Prophecy and the Prophetic – Part 1

Prophecy and the Prophetic

(Revelation 19:10)

The importance of words remains foremost in my mind.  Life and death are in the power of the tongue.  I have learned some personal lessons here.  As with any principle of truth, we can try to live by this one.  Life does not operate that way.  We live by the Spirit, and we learn to walk by that same Spirit.  Similarly we need to learn to talk by that Spirit.  Walking and talking go together.  I will mention some extreme examples of words spoken that do not seem right to us.  Jesus cursed a fig tree and it shriveled and died.  Peter confronted Ananias concerning his hypocrisy and he dropped dead.  He then told his wife Sapphira that she would be carried out dead also.  (Acts 5:1-11)  Some speak of this as if their holding back part of their property was the cause of death.  I don’t hear the Spirit say that.  I understand the story that their hypocrisy, their lying, caused their quick departure.  The church was newly born and the Spirit cut off that hypocrisy abruptly and gave a tough love lesson to the church.

Peter had insight by the Spirit and asked questions that confirmed what he, Peter, was understanding.  Peter did not cause their death, but he cooperated with the Spirit for the Lord’s purpose to proceed.  This is an aspect of what we call prophetic.  During the Reformation, many truths were restored in principle and men and women began to again walk in them.  The corrupted “church” of the Dark Ages had buried much truth.  One such truth is that every true follower of Christ is a prophet, priest, and king.  Let’s focus on the prophet aspect and look at the reference scripture.  The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.  True prophecy will bear the image of Christ, of Jesus.  It will smell, feel, and taste like Jesus.  If my spirit does not bear witness to words from someone, I do not receive them.  Jesus and the apostles warn us of false prophets.  Have you known of such?

I have.  I have written of a specific experience of discerning self-ambition in so-called ministry and will not repeat the details here.  The heart of the matter is motivation.  Is one seeking their own glory in their use of a gift from God, or are they truly looking for the life of God to be increased in the one receiving?  In 1 Cor. 14, Paul refers to prophecy as that which edifies, that which builds someone up in their spirit, in their inner man.  True words from God should encourage one to go with God.  This can include correction.  We need to be open to correction.  Many have gone away from the Lord because they cannot make changes.  Often a wound remains from the past.  In other cases, a purely rebellious, wicked spirit can be at work.  Consider Ananias and Sapphira again.  Self-ambition.  Read the previous portion in Acts concerning Barnabas.  They wanted to look good and be admired like Barnabas.  Such is criminal activity in God’s house.  I have known it and had to severely end a relationship with a man in ministry because he was using me and my family.

When the life of a larger group, church, or ministry is in danger of corruption, a strong word may come.  When it is not heeded, separation may come.  Take a look at the history of the church at large.  Our problems rise to schisms when we then think we are superior to the others.  The issue is to go on with God and of necessity leave the others behind.  That always includes humility.  Some of those who have missed God may turn again later.  Ultimately, it is God’s house.  He dropped Ananias and Sapphira.  I know that word sounds brutal.  Imagine being there and seeing it firsthand.  It should cause us to go to the Lord and stay in a place of humility.  Great fear fell on them all.  But not all prophecy is severe.  In fact it is far and away to encourage the hearer to one end; to press on, to continue on to know the Lord.  Whatever gift, whatever the Spirit may work in us, we remain a vessel in His hands.  It is not about us, that is, the focus should be on the Lord Himself.  True prophecy increases the life of Christ in the hearer.  If it doesn’t bring you closer to the One who is worthy of your life, let it slide away.  And be aware the next time that person talks with you.  If you do not receive something of value, look for real fellowship elsewhere.

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Logos and Rhema

Logos and Rhema

(Hebrews 1:1-3)

God has spoken to the world through His Son.  He sent His Son and gave Him as the Lamb, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  Our activity is simply to agree, receive, give thanks, and present our bodies a living sacrifice every day.  And to be still so that we might hear what the Spirit of Christ may say to us today.  Today if you would hear His voice, harden not your hearts.  His words are given through the written word where we read the facts of spiritual truth.  This is logos.

The writer of Hebrews begins with the thought of the preeminence of Christ.  Some think Paul wrote that letter and some think it Apollos or some other.  I tend to the thought that it was Paul and he did not identify himself because of the opposition to himself among Jews.  We ought to recognize that some come to a reception of the truth quickly, and for others it takes some time, from our perspective.  We can never rush someone else into revelation and true spiritual relationship with Jesus.  We cannot make it happen.  We cannot do it for ourselves.  But we can, and must respond, to the revelation we receive.

Whoever the writer of Hebrews was, he wrote to those who still held onto some of the old.  Read the entire letter and much is included to help us to leave the shadows.  Everything done through the law and the prophets was a type and shadow.  As I write that, it does not mean that God was not the author of it all by the Spirit.  Here is a mystery.  That means it is simply the truth that His ways are higher, deeper, and wiser, that ours.  His ways include mystery that we cannot grasp by analysis.  The idea of dispensationalism is that God changes the way He works.  I think it is better to say He chose to reveal Himself to mankind in an increasing clear manner.  His revelation culminated in sending His Son to take on human flesh (incarnation) and being sacrificed for us.  And He was raised from the dead without any work through any human vessel.  While the prophets had done similar miraculous works, Jesus’ resurrection was uniquely God alone.

Malachi is the last recorded prophet included in what we call the canon of scripture.  He was in the period of history we call the Old Testament.  At a much later point in history, men earnestly considered what should be included in the Bible, as the written record of the Lord’s relationship with mankind.  We ought to say that some include other writings.  We avoid such debates here.  The point of this is that we have a written record and we need to pay close attention to it.  If we think we can operate outside or apart from what is written, we are open to deception.  Jesus Himself used what was written in the law and the prophets to resist Satan himself.  This was direct confrontation.

I believe the Lord’s hand was upon those who confirmed which books were collected into what we call the Old Testament.  But we miss the entire message if we do not understand that the word testament is another word for covenant and that is a relationship upon which the writings are based.  It is much more than a collection of stories or principles.  The law and prophets provide a record of a family relationship that had failed but set the stage for the Savior.  Natural Israel was to be the bride of the Lord but she could not.  The flesh profits nothing.

Through Malachi, the Lord ended the record of His controversy with Israel.  We should understand in that period few understood God’s mercy and grace as well as His severity.  And I don’t think anyone understood His highest nature is that of Father.  They would never use that word.  Yet Moses, Elijah, and David were men who lived that experience.  Moses spoke to the Lord as a friend.  His was a close relationship.  Same with Elijah and David.  The psalms tell us that the Lord’s ways are lovingkindness and truth.  By the new birth, we come into a living relationship as a child and the normal spiritual life in Christ is to grow to full spiritual maturity.

These words are from the Spirit.  They are expressions of the truth in the Bible.  The apostles who wrote the gospels and the letters had close spiritual walks with the Lord.  He desires that for all of us.  The words that the Lord, in the still small voice would speak to us, are apples of gold.  If they do not line up with what’s written we should question them.  When something is called gold it is divine.  It’s from God.  It has His life in it.  It produces goodness, righteousness, in the one who hears and receives it.  It brings faith.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by a word of God.  And that is the rhema, the spoken, the uttered word of God.  This spoken word is spiritual, and it has at times been physically heard.

Apples and Earrings of Gold

Apples and Earrings of Gold

(Prov. 25:11, 12)

I continue to consider this thought.  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  We look to speak words that will edify, that will encourage, that bring life.  I don’t believe it is necessary to say but we ought not say everything that comes to mind.  When we find ourselves in an argument and the heat is rising, we often do best to simply shut up.  So often we add fuel to the fire.  We can destroy relationships and set wars in motion through words.  James warns us of this. See James 3:5 & 6.

On the other hand, words flowing from the Holy Spirit, can set hearts ablaze for Christ.  Jesus spoke words that brought life.  He also hid parts of His message to draw men to the truth.  I am thinking of the parables and how Jesus addressed those blind in self-righteousness.  That is the heart, the foundation of “religion”.  We think we can justify ourselves before God by some self-initiated behavior.  We revert to outward behavior.  We bring a “sacrifice” to God that He did not call for, or initiate.  To such people, Jesus spoke an indirect message in parables.  He also performed works beyond the natural realm.  Along with the miracles, He spoke the truth.  In this He was seen by many as a prophet.  He is that and so very much more than that.  He spoke words that were initiated by His Father.

His words flow perfectly in the Spirit.  And I write without presumption, but in faith, as led by the same Spirit.  If that sounds prideful, it is not.  It is in humility, and in obedience to what the Lord directly spoke to me and led me.  He has specifically called me to pray, and to write.  I have been listening to Him and sitting at His feet for 45 years.  And as many have been called to ministry, I too have been called and chosen to do what He directs me to do.  Be careful to stay in the place of listening.  We too easily slide off into side streams.  A brother recently said to me, “Stay in your lane.”  He delivered it as encouragement, and yet it has a corrective aspect.  Jesus Himself said He was sent to the lost sheep of the house (family) of Israel.  He stayed mostly within those specific boundaries.  He never went to Rome Himself.

We are all in different stages of relationship and true spiritual growth.  We need to give others room to grow.  If we are in a prayer meeting, and someone’s prayer is not as aligned as we are with His purposes, don’t always correct them.  Pray for their spiritual growth.  As you may have opportunity, encourage them in the truth.  We must be patient, forgiving.  Ultimately, we are not their Father.  Our Father sees them and knows them in a way we don’t, and never will.  I have been corrected sometimes rightly and sometimes not.  I have learned to ask the Lord about it so that I get the real message.  He is the only perfect teacher but we still learn from each other as well.

My words are expressions of the truth in the Bible.  When I speak to the Lord’s people, I only want to speak what is of and from, the Lord.  Will my words always be perfect?  Only One speaks the truth perfectly.  The apostles who wrote the gospels and the letters had close spiritual walks with the Lord.  He desires that for all of us.  The words that the Lord Himself, in that still (quiet) small voice, would speak to us are apples of gold.  If what we think does not line up with what’s written we should question those thoughts.  When something is called gold it is divine.  It’s from God.  It has His life in it.  It produces goodness, righteousness, in the one who hears and receives it.  It brings faith.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by a word of God.  And that is the rhema, the spoken, the uttered word of God.  This is spiritual speech, and it has at times been physically heard.  I am thinking of the very voice of God.

So the apples of gold are those words that are from God.  Jesus said I only speak the things that my Father speaks.  He spent much time in prayer, in communication with His Father.  He was perfectly in tune with His Father.  He would by His Spirit lead us into such a walk. The rest of that proverb refers to these words as set in silver.  That picture makes me think of a sculpture with golden apples and a border, a frame, of silver.  Or perhaps it’s like a ring, where in place of diamonds, we have golden apples.  The setting is pure silver.  It’s a beautiful picture.  Silver represents redemption.  The words of God that bring His life are framed with His redemption.

The Beauty and Value of a Timely Word

The Beauty and Value of a Timely Word

(Prov. 25:11)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  These words sank deeply into me many years ago.  Recently I recalled them with great appreciation.  I would say I relished them in my spirit.  My inner man is refreshed by the wisdom they impart.  So this word reflects on itself a glory from God as it speaks about words.  Consider the times you heard exactly what you needed to hear from Him.  Perhaps through a preacher, a teacher, a brother, sister, or even a stranger.  I know a song by David Brymer, and it begins, “Your words are spirit, Your words are life.”  See John 6:63.  He was singing of the words that are spoken to us by the Lord Jesus.

In the writings of the disciples and apostles, two Greek words are used for our English, “word”.  One is logos, and one is rhema.  That second word refers to more than information about something.  It is communicated person to person in relationship, a spoken word that one hears.  That is God’s intent, to communicate directly to each of us.  Jesus said, “Let him who has ears to hear, hear.”  We must be attentive and take that word in.  It is important.  In fact it is life, Jesus said.  He knew exactly what to say in every situation.  He only spoke what He heard the Father say.  I don’t believe this was robotic but I do believe it was directed.

Having said this, I warn us that not every thought we have is from the Lord.  A favorite bumper sticker I have seen reads, “Don’t believe everything you think.”  So true!  The logos, the logical, informational word of God which includes the Bible, the written word, is so important for our lives.  Jesus resisted the lying thoughts from the enemy by using words written by Moses and the prophets.  I think that creation also is a part of the logos we have from God.  The heavens declare the glory of God, the psalmist wrote.  Normal everyday responsibilities and the world around us can express God’s truth as well.

I sometimes have a thought to share but often I pause and listen in my spirit to the Lord, whether to proceed.  I may be overly cautious but it is far better to have our tongues submitted to the Spirit then just talk.  Recently, I read a discussion of verbal communication.  It said the actual words used were 7% of the message and that 55% was tonality.  Our attitude comes through facial expression, body language and our tone of voice.  Jesus, said that we speak out of the content of our hearts.  As we spend time with our Father, our Abba, our Daddy, we will live and speak by His Spirit.  In His presence we are transformed so that even our words will be His.  Twice in the prophets, the Lord says, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Is. 51:16, Jer. 1:9, also Is. 59:21)  Of Moses, it is written that he knew the Lord face-to-face and mouth to mouth.  Do not corrupt what is spiritual with an earthly thought.  The meaning concerning Moses is the same as with Isaiah and Jeremiah.  We are drawn to know the Lord intimately.  Go back and read all of John 6:63.

So as the Lord has put His words in us and they become our life, our walk, we can speak His words with authority.  As a pastor and brother, David Wagner, has said, “If you have a testimony of Jesus, you can prophesy.”  By prophesy, it simply means to speak God’s words.  It must be with authority or it will fall to the ground, that is have no effect on the listener.  We can learn to parrot what others speak but I have learned that we must digest the words Christ speaks to us.  That is meditation.  We process what the Lord speaks in the spirit of our mind.  That is where we are renewed and transformed.  Jesus spoke about us keeping His commands, His words.  Hold them fast, eat them.  Allow those words to become part of you and walk them out.  Live in obedience to them.  Let them light your way and direct your path.

By that process, the word will become flesh in and through you, and like the first-born Son, you will live and speak more as a son of your Father in heaven.  Jesus always spoke accurately and with authority.  He spoke the words that He knew from His Father.  So it will be with us who follow Him.  We seek to stay close, to abide, to be aligned and refined by His Spirit.  It is His desire also, and was His intent before you knew Him.  As you learn of Him, you too will speak apples of gold in settings of silver.

Sent From the Lord’s Table

Sent From the Lord’s Table

(Ps.127 & 128)

We are sent from a place of communion, of true spiritual fellowship, with the Lord.  The Lord will bring heavenly awareness and revelation of Himself according to the magnitude of our present calling.  Too many are in a hurry to “change the world”.  Mother Teresa is quoted as saying something like this.  “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”  Jesus did that for 30 years before He left Nazareth to fulfill the will of His Father in heaven.  My point in repeating that is that if we do not learn to love family, and in the process learn to love Him more, our love is not real.  We do not know what love really is.  True religion is to care for the orphan and the widow.  Begin with your own family so that no one is made an orphan or widow.  Or a widower for that matter.  We learn first in knowing His great love for us.  It takes focused time in His presence.

Read the referenced psalms.  It begins speaking of a city, and our focus is brought to the city that the Lord is building.  Men build cities, they make names for themselves.  (Gen. 11:4)  It will all come to nothing.  Confusion enters into all that men do without the Lord’s initiative.  This age and all of man’s construction will pass away.  Let us learn to edify one another by the Spirit, in love and honor toward the Lord, that His city may be built.  He is building an eternal dwelling, a heavenly city.  Only that city will remain.  And the Spirit cautions us in Psalm 127 not to do the watching over the city in our strength.  Don’t burn the wick, the candle that you are, from both ends.  No burnout!

This psalm is a song written by Solomon.  It is called a song of ascents.  We are on our way up, to a higher place, a place of the Lord’s perspective.  May we not be fearful of the heights trusting that He will be our guide.  He is the good shepherd, faithful and trustworthy, the One we must focus upon.  So, as with John’s revelation, the picture of the city, shifts to a family.  For John, he saw the bride, the wife of the Lamb.  Solomon writes of a family of children.  He is writing of natural children but more than this.  I hear of the Father’s spiritual children.

First consider natural children.  They never “belong” to us as parents.  We are responsible to nurture, to raise them, and then release them.  They are the Lord’s inheritance.  They are like arrows in the hand of warrior.  Happy is the one whose quiver is full of them.  The Lord and all the host of heaven rejoice when new ones are born of the Spirit.  And godly parents rejoice with the little ones around their table.  If they are wise spiritually they will raise them to honor God and respect all authority.  Yet they will teach them, by example, to recognize usurped, corrupt authority and to resist all darkness.

The Spirit speaks to me concerning the preparation of the arrows for flight.  The shaft is made straight and polished.  The feathers must be placed carefully so that the flight will be true to its target.  Then a sharp and balanced arrowhead must be set.  After all that, the arrow is placed in a quiver to be withdrawn at the right time.  Do you hear the Spirit speaking of a full preparation?  We are not to be in a rush.  He, the Lord of the harvest, the Lord of the battle, knows when to set you in His bow.  Wise, godly parents know when to release their children into the Lord’s direct parenting.  Children are under our care and nurturing for a time.  Then we should encourage them to move out knowing the voice of the One who is the Good Shepherd to each of us.

A final thought from Ps. 128:3.  Our heavenly Father has many children like olive plants around His table.  So may it be in our families and fellowships.  True fruitfulness in every area of our lives will result as we sit at the table together.  In my Spirit, I have seen a progressive picture of seats at the Lord’s table.  First, as I was taking the seat He had prepared for me, I saw empty seats and heard our Father’s desire that they be filled.  See Eph. 2:6, and Ps. 23:5.  He looks for all men to come and know Him where He sits is in the heavenly realm.  At a later time I saw a table with many seated around.  The table grew to allow for many to come and then I was aware of many interconnected tables which I understood were the many prayer fellowships around the globe.  The Lord is rapidly expanding a global, interconnected house of prayer!

The Lord is calling and many are responding.  Many more are still on their way.  They will be like olive plants, filled with His Spirit to overflowing.  They carry His life wherever they go.  They will be like arrows in His quiver, straightened and fitted for Him to shoot as He chooses.  Know that His working and preparation continue as the olives are pressed so that the oil will flow.  He who began a good work in us together will complete until His glorious day.  See Phil. 1:6.

The Darkness and Light Are the Same to Him

The Darkness and Light Are the Same to Him

(Ps. 139:11 & 12)

The entire Psalm referenced is wonderful.  The Lord’s eye is on us from the “darkness” of the womb until our final earthly breath.  Will we acknowledge His love and care and stop trying to fix our lives?  Will we live in fear or allow the perfect love of a heavenly Father to embrace us?  We must be knowing Him closely as our heavenly Father.  The prayer Jesus taught the disciples begins “our Father”.  I think it should be called the “Disciple’s Prayer.”  The title “The Lord’s Prayer” should be applied to John 17.  Just a perspective to consider.

Are you afraid of the dark?  Spiritual darkness is real and can be intimidating and foreboding.  Think of Israel and Goliath.  As we grow in our relationship with our Father, as David did, we find we are encouraged to defeat enemies.  In David’s mind the outcome with Goliath was certain.  This was not because David was strong in His own strength, or being the tough guy.  No, it was because David had the learned the Lord’s strength in himself when he saved his father’s sheep from a bear and a lion.  He knew that the arrogant, defiant spirit manifesting through this enemy of God’s people could not survive.  And the Lord showed His people, His nation, that His deliverance comes from an unexpected source.  He chooses the weak things to confound the wise.  The Lord had chosen David for that hour.

I know of believers who have faced overt manifestations of darkness.  Some of this seems strange and weird to the Western, sophisticated mind.  Demons, principalities, and powers, are real.  See Ephesians 6:10-20.  While many enter into spiritual warfare, do we really know what are weapons are?  We may understand the armor but the actual waging of war is summarized in verses 18-20.  Praying in the Spirit for all the saints (believers) and for utterance to be given to ambassadors of the mystery of the gospel to speak boldly.  I have prayed loudly, and quietly, but if we are not praying according to the will of God as being revealed by the Spirit, it is empty noise.  Don’t be discouraged by those words.  All of us can learn to pray.  It does take time; time in His presence, learning to be aligned with His Spirit.

Some of us have grown up in more evidently dark, spiritual atmospheres.  Witchcraft takes different forms in different earthly cultures but the results are the same.  In the West, the darkness has come via a denial of spiritual reality.  The gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God has been has been diluted, corrupted resisted, and ignored.  And the patience of God has waited (1 Peter 3:20).  What time is it on the Lord’s clock, we might say?  As it was in the days of Noah, Jesus said.  A day will come when all will be exposed, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And all the dark will be blown away forever.  I do hope for and look for that.

As we do look toward His coming, we resist darkness now.  Do not be afraid to be sent into dark places.  If He sends you, He will go before and behind you.  David was prepared in an obscure place.  Moses had his 40 years in the desert.  Israel had 40 years in the wilderness to lose its unbelief.  They (the young ones) learned to know the Lord as their source, their strength, their provision.  They learned they could trust Him and were led by His voice.  And His glorious Son, Jesus, was prepared for 30 years as part of a family.  He knew His Father from the womb.  If anyone knew what it was to be sent from the light of the presence of God into darkness, Jesus Christ knew that.  He came to a world lost in darkness.  The Greeks had been overcome by the Romans and their Republic was slipping into deep darkness, licentiousness, and depravity.  Yet the Lord sent His Son in divine wisdom and strength to destroy the works of the adversary, the kingdom of darkness.  He destroyed him who had the power of death, even the devil.  Do not fear the valley of the shadow of death, that dark place, for He is there with you.  The darkness and light are the same for Him.  He is light and the darkness cannot stand against it.

Paul’s Journey to Rome

Paul’s Journey to Rome

(Acts 22 & 23 and 27 & 28)

Paul was chosen, and captured by the Lord, (Eph. 4:1), to be His carrier of the Gospel to the Gentiles.  He was not alone in such a calling.  As an example, we understand that Thomas, one of the twelve, went to India.  We know well of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  As we read the book of Acts, we see Paul’s progression, and notice how many times he tells his story which is a testimony of Jesus Christ.  I learned early in my walk with the Lord to do just that.  The content and extent of my story will change depending on my audience.  I encourage you to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and alert to your hearer’s spiritual location.  We learn to have our words seasoned with grace.

Paul had been warned by the Lord (Acts 22:18) that those in Jerusalem would not receive his testimony, and that the Lord would send him to the Gentiles, to non-Jewish people.  We read in Acts 21:10-14 that Paul was nevertheless constrained in his heart to go back to Jerusalem.  A prophet, Agabus, displayed what would happen and the people were distressed but Paul was not to be dissuaded.  The words, “The will of the Lord be done,” resound clearly.  Paul, Luke, and others went to Jerusalem and we find Paul in the center of another uproar.  The Lord prepared him to remain steadfast and composed in such situations.  Paul saw the stormy scene as an opportunity for his story.  He seized it.  May we be ready in season and out of season.  The Lord is our rock also.  Not many among us speak to crowds but each of us is a vessel to be filled and poured out as the Spirit directs.

So Paul spoke and when the crowd reacted, the Roman authorities took him aside and questioned him.  It is interesting how Paul used his wits and was spared a scourging when he declared his Roman citizenship.  A place exists for us to use our heads to avoid trouble, even pain.  As the clamor rose and Paul was threatened, the Roman guards pulled Paul to safety.  The message had been delivered.  The Lord gave those in Jerusalem another opportunity to repent and turn to the Lord.  Perhaps they did later but at that moment the Roman guards (they were equivalent to today’s police) saw the danger and pulled him aside.  Paul was placed in jail for safety.  My focus of this writing is Acts 23:11.  As Paul has been saved from a band of false Jews (Rev. 2:9, 3:9) led by Ananias, the high priest, Jesus comes to him.  The Lord tells him to be of good cheer and that he will tell his story and bear witness for the Lord in Rome.

The rest of the story is quite amazing as the Lord protects Paul through his nephew hearing of a plot against him.  Read in Acts 23:23, what level of earthly protection was afforded Paul.  His Roman citizenship was a means used by the Lord to bring him to Rome.  Bear in mind all the opposition and physical trouble Paul has already been through.  But the Lord stood by him, coming to him at night.  Many are the afflictions, the troubles, of those who are bond-servants of the Lord, but the Lord will come to you, stand by you, and speak to you.  Paul does not wait to land in Rome, he takes opportunity before regional, Roman appointed leaders to speak of Jesus Christ.  In the middle of it, he appeals to Caesar, and the earthly rulers declare it, “To Caesar you shall go!”  Yet that was the very purpose of the Lord in Paul’s life.  Paul knew he was in the right place because the Lord was directing his life, and the Lord had spoken directly to him.

I was impressed to write this as I thought about Paul’s shipwreck.  On the way to Rome, at the expense of the Roman treasury (all expenses paid, the Lord will provide), Paul endured another severe hardship.  He had warned the ship’s leaders not to sail as he had wisdom concerning the time of year and weather.  They did not listen to him and he later reminded them of the warning.  It seems that we, as disciples of the Lord, think that every storm will see us stand, rebuke the storm, and we will be at our destination.  To be sure, the Lord does do that.  But not in every situation.  In this case, the Lord was giving a lesson to all concerned.  On the ship, in the middle of a horrendous storm, Paul prayed for himself that God’s purpose in his life would be done.  The Lord, by an angel, had assured Paul that he would speak before Caesar.  And all were with Paul were spared and saw the goodness of God in their lives.  As we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, it will be the same for each of us.  He will fulfill His purpose in our lives.  No purpose of His can be thwarted.

Everything That Can Be Shaken, The Revealing of Christ

Everything That Can Be Shaken, The Revealing of Christ

(Hebrews 12:25-28)

The writer of Hebrews clearly expresses that everything that is seen comes from a realm that we do not see with our natural vision.  That’s a lot of words to say what we must recognize.  No one sees God fully and directly in this life.  I use the word fully very purposefully.  Many of us, by the Holy Spirit, have had a revealing of God to our spirits, to our inner man.  This is what the new birth, being born of the Spirit of God is about.  We know Him.  It comes by faith, because of the words spoken by others. (John 17:20)  Some have had open visions of the Lord Himself.  Peter, James, and John saw Him in a glorious way on the mountain.  (Matt. 17:1-9, 2 Peter 1:16-18) John experienced that at a higher level on Patmos when a more glorious revealing came that caused him to fall down.  At that time, Jesus Himself had been fully glorified and restored to the heaven.  In our day, stories of dreams and visions of Jesus Christ Himself abound and are increasing.  It seems He reveals Himself to the extent that is required.  We could say that it is according to the purpose and calling in a man or woman’s life.

I think His revealing carries more than the thought of purpose and calling.  He reveals Himself to the ones He loves; the ones who love His appearing, His presence.  Francis Frangipane shared a wonderful teaching on Jesus revealing Himself to Mary Magdalene.  Jesus had cast 7 demons from her.  The one who is delivered from much, loves much.  She had gone to the tomb and found it empty.  Peter and John had gone away but she remained weeping.  At first she did not know it was Him, but when Jesus called her by name, she recognized Him.  So she is the first to see Jesus Christ raised from the dead.  While calling and purpose are always part of the Lord’s work in us, here with Mary, we see it is all about love.  She loved Jesus and Jesus loved her.  Only John records these details but no surprise for he is the disciple that deeply knew Jesus love.

When Jesus appears, when angels show up, when the reality of the kingdom of God hits us, we are shaken.  People trembled.  The Lord says He looks to this one who is humble, of a contrite spirit, and trembles at His word.  As we read in the reference from Hebrews, he speaks and says, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth but also heaven.”  And the writer says, this indicates the removal of things that are made.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will never pass away.  Everything will be shaken.  We must be aware that this includes the natural earth.  A new heaven and a new earth are on the horizon.  It will be totally new, a spiritual new creation in which righteousness dwells.  It will be incorruptible.  For that to be, the old must be removed.

Jesus spoke of earthquakes and famines and other trouble that would come upon the earth.  So it has happened and continues.  We read of a man, Agabus, who was a prophet and revealed by the Spirit that a great famine was coming to the world (Acts 11:28).  That phrase, by the Spirit, is so important.  Through history, some believers have made predictions, declarations, started projects, or built churches, and God was not in it.  Such things fail, they collapse and the fall of such a house is great and devastating for those who were drawn into it.  Agabus and the ones who came together at Antioch were truly led by the Spirit.  His words were accepted to the extent that they gathered resources and sent relief to the believers in Jerusalem.  A practical response followed the expectation of trouble.  The Lord warned and they responded with preparation.

In Matthew 24, Jesus plainly explained that great trouble would precede the end of this age.  He said many would be indifferent, and in violent opposition to the truth.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be.  Noah was led by the Lord to prepare.  Today we are hearing of coming earthquakes.  After hearing this myself, two earthquakes on consecutive days registered in California.  A sister shared that 34 minutes after one occurred, the shock was felt on the east coast.  Some shakings are with purpose as idols, the work of men’s hands, the products of our pride, are brought down.  Do we mourn their loss?  Will any of those wonders of our hands be brought into glory?  The Lord’s works are greater.  Our response to human opposition must be in love.  Prepare as we are led by the Spirit and be ready to help in practical ways.  Jesus included earthquakes as well as famines when He spoke of the days coming.  The Lord will shake until His great and terrible day when the heavens will pass away with a great noise.  And Jesus Christ will be fully revealed to all.

The Bridegroom and His Bride

The Bridegroom and His Bride

(Psalm 45, Rev. 21:9, Eph. 5:22-33)

The Lord has caused us to know that the church is His bride.  In the reference to Revelation, John was specifically told, “Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  She is not the wife of the lion, but the wife of the Lamb.  The Lamb is the One who lays down His life for the sheep.  This is the One to whom we are joined by the Spirit.  This is the One we are made one with.  Marriage is the ultimate earthly picture of our unity with the Lord.  Following that verse in Revelation, John sees a city.  Purposefully, the Spirit changes the picture as He does frequently throughout John’s experience.  Recognize that we are His dwelling place, we are His city built as living stones upon the foundation of the apostles.

All this is expressed as we read through the entire chapter in Revelation.  Yet I am again focused on His people as His bride.  Recently, our Sunday morning gathering was opened with a brother reading Ps. 45.  I recalled much that had been opened to me years before.  The publisher’s/translators’ heading of the Psalm reads, “The Glories of the Messiah and His Bride.”  That is Jesus Christ and us, as we follow the Lamb wherever He leads us.  Do you find yourself in a tough, perhaps impossible, situation?  Has the Lord led you there?  Or do you find you have wandered off?  The Lord Himself is after something.  He wants all of us.  When we say we commit our lives to Him, heaven rejoices.  At times, many times, it is for us to consider it joy that He is refining us to be members of His bride, fit for a heavenly joining with Him.

The passage of verse 10-15, has always been precious to me.  That beauty is refreshed now.  The daughter is addressed and told to listen carefully.  She is called to leave her people and her father’s house.  I think of Abraham.  “When he was one I called him,” the Lord said.  The Lord made of him a great nation and all the nations have been blessed through his seed, Christ Jesus. Consider Rebekah.  Abraham’s servant was sent to relatives to call and bring another out from her father’s house.  She heard of Isaac and she left all to meet her bridegroom.  And Ruth left her Moabite people to go with Naomi to another people, the Lord’s own.  And there, Boaz takes her as wife.  The Lord’s purpose goes forward through Ruth’s loving obedience.

It is the same for us.  Jesus said to his disciples that the one who loves father and mother more than Him is not worthy of Him.  We must leave people, places, things behind to follow Him.  This never means neglect of family responsibility.  This often requires wisdom and a seeking the Lord for His thought on the specifics.  It often requires an increase of our faith.  We get stretched.  I love how the writer expresses the thought that she is all glorious within.  In verse 13, translators have added the words “the palace”.  I think they missed the meaning.  Within her, in in inner self, she is all glorious.  As she leaves her earthly attachments to know the Living God, her spirit glows with His life. So we let it shine out.  Don’t hide your light, Jesus said.  It is so very simple.  The psalmist continues, her robes are gold and of many colors.  It sounds like some of what John saw in Revelation.  He saw this at the throne.  See verse 9.  The queen, His bride is standing at His right hand.  As we follow Him, we know, we experience that we are seated with Him in the heavens.

As I write, this, I am aware of the distance I still must go in overcoming every trace of my flesh.  Those things that distract and trip me up; that reveal my fallen humanity.  As His bride, we wash our robes in the blood of the Lamb.  It’s wonderful to hear the Lord Jesus say, as He did to Peter, “You are clean by the word that I have spoken to you.”  He was washing Peter’s feet and that man wanted to be sure he was completely clean.  Jesus, the perfect servant, does the same for each of us as we follow Him.

The Church Which Is His Body

The Church Which Is His Body

(1Cor. 12:27, Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 1:24)

The Lord has given various pictures of the church through the scriptures, the Bible, and by parallel understanding by the Spirit,.  By church, I mean the ecclesia, the called out people who are gathered to God through Christ.  To be part of this gathering necessarily includes an individual hearing of the call of God and our response.  When Abraham was one I called him, says the Lord.  And Abraham went out not knowing where he was going.  The journey was not a straight line.  The Lord led him and through his single son, Isaac, he made of Abraham a great nation.  Do you hear the foreshadow of Christ Jesus and us, His nation of kings and priests?

One of those pictures given us is the church as the body of Christ.  While we refer to it as a picture it is an awesome reality.  Of God are we in Christ.  He Himself has done this, joined us by His Spirit to Christ.  Having been born of heaven, we are one Spirit with Him now.  Our souls are being saved.  We are being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We are growing together to be that body that God purposed from before the foundation of the world, of the cosmos.  As we increase in our spiritual life, we experience that His body is not a mere concept but a reality of our lives.  We relate to one another as we pass through much trouble in this life to enter the kingdom.  We enter into experience of the flow of life, that which every joint of His body supplies.

Paul addresses this in different ways.  Consider the Corinthians, with whom he dealt sharply yet graciously.  He compared their “giftings” as parts of a body, teaching them to honor every part, allowing room for each to express itself. (1 Cor. 12 & 13)  Yet all was to be done in love, true love, which never seek its own status.  To the Ephesians, he acknowledges the flow of life as speaking the truth in love.  (Eph. 4: 15-16) In the first reference below the title of this message, Paul plainly writes, “You are the body of Christ, and each members of it.”  That is an amazing statement.  He does not say you should merely think of yourselves as members of Christ’s body.  Now pondering this and meditating on this is important, very much so.  That is the beginning of it becoming part of us.  But consider that this is more than an idea.  It is a fact greater than the earth upon which we stand.

By His Spirit, as faith works in us who believe, God’s intention becomes our reality, our walk.  We do His will spontaneously without trying.  The Spirit carries us if you will.  Our intention is important but only as it lines up with His intention.  John wrote in his gospel and then his letters thoughts such as these.  “If we say He abides in us, we ought to walk even as He walked.”  (1 John 2:6, my paraphrase)  And when he wrote of the Lord, he said, “The Word (Christ) became flesh and dwelt among us.”  As we receive, meditate, and spiritually digest the Word which He is, that same transaction occurs in us.  The result is we walk as He walked, yet imperfectly.

Don’t let your imperfections, your failures, your sins, discourage you and take you out.  You are a member of Him if you have believed and received Him.  Don’t be lured from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3)  By this I mean that His death and resurrection are enough for sins to be washed away; that means gone!  And enough for you to walk in resurrected, brand new creation life.  If your own heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart.  (1 John 3:20-21)  The Lord by His blood washes away the condemnation and we have confidence toward God so we can move and cooperate with Him.  Let His spirit encourage you after every failure as you turn to Him.  That is repentance.  Read again how Jesus met Peter on the beach after Peter’s denials at the crucifixion.  Peter’s experience of failure broke his self-reliance.  I have known this sort of experience many times.  In a way I have known this daily.  I began to understand that we can live at the Lord’s table.  That may make us think of communion.  The Lord Jesus, and Paul, specifically told us to take bread and wine to remember Jesus Christ.

This is important and I understand many who follow the Lord are doing this daily.  I have mentioned before a pastor, Thom Gardner, who has written concerning our family relationships that we come to the table without our personal agenda.  This thought applies to our relationship with the Lord also.  I heard a message here in Frederick, MD which focused on Mephibosheth.  He was a relative of Saul, who had sought to kill David.  Mephibosheth had been injured as a child and was lame ever since.  David, to honor his friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, and Saul’s family, sought out Mephibosheth.  That lame man was brought to David’s table and lived out his days in the house of the King.  Such is the love of our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus has called us into fellowship with Himself and with our Father.  This is eternal life.  By His Spirit we have been made members of His body.  As we grow in this reality, His very life flows through us.  In this His body is strengthened and grows into that mature man.  Yes, as we have many pictures, that new man is also displayed as the bride of Christ.  May we grow in the understanding that we are His being matured into one new man that will be the bride that satisfies the bridegroom.  As Eve was drawn from Adam’s side, the bride was drawn from His, and now grows, as the Lord adds to her members, and we together we become the one He waits for.  This is a mystery as Paul wrote but it is now revealed in us, Christ, the hope of glory.