different. But if I choose, if I choose to believe it in the best light, then there is power in that isn’t there?

Power to Change –

There is in that tremendous power to influence and change. That will happen when we are not ashamed of the reign of God in our heart, if the reign of God is in our heart… You see, when it says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” it is saying, “I’m not ashamed of the reign, I’m, not ashamed of the reign of God in my heart. I’m not ashamed of the life He has called me to. I’m not ashamed to choose the least position. I’m not ashamed to sit at the foot of the table rather than the head of the table. I am not ashamed to wash feet. I am not ashamed to make a young brother, new in Christ, as more important than myself in a meeting.” Is this coming through?

The working of that “I’m not ashamed of the gospel” in us is by choice, not by performance. It’s by choosing His reign. Now hear this: every thing that I have just said you can do by imitation, but you’ll be a miserable person trying to perform all that. You’ll be washing feet and hating the smell. Am I coming through?

But if you have chosen His reign, if you have received His reign, if you’ve surrendered your reign and your will, if you’ve surrendered your life, if you’ve chosen not your life but His, He performs it. There’s peace in that, there’s joy in that, there’s ease in that, there’s an absence of striving in that. And that’s the difference between a gospel of demand, our trying to perform a Christian life, our always trying to be imitators of Christ, rather than participators in Christ. And that is what we’ve been called to. We’ve been called to participate in His life, not to imitate His life. We’ve not been called to manufacture His life. We’ve been called simply to surrender our life, our reign, our will to receive His. That’s the difference between the gospel of demand and the gospel of surrender; the gospel of performance as opposed to receiving the offer.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Introduction

March 5, 2009

We are all familiar with the Scripture, “Be still and know that I am God.” It is difficult to know His voice when our head is full of our thoughts, our voice. It requires a stilling of our voice, getting quiet. And I have found in my lifetime, and I have been in the Lord since 1949, probably seriously since about 1962 or 1963, that it is still the most difficult discipline in my life, getting quiet, stilling my voice. And you really cannot tell His voice from your voice if you are speaking. He sounds like you. It’s a still small voice, it is not as if it is a voice y0u recognize as different from your own. There are some characteristics to His voice, though. Usually He speaks when you are not speaking and it usually comes in a way that you recognize that you did not think that this voice was something that you produced. But you cannot hear Him if you are speaking.

Remarkable Miracles –

There is a book that I am recommending to you called Remarkable Miracles by G. C. Bevington. It is the story of this “bare foot” preacher ministering up and down the Ohio River valley around the first part of the 20th Century up to about 1940. The uniqueness of his ministry was that he learned at a young age that when he got down to pray, he didn’t get up until he heard. Sometimes he might be down for an hour, two hours, two days, a week. But it was his practice not to get up until he heard. And out of it came a life of really walking in the leading of the Lord and learning His voice. One of the things Bevington shares in his book is that one of the most difficult things about hearing God is getting quiet.

We are going to try and go through that little discipline as we prepare to understand this next teaching and just ask the Lord to help us quiet our own voice, quiet our own thoughts. And many of our thoughts when we are reading someone’s teaching are thoughts of judgment, that is, we are judging what we are reading. And even though we may be judging in a right way, with righteous judgment, it gets into unrighteous judgment when, in perceiving or discerning out of what we are reading and what we are seeing, we judge down, we condemn, we hold the writer, the perpetrator, as less than. And it’s important that we listen and discern and filter it by way of the Holy Spirit.

But we need to be very careful how we judge what we are hearing or reading, because sometimes it is God speaking. And we need to say, “Lord, if you are speaking, let me hear it.” But the most important point is your coming to a place of quietness. A part of the discipline of listening to one another is listening for Him, and learning to discern His voice from any other voice. And, if you are listening to the Lord, or if you are quiet, listening for Him, the author or speaker may be missing Him and you, the reader or listener, may be hearing Him. I, as the writer, might be off and you’ll still perceive what is true; God will correct it for you, help you understand it. Perhaps you are doing that now, consciously or subconsciously, but I am speaking it, I am saying it to you so that you can give some thought to it and you can discipline yourself in your own listening.

I just discipline myself Lord; I listen to you only. Lord, I present to You a heart that is willing to do what you are speaking to me. Lord, I will enter in.

Do you know that text in Luke 11:52 that reads, “The one who enters in shall know?” It’s not entering in that steals knowledge, or that keeps knowledge from coming. I go through those disciplines often. When I do not go through those disciplines, I am taken by how little I hear. When I go through those disciplines, I am always encouraged by hearing Him.

Lord, if the reader does not know how to get quiet and You know where each one of us is, I’m asking, Father, that beginning now, You teach the discipline of quieting our own voice so that we might hear You. Teach us how to come to stillness, Lord, and how to incline our heart and lean our ear in Your direction.

O my soul and all that is in me, that we would come under the reign of the Lord our God. O my soul and all that is within me, be still and know the voice of God. O my soul and all that is within me, will to do what our Lord speaks. O my soul and all that is within me, decide to follow the Lord our God wherever He leads.

O Lord we, with joy, yield our reign. O Lord, we, with joy, yield our will. O Lord, it is with joy that we ask for Yours, both Your reign and Your will ruling in our heart. Teach us, heavenly Father by Your Holy Spirit and Your divine Word. For we with intent come under Your reign. It is our desire, Father, because of what You have put within us; it is our desire that our Lord Jesus, the Christ, be fully formed in us. O heavenly Father, it is our desire that we would be among a people who have made themselves ready.

I thank You, heavenly Father, for what you are going to do in my heart as I read these words. I thank You, in Christ Jesus. Amen.

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown in Good Soil

March 3, 2009

The last is – the Harmony of the seed sown in good soil.

“And other seed fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word (of the Reign of God) and accepts and understands it in an honest and good heart.”

He’s in truth. He’s not trying to deceive himself or anyone else. It’s with an honest and good heart that he says, “Jesus, reign over all that I am, over all that you’ve entrusted to me; You reign over it all.” He holds it fast. He does not embrace it on Sunday at the altar and by seven or eight o’clock that evening he’s back into the world vicariously by TV; enjoying that for which Christ died, enjoying vicariously, watching the kinds of things for which Christ died. His new life, he holds on fast to it; this word of the reign, he holds it fast. He indeed bears fruit and brings forth some 100 fold, some 60 and some 30; and one of the Gospels adds this word “with perseverance.”

Hold On Fast –

Embracing His reign, making Jesus Christ king on the throne of our lives requires a holding fast and a persevering. Difficulties come and if there is shallowness, there will be a withering and a falling away. But many are holding on in the church. I am so encouraged by what I see in most churches. I am seeing many who have a heart for authenticity; they are hungry for the real things to come forth. I am seeing it everywhere; a desire for something that we’ve all understood was there but we’ve not seemed to get a hold of. There’s a hunger for truth; a hunger for the real thing. I think that is why you are reading this book. I can’t think of any other reason why you would let me harangue and hit you with this difficult gospel.

Many don’t want to hear this Gospel. It’s going to take perseverance. It’s going to take holding on fast to what you are hearing; not from me, but from the Holy Spirit. And I say, in closing, it’s worth it; this life is worth it. I would not go back for anything. I don’t want to go back. I find little pleasure in the world. I have no ambitions and the men that I work with are bothered by that. I have no desire for a future. We have enough business. We should have an office and secretaries and I’m working in my basement; I’m my own secretary. And I’m looking for the day when I will not do another lick of what I am now doing. I’m not interested. And the Lord will test me on that, but I believe He has. I believe I’m speaking with an honest and true heart, because I’ve seen the realm; I have felt His reign and I have experienced a life that is out of the boat. It’s not daily, but it’s been enough. My heart is set on it and your heart is too if you haven’t put this book down by now. I believe that is why you are still reading. But, it’s going to take some perseverance.

This is the one who can hear the mysteries, the secrets of how to enjoy this life, how to live this other life, how to get over the bow of the boat, how to draw near Him so He can make us. He wants to show us.

One thing that I need to add; even Jesus’ disciples did not automatically understand the parables. You can’t assume because you are a Christian or a disciple that you will automatically understand the parables; you will not. It will always require humbling yourself and asking Him to explain it. It will always require you saying, “I won’t know this, Lord, unless You teach it to me.” It will never happen until you recognize that, no matter how much of a genius you are, how intellectually capable you are, you cannot know unless He explains it to you. So, always ask. The disciples did, and that’s what put them on the inside.

Amen.

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown Among Thorns

February 28, 2009

“Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

This parable is not really talking about four soils; we’re talking about four different hearts, that’s the soil, we’ve seen that already. Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit is sowing the word of the reign of God on hearts. The heart that is too near the world is not going to receive or understand the word and it’s going to be immediately plucked away. You’ve brought people to church, haven’t you? And you were just hoping that the word would just connect and it didn’t. Their hearts were still too close to the world and the enemy immediately plucked it away.

And then there is this rocky ground. You know you’ve seen those who have received… I’ve seen family members receive it and now it is no where in their life now. It’s gone. Difficult times come. And difficult times are coming. If there is no depth of soil and no moisture to sustain a root system, if the word isn’t working within, the moisture of the word, the water of the word, and no depth of soil that will enable a root to go deep, that one will be lost.

Here we see the seed sown among the thorns, on thorny soil.

“Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

The thorns came up with it. They were not there apparently when the seed was sown. If it were apparent when the seed was sown, many hearts would not have received it.

There are many who see the cost and just have no heart to pay the cost. They do not want to give up their drugs, their alcohol, their lifestyle, their wanting the best the world has to offer, their vocation, their future in the world. They see the cost and are not interested. They don’t receive the seed. They’re back beside the road. We are talking about lives that do not see the thorns when the seed is sown. The seed is received, but there are thorns that come up with it. That’s what it says; “the thorns came up with it…” They were not there to be seen at the beginning, but “the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

“And those on whom the seed was sown among the thorns are the ones who hear the word of the reign of God in the heart of man, and they go on their way and they are choked.”

It’s interesting that in these three texts you probably stumbled over this, this is difficult. You find two phrases, “they are choked,” and later, “and the word was choked,” the seed was choked; both are choked, and strangled is an accurate translation of the word “choked.”

And those on whom seed was sown among thorns are the ones who hear the word (of the Reign of God), and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries of the world, and the desires for other things.”

If that is not the American church, I don’t know what is. There is a reason the church in America is dying. There is a reason there are fewer churches this year, in the hundreds, than there were last year. And on the whole, almost without exception, the mega churches are seeing exponential growth, but this huge church growth boom is at the expense of hundreds and thousands of smaller churches. What’s happening is, we’re just moving around, finding that which appeals to us the most. There is some growth by conversion but it is very small. It does not keep up with those that leave the church every year. And that’s why the church in America is declining.

“They are choked with the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.”

I wonder what “deceitfulness of riches” means? You hear some of the Gospel that has been preached over the last twenty years, a Gospel that would make a Hugh Hefner or Bill Gates a saint. If the riches of the world is the promise of God, billionaire Bill Gates is a saint. The prosperity that is promised in the Scriptures is everything we need, but it is not going to include the deceitfulness of riches, because riches are a deception. That’s why not many rich enter the kingdom. It is extremely hard for the rich to enter the kingdom because it has a deceit in it.

We think that somehow there is some security in having enough. That’s a lie. All we need is God. His checking account is more than adequate. It’s a deceit to think that we can manage it better; that’s what we are saying. It isn’t that God is looking for those in whom He can entrust great riches. I’ve known very few men who are able to give the bulk away.

When I was making it, and had a very substantial income back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, I had four companies. I was an elder in the church, speaking and preaching several times a week, giving well over a tithe; but I wasted most of it. I wasted most of it. It is lost to the kingdom of God.

He is not looking for the tithe. He wants to reign over it all. And if you can’t hear that, you need to set some time aside to deal with this, because the enemy will use that against you. And you’ll have a hard time finding the reign of life. You’ll have a miserable Christian experience. You will always be short of reigning in life. Sin will plague you and the battle will just be non-stop. You might daily have victory over it but it will be a miserable victory. And most of you here know exactly what I am talking about, a miserable victory.

I know – reigning in life requires the reign of God. Those who receive an abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life (that word is basileia) in Christ Jesus. Well, it might not mean what I just said it meant, but it means something. You deal with it.

It reads just quite simply,

“and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things.”

The pleasures of this life enter in and choke the Word (of the reign of God), and they bring no fruit to maturity and yield no crop.

I’ll have to confess, in much of my earlier walk in Christ in leadership I did things differently. Somehow if two families came in and one family was struggling financially and was always in need and another family was financially secure and could really help out the cause, which family do you suppose I catered to more? No, John Brown wouldn’t do that.

Two men considered for the church board. Two men considered for the treasurer of the board. One is an accountant, the other is a farmer. Now, which one do you suppose we would choose? And, then I ask you, which one would spend more time praying over the management of the church funds?

This is the hour for the Gospel of the Kingdom to be preached in all the nations. It is not just happening in your heart, it is happening all over the earth. Everywhere I go now, I am hearing it, and I think that if you are listening, you are hearing it too. This Gospel of His Reign is going to raise up an army here in the states that love not their own lives, that love not their own lives even unto death, because they found the King and the realm of His reign within and it’s all that matters; nothing else matters. There isn’t a second in the picture.

“…and they bring no fruit to maturity and yield no crop.”

We have just looked at three kinds of soil. We’ve looked at three kinds of hearts that cannot understand the things of the kingdom, cannot receive it, will not find fruit in their lives. And all three you’ll find in the church.

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown in Rocky Places

February 25, 2009

Here is the harmony of the Soil in Rocky Places.

“Other seed fell on the rocky ground or soil where it did not have much soil: and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.”

By the way, a farmer is suspicious if it comes up too quickly; he knows he’s got a problem. A too quick response is not always a good response.

Bear with me. When we get to the second book in the series, A Radical Discipleship, (Follow Me and I Will Make You), Jesus lays out some very heavy demands on those who are going to follow Him. He says things like: “No one of you can be My disciple unless he takes up his cross daily. You can’t be My disciple; you can’t be with Me if you do not hate your father, mother, sister brother, husband or wife in comparison to your love for Me.” Notice that He is not leaving room for even a close second. “He can not be My disciple who does not say good bye to all his own possessions.”

These are pretty heavy demands but woven into the middle of these in Luke 14 He makes this statement: “What king of you before he goes into war does not first make an assessment of the enemy’s strength and size to determine if he with his five thousand can overcome the enemy that is coming with ten thousand?” “What man of you who builds a house does not first count the cost lest he begins and not be able to finish?”

Jesus makes it very clear that it is not to anyone’s advantage to get a decision that is not based on a clear understanding of what is being asked or sought. We are not doing anyone a favor by getting them to sneak up their hand at the end of a service and believing they are saved without them understanding that what they are being asked to do is going to cost them everything that they are and everything that they have been entrusted with for the rest of their life.

We are not doing a plant any good that is going to spring up quickly, but the conditions are so that there is no depth of soil, no room for root. Are you getting the implications of this?

That’s why those who come to Christ in China or North Korea or Uganda or in Nigeria or Ethiopia or Sudan or Iran or Syria or Indonesia all know the cost. They know what coming to Christ will cost them. That’s why the church is multiplying there and she is declining here at a fairly rapid rate. That’s why over there the church is increasing in the 100s of percent, because they have considered the cost and have determined that He is worth it. His reign in their heart is worth it! Being filled with the life of God is worth it! And we in the West or in America have approached it as if it were worthless, costless.

“…and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And as soon as it grew up, and after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no moisture it had no root.”

It had no moisture so it had no root. I wonder what the moisture could be. It is where there is no sufficient depth of the word, the water of the word in the soil of the heart that will feed and nourish and sustain the root system. The foundation of this life is choosing to follow after Christ and seeking the reign of God in their heart.

“…and because it had no moisture it had no root. And because it had no root it withered away.”

I have seen untold numbers of those who have withered away. It’s the reason why our whole approach to mass evangelism ends up with 1%, 2%, and at the most 3% who are in church a month later. Because there was no depth of soil there was no understanding of the need for the word to do its work.

“In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places. This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation when affliction or persecution arises because of the word of the Reign of God, immediately they fall away.”

And I can promise you if you have not discovered it already, the more you hear, the more you will be proven. “Through many tribulations must we enter into the reign.” Tribulation means pressure from the outside. It’s God’s way of driving the roots deeper for those who have the moisture and the depth of soil – it’s necessary. But to those who have been deceived into believing it is a costless, shallow experience, sin forgiven, heaven bound, no more hell in their future, but no love for Him; no real depth of understanding what God is all about and what God is doing.

“Yet they have no firm root within themselves, but are only temporary.”