Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Put On

Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness once they sinned in the garden of Eden, so God went and hand-made clothing for them from the skins of animals - providing custom tailored coverings for their naked bodies. 
            Since that moment, placing clothing over nakedness has been a necessity.  Today there is an entire clothing industry which supplies everything from cheap to expensive “nakedness coverings” for all of us.  Each morning we choose something out of the closet that we have purchased, put it over our tired bodies and wear it throughout the day.
            What is necessary in the natural has a spiritual equivalent.  We need to be clothed daily on the inside, not just the outside.   As the provider of everything, God has tailored this necessary internal clothing for us also – supernatural attire more expensive than any made in Italy for us to wear.
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Rom 13:14
 “…put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”   Eph 4:24
    God is very practical, not just giving us spiritual knowledge and understanding, but literal garments and essentials for every part of our being. The spiritual clothing that God has given is none other than the person of Jesus Himself. The Son of God is a covering for our whole spiritual being.  Not only do we get to follow Him, abide in Him and enjoy Him, we have the option each and every morning to pull out of the closet of wonder, the most expensive garment ever given.  Then, we get to put Him on ourselves – first over our head (our minds), then nicely fitting over the rest of our being. 
    The robe of the person of Jesus means that I place upon myself the living, bright Son of righteousness – I’m not guilty, but cleansed.
    This new self, in the likeness of God, is Jesus in me.  My old self is dead and this new self I’m putting on is light, love and power – free from fear, insecurity, dread and shame.
    The very real Son of God should be as normal and important for us to put on as anything that I wear.  What if by faith every morning we didn’t leave home without first putting on the Son of God, then layering our physical body with natural clothing, as He guards our hearts and minds, and radiates His presence from the inside of us through our clothing? 
    This is a part of living supernaturally, part of our inheritance as sons and daughters of God who get to cloth themselves with the Son.   A great day awaits…. 
“…since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,  and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge  according to the image of the One who  created him.” Col 3:9-10

- Matt Peterson

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dry Bones

The path of life winds through high mountains, across clear streams of water and down through low-lying valleys. As this path makes its way down into a great valley, a terrible sight comes into view. It is here that the bones of thousands are strewn for miles - the bones of those who quit along the way.  These are the bones of the wounded, bones of those who didn’t forgive their accusers, and the bones of those who have lost hope.
These bones belong to people who were once alive and vibrant, fellowshipping with other believers, proclaiming the gospel and praying for the lost.  They were people with dreams, hope and contagious love for Him, but have become lifeless and dry, devoid of purpose.
Ezekiel saw a vision of this great valley:
“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.
            And He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, {there were} very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, {they were} very dry.” Ezekial 37:1-2
After seeing this vision, the Lord explains to Ezekiel that the bones represent the people of Israel who had said: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished” (Ez 37:11).  Though this vision was a picture of Israel, it holds similarities to many in our time as well.  Many Christians whose hope has perished are lying lifeless in the valley of discouragement.
            It’s been said that next to fear, discouragement is Satan’s most effective weapon against a believer.  If fear hasn’t stopped our progress in the Lord, discouragement will attempt to take us out of the race for the upward prize of our calling in Christ. 
            All too often, it’s the people with the biggest dreams and aspirations, the boldest faith and most extravagant passion for the Lord that get taken out by discouragement.  This is because many of the most impassioned people unintentionally produce expectations that God neither initiated nor intended. When these assumptions about God’s will become expectations that don’t correspond with the look and timing that reality presents, discouragement moves in with offence to take them out of the game.
In scripture we find clear examples of people that discouragement intended to remove from active duty, and nearly did. Peter was such a one. Somewhere between hearing the voice of Jesus inviting him to “follow Me” at the sea of Galilee and the arrest of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemene, Peter had created a picture in his mind of what Jesus was going to do in Israel, and probably what his own ministry position might look like alongside Jesus.
Then Jesus was taken.  Fear crept in and Peter’s expectations were dashed, rapidly followed by his own failure in a crucial moment.  After Peter’s denials of Jesus, his bitter weeping, and the death of Christ, Peter is left devastated, lacking hope.  This downward spiral continued when a few days later Peter makes a decision to leave ministry and return to his old trade of fishing.  Away from the distasteful memories of failure, away from his dashed expectations of Jesus ruling Israel in his lifetime, his old fishing vessel would provide some level of comfort and escape from reality.
            “Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will also come with you." They went out, and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.” John 21:3-4
Going back to the old life we lived before meeting Jesus is often the place people run to after facing failure and unmet expectations. One of the problems with going back to that old place is that when we leave the Lord, all of our efforts from that moment forward will result in empty nets, unfruitfulness, and dry lives. Peter is just one story of thousands who were once active in ministry with the Lord and have found themselves walking away from Him without hope into the bone pile of the discouraged.
Soon after Peter leaves ministry, Jesus called out from the shoreline to fishless fishermen in the boat, but none of them recognized His voice.  Lost hope results in damaged discernment.  Only after a miracle did John tell Peter, “It is the Lord.”  The message of this story is a message for all who have lost hope. Jesus hasn’t forsaken them; Hopelessness has just dulled their hearing and they don’t recognize His voice any longer.  He’s been there all along.
            “I will never leave you or forsake you, I will be with you always, even until the end of the age.”  Matt 28:20
         The message of the gospel is a message of hope offered to the hopeless and life from the dead.  Those in the bone pile don’t have to remain there.  When God saw dry bones, he found a man to prophesy over them so they would rise out of their graves and come to life again. When Jesus saw Peter in the fishing boat catching nothing, He went down to the sea Himself, cooked for him what he could not catch, restored him, and gave him the identical invitation that He had given him three years earlier – “Follow Me.” 
God is not against the hopeless. To the contrary, He has done everything from prophesying life, to cooking breakfast, to rising from the dead for everyone distant from Him. He is hope for the hopeless.
            For the second time in Peter’s life, he answered the invitation to follow and Pentecost was right around the corner.  Three thousand people were waiting for Peter to leave the bone pile of discouragement.  Peter’s purpose was not voided, it remained waiting for him to arise and walk into. 
           What might God have waiting around the corner for others in the bone pile, who choose to arise and follow Him all over again today? Your hope is as close to you as your breath.  He has never left.  Restoration for the dry has come.
            “…and the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”  Ezekiel 37:10

- Matt Peterson