Sunday, August 30, 2009

To Each One is Given......

I believe that one of the most tragic and disabling lies that has been swallowed by many Christians is that the so called "Sign" Gifts of the Holy Spirit were not meant to be used or manifested in this present day. I believe that Satan is behind this diabolical plot to render the church at once powerless, and laughable, in the eyes of the world.

My "church" background is varied. Raised Roman Catholic, I attended a Pentecostal Church for 6 years, and then a Brethren chapel. I was involved in the extreme end of the "charismatic" movement for a time, and God showed me some of the deception involved there. Since we are people of extremes, I then swung to the other end of the pendulum, ending up in a Brethren environment. There, I was in huge conflict over the gifts of the Spirit. They were taught to be for a time only, in New Testament days, and that one should not be seeking them. Confusion reigned in me, since I knew that I was receiving much truth in other areas, such as the sovereignty and holiness of God. Could they be right about these things, and so wrong about others? I tried to convince myself that they were right, but I know now that the Holy Spirit was being quenched inside of me.

Currently I am part of a home church group. We have been meeting for less than a year, some joining only recently, and we are still in awe of how God is working in our midst. We are learning what it means to have freedom in Christ, unhindered by tradition and standards set by man. We are sharing our homes and hearts, learning and growing together into our Head, Jesus Christ. We praise God for what He is doing.

This morning we were commenting on what we each have brought to our group; the differences in personalities, knowledge of the Bible, and other areas. I can see that God has selected each one of us to be together, to be this local body for Him on earth. We are taking baby steps, and still shedding some of the wrong understanding of what being the church should look like.

Recent teaching I have heard has been on the Gifts of the Spirit. The teaching was low key, matter of fact, and for the first time, I heard this topic taught simply, as it appears on the pages of scripture. There were no hermeneutical hoops that were jumped through. No complicated intrepretation of verses. Some Greek words were explained. But essentially, the end result was that I finally understood what the gifts were, what their purpose is, and how we are to seek and use them. Not in the flashy, weird way that I have seen the so-called gifts used in the past. But in a Spirit directed, orderly fashion. For the edification of the church. As a way for God to reveal Himself to the unbelieving world. For the empowerment of God's people, so that they might do those works that He has prepared in advance for them to do. For the Glory of God.

In retrospect, I see what has happened as a result of these gifts being refused and misunderstood. The Pentecostal movement saw a return of them. Sadly, we see today a variety of "falsified" manifestations of the Spirit; either born of the flesh, or perpetrated by Satan, who can disguise himself as an angel of light. At the other end of the spectrum, we see large amounts of brothers and sisters being hoodwinked by the lie that I mention in the first paragraph. In that arena, we have traded them in for man made structures and systems, programs and policies, in an attempt to produce what only God's Spirit can. In both cases, the body of Christ is losing out. We are not appropriating what is there for us. All of Heaven is open to us! God is prepared, and longs to, reveal Himself through us. Instead, for the most part, we are powerless, worldy and ineffective in the world around us.

But I have hope. God is coming back for His spotless bride. He will tear down the structures we have built in our attempts to replace what we have cheated ourselves of. He will gather all of His sheep, and He will once again work powerfully through His people. One at a time. Praise His Name forever.

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Sprit for the common good." (1Cor. 12:4-7)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Here Comes the Bride

The summer months are a popular time for weddings. So are September and October, when the brilliant colors of the changing leaves make a beautiful setting for wedding photos. My own wedding was in October. It seems a long time ago now, but I still remember the planning, and the anticipation leading up to that day.

Weddings are momentous occasions, and so much hinges on all things flowing together smoothly, to make that perfect day that every bride dreams of. She works and plans for months to prepare, not only for the ceremony and the reception, but to make herself ready. Picking out “the dress” is a particularly important piece of the preparations, as the bride tends to be the focus of the day. She is slowly led up the aisle to meet her waiting husband to be. All eyes are on her. She has longed and waited and prepared for this day, this moment. She has bathed and had hair, face and nails done. She wants to look her absolute best for the man she loves.

In the Bible, God’s church is compared to a Bride, and Jesus Christ is compared to a Bridegroom. Instructions are given for husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25)

In giving His life for His bride, Jesus Himself made it possible that she would be ready for the wedding day: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Eph. 5:26, 27)

In the Book of Revelation, we read about the marriage of the Lamb (Christ) to His bride, and a reception: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come…..Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev. 19:7, 9)

When I attend a wedding, I love to sneak a look at the face of the groom as he watches his betrothed come up the aisle. Often, his face will show the emotions of the moment: tenderness, love, anticipation. Who can imagine the emotions that will be displayed on the Savior’s face, as He greets His Bride, at the wedding that has been anticipated since the beginning of time? I so long for that day, and so hope that I will see you there.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Squeaky Clean

At my workplace we once had a week long promotion around infection control, with the importance of hand washing being highlighted. Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to wash one’s hands. And it is the number one method of preventing the spread of germs.

In the last decade or so, the war against germs has intensified, both in public buildings and private homes. Antiseptic hand cleansers are everywhere. Cleaning products and personal hygiene products no longer simply clean; they also promise to kill 99% of household germs, or whatever little critters might be hiding out on your hands or between your teeth. Seems we just can’t get clean enough!

Yet in spite of this “germ warfare”, the widespread use of antibiotics, and an ever increasing variety of vaccines, we are still faced with more and more virulent forms of viruses and infections throughout the world today. We sterilize, immunize, and sanitize, yet seem to be losing ground in our efforts to combat an ever growing list of dangerous pathogens.

Another trend is to fast, or cleanse the body of unhealthy “build up” by using a variety of diets and products. We have air purifiers for our homes, buy bottled water by the gallon, look for food grown without pesticide use and organically fed animal products. We live in a world with poisoned air, water and soil, and are continually searching out ways to avoid polluting our bodies with the never ending list of contaminants that we are surrounded with.

When I consider all these things, I can’t help but think of what the Bible says about our “inward” selves; our hearts. Jesus criticized the “religious” leaders of His day. They were all about doing the right things, following rituals of washing and fasting, and looking respectable outwardly. Yet He saw that their hearts were the main problem, and had this to say to them, “…you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self indulgence…first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also” (Matthew 23:25-26 NASB.)

Jesus knew the importance of having a “clean” heart. Our bodies are temporary tents to eternal souls. He knows that no earthly “product” or method will ever be able to give us clean hearts; He is the only One Who can.

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7,10)