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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Revival Praying - Part 1

Ever been persecuted or have an enemy try to crush you to the ground? Ever feel overwhelmed not only by personal distress, but community, state, national, or the world’s “distress of nations”? In such times the only valid response that bears hope of relief and redemption is to turn to the Lord. In such times what we need is revival.

Why revival? Maybe that’s not a familiar word to you. Weley L. Duewel defines a revival as:

“when God manifests His presence in overwhelming reality. . . . God’s presence and power are so mightily and extensively at work during revival that God accomplishes more in hours or days than usually results from years of faithful nonrevival ministry. . . . During revival people are moved toward Christ, people who can be moved in no other way. Many prayers that have gone unanswered for years are gloriously answered.”

We need a revival. Look around at breaking and broken marriages, divided families, confusion over identity (sexual and otherwise), addictions, lusts gone wild, betrayal, busyness, and poverty (material and spiritual). Look around you, look inside you, look and feel the pain and lostness. We need revival.

When we look at our nation today it’s not difficult to see, we need revival. When I look at the world, the wars, the terror, the rebellion and unrest, the injustices, the suffering, the atheism, the religious fanaticism, the lost souls, and the overall ignorance and even apathy toward God, I say, we need revival. We need the presence of the Lord. We need a mighty work of God. We need for God to make His presence known in a powerful and pervasive way. We need revival.

How do we go about getting a revival? Revival is not something we can just formulize into being. Only God, in His sovereign determination and will, can give revival. But there is evidence that we can beseech God for that revival. There is evidence that we can pray to God for revival. Prayerful supplication coupled with trust in Him who knows what we need before we ask, can bring revival.

Psalm 143 is an example of revival praying. Some believe the context of the psalm is Saul’s persecution of David. Others believe this psalm was written by King David when his son Absalom had rebelled against him. When those in power persecute you or those you love betray you it can be discourage you even devastate you. David knew what he needed to do in such times. He needed to pray. He needed revival as we will see. If you are going through a difficult personal time or burdened over the state of the world around you, I encourage you to join me as I take in this psalm prayerfully and seek the Lord for revival.

The prayer of supplication (143:1). Hear my prayer, O LORD, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, And in Your righteousness.” The basis for and reason we pray is God’s faithfulness and His righteousness. David begins his psalm by looking to God. And he looks to God with heartfelt devotion. A supplication is a passionate cry for God’s favor in a given situation. David is not merely repeating some memorized words of prayer. David is pouring out his heart to God.

We come to God in prayer on the basis of His faithfulness to His word and the promises contained therein. We come to God in prayer on the basis of knowing He is righteous and all His answers are right. Prayer begins with God. It is the Holy Spirit who puts the desire to pray within us. Prayer ends with God. God is the destination of our prayers. God is the One who is going to make the difference in whatever it is we are praying for.

When we look at this through the lens of the New Testament we can have great confidence before God. John was inspired to write:

1 John 5:14-15 - Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

If we pray according to God’s will, He hears us, and if He hears us we know that our great loving Father in heaven will answer our prayers and do what is best. Now you might be thinking, that’s well and good, but how do I know what God’s will is? How do I pray “according to His will”? Let’s continue in the study of our psalm to see.

The servant’s surrender (143:2). “Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous.” We don’t come before God in our own strength or with any attitude that we are worthy in our own right. No, we come to God in total humility realizing in the sight of God who is Holy “no one living is righteous.” We come in full surrender.

That is what Isaiah felt when He came into the presence of God (Isaiah 6). All he could do in the presence of God is utter a deep woe is me as the holiness of God convicted him of his utter destitution before God. God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:6). A “broken and contrite heart” is what is acceptable to God (Psalm 51:17).

It’s so important that when we come to God we do so in humility. We can only come into the presence of God who is Holy because of Jesus and His atoning work (Heb. 4:15-16). Because of Him and His shed blood we can come before our Heavenly Holy Father with the confidence of a child before their father.

The spirit’s distress (143:3-4). “For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead.4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed.” Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. Revivals are often birthed out of hardship and distress of spirit. David speaks of persecution, being crushed to the ground, darkness, death, being overwhelmed, and distressed. It is out of his distress that he calls out to God.

Leonard Ravenhill has written:

“Prayer – protracted prayer, groaning prayer, fasting prayer, weeping prayer, speechless prayer – belongs to those initiated into a spirit of prayer, that is, into ‘praying in the Holy Ghost.’ To the uninstructed, terms like these mean ‘works.’ But praying friend, faint not; such critics may yet learn. In the language of Horatius Bonar it may be said of protracted, groaning, speechless prayer, ‘It is the way the Master went. Should not the servant tread it still?’”

And it is out of the distressing circumstances of our lives and this world that we lean on the Holy Spirit to help us pray. And from the depths such prayer in the Holy Spirit often takes the form of unutterable groans.

It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to pray. Scripture tells us:

Romans 8:26-27 - Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

We are weak and limited. We don’t even know how to pray at times. That is why we need the Holy Spirit to help us. The Holy Spirit within us is able to connect with the Father so that our prayers are empowered and according to the will of God. This is why we are advised to pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). When the circumstances of life push us to our limits, our extremities, it is an opportunity for God to teach us to come to Him in prayer by the Holy Spirit.

The soul’s selah (143:5-6). “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. 6 I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah.” “Selah” means pause. This is a pause to take in all that has come to this point in what has been written. David begins this verse by looking to God’s works of old. He then “meditates” on them or ponders them. To meditate is to think about and concentrate on something. David ponders the works of God in the past in order to feed his present faith.

As he ponders and takes in what God has already done in his life, he is blessed. It moves him to spread out his hands before the Lord in worship. Haven’t you ever just thought about the things God has done in your life and worshipped him for it? Think of how He saved your soul, delivered you countless times, prospered and provided for your needs, how He made His presence known to you. We aren’t to live on our own past accomplishments. But we are to feed our faith on God’s faithful provisions throughout our lives. Selah. Think about that. Think about God’s faithfulness. If you do, like David, you will be moved to worship Him and long for more of Him in your life.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Feed the Fire

I was at a friend’s house fellowshipping and they had a beautiful fireplace. It was warm and cozy as they lit it up and we all felt the heat it gave off. But as the night wore on something became very apparent, a fire tends to go out. There is a spiritual lesson to be learned from that truth.

The Holy Spirit is associated with fire. John the Baptist announced that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mat. 3:11; Luke 3:16). Jesus said He came to bring fire on the earth (Luke 12:49). The fire He spoke of there was contextually the fire of judgment. But can’t we say that judgment fire was aimed at burning off sin? I think we can. Fire is a purifier. It melts metal allowing impurities to be identified and removed. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is an empowering work that by nature involves the purifying of our hearts (Acts 15:8-9). We need the fire of the Spirit to burn off that which hinders our walk with Him.

Paul warned those at the church in Rome to keep the fire of their zeal alive (Romans 12:11). He wrote Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:6-7 – “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Earlier Paul commended Timothy about his “genuine faith” that was also in his grandmother and mother (2 Tim. 1:5). Paul would not have said this unless there was a possibility that “the gift of God which is in you” might in some way wane or dim. The baptism with the Holy Spirit that leads to God’s empowerment for service and holy life is a gift of God to be received by His grace through faith in Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:18-20; 10:45). If the presence of the Holy Spirit is represented by fire, and fire has a tendency to go out, then as Paul remarked to Timothy, we need to stir it up, or fan it to a flame; we need to feed the fire of the Spirit within us.

Paul didn’t want Timothy to neglect the fire within. Perhaps Timothy’s flame was flickering. Perhaps the light from the fire of the Spirit that dispels the darkness was dimming and Timothy was fearful as the darkness was creeping in. Paul reminded him when the flame is burning hot and bright, there is power, love and soundness of thinking. When those things are absent or diminished, we need to stoke the fire of the Spirit within.

Now it isn’t as though the Holy Spirit in some way is going to go out within us. It is that if we don’t feed the fire or zeal produced by the Spirit, it can flicker. The fire from God kindled on the altar must be fed (Leviticus 9:24; 6:9-13). God’s fire in our hearts must be attended to. Like a fire in a fireplace, we need to feed it. We need to be stoked. How do we feed the fire of the Spirit’s zeal within us?

First, stoke the fire of the Spirit with prayer.The baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire promised by the Father was delivered as God’s people were united in fervent prayer (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:3). We need to get serious about our prayer lives. Nothing will suffocate the fire within faster than a prayerless life. It is in fervent prayer that God renews us and rekindles His fire within us.

Second, stoke the fire of the Spirit with the word of God. The Lord told Jeremiah that He would make His words he spoke “a fire” (Jeremiah 5:14). God said His words were “like a fire” (Jeremiah 23:29). Therefore the second thing we need to do is stoke the fire with the word of God. Prayerfully dig in and consume God’s word. Even if we don’t feel like doing so, we need to step into God’s word by faith and seek a word from the Lord.

Third, stoke the fire by dealing with fire quenchers. Paul was inspired to warn the Thessalonians to not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). When we look at the context we see that fire quenchers could take the form of:

1. Rendering evil for evil and not pursuing good for all people (1 Thess. 5:15)
2. Joylessness (5:16)
3. Prayerlessness (5:17)
4. Thanklessness (5:18)
5. Despising prophesy (5:20)
6. Permissiveness; lack of scrutinizing things with God’s word (5:21)
7. Involvement with evil (5:22)
8. Failure to trust God to entirely sanctify you (5:23-24).

These things in our lives throw cold water on the flame of the Spirit. When you go to prayer ask the Lord to search you for any such fire quenchers (e.g. Psalm 139:23-24). God’s fire will test each one’s work (1 Cor. 3:13). God’s plan is that we be on fire for Him in the power of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:7; Psalm 104:4). He makes “His ministers a flame of fire.” How’s your fire? Get stoked!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


“in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It’s funny how sometimes truth gets lost in translation. Many times we reinterpret words to fit our own understanding or our own plans. We like things to fit just right in our own understanding and our own plans. This verse challenges such a notion. We would like to think that the word “everything” doesn’t really mean everything. We subtly think, “Surely God couldn’t mean for us to be thankful in times of tragedy, pain, hardship, loss, offense, persecution etc.” Such thinking is the cause of missing or losing God’s truth in our personal translations. The word “everything” is translated from the Greek term pas means, “all, any, every, the whole . . . all manner of, all means), always, any (one), everyone, everyway, as many as, thoroughly, whatsoever, whole, whosoever.” In other words, in the Greek the word “everything” means everything!

You might say, “Now wait a minute, I’m sick, should I give thanks to God for that?” Or you might say, “Wait a minute, I just flunked my test . . .” or “I just broke up with my spouse . . . boyfriend . . . girlfriend . . .” or “I just lost my job . . . got demoted . . . wrecked my car . . . stubbed my toe . . .” or whatever bad thing you can imagine; should I give thanks for that? Well, not exactly.

A Subtle Distinction

You see there is a subtle distinction we need to make here. The above verse says, “in everything give thanks,” it doesn’t say, “give thanks for everything. Now that doesn’t mean we can be Mr. or Ms. Grumble or Complainer (see Philippians 2:14-16). But it does mean that we can be thankful in spite of whatever befalls us; we can be thankful IN everything.

What Does It Mean to Be “Thankful”?

The word “thankful” in 1 Thessalonians is translated from the Greek term eucharisteo which means, “to be grateful, . . . to express gratitude . . . to say grace at a meal; (give) thank (-ful, -s).” This is a compound word derived from joining the word “good” (̂ ĕu, yoo - . . . good . . . well . . . well done) and “favor” (charizŏmai, khar-id´-zom-ahee - to grant as a favor, i.e. gratuitously, in kindness, pardon or rescue:— deliver, (frankly) forgive, (freely) give, grant) which is another form of the word “grace” (charis, khar´-ece; . . .graciousness (as gratifying), . . . the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; . . . gratitude . . . acceptable, benefit, favor, gift, grace (-ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, worthy).

Therefore, to be thankful is to express gratitude and appreciation toward God for His good favor and blessing.

Reasons to Be Thankful

No matter what we are going through, we should give thanks to God. On what basis and for what reason should we give thanks to God in all things? We should obey this Spirit inspired exhortation of Paul’s based on the following truth from God’s word:
1. This is God’s will for you – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
2. God has a plan for you – Jeremiah 29:11-13
3. God promises to bring good from ANYTHING and EVERYTHING for those who love Him and answer His call in the midst of trials – Romans 8:26
4. God uses EVERYTHING, the good and the bad in our lives, to make us more like Jesus, to help us know Jesus better through experience in situations – Romans 8:29
5. God uses trials to build and purify our faith – 1 Peter 1:6-9
6. If it weren’t for hardship, we would not know that God’s grace really is sufficient – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
7. Any hardship now doesn’t even compare to what awaits those who thankfully trust the Lord in everything – Romans 8:18

Eight Good Reasons to Give Thanks to the LORD

In Psalm 92 we are told it is good to give thanks to the LORD. And in this Psalm we are given some good reasons to give thanks to the LORD, even when enemies rise up against us. Let’s see what these good reason are to give thanks to the LORD.

Psalm 92 reads:

“1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; 2 To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night, 3 On an instrument of ten strings, On the lute, And on the harp, With harmonious sound. 4 For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. 5 O LORD, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep. 6 A senseless man does not know, Nor does a fool understand this. 7 When the wicked spring up like grass, And when all the workers of iniquity flourish, It is that they may be destroyed forever. 8 But You, LORD, are on high forevermore. 9 For behold, Your enemies, O LORD, For behold, Your enemies shall perish; All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. 10 But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. 11 My ey e also has seen my desire on my enemies; My ears hear my desire on the wicked Who rise up against me. 12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, 15 To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
In this psalm there are many reasons given to give thanks to God but we will mention eight of them.

1. It is “good” to give thanks to the LORD – 92:1. The word “good” ( [towb /tobe/]) occurs 559 times in the Old Testament being translated as “good” 361 times, “better” 72 times, “well” 20 times, “goodness” 16 times, “goodly” nine times, “best” eight times, “merry” seven times, “fair” seven times, “prosperity” six times, “precious” four times, “fine” three times, “wealth” three times, “beautiful” twice, “fairer” twice, “favor” twice, “glad” twice, and translated miscellaneously 35 times. A similar word (Strong’s #3202 טֹוב (towb)) has the meaning of either: 1 good, i.e., pertaining to the moral opposite of evil (2Ch 30:18); 2. good, i.e., pertaining to having good value (Ge 1:4); 3.generous, formally, good, i.e., pertaining to giving much in relation to one’s possessions (Pr 22:9); 4. festive, i.e., pertaining to a joyful time or feeling (1Sa 25:8); 5. beautiful, i.e., pertaining to being pleasant to the eye (Gen. 6:2; 2Sa 11:2), 6. pleasing, i.e., pertaining to a feeling of fondness and enjoyment (1Sa 29:9); note: further study may yield more domains All of this and all it implies gives us good reason to be thankful to the LORD.

2. Thanks helps us to focus on God’s loving-kindness and faithfulness – 92:2

3. Thanks to God puts a song in our heart and lifts our spirit – 92:1,3

4. Thanks brings us into proper focus in that it helps us concentrate on God’s work not our own – 92:4. This is the pathway to triumph in life.

5. Thanks to God is based on His thoughts for us – 92:5-6. Psalm 139:4,17-18. Think of it, the Creator of the universe taking time to THINK about us!

6. Thanks to God in the midst of the rise of our enemies is based on the understanding that God is in control, He is allowing enemies to show themselves so that He might expose them and deal with them – 92:7-9.

7. Thankful trust in God in the midst of trials and enemies leads to triumph and fresh anointing of the Spirit – 92:10-11. (Acts 4:31 in context).

8. Thanks to God is based on God’s promise to make us fruitful and flourish in the process of life – 92:12-15. Palm trees grow and flourish where others wilt and die. Cedars of Lebanon are the strongest of trees. These trees remain fruitful even in old age.

It is GOOD to give thanks to the LORD in EVERYTHING.

Wrong Thanks

Jesus spoke a parable that showed the wrong attitude of thankfulness when He said:

Luke 18:9-14 – “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12 ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’13 “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’14 “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We need to guard against being self-righteously thankful. Thankfulness should be in humility and humble adoration of God for all His grace and provision. (See Acts 24:3; 1 Corinthians 10:28-33).

Thankfulness – Sign of Spiritual Maturity

Jesus expressed thanks to the Father (Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21). If we want to be more like Jesus we need to seek Him to help us live a life of thankfulness.Paul practiced thankfulness in his life (Romans 16:3-4; Ephesians 1:16; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he is inspired to write:

Colossians 2:6-7 – “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”

This is a call to spiritual maturity and growth by the apostle Paul and it is punctuated with, THANKSGIVING. Thanksgiving is a sign of spiritual maturity; lack of thanksgiving is a sign of spiritual superficiality. We need to ask the Lord to help us grow in Him and be more thankful to Him.

Yes, in EVERYTHING we should give thanks to God. The following poem paints a picture of why this is true and the reasonable thing to do:

If you never . . .

If you never felt pain,
Then how would you know that I'm a Healer?

If you never went through difficulties,
How would you know that I'm a Deliverer?
If you never had a trial,
How would you call yourself an overcomer?

If you never felt sadness,
How would you know that I'm a Comforter?
If you never made a mistake,
How would you know that I'm forgiving?

If you knew all,
How would you know that I will answer your questions?
If you never were in trouble,
How would you know that I will come to your rescue?

If you never were broken,
Then how would you know that I can make you whole?
If you never had a problem,
How would you know that I can solve them?

If you never had any suffering,
Then how would you know what Jesus went through?
If you never went through fire,
Then how would you become pure?

If I gave you all things,
How would you appreciate them?
If I never corrected you,
How would you know that I love you?

If you had all power,
Then how would you learn to depend on me?
If your life was perfect,
Then what would you need Me for?

Sickness, pain and hardship can become a blessing when these drive us closer to God into His saving arms through faith in Jesus. The greatest healing is not healing from cancer, or some other terminal disease, it is healing from the terminal disease of sin. The greatest healing is when the chasm of sin is spanned by the love of God in Christ in the cross and by faith I trust in Jesus and cross over to His side. That healing comes by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus. That is the greatest healing. And that is reason to be thankful in EVERYTHING!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God's GPS Navigation

Oh, That Men Would Give Thanks to the LORD

The Thanksgiving Holiday is upon us. People everywhere will be giving thanks, but to whom will they give thanks? In public schools and the various media modes propaganda will contend that the first thanksgiving was aimed at Native Americans who helped the pilgrims survive a harsh wintery climate. Since by political proclamation we are “no longer a Christian nation,” thanksgiving will likely be directed everywhere but where it ought to be. Who should be thanked on Thanksgiving?

Governor William Bradford made a decree on December 13th 1621 that a day of feasting and prayer was to be set aside to thank God not only for His material provisions, but for blessing them with religious freedom to worship Him as the Spirit led them. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln officially set aside the last Thursday of November as, “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” In 1941 Congress established the fourth Thursday of November as a legal holiday to be called Thanksgiving Day. It isn’t until relatively recent times that the thought that there is a God and that He ought to be thanked has become societally and secularly blasphemous. It’s interesting that those who contend for freedom to promote filth are so antagonistic toward those who desire freedom to promote faith. Such a stance exposes the depth of depravity and debased reprobation in the world of these latter days. It will only get worse before the Lord Jesus returns.

Psalm 107 opens with the words, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, . . .” We ought to give thanks to the LORD! J. Vernon McGee comments, “We need more “say so” Christians. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. Don’t go around complaining and criticizing. If you are a Christian, tell others how good God is. He is good, but He doesn’t have a good name in the world today. God’s reputation is bad—a reputation is what people think about you. God does not have many friends in court among the multitudes of people in the world—no champion, or defender, and few to testify on His behalf. There are few to take the witness stand and say a good word in His behalf. . . . If anyone is going to say that God is good, it will have to be His redeemed ones. God is good. That is not an axiom; it is a proposition that is subject to proof. It is not a cliché, nor a slogan; it is not propaganda. It is true.”

Why should we give thanks to the LORD? “. . . For He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1). God is GOOD! God is MERCIFUL! God is not a tyrant or mean. The word “good” means good in the broadest sense. Goodness is associated with beauty, grace, pleasure, joy, kindness, prosperity, sweetness, and wealth and God is a dispenser of such things. “Mercy” refers to lovingkindness, faithfulness or steadfast love. It is a beautiful word, one of the richest in scripture. God’s mercy is eternal. It is because of God’s goodness and mercy that we exist, are offered a way of salvation from our sin and invited to enter an eternally blessed relationship with the God of the universe. Our salvation and every good thing in existence come from God’s goodness and mercy. God is described in a wonderful way here, a way that should move us to bow before Him in thanks.

Who especially should thank the LORD? The psalmist goes on to exhort, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so . . .” (107:2). Have you been redeemed from your sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ? If so, THANK THE LORD! Remember that the price of your redemption was the precious blood of Christ, the Son of God (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Can you thank the LORD for that? I hope so. Don’t lose sight of your most important eternal redemption. This Thanksgiving, despite all the opposition the enemy can muster the redeemed need to proclaim their thanks to the LORD. Thanking God is not optional; it is the only reasonable thing for the redeemed to do.

For what should the redeemed thank the LORD? You may have had a really bad year. You may be going through a tough time. You may be brooding over the economy, a souring relationship, an illness, or some other trial or trouble. You may be in no mood to thank anyone, not even the LORD. But listen, a lack of thankfulness exposes a lack of proper perspective. Psalm 107 gives us five reasons to thank the LORD. Four times the psalmist pleads, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). We will briefly touch on each one, but you are encouraged to make this Psalm a source of study for this Thanksgiving season.

First, thank God for His redemptive deliverance from the enemy (107:2-7). The Psalmist recalls how God delivered His people from Egypt and through their wilderness wanderings. God heard the cries of His people and acted on their behalf. God will hear our cries and act on our behalf, even today. None of our plight today has caught the LORD off guard. God is in control. He makes a way to live victoriously in life now (Rom. 8:37-39). He defeated Satan on the cross (Col. 2:14-15). He is there for you; the good and merciful God of the universe is there for you. Trust Him. Pray to Him. He will answer. For that we should thank the LORD.

Second, thank God for satisfying the longing soul and filling the hungry soul with goodness (107:8-14). Even when people experience darkness, bondage, and affliction as consequences to rebellion against God and His word, even when we despise His counsel, God doesn’t forsake us. He disciplines us and humbles us until we return and cry out to Him so He can save us. He does this because He loves us (Heb. 12:3-15). God will break our chains, even self-inflicted ones, if we will only repent and cry out to Him. For that we should thank the LORD.

Third, thank God for His healing word (107:15-20). Again the psalmist speaks of those who, “because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted.” The blame for our affliction is so often clear. We may deny our sin in self-deception (1 John 1:8). We may deny our sin and in effect call God a liar (1 John 1:10). The bottom line is that when we repent and cry out to God, He forgives us and sends His word to heal us and deliver us from our destructions. It is in His word that we see revelation truth; reality; and are directed on the path of life (Psalm 16:11). The volume of His Book speaks of Christ (Hebrews 10:7). For that we should thank the LORD.

Fourth, thank God for His protection in a fallen world (107:21-30). These verses speak of the awesome rolling waves of the sea and how God preserves those who travel them. Did you ever think about the immensity of the world and universe? We are so microscopically focused on ourselves that we miss the incredible grace of God who created, sustains and sovereignly rules over the entire universe. Yet God bends down to help puny little us. We are so quick to point to and blame God for those who die in natural disasters. There is an enemy at work in such situations but we quickly blame God or deny His power (cf. Job 1 and 2). We shouldn’t argue with the God of the universe who in His sovereign determination takes some and spares others. He alone can make those decisions from an omniscient and omnipotent position. We can argue and shake our fist at God; we can turn away in doubt and depression and forfeit all because our small brains and hearts can’t grasp the purposes of Almighty God. But it would be wiser and more blessed to trust our good merciful God and thank Him.

Fifth, thank God for His ultimate justice (107:31-43). God is able to dry up a river or make water flow. He is able to discipline sinful authorities and preserve the poor and weak. He is able to bless and “multiply greatly.” He is able to make the righteous rejoice in the end and shut the mouths of those indulging iniquity. God is in control. The answer is not politics or government. The answer is not in military might, science, technology, or education. The answer is the LORD! “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.” “The Lovingkindness of the LORD,” that is what we ought to thank God for, His lovingkindness. Look around you, all is not lost. God is in control. He has a plan and will carry it out. Indeed, if you are paying attention, you can see the prophetic word of God being fulfilled quite nicely. Jesus is coming back! Soon and very soon we will see our Savior and King of kings, our good and merciful God. For that we should be most thankful. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD . . . .”

Wednesday, November 9, 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).

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Word on Thanksgiving

In the month of November we celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Over the years those who oppose the God of our fathers have sought to change history so that Thanksgiving is viewed as a time where the pilgrims held a feast to thank the Indians of the land rather than the God of the universe. This is just one more attempt to remove God from the land. Were the pilgrims thankful for the friendship and help of the Indian friends? Yes indeed, but they knew Who had sent the Indians, God, and it was to Him that they came together to give thanks.

William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony, proclaimed the first day of Thanks in 1623 and did so with the following proclamation:

To All Ye Pilgrims: Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

In 1779 George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday. President Washington’s proclamation demonstrates the spiritual nature of this holiday and that it was a call to the citizens of this great land to give thanks to the One who had overseen them throughout the year. Washington’s proclamation stated:

Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; Whereas, both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness!" Now therefore, I do recommend next, to be devoted by the people of the states to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.

The United States is still the most powerful nation in the world today and that power is not attributed to its democratic roots, but to its Christian heritage. God has so “shed His grace on thee.” But our nation has been steadily cutting away its moorings since the early 1960s when prayer, the Bible and God were systematically removed by a handful of judges from the schools. We are in danger of being completely cut adrift as we battle for even the slightest mentions of God in our society (like the mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance). Make no mistake about it, if we severe as a nation, our ties to Almighty God, we will relinquish His protection from our enemies and soon find ourselves in repeated 9/11 types of tragedies and a constant fear that will rob us of our freedoms and liberty. Our nation, as it takes a jackhammer to the Judeo-Christian foundations of our society will continue to plummet morally into anarchy, avarice and antichristian actions that will bring God’s wrath.

The consideration of same-sex marriages, once unthinkable, is a clear indication of the depths to which this nation has plummeted. When all of the candidates of a particular party in a presidential campaign to the man and woman, support same-sex marriage and homosexuality and lesbianism it shows that we as a nation are sick and sinful from the head of government on down. Homosexuality is being pushed on us from every media. Why is it that a group so small, has so much influence and is being allowed to push itself on the nation and demand they be not only tolerated, but accepted and given equal viability and standing with traditional Biblical family forms? It is because we as a nation are in the process of rejecting God (see Romans 1).

If you look in history and observe empires, kingdoms, and nations in decline you will see a common characteristic of all of them, the rise in immorality, promiscuity, and particularly homosexuality. If (or should I say when) same-sex marriage is approved in our land, can the legalizing of incest, polygamy, pedophilia, and other debauched things conjured by reprobate minds be far behind?

This year many will be stuffed to capacity and lulled to sleep by full bellies (See Philippians 3:18-19). That physical condition is a picture of the spiritual condition too many of us are in. We are stuffed with the things of this world in thought, word, and deed and we have become Christian couch potatoes conked out on the couch while our drawers containing the precious jewels of our Christian heritage are being rifled through and ripped off by heretics and heritage robbers! We need to wake up and stop the pillaging of truth and our heritage.

I wonder how President Washington and the founding fathers viewed Separation of Church and State when they were drawing up this proclamation of thanksgiving to God above. Their view of God's role in our national workings was obviously quite different than that held by many in our day. (No amount of revisionist histroy can change that.)It would be hard to imagine a politician in the land today making such a proclamation. Our country has drifted far from its godly moorings. God has blessed this land so much, isn’t it time we act responsibly in a spirit of thanksgiving?

Wouldn’t it be great to see our land healed of its child abuse (e.g. abortion, partial birth abortion, RU486), immorality (e.g. pornography, adultery, homosexuality/lesbianism, and promiscuity), and antichristian attitude, of its sin? Progress has been made in some of these areas, but the enemy continues to fight tooth and nail against any godly and righteous advancement. We need to repent as a nation and as individual sinners. There is a way for us to get back on the right track with God. God promises to intervene if . . .

2 Chronicles 7:14 - “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.”

All is not lost, yet (Romans 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Peter 3:9-13). There is still time; as long as God’s gavel has not fallen, there is time. There is still time for a comeback, for a last minute drive to the goal of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-21). The comeback starts when we as individuals turn to God with prayerful, searching and thankful hearts and recognize how patient God has been with us as we’ve followed our flesh in so many ways. We need to ask God to search us and show us where our paths are wicked ways (Psalm 139:23-24). Then we need to repent; to actually, by God’s grace and the power of the Spirit, “turn from their wicked ways” and walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-24). We need to confess those sins, receive forgiveness and cleansing from God through faith in Christ (1 John 1:9). Then we need to walk in the light of His word and live in fellowship with Jesus (John 8:31-36; 1 John 1:7). This is all the beginning of warring against the forces of evil with spiritual weaponry and that is the only way to be victorious (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18). Receive God’s blessed cleansing from sin and be filled with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Once we’ve invited Jesus into our hearts to clean house (Revelation 3:20), then we war on the floor on our knees in prayer. Then we can begin to pray for others and be used by God to minister to others in our families, friendships, neighborhoods and nation. Pray for our country and its leaders and for God to continue to be longsuffering with us. Pray for a conviction of sin to fall upon this land that will fuel a groundswell of repentance from top to bottom. Pray for a move of the Spirit that will win the lost to Christ in our families, friendships, workplaces, our neighborhoods, in our nation, in our land. Be thankful for God’s many blessings, for His patience with us this Thanksgiving. May we be thankful for our freedom, our land, and our families, His church, His word, His provision, for the Father, His only Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Be thankful that there is still time to get right with God!

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night,” - Psalm 92:1-2

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How Long in the Wilderness?

“It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, . . .” (Deuteronomy 1:2-3a)

The book of Deuteronomy is a book where Moses is in part warning a new generation of God’s people to not fall prey to the same debilitating spiritual pitfalls of the previous generation. This previous generation lived there lives in the wilderness when they could have gone on into God’s Promised Land. Paul warns us of the same thing in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 10:1-13). There is a valuable application for us here too.

There was a legitimate eleven days journey through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land. From Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea is about 126 miles. But God’s people spent forty years in the wilderness! (1:3). Most of this time in the wilderness was illegitimate. What kept the previous generation in the wilderness so long? It was because of their lack of faith and disobedience (Num. 13-14). When God brought them to the edge of the Promised Land, instead of going in, they focused on the obstacles in God’s plan; the giants in the land. They should have followed the Lord wholeheartedly in faith. The consequence was that they never made it out of the wilderness.

The Old Testament can be looked at typologically. The Old Testament contains symbolism and patterns that can be applied to our walk with the Lord. For instance Israel’s life in Egypt represents the bondage of the unsaved life; the old sinful way of life. The Exodus represents God’s deliverance of salvation from this bondage. The wilderness represents the time wherein a person learns that the flesh or sinful nature needs to be crucified with Christ and no longer has a hold on them (e.g. Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6, 14; 7:24-25).

In the wilderness we learn to set the flesh life aside and replace it with new life in Christ. In the wilderness we learn living in the flesh is frustrating and doomed to failure. Paul describes his experience of trying to live for God in the power of the flesh in Romans 7. Such a life is a wretched robbery of God’s best for us. The key to passing through the wilderness is coming to the realization that our help is not found within us, but in the Person of Jesus Christ. Self-help is an oxymoron. Self-discipline will only take us so far. Paul by faith came to realize, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25a). The way out of the wilderness is realizing deliverance is found in “Who . . . . through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Deliverance from the flesh is found in the Person of Jesus Christ and His cross. We have to reckon the old man dead and in faith live depending on Christ (Rom. 6:11).

The Promised Land symbolizes the abundant life in the Spirit (Rom. 8). There are battles still to be fought, but God enables us in the Spirit to be victorious. This is a life of victory and overcoming. We are more than conquerors in Him (Rom. 8:37-39). It is life lived in submission to the Spirit and forsaking the lusts of the flesh. To enter this Promised Land one takes a step of faith and crosses the Jordan of decision (Joshua 1-3; cf. Acts 15:8-9).

God doesn’t plan for us to live out our lives in the wilderness. Disobedience and lack of faith can keep us in the wilderness longer than we need to be. Some people never get out of the wilderness because they choose to live a life of complaining and refusal to trust the Lord. God’s desire is to bring His people into the Promised Land. It was a tragedy their lack of trust kept them from God’s Promised Land. They allowed themselves to be overcome by the size of the obstacles rather than depending in faith on the power of God; the size of God.

Have you been wandering, meandering in the wilderness too long? Are you living in Romans 7 or Romans 8? God never planned for you to stay in the wilderness. Stop living in the shadows of frightening giants and come into the light of the Lord. Take a step of faith. Cross the Jordan and live in the Promised Land.