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.

Seasons

Seasons

(Ecc. 3:1,17, Psalm 1:3, Rev. 22:2)

God is eternal but His working in the world has seasons.  He purposed creation and it had a specific time of His doing it.  He had a season of the flood and preservation of Noah in the time of His judgement.  And in the fulness of time, in that season that only God fully understood and knew, He sent His Son to be born of a young virgin and Jesus came on the scene.  In His life we see seasons also.  Yet now He has fully entered the eternal realm while He remains with us always even until the end of this present evil age.

Jesus had seasons.  After Bethlehem, He had a season in Egypt.  And the scripture was fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my Son”, as the Lord said through a prophet.  He grew as a child and young man in Galilee.  He was baptized by John, had a 40 day test in the wilderness, and then moved among the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As we follow Him, it will be so for us.  God works in our lives as we move among His people.  We know a time where we come to know Him as Father.  We became part of His new creation.  For many of us, an instant birth happens, a suddenness, a coming out of a womb where we were not yet aware of Him.  That is the awakening needed in this season.  It has been the same in every season.

I know a sister in Christ.  When we spoke about the president of the US, she said she prays that he will encounter Jesus.  That is the prayer for every man, woman, and child.  I have written elsewhere of my encounters with Him, those moments where a spiritual transformation takes place.  We need His continual presence, an awareness that we walk before Him.  The Lord spoke to Abraham, “Walk before me and be blameless.”  That is a walk of faith and confidence in the truth that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  You cannot hide your bad self from Him.  Your flesh is exposed and you are at His mercy.  There He shows you His lovingkindness, His grace.

Seasons bring growth.  In the natural, we know four seasons.  Think about them and how they reflect God’s working in your life.  The picture in the references in Psalms and Revelation uses the picture of a tree.  We are like trees.  Be planted in Him, in His Spirit.  Let your roots go deep into Him.  Don’t ever try to run away.  You will injure the roots already there and bring extra trouble.  When Israel rejected the Lord, it meant great trouble.  Learn to cooperate with His discipline.  Jesus said the Father would prune us to bring more lasting fruit.  I was struck by the picture in Revelation 22.  The tree of life, the Lord Himself, the Spirit, is in the middle of the street which is a river, and it is on both sides.  And it’s season of fruit-bearing is monthly.  That is a short season and a very large tree.  Those pictures are yet like parables.  I have learned to be careful not to over-analyze them but the Spirit brings understanding.  Allow the Spirit to speak.

The Lord and His kingdom are eternal.  They are not subject to time and seasons.  We are entering His kingdom.  We are in a process, on a journey, growing spiritually.  The process may move slowly at times and then suddenly accelerate.  As we walk with Him, real growth will result.  John describes the phases as children, young men, and fathers.  Read and consider that passage in 1 John 2.  I have found after many years of following and listening, I see aspects of all 3 yet in my life.  Growth is uneven for us.  But Jesus never changes.  While Smith Wigglesworth is often remembered for miracles, he was a teacher and preacher.  He said when Christ died and was raised from the dead, time ended and eternity began.  He was one who more fully entered that kingdom and so moved in great faith so that God was able to do more than most believed.  May we be so encouraged by that great cloud of witnesses and by Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, and press on into the heavenly kingdom. It is always time to seek the Lord.  Seek His face continually.

Roots – Good and Bad

Roots – Good and Bad

In Matt. 13 Jesus shares a parable using the theme of seed being sown in a field.  He contrasts different qualities of soil, the wayside, stony ground, thorny ground, and good soil.  Each of us, if we are honest in the secret places of our hearts, has known something of each of these.  Before I knew the Lord, I was like that first type.  The seed didn’t find any place to start.  It just bounced off me.  Stony ground includes the areas of our hearts that are hard.  Jesus says that type of soil starts out well, with joy.  Yet that one has no root.  When trouble comes, that one stumbles.  That one struggles and looks for escape from the trouble.  Those are my words, not His, but I have seen it to be true.

When trouble comes, God is after something in us.  He locates a hard place and wants us to see it.  The process is for us to see our hardness and bring it to Him.  As we grow, we learn to put aside the hardness, unforgiveness and bitterness.  Paul wrote somewhere for us to put away all anger wrath, clamor and bitterness.  The clamor starts in us and if it festers it creates more hardness.  In Hebrews, we are told, to not harden our hearts so that we could hear His voice.  His voice is that seed.  When we do turn away from Him, He lets us go, gives us some rope, so that we learn.  The issue is one of the ground in our hearts.  It needs to be plowed to expose the rocks.  Then the rocks can be removed.  Being plowed is never fun.

When trouble comes to us, we often feel the distress and the pain.  The hurt and pain can be on many levels.  We can fight it, run from it, or turn to God.  Sometimes it may be that we need to get away from the source so that we can get with God.  I have heard it said that Jesus Himself knew emotional abuse as a child.  I can believe that.  The Pharisees called Him illegitimate as a man.  He probably heard that as a child in Nazareth.  And Jesus learned to get off by Himself and pour His heart out to His Father.  When the pain comes, we need to seek God.  Our nature is to lash out, to give place for our anger to vent.  Some sort of destruction is usually the result.  We have all known it.  Then we have to clean up our mess.  I have known that.

When we do not go to God, we blame others and can end up spreading all their weaknesses and failures.  Some truth may be in all that but love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Pet. 4:8)  Speaking out of our pain and bitterness can cause trouble and divisions.  Hebrews 12 is an important passage for us to understand God’s working.  Read the entire chapter and let the Lord speak to you.  Trouble comes to change us, to cause us to grow.  Now focus on Heb. 12:3-15 and hear how submitting to God’s discipline of us affects our relationships.  Verse 15 refers to a root of bitterness.  The following verse refers to Esau whose life was set to satisfy himself.  Very important is that we do not fail of, or come short of, the grace of God.  Grace is not to give us an excuse but to provide the strength to pursue peace with all men, even to love those who cause us trouble.

Look again at verse 3 which tells us to turn away from discouragement and weariness of soul.  That is where the grace is needed and will help us.  In Colossians 2, we are encouraged to walk by His life (vs. 6) as we are rooted and grounded in Him.  When we are stumbling and struggling in our troubles, and not walking in love, we need grace and to grow deeper in Him.  We need Him to work the soil in our lives and we must allow the pain.  Hebrews 12:11 says this.  As He turns over the soil in our hearts, we are strengthened by grace.  His power and strength are in the grace, not for us to be known as strong and look good, but for us to walk in love.

In closing two other thoughts and scriptures.  Eph 3:17 calls us to be rooted and grounded in love and Jude 21 adds to keep ourselves in the love of God.  No room is left there for our self-righteousness and anger and bitterness.  In His presence is mercy and grace for us and for all our enemies, as they come to Him.

Set Your Affection

Set Your Affection

(Jer. 9:23-24, Col. 3:2, Gal. 6:14)

The apostle Paul had a singular focus upon the Lord Jesus.  Considering His experience with the Lord on his way to persecute the church, I think we should not be surprised.  Blinded for 3 days after hearing the Lord so directly speak to him got his full attention.  The Greek in the reference in Colossians gives the idea that we are to be disposed to the things above and it is emphatic.  Translations express it as the title says.  We must first have our spirits quickened by the Holy Spirit, by Christ.  It may not be as intense as Paul’s experience, but without His Spirit, the words I reference from the Bible hold no meaning for us.

We must, having begun in the Spirit, continue to seek after God as Paul wrote.  Keep seeking the things above not the things upon the earth.  And here his emphasis is on the One who sits on the throne.  Where is your affection?  I ask myself where is mine?  Let’s not stay in the question.  Let us choose and set our affections, our mind, our disposition upward toward the One Lord, Jesus Christ.  He is alive.  He has all authority.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  And we can know our place with Him in heaven, in the kingdom of God.

The earth is full of distractions.  The Lord has created it and in the earth He gives much that we can enjoy.  So we must remember to set our affection above.  We are easily distracted and take up causes, social, political, environmental, medical, legal, educational, and other concerns.  All are true concerns and we may be employed in such arenas.  And of lesser or little importance we follow entertainment, sports, and celebrities.  For me, some of these lesser earthly things have been a diversion but much of it has lost its luster, its attraction.  That is not complete, I admit.  I still watch sports.

I get concerned at the volume of Facebook posts by believers that amplify the earthly, especially political issues.  In our day, one cannot separate earthly government from politics and the struggle for earthly power and agenda.  Jesus is not there.  He never went there and does not go there today.  Of course He has people who work there but what is His purpose?  What does it mean that the Spirit asks, “Can a nation be saved in a day?”  Really, we think a collection of a certain people in a particular geographic boundary, under a particular form of government can all be saved in a day?  Nonsense.  When Abraham was one, I called him, says the Lord and he left the world of his day.  That process has never changed.  Were 3000 saved in a day at the time of Pentecost?  Yes.  But others mocked.

Believing that one political nation is better than another is a distracting thought at best, and spiritually dangerous at worst.  It leads to exalting an earthly system that will ultimately pass away.  To be sure those governments which allow personal freedoms and acknowledge freedom of conscience allow for the gospel to proceed.  But it also allows for every bad choice.  Don’t we see that today?  Every government in the earth is part of the world and we are told not to love it.  I hear believers boast in their country.  Read the referenced scriptures and read their context.  We are to boast in one thing, that we know Him.  And I would remind us it is a two way street, we are to open our hearts that He, Jesus, would know us.

Through Jeremiah, the Lord spoke of those among Israel who were not circumcised in heart.  Read the rest of the referenced chapter.  That heart circumcision is the work of the cross as Jesus comes to know us and search out our true affections.  He would clean us out, searching the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.  If we claim to be believers, the words of Jeremih are for us if we have not, like Paul, learned to boast in the cross of Christ, by which we are crucified to the world, and the world to us.  This is process, but it must have its work in us.  Let us press on to know Him, and be known by Him.  And let us boast in Him and His lovingkindness, and His justice, and His righteousness.  Set your affection on things above where Jesus is seated.