The Riddle

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. Luke 7

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Remember the old batman character the Riddler? He was always messing with Batman’s mind by giving clues to his true intentions in the form of a riddle.

Riddle me this caped crusaders; What is covered in camel’s hair but is not a camel? What speaks the words of God but is not found in a temple? What eats locusts and honey but is not a wild beast, and stands as sturdy as an oak but is not a tree. What is not concerned about being politically correct and not offending anyone yet draws hearers from far and wide?

Answer—A true prophet and more than a prophet, the voice of one—John the Baptist.

The crowds weren’t drawn to John because he was a smooth talker in fancy clothes. They were drawn to John because he was honest, because he spoke truth, and the people were hungry for the truth. Which is of course why they now followed Jesus—he also spoke truth—he could do nothing else because he is truth.

People were not drawn to John because he looked good in his designer clothes and impeccably groomed beard and stylish haircut, people did not walk miles in the hot sun into the middle of nowhere because they wanted to hear the message of abundant living, the secret to success, that some well-to-do preacher was offering. They went because they were hungry for truth, hungry for something real; because John was proclaiming, for no apparent personal gain of his own, with no pretense or fancy talk, that the Kingdom of God, the Redeemer was coming and coming now.

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.

 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips. . .  Is 59:20—21

They went to John because they were hungry for God, hungry to be right with God, hungry for the word and seeing and hearing this wild eyed man in the desert who cared not about his own pride or esteem, who wasted no energy worrying about whether he would look good enough and preach good enough to make people want to come back next week, hearing him tell them that he had a way for them to do that—to be right with God—'”repent and be baptized” and be ready.’ ‘Believe in the one who was to come, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’”

Peter would preach that same message on the day of Pentecost three years later—Repent and be baptized— but this time it was not to receive the one who is to come, but to receive the one who has come.

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2

This was a fulfillment of John’s promise that one was coming who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

But for now, on that day when Jesus asked the people, why did you go to see John?—No one else was offering them that hope for grace, no one else was telling them their sins could be taken away, let alone the sins of the world, or that they could soon even be immersed in the Holy Spirit.

The priests had made a business out of offering only temporary absolution, ‘keep coming back, keep buying the animals for the sacrifice we sell here, keep paying the temple tax and the tithe, keep doing everything the teachers of the law tell you to do, you dirty sinners, if not for you God’s Kingdom would have come a long time ago!’

Garments of righteousness

Jesus wasn’t trying to make the point that we need to dress modestly like John did. He was telling us that it is what’s on the inside that’s important.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Is 61:10

Here are the garments that we need to wear, the ones that are truly important, the ones that we wear out of respect and love for the one we stand before as a bride.

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I always tell the groom to be when we are preparing for a wedding I am performing when he is stressing over how he is going to look up there in his Tux or whatever as he is standing before a crowd nervous and self-conscious—”No one is going to be looking at you”, the minute that bride comes in, all eyes are on her. She even has her own song.

The bride is usually all decked out in a white dress that is made just special for her to dazzle and magnify her beauty. They spend hours on the hair and the makeup, the flowers and accessories, veils, trains, jewels, whatever and as soon as the groom sees her the last thing he is thinking about is whether or not he looks dorky.

He is awestruck and madly in love at that point and can never imagine ever feeling any other way about her, she is the very center of his universe.

Every time I gave away one of my daughters at their wedding I had the same thought, “Boy, you had better realize how lucky you are.”

That is how Jesus sees us—as the most beautiful thing he has ever laid eyes on and he is thrilled beyond comprehension that we have chosen to be his, that his Father has given us to him. He is honored and happy that we have accepted the garments of salvation, and me the robe of righteousness he offers to us and that we chose to wear them just for him.

The lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world has made us his bride, and we are perfect and beautiful and he can never imagine himself loving us less. How can we not rejoice in that?

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It’s not luck that gets the groom the beautiful bride, it’s the unfailing, sacrificial love and devotion that the husband to be showers on the one he has chosen to be his bride—Jesus has chosen you.

 

 

 

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Seek Wisdom

 

“…personal Charisma replaced the charismata.”heart-fire

We’ve been talking lately here, and in our church, about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, believing and praying that there will be a new and powerful outpouring that will embolden and equip the church in a very real and tangible way. We have that Spirit available to us already, and the Spirit of the Lord has— as Paul worded it to Titus—been poured out on us generously.  

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3

But I am contending and believing that there will be a fresh anointing in the church; that there will be new life breathed into weary hearts, and that people from all walks of life will be drawn to the church, drawn to Jesus, as they see and feel the Spirit of God reaching out to them in an irresistible way so that they surrender to his love and compassion. I am praying for and preparing for a revival within and without the church.

To facilitate this, to be in a place where we can be used by the Lord —to witness that Love and compassion to people— we must not be simply charismatic, loud and proud, which is where some of the church who has embraced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—found in the baptism of the Spirit—ended up. If you were moving in Pentecostal circles or watching some of the TV Evangelists back in the 80’s and 90’s, you know what I’m talking about.

Speaking in tongues became an end in itself instead of a means to facilitate the will of God. And the gifts of the Spirit— prophesying, healing, words of knowledge— became something to flaunt and make a spectacle of, as it seemed Spirit filled Christians were just trying to outdo one another or to prove their Holiness by virtue of how they could be used by God to perform signs and wonders. Experience took precedence over the wisdom found in the word of God.

Honestly, from what I have witnessed, even in Pentecostal circles, the scriptural understanding of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the gifts, the process— the hows, the whys and the what-fors—  are still being debated, as the theological explanation for what the Lord has done and what we have been experiencing is still playing catch up. Everyone assumes that it has all been explained or figured out by someone else smarter than they are and, to me, some very obvious misunderstandings have been perpetuated.

I think it may be because people looked to other people for wisdom instead of going to the source. God has a way of quickly outgrowing all the neat little boxes we try to put him in to match our own limited experience and understandings. Anyway, I digress.

The 80’s and 90’s were kind of the wild west as far as the Spirit filled parts of the body of Christ went. I know, I was there, and I kind of got caught up in it also. We began to lose sight of what the gifts were for, and that they were not a stand-alone thing. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that facilitates the release of his power to allow the Kingdom of God to move in this realm of the natural, must be accompanied by a strong sense of the desire of God’s heart to love, bless, heal and serve others.

Everything God does is motivated by his love, even his rebuke and correction is motivated by that love just as a parent’s discipline of a child is. We have to be smarter about the coming glory, we have to seek the wisdom of God that is available in greater and greater measure as his power in our lives increases, as we learn to move in him.

So how do we know? How do we know what we are to do with the things the Lord gives us, how and when to use the gifts, to not just be a receiver but a giver as well. God doesn’t bless us, fill us and heal us just so that we can sit back and be fat and sassy—God fills us so that we can give to others. His gift are tools to build his Kingdom and the more we give, the more we pour out what he has so generously given—the more we will receive.

This works for everything, blessings are blessings whether it’s our money, our time, our talents, or our spiritual blessings—your healing and wholeness can be shared, your joy can be shared, your life—the life that you have received from Jesus—can be shared. That’s what the supernatural gifts are for. Everything God gives us is motivated by love but it is also to equip us to share that love, to give love.

So how do we know? How do we know how to do any of this. How can we share these things? What do I do with the outpouring of the Spirit? You might think: I’m not sure I want it because I won’t know how to handle it. That’s what happened to the last revival, the Azusa street revival, people lost track— not all people, much of the church is still alive and well and moving powerfully in the power of the Holy Spirit—but many stopped seeking the wisdom of the Lord, they just wanted the glory.

Large churches that initially drew people by the droves because they were moving in the power of the Holy Spirit became seeker sensitive and pushed all vestiges of the Holy Spirit’s power aside, depending on the show and the charisma of the pastor to keep people coming. Personal Charisma replaced the Charismata —the Greek word for the secondary pouring out of the Spirit that brought with it the gifts that equip the church to be Jesus to a dying world.

So how do we know? —Ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1