HOW’S YOUR SPIRITUAL MAINTENANCE PROGRAM?

One day at lunch I struck up a conversation with a man who works in the service department of a luxury auto dealership. I asked him what percentage of car owners bring their cars in for scheduled maintenance, maintain their own, or fail to maintain their cars – just letting them run down. He raised his eyebrows and said, “That’s a good question. I don’t know, but I would guess that 10 % of our (Cadillac and Infinity) owners just let them run down.”

I was going somewhere with the question, and eventually asked him how many people take better care of their cars than their own spiritual welfare. Boy, I had his attention. A long conversation ensued.

I left there determined to find out more about people habits, because I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a correlation with how we treat ourselves and how we treat our stuff (no doubt, some treat their stuff much better than themselves). I found out that millions of roadside auto breakdowns each year could be prevented with basic vehicle maintenance. A 2014 AAA survey found that 35 percent of Americans skip or delay service or repairs that are recommended by a mechanic or specified by the factory maintenance schedule. That same survey shows that those who ignore maintenance “ultimately pay higher repair costs.”

AAA responded to more than 29 million calls for roadside assistance. Two thirds of Americans have never had their car battery tested prior to their vehicle failing to start. 60 percent of Americans do not check tire pressures regularly. Twelve million calls each year are related to engine trouble, fuel issues and other mechanical mishaps, 600,000 vehicles for transmission failure. And perhaps it is telling on human nature that even with “low fuel” lights, AAA provided gasoline fuel delivery to more than half a million vehicles last year. And just think, these numbers only reflect those who use AAA Auto services!

I suspect many fail to maintain their cars properly for several obvious reasons:

1. Some think they simply don’t have the time.

2. There is no apparent problem, so everything must be OK.

3. Some assume it is more expensive to do regular maintenance.

4. Some don’t know that regular maintenance is necessary.

I would suspect the same can be said about spiritual self-care. Some assume that spiritual care is the pastor’s job. Some think spiritual care is only necessary in an emergency. Some assume they don’t have time or that spiritual care is an unnecessary expense.

You’ve heard it said, “If you think education is expensive, just try ignorance!” We could say, if you think spiritual health is expensive, wait until you see the bill on spiritual famine! Unfortunately, the gauges on the human condition are generally masked behind rationalizations, blame on circumstances or people, or even activities and substances that medicate the condition. People tend to cover spiritual famine with constant noise and buzyness — we cover the gauges. Sadly, many never know there’s a problem until they are broken down on the roadside of life.

The Lord’s early answer for this “gauge denial” was the Sabbath; a weekly maintenance to allow the owner to “check the belts and top off the fluids”. The Sabbath has never been rescinded. In fact, we have now received the Holy Spirit who can interpret our gauges for us as we go – but we still have to slow down and listen to Him. What habits have you developed to maintain your spiritual health?


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2016

HOW’S YOUR SPIRITUAL MAINTENANCE PROGRAM?

Applying Old Testament Laws

“I will meditate upon Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” Ps. 119:15, 16

Understanding the difference between Old Testament saints who were serving God by faithfully obeying the law of God, and New Testament believers who are born again and living by the Spirit, is necessary for properly grasping the role of the principles and precepts for today. The fundamental difference is that Old Testament saints were not born again. No one was born again until Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification (see the first new birth experience, Jn 20:22). This means that Old Testament saints lived by simple will-power to obey; having their sins rolled back by yearly atonement sacrifices. This is why we see Israel turning away from God continually, suffering the consequences, then returning again. The purpose of the Law was not to make men righteous (Gal 3:11, 19) but to show that one cannot stand faultless before God without a perfect substitute (Heb 10:1-10), which provides the way for a new heart and new spirit within (Ezek 36:26, 27).

So now that we are born again and have the Spirit of God dwelling within us (Jn 3:5-8), what role does the law of God, the principles and precepts, play in the life of the believer? Do we now ignore the Old Testament because the demands of the law have been fulfilled (Rom 10:4)? Are we now free to live any way we please because of God’s freely-bestowed grace? Paul’s answer to the Roman Christians was, “God forbid!” We are no longer under the law –but now the law lives within – written on our hearts and empowered by the indwelling Spirit of God, causing us, moving us, to walk in the impulses of the Spirit to please God in every way (Rom 8:3, 4).

So when one reads the legal requirements Old Testament, what do they mean to me today? And how should I apply them?

1. Understand that Christ has fulfilled the legal requirements for our salvation by the sacrifice of Himself. There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation.

2. Your sanctification is no longer a matter of sheer will power (making yourself do right), but is a partnership with the Holy Spirit who lives within you and is constantly making His divine energy (energes—operation, working) available to you to do what you could not do before, including resisting temptation. Notice this divine-human partnership expressed in Philippians 2:12, 13: “… work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” God (the Spirit) is working His will and power in us — therefore, we

apply that divine power to take personal responsibility to please Him. So, staying full of the Spirit is a key to our sanctification (Rom.8:13).

3. The principles and precepts are not, then, what we have to do, but what we can and will do when living a life full of God. Paul says it best – it’s no longer I, but Christ living in me (Gal.2:20).

4. See the principles and precepts as what life looks life when living it in the fullness of God’s Spirit. For example, the “Be-attitudes” are not a new list of do’s and don’ts super-imposed over the existing law, but a picture of what life in the Kingdom is like when we’re full of Him (Eph 3:19).

5. The principles and precepts of the Law serve as a huge gauge on my spiritual dashboard telling me when I am “running on empty” or need a refill of the Spirit. If my “want to’s” are not locked in to God, or I am not seeing people (and material things) the way God does, then I need let the river flow again (Jn 7:37-39).

What the law of God declares you MUST do, the Spirit of God makes you WANT TO do and keeps bringing you to a conversation with Jesus, asking Him for more of His Spirit. This is how His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If it seems you are struggling, spending a lot of energy to do the right things (but actually wanting to do the wrong ones), ask Him to fill you again with His Spirit – but don’t get back under the burden of the Law. You started this new life in the Spirit, let’s keep going and growing that same way; don’t be too quick to replace a dynamic relationship with the Person of Jesus for principles and precepts about Him.

“Fill me again with your Spirit Father. I want everything you have for me today – but mostly, I just want You.”


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2016

Applying Old Testament Laws

THERE’S ONLY ONE LEADER OF THE “FREE” WORLD

There’s only one leader of the “FREE” world, and He’s not a president. There is only one truly FREE world, and it’s not a nation – but a global community of called out ones who have life as God has it – the life of the Eternal One. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” Most certainly, He is the leader of the “FREE” world.

In this American presidential election season we hear a lot of talk about “the leader of the free world” and everyone assumes this is a reference to the President of the United States. But constitutional amendments which specify freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and freedom of worship, do not guarantee that the people living under a political jurisdiction are truly free. This reality is on public display in my own country daily.

Every believer in Jesus Christ must know that there is a world that is free-in-principle, but a different world that is free-in-Person. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

The only FREE world is not one which is dictated by borders, a certain political stripe, or those living under a particular national flag – though political freedoms are hard-fought and won and should be prized and protected. The truly FREE WORLD is one in which persons are free to be what God has ordained them to be by the power of the Spirit – free to do what is right, free to do what it is they are called to do – not withheld or constrained by any internal or external power of sin or self-centeredness. Free to love. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

It may be a fact that America has the greatest per capita of people incarcerated, more than any other nation. I don’t know this for a fact. But if this is so, it is an indictment on being “leaders of the free world”. But it may also merely point to a deeper reality; that having more money, better jobs, more education, more free time and personal choice does not make a person free. There are many living behind bars that are actually more “free” than those on the outside. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

It’s time to re-define the “FREE” world. The free world is where men and women have been set free from the tyranny of sin, the bondage of fear, the orphan spirit of self-promotion, self-ambition and the lie of the self-made man. The free world is wherever a man or woman has shed the grave clothes of self-fulfillment and have walked into the perfect law of liberty – dead to self but alive unto God by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The “FREE world” is not characterized by mimes of the intellectual, savvy, stoic and astute, but by the child-like sounds of laughter, spontaneity, fearlessness and effortless pursuits that come from free-range dreams of children living under a Perfect Father’s perfect love. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

In the truer sense, the FREE WORLD is wherever people (in whatever nation and ethnicity) are living under the leadership of the real LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. There’s only one leader of the “FREE” world, and He’s not a president. “And whom the Son has set free is free indeed.”


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2016

THERE’S ONLY ONE LEADER OF THE “FREE” WORLD

WHY THE CHURCH MUST BE TOUCHABLE

The political correctness of our day says don’t touch, don’t hug, don’t spread germs, don’t subject yourself to possible accusation. And in a culture given to carnality and wrath, the Church can unconsciously abdicate the power of touch. But Jesus is a “touchable high priest” – accessible — because He is a personal God, and we as humans are made to need touch. It is no small thing that something of His life can be transferred by contact.

When it comes to the co-partnership of the work of God as sons, our work is ministering the love and life of this personal God to people personally. If we study Jesus’ ministry, even casually, we see that He ministered by touch and ordains His followers to lay hands on the sick. Why by touch? Because we need the acceptance that comes with personal contact, and He models the reality that what is in us is greater than the death, darkness and brokenness in the world. Jesus ministered above the prohibitions of the law by laying hands on lepers, and they were healed. He was not afraid to touch.

Think about how touch happens. God made man with hands – hands as a primary way to work; unique from the rest of the animal creation. Our hands provide the ability to finesse a curveball or a slider, paint a name on a grain of rice, carve a masterful statue or perform delicate brain surgery. It should not seem strange to us that in partnering with man for His kingdom purposes, God would ordain the use of hands as a primary way in which man joins in the work of God. “You shall lay hands on the sick and they will recover.” Paul speaks specifically to power of men releasing authority and capacity when he admonishes Timothy to have “men in every place lift up holy hands without wrath or doubt.”

The idea of wrath and doubt connected with lifting up hands presupposes the awareness that hands can also be used to do harm. And because of this, one must be careful as to how touch occurs. Some have been so wounded by others, that physical touch is a part of the problem. But those commissioned with a healing work must not abdicate to the sickness. It only makes our mission more critical.

The laying on of hands is a fundamental issue of authority and life-flow in the Kingdom of God — a transmission of the life of the Lord — the way the power of the Lord moves into the human scene (Notice that it is one of six points in the early Church’s “newcomers class” [Heb. 6:5,6]).

Whether that touch is a transfer of authority, a hug of compassion, a touch of healing power, or just a purposeful handshake of friendship, it is a significant part of broken people coming to wholeness. May the Church be known as a place where wounded healers are bold to hold humanity in arms of love, willing to touch one another with the Lord’s love, and without fear.


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2016

 

WHY THE CHURCH MUST BE TOUCHABLE

WORK ZONE – FINES DOUBLE

Jesus asked a penetrating question, a puzzling question, a gnawing-at-the-soul-kind-of question: “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8).

Have you noticed how little we actually talk about faith today? I know – we committed verbacide on the term (homicide of a good word). Over-used and under-valued. Like the word “awesome”.

The people of God experience some messes and then move as far away from that mess as possible. Rather than learn and lean into it.

And the tendency is to trade the embarrassment of our faith-messes for “decency and order.”

“Do all things decently and in order,” Paul said (1 Cor 14:40).

But note, Paul didn’t just subscribe to decency and order, but to “all things” as well.

We must never settle to be the spiritual experts. The gurus. The know-it-alls. Nor must we take the path of least resistance and say, “I don’t know anything about that and don’t want to know it.

I am talking about walking with God’s Spirit in a faith that refuses to settle for a life void of the supernatural.

We are learners.

We are pioneers.

Figuring it out as we go.

And experience can actually be best friend or worst enemy.

As Chuck Swindoll said, “The most dangerous thing about the ministry is that you can learn how to do it.”

Our experience becomes our exemption.

Our ticket to the comfortable life.

The Spirit of God can be messy (ask Joshua, Samson, or Ananias and Sapphira, or Paul).

He can’t be reduced to best practices.

He’s transcendent.

The Spirit of God, if we’re watching, moves in some unpredictable and unrestrained ways.

Like the wind.

And we must run to keep up.

The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will, wherever that might be geographically.

That’s where we want to be.

I hope we never think we’ve got it down.

I hope we never get so deceived as to think we’ve arrived.

I hope we stay in God’s danger zone.

Always in the nexus of chaos and order.

“Work Zone—fines double.”

Hirer risks. Seemingly flying by the seat of our pants. But not.

Faith can’t afford the luxury of no-risk living.

Neither can we.

Never settled.

A little messy.

I hope the struggles keep us begging for God’s presence.

Listening for His voice.


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2016

 

WORK ZONE – FINES DOUBLE

Lead Us Not Into Temptation?

We all know “The Lord’s Prayer” by heart, including that strange thirteenth verse, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…”(Matt 6:13, NIV). Have you ever wondered why Jesus would pray “don’t lead us into temptation,” as though God might do so unless we ask otherwise? What’s that about? Is God hiding some sinister, sadistic side that is only restrained by our petition?

To note our inhibitions with this idea, here is how a couple of popular paraphrases handle the verse; “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! (The Message). “Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil” (J.B. Philips).

On one hand, we are comforted in Paul’s exhortation that God will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to bear, but will make a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). On the other hand, we see that as soon as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river He was led to be tempted, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”(Lk 4:1; Matt 4:1 [to be tempted of the devil]).

Have you ever wondered why the Holy Spirit would lead Jesus immediately into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, especially since Jesus taught us to pray that we would not be tempted? Had Jesus’ own prayers failed? What is it we are not seeing, and might we be misunderstanding what God is after?

Unfortunately, our understanding of God and the kingdom has been somewhat sanitized by a notion of blessed comfort and peace at all cost, rather than an awareness of kingdom conflict that requires battle and pain. Not a popular message. We’re looking for a gospel that makes our problems go away. But an obscure verse from the Exodus gives insight that will be encouraging and fortifying.

God is telling Israel through Moses how He will fulfill His promises through the desert, “I am sending My Angel (the Holy Spirit)i before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared…For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and Hitties, the Perizzites and Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites and I WILL CUT THEM OFF,”(Ex 23:20, 23 emphasis added). HE goes on to say that He will send His fear before them to cause confusion among those people (v27).

Did you notice He is bringing them to a place prepared, right in the middle of the enemy, in order to “cut them off”? It’s both a strategy and a mindset. From this passage it is easy to see that God was not keeping His people FROM the foreign peoples for fear that they might be harmed; rather He had a strategy to conquer His enemies by sending a powerful people into their midst! These weak-looking former slaves were God’s Trojan horse. And now we can see why the Holy Spirit would also lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. This was not to prove whether or not Jesus had the goods, but to initiate the fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose – “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8) and set the course for the Lord to crush Satan under the Church’s feet (Rom. 16:20).

Could it be that we are praying for God to keep trouble away from us because we don’t really believe we can conquer? Could it be that we fail to understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit, as Jesus was, and that He will put a two-edged sword in our mouths to speak the “it is written” that is all-powerful against the enemy? Is it possible we have misunderstood God’s purpose and intention for the Church to crush Satan underfoot, not by avoidance but conquest?

This is the mindset of the Spirit: God doesn’t take us out of the world, but makes us powerful in the world, in His name (Jn 17:15). Sin shall not have dominion over us (Rom 6:14) neither should we be afraid in the midst of the world. But we must be filled with the Spirit.

As the darkness gets darker, the light will get brighter. We are not of a glory that is fading away. So when we pray, as Jesus taught us, “lead us not into temptation”, let’s do so knowing that He is leading us into dramatic demonstrations of His power, not a safe and cozy cowering from conflict. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. So let’s pray, “Lord, lead us today into places where You can show Your love and power over all the power of the enemy. We give You glory in advance.”

___________________

i Translators understand this angel to be none other than the Spirit of God, therefore they capitalize “My Angel”.


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved.

 

Lead Us Not Into Temptation?

The Grand Progression of Revelation: As Revealed in Psalm 19

Here’s some wonderful news and a welcome break from the bad news and political wrangling of our world. God is not satisfied to know you from a distance; He wants up-close and personal intimacy. Perhaps you don’t have time right now to read all of Psalm 19, but let me clue you in on its wonderful trajectory. I have divided it (below) into 3 clear sections that demonstrate His irresistible pursuit of you and me.

First, He makes Himself known by His creation. We call it natural revelation (see Ps 19:1-6). The Psalmist says, “Anyone who is paying attention can see that God is speaking to us every day and every night by the world and heavens He has created. In ancient times, people paid attention to the constellations because it was their navigational necessity. They studied the order of the heavens; God spoke to every generation and every culture on the planet, not just one nation. If you could see the stars at night you knew two things; the sun is so bright it washed out the light of the stars every day, but when the sun was gone, those stars were still in place. Paul refers to this first level of revelation in Romans, chapter one. Everyone can see it. But everyone couldn’t properly interpret what it meant. So God drew closer.

God began to speak in our own language through His prophets (Heb. 1:3), as He moved on holy men of old to write the words of the prophets and the stories of God’s interventions. The Psalmist calls it “The Law of the Lord” (see Ps. 19:7-11). The Law of the Lord is God speaking to man through man. No longer is it the unintelligible speech of sun, moon and stars. God is speaking to mankind; it is perfect, sure, converting out thinking, pure, clean better than fine gold and sweeter than honey. In other words, God entered into a relationship with a man (Abraham) to get to the nations. And in heeding these words, living into the clearer language, there is a doorway opened to what God is really after – intimacy with you and me. The final step is the up-close and personal one.

Even after the giving of the Law, man is still asking “Who can really understand his errors and who can cleanse me from my secret faults (see Ps. 19:12-14)? The Law couldn’t do it. It wasn’t through the “seeds of Abraham” (God’s people) but “the seed” as in Christ (Gal. 3:16), that this question can be answered. The Psalmist shifts his focus the third time, from creation’s message, to the Law (a definite improvement), now to personal relationship. “May my words and thoughts be acceptable in Your sight, Oh Lord. You are my strength and my redeemer.”

So what? Why is this good news? Because even before the Seed, Jesus Christ, put on flesh to redeem us and draw us up into the Triune life of God by the Spirit, David sees that it is going to get better. He pans the scope of God’s furious, tireless pursuit for our love and declares God’s ultimate intention. There is a way to intimacy with the Father – to know our transgressions are gone and we are thinking His thoughts. So no matter how tumultuous your life may look (David the Psalmist was no stranger to trouble), the road has been paved and the Father will finish what He has started.

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.

Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world.

In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,

And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven,

And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold;

Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned,

And in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.

Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me.

Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.


Dr. Kerry Woo  |  All Rights Reserved 2016

 

The Grand Progression of Revelation: As Revealed in Psalm 19