We Do Not Belong

Baptized in Fire

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:2-4

And so the Holy Spirit makes His grand entrance onto the world stage and reclaims that which was lost so long ago—the hearts of men.

This passage is speaking of the birth of the church, the long awaited day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto the children of God, onto those who seek his face and accept his Son.

It’s easy to get distracted by, and hung up on, the amazing events recorded here with the wind blowing, the fire showing, and the tongues flowing, but we cannot overlook the significance of what is happening here, the significance of this day.

Nothing like this has ever happened before. The Holy Spirit has made some spectacular entrances before, but He has never manifested Himself like this for the purpose of indwelling a group of people.

He makes this grand entrance to come and to not just abide for a while in someone, not just visit, not just anoint—but to take up permanent residence, to empower, enliven and radically change, not just a group of people, but to create a whole new class of people—a people who are alive in him, who are empowered in him, who are in Him period. People who are truly alive, who are more than conquerors.

The church, the bride of Christ, has been born. And she lives and thrives yet today as us—the church. We are the bride, born again, empowered, enlivened—radically changed and ready to be Jesus in a dark and dying world. A world we no longer need to fear, a world we no longer face alone—a world of which we are a part, yet to which we do not belong. We cannot belong to a broken world, because we are now whole.

We do not belong to a world of broken hearts. We do not belong to a world of shattered dreams and broken promises. We do not belong to a world of death and decay, perversion and hate. We are in this world but not of it. We belong to a Kingdom that is not subject to any of that which the world would impose on us, a Kingdom that is not at the mercy of evil. Because we belong to Jesus.

We, who have believed and received, are now one with the Father and filled with His Holy Spirit—Baptized with fire. Fire is cleansing, fire is all consuming, irrepressible, irresistible— fire is power.

And that power comes from a fire that is not like the furnaces of electrical generation plants, not like the fire that propels our trucks and trains and sends rockets to space, it is not like the fire of the sun that gives life and energy to nearly all living things in one form or another.

The fire that gives us life, that empowers us is so much greater than all of that, and in fact created all of that—our fire is the Holy Spirit of the Living God.

And we can be fully immersed, fully filled, fully enlivened, empowered— cleansed, clothed and recreated by that fire, by that Spirit. So that we can say, as Paul did, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me—I am a new creation. Or, we can choose to mock the true power and continue striving to understand and to be understood, to find our way alone and hope it’s all enough. We can accept the power, or we can deny the power.

 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” Acts 2:12-13

On the day the Spirit was poured out on the first believers many mocked and derided them as drunk and disorderly—emotional chaos. But in the end they could not deny that what was happening was from God. They could see, hear and even feel the Spirit stirring their hearts.

That’s what happened on that day of Pentecost, at that Feast of Firstfruits. That’s the fire, the power that was turned loose on the earth that day. Because Jesus is Lord, because he was not left in the grave to see corruption and because he was indeed raised up.

 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. Acts 2:32-33

These were the words of Peter on the day of Pentecost as he preached the first sermon of the church that is about to grow by thousands in a single day—all because the Holy Spirit came and not only got everyone’s attention, but put a fire in Peter that he could not contain and that could not be resisted.

The cornerstone had been laid, Jesus was raised up, and the church was being built. A new spiritual house to which we would belong was taking shape—in a big hurry and in a big way.

The Holy Spirit was poured out in a way that all could see and hear—there was no mistaken. The Apostles may have been born again quietly in a locked room and given new life, (John 20:22) but on this day they would have their whole lives, their whole world, radically changed. There would be no denying or hiding anymore.

Afraid to seek, receive and move in the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the gifts he gives? If you are living for Christ you are going to be mocked and derided in this increasingly hostile world anyway, so why would you stop short of the power?

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

We do not belong to this world, but this world desperately needs us!

I Know You, Still

I find great encouragement in the calling of those the Lord would use in days of old to speak truth beyond their own wisdom and understanding. Because the same God who called them is the same one who calls and equips us. And Jesus told us that we who are least in the Kingdom would be greater than even the greatest of the old prophets.

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1

Many times we see in scripture, references to how the Lord knew us and had a plan for us even before we were ever born.

How can we not trust and love a God who knows us better than we can ever know ourselves? Why would we ever fear that a God who knew us even before we were born, who was thinking about us and what great things we could and would do to make this world a better place, that he would not have our backs, would not equip us with what we need to accomplish the mission he gives us.

And why would we ever fear those who would come against us when it is God who gives us the words to speak and the signs to accompany it? It’s not something we muster up or contrive, it’s just us getting out of the Spirit’s way and allowing him to use us.

Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me:

“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant.” Jer 1:9
—10

 Sounds a lot like what Jesus was telling his followers, doesn’t it? God’s word is never left unfulfilled, it never returns void, and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

If ever we need Jeremiah’s today is that day. If ever we needed Peters and Johns—Andrews and James, Stephens and Mary Magdalenes, Cornelius’s and Eunices—today is that day.

We must heed the call, step up and accept our commission by the Lord who knew us and had a plan for us long before we were ever conceived in the womb, and not be afraid of anything, for the Lord our God is with us.

…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Mat 28

To me these are the most comforting words ever spoken in the language of men. The words of Jesus, the author of life, the lamb of God and the Lion of Judah—he in whose image I am created.

I do not fear the dark–the dark fears me!

Are You Not entertained!?

“A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.”

A couple of weekends ago I was in our small church building trying to get the lights just right so that attendees and the camera could see the folks up front without them being blinded, adjusting monitor; trying to work the bugs out of the sound, both in the house and on the live feed, is a constant ongoing battle, the Power Point programs and the background pictures I use on the screen to enhance the message and the verses in a way that all can see them, thinking about the placement of the worship team and facilitating all of that both for those in house and the camera, the slow internet speeds and on and on.

I was trying to work through all of that when it all just kind of overwhelmed me a bit (I have no tech people) and I threw up my hands and shouted at the back wall–

“Are you not entertained?”

maximus

In my mind at that moment I was Russel Crowe playing Maximus,  in the movie Gladiator holding up my blood dripping sword after having lobbed the heads off of all of my technological issues and not having any fun whatsoever doing it. In fact I was rather frustrated because it is not what I want to be doing, but it just seems necessary, expected and required.

Like fighting and killing just for show. Fighting and sometimes killing is necessary at times to protect what and who you love and cherish from harm but when it becomes a sport to be cheered it no longer serves a noble purpose.

 A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.

Maximus was a noble warrior who is forced to fight for show. He had been a respected general leading a Roman legion, fighting against the barbarians in the north for an Emperor he loved, for what he perceived to be a noble cause, when he was betrayed and found himself in the hands of slavers and sold to a purveyor of the gladiator arena.

After having been forced to fight in several different arenas, using his extensive military experience and skill to become a money making crowd pleaser he is becoming more and more disgusted at the whole system so one day he walks into some backwater arena where he is facing six opponents by himself and he becomes a flurry of steel and sinew as all six opponents are quickly dispatched within a matter of seconds.

As the crowd sits in stunned silence at the display of efficient, no nonsense swordsmanship, Maximus turns to them and sarcastically shouts—“Are you not entertained? –are you not entertained!?”

His trainer and owner then derides him after the show for not putting on a show—”if you want to become truly famous, if you want to make it to the Colosseum in Rome, you have to put on a show, that’s what the people want.”

Frustration

 

Maximus was right in being frustrated that he had to put on a show when the end goal was to dispatch the enemy. For the most part, those in the arena who were put forward as gladiators were captured enemy soldiers or criminals sentenced to death. A quick and efficient execution would have sufficed but they made it into a sport to appease the citizens who needed some distraction from the shortfalls of the leaders and the misery of their day to day.

And once that system, that show was started, the more they demanded and the more creative they had to be in turning killing into entertainment. And it was all about keeping the people happy and pacified.

How many pastors and evangelists feel the same way; ‘Why can I not just get up here and slay the enemy, stomp the devil and his demons and release those he has deceived and put into bondage with the sharp sword of the word of God and release the power of grace in the hearts of God’s children by the life changing, life giving Holy Spirit?

Why the song and dance? Why the multimillion dollar gilded stadiums, the Broadway worthy stages and actors, the lighting and effects, sound and video technologies, that would make any high dollar Rock band feel right at home if they were dropped onto the stage? Why the special events and carefully planned activities that would make a cruise ship director proud?

Are you not entertained?!

recieve with meekness

We are asked to receive the word with meekness. Should it not be sufficient also to deliver the word of God to be implanted in your souls with meekness as well? Meekness means with humility, gentleness, quietness, it certainly doesn’t mean with as loud and as grand a show as you can afford or imagine.

And receiving the word with meekness means not demanding that you be entertained, that your ears be tickled, in the process. The churches feel the pressure to put on a show because the people have come to expect it, and to expect even more. —”Otherwise I’m going golfing—wait, that church on the other side of town, I hear they have an amazingly talented worship team and the drama team, Wow, they are top notch!”

Meanwhile the rest of us are just trying not to lose the remote to the PowerPoint slide show while hoping that no one trips on the mic  cord to the phone we are using to try and keep our church service on Facebook, and that those who run Facebook don’t shut us down because we are preaching the whole gospel and not just the ‘aren’t we all wonderful parts.’

Jesus is Lord and he loves us so much that he died on the cross because of our sins. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. And the Holy Spirit is also alive and well and wants to indwell, heal and lead you, but you must be obedient to his voice and his word if you want to be used of him to make a difference. And you must be willing to get out of your comfortable little happy bubble and be Jesus to a sick and dying world because he is coming back. And then it will be too late to do all that we had put off.’ —That’s the whole gospel.

doers and hearers

We are to be doers and not just hearers.

That’s the unvarnished, life changing, soul saving, devil slaying gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are we going to do with it? How do we become doers?

The Sheep and the Goats

James gives us the answer—get out and change the world, one hurting person at a time, without letting the world change you.

helping hand

It’s the same thing Jesus told us. Who is it that he recognizes at the judgement seat as he separates the sheep from the goats? Those who remembered and visited him when he was sick and in prison, who clothed and fed him when he was naked and hungry.

He recognizes the doers, not those who were only hearers—and talkers.

And why would you not want to make a difference in this world? If you truly have the heart of Jesus, know the love and hope he offers and know the depths of his love, how can you look at those who hurt and not love them like Jesus does? And if you truly love, you will act.

I don’t blame the church for the state of apathy and spiritual arrogance. I blame the leaders who teach what they think will bring people in instead of what will truly save them from missing out on all that God has for them. For allowing them to wallow in filth.

The Holy word that was planted in your heart to the saving of your soul is also your strength and your call to cast aside “the sin which so easily entangles” (Heb) and walk in the freedom of his grace as doers of the word and not just hearers only.

lay aside wickedness

 

The Dead Ahead

What happens when the demons of the past give way to the demons waiting for you on the other shore?

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Let the dead bury their own dead, you go proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

In the gospel story we have been following the last few weeks, those who made the commitment to leave the dead in spirit behind, who had left the chaos of Peter’s house where an impromptu healing and deliverance crusade had taken place, getting into a boat to sail for the other shore of the Sea of Galilee, survived a devastating storm that only subsided with the command from Jesus “Peace be still!” finally made it safely to the other shore. And so they lived happily ever after in Never Never Land. Never to worry, never to fear or be in want again—right?

Oh wait, that’s just the modern day church’s evangelism friendly version. Let’s look at the Jesus version;

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. Mark 5:1—5

afraid

So the chosen few, those who have answered the call to follow, committed to follow wherever Jesus led them without even the assurance of a place to lay their heads at night. They have left behind the past, leaving the dead to bury the dead, they have survived the storm which turned out to be no big deal after all, because they just happened to be sailing with the creator himself—they get to the other shore and are met by a man— who is stark raving mad. He has been living literally among the dead, in the tombs, he is demon possessed and as evil as they come.

Again, Jesus just seems to be going out of his way to make it challenging for people to follow him. They left the dead and ran smack into a maniac, a man whom, not only hurt himself, but also attacked everyone who came this way.

So—to follow this narrative that has been unfolding these last few weeks—we have been learning to not allow anything to hinder us from being obedient to the call to follow, not let anything or anyone stop us, to leave our fears, the lies and hurts of the past —spoken to us by the dead— behind. And to keep our eyes on Jesus as he leads us safely away from those who would hurt us.

In a nutshell, we have been learning how to leave the demons of the past behind us. So to me this story leads me to ask: Okay, we’ve escaped the demons of the past and moved on; “What happens when the demons are waiting for you on the other shore?”

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Powerless dead

It’s something we all fear. You don’t have to follow Jesus very long before you realize that not everyone else shares your new found enthusiasm for all things good and your desire to shun things you now realize are harmful. This of course leads to the next fear, especially for those who have been victimized by those who are influenced by an impure spirit -‘What is to prevent me from becoming victimized again?’ ‘How can I be safe?’ “I have left the dead, but what about the dead ahead?”

This is the only instance in the gospels where Jesus engages in a conversation with the demons. He usually commands them to silence. I think he did that to prove a point, he was teaching the disciples with him the same thing he is trying to teach us;

Yes, there are demons here, and there are demons ahead. Their influence will be around as they continue to deceive, use, and abuse all who do not yet know the truth. But do not let them deceive you ever again.’ ‘They cannot harm you, in fact they are afraid of you.’

I do not fear meme

Jesus allowed this demon to speak so that there would be no mistake, and no missing what was going on here, this man, someone’s son, was out of control, his life was no longer his. This man was possessed by had a whole host of demons living in him. Yet this legion of demons— enough to possess a herd of 2 thousand pigs and had exerted unfettered control over this wretched man— they were afraid of Jesus. They begged for mercy.

What a stark contrast for all who witnessed this, the swine herders and locals, who had lived in fear of this man, and the Jewish disciples who had lived their lives totally at the mercy of every demon spirit who had influenced them, and all those around them, all their lives.

Now they see these terrible, fearful, all powerful demons, fearing for their very existence and begging for a reprieve from what they know Jesus has full authority and power to do to them, and that is to throw them into the abyss as they await their consignment to the lake of fire.

“What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” 

Mark 5

(Have you come to torture us before the appointed time? Mat 8)

Jesus was making sure all understood, that in any and all places, whether riding out a storm or facing agents of the devil himself— they were safe if they were with him.

Safety

Jesus understood that one of the most basic of all human desires is the desire to be safe, to feel safe and to know that we are protected and can defend ourselves against evil. So what does he do? He brings them through a storm and then face to face with a naked bleeding maniac dragging chains behind him like a rabid Pit Bull who has broken his chain just as you were walking by on the sidewalk.

And again, Jesus is not rattled, he does not panic nor tell his followers to run, he simply tells the demons to take a hike like he is telling a disobedient child to go sit in the time out corner. And the fearful demons whimper and complain like unruly kindergartners who have had their snack time taken away.

If this doesn’t prove to the disciples that they have nothing to fear as long as they are with him, nothing will. The Psalm of David—which these Jewish men surely knew—suddenly takes on a whole new meaning and becomes very real to them.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength in who I will trust. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Ps 18:2

Jesus was indeed their shield; I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t even hiding behind him.

But Jesus was also demonstrating to them what they would be able to do as well, as he would impart on them his Holy Spirit, they would be not just safe, but they would also be those who would rescue others. No need to fear the dead, not the dead behind them nor the dead ahead of them.

He would say the same to you.

Barbarian woman wolf

Find Your Freedom- Barbarians in the Kingdom

Bury the Dead

“They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, … you need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.”

bury teh dead

Early in Jesus’ ministry he is traveling around teaching people, healing many and drawing huge crowds. He ends up at Peter’s house; probably to eat and rest. But they arrive to find his Mother in Law is sick so he touches her and heals her. Word quickly gets out— ‘Jesus is at Peter’s house’; and people are flocking to him for healing and deliverance and he heals them all and drives out many demons.

After a while as the crowd was growing alarmingly large, he gets up and says to his closest disciples:  “Come onWe’re going to go to the other side of the lake.”  Jesus apparently turns to another and invites him along, but this man hesitates for reasons only Jesus can see.

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59—60

Walking down to the nearby shore Jesus then gets into the boat with those who have decided to leave it all behind, probably the twelve, who are surely thinking about now; “Man, we are the chosen few, the ones who are going to ride this train to glory!”  You can almost hear Willie Nelson sing in the background: “Blue skies shining on me, nothing but blue skies do I see.”

They cast off with visions of the Kingdom Come in their heads —and sail— right into a storm. “Where’s Jesus? Asleep? Ahhh, we should have stayed behind with those others who are safe and dry in their own beds tonight!” “Lord don’t you care that we are about to drown?”

They chose to follow the one who was bringing wholeness and life to those he touched, they left behind the dead—all who refused or were unwilling to give up their pasts—the things they had always counted on to be their provision—and now they had sailed right into possibly one of the worst storms these men who had grown up on this inland sea had ever seen.

Woman and tornado

‘What kind of a deal is this? Did you bring us into the desert to see us perish of thirst?’ No wait, that was Moses. ‘Did you take us from our homes and our families just to see us drown in the sea?’

Storm

I have never been in a storm at sea but I can imagine how frightening it must be. Sitting in a small wooden ship, about half the size of a Viking long ship and not nearly as flexible, getting drenched by the rain and the waves as the wind drives you farther and farther from shore. And the only place to go? Into the churning water that holds only darkness and death, a merciless and terrifying tomb that hungers for the living like a doorway to Hades itself.

That’s what these guys are facing. ‘I thought following Jesus, the miracle man, the Messiah, our long awaited king, would make us impervious to harm, where did this come from? I want my money back!’

So here are the followers of Jesus, who left all behind, now thinking, “This is it! We’re going to be swamped and drown.” A fisherman’s worst nightmare. But what they still didn’t understand was just who it was that they were with. This storm was nothing. They were still thinking as those who were still back in the past, who were still living with, subject to, and even one of —the dead. We’ll never overcome this, we’ve been told all our lives to be careful, to not get caught out too far from shore when a storm is brewing—why are we even here?!’

But they are no longer amongst the dead nor one of them. They were now counted amongst the living, in the very presence of life itself, the creator and giver of life, yet they still feared death. How quickly they had forgotten., how quickly they had lost faith.

Where’s your faith?

be still

The disciples had just spent the day with Jesus seeing one miracle after another. And that very same evening they are in a storm fearing for their lives and what do they do? They panic— “We have to wake up Jesus! How can he possibly be sleeping at such a time as this?  “Don’t you caredon’t you care that we are going to drown?”

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” That’s a huge question.

Why are we so afraid? We forget what we are leaving behind, we forget the impossible hopeless situations we have seen God take care of with just a word and we forget who we are with. We are afraid of things that now have no power to hurt us.

Demons, people who have hurt us, financial difficulties, we get bogged down in fear and doubt by worries and unforgiveness— voices and faces that come back to taunt us—the dead. We fear the dead.

The dead keep taunting us, their voices alive in our heads. Which is why Jesus told the disciple back in Capernaum; “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

“Lord, don’t you want us to take care of our families, don’t you want us to honor our fathers?” Yes, but nothing can excuse disobedience and here was God in the flesh telling this man to come with him and here is this man making excuses, using what seems a noble task as an excuse for disobedience.

Jesus was asking this man to put him first, to not be dissuaded from following him by those who choose not to follow, to listen to his voice over the voice of man—even his own father. The man was worried about security, about his inheritance, let me be a diligent son and heir and I’ll catch up with you later…

Get Safe

Listen to this—Those behind us, whether it’s family, friends, employers, teachers, even church leaders—anyone who has pulled at you, planted seeds of doubt in your mind, outright hurt you with words, or blows that bruised more than your flesh, who left wounds that pain you to this day—they are the dead that we must leave behind.

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They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, then they are not following Jesus, they are following their own flesh. If they claim to be following Jesus but are not bearing the fruit of that life in Christ, then they are living as those who are dead and—listen carefullyyou need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.

You get free, go and proclaim the kingdom of God to those who will hear it, among those to whom Jesus leads you. Staying in a place of hurt out of a sense of duty is not the will of God, is not an acceptable sacrifice, it is disobedience. Jesus is saying to you: “Come follow me. Get into the boat and let’s cross this big lake and get away from this clamoring mob who would drag you down and suck all they can out of you. Let’s get away from the voices of those who care only for themselves while pretending to love.”

get away

 

Make of that what you will— I will let the Holy Spirit fill in the rest in your hearts as only he can do.