Heavenly Encounters

Heavenly Encounters

(John 3, Rom. 7:23-25, 8:2,14,29,37-39)

When we look at this chapter from John’s gospel, we may first think of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten (uniquely born) Son, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”  Those words are rich and we might take them in several directions.  Rather I want to direct us to consider the full context of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.  Jesus begins to speak to this man, this teacher of the law, of the need to be born of the Spirit.  Nicodemus does not understand but He knows that Jesus has the life, the real goods.  He knows Jesus has something that he needs and wants.

That life is in the Spirit of God and begins in us when that Spirit has an entrance into us.  I could write and preach the gospel at this point but I have another goal.  In John’s first chapter, he wrote that those who receive Him (Christ) receive the ability to become children (sons) of God.  Throughout the writings of the New Covenant, the theme of becoming mature sons of God is repeated.  If you consider this presumptuous, I say it is the Lord’s ultimate intention.  In Hebrews 1:10, we read that Christ was, and is, bring many sons to glory.  It is by His Spirit that this process is accomplished within us.  When we receive Christ, we receive His Spirit.

With Nicodemus, Jesus says something that stretches our understanding yet more.  As this man does not understand birth in the Spirit, Jesus says “If you don’t get this, how can you believe if I tell you of heavenly things that I have seen.”  My paraphrase.  The heavenly realm is being opened in greater measure to a broader audience than ever before.  We need to be aware it did not begin with this present generation.  A wonderful book I have read is entitled, “Heaven and the Angels”, by H. A. Baker.  He shares the heavenly revelation stories of John Bunyan, writer of Pilgrim’s progress, William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, and a dear sister in Christ, whose name I cannot recall.  Their stories of walking in heaven with Elijah as their guide are strikingly similar.  Doubts and questions may quickly come to our minds.  Paul writes that he was brought into the third heaven but says it was not lawful for him to share details.  That was similar to John being told not to write everything he saw when in heaven.  But he did see and hear heavenly things and he wrote much.

Heavenly visions are not something new.  The increase of angelic encounters, salvations through dreams revealing Jesus Christ, and after death experiences should get our attention that the Lord of the harvest is up to something.  I do not mean to trivialize it by those words.  The end of the age is fast approaching people!!  Awake, or in other words, wake up, get out of your slumbering comfort.  Do you consider yourself, a “Christian’?  Do you know that Christ lives in you, that you are born of His spirit?  Do you hear that you are called to an overcoming life?  It is not a call to self-striving in an outward, religious way.  Now some things we do, have meaning, they are truly acts of faith.  We are not called to passivity.  It is those acts truly born of love and energized by faith that are true, real and have effect.

Jesus Christ met John on Patmos and gave him messages for the churches.  Each includes specific words to those who overcome.  As we look at ourselves apart from Christ, we sound like Paul at the end of Romans.  We know a momentary despair.  I say momentary so we do not stay there.  Keep moving right into Romans 8.  Whoops, I am preaching the gospel.  The Spirit of Christ sets us free from the law of sin and death.  His life in us carries us to overcoming.  We are too hungry and He will not allow us to stay in a low place.  His desire for us.  His great love is irresistible.  Nothing can separate us from that love and we become more than conquerors.  That is salvation as the process.  So we grow as His sons.

Each encounter with Christ, hearing His still small voice, having a heavenly vision, whatever the Spirit may bring, is part of our transformation.  Moses at the burning bush, Mary visited by Gabriel, Ezekiel at the river Chebar, Daniel on his bed, yourself when His life was made real to you, we are changed and can never go back from that place.  Each of us get changed.  So it was for John on Patmos.  We will continue with John in our next writing.

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Personal History

Personal History

(Gal. 1:15-16, Ps. 139:13-16, Eph. 2:10)

Each one of us has a destiny that God has purposed for us.  Many biblical references come to mind as I consider this.  I was reminded this morning of realizing that my mother prayed something specific about me when I was in her womb.  She never shared such with me but I think it must be so.  She was a godly woman, a person who believed and trusted in God and Jesus Christ.  She had a miscarriage before I was born by way of a Cesarean operation.  Mom was a very small framed woman.  I think she prayed something like Hannah did before she conceived and gave birth to Samuel.  You will have to search that story out in 1 Samuel.

Whatever she may have prayed exactly I don’t know.  I eventually came to the awareness that the Living God had called me to a purpose which He knew beforehand.  This is true of every believer.  While He has a personal, individual, and very specific purpose for each of us, a common calling overrules those.  That is the calling recorded in Romans 8:28-30.  His calling and purpose are wrapped up in His Son, Jesus Christ.  To enter the kingdom of God is to be found in Him, having died to our former way of life.  This has a very practical outworking through true ministry and connections with His people.  We may move in different circles but those should be leading and encouraging us to grow closer to the Lord Jesus Himself.  And by Him to our Father, our Abba, in heaven.

For me, and for each of us, this begins in a deep, personal, encounter with Christ.  That is the beginning and the rest is a growth to true maturity.  As in natural lives, some do not grow, whether through fear or other hindrances.  We all know of people who are immature, unable to cope with daily life.  We must pass through seasons and our own wilderness type experience.  In that place, everything of unbelief and mistrust must be lost.  We lose our self-reliance and find the Lord to be our source for everything, spiritually and physically.  Then, we must enter the land, the life experience, of our inheritance, driving out, by the life and strength of Christ within, every hindering spirit.

Early in my spiritual walk, I met and was drawn to many in what we might call Pentecostal and Charismatic circles.  Yet my exposure also included those not typically seen as “Pentecostal”.  An understanding registered that this Christian way was not about a superficial life but an ever deepening relationship and journey.  Reading Watchman Nee, A. W. Tozer, T. Austin-Sparks, Keith Green’s Last Days Ministries’ newsletters, David Wilkerson, and others, I became hungry to see God’s purpose in my life fulfilled.  Along the way, many times, the Spirit of the Lord kindly turned me away from trying to be one of them.  I am so grateful that the life of Christ in them left a deposit in me.  I was fed, watered, cultivated, and pruned by them.  Now I will mention that women were involved much also.  Elizabeth Elliot wrote of her husband, Jim.  Gwen Shaw, Jeanne Guyon, Martha Wing Robinson, and Amy Carmichael to name some others had impact on me.  More recently, Kathryn Kuhlman and Ruth Heflin added to my life.

These are in the cloud of witnesses.  More immediately, are the many whom I have met and sat in meetings with.  Wade Taylor, Devern Fromke are two significant ones.  Others who have brought life are more well-known and their giftings are significant.  Yet, they were not of the same stature as these two.  I do not mean to be critical, simply a personal observation.  One does not have to be in the presence of someone of maturity for a long time for true impartation to happen.  With Jesus, healing was immediate, when someone came close to Him.  Demonic deliverance typically took a moment or two.  Now concerning the cloud of witnesses, I have in the last few years become increasingly aware of their presence.  That is also true of angelic presence.  We must at all times keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ.  It is easy to become fascinated with spiritual realities and become distracted.  Remember, Jesus Himself was visited by Moses and Elijah.  And Peter, James, and John witnessed that meeting.  Peter becomes an object lesson for us when he wants to memorialize it.

Such encounters are purposeful.  The Lord sends such for encouragement, instruction, and counsel.  I wonder whether the old creeds of the earlier church meant some contact with those among the cloud when they spoke of the “communion of the saints” they were including those in that cloud?  That is a question, not a doctrinal statement.  Whatever the case then, visits are happening more in the current days.  On two occasions I was in a meeting where Bob Jones shared a few words.  He was a wonderful brother with a heart of compassion and a laser sharp spirit of discernment.  The words he spoke were amazingly on target.  It had to be God.  He has since passed into heaven.  I have been aware of him prodding me on and encouraging me.  When I shared specifics of those fleeting encounters with some who knew him, they said, “That’s Bob.”  I will continue this theme in the next post.

Overcoming with the Lamb

Overcoming with the Lamb

(Rev. 12:7-12, I John 2:12-14)

I love John, the disciple and apostle.  While this is subject to scholarly dispute, I think that the experience on Patmos that resulted in the writing of Revelation happened before John wrote his other works.  The unveiling of the glorified Christ so changed John’s perspective, he then wrote in a more profound, more deeply spiritual way.  His mind had been so deeply transformed.  He beheld Jesus Christ in His glory and was never the same again.  So after Patmos, he wrote his gospel account and three letters.

If you read the reference passages, you see a progression in each.  First the background.  In the cosmos exists one who is jealous, envious, and a thief, a liar, and a murderer.  His main weapon is that of accusation.  He accuses God to each of us, and accuses us to God.  And he accuses us to one another.  So John tells us the accuser has been cast out of heaven, cast down to the earth.  Now we must overcome him here and now.  Notice that angelic forces threw him out.  A battle has been fought and won by the Lamb of God and heavenly armies.  Through death He destroyed him who had the power of death even the devil.

I believe, I understand, the blood of Jesus Christ has ended the ability for the devil to accuse mankind before God.  I believe he no longer has access because it the blood on the heavenly mercy seat simply drives him away.  Not to mention that Michael and the hosts of angels have thrown him out.  So he has only to try to wreak havoc among us here.  For years I would hear believers plead the blood of Christ as if that phrase was the answer to every problem.  I did not understand.  A few years ago, it was clarified for me.  When accusation comes in that legal sense, the atmosphere of a spiritual courtroom, we answer that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin.  And we simply walk out of that legal atmosphere free to be led by His Spirit.  “How do you plead,” an earthly judge may say.  We do not respond by what we have done, or not done.  Yes, we may have sinned, but the greater reality is His grace poured out through Jesus Christ.

Now John, having seen the glory of Christ ascended and seated, writes the same message.  The mercy seat is there, you know, in heaven, where the Lord beckons us to draw near.  He called to John to come up higher.  It will cost you all your self-reliance.  First John fell on his face.  We have failed, all of us, but He says draw near with full assurance of faith to find grace to help.  Realize that John had been with Him in His earthly days and been through much.  Records tell us the Roman emperor had dipped our brother in boiling oil to no effect.  Away with him to the vile, the insane on Patmos!  That earthly fiend did not know he was sending John to the place of heavenly revelation!

So John expresses our growth, our progress in two different ways.  We overcome the accuser by the blood of the Lamb.  That is first, the foundation.  Then the word of our testimony.  The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophesy.  The power of an endless life resides in words that truly speak of who Christ is.  And we love not our lives, our earthly lives even unto death.  See the previous blog post for Jim Elliot’s words.  In his letter, John writes of us as little children, whose sins are forgiven, and that we know our heavenly Father.  Young men are those who have overcome the wicked one, the devil himself.  They are strong and the words of God have a home in them.  And of fathers, those who are mature, and bear spiritual children, John repeats the same words twice.  They know Him who was from the beginning.  They know by intimate relationship the eternal One, they have grown to be sons of our Father.

John was such a one.  In his writings he so focuses on Christ.  Apart from Revelation, he does not refer to himself by name.  Perhaps that was done in wisdom to avoid earthly traps but I sense a deep humility.  Nothing compares to the work in our hearts as what is accomplished by a revelation of Christ to our souls.  John experienced an open, heavenly vision.  May we pursue the same, walking by the Spirit, and allowing Him to bring us through trouble to such a place.

Follow the Lamb

Follow the Lamb

(Rev. 14:4, Luke 12:32, Matt. 11:29)

Are you following the Lamb, Himself?  We are His sheep and He is the good shepherd.  In the opening of the heavens, John, the one who laid against His chest, saw Jesus Christ glorified.  He was then, and is, no longer the man Jesus who walked on the earth.  He has been glorified.  Those who truly see Him are changed and will never be the same after that vision.  The Lord chooses to whom He reveals Himself and He does so for us according to His wisdom and His purpose in our lives.  And when we do see Him, we cannot help but to want more.  If we resist, He will hide Himself and wait.  Jesus gave an open invitation when He said, “If any man would come after me, let him pick up His cross and follow me.”  The cross is the means by which our self-centered life is removed.  We find things that mattered are no longer so important.  Jim Elliot said it well, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep (this earthly life), to gain what he cannot lose (eternal life with the Living God)”.  Parenthetical thoughts are mine.

A dear woman, Dr. Sandy, spoke at a local church one Sunday.  We had never met before but we were in instant fellowship.  We had separately been on the same path after the Lamb.  She mentioned that in that record of that awesome revelation of Christ that John received, Jesus Christ is referred to 39 times as the Lamb of God.  Once He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Today I hear more about the lion, not enough about the Lamb.  Everyone wants to be a lion.  No one would dare touch you.  A lamb is vulnerable.  I see another difference between the two descriptions.  One is related to God Himself; the other to an earthly tribe.  What is our identity?  Related to men, we ought not back down to men, yet if we want someone to spend time with us, we need to be vulnerable.  We want real relationships, not superficial.

Jesus was only tough with the religious and I do not think He was ever mean or harsh, even with those who opposed Him.  They opposed their own eternal destinies, for no man has an eternal destiny, and eternal hope, apart from Christ Himself.  Do you want the Lord’s fulness in your life?  Follow the Lamb wherever He leads you.  Along with overemphasis on the lion, I do not hear enough of the fact that the new covenant in the blood of Christ has supplanted all other covenants including that made at Sinai.  Read Galatians 4: 21-31 and focus on the last verse.  While many may not see this, Paul’s words are clear.  We are not children of both.  The Jerusalem above is the mother of us all.  So elsewhere we read that the blood of Christ, the blood of the Lamb, is the blood of the eternal (unchangeable) covenant.  Every other covenant has failure because it depends on human behavior.

As we follow Christ, we are confronted with our inability to do so based on any resource apart from His life.  So Paul could write, “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.”  That is the gospel.  Jesus calls us to abide in Him.  We wander but as we go on with Him, we realize that wandering costs us something.  A security comes as we draw near and learn to stay near.  Farther on, we know we are seated with Him in the heavens, in the place of absolute, certain authority and we learn to allow that authority to flow through us to others and it is the river of His life.  We live in the throne room, in His presence and there we know the fulness of His joy over us.

The reference verses confirm this simply.  He redeems all our failures.  He washes them away in His blood.  Let them go and continue following Him.  It is His Spirit leading you into true righteousness.  We do not have to fight our way into the kingdom.  As we follow Him, it becomes the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.  We apprehend the kingdom in greater and greater measure.  The violence that is necessary, is the violence to our self-centeredness.  That was accomplished at the cross but we must agree and allow it to work in our lives.  I see it as experiencing the pain of childbirth.  With all respect for women who experience that, a man can experience something akin in the spirit.  Christ is in us and we must cooperate with the spiritual contractions and allow our souls to be transformed.  As we learn to lean on Him and move progressively closer, we stay in His yoke.  And in that place we find Him meek and lowly in heart and we find rest.  And we know the heart of our Father.

Fortified Cities

Fortified Cities

(Read about kings of Israel and Judah, II Cor. 5:20)

As I write this, I must remind myself, I am writing to an audience that has some faith in Jesus Christ.  If you are not a believer, none of this will make sense.  Last year the Lord showed me that he sees us, each of us, as living stones in the wall of His city.  When we read of the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, the names of apostles, and the sons of Israel are assigned to the foundation stones and to the gates of the city.  One cannot ignore the true sons of Jacob, whose name the Lord Himself changed to Israel.  So, the Lord takes us, as His children, His living stones, and places us in the wall of the city.  More than doing the work of a watchman on the wall, we are being living stones set in place by the Master Builder.  When we try to be watchman by working at it, we will come short of the real thing, and learn that it takes the life that Christ is in us, and then we shine without human effort.  No stone is too small, none too large; He positions us and fits us together perfectly.  And He continues to polish us so we shine more clearly.

Submission to His love in the process polishes us up so that His glory shines through.  That is who each of you are!  By His wonderful working in you.  It is your identity in Christ.  It touches everything you do.  As you are a wife, a mother, a father, a husband, a son or a daughter, you shine Christ within your immediate circle of influence.  Hear that word, IN FLOW ENCE.  What flows through you to others?   As you believe in Him, out of your innermost being, your deep places, will flow rivers of living water.  That is the working of God’s Spirit in you, and through you.  You may react and say, “That’s not working.  It’s not happening.  I am hard on myself, and then on my family.”  Go to Him, pour it all out.  We are all psalmists, you know.  The same Spirit that moved David to write psalms is in us.  Go to Him with all your words.  You will find His grace at the end of yourself.  We are transformed in His presence by going to the throne of grace.

At the turn of this year, the Holy Spirit changed the picture for me.  He expanded it.  He says He is seeing us as fortified cities, standing firm.  In the days of the Lord’s expressions through the prophets, the kingdom of David and Solomon was divided due to human failures.  The kingdom of Judah was that closest to the Lord’s purpose.  It was the remnant of that day through which the Savior would come.  Jesus said that He is the root and the offspring of David.  That is deep truth.  The root and the offspring.  The kings of Judah had a sense that preservation was important.  Among those kings who were aligned and seeking the Lord’s purpose were those who rebuilt and strengthened fortified cities.  These would stand against the enemies’ attacks.  The Lord today is building us individually and corporately to be strengthened with might in our inner man.

We must cooperate with Him in this building.  How are we fortified?  Part of that process is praise.  It was Judah that was chosen to be in line with God’s purpose.  Israel’s apostasy was greater yet Judah could be self-absorbed, the prophets rebuked her as well.  DeVern Fromke alerted us to the fact we can get caught up in the experience of worship and lose focus on the Lord Himself.  The worship is for Him.  Yet I have found we can allow our enjoyment of His presence.  The Holy Spirit brings us to a place where we simply praise, sing, dance, and act our worship. And we know the joy of His presence.  And if we don’t “feel” it, we continue because He is worthy.  The Lord’s purpose has always been to have a people who represent Him, bear Him witness in the earth.  Israel, through Solomon, failed and the Lord maintained a remnant in Judah.  Struggle continued as leadership faltered among Judah’s kings as well.  The Lord was preserving a line which ran through David, for the seed, Christ, to eventually come.  As we have said, the best of Judah’s kings knew to fortify cities against the enemy.  These cities were then places of safety, of refuge, for the Lord’s people, for His remnant.

As we struggle through our lives here and overcome ourselves and spiritual enemies that resist Him, we need to follow the Lord’s example as evidenced in measure by those “good” kings of Judah.  They were not without faults but they sought the Lord.  They broke down places of idolatry.  They received His prophets.  They restored and maintained worship in His house.  We need to pursue the sanctification which brings alignment with His purpose.  Glorify the Son and the Father by the Spirit.

So for us today, be spending time in His presence, praying in the Spirit, we are strengthened.  Pray with the Spirit (heavenly tongues may be, and can be, part of that), pray also in the Spirit in your earthly language.  Thereby, you pray also with your understanding.  But pray!!  Let your prayer time mature.  Pray the scriptures.  Pray the psalms.  Pray Paul’s letters.  Commune with your God.  Build up yourself on your most holy faith. Jude 20-21.  He is near to strengthen you.  You yourself are being made a fortified city.  And moreso, as we gather together with others who love the Lord Jesus Christ, we are built together in an expression of the New Jerusalem.  Is she not the bride and are we not being built up into an expression of His beauty and glory in the earth?!  Keep building us, Lord!  We are willing.

All the Earth Shall Be Filled – Part 2

All the Earth Shall Be Filled – Part 2

(Habakkuk 2:14, John 17:1)

How can we speak, how can we preach, except we be sent?  We must experience His very intimate presence and hear Him send us.  We often hear of Isaiah’s call when his eyes were opened to see the Lord high and lifted up.  He saw the glory of God and he was “undone”.  What is that?  What does it mean?  One cannot explain it but all your pride, all your self-sufficiency, all the good you thought you were is blown away.  And you blurt it out.  You confess you are not clean.  And immediately that uncleanness is burned up.  The Lord opens His heart to Isaiah, and He will do the same with you.  He looks for one He can send on behalf of Himself.  Too often, we run on what we think He wants.  It takes a personal, direct confrontation with the holy One of Israel, Elohim, your heavenly Father.

Either you are His child, or you are not. (Rom. 8:9)  By His Spirit in us we know our heavenly Father.  Continue reading in Romans, chapter 8.  The Lord’s central thoughts toward us are written there.  We understand we have access to the throne of grace.  Like little children, we learn to come to Him to have our sins forgiven, and we find He sends us out in that grace to bless someone.  First be a blessing to your family.  Jesus was such from the age of 12 until 30.  We are in such a hurry to do “public” ministry.  If we understand the target we can become and the true spiritual maturity required for public ministry, we would not be in a hurry.  Yet the Lord knows how to prod us out onto the stage so to speak.  If you have never heard this, hear it now.  David was tending Jesse’s sheep until the day he was called and anointed.  Then he went through a ton of training before he came into all that his anointing by Samuel indicated and began.

Moses tended sheep on the backside of the desert for 40 years before he was a shepherd to an entire nation for 40 years of wilderness wandering.  I have experienced the training of waiting and faithfully doing what the Lord puts in my hands to do.  Take care of your family, please.  The time will come when He will lead you out, even thrust you out.  He, the Spirit, will lead you through the doors to places where you will be fruitful.  To what purpose has God called you?  Is it clear?  If not keep seeking Him.  Seek His face continually.  He will speak.  He did not call you to remain empty without direction.  Quietness is not silence.  Stillness is a peacefulness with your mind free from clutter and distraction.

As I thought about all I am writing, I caution us not to be afraid to step out.  I recall knowing a stirring in my spirit as I stood in a very large meeting at a Bible school.  I had something to speak out and was not ready to let it out.  Then a loud voice from a woman who I would later receive from, called out, “Quench not the Spirit.”  Oh, woe was me.  Then another voice, “Some of you young men are afraid of your own shadow.  Jesus will take you by the hand and. . . .”  I don’t recall the finish.  It is enough that He takes us by the hand.  Do you know such fellowship with Him?  He is seeking you out and calling you to Himself, so you can find your rest in Him.

As we walk with Him, we grow in grace and the knowledge of Him.  Paul prayed that for us all.  He was praying for those he knew of firsthand but those prayers never stop.  Jesus prayed we would be one as He and His Father, our Father, are one.  He taught His disciples that they would know the Father directly.  It is always so with Jesus.  He is forever the mediator of the new covenant.  He is never out of the picture.  As we come to, and know the Father directly, we find a maturity that enables us to know and carry the love that the Father has for men.  I have written before, we become a gift that the Father gives and sows into the earth.  Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it abides alone.  And if it is sown it will bear fruit.  It will yield a harvest.  Death works in us that life might work in others.  This is the way of our Father’s kingdom.  Get to know your Father.

At that table of the fulfillment of Passover, the Lamb of God prayed, that God would glorify His Son that the Son might also glorify Him (John 17:1).  Jesus knew He was going to the cross.  In that act of ultimate humility, God glorified Himself and displayed His love to mankind.  In that same way, a people will lay down their lives so that our Father would be glorified.  It has happened through so many who have gone before us.  It is happening in ever increasing measure today, and it will increase until He sees His bride is ready and He comes for her.  Others will see the display and experience the glory of the Lord.  So will the knowledge of the glory of the Lord cover the earth.  It will not be with a trickle.  It will be with a deep, flood, like the waters cover the sea.  That is very deep, my friend.  Wherever you are today, ask for the Living God to pour over, in, and through you!  He is waiting for you.

All the Earth Shall Be Filled – Part 1

All the Earth Shall Be Filled – Part 1

(Habakkuk 2:14)

Many of us have some background in a denominational church which colors our understanding of the Lord and His kingdom.  Often, we think we must shed everything we heard when in those places.  While the traditions of our earthly teachers may hinder the Holy Spirit’s work in us, we may be losing truths of value.  I was recently irritated by someone referring to themselves as being in the office of the prophet.  I do not see such an identification voiced by the apostles, except in humility.  But I must confess, my attitude is tainted with self-ambition.  Out I say to that, and it is done.  On the other hand, among the reformers of the 1500’s, it was understood that every believer is a prophet, priest, and king.  If Christ is in you, the potential for any operation of His Spirit is living in you.  Most notably, the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.  Does it look, sound, feel, and taste like Jesus?  That is the mark of true prophecy.  I thank God for those who have spoken His life into my own.

All things are possible to Him who believes.  This leads us to many questions.  If we believe for something that in a broad sense is His will, it does not mean it will come to pass through us personally.  He is sovereign.  It is He who initiates in a very personal, intimate way.  Do we know Him?  Are we growing in that knowledge, that relationship?  It is certainly no mistake that His church is identified as His bride.  In earthly marriage, as human beings, we all know what destroys a marriage.  Unfaithfulness brings deep wounds.  Trust is broken.  Our lives here in this age, in the world, present opportunities to know the truth, to know Jesus as friend, even as lover.  The true knowledge of Him happens through real life.  Do you bring your heartaches to the Lord Jesus?  Are you trying to be tough?  Trying to be a “good Christian”?  We are learning to yield to His life.

No one is righteous!  No, not one!  We look to pastors, preachers, teachers, and sadly some of those only want to draw us to themselves.  Of these the prophet spoke that the Lord’s face is set against them.  He does not like them.  We must be careful how we judge.  Is it the pastor that is the real problem, or is it your own desire to be connected with the “right” ministry so that you can ride on that one’s coattails?  Some lessons come hard.  But do not misunderstand.  We do want to be connected to ministries that minister His life.  As time goes on, I so enjoy meeting “strangers” who I find to be believers, and those who are disciples.  And I meet some who love truth but do yet have a revelation of the One who is truth Himself.  The Lord must go deep and tear down all self-righteousness.

I knew a woman who was married.  She made the mistake of marrying to fulfill a desire to have a family.  She deceived herself and did not really want that particular man as a husband but he seemed “safe”.  No man is “safe”.  During the marriage, she had a friend who she treated as a boyfriend.  She confided more deeply with him than her husband.  And she wanted intimacy with him.  He wisely withdrew.  Her husband was lonely.  Something was missing.  Eventually she ended that marriage with that man that she never really wanted.  At times she had wanted him but they were never fully in sync.  You have to want to want your husband, and husbands need to want to want their wives.  Love includes desire.

Desire is a necessary part of love.  What does this have to do with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord?  Everything.  Are you knowing His passion for you and returning it?  Is that passion growing?  If it diminishes are you asking why, and seeking for more?  Earthly marriage is ultimately only a picture, a life lesson.  I am not saying it does not matter.  If we are following the Lord Jesus, our marriages, on our part, will be the best they can be.  We will want everything we do to reflect His glory.  We cannot remake our husband, or our wife, into the “perfect” other half.  This life is about learning, about receiving, eternal life, the knowledge of Christ.  Jesus taught us that in the kingdom of heaven, when this earthly life ends, our earthly relationships will pass away.  Oh, we will still recognize family that received the life that Christ is but our desires here, while valid for now, will have passed away.  And we will be so enraptured with the glory of the Lord, of Elohim, of our heavenly Bridegroom, that we will not remember the former things.

When Jesus met with His closest followers, those 12 men, and shared that last meal this side of the heavenly table, He prayed that they would behold His glory.  That beholding accelerated at Pentecost.  But there at that table, that meal, Jesus said, “I have earnestly desired to share this meal with you.”  The word He used could be translated “lusted”.  That word may trouble us.  It is too strong, even wrong.  No.  We must have our earthly passions redirected by the Holy Spirit.  The more we invite and allow Him to fill us, that fruit of self-control will grow.  As we soak in His passionate love for us, we will return the passion.  Then we walk worthy of His calling and our ways are pleasing to Him.

What the Father Does

What the Father Does

Jesus said, “I only speak what I hear the Father speak; I only do what I see the Father do.”  It is important, even essential, that we know the Lord Jesus and our heavenly Father closely, intimately.  This is the very nature of the new covenant we have with God through the blood of His Son.  Jeremiah spoke it and the writer of Hebrews repeated it. (Jer. 31: 31-34, Heb. 8:7-13)

How can we speak, how can we preach, except we be sent?  We must experience His very presence and hear Him send us.  We often hear of Isaiah’s call when his eyes were opened to see the Lord high and lifted up.  He saw the glory of God and he was “undone”.  What is that?  What does it mean?  One cannot explain it but all your pride, all your self-sufficiency, all the good you thought you were is blown away.  And you blurt it out.  You confess you are not clean.  And immediately that uncleanness is burned up.  The Lord opens His heart to Isaiah, and He will do the same with you.  He looks for one He can send on behalf of Himself.  Too often, we run on what we think He wants.  It takes a personal, direct confrontation with the holy One of Israel, Elohim, your heavenly Father.

Either you are His child, or you are not. (Rom. 8:9)  By His Spirit in us we know our heavenly Father.  Continue reading in Romans, chapter 8.  The Lord’s central thoughts toward us are written there.  We understand we have access to the throne of grace.  Like little children, we learn to come to Him to have our sins forgiven, and we find He sends out in that grace to bless someone.  First be a blessing to your family.  Jesus was such from the age of 12 until 30.  We are in such a hurry to do “public” ministry.  If we understand the target we can become and the true spiritual maturity required for public ministry, we would not be in a hurry.  Yet the Lord knows how to prod us out onto the stage so to speak.  If you have never heard this, hear it now.  David was tending Jesse’s sheep until the day he was called and anointed.  Then he went though a ton of training before he came into all that his anointing by Samuel indicated and began.

Moses tended sheep on the backside of the desert for 40 years before he was a shepherd to an entire nation for 40 years of wilderness wandering.  I have experienced the training of waiting and faithfully doing what the Lord puts in my hands to do.  Take care of your family, please.  The time will come when He will lead you out, even thrust you out.  He, the Spirit, will lead you through the doors to places where you will be fruitful.  To what purpose has God called you?  Is it clear?  If not keep seeking Him.  Seek His face continually.  He will speak.  He did not call you to remain empty without direction.  Quietness is not silence.  Stillness is a peacefulness with your mind free from clutter and distraction.

As I thought about all I am writing, I caution us not to be afraid to step out.  I recall knowing a stirring in my spirit as I stood in a very large meeting at a Bible school.  I had something to speak out and was not ready to let it out.  Then a loud voice from a woman who I would later receive from, called out, “Quench not the Spirit.”  Oh, woe was me.  Then another voice, “Some of you young men are afraid of your own shadow.  Jesus will take you by the hand and. . . .”  I don’t recall the finish.  It is enough that He takes us by the hand.  Do you know such fellowship with Him.  He is seeking you out and calling you to Himself, so you can find your rest in Him.

As we walk with Him, we grow in grace and the knowledge of Him.  Paul prayed that for us all.  He was praying for those he knew of firsthand but those prayers never stop.  Jesus prayed we would be one as He and His Father, our Father, are one.  He taught His disciples that they would know the Father directly.  It is always with Jesus.  He is forever the mediator of the new covenant.  He is never out of the picture.  As we come to, and know the Father directly, we find a maturity that enables us to know and carry the love that the Father has for men.  I have written before, we become a gift that the Father gives and sows into the earth.  Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it abides alone.  And if it is sown it will bear fruit.  It will yield a harvest.  Death works in us that life might work in others.  This is the way of our Father’s kingdom.  Get to know your Father.

All Authority Is In Christ

All Authority Is In Christ

(Colossians 3:1-17)

Paul instructed us that we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God.  Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, ascended and sat down on His Father’s throne.  Jesus spoke those words to His servant John as He revealed Himself to John while he was in exile on Patmos.  Do you feel alone, exiled from the comfort of earthly family and friends, even from familiar brothers and sisters in Christ?  Christ Jesus wants to reveal Himself to you in that place.  Seek Him.  Turn your attention to Him.

I started with the fact that we are dead.  Without Christ, we are dead in our sins.  Sins.  Those acts, thoughts, ways of living that are not aligned with the One who made us.  Paul gave a more basic definition.  Whatever is not of faith is sin.  Unbelief is sin and is the basis of so much of our human failures.  We must believe and continue to believe on and in, and into Christ.  God has placed us into Christ and we are now seated with Him in the heavenly realms.  In that place, we have authority in His name.  Many years ago I came to understand that His name is not a charm to be brought into our situations to manipulate.  Eli’s sons, undisciplined young men, led Israel into a defeat thinking they could bring the ark of God’s covenant with them to grant victory.  They knew nothing of the Lord and were destroyed.

Real authority comes by knowing the Lord Jesus firsthand.  That is the only way to true victory.  We overcome by His blood, the words out of our mouths, and that we are not afraid of loss including our earthly lives.  That is my personal amplified version of that passage in Revelation.  His blood is the full measure of His covenant with us.  Authority, true authority comes out of covenant relationship with the Lord Jesus.  He gave His life, His blood to establish a covenant with us at a table of fellowship.  Remember that last meal He shared before His death?  Remember also that only His closest disciples were at that meal.  But now, by His Spirit poured out on all flesh, every person, man, woman, and child has the opportunity to come to Christ and become a disciple and enter into true covenant relationship with the Son of God.

As we go on following Him, heavenly authority will be given us to do good, to heal, to deliver people from addictions, even to raise the dead.  He has not stopped performing cures and miracles through His true servants.  He also continues to work through earthly authorities but, according to His wisdom, foreknowledge and plan for human history, earthly authority is breaking down.  The image Nebuchadnezzar saw had feet of iron and clay.  That is the time we live in.  To me, not much iron is left.  It’s mostly just clay.  God still works through earthly authority to perfect His people.

Consider Jesus.  A moment came where He was told that Herod wanted to see Him.  He knew an earlier Herod had wanted to kill Him when He was an infant.  That may or may not have been part of the motivation, but He, the Lord, responded this way.  “Tell that fox that today and tomorrow I perform cures (healings and miracles) and the third day I am perfected.”  How much is in those words!  Our Father used the Roman system, Pilate and the soldiers, to lift up the Savior, as part of this perfection process.  But more was to be done as on the third day.  We see Jesus perfected, resurrected, as the firstborn from the dead.  Ultimately, this is the perfection we, as believers, are all being brought to, that is, to the redemption of our bodies, to a spiritual body.

Our brother Watchman Nee gave a series of messages, compiled in a book titled “Spiritual Authority”.  He addresses earthly as well as heavenly authority.  Consider all the authorities we find ourselves under in this life.  Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered.  I heard an excellent teaching years ago regarding that word, “suffering.”  The old King James version includes this from Jesus, “Suffer the little children to come to me.”  That word means allow.  Jesus allowed John to baptize Him.  Jesus bore with the opposition of the Pharisees and with the blindness of the Sadducees, Herodians, and Essenes.  His ultimate suffering allowed the destruction of His mortal flesh.  He tasted death for every man.  We understand that for each of His servants, the Lord cuts short physical suffering.  He gives grace to bear it.  In His suffering, Christ won victory over death itself and was raised with an incorruptible body.

We will receive the same, that is, an incorruptible body.  That is reason to rejoice and look forward.  Yet I have found that if that is only a doctrine, a concept we have heard, it will not carry us.  We must have, we need, a present refreshing of His presence.  We learn to rely on His Spirit within.  “I have a friend, the Spirit breathing holy fire within, my ever-present help, speaking truth when I can’t find it.”  Thanks to a sister from Hillsong for those words.

Jesus has sat down at the right hand of our Father and says, “All authority has been given me in heaven and earth.”  He reigns above all principalities and powers, and every other name.  As we are continually being filled with His Spirit, He is imparting to us authority to overcome in every situation for our own souls and for those around us.  This walk of overcoming requires a constant connection with that One who calls us to come boldly to His throne of grace.  No true authority is exercised apart from His true grace.

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

We begin with an often repeated thought.  Eye has not seen nor ear heard the things that God has prepared for them that love Him.  There remains an eternal rest and great, inexpressible joy for those who believe God.  Now the Lord is the Spirit and those who worship and love Him must do so in spirit and truth.  Truth is a powerful thought.  Authentic, real, no faking, no hypocrisy.  Life is real, why fake it.  That is a common phrase now and it rings of truth.  But without a reality of Christ and God for who He is, those words provide the excuse that we are just being real, simply being honest.  We require everyone else to live with our ugly selves.  We learn how to manage.  That is a nice way of saying we learn to draw boundaries, have walls, and hide in our fears.  We are afraid to be exposed and, like Adam and Eve, we hide.

The Lord Jesus Christ displayed the full glory of the Living God, and revealed Him as a giving Father.  He gives without limit.  He is gracious.  When we come to God now, we see Jesus.  The law came through Moses.  Moses is an awesome man but he is not the Savior.  The law was never meant to save us but to expose us to ourselves so that we would be drawn to God who is the Savior.  I have not heard it said lately but the meaning of the name “Jesus” is “God is Savior”.  When God called Adam out of his hiding place, He knew what had happened.  He drew the confession out of Adam and that man included the source of his temptation, Eve.  We need to be careful here.  Was this the start of blame shifting?

We now know not to go there, or we should know to simply admit our own sin, our own failures.  That restores intimacy, both with God and with human relationships.  God called and Adam came out of hiding.  Everything that Adam said to God was factually true.  God sees the heart and He spoke directly to Adam and gave that man consequence.  The same was true for Eve.  Only the serpent was cursed directly for that animal was the means by which satan gained authority among men.  Envy and jealously breed all kinds of temptation and failure.  Our enemy is envious of man because of what satan forfeit and the love and fellowship God gives to us.  God finished His work with Adam and Eve by giving them skins, animal hides.  This initial sacrifice is a type of the ultimate sacrifice which we have now seen in Christ.  And I sense it was their redemption.

Adam and Eve were married.  They were created to be, and were one.  Adam said, “Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.”  When asked about divorce Jesus first clarified the issue of the law from Moses.  His audience were all synagogue attenders.  Today, many are churchgoers.  They, and we, have heard God’s commandments, His words to man.  Moses allowed divorce because of hardness of heart.  To the Corinthians, Paul echoed this related to unbelievers.  We are called to peace.  Yet Paul did not condone divorce.  He said among believers, we may need time apart but we should be reconciled to one another.  Get your heart soft.  Jesus came to show us what is available and then poured out His Spirit so we might receive Him and have our hearts softened.

Jesus includes these words about marriage, “It was not so from the beginning.”  Back to Adam and Eve.  We do not see much detail about their lives after the garden.  But I know this.  Eve had many children.  Adam called her Eve because she was the mother of all living.  And their children had children, and the earth was being filled.  God had said be fruitful and multiply.  And I also know this,  Adam did not get up one day and say, “Eve, I hate you. I am out of here.  I am following Cain up to Nod and find me another wife.”  He and Eve had been through too much together.  She had literally come out of his side.  He could not forget that.  Jesus closed with this, “What God has joined together, let no man, or woman, break it.  That will lead to adultery.”  And He also said that adultery leads to divorce.

All this is simple to me.  If we want to follow Jesus fully, to truly be His disciple, we must hear Him and do what He says.  Marriage has been called a covenant.  I am not sure about that description.  Every covenant that depends upon man to keep has been broken.  Only the covenants which God ordains and initiates and keeps will fulfill His purpose.  This is His goal among mankind, that He will be glorified.  We say the enemy attacks us and our relationships, our families.  He can only work chaos where he has ground.  The cross has put Adam, our flesh to death.  We need to agree that we are dead to our ways and our agenda.  When trouble comes, when the voice of the accuser beats on us, refuse his taunts and accusations.  Don’t agree with the temptations to live our old ways.  And lean on your beloved, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is a heavenly bridegroom for every true believer.  His church is called his bride, his wife.  This is written by Paul to the Ephesians and appears again in John’s vision in Revelation (Rev. 21).  True Christians don’t initiate polygamy because God’s original, and continued, intent is one man and one wife.  So is Christ and the church.  God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  In this life He can restore marriages for His name’s sake.  Some couples manage marriage for their mutual comfort.   It is simple wisdom to maintain peaceful relationships.  But God is after our true spiritual growth.  Seek peace with all people and the sanctification without which no one will see God.  I have some self-centered ways that still need to go.  Many of us do and those ways affect our relationships.

But we know that He is able to heal and restore every broken part of our lives.  This is necessary individually and applies to our relationships.  Our relationships are the platforms where He refines us.  We see that they are fragile, and seemingly easily broken.  Offenses come and we must let them go.  Some are more easily forgiven.  Failure to forgive and to seek genuine peace is one issue which will hinder our growth and, if unchecked, our entrance into His presence.  The marriage supper of the Lamb has been prepared for them that love Him.  To those who are fully yielded to Jesus, who love Him and pursue the intimacy that He waits to share, that celebration will be a wedding to Him.  I have no idea what that really looks like.  But I know it will be awesome.  His new wine will flow, His joy will be explosive!  If we will share it, like Him, we must endure the cross in our life, in our relationships.  For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, so that He might sit and wait for His bride to be made ready.  Are you being made ready?