POWER WITH GOD AND POWER WITH MAN

By: Zack Poonen
In Genesis 32:29, it is written that “God blessed Jacob there”. The word “bless” is perhaps the most frequently used word in the prayers of Christians. But few understand its real meaning. What is blessing? What was the blessing Jacob got? It is described in Gen 32: 28 as “power with God and power with men”. This is the blessing that we all need and that we should be seeking for. Nothing less than this is what God desires to give His people.
 
Jesus referred to this blessing when He asked His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. He said, “When the Holy Spirit is come upon you, you shall receive power” (Acts 1:8) – power with God and power with men. Jacobs would be transformed by the Spirit’s power into Israels. And this alone can provide the answer to the crookedness of our self-life. It is not a question of reformation or of good resolutions or even of our determination. It is a question of the Holy Spirit possessing us fully and governing and ruling our lives.
 
But where does the Spirit lead us? Always to the cross. It is only when we are crucified, that Christ can live in us in His fullness, It was when Jesus was baptized, buried under the waters – symbolically accepting death to Himself – that the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Matt. 3:16). It was when Jacob was broken that he was blessed. It was only after Moses’ self-confidence had been shattered through 40 years of looking after sheep, that he was ready to deliver Israel. The rock had to be smitten before the living waters could flow. The Israelites had to go through the River Jordan (symbolizing death and burial) before they could enter Canaan (symbolizing life in the fullness of the Spirit). Gideon’s army had to break their pitchers before the light inside was visible. The alabaster vial had to be broken before the odor of the ointment could fill the house. Peter’s boastful self-confidence had to be shattered before he was ready for Pentecost. We find this truth throughout Scripture.
 
It would be dangerous for God to empower an unbroken man. It would be like giving a sharp knife to a 6-month old baby, or like handling 20,000 volts of electricity without proper insulation. God is careful. He does not give the power of His Spirit to those in whom self is still unbroken. And He removes His power from a man when he ceases to be broken.
 
Jacob was now blessed by God Himself. Earlier, Isaac had laid his hands on Jacob and blessed him, when Jacob brought him the venison (Gen. 27:23). But that had brought no change in Jacob’s life. The real blessing came at Peniel. And this is the lesson we need to learn too. No man can ever give us this blessing. A man – even a saintly man like Isaac – may lay his empty hands on our empty heads and pray for us. Yet we may get nothing. Only God can really empower us. When Isaac put his hands on Jacob’s head, the sun merely set on Jacob’s life. But when God blessed him, the sun rose! Power belongs to God and He is the only one who can ever give it to us.

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WHAT TO DO WHEN SPEAKING OUT COULD ENDANGER YOUR MINISTRY?

by Craig Greenfield * August 16, 2018

We just marked another sham election here in the Southeast Asian country where I have lived for many years. (I’m sure you can figure out which one. Starts with C and ends with A.)

The opposition has been outlawed, thrown in prison, killed or exiled. Injustice is riding high in a gold Lexus—arrogant and victorious—throughout the land.

And it seems to me that many leaders of Christian ministries here, including me, have made a decision to lay low. Whether conscious or unconscious, we’re mostly staying under the radar for the sake of protecting our ministries. And I’ve grappled hard with this.

I’ve asked myself, what if every Christian leader stays silent? Who will speak up for justice? Who will lead the way towards change? Who will defend the poor and needy?

And yet, I know that if I speak up loudly, I will be swiftly kicked out. I could be thrown in prison or my ministry that reaches hundreds of vulnerable children could be shut down. That would be a huge cost—not so much to me, but to a lot of kids.

So each of us needs to ask God for the wisdom to know how to respond. There are no easy answers but instead I offer some hard questions …

1. Are You Irreplaceable? If So, That May Be a Problem.

One of the things that drives us to protect ourselves and “our” ministries at any cost, is the way we have built them around ourselves. We have made ourselves indispensible. And if we’re honest, it may be because our identity is tied up in leading this ministry.

I think of John the Baptizer. His very name was his ministry identity—baptizing people—dunkin’ them in the river. He even had a “ministry highlight” for the record books, baptizing Jesus—the Son of God himself. That’s one to frame and put on the office wall!

John the Baptist spoke out and got beheaded, so that’s maybe not the most encouraging example, eh?

So, perhaps John faced a dilemma in speaking out against Herod’s immoral leadership (Luke 3:19). John’s whole baptizing ministry would be in danger if he were to be thrown into prison.

I wonder if John was torn as I know I would have been.

But let’s remember that John held his ministry lightly. He said things like, “I must decrease …” (John 3:30).

And he was committed to raising up other disciples in his place—some of whom went on to other ministries (John 1:37).

If we decentralize, empower lots of local leaders and make sure to use local resources as much as possible, getting kicked out might be a blow. Getting thrown in prison could be a setback. But hopefully it wouldn’t be the deathblow to the ministry.

2. Are You Truly Addressing Root Causes? If Not, That May Be a Problem.

I’ve registered charities in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Cambodia. And in every country there are limits on what amount of political activity a charity is allowed to engage in.

The message is LOUD and clear: Help poor people, just don’t talk about why they are poor or challenge the system that keeps them in poverty. Band-Aid solutions only, please.

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” —Dom Helder Camara (Latin American saint)

We can’t afford to be complicit with this kind of thinking. When we bandage up the wounds inflicted by an unjust society without challenging that injustice, we do more harm than good. We create a moral safety valve that diffuses the spirit of change.

In contrast, Jesus was relentless in pointing out the unjust acts of the religious elite: “You devour widows’ houses!” (Luke 20:47) and “Woe to you Pharisees, a bunch of hypocrites who ignore justice …” (Matt. 23:23).

Of course Jesus ended up being executed, so maybe that’s not a very encouraging example either.

3. Are You Listening to the Spirit, or the Voice of Fear?

Finally, since there are clearly no hard and fast rules in this thorny area. We must listen and be guided by God.

One will be led to stay below the radar …

“There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” —Amos 5:12, 13

Another will be led to act subversively, like the Hebrew midwives who refused to obey Pharaoh’s orders to kill babies, and instead came up with wily excuses for their disobedience …

“The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do …” —Ex. 1:17

Yet another, will be called to act using the street theater tactics of the prophets of old, dramatically, symbolically, even provocatively in the face of the unjust …

“Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! … I am going to bring calamity on you …” —2 Sam. 12

Aung San Suu Kyi reminded those of us who have greater freedom and protection in speaking out to, “Use your liberty to promote ours.”

May we have the wisdom to discern when to keep quiet, when to act subversively and when to speak boldly and prophetically—using the extra resources and freedom we have for the benefit of others.

Last week, after prayer and discussion with some local Christian leaders here, we decided we could not allow this situation of injustice to go unmarked. I can’t go into much detail online, but one of our actions was a symbolic one.

In the ancient Southeast Asian tradition of grieving what has been lost, we shaved our heads completely bald and wore white clothing as an act of lament.

“Freedom is dead. Justice is dead. And so we mourn.”

Like most prophetic actions, we didn’t expect that our small act of resistance would somehow bring change. But we acted out of faithfulness to God and a desire to be in solidarity with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15).

We simply wanted to bear witness to the injustice that is like a cancer across this nation. And that was exactly what God was calling us to do in that moment.

By the way, if you’re reading this in a place where you have freedom to speak out, protest and resist injustice—do it! Don’t take that freedom for granted. There are many of us around the world who long to have a voice.


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FASTING & PRAYER – THE CURE FOR UNBELIEF

When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.- (Palms 69:10)

The disciples asked Jesus why they could not heal a lunatic boy. Jesus said, “Because of your unbelief…Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:14-21). Faith needs prayer for its development and full growth, and prayer needs fasting for the same reason. Fasting has done wonders when used in combination with prayer and faith. This is a biblical doctrine. To fast means to abstain from food-that which caused the fall of man. Fasting humbles the soul before God (Ps.35:13); chastens the soul (Ps. 69:19); and crucifies the appetites and denies them so as to give the entire time to prayer (2 Sam. 12:16-23; Mt. 4:1-11). It manifest earnestness before God to the exclusion of all else (1 Cor. 7:5); shows obedience; gives the digestive system a rest (Mt. 6:16-18; 9:15; Lk. 5:33); demonstrates the mastery of man over appetites; aids in victory over temptation; helps to attain power over demons; develops faith; crucifies unbelief and aids in prayer (Mt. 4:1-11: 17:14-21).

All believers are supposed to fast, but no regulations or set rules are given as to how long or how often. That is determined by individual desires and needs (Mt. 9:14-15; 1 Cor.7:5; Acts 13:1-5). Men should fast when under chastening, judgement, in need, in danger, when worried, in trouble, in spiritual conflict, and when desperate in prayer.


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THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK

The heart of the righteous studieth to answer. – Proverbs 15:28

Human tendencies are universal, and one such tendency is to speak before thinking. Pride is often at the root of words spoken without forethought, as in the case of King Darius. Pride caused him to agree hastily to the law that put Daniel in the lion’s den. Another problem is anger, which issues into wrong words. Angry words helped to put Jesus on the cross. But He patiently endured the suffering that resulted, leaving us an example to follow. We must have Christ within to guard and control our tongue.

Hasty words are often the cause of great regret. “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly” (Proverbs 14:17). Hasty words sometimes leave permanent scars and cause damaged relationships that take years to rebuild. But pleasant words are soothing and up-building. “A soft word turneth away wrath.”

Jesus spoke many kind words to those who followed Him. He even spoke kindly to a woman taken in adultery. Hopefully all of us have experienced kind words from our families and friends. I remember my mother as one who often spoke soft, kind words in times of trouble. How soothing and calming those words were!

We do well to be wise and to study before giving answers. How much sorrow could be avoided if we always chose our words carefully! Consider too that “a whisper separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 16:28). Rather than talking about our brother’s faults to others, let us approach him directly as Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15. Many problems could be quickly solved and peace could be restored to many situations if we always heeded this instruction.

The scripture is given for our profit, and its instructions are not in vain. Have you spoken kind, well-planned words today?

Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.– James 1:19


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THE SCHOOL OF SUBMISSION

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. – Ephesians 5:21

Peter was sturdy and quick and agile! He also was impulsive and strong-willed, and he carried a sharp sword. Peter had a courageous spirit to defend his cause. However, he had to learn a hard lesson-the lesson of submission. His Master, the Lord Jesus, exemplified the amazing strength of submission as the soldiers bound Him and took Him for a hearing before Annas the high priest.

Peter was an observer! In Christ he witnessed firsthand the power of submission, and it made a deep impression on Peter. Before him stood the perfect example of sacrificial love and humility. He was able to observe that submission involves tremendous strength and that victories can be won without a sword.

Obviously the Holy Spirit later moved in Peter’s life. He understood that the tool of submission works effectively in many conflicts. He gave this report about Christ: “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not” (1 Peter 2:23). Peter continued in chapter 3 with counsel for Christian wives. He pointed out that by living in godly submission, wives could even win their unbelieving husbands to the Christian faith. Making peace is often more difficult than waging war. But Peter gave some worthwhile advice in 1 Peter 3:8: live in harmony, exercise compassion, love fervently, be sympathetic, be courteous.

Submission to man is limited by submission to God. Peter demonstrated this after the Jewish leaders commanded the apostles to quit preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus. Though he had a submissive attitude, Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  n this way he showed submission to man in the fear of God, as directed in today’s key verse.


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HOW TO KEEP GOING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

By
 
What inspires us to stay strong, keep growing and keep committed to what God is calling us to do without giving up?

1. Remember it’s roots before fruits.

People are quick to celebrate what they see a person doing but tend to forget that what was sowndetermined it’s success. We don’t live in a heavily agrarian society like in the past, but the Bible is clear that what we sow, we reap (Gal. 6:8). Many focus on the negative context, but what about the hope in those words. If you are leading an organization or a team, what you say and do will produce fruit. If you want to see your organization have a heart to help others, then take them to places where others are hurting. If you want to have a generous church, then talk about the power of giving, etc. What you sow is seed that produces roots that leads to fruits. The reality is, it’s what’s underground that really matters.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others because your obedience will never look the same but the blessing is guaranteed.

Comparison traps are far too easy to fall into. The more I follow others in social media, the more I find myself sizing myself up. When we do nothing but look through the Instagram lens for what God is doing through other people, we are simply getting a snapshot of their lives. Social media is a billboard, not a journal. Ministry is hard, whether it’s 10 people or ten thousand. You’re called to fulfill what God has called you to do … not someone else.

3. Become better at responding to God than making altars.

That’s old-school lingo to simply say, reduce the high amount of spiritual activity in your life and choose to seek God first, as often as you can, when you can. We become good at being concerned about helping others become better spiritually at the expense of neglecting our own walk with God. Your yes to God’s request will produce far better results for you and others than your yes to everybody else’s requests. A well that is dry is just a hole in the ground but a well that is full of water becomes a source of life for a whole community.

4. In your weakest moments God is always the strongest.

Your maturity is evident when your leadership becomes less how you feel and more about your faith. We have to move beyond emotion to believe that God loves us just the same when we’re at our worst and when we’re at our best. It takes faith to believe that God will use us in our least confident moments to produce a strong result to affirm our leadership. Strength is not measured by might or power but by God’s Spirit (2 Cor. 12:9; Zech. 4:6). So allow your weakest moments to become the strongest moments with God to produce the greatest faith you have ever seen.


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