Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Best Christmas Gift Ever

This morning I’m reflecting on Isaiah 49 and 50, where the Holy Spirit is showing the contrast between the unresponsiveness of God’s people, and the complete and perfect responsiveness of the Servant Son, Jesus. It’s a wonderful meditation for the Christmas season, and my heart is moved with thankfulness for God’s indescribable gift of love – that He Himself would become the obedient Son, and then include me (and us!) in His amazing mercy and grace.

In the first several verses of this chapter, God simply states the fact that the distance between Himself and His people is not due to His rejection, but to their lack of response to His initiatives. It is a simple thing to see myself in this passage – preoccupation with life, worries about a variety of things, and – too often – just plain avoidance of God’s invitations to draw near.

But then, in verse 4 and following, there is the testimony of the Servant Son, whose availability and response to the Sovereign Lord is perfect. Where I do not heed the Lord’s call (v.2), the Servant Son is ever a listener (v.4). Where I am unconvinced about the Lord’s love (49:14) and power (49:22), the Servant Son is confident in the Lord’s help (50:7,9) and nearness (50:8). Where I suffer because of sin and rebellion (50:1ff), the Servant Son suffers because He is obedient (50:5ff). The enemy has a right to accuse me because of offenses (50:1ff), but the Servant Son knows that no charge can be sustained against Him (50:8-9). Where I have failed, He has not. Ever.

The reality that turns this passage from bad news to good news is that the Heavenly Father, because of His great love for me and for you, sent this obedient, responsive Servant Son into the world to live the perfect human life, to suffer and die in my place as a substitute for me, and to welcome me into the Father’s family by the power of His resurrection life.

Because of His great love, I am not forgotten, rejected, or left out. Neither are you. All He asks is for me to love Him and respond to Him in thanksgiving and trust. This is the first and best Christmas gift. Ever.

Gary Wiens

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Called, Kept, and Given

I’m meditating this morning on Isaiah 42:6-7, where the LORD makes this declaration over His Servant (the Messiah – and by implication, all those who are His followers by the power of the Holy Spirit):

“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you;  I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

Several things impact my heart as I consider these verses: first, it is Yehovah, the I AM, who is speaking here. He is the One we believe in, convinced that He exists, and that He is faithful to do what He has promised, because He cannot be unfaithful to His own character. Hebrews 11:6 calls us to have faith in this reality.

Second, Yehovah declares that He has called you (the Servant Messiah, and us as His followers) in righteousness. In other words, He has summoned us to live according to how He has designed us, to be fully congruent with how we are formed in His heart from the foundations of the world. There is no hope for fulfillment apart from this calling, but with that call comes the grace and power to live it out.

Third, He promises His presence and involvement through the course of our lives. He will take us by the hand and keep us. In other words, He will be intimately present to us, guarding and protecting us in the assignment He gives. His intimate presence is the assurance of the successful completion of our task, and the fulfillment of our destiny.

Finally, God pledges to give us to the nations as a covenant and a light, to be expressed in spiritual and literal healing and deliverance. The power of His Name and the power of His life within us is His promise, which first transforms us, and then presents us to the people around us with His stamp of approval. The authorization that comes with being given by God to the nations results in the power of His Kingdom being released that His will might be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

I’m strengthened and encouraged by this word today. May your hearts and minds be settled and emboldened as well.

Gary Wiens

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Faith and the Renewal of the Mind

In the midst of the increasing turmoil of our times, I find that it is more and more necessary to exercise faith in God, in His purposes and in His ways, just to remain upright in the face of the storms of daily life. The raging hate of Satan is being expressed daily in current events, natural disasters, political and cultural unrest, disunity and murderous anger in the culture.

How do we as followers of Jesus stand firm in faith in the context of cultural upheaval? The Bible gives us help in this, so I want to highlight two passages that are profoundly important as anchors for our souls in times like these.

Hebrews 11:6 says this: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” This verse says that faith is an essential commodity for successful living, but faith is more than a doctrinal position or a vague emotional state. Faith is defined in this verse in this way – the foundational belief that God is who He says He is, and that He will do what He said He will do.

It is one thing to believe that verse intellectually, but under the pressures of the day, intellectual belief is not enough. There must be an internal confidence that grows out of encounter with God in worship, gazing on the beauty and the glory of the Lord, the majesty of Jesus as King and sovereign Lord of all creation. Encounter with God in worship is the key to taking our intellectual beliefs to a deeper place, so that the root systems of our faith go deep in the experiential knowledge of God. As that happens, we find strength to stand in stormy seasons.

In order for this to happen, the dynamic of Romans 12:2 must be in play in our lives. We must be “transformed by the renewal of our minds.” We must learn to see reality differently, to think differently, and therefore to act and react differently under the pressures of the day. We are to see from the perspective of Heaven, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father, unshaken and immovable in His sovereign authority over the affairs of earth.

How does this renewal happen? Again, through encountering the reality of who God is, meditating on His Word in the context of worship encounters. We are to fix our gaze on Him, not on what is going on around us. We become conformed to what we stare at, and the primary goal of Satan is to get our gaze off of Jesus and onto something less. To the degree that he can accomplish that, he will drag us down into instability and fear.

Set your mind and heart to worship God today, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Turn off the distractions, and fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, so that your mind will be preoccupied with who He is, and that as a result you may be steadfast and immovable in shaky times.

Gary Wiens

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Consider Him Who Endured Such Things

I’m a Seattle Seahawks fan, and this morning I’m considering the unjust treatment of one of the Seahawks best players, Michael Bennett, who was wrongly treated, and who is bringing this example of injustice to light.

In a time when injustice seems to be rampant at many levels – personal, corporate, national and international – it is good to be reminded that there is One – and only One – who was absolutely innocent and yet was the recipient of absolutely unjust prosecution and punishment. That One is Jesus of Nazareth, who although He was without sin or flaw of any kind, stood willingly in the place of the condemned instead of us.

We are instructed in the Bible (Hebrews 12:3) to consider Him, this One who suffered and endured such things at the hands of wicked men, so that in our struggles for justice we will not grow weary or lose heart. We’re told, also in the Bible (1 Peter 2:23) that when Jesus was treated in that way, He continually entrusted Himself to the One (His Father, God) who judges justly.

There is coming a day when justice will prevail. It won’t come by human struggle, although it is good to struggle for justice. It won’t come through civil disobedience, for although laws may change, only God can change the human heart. Justice will prevail because that same One, Jesus of Nazareth, is returning to the earth as the triumphant King of kings, and He will set all things right, in true alignment with His Father’s design and purpose. This will be true justice, and it will be established in all the earth. Jesus will not rest until this is fully accomplished (see Isaiah 42:1-4).

Until then, when we have worked for justice at every level to the best of our ability, sometimes we just have to stand there and wait, and trust, that Jesus will prevail, and that true justice will come. He Himself stood in that place, waiting and trusting, and was vindicated by His own resurrection from the dead. That One – Jesus – will set everything right, every situation will be known as it really is, and the best news of all is that He is coming soon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Unity BEFORE Catastrophe

What If The Church Was In Unity BEFORE The Catastrophe?

As I shared in a previous post, the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me – and to many others – about the central importance of brothers dwelling in unity. Our Father’s desire is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, and He wants that process to intensify now, even as we await the culmination at the return of Jesus.

This week, through the tragedy of Harvey hitting Houston, we have read accounts of the Body of Christ coming together to serve the community, and those stories are powerful and encouraging. However, my question is – what could have been prevented, or at least re-directed, if the commanded blessing of God was over a city and region because the fragrant aroma of brotherly unity was fresh in the Lord’s nostrils? Would this be the way to stop the hurricane in Houston, or the tornado in Kansas, or the earthquake in California, or the volcanic eruption in Washington?

As hurricane Harvey was developing and beginning to engulf the Houston area, I was meditating on John 17, where the focus of Jesus’ prayer – just before His ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross – was that His disciples would know the same love and unity that is between Jesus and Father, SO THAT the world might recognize and acknowledge who Jesus is as the sent Son of God.

Beloved, get this: the focus of Jesus’ prayer just before the cross was unity among His followers, with the end in mind that the whole world would comprehend who Jesus is! In other words, the power that will make the outreach efforts of our local congregations successful is released through unity among the followers of Jesus.

Where do we begin? It all goes back to Psalm 133, where the oil of blessing flows from the Father onto Aaron’s head. Aaron’s ministry is vertical ministry – the service of worship. Yes, there must come and will come a time when we have all knowledge and agreement on theology and practice, but we must begin by worshipping together. We are called to lay down our tribal priorities – not permanently, but just for a moment – and come together to minister to the Lord and to speak blessings in His Name. That fragrant aroma pleases Him, brings the promise of commanded blessing, and who knows – maybe the result is the authority to divert the storm that otherwise would devastate.

It begins with worship. We must find a way to come together.
Gary Wiens

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Mind of God: Unity unto Reformation

Over the past months, the Holy Spirit has impressed on me again and again the central importance of unity of Spirit among God’s people in order for the full blessing of His purposes to be fulfilled. The prayer Jesus taught us – “on earth as it is in Heaven” – can only be fully answered when God’s commanded blessing is released over a city, a region, and a nation.

This blessing is promised in Psalm 133, and is contingent upon the brothers dwelling in unity. A few days ago, a brother shared a prophetic word given to him in March of 2015, declaring that God’s purpose is not merely for revival, but for a new reformation in the Church. That reformation can only be received by those who have cooperated with our Father’s agenda for unity of the Spirit.

Psalm 133 declares that the pleasure in the heart of God over unity is like oil running down from Mt. Hermon onto Aaron’s head, filling the atmosphere with the pleasant fragrance of Heaven’s anointing. Aaron’s head speaks of the priestly ministry of worship, and it is in the context of worship – loving and exalting the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together –  that the unity of the Spirit will be established.

I am convinced that unity will not come initially in the arenas of doctrine, of joint activity, or of common purpose. Like the tribes of Israel, each “tribe” in the Body of Christ focuses on different purpose, different assignments to fulfill, different emphases to implement. But in worship, we all come together, we lay down our banners and our ball caps with the names that declare our tribal identities, and we become the people of God, ministering to Him, carrying His presence, and declaring His blessings over one another, our cities, regions, and nations.

It is time for the leaders of the Body of Christ to come together – not primarily to agree on fine points of doctrine, or to strategize on how to evangelize the city or serve the poor – these things are good, but they are functions of the “tribes” more than of the whole people. The place to come together is the place of worship, laying down every other agenda, coming as every tribe, tongue and nation among the people of God, and lifting up praise and worship to the One Lord Jesus Christ who is worthy to receive it all. From that foundational place, the commanded blessing of God will flow, and we will receive grace to participate in the new reformation that our Father has in mind for His Church in these last days.

Gary Wiens

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pressing Past the Lord's "NO!"

I’m reflecting today on a couple of passages where an individual who has a calling and destiny from the Lord is required to push past an apparent “No!” from God in the quest to realize that destiny. The stories in focus deal first of all with Jacob in Genesis 32 where a heavenly Man – who Jacob later called “God” – wrestled with him all night. During that wrestling match, Jacob was demanding a blessing to be given, and the angelic Man was resisting, insisting that Jacob let Him go. Finally, Jacob prevailed through simple persistence and refusal to give up. The Man blessed him, and changed his name to “Israel,” one who prevails with God.

The other story concerns the relationship between Elijah and Elisha, found in 1 Kings 19 and in 2 Kings 2. In both those chapters, Elijah resists Elisha as the younger man attempts to press into God’s call on his life. Now, if I’m a young man, and the prophet Elijah tells me to go home and leave him alone, I’m not sure I’d push past his resistance. This is the guy that calls down fire from heaven – three different times! And not only did he call it down – it came! It’s one thing to declare something – it’s another thing to have what you declare actually happen! That sort of thing separates the men prophets from the boy prophets, and Elijah was THE man of God during that season.

Yet, Elisha pushed back against Elijah’s resistance, followed and served the cranky old prophet, and stuck beside him until the moment the Lord carried him away in the chariots of fire. Only then did he receive his calling and destiny, and only then did God uphold his words in the same way that Elijah’s words were upheld.

The New Testament stories that give the same message involve the Canaanite woman with the demonized daughter in Mark 7, and the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18. In both cases, the first answer is “NO,” but that isn’t the real answer. Sometimes when God says “NO” He really means “How badly do you want this promise? Enough to fight for it?”

If what God has promised is worth it to you, you won’t take “NO” for an answer. Instead, you’ll put on your big-boy pants and fight it out with God until He sees that you mean business, that you, too, are part of the Israel inheritance, and that you mean to have His Kingdom manifested in your life and experience here and now.

God’s our good Father. He loves to wrestle with His children, and He loves to have us defeat Him in the wrestling match. Take Him on, and don’t let go until He says “YES!”

Gary Wiens