Tap In to the Joy of the Lord

Philippians 4:4(NKJV)
4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

As we have prepared our heart for the Christmas season this week, we have been looking at the elements of Christmas that the world tries to incorporate the holidays.  The problem, of course, is that they can only be understood in light of the true meaning of Christmas.  This season is full of talk about joy, peace and love, while the source of these things, Jesus himself, is being systematically removed.  This puts those of us who know Him in a very good position.  We have what the world is trying to buy.  We have them because we have Jesus.

As Christians we need to stir up these things during the holidays.  The holiday season can be a time of great stress if we let it.  However if we remind ourselves that the spiritual forces of joy, peace and love reside in us and if we stir them up, it can be a time of victory and of sharing these wonderful gifts with those who do not know Him.

This week we are looking at joy.  Christmas has become a time to focus on happiness.  The giving of gifts and the gathering of families are centered on as the basis for this happiness.  These are wonderful things, but happiness by nature is dependent upon outward stimuli.  When the outward changes the happiness changes.  Pleasure is a god in our society and Christmas has become the celebration of this god.  Joy produces happy feelings.  Joy is a source of pleasure.  But joy is not, from a scriptural standpoint an outward thing.  It is a product of the spirit of man.  When we have been born again we have joy within us.  It is part of the package of salvation.

Knowing that joy is in there is half of the battle.  Understanding how to release it is the other half.  When we are being bombarded with sad feelings, how do we tap into the joy that remains within us?  When we are attacked with depression, how can we drive out the depression by accessing the joy of the Lord.  The answer is so simple it is profound.  It is also a difficult process to begin.  Once begun, however, you will find that it will produce the promised result.

Our world has many solutions for sadness or depression.  These conditions have almost become a national obsession.  We look to pleasure to distract us from the sadness.  We buy things we don’t need or we give ourselves to everything from sports and other activities to various types of media.  We use anything that will distract us from the sadness, depression and boredom we feel.  In extreme cases we end up  addicted because we need increasing amounts of distraction to keep away the sadness. 

The other thing we will lean to is phycology and psychiatry.  Counseling and prescription drugs are used to try and “deal with” depression.  I believe there are cases where depression is chemical in nature and a doctor’s help can be required.  I also believe that this has become an excuse for many people to justify their behavior.  It is also a trap that the devil uses to keep people bound to these things.  The Word of God has a better solution.

Philippians tells us how to unlock the joy that is in us.  This joy, once released into our life can and will drive out sadness and depression.  Remember, it is not just our joyful feelings we are tapping into.  It is the Joy of the Lord and as such contains His power.  If it were just a natural change in attitude we were talking about it might or might not help us.  It is not.  I

\t is the joy that flows from God himself that was placed in your spirit at salvation.  It is a supernatural flow of power that will not just change your attitude but change you.

What is the this key?  Rejoice.  This word appears over 200 times in the new testament.  What does it mean?  From a scriptural point of view it means to act in faith on the joy that Jesus says is in you.  It is there.  Any faith operation involves an action that will release what you are believing for into the natural world.  In the case of defeating depression or sadness that action is rejoicing. 

What is rejoicing.  It can be different things to different people but I believe there are some principles that we can apply in general.  Rejoicing is acting like you have something to be happy about.  If your sports team wins the championship, you might shout, dance or even sing.  If someone gives you a tremendous gift you would react in some way.  Jesus gave you a wonderful gift.  He paid for it with his life.  At Christmas we celebrate the event that set that gift into motion.  We need to act like this gift is real.

One of the problems with proactive rejoicing is that we usually don’t feel like it.  We feel just the opposite.  The devil tells us we are being hypocritical if we rejoice when we feel no joy.  That would be true if this was a natural thing.  It is not.  We are not acting on what we feel, we are acting on a spiritual reality.  Jesus really did give us this gift.  We really are saved and going to heaven.  He really has taken up residence in our lives and he really is there to strengthen us and meet every need.  We don’t respond because we feel these things we respond because we believe them. 

The power in this is that if we will get pass the feelings that wants to keep us from releasing the joy and begin to act joyfully in what we believe, the feelings do follow.  These feelings are not dependent on outward things because they were not produced by outward things.  They were produced by acting on what we believe.  That does not change.  If I rejoice in the Lord I will release the joy of the Lord and depression and sadness will be driven away.  That is a promise.

Use the Christmas season as a time to practice rejoicing.  Meditate on the wonderful gift God has given us during this season.  Begin to rejoice for that gift even in the midst of the stress and pressure of the holidays.  Rejoice for that gift even if you are not able to do all you would like or if you are separated from those you love.  Maybe you have no loved ones to share the holidays with.  Rejoice in the Lord for He will never leave nor forsake you.  Let this rejoicing seep into your daily life.  Rejoice in the Lord right in front of the world.  It ‘s the one time of year they won’t think your strange.  Well at least they’ll think your are less strange. 

As you do you will tap into the Joy of the Lord.  That joy will change your outlook on the season and it will spill over to those around you.  Strike up a carol.  Not a winter song or a secular song.  A carol about Jesus.  People might even sing along.  Rejoice and let your rejoicing spread joy to those around you.  You may be surprised at the results for you, your family and even the world you live in.

A Closer Look at Joy

John 17:13(NKJV)
13But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

This week we have been taking time to reflect on the Christmas season.  We have discussed the fact that, although the 25th of December was originally a pagan holiday, Christians coopted it and possessed it for Jesus.  Today the devil has been trying to take his holiday back and I don’t think we should let him.  We should be aggressive, though not obnoxious about sharing the true meaning of Christmas and using it for the gospel.  We have also seen that, although the world wants to eliminate Jesus from the season, they do want certain elements of the Christian celebration to remain.  Namely they try to promote joy, peace and love. 

The problem for the world is that those things are not really available outside of a relationship with the Lord.  This is a good thing for us, because what the world is looking for right now, we have.  We have all three because we have Jesus.   This gives us the open door to offer this gift to those around us since we have what they need.

Yesterday we began looking at Joy.  This season is all about pleasure and happiness.  Both these things are fine in themselves but they are subject to natural stimuli.  When the outward changes the good feelings go away.  Joy is not based on outward things.  It is a product of the spirit of man not the soul.  The soul consists of the mind, emotions and will.  The spirit of man is that part which becomes a new creation at salvation.  It is the part that is vitally joined to God himself.  When we are born again, it is our spirit that is made a new creature.  (2 Cor. 5:17-21)  Our soul is affected, but it does not become completely new.

Happiness and pleasure are seated in the soul.  They can be affected by the outward conditions of life  They can be affected by relationships, things or even chemicals.  During Christmas we focus on this kind of outward stimuli.  It may be gifts or family or just the nostalgic memories, but they are all external in nature.  However our emotional state of happiness can also be affected from the inside out.  Joy is in our spirit if we are born again.  If we learn to tap into it we can have a sense of happiness when nothing external is there to produce it.  As a matter of fact, if we understand and walk in joy, it will be the times when we are least likely to be externally happy that joy will take hold and cause us to rise above the external. 

It is when this happens that the world looks on and says, “How can you be cheerful at a time like this?”  We can then respond, “I have something deeper than the external things that causes me to smile in the midst of trial.  His name is Jesus!”

What is joy.  Let’s look at some definitions.  Webster says joy is; the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.  That is OK as far as it goes.  It is the natural interpretation of joy.  Joy is indeed manifested by an emotional sense of wellbeing.  However, from a scriptural point of view, it is much more.  Strong’s concordance defines it as cheerfulness or being full of good spirits, that is, calm delight, or extreme satisfaction.  So we might say biblical Joy is extreme satisfaction, filled with good spirits and a sense of calm or control.   That’s quite a picture.

Holman’s bible dictionary puts it this way, “Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure. The Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our word hedonism, the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking. Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” ( 2 Tim 3:4 ).”  Here is the real source of Joy.  A right relationship with God causes Joy to be available in every situation of life.

That brings me to the point for today.  In the verse above Jesus says that His joy can be fulfilled in us.  Once again we see that the joy we are speaking of is not centered in the world at all.  It is not even natural human Joy.  It is the Joy of the Lord.  It is ours because of salvation. 

Most of us own computers, but we really have no idea what they are capable of.  NASA went to the moon with computers that have a fraction of the capability many of our cell phones have today.  Imagine the power of our desktop and laptop computers.  However we get very little out of that power.

It is the same with our salvation.  There is so much more in it than we ever access.  One of those things is joy.  We often think that we have to get to church to have joy.  If we sing the right songs we have joy.  If we have good fellowship we have joy.  All those things can help us release joy, but the joy is already there.  We have it because we are saved.  That’s what I want us to concentrate on today.

Are there things in life that are bringing a sense of sadness or even depression.  Christmas can do that.  If you are a Christian you have joy inside you.  Tomorrow we will talk more about releasing it, but today meditate on John 17:15 and John 15:11.  You have joy.  It is the joy of the Lord and it is yours to walk in today.  Thank God for it and display it with a hearty “Merry Christmas!”

Celebrating Christmas: Joy

John 15:11(NKJV)
11“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

Yesterday we talked about taking back December 25th as the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ.  It is important to remember that we are not celebrating the date of Jesus’ birth.  Instead we are celebrating the fact of His birth.  In the early days of the church, Christians coopted a secular holiday and reassigned it to the celebration we call Christmas.  Today it seems that Satan has been working to take back this celebration.  It has become increasingly secular.  It has become the holiday season as opposed to the Christmas season.  I find this unacceptable.  I believe we should not just abandon the 25th of December giving it back to the world and the devil.  It is our holiday.  Time is divided by the birth of Christ.  We need to take it back for Jesus.

This also involves using it to spread the message of the wonderful gift given to us at this time of year.  As the season has become more secular any mention of Jesus has been deemed insensitive and unacceptable.  This is still a free country and we don’t have to abide by that rule.  People are still more open to the message of Jesus during this season.  I believe the controversy over the secularization of Christmas has itself opened up the door even more.  Let Merry Christmas on our lips be an open door to share the Gospel

There are three ideas that the secularists have tired to incorporate into the “holiday” celebration that are part and parcel with Christmas.  They want to emphasize  these things without involving the birth of the messiah.  This is, of course, not possible.  Once again, however, I think this can be to our advantage.  These three things are joy, peace and love.  These three virtues are extolled as part of this “holiday” season.  They have not been cast aside because the world needs them.  They want them, but we have them.  They don’t understand them, but they are, or should be, a part of our everyday lifestyle.  Since the world is looking for them during this season, we have the opportunity to show the world where they reside: In the church of Jesus Christ and it’s people.

If we are going to be able to follow through with this opportunity we need to understand these three spiritual forces and have them functioning in our lives.  The world is doing our advertising.  We just need to make sure we have the product in stock and on display.  The first one I want to talk about is joy.

The world speaks of joy during this season, but they have it completely confused with pleasure.  Unfortunately our whole society, including most of the church, is geared to pleasure rather than joy.  Pleasure is dependent on outward things.  A good movie brings us pleasure.  Sex and relationships can bring us pleasure.  Drugs and alcohol can bring us pleasure.  During this season getting and even giving the right gift can bring us pleasure.  Unfortunately, just as the new Christmas toy soon becomes just another cast off in the toy box, pleasure is fleeting.  It is only as strong as the moment and constantly needs to be renewed by finding another source.  There is nothing wrong with pleasure as long as we understand it’s traps and limitations.

Another word related to pleasure is happiness.  Happiness carries a broader connotation.   Where pleasure is only in the moment, happiness can be a longer term condition.  Happiness, however, has the same limitation in that it is dependent upon outward circumstances.  When the outward circumstances change, the level of happiness changes.  In our world this is a problem.  There are not many outward things that will make us happy and there is much in the world to erode our level of happiness.  The only solution is to seek pleasure which masks our unhappiness.  In the end, if all we have is a happiness based on passing pleasure we are in a weak position that will eventually find us in some form of depression.

In today’s scripture Jesus tells his disciples that there is another emotional condition that can remain with us.  This condition is not based on outward things.  It is not even ours per se.  It is His joy.  Joy can result in happiness.  Joy can be a source of great pleasure.  However joy is not exactly the same as either of these temporary things.  At least not in the context of the Christmas message.  Joy comes from God.  Joy is a byproduct of knowing Jesus. 

Joy is one of the most precious gifts of Christmas.  It is desired by the world but it is not possible to understand or access it without knowing Jesus.  Therefore the world is looking for something, advertising something and, in a way, preaching something it cannot attain.  At least not without help.  We have Jesus, therefore we have Joy.  We will look at this truth and build faith for it from the Word through this week, but let’s start by realizing it’s potential right now.

Once again, the world wants it and we have it.  Let’s show it.  You may not feel it so much, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have it.  You do, because it’s part of salvation.  Put a smile on your face and a “merry Christmas” on your lips and let the world know that there is a place to find something more lasting then a present.  Something more enduring than holiday happiness shared with friends and family.  Those things are good, but there is something much better.  There is the Joy that Christmas promises.  Joy that comes from knowing and being know by the savior born to us as celebrated during this season.  Let them see in you what they long for and be ready to help them open this precious gift of the Father.


Celebrating Christmas: We Don’t Need to Give Christmas Back

Isaiah 9:6(NKJV)
6    For unto us a Child is born,  Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

There are some Christians who argue against the celebration of Christmas because it was originally a pagan holiday.  They reason that Jesus was not born in December.  Of course they are right on both counts.  I choose to see it from another angle.  First of all the Christmas celebration is not really about Jesus’ birthday.  We are not celebrating the day of His birth but the fact of his birth.  Since this is the case, the day is not really that important.  Unto us a child was born and a son was given.  When is not really the issue.

It is true that the December 25th date coincides with a pagan holiday called the Saturnalia.  I don’t have a problem with that.  In my view that just means we have taken something that the devil owned and coopted it for Jesus.  Any ground we take from the devil is a good thing to me. 

What confirms to me that this was a victory for the Lord is what the devil is doing today.  It seems to me that he is trying to do the very same think in reverse.  Over the last 50 years the Christmas celebration has become more and more the “holiday” celebration.  It is acceptable to have a Hanukah menorah or a “holiday” tree or a Kwanza symbol, but a manger scene is unacceptable.  We can sing winter songs and secular Christmas songs, but any mention of Jesus is out of the question.  It seems to me Satan wants his holiday back and I don’t intend to give it to him.  We took it to celebrate the coming of the Messiah to the world and we are not giving it back.

I don’t pretend to be a big “Christmas guy.”  I have six kids and 12 grandchildren.  With spouses that’s a lot of gifts and I like to give good gifts.  Over the years I have gotten increasingly “Scroogish.”  (I don’t think that’s a word, but you get the idea.)  As I have thought about this idea of Satan trying to reclaim December 25th, however I got a little angry.  As Christians we can go with the secular holiday flow, we can ignore it all together or we can make a stand for Christmas to be what it was taken from the Devil for in the first place.

Christmas is the celebration of the fact that God came to earth to rescue man from the penalty of sin.  Jesus did not stay a baby, but if he had not come as a baby he couldn’t become a man.  If he didn’t become a man he could not die for our sins.  If he didn’t die for our sins there would be not Easter celebration of the resurrection.  It all began with God taking the form of man and invading our world with His love.  That is the celebration we call Christmas.

As we go through the next few weeks, let’s take back our Holiday.  We don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable, but the truth is this is our time.  Jesus is the center of this celebration.  I appreciate the Jewish tradition of Hanukah, but the 25th is Christmas not Hanukah.  It is the Christmas holiday that the world celebrates.  I know nothing of Kwanza except that my friends who are from Africa, and I have many since I’ve spent a good bit of time on that continent, seem to know no more about it than I do.  If it is not just a fabrication then those who choose to celebrate it should do so proudly.  We should do the same for the celebration of Christmas. 

I refuse to say “happy holidays” to be politically correct.  Let’s declare a Merry Christmas to the world.  A Child was born for us.  A Son was given for our salvation.  Time is still marked from that wondrous event even if the world wishes it weren’t.  They may say that the new designation of time is BCE, meaning “ Before the common era” and ACE meaning “After the common era” or some such thing, but in reality time is still divided by the birth of Jesus the Christ.

This is our celebration.  Let’s embrace it for what it is and use it as a time to extend an invitation to receive the true gift of the season to the world around us.  Jesus came that we might have abundant life (John 10:10) and that’s what we have to offer the world as a Christmas gift.  Many, despite the efforts of the media and the politically correct culture, still believe that Christmas is about Jesus.  They may not know Him as we do, but they recognize the attack on our culture and because of it are more open than usual to the idea that He is an important part of life.  We can use that to show them just how important He really is.

I encourage you not to give our celebration back to the devil.  Let’s take Christmas back.  The Holy Spirit within us will enable us to do so.  Let “Merry Christmas” become our battle cry against the forces that want to reclaim the 25th of December for their own agenda. 

Isaiah 9:6(NKJV)
6    For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Waters we Must Swim In

Ezekiel 47:3-5(NKJV)
3And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed.

This week we have been looking at the need our land has for healing.  As I watched the news this morning ,this need was again evident in the stories reported.  Where will this healing come from?  It can only come from God.  His presence is the healing flow that will bring the needed change to our land.  Who can cause this flow to come into our world?  The only group that can produce the channel for the river of God’s presence to flow is the church.  If we don’t do what 2 Chron. 7:14 tells us to do there will be no healing.  It is our responsibility.

Today I want to finish the discussion this week by looking at the most familiar part of this prophetic vision.  The angel takes Ezekiel into the river and measures depth.  The farther he goes down the river the deeper the water gets.  Finally it is so deep that the river cannot be crossed.  The implication is that the river has become too great for Ezekiel to maintain control.  It does not say Ezekiel didn’t cross it or that he just took a nice swim instead of crossing it.  It says he was unable to cross it.

I have already pointed out that the picture I had of the waters getting deeper as we moved towards the middle of the river was not accurate.  The waters get deeper as we go farther down the river or the more we take His presence into the world.  We often see this as the Lord taking us into these waters just for our own benefit.  The picture here is that we will never experience the fullness of the presence of God unless we are willing to take His presence into the world where it can bring healing to the land. 

The depth of the river is also a key to our ability to become a healing channel to the world.  There are four levels of the water.  The first level is ankle deep.  The second knee deep, the third waist deep and finally waters we must swim in.  What is the difference in these levels.  Although there are many things we could expound upon, let me focus on just one. Control. 

My wife is an excellent swimmer.  It is one of her favorite things to do.  She always says that her dream house would have an indoor pool .  She is perfectly comfortable and in control no matter how deep the water is.  I, on the other hand, am not.  I can manage to beat the water enough to get across our small pool that is 4 ft. deep, but that is about it. 

A year ago in August I decided to bless my wife and go snorkeling with her.  This involves getting into water that is over my head.  My wife blithely enjoyed the experience of gliding around with her face in the water looking at the interesting sea life.  I simply tried not to drown.  Mind you I had on a life vest, but it seemed to serve no purpose but to push my head under the water.  At one point as I was sinking beneath the surface and desperately trying to maintain some sort of control.  I reached out and touched some of the coral on the bottom. Attached to is was a sea urchin.

I don’t know if you are familiar with these nasty little creatures but their defense is to deposit very small but very painful spines into your flesh.  It was as if I had 10 or 15 splinters in my thumb.  There is no way to get them out, you just have to wait for them to dissolve in you flesh.  One treatment we found on the internet was to hit my thumb a hammer a few times to break them up so they could dissolve more quickly.  Needless to say, I didn’t find that advice very helpful.

What is the difference between me and my wife in the water.  She is in control and I am not.  I am fine as long as the water is only ankle deep.  I can get out if I want.  I can walk unhindered.  If it is knee deep I am still OK.  The water affects me a little more, but I am still firmly in control.   When it is waist deep, I begin to get uncomfortable.  The waves could knock me over and I might have trouble getting up.  I am in control but not as much as I like.  Once the water is over my head, forget it.  I want out.  I have no control and I actually begin to fear for my life.  For me, waters I must swim in is not something I enjoy, it’s something I dread. 

I believe that is the picture in this vision.  We want the presence of God, but we like to stay in control.  Once we learn to swim the deeper waters of the Spirit become a liberating thing, but at first, and for most of us, not being in control is a frightening prospect.  Once we loose control we must go where the river takes us.  The river begins to dictate at least some of our actions.  We are liberated within the will of the river, but our will is hindered.  This is a very uncomfortable thing for most people.

The problem is that we can’t take the presence of God into the world unless we give the river control.  The picture is that the deeper the river goes into the world the less control we have.  If we are only willing to allow the Holy Spirit to have ankle deep control we will only have ankle deep healing available to our land.  Knee deep control results in knee deep healing.  If we allow the Holy Spirit to have enough control that he can knock us over occasionally, we will have more healing available for our land.  However, only when we begin to yield completely to the flow of the river will we see the full healing capability of the river released around us.    

How much control does the river have in your life.  For most of us this is not something we can just jump into.  God knows that.  We must begin with ankle deep water and progress as we grow and learn.   The thing is we must begin.  Praise and worship is, among other things, swimming practice.  Get into the waters and go as deep as you can.  Go a little deeper than you are comfortable with.  There are plenty of lifeguards around.  It is safe.

We also learn to go deeper with every faith endeavor that we undertake.  Trust is the key element in giving up control.  My wife trusts her swimming ability, I do not rust mine.  The more we build trust in God, the more we are able to give ourselves over to His will and His ways.  Just remember, you can’t learn to swim on the shore.  You have to get into the waters.  Start today.  Once you learn how to swim the deep waters will be a place of adventure and joy.  They will also be a place of healing for all those around you.

Stay out of the Marshes

Ezekiel 47:11(NKJV)
11But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt.

This week we have been studying this prophetic vision from Ezekiel 47.  It is easy to see that our world needs healing.  2 Chron. 7:14 tells us that we are responsible for providing the channel of faith so that this healing can flow to our land.  In Ezekiel 47 we find that the source of this healing is the presence of God.  Many churches have looked to other methods that actually hinder the presence of God from flowing  The most extreme of these mindsets is what has been called “seeker friendly” churches.  This approach says we should do nothing that would offend or put off the seeker.  We will not be overtly religious especially in a Pentecostal or Charismatic sense.  We will not preach hard messages.  We will use worldly methods to entertain and entice people to come to our churches.  Once there we will try to minister bible truths to them. 

Paul asked of the Galatian church, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)  I would say the same to those who think we can bring healing to the world by eliminating the presence of God from the equation.  It is foolishness.  Any thought that we can win the world for Jesus without the active work and presence of the Holy Spirit is without any scriptural merit at all.

We have learned that in order to walk in this presence to its greatest degree we must understand that it can not be limited to the church or our private time.  The presence of God must be taken into the world.  Our daily living must be infused with this presence and our actions must be dictated by it.  We must depend on it daily as we go into the world, expecting the presence of God to make the difference as we preach the gospel.  Only then will we find ourselves so deep in God’s presence that we will find “waters to swim in.”

Today I want to share another key that will help us carry this healing presence to the world.  Yesterday I pointed out that the depth of the water was not determined by how far we were from the bank but how far down the river we allowed this presence to go in our lives.  There is a need, however, to get away from the banks and fully into the river.  In this verse God cautions the prophet that the marshes and swamps would not be healed. 

What are these marshes and swamps?  Paul tells Timothy that in the last days there will be those who have “a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim 1:5)  I believe that is talking about empty religion.  We often use this term in relation to dead denominational churches, but make no mistake, we are all subject to the trap of these marshy waters. 

The problem is that they resemble the river.  They are wet.  There is water.  We can think that we are OK since we are close to the river.  We have some of the same elements as the river.  We are at least ankle deep in water.  There is a major difference between the swamp and the river.  In this verse it says these waters are not healed but given over to salt.  What does the swamp lack that the river has?  The river has a current.  It flows.  The swamp does not. 

If we are going to be a channel for the healing presence of God to the world we need to be where the flow is.  If there is no flow the place where we are will eventually become a marsh.  It will still be wet but without the flow of like it will not be capable of brining healing.  It’s as if we have a seepage of the presence of God.  It will keep you wet.  You will have a form of godliness, but there will be no healing life flowing from it. 

Sometimes we settle for this because it is uncomfortable to be in the current of the river.  The current brings pressure to bear on us.  It pushes us in directions we don’t always want to go.  It exposes things that need to change.  As we will see tomorrow, it takes us out of control.  However without that pressure there can be no life. 

I encourage you to get into the river today.  Don’t be satisfied with the dead water of the swamp.  Don’t stay on the fringes of the things of God.  Get into the church.  Enter in to praise and worship.  Really spend time in the Word of God and prayer.  Allow the Holy Spirit to affect your life.  Let Him make the necessary changes so you can be a channel of the presence of God to your land.  Don’t settle for the stagnation of dead religion but yield to the flow of the river of life.  If you do you will be a source of the healing power of God to your land.  If not, you may feel like you are doing your religious duty.  You may even have a little blessing in you life, but you will never fulfill the wonderful destiny God has for you. 

Get into the river. Get out of the swamp and carry the healing presence of God to your land.

Take the Presence to the World

Ezekiel 47:3-6(NKJV)
3And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. 6He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river.

This week we have been discussing the need our world has of healing.  We have looked at 2 Chronicles 7:14 which puts the responsibility for opening the channel for healing on the church, not any other group.  It’s important to remember that we are not responsible for the healing itself, God does that.  We are responsible for the channel of faith that will enable the Lord to work.  W have also learned from Ezekiel 47 that the source of this healing is the presence of God.  There is nothing else that will do.  Plans, programs and other things may build a church, but they will not bring healing to the world.  The presence of God flowing from the temple of God is the only solution.  The church is the temple from which this presence must flow.

I want to look at some keys to how we can cause this presence to heal our land.  In the verses above we see a very familiar part of this prophecy.  For years I read it one way, but recently I realized I was wrong. 

It is popular to look at the depth of the river the way we would look at a natural river.  I always thought that the angel was measuring from the bank of the river toward the center.  The farther he got from the bank the deeper the rive got.  Looking at it this way, it would seem that the angel is saying we need to get farther into the river to get into deeper water.  This would make sense from a natural standpoint if we are standing next to the river at it’s widest point.

With this interpretation the message is that we need to wade deeper into the presence of God until we are swimming in the river.  There is a truth here, but it is not the whole truth.  This interpretation makes it about us and the river alone.  It is an abstract spirituality that really has no affect on anything but us.  That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the whole story nor is it the point of this scripture.  This prophecy is about the healing of the land, not just about our own spiritual development or even our own healing.  I believe that this will be one of the results, but it is not the point.

As I read this more closely I realized that the picture is not of us at the bank of the river at it’s widest, but it is a picture of us at the headwaters of the river.  If you were to find the beginning of the Mississippi River you could walk across it.  If you were to continue down the river it would get deeper and deeper until it contained “waters to swim in.”  This river is flowing towards the east.  It is eastward that the angel is measuring not north or south.  He is measuring away from the temple and toward the world.  Look at verse 3 in the New Living Translation.

Ezekiel 47:3(NLT)
3Measuring as he went, he took me along the stream for 1,750 feet and then led me across. The water was up to my ankles.

He lead me across the river.  Each of these verses say the same thing.  He lead me across the river not into it.  Why is this important?  Because we must understand that if we want to go deeper into the presence of God we must take the presence of God into the world.  As long as the focus is on us alone we will never see the fullness of the presence of God in our lives.  We will never see this presence affect our world if we don’t get this presence into the world.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I believe God wants us to enjoy His presence.  I believe the scripture that says in His presence is the fullness of joy.  However I also know that Christianity can never be fully lived if we stay “self focused.”  If we want real joy and the fullness of His presence we must take that presence to the world.  Jesus did not live for Himself but for the world.  Paul said he died daily for the world that he was sent to.  We need to take the presence of God into our world.

What does this mean.  Well, we don’t have space to cover that completely here, but it certainly means that the presence of God in our lives cannot be limited to our time in church.  We often think of the presence in terms of our time in praise and worship or prayer.  We need to begin to understand that this presence goes with us at all times.  We must let it dictate our behavior and expect it to affect our ministry to the world.  We can’t do that if we separate our church life and our “regular” life.

In Mark 16 it says this.

Mark 16:20(NLT)
20And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs. 

The Lord worked with them as they went.  This week make a real effort to become conscious of the Lord with you as you go.  His presence is there right now.  How would you act if Jesus was with you?  That is how you should act realizing His presence is with you.  Think of what is possible in terms of touching others since He is working with you.  The more that sense dominates our thinking the greater we will be used in bringing healing to the world.  The wonderful extra benefit of this kind of thinking is that you take “the fullness of Joy” with you as you go.