The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Picture of a Prophet - by Leonard Ravenhill

The prophet in his day is fully accepted of God and totally rejected by men.

Years back, Dr. Gregory Mantle was right when he said, "No man can be fully accepted until he is totally rejected." The prophet of the Lord is aware of both these experiences. They are his "brand name."

The group, challenged by the prophet because they are smug and comfortably insulated from a perishing world in their warm but untested theology, is not likely to vote him "Man of the year" when he refers to them as habituates of the synagogue of Satan!

The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. In a day of faceless politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent national need than that we cry to God for a prophet! The function of the prophet, as Austin-Sparks once said, "has almost always been that of recovery."

The prophet is God's detective seeking for a lost treasure. The degree of his effectiveness is determined by his measure of unpopularity. Compromise is not known to him.

He has no price tags.
He is totally "otherworldly."
He is unquestionably controversial and unpardonably hostile.
He marches to another drummer!
He breathes the rarefied air of inspiration.
He is a "seer" who comes to lead the blind.
He lives in the heights of God and comes into the valley with a "thus saith the Lord."
He shares some of the foreknowledge of God and so is aware of impending judgment.
He lives in "splendid isolation."
He is forthright and outright, but he claims no birthright.
His message is "repent, be reconciled to God or else...!"
His prophecies are parried.
His truth brings torment, but his voice is never void.
He is the villain of today and the hero of tomorrow.
He is excommunicated while alive and exalted when dead!
He is dishonored with epithets when breathing and honored with epitaphs when dead.
He is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but few "make the grade" in his class.
He is friendless while living and famous when dead.
He is against the establishment in ministry; then he is established as a saint by posterity.
He eats daily the bread of affliction while he ministers, but he feeds the Bread of Life to those who listen.
He walks before men for days but has walked before God for years.
He is a scourge to the nation before he is scourged by the nation.
He announces, pronounces, and denounces!
He has a heart like a volcano and his words are as fire.
He talks to men about God.
He carries the lamp of truth amongst heretics while he is lampooned by men.
He faces God before he faces men, but he is self-effacing.
He hides with God in the secret place, but he has nothing to hide in the marketplace.
He is naturally sensitive but supernaturally spiritual.
He has passion, purpose and pugnacity.
He is ordained of God but disdained by men.

Our national need at this hour is not that the dollar recover its strength, or that we save face over the Watergate affair, or that we find the answer to the ecology problem. We need a God-sent prophet!

I am bombarded with talk or letters about the coming shortages in our national life:
bread, fuel, energy. I read between the lines from people not practiced in scaring folk. They feel that the "seven years of plenty" are over for us. The "seven years of famine" are ahead. But the greatest famine of all in this nation at this given moment is a FAMINE OF THE HEARING OF THE WORDS OF GOD (Amos 8:11).

Millions have been spent on evangelism in the last twenty-five years. Hundreds of gospel messages streak through the air over the nation every day. Crusades have been held; healing meetings have made a vital contribution. "Come-outers" have "come out" and settled, too, without a nation-shaking revival. Organizers we have. Skilled preachers abound. Multi-million dollar Christian organizations straddle the nation. BUT where, oh where, is the prophet? Where are the incandescent men fresh from the holy place? Where is the Moses to plead in fasting before the holiness of the Lord for our moldy morality, our political perfidy, and sour and sick spirituality?


They will come. The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history.

There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by other men, even other good men, because they consider him too austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable. Let him be as plain as John the Baptist. Let him for a season be a voice crying in the wilderness of modern theology and stagnant "churchianity." Let him be as selfless as Paul the apostle. Let him, too, say and live, "This ONE thing I do." Let him reject ecclesiastical favors. Let him be self-abasing, nonself-seeking, nonself-projecting, nonself- righteous, nonself-glorying, nonself-promoting. Let him say nothing that will draw men to himself but only that which will move men to God. Let him come daily from the throne room of a holy God, the place where he has received the order of the day. Let him, under God, unstop the ears of the millions who are deaf through the clatter of shekels milked from this hour of material mesmerism. Let him cry with a voice this century has not heard because he has seen a vision no man in this century has seen. God send us this Moses to lead us from the wilderness of crass materialism, where the rattlesnakes of lust bite us and where enlightened men, totally blind spiritually, lead us to an ever-nearing Armageddon.

God have mercy! Send us PROPHETS!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personal Revival: Why Should We Want it? How Can We Get it?

Why revival? Why should we be interested in revival? Isn’t that out of date and out of touch with what we need and what people are looking for today? Isn’t that for the old folk who in bygone days would run up and down the aisles of churches or tents at camp meetings waving a hanky and shouting? Will revival put food on my table and money in my pocket? Will revival heal my broken heart? Will it get me that promotion? Will revival make me successful? Will revival meet my needs? Those are some interesting questions and I do believe personal revival is a key to addressing them, but perhaps in a way that we’ve yet to consider. You see, God has an answer; in fact He is the Answer to all of those questions (John 14:6). Without God or with a distant relationship with God our priorities and perspectives are all out of whack so that our focus is on the symptoms rather than the root problem. The root problem is that we are either separated from God by our sin (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2) and need to be saved (Romans 6:23), or we have drifted from God and lost our bearings (Revelation 2:1-7). These questions are not bad in and of themselves; they are just the wrong questions. The Bible tells us to trust and delight in God and He will give us the right desires in our heart and get us through our times of difficulties (Psalm 37:3-5). God has promised to supply all of our needs through Jesus (Philippians 4:13, 19). It is by drawing close to God through faith in Jesus that all of these questions are put in proper perspective and provided for. That’s why we need revival; revival brings us closer to God through salvation and renewal in the Spirit. Today, as never before, we need revival.

The first revival in the recorded revelation of God occurs in Genesis 35. It is there where after a tragic sequence of events involving the rape of one of his daughters and the murderous revenge of his sons against the perpetrator Shechem (as well as the innocents of the city where he lived), that God moved upon Jacob to lead his family in revival. Revivals are often preceded by some tragedy, trial or spiritual low point. When we look at the world nationally and internationally we see a great deal of tragedy. When we look not only globally, but locally and personally we can find tragedy, pain and hardship that threatens to push us down and away from God. It is just during such times of fear, trepidation, uncertainty, and despair that we need a revival from God that will give us the faith and courage in Him to get us through it all.

There is a literary principle of first mention at work here. The first mention in the Bible of a word or subject serves to lay a foundation or pattern for future reoccurrences of that same word or subject. Such is the case in Genesis 35; it lays the groundwork and sets the pattern for personal revival. Below are some things that we need to realize to experience personal revival. There are some questions to help us assess where we are with the Lord. There are also related scriptures in parenthesis we should prayerfully consider. We need revival and God desires revival for us. Let’s turn to Genesis 35 and after prayerfully reading the chapter join together in seeking a personal revival by considering the following questions.

First, realize God initiates revival. Genesis 35 begins with the words, “then God said to Jacob” (35:1a; see Acts 15:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:12-13). God saw the need and spoke to Jacob. Do I believe God can revive me, that He wants to and can change me? Are you fully trusting in Him to speak to you, to change you, or are you relying on yourself or something or someone other than God?

Second, realize revival involves God reminding us of where we once were (35:1b; see also Revelation 2:1-7). God directed Jacob to a place where he had been close to and in the presence of God (Genesis 28). Are you closer to the Lord now than you were when you first accepted Jesus as Savior? Are you closer to the Lord now than you were a year ago, six months ago, a month ago? If you aren’t steadily growing closer to the Lord, you are probably backsliding (Jeremiah 3:6-15; Hosea 14:4).

When you were saved you proclaimed Jesus as your Lord (Romans 10:8-10). Is He still your Lord? Have you slowly or rebelliously taken back some of the things you once gave Him control of? Maybe you need to go to Him in prayer and return that which you’ve taken back. And maybe you need to ask Him to search you deeper for areas that need to be surrendered to His Lordship. Is He your “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”? (See Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16). ). If you’re not closer today than you were in the past, why do you think that is? Ask the Lord to show you.

Third, realize revivals often work through a person chosen by God who acts on God’s word (35:2a). The account goes on to say, “And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, . . .” The Lord started this revival by speaking individually to Jacob. What is God saying to you? God moved on Jacob’s heart and he passed on to others what the Lord had put on his heart. Revivals can be quenched by those who keep what God conveys to them to themselves. If God gives a word, he desires us to share it! (Jeremiah 20:9; Galatians 6:2; 1 Peter 3:15). It may be a testimony of what God has done, is doing or has promised to do in your life. It may be a scripture He has put on your heart. It may be answered prayer. It may be something the Lord has convicted you about and that you obediently intend to change. God can use such things to spark a revival. Caution: don’t feel like you have to say something; don’t use such a time to voice a pet peeve or gripe; listen to the Lord and only speak if He directs you to do so (Acts 4:8f., 31; 13:9f.; James 1:19-20; 1 Peter 4:11).

Fourth, realize revivals involve holiness, a willingness to forsake anything and everything that is not pleasing to God (35:2b; Psalm 66:18; 139:23-24;Jeremiah 4:3-4; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:22-25). Is there a sin in your life that you have been allowing? Have you been rationalizing or overlooking some clear contradiction of God’s word in your life? Remember, God is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all in your life. The missionary Jonathan Goforth stated:

If revival is being withheld from us it is because some idol remains still enthroned; because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes; because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that, 'It is not by might, but by My Spirit.'

Fifth, realize revivals involve taking action on God’s word (35:3-4). Jacob and his family took action; they obeyed the word of the Lord. Jesus said the one who truly loved Him was the one who was obedient to Him (John 14:21, 23). Do you love Jesus enough to obey Him? (Matthew 7:21-28; James 1:22-24).

Sixth, realize revivals result in God’s protection (35:5). Are you afraid of something or someone? Revivals come when we trust in God to protect us (Psalm 4:8; 11; 121; 124; 139:10; Isaiah 41:10; 54:17; 59:19; John 10:28-30; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). God is better able to defend us against our enemies than we are or any other earthly person. John Wesley used to say:

Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen; they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.

Seventh, realize revivals result in a focus on God (35:6-7).Jacob moved from merely remembering that holy place named “Bethel” (“house of God”) to focusing on “El Bethel,” or the God of the house of God. When the Holy Spirit is working and bringing revival the focus is on Jesus (John 15:26). Focus on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2; 13:5).
Eighth, realize revivals may involve weeping (35:8). Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died and the place where they lay her was then called “the oak of weeping.” Revivals sometimes come to prepare us for a loss (see Death of Rachel in 35:16-29). It could be the literal loss of an individual, or it could be the loss of a portion of our sinful “self” that we need to hold a funeral for (see Romans 6; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:1-11). Weeping shows a willingness to allow our emotions out. People are often reserved or embarrassed to let their emotions out. Sometimes the keeping in of emotions is a sign of pride. When was the last time you shed a tear before the Lord? In humility (not prideful show) we should let our emotions out before the Lord (See Psalm 30:4-5; Hebrews 12:12-17; James 4:7-10).

Ninth, realize revival leads to insight and greater perception of God and our relationship to Him (35:9-11; Psalm 42). We need to draw near to God (Psalm 73:28; James 4:8). Jacob the heel-catcher or selfish grabber was transformed to “Israel” or “one governed by God” one who served God as LORD. Revival brings us back to our best time with God and then brings us even deeper as God works in us a greater capacity to know Him on a deeper level (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:9-14). Often a revival begins with the Lord bringing a portion of scripture to mind that He wants to use in your life. Is there a verse or passage the Lord is putting on your heart now? How can it be applied to your life? Is God speaking to you about some changes you need to make? Revivals start when people respect His revelation and take it to heart (e.g. Jeremiah 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Is there a verse God used to speak to you in the past that perhaps He wants you to return to and reapply?

Tenth, realize revival leads to memorable fruitfulness and blessing (35:11b-14). God revived Jacob and sent him out to be “fruitful and multiply.” And after God left him, he erected a stone pillar, a lasting symbol to remind him of this special time. Jacob then poured out a drink offering and “poured oil on it. “ Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in scripture (Zechariah 4). Are you spiritually fruitful? Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus? Are you being used by Him in some way? Are you involved in His ministry, in His church? We are fruitful when we abide in Jesus (John 15). When the Holy Spirit is at work He bears fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-25) and through us (Colossians 1:9-12).

We need revival, in the world, as a nation and personally. Pray for and receive God’s work of revival in your heart and life. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A New Heresy: C5 Contextualization Evangelism

Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons - 1 Timothy 4:1

There is a heresy infiltrating the church. It is a heretical form of evangelism that waters down the gospel and strips Jesus of His deity. The name of this heretical form of evangelism is C5 Contextualization.

C5 Contextualization takes relating to the religious persuasions of indigenous peoples to a new level. This is a form of "evangelism" that holds that we shouldn't seek to have people change their religion (e.g. Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.) but only get people to accept "Jesus" into their religious context. For instance Muhammad is seen as a valid prophet of God and the Koran a holy book. The result is that the gospel is completed watered down and Jesus robbed of His deity in this "evangelism". Paul warned of being deceived and accepting "another Jesus whom we have not preached, or . . . a different gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). That is exactly what C5 Contextualization instructs the Christian to do. I encourage you to watch this short video and be aware of such "doctrines of demons" that are proliferating in our day. God help us. God give us discernment. God give us spiritual and scriptural insight to discern truth from falsehood and then contend for the faith once and for all handed down to us (1 Corinthians 2:14; Philippians 1:9; Jude 3-4).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Do You Really Want to be Filled with the Spirit?

There are a number of aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit in life. These aspects are indicated at times by the use of prepositions. The Holy Spirit is “with” people prior to their conversion as He convicts them of their sinfulness and leads them to Jesus as Savior (John 14:17a; 16:8-11). Rejecting the Spirit’s overtures in this regard is the only unforgiveable sin (Mat. 12:31; Mark 3:28-29). When a person responds to the Spirit by turning from their sins (repentance) and trusts in Jesus as Savior, God forgives them. God gives the repentant person eternal life and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell “in” the new believer (John 14:17b; 20:22; Rom. 5:5; 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). As the new believer grows in their faith they have a desire to do things for their Lord. In their own strength they will be frustrated in their attempts to do anything for the Lord (e.g. Rom 7). That is why believers need a subsequent work of the Spirit in their lives which is when the Holy Spirit comes “upon” them in power (Acts 1:8; 2; 8:16, 24; 10:44; 11:15; 19:6). When the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer he empowers the believer with the ability to do.

In addition to the indwelling of the Spirit at conversion and the empowering of the Spirit when He comes upon the believer, there are subsequent fillings or refreshings of the believer by the Spirit. The Bible uses the phrase “filled with the Spirit” to describe the daily renewal and refreshing the believer needs (e.g. Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9). There are subsequent re-fillings and refreshing by the Spirit in the believer’s life. The sense of this ongoing work is found in Paul’s inspired letter to the Ephesians where he states, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” (Eph. 5:18).

Paul is inspired to tell us here that we should not get “drunk with wine in which is dissipation.” To be drunk is to be intoxicated. It is a state of diminished senses and sensitivity to what is around you. To be drunk is to have your mind dulled. “Dissipation” means literally unsavedness, wastefulness, profligacy, prodigality, an abandoned desolate type of life. The Lord has so much more than this for us.

Instead we are to be “filled with the Spirit.” The word “filled” means, to make replete, to cram, to satisfy, fill up, fulfill, make full, perfect, supply. In addition to this definition, the grammatical form of the term “filled” conveys the thought of an ongoing and constant work that the believer receives or has done to them that is absolutely essential. Therefore, to “be filled with the Spirit” means to be constantly, regularly, daily filled up, satisfied, furnished and supplied with the Spirit for one’s daily needs and God-ordained plans. Being filled doesn’t mean you get more of the Spirit; it means the Spirit gets more of you; all of you.

The impact of such a daily filling is conveyed in the book of Acts where those who had experienced the empowerment of the Spirit at Pentecost again pray for this ongoing empowerment and refreshing. In Acts we read, “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). When the Spirit comes upon the believer in fullness He empowers the believer with the ability to do; to do whatever the Lord calls the believer to do. Therefore the fullness of the Spirit is very important in the life of the believer.

Do you really want to be filled with the Spirit? Some will answer immediately without thinking and say “Yes!” But to be filled with the Spirit will cost you. Before there can be a resurrection, there has to be a crucifixion. Jesus said if anyone was going to come after Him they must deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Him (Lk. 9:23). To be filled with the Spirit you’ll have to fully surrender to the Lord. You’ll have to trust the Lord enough to give Him control of everything in your life. That means if you are single, have a hard to live with spouse, bad job, illness or any other problem, God may choose to keep you in that situation to show the sufficiency of His grace (2 Cor. 12:9-10). He may not, but He may. Are you willing, really willing, to trust Him that much? Think and pray about that.

Sanctified Transformation is by Faith. God’s purpose in all of this is to conform us to the likeness of His only Son Jesus (Rom 8:29). This is God’s will for every believer (1 Thess. 4:3). It is a process God does in us called sanctification (Phil. 2:13; 1 Thess. 5:23-24). Sanctification like salvation is a work of God in us that is done by faith (Acts 15:8-9; 26:18; Gal. 2:20; 5:5). The sanctifying process of God in the believer takes place as the believer puts their faith and trust in God to do it. We surrender in faith to the Holy Spirit to do His holy work in and through us. How much do you trust the Lord?

There are 4 Evidentiary Effects of the Spirit Filled Believer. In Ephesians from chapter five verse eighteen it goes on to state, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:19-21). The context of Ephesians 5:18 therefore gives us four criteria by which to determine the presence of Spirit fullness in a person. These four evidentiary effects are as follows.

First the Spirit filled believer will talk differently (5:19a). Paul says, “speaking to one another.” The Spirit filled believer will talk differently. They will speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). They won’t speak unwholesome words but their words will be gracious and edifying (Eph. 4:29). The Spirit filled believer will talk in a pure and holy way. How do you talk?

Secondly, the Spirit filled believer will have a song in their heart (5:19b). They will have a psalm in their heart or a prayerful song. They will have hymns in their heart or songs that communicate the truths of scripture. They will have a heart of worship toward the Lord. Do you have a song in your heart, a passion to worship the Lord? Worship is a way of life but singing is a big part of it. Do you come to service late to avoid the singing? Are you willing to trust the Lord enough to sing to Him, even if you’re off key?

Thirdly, the Spirit filled believer will be thankful always for all things (5:20). It is only by the Spirit that a person can offer thanks to the Lord all the time and in all things, even trials and difficulties. With the Spirit ruling our hearts we will have the wisdom and strength to offer thanks to God “for all things.” It’s one thing to thank God for the good stuff, can you thank Him for the pain, sorrow and trials in your life trusting and knowing He has a Plan. It’s only in the Spirit that we can live in that kind of surrender to the Lord.

Fourthly, the Spirit filled believer will live in mutual submission toward others (5:21). The Spirit filled believer does away with the spirit of competition and instead esteems others better than themselves. The Spirit filled believer will live by “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The desire and priority of the Spirit filled believer will be for God to be glorified. If God uses someone else to bring glory to His name then the Spirit filled believer will rejoice that God is glorified. The spirit of competition that leads to jealousy, resentment and conflict will be defeated for those living in the power of the Spirit. The Spirit filled believer knows God has the right to exalt or bring low His servants as he sees fit (Rom. 14:7-13). God has the right to reward His servants as he sees fit (Mat. 20:1-16). How do you feel when the Lord blesses those around you? Do you rejoice that they are being used to bless God or are you jealous that God didn’t use you?

Do you see these four criteria in your life? Are you filled with the Spirit? Do you really want to be filled with the Spirit; really? If you want to be filled with the Spirit all you need to do is trust the Lord and fully surrender your life to Him. Give God the freedom to do whatever He deems necessary to make you like Jesus. Then you will experience His presence like never before. Then you will experience God’s fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Pray about it. Trust Him. Do it!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Would you consider . . . ?

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. - 1 Corinthians 4:1

Dear Friends,

This blog is a ministry. From time to time it is good to assess ministry in order to be a good steward of the time and effort involved in its upkeep and to determine the leading of the Lord.

In order to gauge the direction in which the Lord is leading would you consider joining the membership of the Shepherd of Hope blog site?

Would you consider inviting others to become members of this site? This will enable me to determine the direction in which the Lord is leading.

Joining the blog site will give you an automatic notice when a new teaching or other material is posted. It will also help gauge the audience which the site is reaching. This will give a better indication about what materials are most appropriate to minister to those interested in the site. It will also help in considering how to broaden the ministry field.

To join the blog just click the button on the right side of the blog site and follow the instructions. It's very easy.

I would also welcome your comments and suggestions about how to better the site and make it more helpful and God glorifying.

Even if you choose to disregard this request, would you also consider praying for this ministry venture in faith?

You are appreciated and I pray the Lord directs you to join me in this ministry. God bless.

in His service, by His grace, for His glory,

Pastor Claude

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Perfecting Holiness

2 Corinthians 7:1 - Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Whenever you see the word “therefore,” in a passage you should ask, “What is it there for?” In this case “Therefore,” serves to connect 2 Corinthians chapters six and seven. 2 Corinthians 7:1 is an inspired call to holiness based on what was said in chapter six.

The verse continues, “having these promises.” What promises is Paul speaking of? In chapter six Paul speaks of the promise of an intimate personal saving relationship with the LORD Almighty (6:16-18). This is a promise Paul testifies he has been willing to sacrifice greatly to communicate to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 6:1-10). It is a promise Paul has openly shared with them from his heart (cf. also 2 Cor. 5:14). They on the other hand were being hindered in their relationship with God because of certain “affections” or gut feelings (2 Cor. 6:11-13). They were apparently allowing their relationship with the Lord to be “restricted” or cramped by relationships with unbelievers that were inappropriate (2 Cor. 6:14-16). These relationships were leading them into “lawlessness,” “darkness,” idolatry and worthless things, things more closely associated with Satan than Christ. Christian relationships with unbelievers are necessary for God to work His salvation in them. But such relationships should never hinder our walk with God. We are to be in the world but not of the world. The problem for some is that they are so in the world that they become like the world. We should never allow affections for the world to hinder our love for God (e.g. 1 John 2:15-17). It is this context that Paul calls the Corinthians to cleansing from worldly “filthiness” and to living a holy life.

Paul addresses the readers as, “beloved.” Paul wants the Corinthians to receive the call of God to holiness in the context of His love. That is why chapter five precedes chapter six and seven in context. God loves us. We are His “beloved.” And because He loves us He calls us to live a holy life. God does not direct us to and call us to a holy life because He wants to restrict us or keep something good from us. God calls us to a holy life because He loves us and knows a holy life is what is best for us.

In this key verse we are exhorted to, “let us cleanse ourselves . . .” The word “cleanse” is translated from the Greek verb katharidzo and means, “to cleanse; make clean, purge, purify.” We get the English word catheterization from this term. A catheter is a medical device used to purge the body of waste and impurities when the body is unable to do so itself. This verb is in the Greek subjunctive tense which expresses a possibility. Cleansing from sinful impurities is possible if we turn to God and ask Him to do it. For instance in Hebrews 9:14 it states the blood of Jesus is able to cleanse or purge our consciences from dead works associated with sin. There are actions needed to be taken by us in order for cleansing to occur. But the actions we take are always based on the power God gives us (e.g. Acts 15:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:13; James 4:8). We need to keep that in mind otherwise the holy life becomes a disciplinary pursuit instead of an experience of God’s grace and work in us.

What are we to seek cleansing from? It states, “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit . . .” “Filthiness” refers to “a stain.” It is figuratively used to refer to immorality. Like a mud stain sin can stain our souls. The “flesh” can refer simply to our physical bodies. It can also refer to the sinful nature in people. Even after we become Christians we continue to have a sinful nature. This sinful nature is characterized by self-centeredness, selfishness, self promotion and everything that exalts self as a priority in life. The way of the world is centered on self. There is nothing wrong with caring for things pertaining to self. Being unkempt, poor and out of shape doesn’t make us more spiritual. The problem arises when self becomes the center and priority in our lives. The throne of our hearts was meant for Jesus to reign as Lord, not self-rule. Our flesh is at war with God over who will be in control us (Romans 7 and 8). Your “spirit” refers to that part of your being which is eternal. Your spirit is that part of you that has the life breath of existence. Your spirit is the core of your being. Now ask yourself, “What do I allow to stain me to the core? What do I allow to enter my being through what I watch with my eyes, or listen to with my ears?” Living a holy life takes into account those things that might stain my being and avoids them. There are a lot of perverse selfish things in this world and when we entertain them they sinfully stain us deeply. But those stains can be cleansed from our system. How might this happen?

The answer is, “perfecting holiness.” The word “perfecting” comes from a Greek Present Tense verb epiteleo which conveys an ongoing process. It’s going to take a lifetime to complete the holy work God has planned for us. The Greek verb epiteleo means, “to fulfill further or completely.” It means to execute a task. It means to finish something. It means to work until something is terminated. And it means performing until the end. In other words, we are to press on and persevere in the process set before us. And what is that endeavor we are to press on to complete? We are to press on to the end of holiness.

There is a sense in which God’s righteousness and holiness is imputed to a believer (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the standing of all believers (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:1). This is why all believers are referred to as “saints” or literally, holy ones (2 Corinthians 1:1). But there is a sense in which holiness is imparted in a very practical way to believers. This is the state of believers (1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 10:14). There is a process of sanctification or making one holy in life and conduct that God starts and continues in the person who is saved from their sin and born again spiritually. It is this later work of God in the believer that Paul is speaking about in these chapters.

The word “holiness” comes from the Greek term hagiosune which means, “sacredness.” It refers to the property or quality of holiness. Something that is sacred is “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship . . . .” That which is sacred is “devoted exclusively to one service or use.” The road to God’s comfort involves the process of becoming completely set apart for His use, completely dedicated to presenting your life as an act of worship to Him. The way we can cleanse the filthiness of sin from our hearts and minds to experience all God has for us is by this process of “perfecting holiness.”

What is holiness? Holiness is loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31). Holiness in a person’s life is important. God calls all those who follow Him to live a holy life (1 Peter 1:15-16). It is God’s will that we live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Without holiness we will not see the Lord; we won’t experience Him the way we should (Hebrews 12:14-15). Holiness involves a choice on our part to present ourselves to God for holy purposes (Romans 6:19a). Holiness is God’s work in us and involves being freed from sin (Romans 6:20-22; 8:26; Philippians 2:13). The Bible says God disciplines us so that we can partake of His holiness (Hebrews 10:14). Biblical holiness is something to be learned (Ephesians 4:20-21a). God uses His word for the cleansing work involved in the holy life (Eph. 5:26).It is based on the truth of Jesus (Ephesians 4:21b). It involves putting off sinful conduct from your life, being renewed in the Spirit and putting on holy Biblical conduct in the power of God (Ephesians 4:22-24). Biblical holiness is God’s love overflowing us and was an object of prayer by Paul on behalf of other believers (Romans 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13). How about you? Are you even interested in living a holy life? God calls every believer to holiness. Will you commit your life to God for this purpose, now?

Lastly, there is a holy perspective we are to have in this ongoing process of the holy life. That perspective is “in the fear of God.” The fear of God refers to a reverential awe toward God. The closer we draw to God the more clearly we will see our sin (e.g. Isaiah 6). The closer we draw to God, to Jesus, the more able to turn from sin we will be (John 15). We are to have a consciousness of God and who He is. God is holy and calls those who follow Him to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). He holds our eternal destinies in His hand. We are to work out our pursuit of holiness in reverence and awe of our Holy God (Philippians 2:12).

But there is another way of looking at the fear of the Lord. Let me illustrate. I love my wife very much. And because I love my wife so much, I would never intentionally do anything that would bring her sadness or pain. In fact, I am so in love with my wife and so serious about not doing anything that would bring her sorrow or pain that I fear doing so. In other words, I love my wife so much that I fear doing anything that would grieve her. In the same way we should love God so much that we fear doing anything that would bring Him pain over our actions. In this sense the fear of the Lord is closely connected to that holy love relationship with Him.

This is my prayer for myself and all of us - that in light of God’s glorious promises we determine to avail ourselves of God’s provisions to cleanse ourselves from the filth of this world and our fleshly ways. I pray we proceed in the Spirit to perfect holiness as a love gift to our awesome God. May God bring it to pass in us for His glory!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

He Will Choose Our Inheritance for Us

The short portion of scripture, “He will choose our inheritance for us . . .” comes from Psalm 47:4. It should be a great comfort to us. Why? Because it tells us two great things about God. First it tells us God is in control. Second, it tells us God takes particular interest in us. In fact, that verse should move us to, “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” (47:1). That God takes a personal interest in us is a blessed and incredible truth of scripture (cf. Ps. 139).

That God is in control should move us to exclaim, “For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth” (47:2). What does this mean? It means God is powerful enough to enforce His plans and we are the beneficiaries of that. You see the psalmist has been inspired to recount how God took a personal interest in His people and picked out the Promised Land for them. And not only did God pick out this Land but He cleared it out of challengers and enemies. The victory was won through the LORD. Read the rest of Psalm 47.

But Biblical history points out a problem. God’s blessed best for people was limited by the weakness of the people’s faith and failure to completely follow God’s warnings and instruction. God allowed this. This didn’t take God by surprise. God actually used this. He taught great lessons through what His people missed out on by not completely trusting in Him in obedience (see 1 Cor. 10). An example of this was Joshua being deceived by the Gibeonites and brought into an entangling alliance (see Joshua 9-10). Those Gibeonites proved to be a thorn in God’s people’s flesh for years to come.

God wants to do great things in and through us. Will we trust Him to do them? Will we obey Him; obey Him completely? We have no reason not to. God loves us incredibly and persistently (cf. Psalm 118 and 136). He has chosen our inheritance, a place where we will find rich blessing and our life purpose. But we don’t always enjoy the fullness of God’s best for us. Why? Sometimes we’ll miss it though dissatisfaction based on short sightedness. Sometimes we’ll miss it because of holding back from God or fear to trust Him entirely. And sometimes we’ll miss God’s best due to disobedience. I pray we trust Him entirely and come into His best for us; the inheritance He’s chosen for us.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Disappointment is a part of life. We live in a fallen world with fallen people and disappointment is inevitable. Disappointment is the first step toward despair. Despair is the vanquishing of hope. Disappointment is the result of unfulfilled hopes. Disappointment is a product of horizontal living; living with a godless “under the sun” perspective as Solomon put it (e.g. Ecclesiastes 1:3).

Those closest to us can be the greatest or most deeply grieving sources of disappointment. Nabal was literally a fool of a husband. His wife Abigail was a good and wise wife. Nabal’s foolishness almost caused them to lose everything, including their lives. A foolish spouse can cause great disappointment (1 Sam. 25:23-31). The wife who causes shame to her husband is said to be “like rottenness in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4). Eli’s sons were immoral and shamed him with public displays of their lustful indulgences. This was a great grief and disappointment to Eli (1 Sam. 2:12-17). Our children, who we love so much, can be one of the greatest sources of disappointment in our lives.

Disappointment comes from our own personal failures or being rejected by others. Sometimes this leads to thoughts of suicide. Ahithophel gave good counsel to the usurper King Absalom, but his counsel was rejected. He was so disappointed and crestfallen that he got on his donkey, went home, put his house in order, and then hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23). There is a better way to handle disappointment.

We may think that reason and understanding hold the key to alleviating disappointment but that’s not what Solomon was inspired by God to say. Solomon said, “My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge” (Ecclesiastes 1:16). But he went on to say, “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18). Knowing why things are the way they are does not necessarily mean they will be changed. In fact, it may add to our disappointment. You may understand the reason why a person is the way they are, but that may not mean they will change.

Rejection and persecution can cause us to be disappointed. Jeremiah was rejected by the people along with the message God had given him to share. He went so far as to say he would give up and not speak the word of the Lord anymore. But God’s word was in his heart like a fire and he couldn’t stop sharing it (Jer. 20:7-9). Here we begin to see the first trace of how to overcome disappointment.

Sometimes the mission or calling of God Himself on our lives is a source of disappointment. Like Jonah, we don’t like what God is telling us to do. Jonah hated the Assyrians. The Assyrians were a ruthless terroristic and merciless people. But God called Jonah to go and preach to these lost people. Jonah knew if he did that, they might repent and God would be merciful to this hated people. He was disappointed. He wanted God’s wrath on them. He wanted them to experience what he felt was the just judgment of God. He wanted them annihilated; to taste a bit of the suffering they had caused others to suffer (Jonah 4:1-9). It’s hard to love our enemies as Jesus calls us to do (Mat. 5:44-47). We’d rather see them get what we believe are their just deserts. We don’t like it when God tells us to love or forgive our offenders. And that is frequently a cause of disappointment to us.

When God’s promises don’t seem to be coming to pass it becomes a source of disappointment. Cleopas and his friend expressed this when they spoke of Jesus’ death (Luke 24:17-24). They, along with many others, had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, a political Messiah who would deliver Israel from the oppression of Rome. That was not God’s plan for Christ’s first coming. It took Jesus’ enlightening exposition of the scriptures about His resurrection to rekindle the fire in their hearts (Luke 24:27-32). Are you disappointed in an "unfulfilled" promise of God?

There is an antidote to disappointment. That antidote is the hope we find in the Lord. God tells us that His word was given to dispel disappointment and replace it with hope (Rom. 15:4). And the hope God gives does not disappoint. God promises, “Now hope [His hope] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). The hope God gives is not a pipe dream, vain or an empty hope. God’s hope is a living hope proven and verified, as sure as the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-4). Therefore, even though our lives may at times seem fruitless and empty, barren and filled with roadblocks, we can say, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like the deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills” (cf. Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Disappointment comes when we make our interests a priority over the LORD’s interests. When God’s people returned from the Babylonian exile to Jerusalem at one point they became very disappointed. They sowed seed, but harvested little. They consumed the fruit of the land but never seemed to be full. They clothed themselves but were never warm enough. They earned wages, but it never seemed enough to meet their needs. This led to disappointment. Why? God said, “Consider your ways!” The people had put their own personal interests ahead of God’s. And the result was that God withheld His blessing. God called for a drought on the land (Habakkuk 1:1-11). This disappointment wasn’t dispelled until the people got right with the LORD. They got right with the LORD by putting Him and His mission interests first again in their lives. They obeyed the LORD and revered His presence once again in their lives (Habakkuk 1:12). When the people did that, the LORD responded, “I am with you” (Habakkuk 1:13). The LORD stirred up the spirit in their lives and blew away the disappointment as they got back on track with Him. And here is the key; deliverance from disappointment comes through devotion to God. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mat. 6:33).

Disappointment comes when we don’t feel what God is doing is good enough or what we had hoped for. When God’s people returned from exile to rebuild the Temple, those who had seen the original Temple built by Solomon were greatly disappointed. The rebuilt Temple, in their eyes, was nowhere near as glorious as the original Temple. They were disappointed that their sinfulness had led to a diminishing of the glory of this great place. There are times where we sin and suffer loss. We don’t think we will ever be happy again; ever rejoice again; ever experience the fullness of God again the way we once did. To that God says, “My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” (Habakkuk 2:1-5). God told the returning Israelites that He was going to “shake heaven and earth” and “shake all nations” and in time the glory of the rebuilt Temple would, “be greater than the former” (Habakkuk 2:6-9). God gives us hope when we have to rebuild portions of our lives. God is able to restore us (Joel 2:25). Our lives may not be exactly the same, but if we look to Him, wait on Him and His work, we will find satisfaction and joy in exchange for disappointment.

In the end disappointment is a loss of trust in God. This can manifest itself by ignoring the Lord and His word resulting in sin. It can be in times of uncertainty or confusion when because we don’t understand what the Lord is doing, we indulge the disappointing thoughts slung at us by the enemy. When that happens we need to protect ourselves with the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16). We need to trust in the goodness of God who has a plan He is working out and that in the end His good will prevail (cf. Jer. 29:11-13; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 2:10). God doesn’t forget our labors of love on His behalf (Hebrews 6:9-10). And if we know God remembers our lives lived for Him, we can be sure of “better things” that our loving heavenly Father will bestow on us. This is a rich hope that deals a death blow to disappointment. Indeed, God can be trusted; He doesn’t lie and He isn’t capricious or wishy-washy. The hope we have in God is dependable; it serves to anchor our soul (Hebrews 6:18-19). Don’t be disappointed, be devoted to God.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

God's Blessed "No"

God's "No" to a prayerful request is just as blessed as His "Yes." In the Garden of Gethsemene Jesus asked the Father to come up with another way for Him to atone for the sins of the world. God's will was "No." The result was the greatest expression of love in eternity and salvation for all who believe in Christ's cross work (Romans 5:1,8).

The apostle Paul prayed three times for God to remove a "thorn in the flesh" from him. God answered, "No." Only then was Paul blessed with the realization of the sufficiency of God's grace and that the power of God is most fully revealed as He works through "weakness." Paul found contentment and reason to praise God because God said, "No."

Think of the blessings so many have missed out on when they tried to get around God's blessed, "No." The Rich Young Ruler was a religious person who served God comfortably on his terms. But the comfort of religion was leaving him dry and hollow. He came to Jesus because he was missing something. Jesus offered him fulfillment and an abundant life, but he would have to accept God's "No" to the idols of religion and affluence. He turned away from God's blessed "No" and missed out on eternal life (Luke 18:18-34).

I know from experience that God's "No" is better than my sought after "Yes" any day. I know that when I look at my youngest son Stephen. Now he’s a strong athletic strapping young man on his way to college. But when Stephen was born he wouldn't have survived unless God had answered "No" to some of my prayers.

Thirty two weeks into my wife's pregnancy, doctor's estimated Stephen to be over five pounds. He was a large baby and we were told he would probably arrive two weeks early. My wife and I were glad for this since Stephen's size made for an especially uncomfortable pregnancy.

As the due date approached, week after week passed without the delivery of our big bundle of joy. We began to pray, "Where's Stephen Lord?" And, "Lord, please bring him out soon . . . . Lord, have mercy!"

The due date came and passed with no Stephen, just a huge mound in the middle of my wife's body. One night after praying, a friend commented, "There must be a reason for Stephen's delay. God is saying 'No' for a purpose."

Stephen Jeffrey Stauffer was finally born by natural child birth on April 13th, 1993. He was one week late. My wife will confirm he was a BIG, BIG boy at ten pounds and one ounce! Not only was he big, but he was born with a congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Two Greater Arteries. This condition occurs when the pulmonary and aorta arteries of the heart are crossed in such a way as to prevent oxygenation by the blood to the body. This is a potentially fatal condition.

The corrective open heart surgery is nicknamed a "Switch." The switch was successfully performed on Stephen during his fourth day of life. After Stephen's near perfect recovery, doctor's told us that Stephen was one of the largest babies upon which they had ever done such an operation. The commented, his large heart definitely helped him! A larger baby is easier for the surgeon to work on. You see, an infant's heart is only the size of a walnut! His larger bodyweight gave him the strength he needed to recuperate as rapidly as he did.

Why did God say "No" when we prayed for him to be born? Because God wanted to give Stephen additional time in the womb to build his strength for the ordeal before him. Our perspective was limited. Not even the sonograms done on my wife prior to Stephen's birth showed such a heart condition. God's perspective was perfect! All we could finally say was, "Thank You Lord for Your blessed 'No' to our prayers for an early delivery."

God's providence did not end there. When Stephen's condition was in the initial stages of being diagnosed, we were told his problem was due to either a viral infection or a defect of his heart. To a layman, an "infection" sounded far less serious than anything with the word "defect" attached to it. So that's how we prayed, "Lord, please let Stephen have an infection and not a defect in his heart." But God said "No" to all those prayers. Later we were more completely informed that had Stephen had an infection in his heart it may have created an irreparable condition. If God had given in to our plea Stephen may have been permanently, possibly fatally flawed. All we could say later was, "Thank You again Lord for Your blessed 'No.'"

Stephen's switch was originally scheduled to be done at a local Long Island, New York hospital. However, just prior to consenting to perform the operation, the local surgeon "observed" what he believed to be "a fly in the ointment." A detailed examination of Stephen's heart appeared to show additional holes in the lower ventricles (i.e. chambers) of his heart. The local surgeon wasn't sure he could handle such a condition. The alternative was for Stephen to be transferred to Boston Children's Hospital. Going to Boston meant being separated from our two young children then aged three and four years old. To us this meant further disruption to our family. So we prayed, "Lord, please let the local surgeon be able to do Stephen's surgery." But you know what? The local surgeon decided Stephen needed "clam shell clamps" to close the holes he saw. Only Boston Children's Hospital could perform such an operation at the time. Again God said "No." Stephen, my wie Dee and I were flown via air ambulance to Boston where his condition could be repaired.

Why did God see it necessary for us to be further disrupted? Why had He said, "No"? We later discovered that our local hospital had performed only twelve switch operations in it's history and the last one performed was over a year and a half earlier. Boston Children's Hospital has a history of literally hundreds of such operations and a switch at Boston Children's Hospital is as close to a routine operation as you could expect! God was providing experienced surgeons for Stephen.

God's hand in this was confirmed to us when we were briefed by the operating surgeon in Boston. He asked why we had been sent to Boston. We explained about the additional holes that had been detected by the local surgeon. He paused, and then said, "Mr. and Mrs. Stauffer, I have reviewed the films of your son's heart and I see shadows but no additional holes in your son's lower ventricles." My wife and I looked at each other with a look of puzzlement. Then together we saw the pieces fit together. God had a plan to repair Stephen's heart, and He was seeing that he got the best of care. Either God healed those holes or the local surgeon was mistaken. Nevertheless, all we could say was, "Thank You Lord for Your blessed 'No.'"

God knew my son's need and He knew where it could best be met. God is in control. Today and throughout his childhood Stephen has been an incredible picture of health. Stephen's annual checkups with the pediatric cardiologist served as regular reminders of God's provision as each year the doctor confirmed our son's good health. Sometimes God says "No" to our pleas. Stephen is alive today because of God's mercy and grace. Stephen is alive today because of God's blessed "No."

When I look back over my circumstances, I see four reason for God giving a blessed "No" to a prayer request. First, God says "no" to our prayer request because he has something better for us. God knows what is best for us. He sees life from a heavenly perspective. He has a divine purpose and plan for our lives and he is working to implement it (Jeremiah 29:11-14).

Secondly, God says "no" to teach us about ourselves. The way we respond to God's "No" reveals volumes about our spiritual condition. Will we react in the flesh (i.e. rebellion, human understanding) or endure in the Spirit (Galatians 5)? My wife and I found that God's grace is sufficient to keep one walking in the Spirit even in the most trying of times (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Thirdly, God says "no" to protect us and our loved ones. Like a little child who ventures into dangerous activities and is told "No" by their parent, God protects us. A child may see razor blades as shiny interesting toys, but a parent knows better. Wall sockets, sharp objects, and moving mechanical parts all fascinate young children exploring their new world. The temptation is there to "touch me." But a parent intervenes to protect the unknowing child. God does the same for us. We often foolishly think our way is the only way or the best way. But the Bible and experience reveal that just isn't the case.

Lastly, God says "no" to build our faith. As we learn that God's way is the best way, the only way, our faith in God is matured and built up. Each time we are brought through a situation and look back to see how God has preserved us, we experience Him as more credible, more faithful, more trustworthy and this fuels our faith for the next test.

So the next time you pray for something and God's answer is "No," don't be discouraged or disappointed. Just remember, God is good, God is loving, God is in control and God's blessed "No" is far better than any sought after "Yes." Accept that, because the spiritual and physical lives of you and your loved ones may depend on it!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean no on your own understanding; in all you ways acknowledge Him,and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)