Saturday, January 24, 2015

WE REFUSE TO STAY IN HARAN by Claude Houde

In Genesis 12:1, God called Abraham to “come out of his father’s house.” It is only by reading carefully and understanding the previous chapter and its contextual specific narrative nature that we are able to get the full significance and momentous depth of the call. Genesis 11 reveals to us that Abraham, his father and their entire clan had left Ur in Chaldea for Canaan. Canaan represents, symbolizes and typifies the land of promise, destiny, fulfillment, and the accomplishment of the fullness of blessing God had intended. In fact, it speaks of all God is and wanted to be in their lives—and in ours. The journey was harsh, long and exhausting. They were hit with tragedies, threats and traumatizing experiences. Loved ones passed away, and as they walked through these valleys of grief, the Promised Land seemed far away.

They stopped in a place called Haran, a city located approximately 600 miles west of the Euphrates River in Northern Syria. They had traveled over two thirds of their journey when they stopped there, physically exhausted, but also weary spiritually. The word “Haran” means “a dry place, a place of little fruit.”

Abraham and his father were on their way to Canaan, the place of blessing and fullness. Jesus makes the same promise to us: “I have come that you may have life and that you may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). It is interesting to consider the Greek word “zoe” that is used when speaking of the life Christ offers and has in mind for us. The word expresses the notion of “being complete, being fulfilled, bearing abundant fruit, true happiness and fulfillment.”

Please understand the correlation. Abraham, his father and family were on a journey to Canaan, but they tragically stopped in the place of little fruit. They should have been pressing forth, moving forward, persevering to fullness and abundance, but they settled for mediocrity.

Faith cries out, “I refuse to die in the place of small fruit! I refuse this small existence with small worship, small sanctification, small change, small transformation and small faith.” I have heard the fierce and passionate cry of men and women, leaders and pastors of every color from many nations declaring, “We refuse to die in Haran!” God calls us to “come out of our father’s house.” That is what He did with Abraham and that is what He is doing with you and me.

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Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.

Friday, January 23, 2015

DO NOT BE AFRAID, ONLY BELIEVE

A grieving father named Jairus came to Jesus to ask for the healing of his dying daughter: “There cometh . . . one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, and besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him” (Mark 5:22-24).

This man Jairus represents most of Christianity. We know Christ is our only hope, and in our crisis we run to Him, fall at His feet and seek His mercy and help. Jairus had a good measure of faith. He asked Jesus to “come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live” (verse 23). This was an affirmation of true faith: “Lord, all she needs is You. You have all power! You can keep her from dying!”

Responding to this man's faith, “Jesus went with him” (verse 24). Jesus permitted time to run out because He wanted His followers to have faith in His resurrection power—faith that goes beyond hopelessness, beyond even death! The nominal believers who stood at the little girl’s bedside had this limited faith: As long as there was a little life left, a little hope, Jesus was wanted and needed.

Most likely, these people said to themselves, “Yes, Jesus, we believe You are the great physician, the great healer. Nothing is impossible with You. We know You have all power. But please hurry—because she may die at any minute! Then we won’t need You!”

What kind of faith is this? It is faith only to the point of death, only to the grave. When circumstances look as if all is lost, this faith dies.

As it turned out, the little girl did die. I can see the people taking her pulse and pronouncing her dead. What little faith they had possessed was now gone. Their first order of funeral business was to notify the healer that He no longer was needed. They sent a messenger saying, “Thy daughter is dead; why troublest thou the Master any further?” (Mark 5:35).

These words seemed so final: “Thy daughter is dead!” These words may be ringing in your ears: “Your marriage is dead—don’t bother Jesus!” “Your ministry is dead—don’t bother the Lord!” “Your child is dead in sin!” “Your relationship to that loved one is dead!”

These dreaded words meant absolutely nothing to Jesus. He never gives up on the dead because He is resurrection life! In Greek, the best rendition of verse 36 is, “Jesus, as if He did not hear what was spoken, said to the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

PRESENT DAY RESURRECTION POWER

He who conquers death has all power—and there was no greater evidence of Christ’s power on earth than those He raised from the dead. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth (gives life to) them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will” (John 5:21). Jesus clearly claimed to have power over death. He even said of Himself, “I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25), and He proved it!

Do we truly believe Jesus’ words? He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:25-26).

Jesus is not speaking just of the final resurrection; He is describing His present power to raise up all that has died—His present power to flood us with His life. You see, we all have a secret graveyard in our lives, someone or something we gave up on a long time ago. We've buried it and inscribed on its tombstone the date of its death!

A dear acquaintance of ours told us of going to her child’s graduation. Along with all the relatives who attended, her former husband (who had left her years ago for another woman) was going to be there. The marriage itself was beyond resurrection since another woman was now his wife. Yet God made our friend go back to the grave site of that marriage and pray for his salvation—and the salvation of his wife! This woman did not give up on the spiritually dead.

Another dear sister in Christ has a husband who left her years ago. The man is now lost in deep sin. Where once there was a good marriage, a tombstone now stands. She too has had to learn that Jesus never gives up on the dead. It’s not that she wants the man back (indeed, he may never come back); rather, she wants him resurrected from the death of sin. She is not giving up on the dead because we serve a God with present-day resurrection power!