Today

Today

(Luke 9:51-56, Rev. 11:1-13)

I continue to ponder His timing.  In my own life, my walk with Him, He has encouraged me over and over that He can cause me to be right on time for His purposes in my life.  While we pray for divine connections and appointments, I am finding that the Spirit works in the whole earth to bring about those very connections.  He would move us among others to display us as His workmanship, to shine as His letters to be read by everyone we meet.  The Holy Spirit in you wants to pour you out into the lives of others.  Jesus simply said don’t hide your light.  Shine so that others will glorify God.

Jesus was perfectly in tune with our Father.  His timing was synchronized with God’s timing.   God sent Him in the fulness of time and He walked out His life in perfect step, in every detail.  Without Jesus’ doing anything but God working through men with evil intent (remember Joseph’s words to his own brothers at their reunion), He fulfilled the Passover exactly on time.  God, the Almighty and All-knowing One did that.  Men were oblivious to the timing.  Christ and the Spirit were not.  We must be ever listening to what the Spirit is saying.  Today, if you would hear His voice, be still and not easily distracted even by the voice of a brother.  I say this very carefully.  When you know you have been directed by the Lord in something, follow Him.  When you are hungry and being pulled away to go to Him outside the camp, simply take some time alone with Him.  Sometimes it may be for a few years.  It was so for Saul after being blind for 3 days and almost murdered in Damascus.  He went away to Arabia and gained wisdom and insight.

Take much time to listen, to sit at Jesus feet.  If we follow Him, we can expect our Father to replicate His life in and through us.  His timings work in our lives also.  How long was Jesus earthly ministry?  About 3-1/2 years.  That relates to what I recently wrote about time, times, and a half time.  He finished His ministry with an ascension.  In Rev. 11, the two witnesses in Jerusalem (note the city’s spiritual names in vs. 8) speak the Lord’s words for 3-1/2 years (1260 days).  And then, after lying dead in the city for 3-1/2 days, they ascend.  This happens as it did for Jesus.  That time period is repeated through John’s writing of his revelation several times.  The point is not so much about the time period but such a profound testimony of Christ.  We are His very body.  He is making us, His people, to be a true witness of Him in the earth.  He who began a good work will complete it.  He will.

We are rightly seeking to walk out our lives according to His wisdom as the Lord works out the history of this age.  We must be diligent to maintain His ways of lovingkindness and truth as we go.  Otherwise, we are easily caught up in the events and miss Him.  It is the testimony of Jesus that is the Spirit of prophecy.  As we seek understanding of the times in which we live, consider the life of the Savior, of Messiah.  Is he not working all of history together for His purpose which is our good?  Remember that those words of encouragement are for those who love God (theos) and are called according to that purpose ordained before the foundation of this world (cosmos).  It is an eternal, unchanging purpose no matter the rise and fall of nations around us.  I think we add too much of our ideas and ponderings rather than focus on the Lord Himself as they did in Antioch.  So we descend into academic institutions which lack the presence that was known by those men and women we memorialize. So we have seminaries that many refer to as cemeteries.  Not everyone there is missing God but the institutions are temporary and many so disconnected from His ways.  Real training is in the streets.  It is not in an event but among daily lives and the mundane as we would call it.  With all my words here, it can be said simply.  Know Him, know His voice, be filled with the Spirit always and be led by Him.  Take up your cross each day and follow Him.  Your cross is whatever the will of our Father is for you today.  It may be to take your kids for a walk,  It may be to go to the Middle East, Indonesia, or Africa,  It may be a day to pray.  Be sure to read the passage in Revelation and the passage in Luke.  We are born of a Spirit of life, not destruction.  Death and a passing away will happen but His end is always life.

God’s Eternal Clock

God’s Eternal Clock

(Acts 1:7-8, Dan. 7:25, 12:7, Rev. 12:14)

Have you learned to listen to the Spirit?  Have you learned to sit at the feet of Jesus and ask Him questions and believe for answers?  Do you understand that by the Spirit, the Lord creates a hearing ear in your spirit so that you might know His voice?  If you do not know these truths, you can because God is always searching for hearts turned to Him.  He never changes and is always ready to give us wisdom and understanding.  As we mature in spirit, we also learn not to lean on our understanding and to trust Him fully.  Very often events happen and it throws us for a loop as we say.  Often we have developed an expectation for what he is going to do, or what is going to happen.  And God moves in a very different way, or simply opposite of our expectation. Even as disciples, we sometimes do not know what spirit we are of.  (See Luke 9:53-56)

We need to realize, no matter what we may understand, we know in part.  We may compare spiritual notes with others and collectively think we see what’s coming.  And whoops!  Not what we thought!  And we step back and admit, “Your ways, Lord, are higher than ours.”  I am thinking it is much better to be still and listening than figuring out God’s next step.  I often hear of an excitement over a dream from the Lord.  It is so easy to slide into a fascination with the gift the Spirit gives.  But we learn to maintain a focus on Him.  He wants to bring us into step with Himself.  Jesus says, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  A burden exists.  The Lord looks for those who share in His burdens, His concerns, His desires.  He calls us into fellowship with Himself and we experience His sufferings, and His joys.

All this works patience in us.  We know that the Lord is going to accomplish certain things.  But they are all on His schedule.  At the start of 2021, I knew I was entering a season of changes, of new connections.  I have learned to be led by the Spirit.  I cannot make the timings right but He does.  Some are concerned that we, His people, can screw up His timing.  I think we overestimate our influence.  Jesus said plainly, “It is not for you (closest disciples) to know the times and seasons which our Father holds in His own authority.  But you shall receive power (great, spontaneous, explosive ability) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”  I have changed a few of the specific words that are written in Acts.  Yet we do not look for our understanding to be perfectly correct.  He is true!  We often err by judging His clock by observation.  We are easily distracted.

Mankind, in and outside of the church, has an assortment of calendars.  Paul cautioned those foolish Galatians not to be caught up in observing days and months and seasons and years, saying he was afraid for them.  In modern words, he was concerned that after all his efforts, they didn’t get it!  With all appropriate respect to the Hebrew calendar, the Lord is not bound to follow it, nor should we be.  He does cause many things to align to strengthen our faith.  But the law remains as the tutor, to lead us to Christ.  The new wineskin we are, as softened by the Spirit, is not to be restrained by old forms.  We explore them for understandings of Christ but they are ineffectual for imparting life.  Life comes by our connection with Christ, the head. When the Lord opened heaven to John on Patmos, He gave several specific time periods for certain events.  Yet in one instance He used an imprecise phrase, times, time and a half a time.  That same phrase was used when the Lord was speaking to Daniel.    Have you noticed how that pattern shows up in real time?  We read of two witnesses who speak for 1260 days (Rev. 12).  Divide that by 30 and we have 42 months.  That is the same time period that is for the unbelievers to trample the holy city.  Forty two months is 3 and ½ years.  Time in years, 1 + 2 + 1/2 = 3-1/2 years = 42 months.  This is not given for us to figure out all the patterns.  We may not predict fulfillments correctly.  I remember Jesus words at His ascension.  Now we may remember Daniel’s response to see that the 70 years were completed so he prayed for the restoration of the Lord’s house.  But we do not live in the day of Daniel.  What was John’s prayer at the end of his revelation of Christ?  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”  Only the Father knows the day and the hour, and we see it is coming quickly.  It is all about Him and becoming His bride.

Unity of the Spirit

Unity of the Spirit

(Eph 4:1-16. Jude, 1 Cor. 11:18-19)

As we go through this life, we have the true and genuine and we have counterfeits.  I recently wrote about false prophets and false christs, or saviors.  We do not want to focus on the counterfeit but on the genuine.  No one compares to Christ Jesus.  The more we see Him for who He truly is, the more we recognize the counterfeit.  When we consider the church which Jesus is building, counterfeits also exist.  In reformed theology which came out of the time of the reformation in Europe, it was expressed that the true church of Christ is invisible.  I would rather say that we cannot define it as this or that group.  The Lord has always had faithful ones.  Today, they are scattered among groups, denominations, and local churches.  The Lord, Christ, knows those who belong to Him.  As we grow spiritually and interact with others, we learn to discern counterfeits.  We know them by their fruit.

Over the last several years I digested the short message written from Jude.  It is a very open letter addressed to a broad audience.  He offers sharp warnings concerning some who have crept in among those who are called and sanctified.  Jude contrasts two types of people.  He is writing to those who are purifying themselves as He is pure. (See 1 John 3:1-3)  He describes others with the strongest words.  These are the tares that Jesus spoke about.  Jude does not tell us to uproot them but to avoid them.  As I write that, however, I recall that Paul warns Timothy concerning Hymenaeus and Alexander. (See 1 Tim, 1:20)  If we read the context, Paul’s desire is for these individuals to learn a lesson and change.  The same is true with Jude as he hopes for some to be plucked from the fire.

True unity requires correction.  It requires recognizing and avoiding those who cause divisions.  It requires us to be awake.  Some at our gatherings are clouds without rain.  Yet it is not for us to force separations.  When lawlessness is plainly evident it must be confronted as Paul told those in Corinth. (See 1 Cor. 5)  In mercy, we may want those living in immorality to feel welcome but that encourages compromise.  The Lord is rich in mercy to the humble and broken.  Some of us may struggle for years on the road to overcoming our self-loving selves but wrong choices corrupt us.  We are defiling ourselves as dwelling places of the Spirit.  The Lord has paid the price for our redemption.  His grace is the most precious, costly gift available in the universe.  Jesus Christ, offered Himself by the eternal Spirit, as the full sacrifice for all the failures of all men.

This gift of His life poured out as the human yet divine blood He carried.  That work destroyed the separation between mankind and God who created us.  When we receive the Spirit of Christ, our spirit is made alive and one with His Spirit.  That unity must be maintained.  It must be cultivated.  It must be strengthened.  As is the natural growth of a child, so our inner man, our spirit, grows.  We mature and are given more and more responsibility in the Lord’s household, His eternal family.  With spiritual maturity we gain approval from our Father and are given more responsibility in His house.  Understanding this, Paul addresses divisions in the body of Christ in his first letter to the Corinthians.  Keep in mind we call it the first but he may have written others which we do not have.  In addressing the supper of the Lord, he scolds them and admits that heresies exist that those who are mature would be evident.

Heresies?  Yes, that is the Greek word in the refenced verse 19.  We think heresy is the worst thing that happens among believers.  Heresy simply means a lie, something that is untrue.  Heresies are related to immaturity and carnal living.  They have been happening for 2000 years, and before.  We think we know God and yet walk in ways inconsistent with who He is.  We are self-loving and self-exalting.  And that shows up in our poor treatment of others.  We separate from others thinking we are better than they.  If we are mature, we may find separation but that is often the Lord’s way of moving us into new relationships and responsibilities.  A mature walk includes the ability to avoid those who are causing divisions while maintaining right relationships.  May we speak the truth in love to everyone we meet so that we all may grow up into Christ.

Read the referenced passages and the Holy Spirit will impart the truth to you that you might grow.  So we will grow together into that house that brings joy to His heart.

Antichrists

Antichrists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Man of Sorrows

A Man of Sorrows

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord Is Light

The Lord Is Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living and Precious Stones

Living and Precious Stones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eternal Covenant

The Eternal Covenant

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

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

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

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

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

Baptism in the Spirit

Baptism in the Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Comes

Jesus Comes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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