Breaking the vessel

Mary came to Jesus with the alabaster box filled with fragrant ointment.  Nobody knew she had it right by her, they didn’t know what that box contained.  They hadn’t even noticed until she broke the vessel and then everybody knew.  Everybody smelt the fragrance, everybody knew what was inside the box, it could not be hid.  She worshipped Jesus and anoints Him filling the whole house with the fragrance and touching everybody around about her.  That is the power of the broken vessel.   It is only when our vessel is broken, that the water of life or the anointing of the Spirit, is fully released.

Now to be a broken vessel might not sound too good. I’m not talking about a car crash or some physical breaking and smashing. The breaking of the vessel simply means that the vessel itself no longer hinders or impairs the expression of the life that is within it.   And that basically means dying to self. No surprise there.  Jesus  is called a broken vessel in his death.  Ps 31 .12.

Ever noticed what happens when somebody breaks their vessel.  Someone might stand to testify, they are polished their clear and people may be impressed by the speech. But what about the person that gets up admits to being nervous, they tell a story of pain and honestly share their struggles.  They might begin to cry, everyone feels for them and somehow seeming courage fills their life as well. It may not have been a great speech but somehow when the person breaks open their vessel there was a fragrance of Jesus that filled the room.   Maybe it was someone who steps out to prophesy; they take a risk or a singer who breaks their vessel to sing a song –  scary as it might be, the vessel is broken and fragrance fills the house.  Even just walking over to say hello to a new neighbor, or stopping to help someone in trouble when you’re busy, is breaking the vessel and letting the oil and fragrance of life flow out into the world.

When Gideon broke the vessels, the light shone out bringing victory over his enemies. It was only a clay pot but it contained something greater. You contain someone wiser, someone more powerful, someone more benevolent and purposeful; someone more loving.

Friends, let God break the vessel today. When you choose to break your vessel the life of God will be expressed through us unimpaired. Let Him pour through you.

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Sons in the Battle

In the middle ages, many sons of noblemen were apprenticed to existing knights. They learned to be knights by wielding weapons and fighting in armour until they were successful in war and were able to guard the house (castle). They became sons of the house through warfare.

Spiritual sons know they are part of an army and they know who their enemy is. Sons understand that, when Jesus defeated the devil, He did it in their name. Jesus never came to earth to prove He was greater than the devil – He’s always been that! He came here to defeat him as a human being on our behalf.  The devil was a strong man who could only keep his goods until a stronger one came upon him. That stronger one is Jesus and His Church!  The enemy is still our foe but now in the presence of the enemy, Jesus provides victory.

King David said “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;” (Psalm 23:5) There are some things God only puts on the table for us in the presence of our enemies. In other words, most of the times we receive something fresh from God are in the midst of a battle.  In an environment where we need nothing, we receive little. The Christian life is a life of being in need. We should get used to it! We need Jesus every day to live as a Christian. We can’t heal the sick or forgive constantly without Jesus; we can’t cast out devils or defeat our enemies each day, except through Him.

Jesus said to one of the churches in Revelation, “…you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:17) They had everything they wanted but nothing they truly needed. If we know our true need, God will be our garment, our life, and the anointing we need to see clearly. Sometimes our greatest challenge is to know what we truly need. Like this ancient church group, sometimes we need an enemy to fight!

Friend, to increase in authority there has to be an increase in the challenges we face. God works on the basis that His provision for us is not just sufficient but is more than sufficient for our need and the things we face. If our enemies are a two on the scale, then His grace can be a four. If our troubles are a five, then the strength and more than sufficient anointing that He gives us, will be a seven plus.

(Excerpt from my new book Sons in the House) Email for copies:   jim.shaw@mnl.org.nz

Profit or loss?

Work is meant to be profitable.  If the work you’re doing isn’t making you any money and there is no reason why you think it will turn around, stop doing it.  God wants you to make a profit.  God expects you to sow one seed and reap a harvest.   If what you’re doing and sowing is not bringing a return to you, that seed is dead. Everything God creates, He creates to have the power of multiplying in it. He expects you to be making money. If you can sow 10000 and reap 20000 God is delighted.  Surely you don’t need convincing of this. This is his law of sowing. The power to multiply is in the seed.

We work also to make money for our daily necessities. Gods plan is for you have enough over after your living expenses, to be able to give to good works.   If you haven’t got enough to give to every good work,  your either not earning what God  wants you to earn  or you spending too much on other things.  Wesley said “Make all you can, save all you can and give all you can.

Consumerism was unheard of till 70s.   Early middle class Christians were thrifty. They were not affected by consumerism. They believed enough is enough.  They knew how to live moderate and they saved. With the money the saved, they invested but Wesley never stopped there.    He also said “Give all you can”     Use what you have saved and invested, to help others to and to extend the kingdom of God.  God intended for you to put some of our money into the kingdom of God.  God is not expecting Bill gates and Helen Clark to fund the outreach to the nations or to reach our own city.  If His people are not going fund the work of God who is?  Make for your selves friends of unrighteous mammon.   It is His after all.

Friend, we were blessed to be a blessing.    After you paid your tithes, met all your expenses and blessed your family, then we are able  to give regular amounts into the kingdom of God.

Jesus our brother

Brothers in ancient Greece and Rome were very loyal to their siblings. Even secular writer like Aristotle said that a brother would think of their brother; they would rejoice in brothers by any downplaying of his advantage and share their resources and any glory that they were given.

In the book of Philippians Paul is saying that when Christ came to earth he become a brother. Jesus was exalted into a place of great authority because of His actions not as son of God but as the son of man.  When Jesus took up the form of man he became a brother of mankind.  The cross was a manifestation of brotherhood not Son ship with God and redemption was affected not by Jesus in His unique divinity but by his humanity in becoming our brother or kinsman redeemer.  When Paul said ”let this mind be in you …”  he was saying it’s the same mind that Jesus had to become a brother to humanity. He became a Redeemer a brother to redeem us.

He was thinking of us as a brother would.  The mind of Christ toward us as brother, in seen in His consideration of us and his rescue of us. The mind of Christ is the mind of brotherhood.   Jesus acted the role of a perfect brother.

He Rejoiced in his brothers. The mind of Christ and his brotherhood is seen in His downplaying of his advantage to raise mankind to share his joy.  He was not in competition about who could see the father’s face.

He shared resources. He shared his  divine recourses and relationships.  So whatever he inherited, his  brothers would inherit too including the Spirit. He would not see a brother struggle and not step up to the plate to help. He could not see a brother flailing or not succeeding and turn a blind eye

He also shared His glory. The mind of Christ and His brotherhood is seen in His determination to share His glory with us.    The cross was to bring his brothers to see the father’s face. He wanted to bring all brothers to have the same place a privilege. Jesus was the example brother

Friends,  God is enabling us to see our identity in these days and our identity is not just about Son ship with God but about brotherhood with Christ and your brothers.  Paul says that lack of oneness in brotherly love is inconsistent with our identity as brother of Christ and of each other.  Disunity is a violation of the mind of Christ as brother.  Philippians 1. 29.

Brotherhood

Paul constantly calls the Philippians brothers and he uses brothers strategically because of what it meant to be a brother in the ancient world. The ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish world was very tribal.   It mattered where you were from it mattered what family you were from. Most adult men were still known as the son of someone. A person’s family of origin is the primary source of their status and location in the world. It was important from whom people descended. Genealogies serve to defend the claim of honor, identify social roles and obligations, establish inheritance rights to indicate birth order and honor order. Levite’s assumed their role based on their lineage. Who the father was, was more important than who the Son was.   So a good name (Fathers)was better than great riches.  The name of your father opened doors for the son.  (Another’s name )People were known by the father’s name in Jewish culture Bar Abbas, bar Bar timaus  are derived from birth.

Also  in Greek Roman world view the relationship between siblings was the closest strongest and most intimate relationship in the ancient world. They were considered same blood, same stock and this was only enhanced by similar upbringing. The greek word  is Adelphos, and means from same womb.

I think this is sometimes lost on us in the Western world. Our natural brothers can so isolated from us we are independent and disconnected but not in Pauls day.

Aristotle said “Brothers love each other as being born of the same parents; for their identity with them makes them identical with each other.  They are therefore in a sense, the same thing though separate individuals.”     Nic Eth.  8.12.3

Brother in that time would always think of their brother; they would rejoice in brothers by any downplaying of his advantage and share their resources and any glory that they were given.

And what the Philippines heard Paul saying you are my brothers and you are brothers of each other.  You are siblings of one another, with a shared father and shared family.  As it is in the natural so it is in the spiritual family. This was the ethic of the day even among pagans.  So Christians are explicitly instructed to treat one another as family; young men as brothers older women as mothers, younger as sisters.

In fact Philadelphia the love of brothers and sisters, is the central ethic shaping relationships in the church. You would not have had to say anything more to a Christian than “he is your brother,” to explain a how he should be treated.  Brotherhood alone is able to evaluate what is compatible and incompatible with Christian lifestyle.

Add to … godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love.  2Pe 1:7 

Bring your brother

Adam and Eve had two boys. They grew up in a relatively pristine and beautiful world together but there was something ugly in someone’s heart. Cain rose up and killed his brother Able and Ables’ blood cried out from the ground.

 Gen 4:7  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”…And it happened when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.And Jehovah said unto Cain, Where is your brother Abel? And he said, I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?

Dumb question. Sin makes you stupid!

And He said, What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to Me from the ground. And now you are cursed more than the ground which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

God said to Cain your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.  (Thankfully Jesus blood speaks better things. It wasn’t blood spilt by the brother but it was blood spilt for the brothers.)

This is the first mention of brother in the Bible and also the first mention of sin, which was in relationship to an attitude toward a brother. Of course the whole bible teaches that our love for our brothers is the gauge of our actual love for God. 1 John 4.20.

When you till the ground, it will not again give its strength to you. And you shall be a vagabond and a fugitive in the earth.  And Cain said to Jehovah, My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold! You have driven me out from the face of the earth today, and I shall be hidden from Your face. Gen 4:8 -14

The Lord told Cain that because the ground was polluted with his brother’s blood, it would no longer produce the fruit he expected.  The way we treat your brother will determine the fruit of our field. God said you will be driven from the face of the ground and from the face of God. This is also the first mention of the face of God. The way you treat your brother determines the availability and vision of God’s face.

This idea brotherly responsibility is right through the Bible. As the people approached the Promised Land, the Reubenites and Gadites wanted to stay on the far side of the Jordan where there was less fighting to be done.  But God said you will go over with your brothers and ensure they enter their inheritance before you can settle down to enjoy yours. God’s requirement is no one can inherit their land unless all the brothers inherit their land. Jos 1:14-16.  Like the Three Musketeers one for all and all for one   That’s brotherhood.  God withhold our full inheritance until we have helped our brothers into theirs.  This is reflected in the new Testament Hebrews is let us go on to perfection – no one goes on to maturity alone.

Many years earlier, Joseph had been sold to the Egyptians by his brothers.  Eventually he was promoted to the ruler of the land at the same time a famine came upon Israel. His brothers were sent to find bread from the Egyptian ruler and when they arrive Joseph asks his unsuspecting brothers “Do you have a father or a brother?  And we said to my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one. And his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him. And you said to your servants, Bring him down to me, and let me see him. And we said to my lord, The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, he would die. And you said to your servants, Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more. Gen 44:19 -23

Joseph is a type of Christ. He is the beloved son rejected by his brothers, falsely accused, sentenced with two offenders but is finally exalted to rule. Joseph had bread for his brothers and he is most interested to meet the need of all our brothers.  When asked if they had other brothers, they told him they had one at home with their father and Joseph said you will not see my face until your brother be with you.

Jesus our brother also has bread for His brothers; food which can keep us alive and bring us into our destiny, but it seems that Jesus attitude is like that of josephs – something of His face and glory will not be seen till we bring our brothers with us.

Friends, we can seek His favour and His face but he says “bring your brother.” We can seek fruitfulness in the field but He says “Where is your brother?” We can seek bread; He says “bring your brother with you.”  It seems we cannot completely have our inheritance until our brother has his. Are our relationships with our fellow church leaders or members suitably unselfish and inclusive?  Is there a brother or sister that you need to go and bring? He asks us this question “Where is your brother?” because the brother left behind was the brother that the father loved.

Aliens

God has made us new creations in Christ Jesus. A new type of being and we are called to bear the image of God as His children. Only His workmanship and sons, can do the new creation works He planned.  His work can’t be done by flesh from the natural world but He has birthed a group of family members who dwell in the kingdom of heaven that can do the work of God.   Like he did for Elisha, God opens our eyes to see into that realm. We are in the spirit. We are able to act in both worlds; we are in the world but we are not if it.

We are created to do what God would do and even to behave like Jesus would behave.   The new man is created in true righteousness and holiness.  Putting on the new man is “putting on” the thinking that leads us our New Creation person to manifest in the natural realm, the life of the spirit realm.

Friend, you are an over-comer. You were born an overcomer and that means you can overcome the world.  Though it is against us, you can over-come it.

Disciples making disciples

Jesus last orders crashed on the disciples ears as they stood on the Mt of Olives “Go and make Disciples…”, but it seems often the same words bounce off deaf ears in the church today.  We say we want a harvest but we won’t sow the field; we say we love the lost but we don’t spend any time with them.  We think prayer alone will bring in the sheaves or that tearless sowing of seeds will penetrate the stony ground.   We work harder and even try to work smarter but the days tick by and we wonder where the increase is. Often we are waiting for one to be given to us after the altar call or we wait to be asked to follow up a new believer in the church.  We’re trying to make disciples in the wrong places.

Go into all the world and make disciples means into all nations.  For the Jewish disciples it meant gentiles; people unlike them, and for us it means people not like us.  That is the genius of this command; they are shocked straightaway at your concern or interest.   Jesus chose his disciples before they had become Christians and we should too. He chose some to be with him when they were unsaved!   If everyone chose and made a disciple of some one that is not like us, we would see the harvest begin to come in and it may still take time.

When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples they started preaching and making disciples.  When Jesus came out of the wilderness, in power of the spirit, the first thing he did was chose disciples; then he started preaching.

Friend, the evidence of being in the power of the Spirit is choosing and making disciples.  It not feeling goose bumps; it’s not having gifts of healing its making a disciples.

The work of the ministry

The fivefold are to equip the saints so they can do the ministry.  I remember Bruce Wilkerson prayer of Jabez fame said “We don’t measure success by number of people watching you do ministry but how many of those watching you, are doing ministry.   Most often whatever it is that church members think pastors do: visiting the sick in hospitals, casting out devils, following up visitors to church, ringing up the people that haven’t been seen for three weeks, teaching new believer the basics and discipline some   people at lunch time… That is what they are to be doing! Jesus was modeling ministry of his body the whole church not for the 5 fold.

Ministry just means serving.  Servants don’t come to church to be at a service or to get a service or go to a service but they come there to give service and go out of there to give service to the church and the world. Members are to edify or build the local church body up. It is not Jesus who is building the church, we have hidden behind that verse for far too long.

It is the job of the saints to build up the church by doing the work of the ministry. That is ministry to God in worship, ministry to the world as disciple makers and ministry to the saints and sinners by the ministry.

Living it

Moses stood before the nation to repeat the promises of God, to the new generation that would fight their way in the land.  They would be the generation that got a breakthrough, into the promises of God.

Moses was convinced they could do it.  I know you will break through. I know you will take the land from the enemy but if you don’t obey the word of God once you are in the land and live God’s way, you may not be able to maintain possession of the land.

A “breakthrough  generation” has to be more than louder music and stronger shouts of praise.  There needs to be a strong character, a strong home life, a strong marriage, a strong work ethic and a strong personal life. The breakthrough generation will be people of faith and passion but they will also live with commitment to the principles of God’s Word in their family and their finances.

If they don’t know how to live right every day, they may enjoy days of victory but not be able to maintain their victory. It is just as important that our marriage is a testimony as our miracles are. For our family to be as much a testimony as our faith and our finances should be as sound as our fervor for God.

Friend, the way we do life in the community is more a testimony than the way we do communion. Moses said the nations were going to take note because they were a wise and understanding people, not just a noisy excited people