Monday, January 16, 2017

A Template for a Miraculous Lifestyle

The focus of my morning meditation today was on two closely-related events in the life of Jesus and the disciples, recorded in Mark 8 and in Matthew 14. As the Gospel writers report these two startling situations, we can gain understanding of the invitation that Jesus gives each of us to live in the miraculous flow of His life.

I want to suggest three components that make up a template for a miraculous lifestyle which, though revealed in these two stories, typify what Jesus imparted to His disciples, and what the Holy Spirit desires to impart to us today. These components are: close proximity to Jesus, hearing a word or command from Jesus, and obedience to that word or command. Let’s look at each component in turn.

The disciples, first of all, were in close proximity to Jesus. He had invited them to follow Him, to be with Him, and to accept the yoke of friendship and discipleship that He offered them. I’m reminded of an encounter that my wife Marie had with Jesus in a night vision some years ago. In the vision, she was with Jesus, and He spoke these words to her: “Stay close to Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.”

What Jesus wants from us is not first of all some religious performance. Rather, He desires close relationship, friendship with Him through the Holy Spirit. This simply means spending time with Him, listening to His voice, receiving the strength that comes through His words of life. Two of the individuals in the New Testament who model this place of intimate friendship for us are John the Baptist and Mary of Bethany.

John’s statement in John 3:29 is powerful: “The friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly at the Bridegroom’s voice.” Mary has a similar style – in Luke 10:39 we find her sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teaching. Being in close proximity, standing and listening, focusing our attention on what Jesus is saying is essential in developing a miraculous lifestyle.

The second essential component is to hear when Jesus speaks a word of command or permission. His own testimony was that He lived in constant response to the Father’s voice, saying and doing only that which the Father was saying and doing. In Mark 8 and Matthew 14, Jesus first tells the disciples to feed the hungry multitude, and then, in response to Peter’s request, tells Peter to come out of the boat and walk on the water! The miraculous deeds that follow are in response to the directive and permissive words spoken by Jesus.

We’re told in Psalm 45 that grace is poured out on the lips of the King. Part of the reality of grace is the enabling power to do what He says to do. When we have a word from Jesus, faith arises in our hearts (Romans 10:17), and the power and authority to do what He says is included in the word that He speaks. If we don’t have a word of command or of permission, the miracle is not likely to happen.

The third essential component is obedience. There is an essential connection in the New Testament between hearing and obeying. Faith, which comes by hearing, is only alive and powerful when accompanied by obedience. Otherwise, it’s just a dead thing that affects nothing.

So, the conclusion is simple: if we want to live a lifestyle characterized by the miraculous, these three components must be in place – close proximity (intimate friendship) with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, hearing His voice and discerning the command or the permission to act, and then actually obeying in the moment. When His word comes, the power is there – we just need to get out of the boat and do what He says.

I want to live like that! I’ll wager that you do to – so, go for it!

Blessings, Gary Wiens

Friday, January 6, 2017

Living In The Flow of the Holy Spirit

We are hearing much these days from the prophetic voices in the Body of Christ about living in the flow of God’s river of life, and I believe this is absolutely a right and good perspective. In fact, it has been Jesus’ desire for us literally forever, one that He articulated clearly in John 7:38 – “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

This theme of the flowing river as a metaphor for the Spirit-filled life is found throughout Scripture in places such as Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17, Ezekiel 47, and Revelation 22. It’s a beautiful picture, and one that moves our hearts with anticipation to see that never-ending stream of God’s life flow into us and through us as His people.

Here’s the practical reality of it for you and me as we seek to live in that flowing dynamic: This life is absolutely rooted and grounded in an ongoing, fresh relationship of intimacy with Jesus through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. The flow of living water in and through us is not a doctrine, it is a reality of intimate friendship with Jesus, a day-by-day encounter with Him that fills us to overflowing, again and again and again.

Jesus lived this way. He did what He did and said what He said because He was in a constant, dynamic relationship of intimacy with His Father through the presence of the Holy Spirit in Him. He lived in the reality of Isaiah 50:4, where the prophet speaks of Him:

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning He awakens; He awakens my ear to hear as those who are being taught.

Do you see the constant, daily dynamic of the life of the Spirit? First of all, the Spirit-filled believer is a listener, a receiver of something from God. Jesus said in John 8:28 that everything He said was from hearing the Father say it, and in John 5:19-20 that everything He did was from watching the Father do it!! Secondly, the voice of the Father to Jesus was filled with instruction in how to strengthen the weary ones around Him – a collaborative effort between Father and Son to speak life in every situation. Third, this was a day-by-day reality to Jesus, morning by morning being having His human spirit awakened by the Holy Spirit in intimate, fresh communion for the encounters that the day would bring. This is how Jesus lived the Spirit-filled life, how He experienced “the river of life” flowing into Him and through Him for those around Him.

Everything is rooted and grounded in this reality. We are designed to live from the place of encounter with Jesus. Our positional standing means little if we do not have the listening ear of the ones being taught. How does this happen? It’s really very simple: sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. It’s the one necessary thing for which Jesus praised Mary of Bethany and instructed us in Luke 10:38-42. Everything flows from intimacy. The River is simply a life of intimate friendship with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, listening to the Father’s voice, and then following His instructions for the day ahead.

Do you want to live in the dynamic of the river of life? Then do the main and plain thing of cultivating intimacy with Jesus – being with Him, listening to His voice in the Scripture, listening to the Holy Spirit as He whispers to you through the day, and following His direction as He leads you to the weary ones that you encounter as you go.

Listen up! And be blessed.
Gary Wiens

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Relationship of God's Beauty and Laws

This morning as I’ve been meditating on Psalms 96-98, I’m struck by the connection between the recognition of God’s awesome beauty and majesty, and the realization that His judgments and the justice that He brings are absolutely right! It’s made clear in several places in the Scriptures, where the writer is overwhelmed by the beauty of God, and suddenly comes to the conclusion that the God who would create such beauty and order in the universe can be trusted to judge rightly and bring true justice and righteousness to all the created order.

Take, for example, Psalm 19. David is rejoicing in his observation of the beauty of the created heavens – they declare the glory of God, the wonder and majesty of His ways, and how the message of God’s power and eminence are shouted through the ages by creation itself! David is seemingly awestruck by the sunrise, and suddenly realizes the testimony of the Bridegroom God’s passion is revealed every morning to anyone who will consider it!

Then, with no transition, he goes into a declaration of the perfection of God’s laws, how His Word is perfect and brings everything else into restoration and order. It’s as though he sees that just as God has made the created order perfect in beauty, so His Word would bring beauty and order to all of life. Any God who would be so perfect in His ordering of the creation can be trusted to bring order to human existence through His Word.

The same thing happens in a human example in 1 Kings 10. The Queen of Sheba comes to visit King Solomon because she has heard of his fame and wisdom. There is no doubt that she has a measure of glory in her own right, but when she sees Solomon’s situation, she is dumbfounded. She marvels at the beauty of Solomon’s courts, the majesty of his servants’ attire, and comes to the conclusion that he is qualified to “execute justice and righteousness.”

Here’s the point – the beauty of God expressed in His created order, and revealed to us in the place of worship and adoration, convinces our hearts that He is qualified to establish the order of things, that His order is absolutely right and good, and that His process of justice – bringing all things into conformity to His order – is absolutely right and good. The result? All creation rejoices when the judgments of God are released in the earth.

The application for us is this: before we try to argue for the laws of God to be established in the lives of those around us, let us first be captivated and filled with wonder at His beauty and grace. Then, those around us will see the reflection of that glory in us, see the wisdom of God’s order in our lives, and be stirred in their hearts to embrace His ways for themselves. God created us to be captured by beauty. When we are, we come to see that His laws make perfect sense.

Gary Wiens

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Agreeing With The Accuser

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a statement that has caused me to wonder and muse upon the meaning of it for our present time. The New King James version says it this way:

Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. – Matthew 5:25

I’m aware that there are obvious implications for actual legal matters in this verse, but it seems that Jesus is touching a higher principle that has to do with the spiritual realities of our lives. In that light, I’ve always tried to NOT agree with the accuser, attempting to set my heart and mind in agreement with what the Lord says about my life and my situation. That’s an important reality, but what I’m coming to see is that agreement with God’s assessment comes later, and that there is an essential step in the process that we must not ignore.

There’s another passage that brings understanding to this issue. In Zechariah 3:1-7, there is an account of Joshua the High Priest standing before the Lord God in the context of a courtroom setting. The Lord speaks to rebuke the accuser, and sets in motion the cleansing and establishing of Joshua in a place of authority in the courts of the Lord. Thank God for His mercy and grace!

However, here’s the point: the accuser was right in his accusation. Joshua was dressed in filthy garments. He had sinned; he had defiled himself and his office, and deserved to be placed in the fire of destruction that is the realm of the accuser. He was not fit to stand in the place of authority that God had planned for him. His only salvation was that God had chosen him, and had made provision for his cleansing and restoration.

Like it or not, this is our position before the Lord every day. We sin. We blow it, we fail to live up to the standard of perfection that Jesus walked in. And in that place, we are instructed to agree with the accuser – in other words, confess our sinful condition before the Lord. To stand before God and protest our innocence of sin is to stand in a place of arrogance and pride, to present ourselves on our own merits, and is an insult to the holiness of God.

Agreement with the accuser as we stand before the Lord places us in a position like the tax collector of Luke 18:10-14. When we acknowledge that the accuser is right – we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory – we place ourselves directly in the path of Jesus’ testimony as our Advocate. He speaks a better word than the accuser, namely: “Father, My blood has covered this one. As they have agreed with the accuser and confessed their need, so now, because of My blood sacrifice which covers them, You are free to give them mercy. It is the just and right thing to do (see 1 John 1:8-10).”

Because of what Jesus has done through His death and resurrection, and through His ministry of intercession in the courtroom of Heaven, it is now just and right for the Father to show us mercy, to cleanse us, to restore us, and to dress us in the robes of righteousness that clothe the priests of the Kingdom of God.

My encouragement is this: end every day by agreeing with the accuser that we’ve missed the mark of the perfection of Jesus. Make confession to Him, and let the Word of His testimony wash over you, cleanse you, and make you ready again to serve in His courts in the full identity and destiny He has called you to.

Gary Wiens

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Longing For His Presence

One of my favorite songs over the past couple of years comes from the folks at Bethel Church in Redding, California. It’s titled “I Will Exalt,” and makes the focus of the Presence of the Holy Spirit as the most important reality in our lives. “Your Presence is all I need, it’s all I want, it’s all I seek, for without it there’s no meaning.”

Amid all the noise and clatter of our current day – elections with political rhetoric, holidays with unspeakable clamor, distractions of every kind agitating for attention – I can detect this one quiet, unobtrusive yet persistent voice whispering deep in my soul – “Draw near to Me, stay close to Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.”

That phrase was actually spoken to my wife, Marie, some years ago during a 2 AM encounter with the Lord while we were on a ministry assignment in Germany. She awoke with a start, shaking me awake in the moment, and informed me that she was with Jesus, in a vision, in the parking lot of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. The powerful Presence of God filled that bedroom, and I was overwhelmed, weeping and sobbing as Marie verbalized what she was experiencing. She and Jesus walked together arm in arm, and He spoke that phrase to her heart – “Stay close to Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart.”

Now, as we approach 2017 in a major personal transition, having turned over the leadership of the House of Prayer Northwest in Federal Way to a younger man, I find my heart returning to that invitation more and more. “Draw near to Me – stay close to Me. I am putting My desires in your heart, and as you draw near, I will actualize My plans in your life.”

As I muse on this, I’m drawn to Psalm 24 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, … who has not lifted up his soul to what is false.”

There’s the key – lifting up our souls to false things. That’s what all the noise is about – trying to draw our attention and affection away from the one necessary reality – the Presence of the Lord. I’m recalling my own heart to the reality of the one thing, the secret place of the Most High, to seek Him, to know Him, to draw near, to put away distractions, to make the One Thing the first thing, to establish the worship center of my own heart, and then to see His Presence expand and fill our home and our community.

I’m taking time these days to come away, to seek Him, to listen, to realign and lift up my soul to what is true and truly necessary – His Presence.

Gary Wiens