(! John 2:18,22; 4:3, 2 John 1:7, Matt. 24:24, Mark 13:22)

I have written before about John.  Our understanding is that he was the only one of the 12 who knew Jesus in the flesh and died a natural death.  Of course he also knew Jesus after the Spirit.  The revelation on Patmos was primarily a revealing of Christ Jesus in His glory.  I have written before that the vision changed John forever.  He saw the glory of God to a greater measure than, perhaps, any other person in human history.  And he fell down as dead.

He wrote the epistles, the letters I prefer to call them, after that experience.  He saw the glory of God as perhaps no one else has seen it while in the earth.  I have mentioned before that I understand John’s use of the phrase, “it is the last hour,” follows the intense revelation of eternal reality he received.  Having seen Christ in His glory, he could more easily recognize the false ideas and personalities among the Lord’s own.  So he wrote and is the only one to use the particular Greek word translated as antichrist.  While antichrist is a spirit, it manifests in people.  This includes those who want to have the preeminence. (See 3 John 9-10).  We have seen time and again in history the Lord move by His Spirit, and men look for their personal gain, whether it be fame, the praise of men, or power.

So, John, warns us to turn away from idols and the love of this world.  Let us call the world this present evil age.  Don’t hold on to anything here for it is all passing away. If we idolize anyone, no matter how wonderful they may seem, we create an atmosphere for vain expectations.  And we can be led astray.  Do I need to mention Jim Jones, or David Koresh?  These were extreme examples of cult leaders who led people to destruction.  Among the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were those of the same spirit.  Their identity as leaders of God’s people had become dead, empty, and distorted to the point where Jesus called them sons of the devil.  I think our present use of classifying actions among the Lord’s people as witchcraft is over-stated.  Some of it is simply personally disrespectful.  That is not to be unaware of actual witchcraft and betrayals. Each of us needs to be watchful not to slip into a rebellious place because the Lord says it is like witchcraft.  This happens all too easily as we want to see control over others.

When we put anyone on a pedestal we move toward that dangerous ground.  I have seen it when a gifted person is idolized and allows himself to get too high.  He will have a fall and immorality or some other character weakness is exposed.  Typically such a person has built a ministry and people have come together and lose themselves into that thing and the Lord intervenes.  People often have to leave to grow.  Other separations happen. At other times, separations happen when those who have received a revelation by the Spirit are forced out.  For them it becomes a birthing into the next chapter that God has foreordained.

May we see that we as the Lord’s people today cannot go back or recreate some better day.  The church that grew in the first century dealt with the same types of issues we deal with today.  I will clarify that I am not suggesting that every person who gets too high in “ministry” and falls is an antichrist.  A continuing revelation of the glory of Christ Jesus is the antidote to thinking of ourselves too highly.  There we will know the love of Christ that draws us and separates us to our Father.  The church is the place of gathering together to Him.  Our response is to say yes to an encounter with Christ.  As we move to greater experience of that, room for preeminence of any individual diminishes.  Here we find trouble as John addressed in 3 John.  Yet John was not all worked up but simply said he would remind the offender of what he had done.

Antichrists have circulated through the earth for 2000 years.  Today, we might say that counterfeits abound.  The Lord cautioned the disciples that false christs and false prophets would arise.  Carefully hear that Jesus says they will show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect, or chosen ones.  The call to come to Jesus and to the Father through Him goes out into all the earth.  The gospel of the kingdom is being preached and extending into every corner.  Jesus said many are called but few are chosen.  It is the truth that creates in us a right fear, not to be stuck in an emotion of fear, but to create a focus and spirit of worship.  The chosen ones cannot be deceived because they have heard His voice and another, a false one, they will not follow.  Simply say yes to the Lord and maintain the love of the truth.  He is well able to keep you. Read Psalm 91.

A Man of Sorrows

A Man of Sorrows

(Isaiah 53:1-6, Luke 12:49-59, 1 Cor. 11:18-19, Phil. 3:10)

We have just passed through the time of year where we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.  And many of us are familiar with the passage from Isaiah.  I often think of Jesus going through life with the increasing awareness of His destiny.  He learned obedience by the things He suffered, by all the experiences of His time here in mortal flesh.  As I read those words of the prophet, recorded for us, the words of vs. 3 and 4 struck me.  He is despised and rejected and a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  It is present tense.  He is still rejected and despised by many.  And many still hide their faces and do not want to know a suffering savior.

Before we go on, I would remind us of His joy.  Jesus was going to the cross to know again the glory He had with our Father before the world was.  Wow.  For the joy set before Him, He endured immeasurable pain and demonic and hellish horror.  The joy was to be released to His Father and to have us with Him, one with Him in Spirit.  And He wanted our joy to be full.  All this He prayed as recorded in John 17.  When we receive Him, He rejoices with all heaven.  For years when I heard, the joy of the Lord is my strength, I thought it meant my joy toward Him.  As years went on, I realized it is His joy over me that gives me strength.  He rejoices over us with singing.  Isn’t that amazing?  He is glad when we know Him as Father and come to Him..

Life here in this present evil age is not all joyful.  We have trouble.  We suffer loss.  We allow abuse as we grow in love.  The full evidence that we belong to our Father is that we love our enemies, that we bless those who use and abuse us.  The Lord will not allow it forever.  He does bring release from the situations that oppress.  Back to vs. 3 and 4.  Some considered Jesus’ crucifixion as a judgement of God on Him.  It makes me think of Job’s friends. Those who were supposed to be Jesus’ own people hated Him and wanted Him out of the way.  Yet God gave Him the twelve and the women who traveled with them.  They were friends but none really understood.  He knew loneliness and so would slip away to commune with His Father.  He knew where He was going and had the strength of spirit to press through to the end.

We rightly follow acts of faith and obedience including baptism.  Without belaboring our understanding, it is about immersion and we ought to comprehend it signifies our death and resurrection.  And Christ alone baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Consider Jesus own final baptism.  I refer to the passage in Luke.  He first mentions that He sends fire on the earth.  Then He mentions this baptism He has before Him and He is distressed till it is accomplished.  In the words of the old King James, He says, “How I am straightened till it is accomplished”.  How he is pressed in, even narrowed, to fulfill His calling, the purpose for which He was sent.  He knew the time of His cross was drawing nearer.  As the son of man, He overflowed with the life of the Holy Spirit.  And it was by the strength of that Spirit, He went through and endured the cross.

So Isaiah spoke that He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.  He appeared to be suffering and distressed, and He was!  Only He understood what was happening as He walked on in perfect union with our Father.  As we are misunderstood, as we see ourselves walking a separated life that even family members do not understand, we begin to share in His suffering.  And as Jesus says in the passage from Luke the fire upon the earth brings divisions.  So Paul writes to the Corinthians and addresses the divisions among them so that those who are approved may be evident.  In 1 Cor, 11:19, the word translated as factions is actually heresies.  Hear this, Paul does not say factions should exist, but they do.  He says heresies exist.  The approval of God is with those who hold the truth while heresies exist.  Heresy simply means what is false.  The church has false teaching because we hold to our own understandings.  I, with the Spirit, plead that we drop our own understandings and traditions and cleave to all the truth which is in Christ.  Agree with the Father and the Son, by the Spirit, who is the anointing of wisdom and understanding.  That is the stream of life which is ever flowing and will flow out of every one who truly believes and trusts in the uniquely born Son of God.  May we grow into the truth which is in Christ alone.

The Lord Is Light

The Lord Is Light

(2 Peter 1:19, Prov. 20:27, Rev. 22:5, Matt. 7:23)

When Peter, James, and John went with Jesus up on the mountain, they saw Him in heavenly glory.  It is written He was transfigured.  They heard our Father say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  They saw and heard.  Those three were obedient to not speak of this until much later.  After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, Peter mentions it in his letter.  He goes on to say we should pay attention to this word directly from God concerning His Son.  It is like a light shining in a dark place.  True prophecy brings light, it exposes and the darkness cannot remain.

Peter goes on to encourage us that as we give the light, and God’s words, place in our hearts, the morning star will rise as the day dawns within us.  As I read this, I thought about our desire to see awakening.  It is always happening, whether or not we are seeing it in dramatic unfolding.  Do we want to see it so?  Yes we do.  But that very attitude can set us up to miss it.  How many times Jesus healed someone and said don’t broadcast it.  We can’t help ourselves.  Humanity wants every good thing that God can give but on our terms.  Haven’t we heard that many want the gift but are not much interested in intimate knowledge of the Giver?  The light comes and men love their darkness and turn away.

Years ago, a friend put some words from Proverbs to music.  Songs will stick with you.  Singing scripture is very productive for spiritual growth.  The words of his song.  “The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord searching the inward parts.  It takes a man of great understanding, it takes a God of compassion and grace, to draw out the thoughts in the heart of a man and lift them to a higher place.”  These words echo Peter’s.  We do well to allow the Lord to light up every dark corner of our hearts.  We may feel some pain in exposure.  I have known the bitterness of wanting to love and follow the Lord and find my own self-love in the way.  It is all part of the process of cleaning out the old and softening the wineskin we are to hold fresh wine.

The riches of the Spirit of God are boundless.  The pictures He gives to bring understanding are beautiful.  As we behold Him our minds, the very spirit of our minds, are renewed and we are changed.  Be aware of His work in you.  Pray for His searching, and knowing of you.  I am so grateful to have been directed into His narrow way, early in my walk.  It may seem restrictive at the start, but it brings us to great liberty.  It is like childbirth.  If we do not fight the contractions but go with them, allowing the pain, we can know the sweetness of seeing new life.

Beware of being caught up in your successes.  It remains a mystery that some could do works of faith, in His name, only to hear at the end, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”  They never allowed the intimacy that probed the motives of their heart.  We may know Him in measure, have tasted of the goodness of God, received some blessing, a healing, something we knew was from God but stopped going on to know Him more.  Consider the questions He would ask those close to Him.  Our response makes the difference and will be reflected in our eternal destiny.  It will affect our destiny in this life also but much more important it will impact where we stand at the finish line.  Be encouraged as Jesus will be with us every step of the way.  His words and presence light the path.

Living and Precious Stones

Living and Precious Stones

(1 Peter 2:4-7, Rev. 21:10-21, Mal. 3:16-18, 1 Cor. 3:9-15)

Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of the city of God.  All that God builds, that city made without hands, rests upon Christ.  As His people we learn to build His way cooperating with His Spirit.  If we build apart from Him, it will come to nothing.  All our building will be tested by fire and only what is genuine will remain.  If we read through the references above we see a beautiful pattern.  The word precious is repeated several times.  As we would follow Jude’s exhortation to keep ourselves in the love of God, we would more and more know how valued we are by our Father.

I often consider John, the one whom Jesus loved.  Jesus’ love for him was multi-faceted.  To Jesus, John is a friend, he is family, and he is one that Jesus redeemed by laying down His life.  I think it evident, even obvious, that John wrote his gospel and 3 letters after the visions on Patmos.  They are on another plane from all the other writings of the new covenant.  That is not to diminish the others which are valuable in their own right.  John fell as a dead man at the revealing of the glory of Jesus Christ.  And then was led from revelation to revelation by heavenly messengers.  He lived to write to the churches, and, as many understand, left Patmos to end his days in Ephesus.  He wrote that perfect love casts out fear.  His fear of the glory of God, expressed by his falling down as dead, was displaced.  He saw the Lamb open the scroll and heard all that was spoken.  And he lived to exhort us to love as the Lamb has loved us.

As John walked through his own life, the Lord brought him from glory to glory.  As Christ is, so are we in this world.  John could write that because he knew it.  It is the same for us.  Every working of the Spirit in our lives refines us to shine brighter and brighter until that perfect day.  As we speak with one another about circumstances and situations, let it be with grace with a view to redemption.  The Lord hears and considers it precious.  (Malachi 3)  We share in His sufferings when we see the despair, the wounded, the hungry, the poor in spirit.  We want them to know that Jesus wants to give them a drink, even His Spirit.  When we see the failures of brothers and sisters and are grieved and bring it before Him, He counts it precious.  When we take our place on the wall as we say, and stand in the gap, it is precious to Him.

Yet, He is bringing us to something higher in our experience.  In his vision John saw the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, coming down from the presence of God.  That city carries His presence.  John loved the earthly city but that city could not fulfill the purpose God had.  The heavenly city is built by God along with those who learn to build with Him.  Those are the apostles and in addition to being  builders they are foundation stones themselves.  John saw himself as a foundation stone of this city whose builder and maker is God.  While we may see ourselves as watchmen, the Lord would refine us and place us upon the foundation and the backs of others who have gone before us to be precious stones in the wall of His city.  To become such a precious stone is of more value than much doing.  The doing matters to be sure but who we become is the ultimate intention of our Father.

His desire, His predestined purpose, is to have many sons like the first-born Son.  He is bringing many sons to glory.  As we move on in this life, He will bring us through the fire.  Every testing is like the refiner of gold or silver, or the one who polishes and cuts the diamond.  Notice how John describes the city walls.  Upon the 12 foundation stones are 12 courses, 12 layers, of precious stones.  They differ in color and name but all are jewels, transparent so that the glory of the Lamb shines through them.  This is our calling, to shine.  So let your light shine.  No effort of ourselves can assist that shining.  The flesh, our self-love, hinders.  My frequent cry has been for the Lord to purge out all that hinders that shining.  Those are the things that offend that Jesus says will be removed.  We are built together and refined in His presence.  Abide, stay, in that place.

As we submit and cooperate with that process throughout our lives, the fire at the last day will not have much to consume.  So let us submit to every working, every discipline of the Spirit that we might be that bride He waits for and desires.  I am my beloved’s, the Shulamite says, and His desire is for me.  May the Lord bring us to that awareness.

The Eternal Covenant

The Eternal Covenant

(Ps. 25:14, Heb. 9:15-18, Heb. 13:20, Luke 22:20, Mal. 2:10, Gal. 3:15)

The word covenant appears 293 times in the NKJV of the Bible.  We can study all of the covenants and we can learn about the significance of them all but only one is eternal,  It is unchanging.  I was amazed at how many references to that word covenant appear in the law and the prophets.  Yes, I am referring to what we call the Old Testament.  The word testament is interchangeable with the word covenant.  You may already know that.  All of those mentions were pointing to the new covenant which Jesus said is in His blood.

In Galatians 3:15, Paul draws a reference to covenants made by men.  Since time began, men have understood the idea of law and agreements between men.  We all know of covenants broken.  This includes marriages but I do not want to digress.  Paul mentions that those covenants among men are effective when confirmed.  I have heard many refer to a covenant made by the first president of the United States.  I ask a question.  What authority did he have and how does it apply today?  I think we make too much of the covenants made by men especially in light of the greatest and only unchangeable covenant, the one sealed in the blood of the Lamb of God.  That is not to say covenants among and between men are unimportant.  Rather that being based on human beings they are subject to failure.

As was the covenant God made with Abraham, God initiated and God fulfilled all the terms of the new covenant in the blood of Christ.  When men make covenants they are weak.  So we see today with earthly governments and all sorts of legal agreements.  Isn’t that what was shown and written by Daniel?  The feet of iron and clay are weak and the smashing of them with a rod of iron is in progress today.  (See Rev. 2:26-27)  Such takes place in the secret place before the throne of God.  Such are not public prayers.  They cannot be.  Earthly governments will fail.  Knowledge will increase as in medicine and sciences and our best efforts at governing.  They will bring some temporary benefit to man as will earthly governments but they will all pass away.

God made a covenant with Israel and it failed as God wanted to show mankind that we needed Him to save us, even save us from ourselves.  The writer to the Hebrews makes it plain.  The old has expired or is near to passing away.  I think the former is closer to the truth.  Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that their house was left to them desolate.  I think that was His final word to them that that house could not bring forth life.  A very mature man expressed the life of Christ in this, that in the blood of Christ is the power of an endless life.  The Spirit ministers that to our spirits, souls, and bodies when we remember the Lord in communion.  We drink the cup He offers even today.  Drink of that cup which brings righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Baptism in the Spirit

Baptism in the Spirit

(Luke 7:28, Luke 3:16, Ezek. 47:1-12)

John the Baptist is the greatest among the prophets. I can write this because Jesus Himself said it.  Jesus said he is the greatest of men born of a woman.  He did not stop there but continued saying that the least in the kingdom of God, the person in the lowest place before God, is greater than John.  John pointed those of his day, those of Israel and those living in the land, to Jesus, declaring Him to be the Lamb of God.  John baptized in water and it was described as a baptism of repentance.  It was an outward act intended to represent a turning toward God.  When the religious leaders came to John, he was rough with them.  He called them snakes and said, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come.”  Later in that same passage, John says that while he baptized in water, One who is mightier, greater, than I is coming and He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

So what is this baptism of the Holy Spirit?  Many of us know it, and some think they know it.  First, I ask, who does this baptizing?  Jesus alone does this.  No man can do it.  The Lord does use men and women, prepared vessels, to impart this life to others.  It is done by the Spirit of Christ working in and through His people.  The passage in Ezekiel gives a picture of this baptism.  In that picture, we see a progression.  Many experience an instantaneous touch from God, an instant deposit of some spiritual gift.  “Baptism” is from a Greek word that was used to describe the sinking of a ship.  Think about that.  The ship is immersed and filled up, thoroughly soaked in water.  That is what Jesus does to those who are ready.

As we consider this, we should reread the record in Acts of the Spirit falling on people.  It does include the apostle’s laying hands upon those in Samaria and them receiving the Spirit.  When Peter went to Cornelius’ house, the Spirit fell as Peter said later, “As He fell on us at the first.”  You go read it for yourself.  Elsewhere, Paul writes to Timothy not to lay hands on anyone hastily.  So I think the Lord can do it both ways as He chooses.  It is for each us to receive it, and I know God will give the Spirit for Jesus said God will give the Spirit to them that ask Him.

So my point is the Spirit will overwhelm us and fill us.  The result?  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  May we be always in a place of the Spirit bubbling up in us.  Be being filled with the Spirit, singing, and praying, and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.  And may we pursue love and earnestly desire the Spirit to show Himself through us to the glory of Christ.  See 1 Corinthians 12-14.  Read the entire passage in total.  Ask your Father in heaven to grant you understanding and fill you up.  He is glad to do it. Now I would direct us to the passage in Ezekiel.  I have known progression in this baptism into the Spirit which is here seen as a river even to swim in.  The Lord by messengers, heavenly and on the earth, leads individuals into that one river.  If you have never read this, please do so.  While I could take you through the passage, I want to mention something at the end.  The river flows into brackish water and ends there.  It cannot bring life there.  What is that about?  It represents the world, the swamp of evil that is the world.  Read Jesus’ words in John 14:16-17 and He will speak for Himself.  The world cannot receive the Spirit.  People who want Jesus Christ receive the Spirit.

Jesus Comes

Jesus Comes

(Micah 5:2, Luke 2:1-7)

As I began this message I noticed I wrote about Jesus’ birth last year also.  More interesting, the title of my very first blog message is “The Coming of Jesus.”  That message was very different from what follows here.  A friend and brother Tim Hampton recently shared some thoughts concerning the reference from Micah.  His words sparked some thoughts in me for this message.  Bethlehem was insignificant until that awesome day.  It remains so amazing that God chose this way to reveal Himself to mankind.  His ways and wisdom are so tremendous.  Words fail.  I am reminded again that our Father chooses the weak things to confound human wisdom.  The little town was overloaded with other travelers so that they had to use the stable and a feeding trough.  Nothing glamorous here.  Most of us would have been upset and some would have been furious at the circumstances.  But that was not the case for Joseph and Mary.  They were well aware that something beyond them was happening with the birth of this boy.

It was in the days of Caesar Augustus.  He made a decree for a census and taxation so they were required to travel to Bethlehem.  This was no small journey, a man with his pregnant wife.  I would think Joseph was past his misgivings about taking her as a wife.  Did he hear what others in Galilee were saying?  The young couple was compelled by earthly circumstances to precisely fulfill a great, heavenly purpose.

I think they did not realize how God was fulfilling His word in detail.  The Savior was to be born in Bethlehem and so it was.  I see a God working through humility to bring this most awesome revelation of Himself to this world.  The shepherds see a multitude of angels.  I have heard these were of the lowest ranks of the priesthood, tending sheep that would be used for the temple sacrifice.  They did not fully comprehend that they were seeing the fulfillment of all sacrifices, the Lamb of God, in that manger or did they have some understanding?  I expect as you read this you are one who has met and walked with Jesus.  May we realize how limited our understanding may be.  Let every thought be submitted to Christ.  May we have His mind.  He has a way to fulfill His words and plans.  He will reveal Himself in the way and to whom He chooses.  And it is always on His schedule.

Mike Bickle leads the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOP-KC).  This ministry to many young people was birthed following a heavenly encounter that he experienced.  Mike received words concerning properties and other aspects of the ministry.  As he walked out the process of the building of IHOP he learned an important truth.  He has said when you receive a prophetic word, it is not for you to try to fulfill it, it is given so that you know you belong where you are when you get there.  That is my paraphrase.  This does not mean we sit passively.  We must seek God concerning the vision He gives and walk it out.  If He has given the vision, He will bring it to pass.  It is for us to follow Him in the steps He leads us to take.  And He may use earthly means to fulfill His purpose.

We must know and walk in His ways.  In the church, we have learned and heard many things.  Some misunderstandings need to be put off if we are to mature into the sons He intends us to be.  John wrote (See 1 John) of little children, young men, and fathers.  Fathers impart life, they sow seed bringing spiritual conceptions in others.  They know how to plant, cultivate, and water the life of the Spirit in others to bring about growth.  John was such a man, as were Peter, Paul, and the rest of the 12.  I think the same was true of all of the 120 who were so empowered in the upper room.  Waiting on the Lord, seeking His face is of such importance.  Realize that God chose those shepherds, the lowest of the priesthood of that dying order, to see a multitude of angels.  I must interject that Jesus said to the leaders of that order that their house was left to them desolate.  It could bring forth no life.  But God had a Mary.

Do you think those shepherds kept their story to themselves?  Their children and grandchildren heard of the multitude of angels filling the sky!  They may have been old men when Jesus died and was raised.  Were one or two of them in the upper room?  God knows.  He by the Spirit chooses what revelation to give to each one of us.  It is for us to seek after Him, to believe, to trust and to watch and pray.  Nothing is more important than for us to hear those words, and as we pray to be listening.  In the darkest, most troubling times, God is still speaking and those who turn to Him will hear.  And they will live and be strengthened by the words of Christ.

Seasons Part 2

Seasons Part 2

(1 Cor. 11:19, Mark 13:31-33)

I have written earlier this year of 2020 on this topic and sense the Lord would have me address it further.  I wrote that God is eternal but His working in the world has seasons.  The world, the cosmos, the universe are all terms we use to describe the material creation.  We know that God loves the world, the cosmos and His love is so great He paid a great price to redeem and save it.  He has raised up a people, a nation, to cooperate with Him in His redeeming work.  We, who are born of His Spirit, are that people.  Through the history of mankind and the cosmos, He has been working toward His purpose, according to His plan and wisdom.  His goal is a vast family of heavenly children, conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The gospel has a great simplicity to it.  Yet, we have journeys and pitfalls and many experiences by which we learn and are more perfectly aligned to God’s single purpose.  It is all focused on His Son.  I am learning a new level of grace as I discern what seem to be distractions among His people.  Often, others have a different calling, are seeing another aspect of God’s working and moving with it.  On the other hand, the Lord does expose wrong motives and does bring separations.  I am reminded of the Corinthians and Paul’s words that divisions among them must exist that those who are mature would be evident.  God’s approval rests on those who are mature among us.  Those are the true leaders whether they hold a position in our so-called churches or not.  I wrote that sharply to focus our attention on our definition of church.

To be sure, no specific assembly or gathering of believers is perfect, that is without fault.  But are we growing together?  Also important, is it static, or does it see a flow in and out?  When someone leaves, do we question their choice and react in an attitude that they are missing God?  The messages from Jesus to seven churches of Asia have an eternal aspect to them and need to be heeded by every gathering.  Are we distracted from hearing what the Lord is saying?  This applies individually and corporately.  I sense in this day a tension to accurately hear what God is saying.  As I live in America, I see this in the church here.

A dear sister and I recently traded emails on a national, American issue.  She rightly focused on our identity without using that word.  We must see that in Christ, we are neither male nor female, young in years or old, European or African, US citizen or Israel citizen, but we are members of a new race, that are a people that are born of the Spirit of God.  That is not a doctrine or Christian concept.  It must be a reality by a spiritual experience.  A difference between being a creature only and a child of God exists.  This is a troublesome thought to many but is rather simple in truth.  God has our entire lives to bring us to Himself.  He loves all men and is patient toward all but we must yield to Him when He shows up in our lives.  We know of those who are resisting Him at this very moment.  Pray that they have an encounter with Jesus Christ by the Spirit.  Then they must choose to receive Him or not.

Earthly citizenship cannot define us in relation to Christ.  It is no more profitable to our spirits than being listed as a member of a church organization.  It is part of our created nature that we look to be part of a family.  Only one family is eternal, that is God’s family that started with the first born son, Jesus.  Some may question concerning all those who lived before Christ.  The Spirit was always working but many did not want the truth.  It was so perverse in the days of Noah that God intervened intensely.  The story is in Genesis and Jesus referred to it in Matthew.  Perhaps you should read it, or read it again.  A time is coming when the Father, the Almighty God, will execute the fullness of mankind’s redemption and this present evil age will close.  Then will we see the new heaven and new earth.

I have been considering citizenship of earthly nations and realize what we all should know.  All of these will pass away.  Every earthly kingdom has had a season.  The Babylonian Empire had a season, The Medes and Persians followed, then the Greeks and the Romans.  And Christ’s kingdom came and all the nations came under His dominion.  Every so-called empire that followed was weaker and weaker.  As the systems of this world fail before us, remember Jesus’ words, “Be not deceived.”  Rather, “Watch and pray.”

Earthly Kingdoms

Earthly Kingdoms

(Mark 15:7-15, John 18:33-40, John 19, 1 Samuel 8:6-9, 19-20, 12:19-25)

This was on my mind recently.  The kingdom of darkness has many means, subtle means, to distract us from the purpose of our Father.  In the end, and along the way, God presents choices to us.  For many of us, a particular choice may be obvious, easy to make.  For many however, the choice is not so.  How many were present that day when Pilate stood before them?  It was a major feast time in Israel, and the fulfillment of the Passover, the Lamb of God, stood before them.  Among the crowd were those who had followed Him, who had seen the works which confirmed Him as having come from God.  I am sure that Nicodemus and perhaps others of the priests were not shouting crucify Him.  And others with Mary were in deep distress.

We know that the two on the road to Emmaus, three days later knew what had happened and I think they would have been in the city for the feast time.  They would not have wanted Him crucified.  The Lord’s high ways of working through the corrupted systems of religion and earthly government fulfilled His purpose to sacrifice the eternal Lamb.  As Paul saw and shared with us, the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the cosmos.  Before creation God had provided the Lamb.  On Moriah, Abraham saw it.  At that Passover time, none but the Lamb Himself understood.  God gave the people a choice and many chose Barabbas.  For us as believers, that is sad and distressing.  Or even baffling.  The god of this world had blinded the eyes of the unbelieving.

Today, I continue to hear the subtle draw to work with earthly government to bring righteousness to the earth.  Whose righteousness, I ask?  Ours?  Yes we have seen the Lord and His righteousness and we desire to walk before Him.  But is His kingdom a kingdom of law to be pressed upon others?  Is that how Jesus and the apostles and the early church operated?  Did they rise up to reform the Roman Empire?  Did they request a meeting with Caesar to request the persecution to cease?  On the other hand, did they pray for Peter’s release?  Yes, and they were astounded when it happened.  In Damascus, did Ananias question the Lord before he went and prayed for Saul?  My point there is we don’t always get it perfectly but the apostles knew better than to try to get themselves off the hook.  They knew persecution to the point of death were part of the story of God’s people.

When we look for earthly government to be an ally for the gospel of the kingdom, we are like Israel of the law and prophets looking to Egypt for aid.  We are like them in the days of Samuel, asking for an earthly king, to be earthly minded.  It continues to trouble me when believers equate an earthly nation with the kingdom of God.  How did we get off the highway of God’s purpose in His Son?  Jesus referred much to Daniel.  Daniel lived in a time when the Spirit indicated through his understanding of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Babylon of that day was the golden head of earthly kingdoms.  It was the greatest.  And today we exalt current nations as great?  Today’s earthly governments are the feet of iron and clay.  That is the Spirit’s estimation.  Are we hearing?  The stone cut from the mountain takes down the entire image.

Jesus spoke of these days as the present evil age.  Do we see it as such?  We speak as if we can fix the world by improving earthly government.  It must be displaced but God’s solution is not a better earthly government.  His solution is to replace it with a heavenly.  God’s solution to Saul’s failure was to raise up David.  That was God’s plan from before Abraham.  David failed as did Solomon.  Each had a purpose and lesson for Israel.  But the final solution is Christ.  If we find ourselves involved with government, may our actions be with integrity to do our jobs well and represent Christ in every task.  May we speak the truth, however the opportunity presents itself. Closing these thoughts I ask you to read John 19 and the passages in Samuel.  Look at the parallel words and consider our ongoing dependence on earthly government and rulers.  I am not speaking against using the provisions of infrastructure, paying taxes, or receiving social benefits.  I am speaking of our hearts and speaking to our spirits.  Do we want Saul, or Barabbas, or some other one who will straighten everything out and make us a great nation?  Pay close attention to the history of Germany in the 1930’s.  Beaten down and humbled after World War I, they voted Hitler into power as he promised recovery of their kingdom.  They rejoiced in his reign.  Some church leaders spoke of him like a savior, that he was God’s gift to the nation.  The Lord still had people who saw through and knew better.  Exalt the true king, Jesus Christ, in your hearts and give careful attention to all He would say to you.  And pray for all those in authority whomever they may be.

A Lamb and a Lion

A Lamb and A Lion

(Rev. 5:4-10, Isaiah 11:6, 65:25, Rom. 8:28-39)

I hear and see much among the Lord’s people of the Lord as a lion.  He is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  He is the root and the offspring of David, of Judah.  A year or so ago I was in a meeting on a Sunday morning and a visiting woman was given opportunity to speak.  I saw her as a teacher.  She also had a ministry to young people and shared a video of the baptisms of some.  As those young ones were dipped under the water, the words of their testimonies were filled with passion and the fire of God’s Spirit.  I thought that’s how every baptism should be.  That is not always the case but it underscored my appreciation for this sister and the maturity of  her walk.

She mentioned that the Lord Jesus is referred to as the Lion once in Revelation and 29 (I think she said) times as the Lamb.  My own research shows the word “Lamb” appearing 25 times.  Do you think the Spirit is making a point?  Jesus Christ was introduced by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God.  John, the beloved one, the apostle, was given a revelation of Christ as he writes in the opening of that book we call Revelation.  So why are we, as so-called prophetic people, seemingly obsessed with a sense of a roaring, devouring lion?  Now that is not true of all that I know as believers and I am careful of being obsessed myself with pointing out our distractions from the Lord’s ways.  The great contradiction (to our natural minds) of God’s great wisdom in spiritual warfare is that the Lamb destroyed death by dying.  Our means of warfare are the same.

He did not in this age rise up as a lion to defeat His enemy and ours.  His ways are higher than our ways.  So we see in Isaiah, a lion and a lamb mentioned together in a place of true peace.  This does not look like a lamb rising up to be ferocious but rather of the lion lying down in peace with the lamb.  Of His kingdom and of peace (true peace) no end will be found.  His peace is eternal and it is powerful in that it stills every storm.  It is never about shouting, although we do shout.  Jesus said He is meek and lowly in heart.  Yes He flipped the tables.  That was in His Father’s house.  And among those who claim to be His, we do well to expose greed and corruption.  And that will never look kind nor meek.  But ultimately, He was crucified before those same ones to pay for their iniquities.

We cannot pay for anyone’s sins but we are called to bear personal abuse and hostility (Heb. 12:3-8) as we are learning obedience by suffering, allowing that abuse.  We share in His suffering.  If we see ourselves as roaring lions, we will always be ready for a fight.  That is not the Lord’s way and no one will receive us.  We need to walk as He walked.  We are called to this, to walk worthy of our calling.  Do we confront evil?  Do we have the authority to cast it down when it appears?  Yes.  But be sure to cast it out and allow for repentance.  All this said, as Peter directly rebuked the one who wanted to buy the authority of the Spirit, we do not shrink back from addressing such a person sharply.  May His words be in our mouth as a sharp, two-edged sword, and a fire to devour our enemies, when necessary.

Our reward is a heavenly one.  When John’s eyes were opened, when heaven was opened to John on Patmos, he saw the scene in heaven for the scroll to be opened.  This was the unfolding of God’s working in the earth.  He weeps when none was found worthy but a voice says behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah has overcome.  When John looks he sees a Lamb as slain.  His blood was seen.  His blood is on the mercy seat forever.  And He is known in heaven as the Lamb.  For all eternity, He is worshipped as the Lamb of God who was given so that we might live and so worship Him forever.  And as His sheep, it is so for us, to bear our cross and so follow Him.  Read the passage in Romans and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into the truth and His ways for your own walk.  We are counted as sheep for the slaughter, dying daily, so that life might touch others and work in them.  All for one purpose that the Lamb of God might receive the reward of His suffering, that our Father’s house would be full.