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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Einstein's definition of insanity is one that is worth pondering for our lives and walk with God.

Many of us are caught in a rut and many are crying out for breakthroughs in their lives but when things do not turn out as we wished them to be, we never seem to reflect and find the answers as to what could actually go wrong. And we continued in our circles (or cycles) of defeat, discouragement and depression.

Guyon described repentance as the highest form of worship and it would be worthwhile for us to let this precious truth sink deep into our spirits. There is an erroneous doctrine taught in churches today that there is no need for Christians to repent anymore. This is a lie that originates from the pit of hell! In fact, I heard that there are preachers who taught that the Holy Spirit's work of convicting souls only happens once, i.e. during conversion. After that, the Holy Spirit does not convict Christians anymore. How far is this from the truth!! Sadly, the Scriptures speaks of deception creeping into the household of God during the last days and we are beginning to witness this taking place.

Given the choice, every healthy soul would choose to listen to things that are sweet, nice and happy. However, as born-again Christians, we should be aware of the fine distinction of receiving positive input that builds up the spirit within us as opposed to listening to stuffs that only appeal to the flesh within us. For example, we (our flesh) take pleasure in the praises and admiration of men but we cringe at criticisms hurled against us. We would revel in teachings that pamper the flesh but reject teachings that promote the annihilation of the flesh. This is also very true in our journey with God.

Oftentimes, we will be praying and asking God for a thousand and one things. But, how often are we ever ready to expect and receive a "No" answer from Him? Perhaps, we would be labelled as "lacking in faith" if we actually harbour such an attitude. Therefore, today Christ seems to be a spiritual "Santa Claus" to many today. He is supposed to give us anything and everything we ask. We are never ready to receive a "No" from Him. Unknowingly, we shut our ears to His "No" and missed His leading and guidance along the way.

I believe a sign of maturity in walking with God is learning to receive a "No" answer from the Lord. In fact, it is healthy to expect a "No" from the Lord sometimes. The beautiful account of David pleading for the life of his child after he was confronted of his sin shows us that David is one who knew His God. He knew that God, being who He is, the Just and Righteous One - can deliver a "No" answer. The moment his child died, he rose up and went about life as usual. What a precious lesson to learn from David! And when we do not learn such a lesson we end up in the circle of insanity (as defined by Einstein). The way to end this cycle is to begin to know Him as He is. When we know Him as who He really is (and not the God we imagined Him to be or the God we wanted Him to be or the God we are taught to be), we will learn to honor and fear Him. We will learn to treasure even the "No" responses from Him and give Him the worship that is due to Him.

In our walk with God, there will be times when we are halted in our tracks by God Himself. This is because, in answer to our prayers (which we have probably forgotten) and in His loving mercies, He desires to reveal to us His path as opposed to our own paths. That is why repentance is our life-long act of worship. We always need the Spirit of God to halt us along our paths and to lead us and direct us back to His narrow path.

Far too often, the Christianity of today have lowered the value and preciousness of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Undoubtedly, the nature of our Loving God is ever to receive us and forgive us. 1 John 1:9 clearly indicates that as we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our iniquities. However, what is the value of repentance and confession of sins when we trample such practice to just mere acts of freeing ourselves from a guilty conscience. We do not have the notion of grieving God when we sin but rather, oh well, God promises to forgive. So, I'll confess my sins and He'll forgive and I'll be fine. And we keep falling into the same sin time and again. What is repentance but a complete turning around of our path and our minds. How can we so easily cheapen the grace of repentance and confession of sins? The love of God and His grace and salvation is free but they are expensive. Pharoah and King Saul also parroted a shallow "I have sinned.." but their destinies were so different from David. Do not mis-read me, I strongly believe that it is even the grace of God that will birth true repentance in our hearts. Our works are only filthy rags before Him. But, the question is how much do we open our hearts for Him to work? Do we just repent out of a guilty conscience? Do we just repent for men to see? Do we live to please God or please men? The paths leading to the doors of repentance and forgiveness of sin were drenched with the blood of Christ. To walk in repentance and to receive forgiveness without passing through Golgotha is to cheapen the death and resurrection of Christ.

As we progress in our Christian walk and as the Lord leads us into a new level of walk with Him, there will be numerous "altars of repentance" which we will encounter along the way. I drive to work and I use the same route every day to reach my office. It would be foolish of me to expect reaching another destination if I use the same route that I have been using everyday. If I intend to reach another destination, common sense would tell me I should take a different route. (Well, this is paraphrasing Einstein) Hence, if we would like to soar with Him and be all that He wants us to be and walk in deeper intimacy with Him, we cannot be doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. It's time to open our hearts to the prompting of His Spirit to show us where we have gone wrong. It's time to treasure the grace of repentance. It's time to turn around and walk towards Him. Is there a "No" He's trying to communicate to us? Is the Spirit of God pointing His finger on certain areas of our lives where true repentance is expected? This is the antidote to spiritual insanity.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kingdom Focus, Perseverance

Another rare commodity among the followers of Jesus today is the F word, spelled F.O.C.U.S. Every one seems to be chasing the latest fad in town. We are more keen to run around seeking the so-called latest revelations than to be content and focussed in one's call and vocation. We need men and women who are focussed in their pursuit of God and the establishment of His Kingdom on this earth. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you -Proverbs 4:25(ESV). However, the culture of the day seems to encourage a diffusion of focus and intent. Billboards and all forms of entertainment and advertisement are intent upon grabbing every consumer's attention and we wonder why the children of this generation seems to have a short attention span.

The remarkable life of an African American named George Washington Carver would help us to appreciate how valuable possessing "focus" and "perseverance" is to one's life and the surrounding communities. Most of us would agree that "peanuts" are rather insignificant and would pay little attention to the same. It would be unthinkable to be imagining someone spending hours and days to research and discover the possibilities of something as insignificant as peanut. But, here's George Washington Carver, who discovered 300 uses for the peanut and the vine and skin when he worked in the laboratory for 6 days and 6 nights (which he claimed that God was with him in the laboratory) amongst his many findings. This is a classic example of "focus" in action. An African American, who defied the negative social circumstances of his day and putting in effort and focus into his pursuit for the betterment of mankind.

We have crossed the halfway mark of the first quarter of this new year 2011. Perhaps, many have written down new year resolutions early this year and it is sad to note that very few ever see the fulfilment of what they have written each year. Somewhere along the way, we tend to lose the focus and enthusiasm we possessed during the early part of the year. It would not be incorrect to state that the lack of focus and perseverance seems to be a common disease that infects the entire human race.

Mark Virkler, the founder of Communion with God Ministries shared his secret of how he learned the art of hearing the voice of God. He decided to set aside an entire year - just to read and learn all he can about hearing the voice of God. Mark’s hunger and a focussed intent to hear God’s voice was rewarded when God gave him a breakthrough. The books "How to Hear God's Voice" and "Dialogue With God" are the fruit of the year-long pursuit. God has given him a commission to saturate the world with the message of communion with God and Mark has traveled worldwide since 1984 teaching the Communion With God weekend seminar. There's no doubt every Christian longs to hear God's voice but not many were focussed in their intent and only a few persevered in the journey of learning from the Master.

I recall another God's servant, Bill Johnson, who decided to spend an entire year to practice the art of thanksgiving. The Scriptures exhorts us to give thanks in all circumstances and Bill decided to do just that for the whole year. Whatever calamity or storms that he faced that year were greeted by thanksgiving. I believe at the end of the year, there was definitely a marked change in his spiritual life and a breakthrough secured. This is another example of a man who displayed focus and perseverance in his Christian journey. Perhaps, it would be a justified challenge to us to set aside this year for what God has laid in our hearts (with a focussed intent coupled with perseverance) and witness remarkable breakthroughs in our lives come December 2011.

One of the secrets of the life of a man after God's heart is his "one thing" in life. Psalm 27:4 - One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. The love and devotion of David towards the God he adored touched the heart of the Most High God. No, perhaps God is not too impressed with our shallow, weekly devotion we offer to him by church attendance. It's not even the prayers we offer to Him in our free time. For David, it was his "one thing". His focus in life was summarized in the aforesaid verse. It was not just a nice lip-service but that was what defined the heart of the man after God's heart!

There have been a couple of blog entries on Elisha recently. The condition given by Elijah for Elisha to inherit the double portion anointing was that if Elisha could see Elijah being taken up, he would receive it. Interestingly, we would imagine Elisha opening wide his eyes every day since then and never at any point strayed from looking unto Elijah - which may sound ludicrous to us. However, the spiritual significance we can glean from this account is that Elisha's pursuit was from then onwards marked by an enormous dose of focus and perseverance. In other words, it was a single-eyed and single-hearted pursuit and devotion. In order for Elisha to only keep his sight on Elijah, he had to turn his eyes away from every other thing. That is an important key for our lives too in our pursuit of God and His destiny for us. In fact, the many exploits of the Apostle Paul can also be traced to his single-eyed devotion in his walk and pursuit of God. We read that the Apostle Paul himself revealed one of his secrets when he said "...but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" in Philippians 3:13-14. In these precarious times that we are living today, we are to keep our eyes away from each and every distraction and be focussed and persevere in our walk with the Lord. For us to be focussed in what the Lord lays in our heart, we have to lose focus on everything else. Wandering eyes and a wandering heart would cause us to stumble and fall.

A practical way to keep our focus is to learn from the prayers of the psalmist when he prayed, "Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things..." (Psalms 119:37a)and in Psalms 86:11 - "Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name." As faced by the majority of Christians today, the psalmist was keenly aware that his heart seemed to be running in every direction but God and He needed divine help and inspiration to have a "united" heart to fear Jehovah God. Another version of the prayer is to ask God for "an undivided heart". These are the sincere prayers and cries that each believer should likewise cry unto the Lord. As it is the Holy Spirit who deposited a deep desire and hunger in our hearts to do great exploits in the Kingdom of God, our part is also to co-operate with the Holy Spirit to maintaining a focussed pursuit. But if we do not see our hearts as divided, we will not cry to Him in desperation. May the Spirit of truth so shine in our darkened hearts and minds that we may cry unto the Lord unceasingly for an undivided heart. Sadly, many in the last days will be deceived into thinking all is well with them.

May the Lord speak to our hearts and inspire us to greater heights and deeper depths with Him as we keep looking unto Him in the days to come. Oh God, unite our hearts to fear your Name!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lopsided Christianity?

Probably, the title of this post should be "Christianity - missing the mark?" but since I keep hearing the phrase "Lopsided Christianity" ringing in my mind, I have decided to settle with the present title. Actually, I did not plan to pen my thoughts on this subject today but they were dropped into my heart this morning. Admittedly, it's not easy to structure these thoughts - so, hopefully, stating them in the form of questions (with reference to Scripture verses and some personal thoughts) would be appropriate. This is going to be a short (but provocative) entry.

John 12:32 (NKJV) - And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself
Are we lifting up human personalities or are we lifting up Christ? There seems to be a deluge of Christian programmes and personalities that are being heavily promoted today. In fact, the Christian personalities (or celebrities) today appear to be more popular than Christ Himself.

Acts 20:35b (NKJV) - ...And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive
We do not seem to remember Jesus saying that. Did He? The popular teachings of the day is to grab, grab, grab, get, get, get or in a more subtle way: give to RECEIVE!!

2 Timothy 3:5a (NKJV) - having a form of godliness but denying its power...
A lot of lip service today but not seeing the raw power of God. We are living in times where Christian literature, teachings and seminars are in abundance on almost any Christian topics but not many Christian gatherings that witness the explosion of His Presence and Power. Why?

Ephesians 4:14 (NKJV) - that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting;
Acts 20:27 (NKJV) - For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

With the abundance of Christian literature and teachings, all kinds of half-truth doctrines have also crept into the church. Have we been listening to the whole counsel of God? Are there more babes/children than matured adults in the church today? Every body seems to be putting extra emphasis on their pet doctrines to the exclusion of the rest.

Luke 4:43 (NKJV) - but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent
Luke 9:2a (NKJV) - He sent them to preach the kingdom of God...

The mission of Jesus is to preach the KINGDOM OF GOD and so is ours. But, more and more people are getting more interested and excited about certain ministries being preached than the KINGDOM OF GOD. Are we heavily promoting a particular ministry or are we preaching the KINGDOM OF GOD? Do we seek to extend the KINGDOM OF GOD on this earth or to expand more (mega) ministries?

John 3:30 (NKJV) - He must increase, but I must decrease.
The modern gospel has taken out the necessity of death to self. The words of John the Baptist have probably been long kept in the museum. I must decrease? (You must be kidding)

The list goes on.

But, if our hearts desire to see the greater glory of God manifested in our days it is time to be honest with ourselves. There is a dire need for "balance" and "humility" in the Christian circle today. The question we should be asking ourselves is whether we know the heart of God? (It's no use assuming we know His heart just because we seem to be 'ok') May the Spirit of light and truth illuminate our eyes and our hearts to see the true condition we are in and to desperately cry out unto the Lord for His mercy and intervention.

Thus says the LORD:
“ Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls...
(Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV)

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
(2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Christ tabernacled among us; Christ overshadowing us

A very interesting rendering of John 1:14 goes like this, "And the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us..." In other words, He "tabernacled" among us. We are familiar with the usual version of Christ dwelling among us but it opens up a new vista when we picture the verse in our mind of our Loving Saviour setting up a tabernacle in and around us. This is the beautiful mystery of our salvation. When we repent and receive Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Lord and Saviour, He literally comes into our hearts and makes our hearts His home. Christ in us - the hope of glory.

As His end-time priests and bride, we are called to be carriers of His Glory and His Presence. But, you may wonder, since Christ is in us what does it mean to be carrying His glory and His presence? This leads to the second part of the title of this post: Christ overshadowing us. There are varying degrees of "Christ in us" and there are different levels of carrying His presence in our lives. Yes, He's in us but "how much space" does He tabernacle in our hearts? This is a very exciting subject to me. Well, it's not a theological exposition but it's an exciting subject. Once again, we will take a look at different men and women who experienced the reality of Christ 'tabernacling' their lives to the extent He overshadowed them and literally "spilled over" to the people around them. There are higher and deeper realities of walking with God and carrying God's Glory and Presence that can be a reality to each one of us.

Peter's shadow or the Holy Spirit casting His shadow over Peter?
We read the amazing account in the book of Acts where people would be bringing the sick into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter's shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. We are talking about actual healing taking place by just having Peter's shadow falling across these people! This is just wild. Not a command. Not a word at all. Just his shadow. We are not told how often this occurred but it was recorded to open our eyes of faith to the unlimited possibilities of God's presence and power flowing through a vessel of clay.

Firstly, let's admit that a shadow is just a shadow. There's nothing special about Peter's shadow but I believe we can dig deeper and pick up some gems from this miraculous account. Firstly, it signifies that the "spirit man" of Peter is larger than his "physical man". I'm not going into any theological debate here. The Scripture clearly teaches us that we are made of spirit, soul and body. Just like our physical bodies, our spirits do grow. Our spirits can be under-nourished or suffering from mal-nutrition. But, I believe that in this account, it shows that Peter (in his spirit) seems to be bigger and larger than Peter (in his physical body). In this instance, the size of his spirit was not bound by the physical size of his body. Therefore, the experiential reality of his spirit which also housed the Spirit of God was felt beyond the perimeter of his physical body. How this should spur us to desire our spirits to grow and be enlarged through the Holy Spirit for His glory.

Secondly, I also believe it signifies that the essence of the prayer of John the Baptist becoming a reality in this account - let me decrease and You increase. Here, Peter became so "insignificant" that God could fill his entire being and manifest the reality of His Presence and Power through and around Peter. That is why I would say it is not Peter's shadow that accomplished the healing but the Holy Spirit's shadow through Peter. The tangible anointing and presence of the Most High God became manifested and felt through people who had Peter's shadow passing over them. Amazing indeed! May the degree of God's anointing flowing through us increase as the degree of yieldedness and death of self/flesh in us also be deeper.

Mary, who carried Jesus in her womb
This is the sacred mystery of Christ's birth through a virgin. And we read in the Scriptures where the angel foretold of this miracle of miracles in the following words - "...the power of the Most High will overshadow you..." Mary was overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit and she literally carried Jesus in her. What a wonderful picture! There's a beautiful account where we witness a manifestation of the "spillover" overshadowing of the Holy Spirit through Mary. It happened when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth. We read from the Scriptures that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. As Mary was faithfully fulfilling her role as a carrier of God's Presence and Glory, when she spoke, the child in Elizabeth's womb leaped! Not only that, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit there and then!! No laying of hands. No prayers. Just the mere voice of Mary's greetings. I believe this is not an isolated experience for Mary alone.

The 2 Biblical accounts above must have whetted our appetite to believe and hunger for a greater release of the glory of God in the body of Christ today. What amazing miracles will take place for the glory of God when we allow Him to tabernacle in us in greater degree and His power to completely overshadow us. If you were thinking these 2 New Testament accounts are isolated examples, let's take a look at a few wonderful testimonies of Christian giants of the past below.

John G Lake - Do you know that during the outbreak of deadly plagues in Africa, viruses and bacteria died on contact with his skin! He didn't need to rebuke or say a word. They just died. Now, this is awesome.

Kenneth Hagin - If you have read his testimony, this man of a great God was bedridden and actually died before he discovered the healing power of Jesus. Do you know that he had a "shadow" too? I read that the people who worked closely with him in the ministry had never fallen sick their entire time with him.

Charles Finney - When this great revivalist reached the town he was scheduled to preach, people in the town began to be convicted of their sins and repented. People in the factories just knelt down, weeping for their sins. The Holy Spirit had "His shadow" over Finney indeed. Imagine an Unseen Shadow encompassing the entire town through this vessel that God used mightily.

What about some Christian leaders who are still in ministry today?
Bill Johnson - I read of an account when Bill went to a shop to look at some mobile phones. And he said, "it leaked!" The Presence of God just "leaked" through him. A lady in the shop fell under the power without any warning or notice. She was so troubled that she asked Bill what was that and it opened a door for Bill Johnson to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Heidi Baker I heard from Heidi in a meeting where she shared that she was having a breakfast in a (hotel) restaurant. And all of a sudden another person sitting next to her table just screamed in awe of the Presence of God.

There are many other such accounts where there are even demon-possessed people who manifested in the streets when Christians just walked by. I recall a personal discovery when I was in a conference many, many years ago in the US (during the recess time in between the conference sessions where people were walking and chatting). All of a sudden, I felt within me that the ambience of the sanctuary changed. There was a peace and an acute sense of God's Presence. I turned my head to look to the back of the hall and noticed that the man of God had just entered the hall.

Let me share with you another interesting account my wife had. She responded to the altar call in one special church meeting. As always, she was standing, with her eyes closed whilst waiting for the personal ministry of the speaker that day. All of a sudden, as the man of God was still a metre away (walking towards her), she began to weep in the Presence of God. I don't think there are that many such instances in churches today.

As I am penning down these thoughts, I am reminded of the awesome Argentine revival stories that I have heard in the past. During the revival crusades that took place in a big stadium, amazingly people who lived in apartments a few kilometers away from the stadium would fall under the power of God in their homes or be found weeping in repentance for their sins. There was one instance where there was a procession of idols by some idol worshippers near the stadium where there was an ongoing revival service. Guess what? At one point, all the idols just fell to the ground! This would be the power of corporate glory of God overshadowing the people in times of revival.

Your shadow or are you overshadowed by Him?
We are called to release the glory of God wherever we go. May our shadows be also reflections of His shadow wherever we are. As we walk into our homes, offices, shopping malls or anywhere, may there be an overflow of His Presence through us. Who is God? God is love. He is light. He is peace and so much more. Every place that our feet tread upon, may the attributes of God be manifested through us to the people around us. Not only do we expect His healing virtue to flow, when we step into a place of disharmony, we want to see the ambience of the place be displaced by His Peace. Would you and me be carriers of His Glory and Presence wherever we go? Let our light so shine before people around us. May we carry His light to places of darkness. May there be liberty to the captives, abundance to the poor, healing to the sick and much much more as we allow Him to cast His shadow over us and allow Him to increase in and through our lives.

These men had been with Jesus
I believe the key to a greater manifestation of His Glory and Presence in our lives lies in the comments made by the onlookers who witnessed the extraordinary boldness of Peter and John - "These men had been with Jesus." When you and I have been spending much time with Jesus in the secret place, the reality of God will leak out. (In today's language - people do not need to read the wikileaks to find out.) It will become an open secret. Are you excited now? Release His glory wherever you go.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kingdom Tenacity

Elisha demonstrated a different spirit than the rest of the trainee prophets of his day when he persistently refused to be separated from Elijah. Even when Elijah himself asked him to stay put and stop following him, he cried out to his master, I will not leave you! We understand from numerous Biblical accounts that such "a different spirit" indeed made a difference which ultimately determines the destiny of men and women throughout the ages. In fact, the term "a different spirit" was mentioned in tribute to Joshua and Caleb in contrast to the other 10 spies and the rest of the Israelites who chose to listen to the spies which resulted in their untimely deaths in the wilderness.

I am reminded of a few other characters in the Bible who displayed such a tenacious character, leaving behind an indelible impact for every Bible student. These are men and women from whom we can learn and imitate, especially in their tenacious pursuit of God and their destiny. There is a popular teaching amongst the Christian circles where we are trained to think that if God wants me to have something, I don't have to do anything but to just sit and wait for it to happen. If it doesn't happen, well probably, God didn't want me to have it in the first place. There is no arguing that our God is a sovereign God and He rules, overrules and even intervenes in circumstances that sometimes defy our so-called theological understanding of what He should or should not do. Having said that, it is just pure laziness to say that well if He wants me to have it, I don't have to do anything about it. By looking at the 5 characters below, may we be better armed with a stronger character and attitude in the times we are living in today.

Jabez, whose life contradicted his destiny
There is no necessity to have a long introduction to our famous Mr Jabez. In fact, his prayer has now been one the more popular prayers in the Christian world. But, let not the familiarity of his story robs us of the precious truth we can glean from his tenacious character. Here is a man born with a destiny written over his life from day one of his arrival on planet earth. He was a pain to himself and a pain cum sorrow to every body else. And despite that, it did not deter him from crying out a powerful prayer which God heard and answered. In fact, his life contradicted the destiny which was written over him (his name).

I believe the Spirit of God actually nudged the author of the Books of Chronicles in the Bible to include Jabez's account when he was writing on the descendants of Judah. We can say that nothing would stop this guy from inheriting a great blessing from God. Some may put their blame on genes, their upbringing, their families, etc. etc. but here arose a man who literally cried to God for a destiny of blessings. He did not just say a prayer. It was a tenacious request - I believe he exerted all his strength, emotions and focus in making his request to God. And today we read the glorious testimony that "God granted his request." Today, God is still in the business of granting our requests too. But, too often we are just too busy to let our requests be made known to him or perhaps, we are just happy to be "saying" our prayers or we would rather play the blame game.

Jacob and the wrestling match
A man in the Bible we may not want our children to choose as their role-model would probably be Jacob. Many know him as a schemer, a liar or an opportunist. God viewed him differently - "Jacob, I loved". There would be many reasons why God loved Jacob instead of Esau but the greatest wrestling match that ever took place on this earth unearthed a gem of a character in this man named Jacob.

Probably, that night must have been the most difficult night of his life to find some solace in sleeping. Fears and anxieties filled his mind and heart. He was troubled as the time has come for him to confront his past. How would you feel if you were to be in his shoes? You committed a crime many years ago and now you are going to meet the person whom you have committed the crime against. The death threats issued by Esau many years ago must have found their way back to haunt Jacob. And without any warning, an unexpected visitor got him into a wrestling match. Most would probably jumped at the opportunity of giving up and perhaps die in the hands of this visitor. It could have been a death full of dignity for Jacob. No, he persisted the whole night. And yes, he cried out with loud cries and tears, I will not let you go until you bless me!

Notwithstanding the fears, worries and uncertainties in his heart, he would not miss this opportunity of seeking blessing from this visitor. The mixed emotions within him did not overcrowd his appetite and hunger for the dew of heavens. This is a man who fully appreciated the value of spiritual things. Having heard the many stories about God and His mighty acts from his parents, the seed has been sown within him of the "one thing" in life that matters. At every difficult turn of his life, he cried out to Jehovah God and He has been with him through the ups and downs of life. You may fault Jacob for his many schemes but the tenacity in his pursuit after God must be etched deeply in our minds.

Hannah, who was accused of getting drunk in church
How depressing it must have felt for a wife to endure mockings and criticisms from the husband's other wife? Depression and suicide would have been the easy way out. Not for Hannah. Her very name which signifies "passion" describe the tenacious character she possessed. She was definitely hurt and sorrowful but those negative emotions merely drove her to petition for a miracle from God. The intensity of her request was further underlined by the fact that she vowed to offer the child unto God when the Lord God open her womb. Many people would have left church if they were in Hannah's shoes - imagine the pastor rubbing salt to her wounds when he claimed that Hannah was drunk in the church! What hurt! What shame! No, she did not resort to counselling sessions for healing of her wounded soul. She stated in clear terms what she was doing to the priest and received the priest's blessing in return. Most of the time, we wondered why the breakthrough that we are praying for has not been forthcoming. Perhaps, it is a good time to reflect and meditate on Hannah's tenacious character.

The woman, who talked to herself
She was more known by another nickname - the woman with the issue of blood. According to some teachings today on healing, perhaps a woman in her shoes today would come to the conclusion that healing is not for her, anyway. After suffering for 12 years and having consulted the doctors of her day - probably her friends would not be able to recognize her anymore. She would be a forlorn figure - weak, helpless and poor. What use is there to preach healing to this woman?

She was not invited for a healing meeting nor did Jesus single her out for prayer. Guess what. She went against the laws and customs of her day and pressed in to receive her healing after suffering for 12 long years. Her faith in the power of God to heal was strong and certain. We read from the Scriptures that, "she said to herself - if I only touch His cloak, I will be healed." I do not think there was any teaching on power of confession during her days but out of the abundance of her heart her mouth spoke forth her faith in Christ to heal her. Nothing was in her favour - the crowds, the customs and laws, her past experiences, etc. The tenacity of her faith made a way in the wilderness for her to reach out her hand and received the healing virtue of Jesus flowing through the edge of His cloak.

Jesus set His face like a flint
Last but not least, our Saviour intently set His face to go to Jerusalem despite knowing the type of death which awaited Him. This speaks volumes of the great love He has for each one of us. The tenacity that was exhibited by Jesus was motivated by His love for His father and us. There's no greater love than for Christ to lay down His life for us. He was not reluctant to take the path of the cross but He set His face like a flint (a variety of quartz - a figurative analogy of firmness and hardness of intent) to go to Jerusalem. We can love Him because He first loved us. Therefore, may our love for Him be reflected in our resoluteness to obey, follow and pursue Him all the days of our lives.

Final note
If we are placed in similar trying circumstances such as those surrounding the 5 outstanding characters above, would we have responded in the same manner? How would we respond to the trials that seem so impossible to overcome in our lives? Indeed, there are many other men and women in the Bible that deserve mention with regards to their courageous and tenacious walk with God. However, admittedly, spiritual tenacity is a rare commodity amongst Christians today yet a must-have for all Christians living in such times like these. May the Spirit of God birth such spiritual tenacity in our hearts, especially in our walk with God, pursuit of Him and His destiny for our lives.

Matthew 11:12 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

Postcript: -
(From a sermon by the Prince of Preachers - Charles Spurgeon - entitled "The Dawn Of Revival, Or Prayer Speedily Answered" delivered February 10, 1867)

We never do anything in this world until we set our faces thoroughly to it. The warriors who win battles are those who are resolved to conquer or die. The heroes who emancipate nations art those who count no hazards and reckon no odds, but are resolved that the yoke shall be broken from the neck of their country. The merchants who prosper in this world are those who do their business with all their hearts, and watch for wealth with eagerness. The halfhearted man is nowhere in the race of life; he is usually contemptible in the sight of others, and a misery to himself. If a thing be worth doing, it is worth doing well; and if it be not worth doing thoroughly, wise men let it alone.

Especially is this a truth in the spiritual life. Wonders are not done for God and for the truth by men upon their back asleep, or out of their beds, but still asleep. Souls are not saved by men who scarcely know or care whether they are saved themselves. Errors are not dashed from their pedestals by those who are careless concerning truth and count it of little value. Reformations have not been wrought in this world by men of lukewarm spirit and temporizing policy. One fiery Luther is of more value than twenty like the half hearted Erasmus who knew infinitely more than he felt, and perhaps felt more than he dared to express.

A man if he would do anything for God, for the truth, for the cross of Christ, must set his face and with the whole force of his will resolve to serve his God. The soldier of Christ must set his face like a flint against all opposition, and at the same moment set his face towards the Lord with the attentive eye of the handmaiden looking towards her mistress. If called to suffer for the truth, we must set our face towards this conflict as Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. He who would conquer in this glorious war, and overcome the Lord at the mercy-seat, must be resolved! resolved with his whole soul, resolved after matured thought - resolved for reasons which are too weighty for him to escape - resolved that from the throne of grace he will not depart without the blessing. Never, never shall a man be unsuccessful in prayer who sets his face to win the promised mercy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Prophetic Insights 2011 - Part II

The earlier post on the prophetic insight for 2011 was a short one and I hope to build upon that post and perhaps share more on what I believe the Lord is doing amongst His people in 2011 and beyond.

To many believers today, the season we are in is akin to the Biblical time when Elijah was to be taken away. It is a time of the revealing of the true sons of Elijah. Elisha wanted to be affirmed as the true son of Elijah when he asked for the "double portion of Elijah's spirit". There were many other trainee prophets from the school of prophets who were also aware of the impending departure of Elijah - the prophet who stood in the Presence of God, but only Elisha pursued after what Elijah himself described as "a hard thing". Elisha stands for an entire generation who would pursue after God even though it is perceived to be a difficult venture. It is the faceless and nameless generation that God has been preparing and raising as His end-time army. What are the lessons we can learn from Elisha's example?

Following hard after the Lord
It is recorded in the Scriptures that Elisha followed hard after Elijah. From Gilgal to Bethel and onward to Jericho and Jordan. Indeed, there is much to learn from the names of these places but we will look at the themes of what these places represent. What does it mean to follow hard after the Lord? Firstly, walking and following our Lord Jesus begins from a place of consecration (Gilgal). We may be in the world but not of the world. As a priesthood of believers, we are called to be set apart unto Him. A divorce from the world and its values must be evident in our lives without which we cannot enter into communion with the Lord. It is in Bethel, we learn to commune with Him. Leaning upon His breast, we listen to His heartbeat and enjoy the warmth of His embrace. From times of intimacy with the Lord, we are equipped to enforce His victory in the battles that we face in life (Jericho). When we experience His victories through enforcing His authority in our lives, the Lord our God would lead us to a transition into a new realm of possessing our inheritance (Jordan). A crossing-over takes place wherein we are ushered into a new dimension with the Lord. These summarized themes would sound familiar to many who have taken the path of walking and journeying with the Lord in obedience. Sometimes, we are led to re-visit these places in different order and in different degrees and sometimes we missed the way and stumble and fall. But, in weakness, we continued to cling on to Him and in His faithfulness, He has never left us nor forsaken us.

Secondly, if we were to look at the geographical layout of these places, it makes no sense to our logical minds for Elijah to be "leading" Elisha from one place to another to reach the ultimate destination of Jordan when he could have opted for a shorter and simpler route. This has been also a hallmark of our journey of following hard after the Lord. We do not seem to understand the long, tiresome and sometimes illogical paths we take. Sometimes we questioned whether we have heard correctly or like John the Baptist who sent his servants to ask Jesus whether He was the Messiah or not. These are unfruitful times for the flesh yet certainly we are making progress spiritually. Be it valleys or mountaintop experiences, Elisha held on closely to Elijah and never lost sight of his master.

The greatest blow for Elisha must be Elijah's apparent cold treatment towards him. When Elisha pursued after Elijah, it seemed the Elijah was not too pleased and kept asking Elisha to maintain a distance and to stop following Him. When we thought we have done something to please the Lord to deserve a special attention from Him and His response is the opposite - our faith may begin to crumble and our mouth begin to grumble. The greatest temptation is to give up and say, it's useless or it doesn't work or to be offended by Elijah. But, Elisha prevailed. He was persistent and his hunger and pursuit was not superficial. Do we likewise desire God beyond the superficial level to be able to overcome rejection, offense and adversity?

I remember a man of God who shared that he saw something about the relationship between Elijah and Elisha that he never saw before. Most of us when we think of the great event of Elijah being taken away - we have a mental picture of Elijah sitting on a chariot and bidding farewell to Elisha. But, upon closer look Elijah was actually taken up by a whirlwind instead of a chariot. But, you ask, what about the chariot? Well, God has to send a chariot to separate the close bonding between Elijah and Elisha! Yes, could you imagine that level of intimacy?

The passing of the mantle
Undoubtedly, this was the most awaited and exciting part. Elisha picked up the mantle and he began to walk in the office of the "true son". The rest, we would say, is history.

In the same way, the birth of the church was marked by the great release of the Holy Ghost at the upper room. The true church of God is going to walk as the true sons of the Most High God. Undoubtedly, we are entering into the finest times of the church despite the darkness around us. Even this year, we are stepping into a season of abundant grace, favour and breakthrough (mark this). Yes, I believe we are possessing our inheritance in a greater way than before and also it is a time of rest and liberty for us. God has taken our shame and has broken every curse of debt in our lives. I believe the season of debt-cancellation is manifesting in greater measure this year. Believe it and begin to proclaim and declare a season of jubilee over your lives, families, cities and nations. Isaiah 61 (NIV) sums up pretty well the description of the Lord's promise for His true sons for this season and this year. Read it and declare it aloud: -

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

8 “For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

How do we position ourselves?
Needless to say, the key lies in the intimacy between us and our Elijah, the Beautiful Saviour - Jesus Christ! Elijah said to Elisha, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” How did Elisha position himself to receive that which He asked for? What is the key to "seeing" Elijah when he was taken up? How do we begin to step into this marvellous year of revelation?

Elisha did not lay down a set of formulaes but his motto was "I will not leave you, Elijah!" This speaks volume of his commitment and bonding to Elijah. Likewise, may this be our motto each and every moment of the day - Lord, I will not leave you - the key of stepping into and possessing what God has prepared for us this year and the days to come.