PRAYING FOR AN OPEN HEAVEN…

Spiritual Blog - Open Heaven

Revelation 4:1 – “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”  NKJV

 

This passage has been used as a proof text often but I want to take something of a different approach in considering the “door standing open in heaven” in conjunction with John’s vision and revelation.  I want to expand it and examine what it means when there is an “open heaven”.  In the Bible, there are a number of references to an “open heaven” and I would like to briefly ask you to consider some of them with me.

In Genesis 28:13 we find Jacob falling asleep with a stone as his pillow where he had an incredibly vivid dream seeing a “ladder” come down from heaven and angels ascending and descending on it. God was at the top of the ladder.  In Ezekiel 1:26 we are introduced to the Radiant Being (God) who appeared in the midst of the four living creatures and the fire of God.  The prophet saw God’s glory manifested in a most powerful manner.  In Matthew 3:16, we see the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus and the voice of the Father declare, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  In Acts 7:54, we see Stephen filled with the Holy Spirit and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father.  In Acts 9:5, Saul of Tarsus had his encounter that transformed his life as Paul the apostle.  In Acts 10, Peter had his vision of an open heaven and the great sheet lowering bringing him a new revelation.  Here in Revelation 4, we have the “open door” and the command to “come up here…” 

The thread that seems to be visible in each of those encounters was that God became more real to those having the experiences each time.  Something mighty transpired when God opened the doors or portals of heaven and revealed Himself to man.  Joel prophesied that in the Last Days God would “pour out” His Spirit on all flesh and His sons and daughters would prophesy with the old having dreams and the young seeing visions.  In that time, He would do mighty exploits.  With that in mind, I pray for God to give us an “open heaven” today and transform our world with His saving and miraculous power.  I ask that He bring to bear on the hearts of humanity the righteousness of God arresting our paths so that we are drawn back to Him and that David’s prayer become a reality in our world.  God “create in us a clean heart, renew in each heart rightness of spirit, and grant us the visitation of the Holy Spirit.”

May the Lord guard and guide you as you go through this wonderful day in Him.  Abundant Blessing is my prayer for each one.

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GOD, What Have You Not Told Me???

Spiritual Blog - Courageous

Joshua 1:1-9 – “After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them — the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  NKJV 

 

Have you ever wondered what God might be leaving out when He gives you direction and inspires your heart to tackle a certain task or ministry?  I have!  This situation with Joshua illuminates the need fact that, often, when God sends you forth there is much He did not tell you.  You have to learn to TRUST HIM completely and RELY on Him fully or you will be overcome with the obstacles you encounter.

Consider with me the fact that three times God said to Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage…” (v.6), “Only be strong and very courageous…” (v.7), and “Be strong and of good courage…” (v.9). God, what is it in the fulfillment of your directive that I am going to encounter that necessitates You telling me THREE TIMES to “Be Strong and Courageous?”  I am not asking for FULL DISCLOSURE but when I hear that I immediately wonder, WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?

The Promise of God that “no man would be able to stand against him” was conditional on his being, STRONG, COURAGEOUS, and OBEDIENT.  The explicit condition was obedience and adherence to the Law of God he had learned through Moses.  The explicit condition was that he not deviate even slightly from the path prescribed by God.  He could not adlib and wing it, but must follow the prescribed path.  If he did that and was strong and courageous then God would make him and his army invincible and prosperity would be their normal condition.  God’s word would cause him and Israel to be prosperous in battle, in their economy, and in their spiritual condition.  It would result in their achieving the objective.  Their end would be a success!  Even if they faced seeming insurmountable odds they were to never allow dismay or discouragement to settle in and prevail.  Joshua as the leader of the nation was to lead by example and demonstrate courage and strength following the Law of Moses and setting his face like a flint toward the objective set before them.  That kind of leadership inspires the people to follow.

God did not give him the details about the obstacles and enemies to be faced.  He did not tell him the problems that would arise from within their own ranks and the opportunities for discouragement and despair.  What God told Him was you do this and YOU WILL SUCCEED.  That was enough for Joshua and should be enough for us.  I have, in the past, cried to the LORD to give me FULL DISCLOSURE only to realize that it would have been more harmful than beneficial.  What I needed and need is FULL CONFIDENCE in Him, His Promises, and His Word.  I need to keep near to my heart, “I can do all things through Christ” and that Jesus will “never leave nor forsake me.”  In that confidence, I can run through a troop and leap over a wall.  God you don’t have to tell me everything just go with me for if your presence does not go before me I do not want to go!

            God bless you as you go through this day in Him!

WALK THE WALK Don’t Just TALK THE TALK…

Spiritual Blog - Talk and Walk

Proverbs 14:23 – “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.”  NKJV

 

It is no surprise to me that the Bible would encourage us to be “doers of the word, not hearers only.”  Regardless of what your field of labor or occupation might be, you gain through your labor.  It is not the one who talks a good fight or plan who achieves but the one who implements the plan and puts legs to his words and prayers that achieve.

We have all been associated or known people who are “dreamers” and love to “talk” about their dreams but never actually launch out in pursuit of those dreams.  I have had people come to me as I served congregations as a pastor with their ideas of “how” and “what” should be done, but they never actually “did” what they suggested.  Often, I would tell someone who had the propensity to chatter about “what if’s” and “grandiose proposals”, reach for your dreams and authorized them to begin the process.  Some would initiate action but it would be short-lived for they were “talkers” not “doers” and “dreamers” rather than “laborers”.  If success were determined by their proposals, promises, and proclamations the church would have turned the world upside down and their personal fortunes would have been massive, but they were often impoverished in many areas of life.  They talked the talk but failed to walk the walk.

I knew a man who had taken a meager project into a multi-million dollar business.  He seldom “talked” about ideas he “implemented” them.  He was a man given to little talk but was tireless in his labors and investment of time and energy toward the success of his business.  He invested time and money in the lives of others, in whom, he saw that same spirit.  He said, “I never invest in talkers but in doers.” 

If you are going to achieve your dreams there are some keys that are critical.  Those dreams may be spiritual, material, personal, and relational or in any area of life and the keys remain largely the same.  You have to become a person of “Action” not simply a person who “Dreams” and “Talks”.  You can talk to enlist support for your ideas but ultimately you have to DO to achieve the dream.  Let me give you a short list of some things required:

  • Make Time For The Things You Want To Accomplish.

If you do not allocate time you will never actually do those things. Develop the discipline and become a time manager with specific goals and time allotted to the pursuit of your purposes. 

  • Establish A Specific Goal or Goals.

If you don’t know where you are going how will you know when you get there?   There is a time for a vacation that has not objective but most of the time we have a plan that is modifiable, but we have a plan.  The same is true in every aspect of life. 

  • Refuse To Take On Too Much.

If you overload yourself you will burn out or become discouraged and throw in the towel.  That is true in every area of life.  

  • Never Let Failures Stop Your Dream or Pursuit of Those Dreams.

There will be setbacks, there will be failures, and you will face opposition and obstructions will be in your path.  If you are easily discouraged you will likely never achieve your dream and will be relegated to dreaming or talking about them rather than doing and realizing them. 

  • Reject The Voices That Give You All The Reasons It Cannot Be Done and Receive The Voices That Give You Reasons It Can.

I am not simply talking about thinking positively but about the active and positive pursuit of your dreams and purposes.  If you are called by God to a ministry or mission know that the devil will fight you and the nearer you come to the fulfillment of that purpose the more he will fight.  Remember, we can do all things through Christ…  Defeat is momentary not permanent unless we give up. 

So dream your dreams but never allow yourself to simply dream and talk about your dreams, determine to achieve them through action.  God bless you as you walk the walk of the talk you talk.  Blessings!

HERITAGE AND INHERITANCE…

Spiritual Blog - Heritage

Proverbs 13:22 – “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.”  NKJV

 

We can strictly make this about money and miss the message of this passage.  I hold the view that prosperity is about far more than possessions but what possess us.  It is my conviction that true prosperity begins on the inside and the flows to the outside.   A good man in the broadest sense of this word is someone who seeks good and desires to do and be right.  I acknowledge that this passage is most assuredly about money and possessions and while I contend it goes far beyond that reality it is still a reality.

Leaving an inheritance is not the same as leaving a heritage because a rich heritage with a biblical foundation will provide the needed stability for the recipient to handle it rightly and not be overwhelmed with possessions.  Even the pagans realized that “ill-gotten gain” frequently failed to reach the 3rd generation.  There is a quote I have heard “De male quaesitis non gaudet tertius haeres” which translated means, “The third generation shall not possess the goods that have been unjustly acquired.”  Ill-gotten gain is a curse, not a blessing.

I know many of my fellow believers lay claim to the second portion of this passage citing it as a declaration that they will one day be rich.  I believe they miss sometimes miss the mark of what and why the “wealth of the sinner” is stored up for the righteous.  If God’s purpose and the objective were simply to make His children rich, we would all be wealthy because truly He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and all the earth is His.  That cannot be his purpose to simply have us live in the lap of luxury and remain consistent with the message of the Bible.  When I think of the many places in scripture that speak of money, talent, and increase I find a consistent theme that the heart is the Kingdom, not Mammon or Possessions.  We have a commission and a mission and that requires finances to fulfill, therefore, God has determined that “ill-gotten gain” will be lost by the wicked and that loss will fall to the righteous through right paths.  Job 27 declared, “The innocent shall divide the silver…”  In Exodus 12 we read that the Israelites would spoil the Egyptians and “eat the riches of the gentiles.”

I believe we must read this in context else we could develop a misguided and erroneous interpretation of God’s promise here.  Justice is always part of God’s purpose and plan as is discipline and correction.  If we train our children in the right path and teach them to teach their children the right paths we will leave a heritage that enables them to walk in any abundance that comes to them without developing a “mammon mentality”.  In verse 25 we read, “The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul, but the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.”  Many things can be said here but sufficient it to say that “Contentment” is the key.  We become as Paul declared, “content with whatever state we find ourselves” and “confident in the ability and reality of God’s provision.”  A contented mind is a place of peace but one that devises schemes and through deceit and wickedness seeks to secure gain will always be in turmoil and live in constant fear of someone taking from them what they have.  Through deceit and corruption, they acquired, therefore they view everyone as themselves and trust no one and fear everyone.  There is no real peace for the wicked.

If I leave my children and grandchildren a heritage of righteousness, not just wealth I have given them something which will lead them to the Light and Life.  I have provided something far more valuable than money or possessions.  I desire to give them an inheritance that enhances their lives materially but mostly I desire to leave them a heritage of godliness that will lead them to life spiritually.  So, I will leave an inheritance but in that inheritance, I desire to leave a heritage.

            God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Christ!

HE IS RISEN – – “Fear and Great Joy”…

Spiritual Blog - REsurrection

Matthew 28:1-8 – “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.”  NKJV

 

Imagine the scene at the sealed tomb on that eventful day.  The Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb were in all likelihood unbelievers whose only concern was ensuring that the followers of Christ did not steal His body and perpetrate a fraud upon the people.  They were, as their superiors, convinced that the only way Jesus’ prophecy of rising again on the 3rd day could even appear fulfilled was His followers taking and hiding His body.  The disciples were perplexed, their Messiah was dead.  Everything about that troubled them because they were convinced He had come to restore the kingdom to Israel but He was dead.  The two Mary’s came to the tomb that morning and with many questions nursing their disappointment and despair.  Matthew records it that when they went there was a great earthquake and an angel of God descended rolling away the stone from the door and sat on it.  The angel’s countenance was like lightening bring terror to the hearts of the guards. The announcement of the angel to the two Mary’s was, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said…”  

The angel brought them into the tomb to witness the emptiness of it and then instructed them to go quickly to the other disciples and tell them that JESUS IS ALIVE and that He would go before them into Galilee where they would see Him.  The two Mary’s went quickly from the tomb with “FEAR and GREAT JOY”.  In many respects, that is exactly the condition we should live our lives in following our LORD.  Proverbs 9:10 instructs, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  In Proverbs 2:5 where the writer is speaking about God’s Words and Wisdom tells us that as we mine out the nuggets of truth in the Word we gain an understanding of the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

It is as we KNOW God that we both FEAR and LOVE Him.  It is as we KNOW God and His WORD we have a foundation to understand His purposes, promises, and provisions.  It is as we KNOW Him that we understand the importance and impact of being God-fearing and the Joy His Love brings.  It is reverential but it is more than just respect it is an understanding that He love us unconditionally but is Holy and will judge sin unforgiven without favor.  The FEAR of God can and should bring Great Joy because it enables us to comprehend the choice between sin and salvation, heaven and hell, life and death.  The women went from the tomb with FEAR because His resurrection anchored their Hope that He was the Messiah and God.  It produced Great Joy because, in that confidence, which brought trembling to their mortal minds, they could REJOICE that ALL HE SAID and PROMISED WAS REAL.

So on this day of Celebration of His Resurrection may we move forward with FEAR and GREAT JOY!  May the richness of His presence, the power of His provision, and the permanence of His promises explode in your hearts today!

Happy Easter, First Fruits, or Resurrection Sunday if you prefer.   God bless you is my prayer and desire! 

THE OLD RUGGED CROSS…

Spiritual Blog - Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18-19 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

 “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”  NKJV

 

Hebrews 12 reveals to us that Jesus, out of incredible love and great joy, “endured the Cross” to redeem mankind.  The Cross was part of the process but an indispensable portion for without the Cross there would be no Crown and no Redemption for you and me.  Then in 1 Peter 2, we find some of the benefits of the Cross including, salvation and healing both spiritually and physically.  That message is lost to many today and it seems we virtually never sing the old hymns of the church for we have progressed and evolved, as I’ve been told.  If it is deemed progress to relegate the Cross to a position of unimportance then I do not desire progress.  Yes, I want each of us to grow in grace and mature spiritually but I never want to forget the Cross and what our salvation cost.

The timeless hymn was written by George Bernard, a traveling evangelist in 1913, “The Old Rugged Cross” is a song that may not have the modern beat but has a message that is timeless.  He was heckled incessantly by some of the youth at a revival meeting in Michigan.  George Bernard was so troubled by their disrespect and disregard for the gospel he turned to Scripture to study and reflect on the Cross of Christ.  He said, “I seemed to have a vision… I saw the Christ and the Cross inseparable.”  That is powerful.  He completed the first verse during meetings in Albion, Michigan and the remaining three verses were completed in Pokagon, Michigan during meetings in local churches.  He first performed the song in its entirety for the host pastor, Reverend Leroy and Ruby Bostwick, in the living room of their parsonage. They were so moved by the song and message it was incorporated in the revival service on June 7, 1913. 

“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,

             The emblem of suff’ring and shame:

             And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best

             For a world of lost sinners was slain.”          

That so encapsulates the message it is amazing.  The refrain so grips my heart I can never read it, hear it, or sing it without tears coming to my eyes:

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,

             Till my trophies at last I lay down;

             I will cling to the old rugged cross,

             And exchange it someday for a crown.” 

The next three verses convey the awesomeness of the Cross and the Christ of the Cross.

“Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,

             Has a wondrous attraction for me;

             For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above

             To bear it to dark Calvary.

             In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,

             A wondrous beauty I see.

             For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

             To pardon and sanctify me.

 

             To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;

             Its shame and reproach gladly bear;

             Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,

             Where His glory forever I’ll share.” 

The Cross is and has been seen as foolishness and even unnecessary by many, but to us who are saved it is the Power of God.  It holds the revelation of what we have in this New Birth in Jesus Christ.  It reveals the love and mercy of God for mankind.  It truly is something I will always cherish and to which I cling, not the tree of wood but to the Christ who hung on that tree and the tree is a symbol to me to remind me of WHAT JESUS DID.

            God bless you as you go through this day in Him.

 

IF GOD HAS YOUR HEART…

Spiritual Blog - Crosby

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  NKJV

 

Through the years, I have heard and been tempted to declare something impossible or too difficult due to handicap, inability, lack of training, lack of resources, and more.  However, when I recall the words of the words recorded in Hebrews 12 about the “cloud of witnesses” surrounding us and reminding us of the hope and future in Christ I am put to shame and fall on my face in repentance.

I have long been interested in the history behind many of the hymns of the church and one writer, in particular, has always caught my attention.  That would be none other than Fanny Jane van Alstyne Crosby.  Fanny Crosby was one of the most prolific and talented psalmist and songwriters of any generation.  She wrote many of her hymns in conjunction with her pastor Robert Lowry and is credited with writing over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs.  She did this although having lost her sight shortly after birth but refused to allow her blindness of sight be blindness of spirit and heart.  Some of her works include, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”, “Blessed Assurance”, Rescue The Perishing”, and “To God Be The Glory”.  That is not an exhaustive list but some of her works that still grip my heart when I read, hear or sing them.  She also wrote over 1,000 secular poems and had four books of poetry published.  She wrote or co-wrote some popular secular songs, political works, and patriotic songs and, at least, five cantatas on biblical and patriotic themes.

Fanny Crosby was a longtime member of Sixth Avenue Bible Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York.  The cholera epidemic in New York that spanned May to November 1849 did not deter her from serving and she remained in at NYIB nursing the sick.  It was out of that time that Fanny realized that she became aware of something lacking in her spiritual life.  She had become so wrapped up social, political, and educational reform she felt true love for God was absent in her heart so she pursued God more diligently.  She attended churches in various denominations through 1887 including the Plymouth Church of Pilgrims in Brooklyn pastored by Congregationalist abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher was an innovator with church music.  She attended Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church, pastored by her distant cousin Howard Crosby, and Trinity Episcopal Church.  She enjoyed worshipping in the North West Dutch Reformed Church and the Central Presbyterian Church later known as the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  Later in life, she named Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, who pastored the North East Dutch Reformed Church as one of her favorite preachers. Although she was never publicly identified with the American Holiness Movement she was a follower of the Wesleyan Holiness Movement and attended many of the Wesleyan/Holiness camp meetings.

Fanny Crosby could have become a recluse and felt sorry for herself but like Helen Keller refused to allow her blindness handicap her.  She exemplified the text verse and the idea that “If God has our heart, we can do all things through Christ.”  I stand ashamed, at times, when I reflect on the seeming ease of our generation compared to that of past heroes of faith and spiritual contribution.  They refused to allow difficulty prevent them from reaching for the stars and pressed on continually toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

God bless you as you dare to dream and turn your dreams into realities as you give God your whole heart and follow Him into the uncharted territory of life.   Blessings abundantly are my prayer and desire for each of you.