Sunday, September 20, 2015

Power with a Purpose

For those who heard me speak to the VCC family on Friday night, here are my notes. I hope to put up the notes for what I shared for the offering as well in the near future, but for now, here’s the outline for what I said in the “main message.” You will notice that these notes have things that I didn’t say, and that I said some things that aren’t in these notes (always happens, of course), but the core of what I believe Papa wanted me to share is here in these notes. 

The number one thing associated with the coming of the Spirit in Jesus’ words in Luke and Acts is power.

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NIV1984)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV1984)

This means that when Paul encourages the Ephesians to “be being filled with the Holy Spirit” he hand in mind at least to some extent “being filled with power.”
“18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be (being) filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20 NIV)

So we can indeed “be being filled with power.” But power for what? What’s the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives? Here’s A few thoughts of many possibilities.
1.     The most obvious in the context of Luke and Acts is power to witness (with signs, wonders, miracles). See Acts 1:8, 4:31.
2.     The power to assure also comes to mind. Your knowing that you, each of you, are Abba’s dearly loved child, sealed by His Spirit and guaranteed eternal relationship with Him is part of the powerful work of the Spirit in your life.
Romans 5:5 (NIV) And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 8:14-16 (NIV) For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
We see three different ways that Holy Spirit assures us that we are God’s dearly loved children in these passages: 1)  He pours God’s love into our hearts (I have seen this happen in very obvious ways many times). 2) He bears witness with our spirits that we are for sure God’s sons and daughters, and every believer can listen to his/her heart and hear it cry out to God as “Abba/Papa” as part of this assurance. 3) He touches us, marks us, with power in a way that we know we have been touched by Heaven’s power as a down payment, a guarantee of more to come in eternity. Notice that this only makes sense if we know by experience that we have been “marked with a seal.”
3.     The power to love  
Galatians 5:22-23 “The fruit of the Spirit is love…”
Ephesians 2:22 (NIV) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 4:2-4 (NIV) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us individually to love others as Jesus loves us. It is He who also creates community and sustains healthy relationships as we individually and together work with Him to maintain healthy relationships (the “unity of the Spirit).
4.     The power to be transformed (healed and matured).
Romans 8:5-9 (NIV) 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
Romans 8:13 (NIV) For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
It is the Holy Spirit who empowers and guides the healing and transformation process in our lives. Self-guided effort at “becoming a better Christian” never works. It is only through partnership with the Holy Spirit that transformation can truly take place, and that partnership includes being in community with others who help us hear and respond to the Holy Spirit.  (The fruit of the Spirit can only be produced in community. You cannot produce love without having others to love. You cannot be kind or gentle or patient, etc., without having people to be kind to, gentle or patient with, etc.
5.     Power to bear fruit and to fulfill God’s purpose for you/us (Colossians 1:28-29)
Colossians 1:28-29 (ESV) Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
This has always been an amazing passage to me and one that clearly debunks the idea that living the Christian life and fulfilling our purpose in life is automatic or easy. Paul’s language here is very strong and speaks of great effort, but it’s effort that’s empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit. Human effort independent of intimacy with the Holy Spirit is bound to lead us away from grace and back into the bondage of religion. But the opposite of human effort is not “effortless” but rather Spirit-directed and empowered effort that flows from assurance and acceptance in Jesus.

The Main Take Away Thought? These all require our participation in some way (except perhaps assurance and even that one requires us to pay attention to our hearts).

  1. Our part? It’s to “Trust and obey,” not as cringing slaves but as mature sons and daughters who know that God’s power has purpose!
  2. Don’t settle for feeling good because God touched you, don’t settle for going back to business as usual once you have had your “Friday night drink” of God’s Spirit. 
  3. Yes, let God touch you, clothe you with power. God’s clothing you with power always has purpose. Which purpose rises to the top for you? Witness, Assurance, Maturity, Destiny?

You can see the live stream of this message by clicking here

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Awakened to the Father's Love

     For the Friday night crowd of the VCC Houston family, here's the entry I promised to accompany the message from last Friday night.
     This subject was triggered by a text message I recently received from a friend asking me if I'd ever heard of “going to the courtrooms of Heaven and presenting your case there.” Because the concept of having to go to Heaven's courtrooms to present my case" so badly misses the Father's heart for us, my friend's question led me to think about what I believe is the most important “key to Revival/Spiritual” and what "Revival" really is.
     What does the Church really need to be fully awakened and reach the world around us? I am convinced that the next great Spiritual Awakening will have at its core an awakening to the Father's love. It will be rooted in an intimacy with God that leads to healthy intimacy with one another. I also believe that the healing revival that will accompany this awakening will include the healing of relationships, not just the healing of bodies and souls.
     There is certainly biblical support for spiritual awakening being tied to intimacy with God. In the book of Revelation, Jesus’ answer to the lukewarm church in Laodicea was an invitation to intimacy with Him! “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." (Revelation 3:19-20 NLTse). What a compelling thought: God's answer to apathy is not condemnation but an invitation to intimacy with Him. Repentance, then, in the context of Revelation 2-3 is a turning to God and opening the door of our heart to Him.  
     And why am I talking about repentance? Because spiritual awakening always has repentance as the beginning mark of the awakening. Repentance is a change of thinking that leads to a  change of direction, so what thinking do we need to change? What direction to we need to turn towards? My answer: The thinking that needs to change is how we think about God, especially as Father; and the turning we will do is a turning to Him to run into His embrace. (So the problem with the idea of us “presenting our case in heaven” is that it misses the Father’s heart, and smacks of religion: manipulating God or doing something in order to get God to perform a certain way--the exact opposite of what intimacy with a Perfectly Good Father looks like!) 
      One of the best pictures of His Father's heart that Jesus gave (besides living out the Father's love and dying to prove it) is found in what's usually called the "Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This is actually the passage that came to my mind as I answered my friend's question because it so clearly reveals the heart of our loving Father. In fact, I believe that the teaching here by Jesus is more than anything else all about the Father's love for us! Yes, Jesus is teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven, but He is most of all revealing Papa's love for His children and inviting us to live differently (as dearly loved children) because of our Father's love! Let's see if you catch what Jesus was saying about Father God. (All Scripture references are from the New English Translation, the NET Bible, unless otherwise indicated, and the italics are mine.)
     Your Father is Perfect in His love. Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors a do the same, don’t they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." This is a remarkable thought: that Father God knows how to love each and every one of us perfectly. Some may protest at this point, of course, that it doesn't seem like God knows how to love them perfectly, but the story isn't over yet. As I spoke on this subject the other night, I reminded everyone that it's best not to try to define love for God (i.e., tell Him how to love us) but rather to start with the basic truth that God does love us perfectly. When we use that truth as the lens through which we view all of life (and eternity) then His love becomes evident to us in many, many ways. So think about this, dear ones. Your Father loves you--perfectly!
     Your Father is Faithful to always reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people.  Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 3 But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. This truth is repeated in 6:16-18: “When a you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 17 When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you." Again, what a remarkable thought! The God of the Universe, Creator of all things, infinite in His love and goodness, can be counted on to reward us. No wonder Jesus encouraged His hearers not to settle merely for the accolades of people when they could instead receive reward from an infinite God who loves them perfectly! "Awaken us, Father, to your love and faithfulness to reward those who live in and unto you!"
     Your Father is Eager to Answer Your Prayers, Anticipating your need before you even ask! Matthew 6: 5-8 “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. 7 When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."  This section shows us where the “case in Heaven” people missed things, doesn't it? As Martin Luther once said about praying to our Loving Father: "Prayer isn't overcoming God's reluctance, it's laying hold of His willingness." Awaken us, Father, to your love as expressed in your eagerness to listen and respond to us with more than we need!" 
     Your Father is Ready to provide, to forgive, to guide, to deliver! Then Jesus goes on to give "the Lord's Prayer," a prayer that above all else reveals our Father's heart to care well for His children. Matthew 6:9-15 9 So pray this way:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored,
10 may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves a have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”
     Your Father is Always caring for you! Matthew 6:19-34 19 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth a and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your a treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, a your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? 27 And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? 28 Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! 30 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? 31 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat? ʼ or ‘What will we drink? ʼ or ‘What will we wear? ʼ 32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own." Awaken us, Father, to the expansiveness and infinite inclusiveness of your love for us. Not a detail of our lives escapes your sight or is ever out of range of your care and provision!" Yes, even this well known passage, dear ones, is not about what we need to do but about what our Father does for us because of Who He is and who we are to Him. 


  1. Do you see? Jesus came to reveal the Father, not merely to “save people from hell” but first and foremost to reconcile them to their loving Father God.
  2. And yes, thinking of God as Father seems pretty normal to us, but in Jesus’ day, calling God Father in an intimate way was shocking. I wonder if we haven’t lost the wonder of this. I wonder how different things will be as we recapture the wonder of being called and living life as sons and daughters of God!
  3. How shall we respond?
  4.  One possibility: Become bold "askers"! “At that time you will ask in my name, and I do not say that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27 NET)
  5. And certainly we can pray Ephesians 1:17 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17 NIV1984)
Praying for us all to be further awakened to the Father's love!

Tom, one of Abba's dearly loved children