A Supernatural People

Deuteronomy 5:33 (NKJV) 33 You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.

We find ourselves once again on the brink of a New Year. Many look at the end of one year and the beginning of another as meaningless. Those of us who are Christians know that we are part of eternity. Why would the division of years be important to us? I believe that God invented the idea of the division of time at creation.

Genesis 1:14 (NKJV) 14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;

This verse is very specific in that God set the lights in the heavens, the sun the moon and the stars, to divide time. They also provide other things but at least a part of their reason for existence is to be for “signs and seasons on the earth.” That being the case, I believe years are important to God. I believe he has a purpose for each year that comes along. I believe that purpose involves things specific to each individual, to each local church and the church as a whole.

The last three years have been a journey for me and for our church. There have been good times and not so good times during these years but I have always felt that we were going somewhere. Even though there are circumstances that might cause me to doubt, I still believe we are going to a place in God that will prove to be very significant.

Although this has been specific to our church, I have also had the sense that this journey has been for the whole church as well. In the last three years, I have talked to many pastors and leaders and they all seem to sense similar things. God is doing something. We are in a time of waiting and we do not know exactly what we are waiting for but it will be something very good.

Towards the end of 2013 I, as well as a number of other leaders I spoke with, felt that there was a change. We all felt that part of our waiting time was over and that the next phase of God’s dealing with man had begun. Of course, many things happened to indicate that this was not really true, but that is just par for the course. In Mark 4 Jesus says Satan always comes immediately to steal the Word. That is because he knows if the Word of the Lord takes root in our hearts there is nothing he can do to keep it from bearing fruit.

From the beginning of 2011, we have been looking a various aspects of the journey of Israel from bondage in Egypt to destiny in Canaan. I believe this is a type of the journey of the Christian from bondage to destiny. I also believe it has been characteristic of the journey the church is on right now to the next move of the Holy Spirit. We began by looking at Israel’s initial deliverance and the continuation of that through the encounter at the Red Sea.

One word describes all that Israel went through and all that they did during the period that took them from Egypt to Canaan. That word is “supernatural.” This began with their deliverance from Pharaoh. They had no natural ability to get away from this god king. They had no army, no resources and no freedom. They were powerless. They could not leave Egypt and they could not escape the Egyptians.

The deliverance that came to them was, in every way supernatural. God brought them a supernatural deliverer in Moses. God provided supernatural power as he rained judgments down on Israel. There was nothing Israel could do in their natural strength to cause them.

God gave Israel supernatural favor when the women asked the Egyptian women to give them gold, silver and clothing. The Egyptian women had no reason to comply and the Israelite women had no power to make them comply.

When Israel came to the shores of the Red Sea, they had no natural way to cross it. The Egyptian army appeared behind them by the will of God. The Lord led Israel into a place where they had no natural power to escape death. God provided a supernatural solution to their dilemma by parting the Red Sea so they walked across on dry ground. He then supernaturally destroyed the Egyptian army so they could no longer be a threat to Israel.

As Israel progressed through the wilderness, they did not take the natural route to Canaan. There were established trade routes that Israel could have easily followed. If they had, they would have arrived in Canaan weeks or months after they left Egypt not years. However, God did not intend for them to take a natural journey. They followed a supernatural pillar of fire and pillar of cloud on their journey. Along the way, many necessary things were accomplished in their lives.

There was no natural way to carry the food so many people needed for the journey. God provided it in a supernatural was as bread appeared every morning on the ground before them. Water is always a concern in desert areas, especially for so many people. God supernaturally provided water from a rock. Their clothes were supernaturally preserved. They had supernatural encounters with God at Sinai. Almost everything that happened to them was impossible in the natural. They required supernatural intervention all along the way.

When it finally came time for them to enter Canaan, God gave them the commandment we read in today’s scripture. They were not just to go into the Promised Land; they were supposed to possess it. We looked at this in detail during 2012, but I want to point out today that they could not do that in the natural either. Moses sent 12 spies into the land. We know that 10 came back with what the Lord called an evil report. It was evil because it contained no faith. It was not inaccurate.

The Promised Land was filled with giants. There were walled cities and powerful nations occupying Canaan. In the natural Israel could not possess the land. They still required supernatural intervention. Canaan was the point of their deliverance. They were not set free from captivity to wander in the wilderness. They were destined to live in Canaan so that the Messiah could be born there. However, they did not experience a supernatural deliverance, a supernatural journey and supernatural provision so they could live in Canaan as a natural people. Gods’ will was for them to be a supernatural people in Canaan as well.

Israel’s history is full of times when they obeyed God and times when they rebelled against God. When they obeyed, they had supernatural prosperity and victory over their enemies. When they disobeyed and tried to rely on the natural, they always failed. They would experience military defeat, plagues and conquest. Israel was brought to Canaan to be a supernatural people.

I believe we need to understand that God has provided us with a supernatural salvation. He gave us the Holy Spirit to be our supernatural helper. He gives us promises of supernatural healing, deliverance and prosperity. He has called us to a supernatural commission. We cannot win the world with natural ability. We need the power of the Holy Spirit in our everyday living.

I believe that the Lord has led my church and me on a supernatural journey to the edge of a Promised Land. That land is a place where we are to live as a supernatural people. We need to draw on the power of the supernatural in everything we do so that we can show the world that there is a supernatural God who cares about them. This year we are going to learn how to do that in a more consistent way. I am looking forward to the journey. How about you?

Merry Christmas to All

Matthew 1:18-25 (NKJV) 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Obviously, I have been taking this week off from posting but I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. In all the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season, let us remember what we really celebrate on this day.

We do not celebrate the birth of a baby alone.  That part is very important.  He had to ge to be born or the rest of what Jesus came to do would have been impossible.  However, what we really celebrate is how he was conceived. 

Man had no hope of redemption after the fall.  He was separated from God by sin.  The result of sin is always death and death is separation from the life of God.  (Romans 6:25)  Sin required a just payment.  In the past week or two, we have talked about how God paid the price for man’s transgression.  Before that could happen, there had to be a being that could be the sacrifice for all of humanity.

No man could be the sacrifice.  The price was death:  Not just physical death alone but also spiritual death that makes the separation between man and God eternal.  People must pay this price for themselves but that was not acceptable to the Father.

God could not simply forgive the debt.  That would not be justice and God cannot compromise justice.  The full debt must be paid.  There is no other way.  God cannot pay the debt because he did not commit the transgression and he is not part of Adam’s race.

God cannot create another man the way he created Adam.  If he did, that man would not be a representative of Adam’s race.  No one born of Adam’s seed can be the sacrifice because everyone born of his seed carries the “sin gene.”  Each one can only pay for their own sin. 

What is the solution to God’s problem?  He comes up with a plan that no one else could have considered.  He must redeem man.  He has the power to overcome temptation.  He has the power to defeat the devil.  He has to do it but he has to do it as a man.  Not just any man but a member of Adam’s race.  To do that, he must be born a human being like all other human beings but his humanity must not have the “sin gene.”

There is only one way.

Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV) 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Many see the virgin birth as part of Christian mythology. However the day in which Jesus lived was long past the age of myth. The men who wrote the gospels were reporting what they had seen or, in Luke’s case, what they had heard from those who were there. The virgin birth is no myth it is history.

Sometimes we focus on the fact that a baby was born on Christmas. How sweet that such a small weak thing could change the world. Jesus was never weak. Angels announced his birth. Do you suppose that those angelic beings simply left him after that? Many tried to kill Jesus before his time. God protected him with his power. One of the first things God did was supernaturally warn Joseph to go to Egypt so that Herod could not get to Jesus.

What we should focus on is what this child really was. He was fully human because his mother was fully human. She was no different from your mother or mine. He was a part of Adam’s race because of her. However, he did not carry the “sin gene.” The male of the species passed that on. We know that this is possible in natural genetics, why not spiritual genetics. He was born of the seed of the Word of God.

John 1:1 (NKJV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 (NKJV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

He was completely human and yet he was God. He was the son of man but also the Son of God. He was like all men but without sin. He was tempted but did not fall. He had the vital connection to God and his power that Adam had in the Garden. He was the perfect sacrifice. He was the only possible solution to the problem God faced in redeeming his family.

The virgin birth is the only hope for mankind. It is not a myth or legend. It is not a mistranslation of a Hebrew word as I have heard said recently. It is hard to accept because it has never happened before but it did happen. Without the virgin birth, we all would still be bound to pay our eternal debt to God. However, because of this union between God and man that formed in the womb of a consenting young girl, we all can receive the sacrifice of Jesus as the payment for our sin.

Today, take some time to remember who and what this baby really was. Remember that the God of the universe made himself small enough to live in a body like ours. Remember that the Father God so loved his children that he gave himself to same them. That is what Christmas is really all about.

Philippians 2:5-8 (AMP) 5 Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] 6 Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, 7 But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. 8 And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!

Hebrews 2:14-15 (AMP) 14 Since, therefore, [these His] children share in flesh and blood [in the physical nature of human beings], He [Himself] in a similar manner partook of the same [nature], that by [going through] death He might bring to nought and make of no effect him who had the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 And also that He might deliver and completely set free all those who through the [haunting] fear of death were held in bondage throughout the whole course of their lives.

The Handmaiden of the Lord

Luke 1:38(NKJV) 38Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

This week we have taken a different look at the Christmas story from the perspective of Mary. Here is a teenage girl confronted with a promise given by the Lord. The promise is not for healing or prosperity. It is not for success in her future life. Instead, she is given the opportunity to carry the Messiah of the whole world in her body. She must risk her future and her life to receive this promise.

The weight of the plan of God to save all of humanity rests upon her shoulders. If she says no, God will find another way to do what he plans to do. However, we see in Isaiah 7:14 that this is her destiny.

Isaiah 7:14(NKJV) 14Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Note in this verse that it does not say “a virgin shall conceive” but it says, “the virgin shall conceive.” It is as if the light of eternity is shining upon Mary as this moment. What will she say?

Of course, we know what she says because we can read it. However, try to think in terms of not knowing her answer. Imagine how she must have felt at this time. She did not understand all the ramifications of what the Lord was asking of her, but she did know that it would not be easy. She knew that the Messiah was coming soon. In addition, she knew that his coming was a pivotal event in the history of her nation. This is a tremendous burden for a simple girl.

In today’s scripture, we read her answer. “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it happen just as you say it should.” Mary says yes, to whatever God needs her to do. She says she will carry the promise of God into a world that, for the most part, did not want that promise. She will risk her reputation and her body to carry salvation for the world.

We know the price that Jesus paid. He allowed himself to be arrested, beaten and crucified so that all humanity could accept his sacrifice and be “born again.” Any who choose to can become a child of God free from sin and with heaven as their eternal home. It is impossible to minimize this sacrifice and it is impossible for any of us to pay it. That is why Jesus had to be born of a virgin and then die for us. However, what of Mary’s sacrifice.

Mary’s sacrifice was not to pay for salvation. Her sacrifice was to carry salvation to the world. If she had not been willing to do what the angel had asked, it would have been impossible for anyone to be born again. We can assume that God would have found another way, but we have no idea what that would have been. It was all upon Mary and her willingness to obey.

As I thought about this aspect of the Christmas story, I realized why the Lord led me to think about Mary. We cannot pay Jesus sacrifice but we can receive the promise the Lord gave to Mary. We cannot die for the sins of the world. We cannot even pay the price for our own sins. We can carry salvation to the world just as Mary carried it for the world.

Mary’s story begins with the angel telling her that she was highly favored by the Lord. She is called blessed more than all women and told that the Lord is with her in a special way. I believe the Lord is saying the same thing to us and our generation. We are favored by God and he is with us is a very special way.

We live in a world that is full of trouble. A great portion of this world has rejected God and religion in general. Many of those who embrace religion and the reality of the existence of God, serve a religious system that does not stand for the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They fight to remove Jesus’ influence from the world and enslave it in a system of religious legalism that threatens to return everyone to the dark ages.

We have been favored to live in this day. We have the answer to every problem the world faces. More important, we have access to the only name by which salvation can come to individuals in this troubled world.

Acts 4:12(NKJV) 12Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

We carry the promise of God for salvation to the world. The bible tells us that God is with us in a special way to enable us to carry out this mission.

Mark 16:15-20(NKJV) 15And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  16He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  17And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;  18they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.  20And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

These are the words of Jesus to each of us today. The scriptural record tells us that when the first disciples took up this challenge, the Lord did exactly what he said he would do. This is our promise that God is with us to do what he asks us to do.

God will not force you and me to obey any more than he would force Mary. Mary said, “Let it be to me as you say.” It was a choice. She risked everything from ridicule to death in order to carry out the assignment the Lord offered her. She did not have to do it but everything depended upon her obedience. I believe we are in the very same position.

If we choose to spread the gospel to those around us, we may be ridiculed. We may find that our reputations will suffer. There are places where those who preach the gospel lose their jobs, their families and even their lives. In the USA today, that is not the case. Our risk is far less than that; however, the responsibility is no less.

If Mary did not carry the promise of salvation, who would? If you and I do not carry the promise of salvation who will? If Mary had said no in her day of visitation, how would the God of the universe come to occupy the body of a human being? If we will not declare the message of salvation, how will anyone receive their own visitation and their salvation?

I think that we sometimes pray for a visitation of God and an outpouring of his power so that the world will know that we were right all along. This is not the reason to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit. The reason we should pray for God to move is the same reason Mary agreed to carry a supernatural baby into the world. We should pray for God to move because all of humanity needs to receive the promised salvation.

We are in the same position Mary was in on that fateful day. The same spotlight of eternity that was on her then is on us today. The question is will we have the same courage that she had. Will we respond to God’s invitation the way she did? I pray we do. The future of the world and its people depends upon our answer.

“Behold the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

The Weight of Responsibility

Luke 1:30-34(NKJV) 30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” 34Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

Yesterday we spent some time thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, as part of our Christmas celebration. We learned that Mary was an ordinary teenage girl who experienced and extraordinary supernatural visitation. God gave her a promise that she would bear a child conceived by the Holy Spirit. This child will be called the son of God and take the throne of his “father” David. The problem is that Mary is engaged but not yet married. Any pregnancy will ruin her marriage, her reputation, any hope at a normal life and endanger her physical life. This is not the kind of promise most of us would want.

Today I want to look at the burden the angel is asking her to carry for all of humanity. The virgin birth, along with the resurrection of Jesus Christ are often viewed as Christian mythology. They are nice stories that could not have actually happened. It is acceptable to live according to the philosophy of Christianity, but we must be realistic and reject such myths. The truth is very different. Without the virgin birth and the resurrection, Christianity as a religion is unworkable.

God created man for a purpose. That purpose was to be his family. God wanted beings that were like him with whom he could fellowship. To accomplish this he created a being that was spirit like him, but placed this being in a limited physical body and a limited physical environment. God is spirit and is unlimited. There could only be one God so man could not be unlimited. This compromise created a being that was made of the same spiritual substance as God, without being an unlimited being.

Because of man’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden, he was separated from God. Sin became a part of man’s nature and God’s pure holiness could not come in contact with that sin without destroying both the sin and the vessel carrying it. It is the same principle as light and darkness. Light always destroys darkness no matter how dim the light or dark the darkness may be.

This means that man cannot fulfill his purpose as the child of God. There cannot be intimate fellowship between them because man is now a child of wrath, or the devil, by nature. (Eph 2:3) Someone must defeat man’s overlord, Satan, and free him from the nature of sin. The problem is twofold. Only God is strong enough to defeat the devil. However, the crime is man’s crime so he must be the one to pay the price. God is absolutely just and will do nothing that is not within the boundaries of justice.

Man can pay the price for sin but the price is death. Once that price is paid, man is eternally separated from God. Since everything produces after its own kind, man will produce the same kind of being that he is. Man’s seed carries the death, so every human who is born of human seed will carry the sin nature that came upon Adam because of his sin in the Garden. (Romans 5) God cannot simply forgive it because of his own nature. Man cannot pay the price because of his nature.

God can simply destroy the creation and start again. However, God is absolute love as well as absolute justice. Justice will not allow him to overlook sin, but love will not allow him to abandon his family. God is left with an impossible situation. Of course, with God all things are possible.

What is the solution? God must become man, pay the price for sin and defeat the devil so man can be free. Then man can choose to receive this sacrifice and be “born again” as a new creature no longer bound by the “nature of wrath” that came upon Adam. The being that can accomplish this must be God but he must be a valid part of Adam’s race. God cannot simply create a new body from the dust of the earth because then the result would not be truly human. He cannot be conceived in the natural way because all creatures produce after their own kind and the result would carry the curse of sin. God could not inhabit such a body without destroying it.

There is only one answer. He must be born just as all other people are born. However, he cannot have a human father. If he is conceived in a real human female without the human seed, he will carry her humanity but not the curse of sin carried by man’s seed. The only kind of being that can do all that is required is one who is conceived in a virgin. The seed that creates him must be the Word of God. He will be human because of his mother. He will be divine because of his real father. He will be both God and man. (1 Peter 1:17-25)

This virgin born man will have the right to pay the price for humanity but the power to defeat the devil. He can choose to take upon himself the sin of man, but since he will have no sin to pay for, the payment will be for all who choose to take it as their own. This is the only way to meet the requirements of both love and justice.

Obviously, this is a short explanation of a long subject, but think about Mary for a moment. Not only is she being asked to do something that could ruin her own life, but she is now the focal point of thousands of years of God’s dealing with man. All God has done to this point, including creating the nation of Israel rests upon the decision of this young girl. The future of humanity rests upon here answer to the angel.

I do not believe God would have forced her to accept this role. God does not work that way. In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus praying to his father. His request is simple. “Father, I do not want to do this.” If he had no choice, he would not have prayed the second half of his prayer. “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”

I believe Mary has a choice. I believe she could say, “This is too much for a young girl to bear. I have my life to live. You will have to find someone else to carry this promise.” Her answer will determine the future of man. What will she say to this promise?

Think About Mary

Luke 1:26-33(NKJV) 26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary 28And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

(Here we are once again in the midst of all the Christmas preparations. The big day is only 7 days away and, just like many of you, I am still trying to get things done. I am going to re-post some things from last year that I thought was interesting. Merry Christmas to all!)

We usually focus on the birth of Jesus during this season and rightly so. However, he was not the only character in the story. What of his mother? What was her story? In today’s scripture, we see the angelic visitation that announces to Mary the role she must play in this drama. Who was Mary anyway?

She was a young girl, probably between the ages of 13 and 16 years old. She was not from a wealthy or influential family. She was related to the family of King David. I have a distant relative who was a Duke in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France but I am hardly considered royalty. I suspect that Mary’s connection to David was something similar. She was an ordinary girl of her day.

Sometimes when we read the bible, we think the people must have lived from one visitation to another. We read of the angel coming to Mary and think this was probably a common occurrence but it was not. Mary had never seen an angel. She probably never met anyone who had seen and angel. She knew they existed because it was part of her religious tradition, but she was still shocked by this supernatural visitation.

Therefore, the stage is set for this powerful drama to begin. There is a teenage girl just like all the other teenage girls of her day. She receives a visitation like no other she has ever heard of or seen. The greeting she receives from the angel is, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” That is quite a greeting for a 14-year-old girl. It must mean that something wonderful is going to happen to her. Perhaps she is going to become Queen just as her ancestor became King. A prophet visited him at a similar age. Maybe she will become rich or famous. Surely, it will be some wonderful promise that God will fulfill in her life. She is right, but not how we would think of a promise.

The angel tells her that she is going to have a baby. She is engaged, but she is not yet married. It is obvious from the description of the baby that this will be no ordinary child. He will be called the son of God and take the thrown of his father David. Her child will have two fathers; God and David. Neither seems to be a very likely candidate to Mary.

Mary understands that the angel is not talking about a child that will come because of her impending marriage to the carpenter Joseph. She is going to have a baby before she is married. All of this had to be quite a blow to a teenage girl.

On a personal level, this is a burden to bear. She must somehow inform her husband that she had not been unfaithful when it becomes obvious that she is pregnant. We know that the Lord will protect Mary and let Joseph in on the plan himself, but Mary does not know this now. Her marriage is in jeopardy.

In our world, it is no stigma to have a child out of wedlock. In her world, it was a matter of great shame to the whole family. Her reputation would have been ruined. This could have led to very severe consequences including death by stoning. At the very least, she would not have been able to expect a normal life and family after this shameful pregnancy.

Finally consider the fact that death in childbirth was a far more common occurrence in her day than today. Without the aid of friends and family because of the circumstances of her pregnancy and without a husband to care for her it was highly likely that she would not survive this “promised” experience from the Lord. How many of us would simply have told the angel to look elsewhere for someone to be so “favored of God.”

This is what she faces on a personal level. The responsibility she will carry if she accepts this promise is even greater. We will look at that tomorrow.

The Cutting Edge

2 Kings 6:5-7 (NKJV) 5 But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” 6 So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. 7 Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

In today’s scripture, we read a story form the life of Elisha. It seems that the prophets had run out of room and needed to build bigger place to meet. They came to Elisha and suggested a site near the Jordan River where there were plenty of logs. They could use the logs to build a bigger place. Elisha agreed to the plan and told them to get to it. They asked Elisha to come along and again he agreed.

I cannot help but think this sounds like so many of us in the church world today. We see some need in the church and we go about making a plan as to how to meet that need. In this case, it was a building project. We might do site planning, hire an architect or do some other kind of prep work to get the project under way. Once we have a plan, we begin the work just as they did. Where we might just leave things to the natural builders at this point, the prophets in Elisha’s company understood they needed the input and influence of the man of God.

As they were working chopping down trees, one of the young men lost the head off his axe. It must have flown off the handle and into the water as he was chopping one of the trees by the river. He turned to the prophet and said, “That’s a problem because the axe was borrowed. I can’t go back without it!”

The prophet asked him where it had gone into the water. Apparently, it was deep enough that they could not just reach in and get it. We all know that iron does not float. The prophet does not dive into the water to look for it. He does not command the axe to rise. He does not put his staff or his cloak into the water. He does something that seems completely unrelated to the problem. He cut a stick and threw it into the water. Immediately the iron axe head floated to the surface. “Grab it!” Elisha said to the young man, and he did.

There is a great deal to learn from this simple story. Let me focus on one of them for a few moments. I heard a friend of mine preach on this once and he spoke about what the axe head represented. An axe is made up of two parts and each one is important. An axe must have a handle. Without a handle, the axe will not generate enough force to chop down a tree. However, many things have handles. What makes an axe unique is the head. On the head is the thing that really does the work. The axe head contains the cutting edge.

His point and mine today, is that the church needs to get the cutting edge back. Many of us are working hard to build churches or ministries. As I have been observing some of what we are building, it seems to me that we have some great handles but we are a little lacking in the “cutting edge” department. Some of our handles are very high tech. Some are beautiful. Some are very organized, running like well-oiled machines. We beat away at our communities with our exceptional handles and wonder why we do not seem to be able to cut down any tress.

Sometimes our handles attract trees that are already cut down. Sometimes we attract the interest of trees that come to take advantage of the fine services we provide them. That is fine but if we do not “cut the trees down” so they can be fit into the building, what good are we really doing. We may have well cared for tress in huge orchards, but they will eventually die and be “cast into the fire.”

To cut down trees and fit them into the build of the Church of Jesus Christ, they must first die and then be born again. For that to happen we need more than a great handle. We need a cutting edge. We need something that can cut through objections, culture and any other thing that causes our “trees” to resist the call of God to salvation.

Let me say here that handles are not a bad thing. It is very difficult to cut down trees with just an axe head. We should have the best handle we can afford. We should maintain and make it the best handle it can be. That said, we could have a very basic handle if we have a sharp cutting edge and still get the job done. If we have the best handle in the world but no cutting edge, we will never get the job done. The job is the great commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT) 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

To do this job effectively we must have more than a handle. We need the power of the cutting edge. The cutting edge is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Without that, we can do some really good things but we cannot do the job Jesus us gave us to do.

In this story, what did it take to get the cutting edge back? They could not get it back with any natural thing at their disposal. Although they were building a natural building, once he lost the cutting edge, even the natural part this young man was to do became impossible. He could have beaten the trunk of a tree all day with the handle but it would have done no good. He needed the cutting edge and there was nothing in the natural he could do to get it back.

He turned to the one person he knew could go beyond the natural. He turned to the prophet Elisha. As I already pointed out, Elisha did not do anything spectacular. Too often, we mistake the spectacular for the supernatural. We look at the hype and the glitter and think, “That must be supernatural!” We may look at natural success and think that must mean supernatural success as well. Sometimes it does and sometimes it does not.

Truly supernatural things are often the simplest things. Elisha cuts a stick off one of the trees and throws it into the water. This simple act was supernatural and the axe head was recovered. If we want to get our cutting edge back, we must begin to look past all the impressive things and focus once again on some of the simple things. We are going to have to turn to our relationship with the Lord and the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. These are the kinds of things that produce a cutting edge ministry.

If we lost our axe head, we might study ways to get it out of the water. We might have taken an opinion poll to find out what people thought was the most important element in axe head recovery. We might have invested in some axe head retrieval software or expensive equipment to get it out of the water. Elisha just cut a stick and threw it in the water. I do not think most of us would come up with that kind of a plan. Elisha chose that course of action because he was in tune with the Spirit of God. That is what the Holy Spirit said to do and it worked.

As we build our lives and ministries, I want to encourage all of us to go back to the thing that gives us our cutting edge. We can have great handles, but it is the Holy Spirit who will give us back the cutting edge we need to reach our world. Without his active work, we might build something but it will not be the church Jesus said would win the world.

Translated to the Kingdom of His Love

Colossians 1:13 (KJV) 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

This week we have been learning about the second building block of our foundation, redemption in Christ Jesus. We have looked at redemption from the legal point of view. God created a family. He gave his family the legal right to choose. He also gave them dominion over the world he created for them. Satan deceived the woman into committing a sin before God and man chose to follow her in that sin. As a result of this legal transaction, man, all his descendents and the earth itself became Satan’s legal possession.

Redemption, or the buying back of something previously owned, is the way God paid the price for man’s rebellion. He sent Jesus as propitiation, or full payment, for what man had done. Since Jesus had committed no sin, God was able t apply this payment to whoever he pleased. He chose to apply it to man’s debt. In this way he legally bought back man’s right to choose life.

Man still had to make the choice, but once he did, Satan could not legally interfere with the choice. Jesus, as part of the redemption, took the keys of death, hell and the grave and led Satan captive to display to all the powers of hell that he had been legally defeated. (Rev. 1:18 & Col. 2:15) This action enforced the legal side of redemption. Man now had access to the power of God to enforce redemption in his own life. To access any part of the redemption in Christ, man had to choose.

First, he had to choose to accept Jesus’ sacrifice as for his own sin personally. Second, he had to choose to yield the lordship of his own life to Jesus. Jesus was the one who paid the price. Finally, each believer must choose to receive by faith the freedom redemption purchased. This freedom includes freedom from the dominion of sin, freedom from sickness, freedom from poverty and emotional freedom to name a few.

As we close this week, let us take a closer look at what we have as a result of redemption. First, let me point out something I touched on yesterday. Redemption frees us from the influence of the fall in every area. Whatever came upon man because of Adam’s sin can be reversed by faith in Christ’s redemption. However, one area will not change until the end of the church age.

Romans 8:23 (NKJV) 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

I believe the bible is clear that healing for our bodies is part of redemption (Is. 53) I also believe that we can believe for divine health as long as we need our bodies on this earth. That of course assumes that we take care of them reasonably well. If we abuse our bodies, we negate the affect of redemption. However, we still must endure physical death.

The reason for this is the same reason that Jesus did not preach to anyone after his resurrection but those who already believed in him. Salvation requires faith. Likewise, if Christian people simply did not die, those who needed to be saved would not be able to receive it by faith. They would have physical evidence that salvation was real. Faith is the key to unlocking salvation. Without it, no one can please God. (Heb. 11:6)

At the end of the age, there will be another phase of redemption in which our physical bodies will be redeemed and we will no longer be subject to physical death. Until that time, we will die physically and there is no provision of redemption that can alter that fact. When I consider that this guarantees that all who are alive around me can be saved, I think it is a small price to pay.

What can we expect from our redemption? Today’s verse tells us that redemption delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and translated us to the Kingdom of his son. I like the KJV’s use of the word “translate” better than the NKJV’s use of the “convey.” We can be conveyed from one place to another by a bus, but the bible tells us that Philip the evangelist was translated from one city to another instantly and miraculously. I believe this is the proper picture of what happens in redemption.

Before I accepted Jesus as the Lord and savior of my life, I was a legal citizen of the kingdom of darkness. I was subject to the laws of that kingdom. I lived under the conditions of that kingdom. My lifestyle and my living conditions were a product of that kingdom. The word “kingdom” implies a legal authority.

I travel a great deal in my ministry. I have been to about 38 countries. In many of them, the living conditions are quite different from those in my country. I have been places where the people live in poverty. I have been in places where the government and laws were very different from my home. While I am in these countries, I must obey their laws even if I do not agree with them. I must endure the conditions even if they make me uncomfortable. I am in their kingdom and under their authority.

When I get home, I am in another “kingdom” under different laws and living conditions. I am no longer subject to the laws or conditions of the “kingdom” I left. If there is some problem in that country, it does not affect me. If they have a natural disaster, it cannot touch me. I am in another kingdom.

Redemption took us from subjection to the kingdom of darkness and placed us under the authority of a new King. This Kingdom is the kingdom of God and the King is the son of God. I am no longer subject to the laws of the old kingdom. When I was living in the kingdom of darkness, the devil had every right to make me sick, poor or depressed. Sin had a legal right over me. I could resist it to a degree, but I was in their kingdom subject to their authority.

God did not have to put me on a plane or a train to get me out of the kingdom of darkness. When I said yes to Jesus, I was supernaturally picked up and translated into the Kingdom of the Son of God. From that moment on, I was no longer subject to the laws or conditions of that kingdom. It is now my legal right to be free from sickness, sin and poverty. I have a right to the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit.

When the old kingdom tries to exert authority over me, I can stand up to the devil and say, “I am no longer your subject. I don’t live in your kingdom any more. Get your hands off me.” (Romans 8:31-35) We have the right to go to the Father based on the promises in his Word and receive them by faith. I am in the kingdom of God’s son now and these promises are mine!

Let me close with one more thing. When I travel to other countries, I know I am submitting myself to their governments and the conditions those people live under. Sometimes there is a degree of danger involved. Spiritually, I know that I am still in God’s kingdom and the power of redemption will protect me. Physically I must endure hard conditions and risk to bring the Word of God to that place.

Too often believers choose to travel back into the kingdom of darkness. When we do, we bring ourselves under some of the authority of that kingdom. Sin takes us there. When we give into the flesh, we put ourselves under the authority of the kingdom of darkness and bad things have a right to come upon us. We are in their kingdom and under their authority. That is why the bible tells us not to give into the flesh or yield to sin.

God loves you. He has redeemed you and provided for every area of your life. Do not allow the devil to lure you back into his kingdom. Stay in the light and believe in the power of redemption. If you do, you will have access to the power of His kingdom to maintain you in this life as well as the ultimate redemption that enables us to live with our Father redeemer throughout eternity.