Friday, August 19, 2016

The Father Who Notices Little Things

Some time ago, I came across a book by Francis Schaeffer entitled “No Little People, No Little Places.” I was intrigued by the phrase, as it pointed to a powerful dimension of the value system of the Kingdom of God – that little things matter. We see it theoretically in the Scriptures, where we read of God as a Father who notices even when sparrows fall, and we are encouraged to translate that fact to how much more significant we are to Him than sparrows are.

However, there come points in our lives when the Father, through a variety of means, helps us with that translation, and the truth becomes personal and even life-changing. I had one of those experiences this week, and I want to share it with you, in the hope it might be encouraging to you as well.

My wife Marie and I were participating in a ministry time that was focused on prosperity in our souls, and how that prosperity of soul might affect financial matters in our experience. Steve DeSilva, who was leading the ministry time, directed me to close my eyes, and to ask the Holy Spirit to bring some past experience to my mind that may have had effect on how I view prosperity and wealth. Immediately, a remembered a time when I, at the age of about 7 or 8 years, had brought a little bouquet of flowers to my Mom for Mother’s Day. I had saved my allowance (25 cents a week back then!) and spent it on the little bunch of blossoms.

As I remembered my Mom’s response, the emotion of the decades-old memory welled up, and I felt the disappointment as she told me that my Dad had already gotten her flowers, and I shouldn’t spend the money, but should return the bouquet and get my money back. As I think about it from my adult perspective, she wasn’t being mean; she was actually not wanting me to spend money on her. But in the moment, through a child's limited perspective, I felt that my gift was not important.

As I shared the story, tears ran down my cheeks, and I realized that I had formed opinions about God in that moment that were not true. Steve asked me to look around the room in my memory, to see where God the Father was in the picture. I “saw” Him take my young face in His hands, smile, and say this: “I saw what you did, and it was precious to Me.”

Suddenly, I realized in a more deeply personal way that little things matter to God. A fifty-cent bouquet is nothing, but when given with a heart of love, it matters. God sees, and knows, and moves heaven and earth to make resources available to little people in little places who desire to express the giving heart that is native to the family of God.

Here’s my prayer for you today: Know that your Father in Heaven is watching, not to scold or rebuke, but to see and notice and pay attention to you, for you are His, and you are precious. The little stuff of your life matters, so may the Holy Spirit lock that truth in your heart, and give you peace and joy.

Gary Wiens

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Power of the Tongue

Proverbs 18:20-21 A man's stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; from the produce of his lips he shall be filled. 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

In these two short verses from the Book of Proverbs, we have a most important key to the secret place of well-being in our personal lives and ministry. All too often I have tried to pick up the pieces of my own broken heart, or attempted to assist others in getting themselves together again after a negative encounter with another person’s acid tongue. Let me try to unpack these verses just a bit, and then give a key principle from the life of Jesus that – if implemented – will set us free from the tyranny of other people’s unrighteous opinions.
The first point that the writer of the Proverb makes is that our stomach – in this case, our place of nourishment for the soul – will be sated, completely filled, with the fruit of our mouth. What we speak concerning ourselves will absolutely affect the health and prosperity of our souls. The power of the tongue is that it carries life or death to us, and whatever words we “love,” or eat constantly, will bear their fruit in us. If we love words of life, then there will be life-giving fruit. If we constantly feed on words of death – criticism, self-hatred, demands of perfection, rejection, abandonment – the fruit borne in us will be deadly.
In James’ apostolic letter to the Body of Christ, he lets us know that not only do words have power, they have the awesome effect of setting the course of life on fire! The words we speak and the words we receive are a big deal!
One of the most important disciplines we can embrace is the discipline of discerning which words we will feast on. There are a couple of sentences in the Scripture, spoken by Jesus and echoed by His disciples, that help us here.
In John 6:63, Jesus says “The words I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” Since we know from John 8:28 that Jesus only speaks what He hears from the Father, we can be confident that Jesus’ words are always gracious, empowering us to live the life He has for us. Learning to love the words that agree with what God speaks, and learning to reject every word that contradicts God’s opinion is certain to bear the good fruit of life, not death. Peter echoed those words moments after Jesus spoke them when he said “You have the words of eternal life.” Peter knew that even if Jesus’ words made him momentarily uncomfortable, the long-term fruit of eating them would be life for his soul.
Jesus Himself had to exercise this discipline as well. In the early days of His ministry, everyone was excited about Him, and was praising Him (see John 2:23-25). However, Jesus gave those words no power, because He knew that if He gave their positive words power in His soul now, their negative and condemning words later would have power to wound Him. So, He did not entrust Himself to them – in other words, He gave their words no power in His life. He only gave the voice of the Father the power to affect His well-being.
The key thing here is this: Whose words will you love? Will you feast on the changing words of other people that have come in your childhood, or even more recently, words that may be positive or negative, but are not necessarily in line with the Father’s righteous words? Or, will you feast only on words that agree with what God thinks and says over you? Even His words of correction, painful in the moment, bear the fruit of life to those who love Him and His word.

May the Holy Spirit grant you great grace to discern the Father’s voice, to give power only to words that agree with His heart, and to enjoy the eternal fruit of life that comes from the power of His voice.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Settled in the Sovereign Goodness of God

Some months ago, the Holy Spirit dropped a phrase into my mind that seemed important at the time, but which has grown in significance and potency as we face the challenges of the present day. The phrase is this:

“We will never be OK until we are fully settled in the sovereign goodness of God.”

The Scriptures are very clear about the fact that God is ultimately in control of all the affairs of nations and the lives of individuals. Such passages as Psalm 11 speak of His watchful eye, His superintendence of the activity of people, and in fact all of His creation, down to His awareness of the life cycle of sparrows! And we are told, by Jesus Himself, not to be afraid of situations in our lives, because we are much more valuable to the Father than sparrows are (see Luke 12:6-7).

In opposition to this comforting truth rises the activity of wicked people who have in mind the destruction of all that which is good. The language of Psalm 11 is that the wicked take aim with their bows, their weapons of desecration and decay, and shoot at all that are righteous, or in line with the character and purposes of God. There is no doubt that the days we are in seem threatening and dangerous, but here is the reality of it: the sovereign God, who is loving and powerful, is watching and is aware and is orchestrating all things for the good of those who love Him, and have given themselves to His purposes (see Romans 8:32).

Psalm 11 references the emotional tension of righteous people in the face of the strategies of the wicked. The tension is real, and the pressures of lawlessness and evil in our society certainly can have adverse affects. Jesus warns us in Matthew 24:12 that the love of many will grow cold in these days, just because of the pressures of evil influence. In the face of all this, how do we stand firm as the people of God?

Here is our confidence: trust in the sovereign goodness of our Father God. He is strong, He is loving, He is aware, and He is at work in our lives. He directs the decisions of the kings of nations for the ultimate goal of revealing His own glory, and He will never be unfaithful to His own character, to His people, or to His promises.

Our God is good. He cannot act contrary to His own goodness, and those who trust in Him, who rest in the power of His grace given to us through Jesus Christ, released in us by the Holy Spirit, can be at rest, can be OK in the face of distressing times and seasons. God is on the Throne of the universe. He has installed Jesus as King of kings. He laughs at the strategies of the wicked, and He is preparing Himself for the day when He intervenes directly in history once again.

God wants us as His children to live in His peace, but we never will be OK until we are settled in the sovereign goodness of our God.

Gary Wiens

Friday, July 8, 2016

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of ...

I’m writing this article in the immediate aftermath of our national 4th of July celebrations that were quickly followed by the controversial shootings of two men by police officers, and the sniper rampage in Dallas, Texas that killed five police officers and wounded several others. The stark contrast of a celebration of our freedom in America with the increasingly obvious unrest that threatens those freedoms causes me to reflect on what we, as followers of Jesus, are truly called to value and pursue.

In the Declaration of Independence, we assert that we have a God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As American Christians, we have tended to equate that statement with Biblical truth, and have tended to see the fulfillment of the American Dream as the will of God for our lives. However, I want to suggest that, as precious as our freedoms are, they are not the focal point of God’s agenda in the earth. Rather, the thing focused in His mind for us is the knowledge of God and revelation and exaltation of His glory.

If the pursuit of happiness is our purpose, we will find ourselves increasingly frustrated and hopeless in the face of social pressures, economic struggles, disintegrating families, and political unrest that threatens our way of life. The growing perception that our world is uncertain and  unsafe presses on our souls, and makes happiness appear to be a fading dream.

On the other hand, when we embrace the perspective that the knowledge of God and His glory is what is uppermost in His mind, then we have a grid that helps us to interpret His purposes in allowing the events of our time to transpire as they do. All through history, God has revealed Himself as powerful and glorious against the backdrop of troubling human circumstances. He has repeatedly and consistently allowed His people – the ones He loves – to be cornered in seemingly untenable situations so that He might show Himself strong on behalf of those who trust Him. Simply consider the stories of the Bible – the predicament of Joseph before he is raised to a position of authority, the long enslavement of Israel before the incredible demonstrations of power through the Exodus event, the dilemma of the young David under the hand of the tyrannical king Saul, the seemingly hopeless situation facing Daniel and his friends in Babylon – the list goes on and on. It culminates ultimately in the crucifixion of Jesus, the pivotal event in history that demonstrates the knowledge and glory of God through the resurrection of His Son.

In the light of these historical realities, the promise of Matthew 24, that immediately following the time of great tribulation in the earth, Jesus will return in power and glory to gather His people, transform us into His likeness, defeat His enemies on the earth, and establish His eternal Kingdom is a promise that we can hold on to with ultimate hope and joy. He has come in history, He is coming now to strengthen His saints by His Spirit, and He will come again bodily to fulfill every promise He has ever made. 

Since these are the facts of God’s historical interactions with His dearly loved children, why would we assume that suddenly His methodology would change, simply because we think we have a right to happiness in the short term? If happiness is our goal, we will probably not attain it. If the knowledge of God and His glory is our goal, then eternal joy will certainly be the byproduct of that quest. His promise is that He will show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him (2 Chronicles 6:9), but we must see that such loyalty of heart will be tested in the crucible of trying circumstances. As C.S. Lewis so intriguingly wrote, “he is not a tame Lion.” He is not safe, but He is good, and as we align our hearts with His ways and means, we shall indeed know joy and unspeakable delight in His presence.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Reflections of Liberty and What Lies Ahead

On Wednesday, June 29, I was privileged to take part in the Decision America prayer rally led by Franklin Graham in Olympia, Washington. As Franklin addressed the 5000+ folks who attended, he was bold in asserting no confidence in either the Democratic or Republican parties to bring hope to the nation. The strong call was for God to intervene, and for the people of God to repent from sin and turn back to our Father for His will to be done.

In spite of all this, the clear sense I had was that the focus of the prayers of many American believers is really for the restoration of the “good old days” of American prosperity and dominance, rather than what Jesus had in His view when He told us to pray that the Kingdom of God would be established on the earth as it is in Heaven. 

I am so grateful to live in America, and to have had the liberties that citizenship in this nation has granted me. But the Spirit of God calls us to a higher allegiance to His Kingdom, to His ways, to the seeking of His righteousness SO THAT He might have His way for the glory of His own Name. Peace and prosperity in any given nation is a by-product of seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, not the focal point of our prayers. 

Like most Americans, I am deeply troubled by the political, economic, and social upheaval that is current in our world. Like you, I want things to settle down and come once again to peace. However, the simple fact of history is that God has always used the shaking of human foundations to drive His people to the place He wants them – seeking His face, walking in His ways, pursuing His Kingdom as His righteousness above all else. 

Though it is uncomfortable (and perhaps unpopular in American Christian circles) to say this, God’s priority is not the comfort zone of the American Dream. God’s priority is the exaltation of Jesus Christ as King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He is moving all things toward that goal, and the shaking of current systems is the primary indicator that He is actively pursuing the dream of His own heart – that the knowledge of His glory would cover the earth like a mighty ocean.

My prayer is that our hearts will be turned once again to His will and His ways, so that we can escape the prison of our comfort zones, and again walk with Jesus in the pursuit of the Father’s glory.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mike Bickle's Meeting with Pope Francis

Mike Bickle's meeting with Pope Francis 

There were about 30 Protestant leaders and their spouses from North America plus a few from Europe who had a private meeting with Pope Francis on Friday, June 10 in the Vatican. I did not know most of the Protestant leaders there but was glad to see Che Ahn, Stacey Campbell (representing John Arnott), and Kris Vallotton (representing Bethel and Bill Johnson).

The purpose of the meeting was to engage in an on-going dialogue about his views on Jesus and Christianity. The meeting lasted a couple of hours—they gave us opportunity to ask a few questions. The meeting was warm and personal. I asked Pope Francis specifically about his views on "the serious error and deception of universalism" that claims that all paths lead to God and other religions being saved without receiving the grace of God that only comes through Jesus. He assured me that he believes that Jesus is the only way of salvation. A second time, I asked him again pointedly—is Jesus the only way of salvation? He was strong in his agreement on this. His emphasized his love for Jesus and the Scripture. When he says "Muslims and other world religions are all children of God," I spoke with several leaders and theologians who work closely with him that he is referring to Muslims as "children of the creator” or children of Adam not "children of redemption." They gave me Matthew 5:44 describing “the Father" giving sun and rain to both the just and unjust.  Pope Francis voiced his strong value of Protestant believers and affirmed salvation as only coming by faith in Jesus and affirmed other elements of the Reformation (with Martin Luther). He emphasized that a close relationship with Jesus is the only hope for the nations. I am not sure of all that he believes or what he means by some of the statements circulating around the internet. I can only report on what I heard him say to this group.

Blessings,
Mike 
Several who were nervous that I was now promoting Catholicism asked me for a short report of what I specifically said to Pope Francis. I asked him a couple times about his views of universalism and Jesus being the only way to salvation.  I will include the report of this short exchange from Kris Vallotton (Bethel school of ministry) and Diane Bickle (her email to a friend). I hold to the same position that I have held for decades; I joyfully receive and honor any born again believer—who loves Jesus, accepts His leadership, and honors the Scripture as the final authority of faith and practice—regardless of what part of the church they serve Jesus in (1 Cor. 12). 


From Kris Vallotton’s blog (June 13, 2016)

 “….I was invited, along with several other pastors, to a small connect forum with Pope Francis because he has a deep passion for unity among believers …We spent about two hours asking him questions…Mike Bickle gets the “guts” award! Everything was going quite smoothly, partly because of the benign questions the pastors were asking. Then Mike stood up and asked the Pope if he believed that Jesus was the “only way” to heaven…The tension instantly rose in the room…the moderator was noticeably shaken. But the Holy Father didn’t blink an eye. He answered, “…Jesus Christ. There is no other way into heaven.” We all breathed a sigh of relief!.  

Kris Vallotton (from Bethel)

From Diane Bickle’s email to a friend (June 14, 2016)

Here's a little update about our meeting w. the Pope.  Mike went for the jugular - he asked his question to the Pope twice about where he stands on salvation.  The moderators of the meeting were urging Mike to shut up.........but he persisted.   I'm glad he did, because the Pope did clarify and his answer will now go far and wide through Mike's reporting of it to Charisma magazine.  Several leaders came up to Mike after this meeting and said, that was the gutsiest thing they've ever seen.  Hah!

Blessings, Diane

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God

Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that when the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was preached to all the people groups of the world, then the end of the age would come. It's so important that we comprehend that this Gospel of the Kingdom of God is more than merely a message of personal forgiveness and a ticket to Heaven when we die. Those elements are real and true - praise God! - but they are not the complete Gospel.

The Gospel Jesus was referring to is the good news that there is a King over heaven and earth. His name is Jesus. He is the Son of God, and the Son of David, and He is the Christ. He is returning to the earth to establish a literal Kingdom by which He will rule all the affairs of mankind from His governmental center in Jerusalem. He is gracious and kind, and He is also holy and righteous. He will come as a loving Bridegroom to those who love Him, as a ruling King over all creation, and He will come as a judge to deal with evil in all its expressions.

For those who have acknowledged the Kingship of Jesus, and have entrusted their lives to His salvation through His life, death, and resurrection, the news of His return is news of great joy - the establishment of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Jesus will assess the lives of His people, and grant them wonderful rewards according to their deeds done in faith as they waited for His return. His people will share in the rulership of His inheritance - the earth and all it contains.

The Gospel, or the Good News, is that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God the Father has opened the doors of His Kingdom to anyone who will respond by acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus Christ, repenting from their sins, and receiving His mercy and grace as a free gift. This gift of life is given because God loves His creation, and desires that no one should miss out on the invitation to become part of His family, citizens of His Kingdom.

For those who have rejected this good news, and have chosen to give their allegiance to the kingdoms of this present evil age, Jesus' coming will be a day of great darkness and terror, for He will deal with His enemies according to their own responses to the light they were given. He is merciful and just, and He is holy and righteous, and His judgments are true and right.

This is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. All the peoples of all the nations will stand before Jesus in the Day of His power. Our great joy and our great mandate is to make this Gospel known to all who will receive it, and to hasten the Day of His appearing.