OUT OF THE PASTOR’S PEN

 

 

Be encouraged by Pastor Tom’s weekly blog post! Share with your friends!
 

The Glorious Clouds of Heaven

The Feast of Pentecost is about to happen on the Biblical calendar.  This event celebrates both the giving of the Commandments on Mt. Sinai and the outpouring of Holy Spirit on the disciples in the Upper Room.  Both events were marked by mysterious natural phenomena including clouds, loud sounds, and lightning or fire.

The Bible depicts God appearing and speaking many times in a cloud.  At the Very Beginning, God hovered in a cloud over the formlessness of the earth just before He spoke and light came forth.  At Mt. Sinai, the Lord told Moses: “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Exodus 19:16.  After three days of preparation for the people, God appeared in a cloud with thunder and lightning.
 
Later, when Moses went up the mountain a second time to receive the Commandments, God again appeared in a cloud.  This time the Lord recited the Commandments, proclaimed His Covenant with Israel, and revealed His name as: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness….”Exodus 34.  When Moses descended, His face was so radiant with God’s glory he had to wear a veil.  From then on God led Israel in a “cloud by day and a fire by night” for forty years in the wilderness.
 
In the New Testament, Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah in a cloud so wonderful Peter offered to build huts so they could stay a while.  In that cloud Jesus’ face “shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Matthew 17:2.  Out of the cloud, the voice of God spoke: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  Later, at the end of Jesus’ earthly journey, He ascended into a cloud after prophesying to the disciples that they would soon receive power from on high, on the Day of Pentecost.  Later, as Jesus left the earth, He disappeared in a cloud and two angels declared Jesus had been taken into heaven. Acts 1:9-11.
 
Finally, both the Gospels and the mysterious Book of Revelation declare Jesus will one day appear again coming on clouds, so that every eye will see Him.
 

These Glory Clouds are a meeting place between heaven and earth where God brings revelation and speaks truth in love and power.  People are changed forever when they encounter God in the Glory Clouds of heaven.  So, why “clouds”?  Clouds aptly depict a place where ordinary human perceptions become like vapor in the presence of the God of all Creation, whose thoughts and ways are not like ours.  Things of earthly importance disappear as if in a cloud when we experience God directly.  Then we realize how dependent we are on God and His unending mercy, grace and favor.

A 14th century  classic Christian book called The Cloud of Unknowing says that when we experience God’s presence our thoughts and desires come under a “cloud of forgetting” that can only be pierced by love. 
 
As we walk through Pentecost season this coming week, let our hearts be pierced with love for God so that we, too, may enter with Christ into the Glory Cloud of Heaven.  There Abba Father’s great Presence is knowable to us as True Love revealed in great power, just as on the first day of Pentecost.
 

 


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Great Expectations

Did you know Moms aren’t the only ones expecting? Hint: yes, I’m talking about you!
 

When a Mom is pregnant – she knows she has life inside of her and she knows what she is expecting. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around her. There were moms in concentration camps, moms in palaces, moms in war, moms in peace, etc. What’s going on around her doesn’t make her a mom. What’s going on inside of her does. 

No matter what circumstances you are facing today, never forget that what’s going on around you doesn’t define who you are – what’s is inside of you does. Matthew 17:20 says, “Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” God is affirming the mystery of motherhood here. All it takes is one seed planted in an unwavering expectation, trusting God and anything is possible.


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Did Jesus Ever Smile

 
Recently our family watched a great movie called “Risen.”  It’s a story about a fictional Roman soldier named Clavius, a tribune ranked above centurions who is charged by Pilate to find the body of Jesus after Jewish rulers claimed it was stolen from the grave.  Without spoiling the plot too much, Clavius searches high and low before discovering Jesus with His disciples, and a profound  transformation of the battle-hardened soldier takes place.   I strongly recommend the movie, but the relevant point here is simply that the Jesus portrayed in this powerful movie is almost always smiling!

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The Amazing Power of Joy

Have you ever noticed how Jesus and joy go together?  Remember how you felt profound joy when you first experienced the reality of His saving mercy and love?   Yet how often do we talk about the joy of the Lord?

Scripture has plenty to say about joy.  The Angel of the Lord announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds by proclaiming “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”  The portion of Isaiah 61 Jesus quoted when He first revealed His public ministry goes on to say the anointed of the Lord will replace mourning with the “oil of joy.”  Another time Jesus said there is even joy in heaven…over one sinner who repents.  The Apostle Paul mentions joy immediately following love as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Peter wrote: “you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  Discovering, or rediscovering, the joy of the Lord brings us strength, the prophet Nehemiah said. 


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Practical Miracles

My experience of being born again had been totally mystical because I had an open vision of Jesus inviting me to His banqueting table.  Faith for me had thus became an all-consuming matter of investigating the scriptures to understand how the Jesus I learned about in Sunday school could still appear and talk to someone in “real time” today.  But praying for a parking space?  Really?

Then one day I was attending a meeting in New York City that ran quite late.  By the time I got back to my hotel after midnight, all the nearby parking garages were full or closed.  I drove around for over thirty minutes looking for a legal overnight parking space, but found nothing.  Around one o’clock in the morning I joked to my companion (Brother Whyte, for those who know him): “If Elizabeth was with us, she’d pray for a parking spot.” 

“So why don’t you?” he replied.


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Now the Son of Man Has Been Glorified

As soon as Judas left the Upper Room to betray Jesus, the Lord declared: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in Him.”John 13:31
 
It is easy to overlook this brief statement in the context of all the dramatic events that occurred that dark night…the washing of the disciples’ feet, the communion meal, the agony of Gethsemane, and the terrible ordeal of the Cross.  Yet Jesus would mention “glory” ten times during the Last Supper.  God wants us to understand something special here.
 
The word “glory” and its variations (e.g., glorious, glorified) occur altogether 538 times in the King James Bible. It describes something tangible that can be seen and experienced, such as the light and majesty of God’s presence.  It depicts something intangible that draws our attention by its excellence, such as God’s glorious power, holiness and victories (e.g., crossing the Red Sea).  It is also used as an action verb, as when the Father glorifies the Son, who glorifies the Father.  
 
Jesus’ repeated mentions of glory at the Last Supper point to the root word for “glory” in the Greek language of the New Testament,dóksa, which means “to ascribe weight by recognizing real substance and value.”  A variation of the same root word, doksásō, means to “value someone for who they really are.”  (From Strong’s concordance.)
 
The night of the Last Supper Jesus was saying He was finally being recognized and valued for who He really is, for the “glory” (i.e., substance and value) He had before the foundation of the world (John 17:5)!  All the amazing miracles He performed on earth and all the remarkable truths He shared pale beside the surpassing value of His death on the Cross and Resurrection from the dead!
 
Jesus finished work on the Cross carries great weight: the forgiveness of our sins and restoration to our lives of the substance and value God intended for us from the Beginning.  At the Last Supper, Jesus was saying in so many ways He was about to restore true value back to everyone who believes in Him.  Consider John 17:22-23, the next to last mention of “glory” before He went to the Cross:
 

“I have given them the glory that You [i.e., the Father] gave Me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”

Jesus, Himself, summarized the deepest meaning of God’s glory, which is the goodness of God’s love. From the Beginning, our heavenly Father has had nothing but good intentions and love for us.  In our fallen world, He has never abandoned His original purpose.  God is good to us.  Nothing, not our sins nor death itself, can separate us from His mercy, grace and powerful love—except to refuse to accept it!

Christ in us is surely our lasting hope of glory.  He is risen!  Now let us learn to walk in the glory Jesus won for us on the Cross so the world will recognize His great love!


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Palm Parade

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey that began His final week before the Cross. Riding on the donkey fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy some 550 years earlier that Jerusalem would rejoice when their king came to them “righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey.”

Huge crowds lined the way into the city shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Hosanna means “O save” and can also mean “bring the victory.” They expected Jesus to claim His seat as the Messiah King to overthrow Israel’s enemies, especially the hated Romans, and usher in the Messianic Kingdom promised by God through the Old Testament prophets.

Passion week was all about confronting worldly authority, but Jesus’ Palm Parade changed the equation from man’s power to God’s Truth. He came lowly and riding on a donkey—the Suffering Messiah (see Isaiah 53)—instead of garbed in light and riding like a king on a great white horse! His message was that God’s way to Victory comes after the Cross, not before it. Jesus modeled the humble way required by God (see Micah 6:8).

The triumphant crowd at Jesus’ Palm Parade was largely the same crowd that shouted “Crucify Him!” five days later. Their expectations were not met by the man on the donkey. They wanted peace at any cost and provision from the King who fed 5000 with five loaves. Isn’t that what we want too? Peace, productivity and provision!

Now here’s the question for us. What do we expect from the man on the donkey? We know He went to the Cross instead of crushing the Romans. Yet Jesus’ Kingdom today includes some 2 billion followers around the world, while Rome has been reduced to a city of ruins, pizza and passing fashion. Which is the better way?

Again and again Jesus confronted the authorities during Passion Week calling out their hypocrisy, their people pleasing, and their faulty foundation of men’s religion and godless government. He spoke to scribes, lawyers, priests and governors, as well as the ordinary people, that week, laying out principles about paying taxes, marriage and the true meaning of the Messiah. He even foretold the fall of Jerusalem. But He did not oppose His own suffering and death on the Cross because He had come for that very purpose. To become our Passover Lamb and set people free to choose the way of the donkey and righteousness in God’s sight.
 
Even as priests were examining the Passover lambs for spot or blemish, the authorities examined Jesus that week. He was found faultless, a perfect sacrifice. His truth was simply too much for Governor Pilate, who threw his hands in the air over the matter. The wisdom of the world crumbled in the face of God’s eternal plan.
 

This coming week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day (Easter Sunday), I urge you to re-read the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry and examination by the powers of His day. (The narratives begin in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12.) Then seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and you will receive all the peace and provision you need both here on earth and in the world to come.

 


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Anticipating Easter

Easter is less than three weeks away. Many traditional churchgoers anticipate Easter by fasting and focusing on personal repentance during Lent during the forty days leading up to Easter. The tradition is based on the forty days of fasting Jesus spent in the wilderness at the outset of his ministry, immediately after being baptized.

Easter is the dramatic historical high point of the entire Bible, matched in drama only by the amazing and mysterious prophetic revelations in the Book of Revelation about End Times events still to come. Easter originated during Passover, the spring festival in the Biblical calendar celebrating Israel’s Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The angel of death “passed over” every household that followed God’s instructions to smear the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorframe of their dwelling as a sign of their trust in God.

Jesus was born to reveal the Kingdom of God, connect us to the Father and secure redemption from sin by His sacrificial death on the Cross. Scripture makes clear that the Lord was with God at the very beginning of Creation, when God, Himself, anticipated the day when humanity would be set free from slavery to sin. Even the rabbis of Israel foresaw something like this. Their ancient compilation of wisdom writings, the

Talmud says: “The Holy one, blessed be He, pre­pares the remedy before the wound.” In other words, God foresaw the Fall of the first Adam and prepared from the Beginning to send a manifestation of Himself as the second Adam to “remedy the wound.”

Before Easter arrived, Jesus began speaking cryptically about His coming suffering and death. For example, Matthew 16:21–28 reports that on a number of occasions Jesus “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed.”
 
Knowing the suffering that lay ahead of Him had to be the heaviest of burdens, as witnessed by the fact that Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. Jesus anticipated that moment by preparing Himself to face it resolutely.

Luke 9:51–56 says:”When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” This verse quotes Isaiah 50:7,

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.”

Jesus knew for certain the Sovereign Lord would help Him through His trial. Therefore “he set his face to go” to Jerusalem. He strengthened His resolve for what lay ahead.

Have you ever had to strengthen your resolve to do God’s will in the face of difficult circumstances? Strength to do so comes from the joy of knowing for certain God has got us all in His hand. “In this world you will have tribulation,” said Jesus, but be of good cheer for I have overcome.”

John 16:33

This is the reward that Jesus gained for us on the Cross. For the joy set before us, we can face any and every kind of tribulation, just as our Lord set His face for what lay ahead of Him. Do you believe it?


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21 Day Prayer Fast

Thinking about the 21 day “Prayer Fast” that begins this coming Sunday, January 8th, I was led to write this little memory device about the high calling of prayer in our lives:

P – Power of God
R – Revelation of God
A – Anointing of God
Y – Yielding to God
E – Expectations of God
R – R

ulership of God.
All these things are all released when we pray earnestly, as James wrote (

5:16

): “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The Lord gave me many scriptures for each of the letters in the word “Prayer.” Here are just a few of them.  See if others come to mind for you as you prepare to devote at least 21 minutes per day to praying for the 21 days beginning next Sunday.

P – Power of GodPhilippians 4:13

– I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

R – Revelation of GodJohn 16:13

– But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

A – Anointing of God1 John 2:27

– As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.


Y – Yielding to God
1 Corinthians 6:20

– You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

E – Expectations of God – 1 John 5:14-15 – This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

R – Rulership of GodMatthew 19:26

– Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Finally, the Bible urges us: “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (

Ephesians 6:18

).

We have the honor, privilege and joy of praying to our Creator with the sure knowledge that He hears our prayers, knows what is on our hearts even before we pray and that He has a plan to prosper us and not to bring us harm. 

I’m excited about our 21 day prayer fast and I hope you are too.  The church will be open at 7 PM Tuesday through Friday during the 21 day fast for all who would like to pray together with others.  On Wednesdays, Fire House Worship will be part of the prayer time.


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Prayer Declerations

Through January 29, we are all praying at least 21 minutes per day.  You can pray your own prayers, and below are listed 21 declarations we all can pray daily.  As you pray…

Pray expecting God to move – Jesus said: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Mt 21:22
Pray continuously – Paul wrote: “Pray without ceasing, always giving thanks.”  1 Thes. 5:17-18
Pray fervently –  James wrote: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16
Pray the Word – Jesus said: “If you abide in me and my words abide in you…it shall be done for you.” John 15:7
Pray God’s promises – Peter wrote: “He given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4
Pray together in unity – When the power of Pentecost broke through, the disciples prayed all gathered in one accord. Acts 2:1 

Declarations that Build Unity

Jesus called us to be one as He and the Father are one.  When the world sees our unity, He said the world will believe the Father sent Him.

  1. We are being built together in union with Christ into a spiritual dwelling place for God. Eph 2:22
  2. We receive and preserve the unity the Spirit gives us through the binding power of His peace. Eph 4:3
  3. The glory which God gave Jesus, He has given to us, so we are now one, even as Jesus and the Father are one. John 17:22
  4. We are of one mind, loving one another, compassionate and humble-minded, not repaying evil for evil but repaying with blessings—and inheriting blessings. I Pet 3:8-9
  5. As brothers and sisters in Christ we speak the same thing. There is no division among us. We are perfectly joined together in the same mind and same judgment. 1 Cor 1:10
  6. We rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, living in harmony with each other. Rom 12:15-16
  7. Believers in our nation are encouraged in heart and united in love so we have complete confidence in understanding that we know the mystery of God, namely Christ. Col 2:2

Declarations that Bring Transformation

We pray with joyful expec­tancy as we wait upon You only, God. Our hope comes from You.  Rom 15:13  Our prayers are powerful and effective!  2 Cor 5:21 

  1. We call upon You and pray to You, God, and You listen. We seek You with our whole hearts, so we find You. Jer 29:12-13
  2. We lack nothing. You lead us beside still waters and refresh us daily. Ps 23:1-3
  3. You cover us with Your feathers, Your truth is our shield. We are not afraid by night or day. A thousand may fall at our side, ten thousand at our right hand, but it shall not come near us. Ps 91:4,5,7
  4. No weapon formed against us, our families, churches, schools, places of work or public gatherings shall prosper. This is our heritage as Your servants.  Is 54:17
  5. You have given us the victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:56-57
  6. We have divine weapons to tear down arguments and pre­sump­­tions raised against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive into obedience to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5
  7. We are not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good in our lives and the lives of those around us. The Father has given all judgment to You, Jesus. Vengeance is the Lord’s. Rom 12:19,21, John 5:22
  8. People in our community are no longer being conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of their minds to test and approve God’s good, acceptable, perfect will. Rom 12:2
  9. We are being made into Christ’s image, transformed daily with ever increasing glory that comes from the Lord, who is Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18

Declarations for Those in Authority

1 Timothy 2:1 encourages us to pray for all in authority over us or in places of high responsibility—in government, church and elsewhere—so that we can livein peace and quiet, spending time in Godly living. 

  1. You are raising up godly people to rule over us. Ps 75:6-7
  2. The Lord is cutting off the strength of evil leaders and increasing the power of Godly leaders in their place. Ps 75:10
  3. Our leaders rule and lawmakers legislate fairly with Your help, Lord, so that now they have wisdom and hate the evil of pride, arrogance, and crooked talk. Prov 8:13
  4. Thank You, Lord, that You have removed any unrighteous advisors from before our President and that his presidency rests firmly on spiritual and moral righteousness. Prov 25:5
  5. Our leaders trust in You, Lord. Your unfailing love keeps them from stumbling.  Psa 23:7

 


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