Monday 30 January 2012

The God of the Increase

Elisha is quite probably my favorite prophet in the old testament. He was different in many ways to his predecessor, Elijah. Elisha came from a wealthy family, when we are first introduced to him he was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen (1 Kings 19) and he himself was driving the twelfth pair.
Elisha had it made. He was doing well for himself and may have been expecting to continue as part of the family, his future may have been laid out before him by his parents. He would be a successful business man, working the land and providing for many. Elijah had a garment of hair (2 Kings 1v8), this may have referred to his clothing (Camel hair) or his appearance (hairy!)
This is speculation on my part, but we do know one thing. When Elijah came by, Elisha knew there was more to life. Elisha wanted to do something for God.

"Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah" (1 Kings 19v19-20 NIV)

This was no mean feat, Elijah had been known to out run a chariot so Elisha must have been serious!
Elijah didn't even need to speak. He had thrown his cloak over Elisha, he had declared that Elisha was going to be his successor, that Elisha was going to take on the mantle that Elijah had.

Elisha knew the significance of this. He killed his oxen and burned the yoke. He then gave it to the people and then they ate. Elisha was cutting off all his ties to his past. He gave his source of income to become food and fed those around them. This man of means, of a wealthy family had given it all up, to become an attendant to Elijah.

Elisha was leaving a wealthy life to become a servant. He had been called by the prophet and by God, so he knew that he had to go. He left a life of wealth to become a servant as he knew this was the true way to achieve greatness.

Elisha was a driven man. He didn't let Elijah out of his sight while they were together. He wanted to learn from the best and that meant spending every waking hour with him, watching him behave as he did and seeing how God was using him.
Elisha refused to leave his master's side as he knew that it was the best place to be. This is where we, as people who follow Jesus need to get to in our lives. We need to learn to watch everything He does, listen to what He says and most importantly, spend every waking hour we have in His presence, aware of Him and conscious of Him.

When the time came for Elijah to go to Heaven, Elisha refused to leave him and specifically requested that he would get a double anointing of his spirit. Elisha had seen what was possible and wanted more. God places desires in our hearts to go after Him and want more of Him and the seed had been planted in Elisha.
The last miracle performed by Elijah was to cross the Jordan on dry ground (2 Kings 2v8) and when he was taken up into Heaven, Elisha picked up his cloak, went over to the water and proclaimed:

"Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?"
(2 Kings 2v14, NIV)

He struck the water and it separated. The first thing Elisha did was to step into his anointing and use it. The other prophets saw this and knew that the mantle had been passed on.

God is in the business of increase. He doesn't do subtraction. Elisha received a double portion of the Spirit that was on Elijah. The man in hair garments was succeeded by a bald man from a wealthy family.

Jesus always wore seamless garments and went to partys where He created wine. The mantle of the prophet was passed on to Him by His cousin, John the Baptist. John had lived in the desert and eaten locusts and wild honey and he never touched alcohol. He wore camel hair garments and his ministry was to get people to repent.

Jesus left the glory of Heaven to become the Servant King. Jesus took on the mantle from John the moment He was baptised. There was a dove and a voice that proclaimed:
"This is my Son, whom I love. With Him I am well pleased." (Mt 3v17 NIV)
God was declaring that Jesus was now His representative on earth. He now had the authority to do in his Father's name, His Father's business.

And when Jesus went to be with the Father, He handed that authority over to us.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mt 28 v18-20 NKJV)

We were upgraded before we were even created. That's God for you. Go, and live in the authority of Jesus, constantly aware of His presence and let's see how great a difference we can make.

Roger C.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Acts: Part 3 of 3

This is the final part of the Acts series that has been written by Declan Doran.

Now that Paul has spoken a new word of life, look at the turn around. In v27 in the night at the darkest point, the crew sensed they were approaching land (at the darkest hour Christ’s victory is only round the corner-if we press in for encounter with God at that point. Yet this seems to be the very point at which most abandon their faith and say "I’ve had enough and can’t take anymore"). They put down anchor and next thing, this crew of 275 were praying with Paul.
Look at the transformation; they are now engaging with God and a mass prayer meeting breaks out. At daylight some of the soldiers tried to abandon the ship but Paul warned them that they must stay or they would perish. In difficult times, although every word you hear from the enemy is to abandon ship, remember these words of Paul and indeed many other words, the kingdom of God is all about community, family and unity.

Remember you are not your own, you were bought at a price, Jesus paid with his blood for you. Don’t cheat me out of what God has for me (yes me) by allowing what God has for you fall to the ground. I may be an arm in this body of Christ and you may be a leg, if you bail out who will be my leg, so remember you owe me and the body your very being. After eating for the first time in 14 days they were encouraged and they then threw off the remainder of the grain and cut loose the anchors, they lightened the load on the ship. In times of trouble and when storms prevail God brings about a purging and pruning of that, which is man made. God rips it away and the process is painful but it is surplus to Gods requirement.

In v42 the soldiers plan was to kill the prisoners and this would have included Paul and therefore given victory to the enemy as this was the very desire of the Jewish Leaders. But man’s ways are not Gods and now God used v43 (the centurion) that the enemy was using but God used him to spare Paul’s life. The centurion noted Paul’s words and life and this in the midst of disaster was speaking to the centurion and everyone reached land safely. Note nothing man made came through the testing, only that which was of God survived the storm. Don’t forget it’s the exact same for us today. Remember if your storm persists, it more than likely means God has more refining to do in you. Don’t fight God as I have done, don’t look and blame the rest, the problem is mostly yourself and I took over 20 years to learn this one lesson.

Now you think it’s over, but it’s not look at chapter 28. The enemy tries yet again to take Paul out. In v3 a viper fastened itself to Paul’s hand and the islanders said to each other, "he must be a murderer and justice has not allowed him to live". As the heat increased the viper was driven out. This is exactly what the presence of God with His people does; as the fire of God burns in our midst the enemy (serpent) flees as it says in Psalm 68:1. There is an amazing prophetic picture in v5 that Paul performed and played out for all eyes to see, Paul shakes the viper off his hand into the fire, (this was a declaration to the enemy that his future is sealed, his end is in the great fire).

The enemy must have thought he finally had Paul eliminated just like when Satan rejoiced when Jesus hung on the cross, but the violent earthquake proved that Jesus was risen and death defeated. Paul (v6) suffers no ill effects and God turned the minds of the people favourably to Paul. Paul now has moved into a position where he heals (v8) the chief official’s father and this in turn open the whole island to Paul and every sick person was brought to Paul and they were all cured (the Kingdom of God breaks out on the island). It did not stop here. Now the islanders honoured the men and furnished them with all their provision for the journey to Rome.

It gets better.

Paul arrives in Rome and asked to speak with the Jewish leaders, and to Paul’s amazement (v21) the Jewish leaders had not received any letter from Jerusalem and all was fine for Paul. (V24) many came to listen to Paul speak and some believed and some did not. For two years Paul spoke about the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ without hindrance. Note the enemy’s attack on Paul ended when Paul demonstrated (in v5) prophetically the victory that Christ won on the cross over the enemy. That same victory is yours today and it’s not just for you but for your household, all you need do is what it says in Acts 16:31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household”. Notice there was no trial before Caesar. The real trail played out over the journey during the ship-wreck. The process built character and this is true for you also, the storms build character, the trial is just the passing of judgement.

Now earlier I said that the Kingdom of God was “voice activated” and now I want to add to this and say it’s also “movement activated”, together they are powerful tools. In Exodus 17:11 it says as long as Moses hands were held up his people had victory in battle. In 2 Kings 5:10 Naaman was told to wash in the water 7 times and his leprosy would be healed. In John 9:11 Jesus put mud on the man’s eyes and told him to wash, as soon as he washed he was healed. In Acts 3:7 Peter took hold of the crippled man and helped him up, immediately he was healed and the woman who was bleeding for years in Luke 8:44 touched Jesus and was healed. Lastly in Luke 7:30 the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected their destiny in God because they refused to get in the water and be baptised. Both voice and movement are both acts of faith and Hebrews 11 says without faith it is impossible to please God. As one that who kept his hands in his pockets or kept his arms folded in church for nearly 20 years it amazes me now when I see these things how I stubbornly rejected God all these years yet believed in my mind that I was walking with Him. Though a Christian, yet not walking in him.

So let the violent wind blow, the Holy Spirit is moving in our midst and “whosoever will” can move with the wind. Paul moved with the wind not because he was saved, but because he died, he died daily as 1 Corinthians 15:31 says. In Galations 2:20 Paul said “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
And lastly in Philippians 3:8 Paul says “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Today the Kingdom of God, my kingdom is not stuck in the clouds. For the first time ever I now realize “I am the Kingdom come” yes you and me once we are “in Christ” we are the “kingdom come”. In the past I allowed my head rule, today I know it’s in my heart that Jesus lives and it’s from here that He will reign in me and I will reign in him. I’m going to choose to live from my heart and not my head.


Sunday 1 January 2012

Acts: Part 2 of 3

This is part 2 of the 3 part series by Declan Doran. Enjoy.

Acts 27 – Paul on a death list of the Jewish Leaders, persecuted and imprisoned for up to 3 years since he returned to Jerusalem boarded a ship for Rome as prisoner to stand trial. Paul had just been told through the Spirit by his fellow believers not to go to Jerusalem Acts 21:4 and then a while later was told by Agabus the prophet in Acts 21:11 that he was going to be bound hand and foot in Jerusalem.

The disciples (believing community) tried to stop him but Paul said in Acts 21:13 “not only am I ready to be bound, but I am ready to die for the name of the Lord”. As they sailed, the seas grew dangerous and much time had been lost. They landed in a town and Paul prophesied v10 “Men I see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo and to our own lives also”. Neither the centurion, pilot nor owner of the ship listened to Paul. The next day a gentle south wind began to blow bringing warmer weather and better conditions and the pilot thinking he obtained what he needed set sail again. Before very long (v14) a hurricane force wind caught them. The ship could not head into the wind so they gave way to it and were driven along.

Remember, Paul was wanted dead; the enemy had enough of him and stirred the Jewish leaders to kill him. In one sense Paul though a prisoner got away from the Jewish leaders grasp but now the enemy took command of the wind and seas to continue the harassment and pursuit of Paul. Notice the pilot gave way to the storm and lost his control and drifted along. The consequences of us giving way in the storm will cause us to drift and lose control of our destiny. The next day they threw their cargo overboard (their wealth), the following day their tackle (their means to provide for themselves) and then the sun and stars disappeared for many days and they lost all hope.
When we give in and allow ourselves drift in the spiritual storms, we let our light drift also (Jesus is the light of the world). You know the sun and stars are still above just like God is, but the oppression of the enemy becomes so intense that we let go of our hope in God and therefore take upon us the standing of one who does not believe. (Ephesians 2:12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world).

In other words we lose our saltiness and without God we are just like non-believers. Paul’s yesterday’s blessings or yesterdays “manna” did not help him, now he like the rest “had given up hope” (reminds me of me). This guy needs a fresh encounter (can you believe it).

I just love Paul’s response and this should encourage each one of us. Paul gets up on his high horse and says in v 21 “You should have listened to me, I was right, then you would have been spared” – now what does this add to their current predicament, nothing, absolutely nothing, Paul let us have a solution rather than a brag about how right you were, or something positive besides a moan. How many times have you responded like Paul, I know I respond like this often and it achieves nothing? Now we see in v22 Paul become the man of God he was. Paul realizing he was doomed because of the storm, wet, hunger, cold and the atmosphere of hopelessness about him, spoke out to a foreign unbelieving, God-ignorant crew on board the ship and started telling them about angels and dreams and the like. (They must have thought he was hallucinating in the extreme conditions).

Question - Why if he was so spiritual did he not step in to help as soon as he awoke? why did he wait? did he not believe what the angel spoke in the night? had he forgotten? did his earlier rant cause on reflection a change within him? Did actually being face to face with death cause him to stand up? in Acts 21 he said he was ready to die (It did not take long for God to allow the enemy test him on this one). I believe when push came to shove, face to face with death with few options to hand, he realized and activated the authority he carried being “in Christ”. Remember he did not need a visitation of an angel during the night because in Acts 23:11 we know he had already received a word from the Lord in the night that he was going to stand trial in Rome. But I suspect because of the Lords great mercy, seeing Paul take on hopelessness, forget (in the light of probable death) this “great promise” he received of “standing trial in Rome”, that Paul had let this word and promise fall to the ground, the Lord in His grace appeared to Paul again and reminded him of this promise and told him he would indeed be spared (the Lord gave him a second chance so to speak).

Why did Paul allow himself lose hope (v20)? (remember this is Paul I’m speaking about), maybe when surrounded with a spirit of hopelessness and fear it grips us without our notice and takes hold of us. During the night the visit from the angel told him in v24 God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. Now that’s a call and a half for anyone and it reminds me of Jeremiah 5:1 where the Lord said if you can find one honest and righteous man in the city, he would spare the city. (Forget your brothers and sisters for one second and ask yourself – are you that one righteous and honest person that can bring Gods covering and save a city?). This whole crew of 276 including Paul were in Paul’s hands. Now Paul was just a few days ago in v10 after saying that “there would be great loss to the ship, cargo and crew”. I suggest Paul was seized with the realization that his very own mouth had uttered words of death and condemnation over this very same company of 276 people that the angel of God had now said were in Paul’s hands. (Remember Satan took dominion from Adam when he sinned but Jesus won back dominion on the earth at the cross and gives it to the redeemed of God).

Realizing who he was in Christ, Paul as a son of God took dominion on earth as God intended it in the beginning as we see in Genesis 1:26 “rule over all the earth”. Paul had this dominion as we have if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour and accept his redemption work on the cross as the only means by which me must be saved (Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”). Realizing who he was and the authority he carried Paul spoke out those words in v22 “not one of you will be lost” and it came to be. Paul knew the Kingdom of God is voice activated just like it says in Genesis as God spoke his kingdom was created, David said in Psalm 2:8 “Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession”, Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37 spoke life into an army of dead bones, Jesus over and over again spoke healing and deliverance and it was so and even the “food distributors” of Acts 6, mere men like you and me, appointed so that the apostles could concentrate on the “spiritual things” transformed cities with their words and power.

I believe Paul may have died had he not spoken these words of life in his situation and certainly many of the crew would have died. V10 “Men I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous, and bring great loss to ship and cargo and to our lives also”, now a good question to ask yourself, did Paul speak a lie here .. the answer is no, was Paul deceived by a false spirit .. again the answer is no, did God change his mind then .. again the answer is no. Paul spoke a prophetic word and most of it came to be. But the real amazing bit that’s hidden here is in v22, he speaks “not one of you will be lost”. In v 24 the angel of the Lord said to Paul “God has given you all that sail with you”. This did not necessarily mean that “not one will be lost”. I suggest Paul realizing he carried God given responsibility for the crew, chose life for the whole crew and spoke it into the heavenly realm over the ship as the storm raged. You could argue that I’m incorrect here, if you are of this belief just consider my suggestion and think for a few moments – what if I’m right, what if God is waiting for us to just stand and be who he made us to stand for the city about us, speak and declare life into it and its people. I suggest as Paul took his responsibility and spoke the words “not one of you will be lost”, those exact words created Paul’s break-through.

Declan D.