August 30, 2009

Need of Grace

O Lord,
You know my great unfitness for service,
my present deadness,
my inability to do anything for Your glory,
my distressing coldness of heart.

I am weak, ignorant, unprofitable,
and loathe and abhor myself.
I am at a loss to know what You would have me do,
for I feel amazingly deserted by thee,
and sense thy presence so little;
You make me possess the sins of my youth,
and the dreadful sin of my nature,
so that I feel all sin,
I cannot think or act but every motion is sin.

Return again with showers of converting grace
to a poor Gospel-abusing sinner.
Help my soul to breathe after holiness, after a constant devotedness to thee, after growth in grace more abundantly every day.

O Lord, I am lost in the pursuit of this blessedness,
and am ready to sink because I fall short of my desire;
Help me to hold out a little longer,
until the happy hour of deliverance comes,
for I cannot lift my soul to thee
if thou of thy goodness bring me not close.

Help me to be diffident, watchful, tender,
lest I offend my blessed friend in thought and behavior;
I confide in You and lean upon You,
and need You at all times to assist and lead me.

O that all my distresses and apprehensions might prove but Christ's school
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility.

- The Valley Of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions.

If this doesn't summarize how I've felt in recent days, I'm not sure what does. It's refreshing to express so genuinely to God how little I'm able to accomplish of my own energy and strength. He is not caught off guard, surprised, nor does He sit back and scoff at my weakness. Christ's power in us is made perfect through weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), so the weaker we become - the more we admit we can't carry our load alone - the more powerfully God works in and through us. It's obviously backwards from what we've all been taught or experience in this life. You don't "climb the ladder" by admitting you are weak or unable to even climb at all. "Suppress your fears, deny your insecurities, climb on your own strength and don't bother knocking people off the ladder on your way up." - that's more along the lines of how the world deals with weakness. Thankfully God is bigger than this world and loves to overcome weakness through His bold power.

If you are anything like me, very weak and fragile at times, then you'll relate with this Puritan prayer. Pray it with me, and trust that God will renew your strength. Jesus, we need You at every hour, at every turn, during every trial, storm and distress, we need You when we are sailing and when we are drowning. We need You in both good times and bad. Help us not to keep going without You. Help us not to fall behind or get too far ahead of You. Help us to stay steady on the course You've mapped out for us. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see. Give us Love and all the Fruit of Your Spirit. Give us Grace.

August 13, 2009

Sleeping Church, Awake!

I'm currently about half way through the book "Living Water" by Brother Yun. The Chapter I'm on is titled "Sleeping Church, Awake!". I couldn't help but post a portion of it. My life has been deeply impacted by both of Yun's books - "The Heavenly Man" and "Living Water". If you have yet to read either, you are missing out on not just the incredible testimonies of God but a powerful message to all of us living in "plenty" - it's time that we arise from our slumber and begin seeking the Lord with diligence. God has so radically shifted my focus over this past year. It feels as though He continues to literally open my eyes to a reality I never seriously considered. That reality is one of taking God at His Word and believing that "nothing is impossible" with Him - even when every circumstance around me begs the opposite. My love for the Lord (and others) has increased to such a degree that it's not uncommon anymore to find myself in a mess of tears just weeping over the fact that God left the 99 sheep to pursue a train wreck, like me. If anything, I feel such a desire and hunger to grow deeper and further. To not find myself satisfied with an increase of spiritual desire but to allow God free reign to continue this process of tearing me down to build me back up.

I pray you are blessed by this excerpt from "Living Water";

{Believers often use Revelation 3:20 as an invitation to salvation (note: this includes me!). It says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me." Closer examination of this passage reveals that Jesus wasn't knocking at the door of unbelievers' hearts when he said those words. He was knocking at the door of the backslidden church at Laodicea. Jesus was standing outside the door of the church, knocking and asking to be let in! It's a sad indictment, but Jesus continues to be an unwelcome guest in many churches today. Many continue to operate in their lifeless religiosity, "having a form of godliness and YET denying it's power" (2 Timothy 3:5).

Wake up! Repent! Let the Lord Jesus come into your lives and into your churches. He loves all people, and as long as you have breath in you, it's not too late for Him to use you for His glory.

A spiritually dull church or believer is a poor witness for the living, resurrected Jesus. A church is meant to be a training centre and command hub for war, not a social club for pleasantries and hypocrisy, where people give lip service to Christ while refusing to obey His commands. Not only does God want you to wake up, but He has a work for you to do.

As I have traveled around the world, I have met many wonderful brothers and sisters. They listen intently to every word that is spoken, but there is one major thing missing in their spiritual lives. They need to start obeying the Word of God. They need to step out and start being doers of the Word instead of just listeners. James said, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).

You see, when you only listen to the Word of God, your heart gets filled up with spiritual food. This is good, but it is there to serve a purpose. That purpose is for you to go and share the food you have with the hungry, so that they too can know Jesus. If you just keep God's blessings to yourself, you will become a bloated and sick Christian. When you share them with others, the Holy Spirit will give you more so that you can share more. It is a wonderful thing.

The greatest battle in the history of humankind is taking place right now. No, it's not the "war on terror", but a conflict far more intense and far-reaching! It is the battle for the souls of humankind. This war affects every single person in the world, for their eternal destinies depend on the result. Satan is busy trying to drag as many people to hell with him as possible. The Bible tells us, "Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short" (Rev. 12:12). } - Brother Yun

Almighty God of whom belongs all power, glory, and honor - WAKE YOUR SLUMBERING BRIDE!

To read more about Brother Yun's story, go here.

August 5, 2009

Fruit of the Vine

Jesus said: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” {Matthew 12: 33-37}

It was a few years back when I was seated at the end of a conference table in a closed room, surrounded and outnumbered by what most would assume to have been a local gang of homeless youth. Despite their appearance, these were not mere vagabonds, they were homeless with a purpose. I always loved the times where bands would come by the offices and spend time with us - which usually meant a BBQ or in the case of mewithoutYou, our favorite pizza from Mad. I especially loved it when the Philly boys came to town as it almost always meant quality conversation and good fellowship. This day was no different. I believe it was Aaron who posed the pointed question in reference to the "Christian" Music Industry: "Can a good tree bear bad fruit?" - a question that I wasn't sure how to answer at the time and that has stuck with me over the years. It's a question that applies more broadly than to a single record label or even an entire industry. It is a question we should all be asking ourselves. The notion of "fruit" - the obvious, tangible product of faith expressed in our daily behavior - is how Christ told us we could differentiate the real expression of faith from that of an attempted counterfeit.

Jesus spoke these harsh words (possibly the harshest of all His words) to the Pharisees - a group of Jewish theologians who studied the Word but did not live by or under it's power, nor did they recognize the Word himself (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1) even though He performed incredible miracles right in front of their eyes. What is evil can not speak what is good, though it may try hard to fool us all. Authenticity in a jewel may not be something most of us could recognize with our untrained, naked eyes. Take the same jewel to a qualified jeweler and he could tell you straight away that it wasn't worth a penny. Do you and I have the discernment to recognize when God is truly at work? I don't know about you, but I do not want to miss a single work of God because I was too busy focusing on a tree that was never even capable of producing good fruit.

Jesus shed His innocent blood for us that we would not end up like the Pharisees - whose name ironically meant "separated ones" or "loved by God". He died for us that we would actually live. Not just even live but bear fruit; “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:5-6) We can do nothing without Him. Bearing good fruit is not an issue of trying exceptionally hard to succeed. Setting our minds towards success does not guarantee we'll reach it. Working as hard as humanly possible with our hands still isn't enough to bear good spiritual fruit. Abiding (or continuing to remain) in Jesus is our only hope.

Idle words. Did you know that you'd be judged for them? That by our words we will either be justified or condemned? Were it not for the blood of Jesus, we'd all be guilty simply on account of idle words. Think of a car when it sits idling at a stop light - no gas is being supplied to move the car forward. As much as it might keep you from an accident, an idle car doesn't get you anywhere. Our idle words do about as much good as the driver of an idling car trying to make it across the country. Idle words don't empower those around us. They're not encouraging nor do they speak life where there has been death. Only God can empower our speech in the way that we read in Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Your words matter. Pray that God would not allow them to fly out of your lips unless they are aimed at producing fruit in someone. Pray God allows you to bear the kind of fruit He intends for you.

Remain in Him and He will remain in you.