The Power of the Cross

Mention the cross to the average believer and all they can say is, “that’s where Jesus died for me.”They are right. But there is much more to the cross than the sacrifice at Golgotha. I find that many, if not most believers, seldom think of the cross except at Easter. I realize Jesus said that we are to remember the death, burial and resurrection by practicing the Lord’s Supper. But usually we only reflect on the fact that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. While that is a major attribute of the cross, it is just the beginning of what we should know regarding the cross.

Paul reminds us, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Cor. 1:18) Notice the phrase, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The power of God becomes operative in our life when the principle of the cross is applied.

What is the principle of the cross? It is the application of the death process that prunes us, so that we might be the recipient of the power of God. The cross is an instrument of death. It is the means by which God purges us of all those things that are inconsistent with “who we are in Christ.” It is the act of sanctification whereby all those things that hinder us from manifesting God’s power are put to death.

Paul describes this process in 2 Corinthians where he says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, (which is Jesus) that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves. We are afflicted…but not crushed, perplexed, but not despairing. Persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus (death process)…For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

The principle of the cross working in us (the death process) is the most important aspect of our spiritual maturity. When things fall apart we should pay attention, because it could be the cross process at work. It could be God attempting to get our attention because He wants to purge us of all those things that hinder the power of God working through us. The cross deals with things like arrogance, pride, self-centeredness, anger, selfishness, self-reliance and self-pity, and a myriad of other sins.

It’s not worth the fight, you can’t win anyway. Give up and allow God to do His work in you. Will you allow the “Principle of the Cross” to put to death all those things that keep you in control? God wants His power to rest upon you.

“You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here.” (2 Cor. 4:17- The Voice)

God Has a Plan

Some would like to think that the whole human race is the children of God, but not so. It is true that we are a creation of God, but from a relationship perspective, all are separated from God by sin. The Scripture tells us that before salvation we were children of wrath; “…you were by nature children of wrath, but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:3-5)

When we put our trust in Christ we became someone we have never been before. We passed from death unto life. We are now a new creation with a new worldview. We once followed the world’s perspective on life, now we have a new perspective.

This new perspective/worldview affects everything in our life. We now see the world through the eyes of God’s Word. Our reaction to the world’s disappointments and failures now has a spiritual component. We realize God is involved in every aspect of our life, and with that involvement He has a divine plan and purpose. When we hurt or suffer a great loss God is there to comfort us, but sometimes He often reveals a divine purpose in our suffering.

To illustrate my point I want to share a story recently sent to me by a dear friend. It’s the story of how the old gospel song “Precious Lord” came about.

“Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back. I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.

People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.'”

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis.

Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.

From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him. But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney’s Poro College, a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.

I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head they just seemed to fall into place: ‘Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’

The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.”

Tommy Dorsey

(For those too young to know who he is, Tommy Dorsey was a well-known band leader in the 1930’s and 40’s.)

God’s answers are wiser than our prayers.

The Pivotal Moment

For three years the Disciple’s lives had been consumed with ministry. Not so much a physical ministry of hands one ministry, but one of learning. They had been in a spiritual laboratory, sitting at Jesus’ feet watching, listening and sensing the love of God in its purity, power and holiness. Then as they daily walked with Jesus they observed Him in action, loving the unlovely and drawing people to God. Jesus was an example of a man perfectly submitted to the will of God and filled with the Holy Spirit.

If there was ever a job you couldn’t wait to get up to every morning, walking with Jesus everyday was such a job. Watching Jesus heal the deaf, raise the dead, make the cripple walk and love the socially cast-out sinner had to be the greatest job ever.

Initially the disciples believed that Jesus was going to physically restore His kingdom on earth now. They thought they were going to be delivered from the dominion of the Roman government. Apparently the masses also believed that. When Jesus taught about being the bread of life the Scripture says, “…many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.” Jesus then asked His twelve disciples, “do you not want to go away also?” (John 6)

Yet another pivotal moment was about to occur in the life of the disciples. The more they walked with Jesus the more they began to realize that Jesus didn’t come to earth to destroy the Roman government. He came to set the spiritually captive free and give eternal life to all who believed.

This next pivotal moment began to unfold when Jesus started praying what the Lord’s Prayer in John 17. Picture this moment in your mind as Jesus started to pray. This was the time when Jesus and His band of disciples were at the height of their popularity, great miracles were occurring, the masses were following them, and then Jesus begins to pray.

“…the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee…I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you have given me to do. Now glorify me together with yourself, Father, with the glory which I had with you before the world was…and I am no more in this world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in your name…but now I come to you; (John 17)

I don’t believe the eyes of the disciples were reverently closed at this moment, agreeing with the Jesus in His prayer, saying “amen, so be it Lord”. I think they were wide-eyed, looking at each other, shrugging their shoulders, wondering what this prayer meant.

Yet, looking back at this event after the resurrection they realized that this was a major pivotal moment in their life. This pivotal moment would become the very foundation doctrinal teaching of God’s grace.They also remembered the rest of this prayer recorded in John 17;

“20″I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. “

The extraordinary truth that Jesus revealed to them is a new concept of relationship prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah several centuries earlier. This was a promise that God would personally indwell them and would be always with them, and in them. This good news is this promise is not just for the Apostles but also for us today.(Jeremiah 31:31-33)

20″I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

God’s desire for us is that we live out of and enjoy our union with Christ. Because we are placed in Christ, and Christ is placed in us at salvation, we came into a divine union relationship with God.

What’s my point? For every pivotal point in our life, God is there with a revelation of Himself. If you undergoing a season of doubt, fear, suffering, or testing, remember that this is a pivotal point where more than likely, God is giving you a new revelation of his goodness and his glory.

Are you a product of your circumstances?

Here is a question to ponder. “Are you are a product of your circumstances or is God’s process at work in you?”

Joseph had a prophetic dream that one day he would be a ruler and his brothers would bow down to him. His father, Jacob, was so proud of this prophetic dream that he made Joseph a coat that blatantly reflected his future position. But the celebration was cut short when Joseph’s jealous and angry brothers seized an opportunity to sell Joseph to the slave traders.

The next few years for Joseph brought servitude and bondage. Until one day he was ready to assume his prophetic role as ruler. Why all the years of servitude and bondage? Because Joseph wasn’t ready to assume such a key position that would eventually save not only Egypt but also Joseph’s own family.

During those years, how many times do you think Joseph cried out to God for deliverance? How many sleepless nights did he endure trying to sleep in a damp, filthy prison cell? Why did God deny Joseph’s deliverance for so long? Because the Lord knew Joseph needed to stay where he was a while longer, at least until the refining process was complete.

God was preparing Joseph for something that required skill, humility and a disciplined work ethic. And God knew exactly what it would take to get Joseph in shape to handle such a grand task. The crowning moment for Joseph was not his rise to power and greatness as the second most powerful man in the world. But his greatness was revealed when he displayed humility and forgiveness when dealing with his brothers.

Joseph’s brokenness allowed him to see God in every circumstance of his life. His brothers were caught red handed, and deserved to be exposed and punished. But Joseph saw his brother’s betrayal as part of God’s plan to deliver a nation.

How have you handled God’s season of delays? If you are like me not very well, huh? Well, you are not alone. The same disciples that were in the upper room at the Last Supper telling Jesus how they are willing to suffer and die with Him, later denied they knew Him at all. At the cross they were hiding, not willing to stand by the cross and publicly declare their allegiance.

But there’s something about the fire of adversity that burns off the dross and presents us as pure before the Father. The heat humbles your soul and allows you to get rid of your unbelief, your impurity, and your fear. The fire of adversity produces a clearer picture of how God is at work in you.

So instead of being a product of your circumstances, allow your circumstances to be your refining fire moment that purifies your soul, and makes you a by-product of God’s Grace.

“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death. “ (Roy Hession, Calvary’s Road)

The Importance of Sound Doctrine

In this age of contemporary Christianity I am seeing a trend of minimizing the importance of doctrine. Sound doctrine is being replaced by social activism. This leaves the impression that our primary duty to society is to improve the quality of man’s life, while at the same time neglecting the proclamation of repentance unto salvation.

I call this trend spiritual drifting. We take something that is intrinsically good and allow it to keep us from focusing on the main thing which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul. We drift toward a performance based Christianity rather than a dependence based relationship.

No committed follower of Christ would deny our need to be responsible citizens in our community. But when social change becomes our war cry rather than declaring the sufficiency of Christ then we have drifted from the main thing.

Despite man’s increased involvement in saving the planet through recycling and their continual role in helping the street people have food and shelter, the world continues to deteriorate at a rapid pace. It is estimated that over 500,000,000 people have been murdered through wars, Marxist governments and abortion in the last 80 years.

It’s all about living with a proper Biblical Worldview. Doctrine that keeps us centered in Christ is a key element in a Biblical Worldview. When we allow Scripture to be twisted and taken out of context to suit Christian pop culture, then we are guilty of changing our worldview from Biblical to secular. Let me give you an example.

One of the most quoted verses among Christians is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.” This verse has been used by many believers for circumstances where they would like to see a good outcome. This is especially popular with athletes. I read recently of high school cheerleaders who made this giant banner with Philippians 4:13 written in big letters. When the football players ran onto the football field they were to run through the banner indicating that they were claiming this verse for victory. I applaud the cheerleader’s boldness, but this verse was taken out of context.

We all know that God will help us in any task if we ask for His help and wisdom. I have even asked the Lord to help me when I played sports. I would ask Him to help me do my best and also to protect me from injury. But this verse is not about evoking God’s help in any task we undertake.

The context of the verse has to do with trusting God to help us through suffering, persecution, trial and tribulation. We see the context of the verse in the verses preceding verse 13. Paul was in prison enduring hardship, suffering and persecution and he was saying that in Christ’s sufficiency he can endure all things.

In a similar passage in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul speaks of his “thorn in the flesh.” He prayed earnestly for this hindrance to be removed but God told him that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” So like the passage in Philippians it’s about continuing to trust God in the midst of our weakness and suffering.

Why is it important to rightly divide the word of God? There are two primary reasons. First, when we take a text out of its proper context it becomes a pretext and loses its supernatural intention. In this particular verse, it causes us to miss the point that in the midst of suffering I can make it through because I know that ultimately this suffering will result in God getting the glory. It’s not about playing a great game and hopefully achieving a desired outcome.

Secondly, a lack of sound doctrine dilutes the Scripture to fit our situation, rather than allowing the truth of the Scripture to create spiritual change in us. Our ultimate goal is to bring God the glory in all that we do and believe. Our worldview is formed by our doctrine. Our Biblical worldview is what distinguishes us from the world. As we apply the Word of God to our life, may we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth in order that we may be a people of sound doctrine? (John 16)

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The Trial by Faith

Last week I played tennis for the first time this year. It wasn’t long before the hot sun took its toll on this old body. After the match two things dawned on me. First, I am not young anymore. Secondly, and more importantly, I was reminded of how important it was for me to resume the pain of my regular gym workouts, especially if I want to finish the match.

I hate working out. I just can’t comprehend those who say, “I just love working out.” I didn’t like working out when I was 20 years old and I don’t like it now. It hurts and “no” I don’t feel better after working out. How can pain, suffering and fatigue make you feel better?

However, I have learned that if I want to last for 2 hours on the tennis court and finish the match, working out must be a part of my daily routine. Even though working out is not my favorite thing to do, I will admit that I do like the benefits of working out. When I am in shape, I have more stamina, feel better and even my sleep is more restful. I know the long term benefits of working out far out weigh the pain and suffering of the moment.

In a spiritual sense, pain, suffering, trials and tribulations are God’s way of getting us in spiritual shape. If it weren’t for troubles and trials then we would become passive and spiritually lukewarm. We would grow complacent and self-absorbed to the point that we would think we didn’t need God every moment.

Ever wonder why so many people turn to God in times of suffering and trials. Over the years, many people have come to my office because of some sort of failure or trouble that had gotten them out of control. They couldn’t fix the problem, but the surprising thing is their problems had a way of pushing them back to the Lord. It came to their attention that they had been living their life in their own strength and fully self-absorbed.Trials not only push us toward the Lord but it helps us retain the spiritual territory we’ve gained, and it allows us to keep the enemy at bay. It reminds us that we need God every moment of the day.The devil’s plan is to take the fight out of us so we give up. But if we are trial-hardened we will trust God completely and look for His divine leadership in every situation.

What kind of trial are you going through right now? I encourage you to take hold of your trial by faith and believe God has allowed it for your benefit. He is using it to make you stronger and to help you have endurance in order to be victorious and finish the match. Whatever you are struggling with today, stop and ask God to show you His perspective on your problem. Look for what He may be trying to show you through this struggle.

“So we are not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making a new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – The Message)