Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Biblical Plumb Line For National Leadership

As a nation, we in America are standing on the precipice of what may be one of the most important national elections in our history. Like many of you who read this, I have been less than thrilled by the political stances of the two main candidates, let alone the obvious character flaws that are presented in the media, regardless of how accurately those representations reflect the truth. The option seems to be to vote for the candidate who will have the least negative impact on the American culture, depending on how one sees the issues of the day.

As I muse on these things, I am drawn to the Biblical standard for leadership that is presented in the ancient prophecy of Isaiah, where in Chapter 11, verses 1-9, he articulates the character of the ultimate Leader, and the impact that his leadership will have on the lives of the people and culture under his leadership. As I share these things, I’m well aware that the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will come when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His Kingdom on the earth. However, I believe we can still call our national leaders to this standard, as this is government as God designed it and intends for it to be expressed.

Isaiah 11:2 tells us that this Leader will be filled with the full dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit – wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. We may think that it is unrealistic to call our political leaders to such a reality, but we as citizens of God’s Kingdom must never back off the standards that God sets. Only a man filled with the Spirit of God will ever be able to govern in such a way that peace and blessing will come to all the citizens.

Verses 3-4 give us insight as to the standards of judgment exercised by this anointed Leader. His policies and judgments are aligned with righteousness and equity, especially for the poor and the weak! He is not concerned with political expediency or political correctness. In other words, he is focused on bringing all things into alignment with God’s design, understanding that being conformed to God’s design is the only way to real freedom, fulfillment and joy.

These verses also let us know that the speech of this Leader is filled with power for the establishment of goodness and right – the wicked and their ways will be removed from power and ultimately destroyed!

While destruction of the wicked seems extreme to our contemporary minds, we are assured in the following verse that this Leader will be clothed in righteousness and faithfulness, so his power will be compassionate and gracious even when dealing with wickedness in the culture.

In verses 6-9, Isaiah tells us that the fruit of this Leader’s influence will be peace and quietness at every level of society, because the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The fruit of this kind of leadership will be peace among those who have formerly been enemies. Certainly this is a desperate hope for a nation such as ours in this time!

Again, I realize that this will be fulfilled completely only when Jesus returns, but this passage serves as a standard, a measuring stick by which we as believers can assess the presence and influence of God upon our present leaders as we wait for the Kingdom that is surely coming.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Changing Nature and Expression of Christianity

During the summer of 1982, the Holy Spirit encountered Mike Bickle in a hotel room in Cairo, Egypt. Mike, who is now the Director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, heard the thunderous voice of the Lord declare these words: “Young man, I am going to change the nature and expression of Christianity in the entire earth in one generation.” The words resonated through Mike’s entire being, driving him physically to the floor in the fear of the Lord. That encounter has been a seminal moment in Mike’s life, a plumb-line that has helped form his priorities and direction since that time.

The implications of that message cause a trembling in our hearts even today, as I believe that we are seeing the beginnings of that transformation. Even as we witness the soaring trajectories of various successful institutional ministries, and appreciate the impact they are having in the lives of many, there is nevertheless a growing longing in the hearts of many of God’s people to see something different, something that seems more central to the heart of the Father.

When I talk with various individuals in the Body of Christ and mention this undercurrent of longing, the response that comes most often is this: “We just want to worship God. We want to be in the Presence of the Lord in such a way that nothing else matters.” This longing, this stirring in the hearts of believers across the nation feels like the beginnings of an earthquake, a deep rumbling, a yearning in the Spirit for God’s Presence to be manifest among His people.

I believe that the Spirit of God is behind all of this. I believe that He is stirring it up, more and more deeply, in more and more places than ever before. As God’s people, we want to be with Him, to touch Him and feel His touch upon our hearts. We want to know that His Presence, so powerfully spoken of in His Word, is with us as well, in the same unhindered ways that we read about in the testimonies of others.

Why not here? Why not now? Could we really give ourselves to this, and just bypass all the trappings of business-as-usual Church? Is it possible that we really could forgive and forget the past, the difficulties we’ve all had with others (and have caused for others!) in the institution, and simply come together to worship and delight in the Presence of God?

I think – and maybe even believe – that God is doing just that. Perhaps the longing that is arising is actually His deep center calling out to the deep places in our hearts, wooing and drawing, inviting us home to His own heart. If it is indeed Jesus out there on the water, tell me to come! I’ll leave whatever it is I’m doing and jump in with Him!

The question some will ask is: what good will this be? What will come of it? And the answer – I believe – is: Everything!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Hope for the Newborn Child of God

In Colossians 1:27, the writer tells us that hope is a by-product of the presence of Jesus living in us. When you gave your life to Him, Jesus literally took up residence in you by the presence of His Holy Spirit. This presence of Christ in you is working from the inside out to change you so that you become like Jesus, little bit by little bit.

The Colossians verse talks about “the hope of glory.” This means that because of Jesus’ power working in you, you will become everything God intended you to be when He created you. He does the work, He supplies the power, and His presence in you ensures that the process will be completed! This is not a vague, “I hope it happens” kind of thing – this is a certainty because of the love of God as your Father and His power at work in you through the presence of His Spirit.

What we’re asked to do is to cooperate with His process. We do this by filling our minds and spirits with the truth of God’s Word, by thinking about Jesus and asking the Holy Spirit to help you do what He would do in the situations of your life. Replace the pollutants of trashy media with the stories of how Jesus interacted with people in the Gospel accounts. Think about these stories, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you be like Him.

One very effective way of meditating on these stories of Jesus is to imagine yourself as one of the characters in the story. The old Mystics called this “affective contemplation,” because the person meditating – you! – “affects” the character, as though you are the person in the story. You can take the role of the one Jesus is ministering to, and feel what that person must have felt as Jesus healed them. Or you can imagine yourself as one of the bystanders, and feel the reactions that people had to Jesus and to His ministry. Or, you can play the part of Jesus Himself, feeling His compassion for the broken, and perhaps His frustration with the religious people of the day who wanted to block His ministry. Taking one of these roles gets you into the story, and allows the Holy Spirit to work in you what was happening then. Very cool!

One big deal is this: as you have received the forgiveness of Jesus for your sins, make the choice to forgive people that have hurt or offended you through the course of your life. The Holy Spirit will help you with this – just ask Him to show you the situations in which you need to forgive someone else. This releases everything to God, your Father, and brings you to a place of freedom in your own spirit.

As you fill your mind with the truth of what God thinks about you and those around you, you will begin to think differently about life. Instead of hopelessness, you will begin to sense hope rising up in your heart. Your mind will begin to be renewed, little by little, as you begin to think like Jesus thinks. A great resource for finding out what your Father God feels about you is “The Father’s Love Letter.” You can find it through an online search.

May the Lord bless you as you grow in hope through the knowledge of Jesus’ presence in you!

Gary Wiens

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.