Wednesday, November 23, 2016

ADVENT SEASON 2016 - By James Tharp

Throughout the month of December the Christian world is observing the coming of Jesus Christ’s first advent into the world.

We read in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 2, verses 8-14: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord
stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (NKJV)

We have so many portraits of Jesus throughout the galleries of the world. As a result, there is much confusion, not only about what He looked like, but also about who He really was and is.

God the Father intended for a lost world to know for sure exactly who His Son is and why He came to earth. I fear that all too many over the world hold conflicting images of the Christ; all too often they are pressed forward by those who would have Jesus squeezed into that of a philosopher or a politician. God is not pleased with those who misrepresent who Jesus is. We read the true answer about the real Jesus in Matthew 1:18-21 where the angel Gabriel appears to Joseph, a godly man engaged to be married to the virgin Mary, reassuring him that he should proceed with the marriage, despite Mary’s pregnancy: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (NKJV)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Priority of Prayer - By Pastor Jim Tharp

Even though most people believe in prayer, I would remind us that it is not a natural instinct. Rather, it is a spiritual need. It is as much a need for a born-again Christian as it is for a newly-born baby to cry for milk.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who came from Heaven to become one of us—the Son of God becoming the Son of Man—is our example for prayer. Even though He was the Son of God, He needed to pray to His Father in Heaven. Although He never sinned and was absolutely holy, He needed to pray to His Father and give thanks. In His humanity, He needed strength for His earthly mission. Jesus’ main purpose in coming to earth was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins—it was His assignment by the Father; and in His human needs, He must pray for His needs—wisdom and strength.

Jesus selected twelve men whom He called His disciples, who would become His apostles, to be trained and sent forth to proclaim the Gospel, the good news that anyone who would believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord would be forgiven of sin and receive eternal life. These believers would not be lost eternally, but they would be redeemed, regenerated, reclaimed as children of God.

These twelve apostles became greatly interested in the way Jesus prayed. They knew that He often slipped away to be alone in prayer with the Father. But at times they would overhear His praying. They listened carefully to His prayers.

Once, when Jesus was apart praying, they grew interested and moved closer to hear how He was praying. They were impressed with His worship of the Father, His trust in the Father to hear Him, how intent and fervent He grew in His praying at times. So, on this occasion they made the request, “Lord, teach us to pray!”

Now Jesus knew that some of these twelve had been followers of John the Baptist, His forerunner. And He knew that John had taught them about prayer. But Jesus also knew that He wanted to teach His disciples a way to pray in which, when He and the Father, send them the Holy Spirit to indwell them, they would be enabled to pray with power—be inspired to pray, enlightened to pray, energized to pray, and emboldened in praying.

So Jesus laid out a model prayer for them. He also wanted to teach them how to pray with confidence and persistence. In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 11:2-4, Jesus answers their request in brief, simple, and comprehensive form. There are seven petitions:

1. “Our Father … in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Pentecostal Fire - by James Tharp

Jesus said, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled” (Luke 12:49).

            John the Baptist had introduced Jesus as one who would baptize His followers “with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus knew what was ahead in His coming crises, but He is looking forward to the coming Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit that would introduce the Church age, the dispensation of Grace, the era of the Holy Spirit.

            Jesus might have also had in mind the prophecy of Joel: “… I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days
(Joel 2:28-29).

            Jesus Himself, as a man, was filled with the Holy Spirit. And in the power of the Holy Spirit He trained His disciples, worked miracles, revealed the truth about God’s love for lost humanity, and completed His mission by dying an atoning death and shedding His blood in payment for the sins of all who would believe in Him. Throughout His life, from the time He grasped His relationship with His Heavenly Father to the moment of His death on the cross, Jesus longed for the day the Holy Spirit would be poured out in holy fire to give birth to His Church and the dispensation of grace that would result in bringing about His Bride.

            Following His resurrection from the dead, Jesus gathered His eleven disciples for a special order: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

            Just before His ascension to the Father our Risen Lord ordered His disciples to go back into the city and tarry, (pray, wait, and plead) for the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy; wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit— stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49).

            Let all Christians today be thankful to God that Jesus spoke with such conviction to the disciples that they made the connection between prayer and the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire! Had the 11 and 109 other believers not obeyed that order, there would have been no Pentecostal outpouring, no Church, no Bride for Christ, no Pentecostal power, no redeemed human race.
            The apostle Peter, explained the secret of apostolic power to those who were persecuting them: “God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).

            A crowd of 120 believers obeyed the orders to go back into Jerusalem and start a prayer meeting (Acts 1:15). In Acts, chapter 2, we find that after they had tarried in prayer for 10 days Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” The wind is one of several symbols of the Holy Spirit. It came upon the 120 believers and breathed the life of the Spirit into them, bringing the miracle of the new birth.

            Then in Acts 2:3: “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Fire is another symbol of the Holy Spirit. It seems to have first appeared in a solid cluster and then divided so that the fire rested upon each person. This spoke of both the unity and individuality of the body of Christ.

            But even more important, the fire was holy fire cleansing the hearts of all the Christian believers in that Upper Room. From the beginning, Christ would have a people inwardly cleansed and empowered to represent Him before a lost world for proclaiming His Gospel and reaping a harvest for the Kingdom of God.

            In Acts 2:4 we read that “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

            Holy fire results in holy, redemptive power. Down below the Upper Room were thousands of Jewish pilgrims from all over the entire Mediterranean basin who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits. They would be the first to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ from those who had been filled with the Spirit. The 120 Spirit-filled believers had normally only spoken three languages—Hebrew, Aramaic, and a few spoke Greek. But awaiting them down on street level were thousands representing 14 different languages and dialects.

            The Holy Spirit miraculously gifted the 120 with an utterance in all the languages needed for communicating with those who would hear the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The multitudes were about to hear the good news in their own mother tongues. If the sound of wind signified life and the sight of fire signified purity and power, the utterance in various languages signified the universality of the Gospel and its mandate for all nations.

            These 120 Spirit-filled believers filed out of that Upper Room and were down on street level scattering among the crowds uttering the praises of God and the good news that Christ had died an atoning death for all sinners.

            Peter, who weeks before had denied Jesus, now filled with the Holy Spirit addresses the crowds explaining what has happened. He explained their purpose in coming among them: God had poured out His Spirit upon them just as their prophet Joel had predicted. He told them that Jesus, whom they had crucified, had been raised from the dead, and that He had been exalted to heaven at the right hand of the Father. He continued, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

            Luke reports the miracle of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit on a multitude of the unbelieving listeners: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, Brothers, what shall we do?’” Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).

            What was the result of Peter’s Spirit-inspired message? “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41-47).

            Jesus foreknew the power of Pentecostal prayer. But first, He must find those who would engage in Pentecostal praying.

            In Hebrews 13:8 we read that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

            If we Christians of today had an ear to hear the Spirit’s call to prayer and would engage in Pentecostal intercession, the Church in the last days could have the greatest spiritual awakening in all the history of the Church. And a final mighty revival would prepare believers for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and it would also reap a harvest of lost souls for the Kingdom of God.

            Christians, let us understand that there can be no outpouring of the Spirit until we humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways. Only then will He hear from Heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land (II Chronicles 7:14).