He Will Finish His Work

He Will Finish His Work

(Zech. 4:1-14, Rev. 1:12-13, Rev. 11:4, Rev. 21:1, Heb. 8:5, 9:23)

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that we prophesy in part.  No one has the full picture by himself.  Peter warns us of thinking that our revelation, our understanding is private, or personal.  We ought to be bouncing our thoughts off one another and, more importantly, asking the Lord Himself.  In this day the number of prophetic voices has increased.  Along with all this understanding we need a commensurate measure of discernment.  Are we hearing the Lord’s voice above all the other voices?  Are we hearing Him corporately?  Are the words and the spirits being tested?

Zechariah in his day hears a word directed to a ruler, Zerubbabel.  He was a leader of the first group of God’s people returning from Babylon.  His name indicates he was born in Babylon.  But he did not stay there.  He was moving on in God’s purpose in his day.  I was once distressed when a brother spoke of a governor, an elected official of our present day, as a “Zerubbabel”.  He spoke as if such a one could advance the kingdom.  We have gone 2000 years from the pouring out of the Spirit and we still look for an earthly kingdom.  To see Zerubbabel as anything other than a type of Christ misses the point.  May the Lord mature us and bring us to clearer understanding.

Look at the passage from Zechariah.  Keep in mind, Christ had not yet been revealed.  This man saw in part without our reference point.  Yet he sees and speaks of the same vision that John saw more clearly on Patmos.  Zechariah tells of a builder laying a foundation.  And he sees two olive trees who are pouring oil into the golden lampstands.  Don’t we see what this represents?  True prophetic and apostolic ministry has one purpose and function.  They function to impart spiritual life.  I sense the Spirit pleading with us, and working an intercession in us for such a flow of life, that the lampstands may be what the Lord Jesus spoke to His twelve and the women with them.  “You are the light of the world.”  That is a divine declaration, a commanding word, an identity.

The olive trees, His witnesses, are beholding Him.  A literal meaning of the words for these anointed ones is sons of fresh oil.  They stand before the Lord of the whole earth.  The shining of the lampstands requires a flow.  Under the law and the prophets, it was the job of the priests to ensure the flow of oil so that the light never went out.  Similarly, David had priests who made sure the fire on the altar of sacrifice never went out.  The altar of incense likewise had a continual fragrance going up to the Lord.  These are all pictures of our life in Christ.  These are the pictures that caused the Moravians to develop 24/7 prayer habits.  Today, bowl and harp and prayer-watch ministries are growing over the entire earth.

Prayer and worship, the bowl and the harp, represent what is born of the Spirit in our spirits and is displayed by our words, our actions.  I have written before, and write again, we are called to spend focused time in the presence of the Lord.  We learn to pour worship and prayer, matured prayer, to the Lord.  We grow and learn to abide in Him, in His presence.  And we carry that presence wherever we go.  Others are touched by it and drawn toward the one who inhabits the praises of His people and inhabits us.  We become a praise to His name.

Moses saw the pattern, Zechariah saw the pattern, John saw the pattern.  But the heavenly, the true and real, is yet to be fully seen by us.  It is in Christ and revealed in measure by the Spirit for us who believe. Through each of these brothers in faith came a fresh and increasing revealing of Christ and His working in the earth.   The Lord Jesus Christ is creating, and finishing the pattern in us, a people.  He has no other building, no other means to accomplish His purpose in our day.  Will we cooperate with Him?  Will we allow all the work necessary?  Let us delight to do His will.  Lord, bring us to this place and keep us in it.

He Will Complete the Work

He Will Complete the Work

(Phil. 1:6, Eph. 4:11-16)

He who began a good work in you, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.  If you have known the Lord Jesus for some time, I expect you have heard these words before.  If not I suggest you read the entire letter that Paul wrote from Rome when he knew his execution was near.  He expresses a tender love for those people.

While this thought has meaning for each of us, Paul was addressing those in Philippi  as a group, as a family of believers.  Salvation is a very personal experience but the Lord is after a people, a family.  The thought of a family of God has broad acceptance.  But what is that, and most important what does it mean from God’s perspective?  What was the intention for creation?  And then a most important question.  Are we walking in that?  So much of what we see and hear contradicts that.  We are collectively, and individually, a work in progress.  We are a vessel in the Potter’s hands.  We cry how long O Lord!  When will we be finished?  His “soon” is not our “soon”.

I spoke with someone recently who said what has been a recurring thought for me.  The Baptist spoke of Jesus as the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  He further said that His winnowing fork is in His hand and He will thoroughly thresh His floor.  As He works, He will be making sure we remain on the sure foundation.  And He is the chief cornerstone.  We can be distracted into side issues.  I think of Bunyan’s pilgrim (Pilgrim’s Progress, the book) who meets up with some characters who misled him.  Such times provide lessons we will not easily forget.  As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we grow up and learn not to be carried away by winds of doctrines.  Teaching is of value but sometimes the “new” thing becomes a distraction.  Then we can miss the Lord.  He knows how to bring us back.

We live in a time when many are pursuing the Lord and receiving dreams, visions, and revelations.  Consider how closely Christ Jesus was connected with the Father.  He was not so quick to share everything He knew or saw.  He patiently taught those who were close to Him saying, “How can I explain the kingdom of heaven.”  As He spoke in parables, I just used language that is common today.  He made comparisons to help His disciples to understand.  The Lord desires to communicate with each one of us and he knows what we need, what food is for us.  The manna was a common food for all His people in the wilderness.  Yet with Moses He spoke face to face as with a friend.

It is written that Moses was the meekest man on the earth.  He had been thoroughly processed and prepared for his calling.  We could certainly consider him a prophet but was a truly humble man.  He knew God for years and yet asked to know His ways.  Moses knew that he had not arrived, was not finished as he was fulfilling his calling.  And Moses desired that all God’s people would prophesy.

All that we see in Moses and a large family of God’s people passing through the wilderness is a foreshadow of what the Spirit is working among Jesus’ church in this day.  All that is unbelief in us must die.  It cannot inherit the kingdom.  Read in Revelation 21:7-8 that the first ones mentioned who are found outside the city are the fearful and unbelieving.  They are included with more unsavory characters.  Remember John’s words, “He who practices righteousness is righteous.”  As the Lord works in us, He is patient to move us out of our sinful habits.  I would say that all of our failures have some root in unbelief, in wrong understandings of the truth.  So Paul prays for believers to grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ.  And the writer of the Hebrews says we must not fail of the grace of God.  At every failure we must turn and receive mercy and grace to get up and go on to maturity.  Remember John also wrote that when we confess our failures, the blood of the Lamb is sufficient to wash us clean from all unrighteousness.  We may falter but His love never fails.  Stay in the place of His love.  That is His presence.  That is the throne room of God.

A Beginning

A Beginning

(John 1:1-18, Rev. 3:20, Hab. 3:2, Luke 3:17)

John starts his story of Jesus, his gospel, hearkening back to Genesis.  He continues later (in Chapter 3) with a man’s beginning as one born of God.  This is the beginning all men need.  The phrase “born again” is full and now well known by many.   And as John writes many do not know Christ, and even among His own, He is not received.  Eternal truths never change and they show up throughout history including in our time.

Whomever receives Him, the Word, Christ Jesus, receives exousia to become teknon, a born one, of God.  I used the Greek words as they do have specific meanings.  But we do not need to be Greek scholars to know the truth.  It comes from God Himself by the Spirit.  Jesus said what is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of the Spirit is Spirit.  I recently read something obvious yet very important to consider.  Being born is outside of any person’s control.  For each of us, our parents came together, we were conceived, and when we were fully formed we were born.  This reminds me of my total reliance on God for everything and especially for my spiritual life.  It does not mean I do not have responsibility.  My basic responsibility is a “yes”, a response to Him.  We must receive Him for the new birth to happen.

The truth is that God takes the initiative.  I believe He does that for every man, for every person.  He sent His Son.  He made the first move.  The birth of the Son of God through Mary is a mystery.  We can get caught up in our minds to explain that.  Forget it!  Like it was at the creation of the universe, the Spirit of God moved and His new creation was started.  So John starts there.  The word, Christ became flesh, Jesus was born.

It was a miraculous work of God.  So it is with spiritual rebirth, regeneration.  We use words but our words must carry life so that life travels to another person.  Do we see a difference with spiritual birth and natural birth?  Yet in natural birth it takes a conception, it takes a willing man and woman to begin the process.  It takes an encounter, an intimate encounter with God for the Son, for Christ to be formed in us.  It is not a matter of our wills but of the will of God.  Yet we must be willing.  We must receive Him.  And we can.  Say yes when you become aware of the Spirit of God drawing you.

We want to see lives changed.  We see others making bad choices.  We see impact on their lives and their families.  We see the impact on nations and peoples.  We see entire cultures in turmoil.  So we pray for the Lord to move.  And we may remember the words, “Lord, revive your work in the midst of the years.”  And we look at groups called churches and see the heresies and the blasphemies and the very doctrines of demons.  Others have analyzed the wicked doctrines fabricated because of unbelief.  Some say Jesus is Michael come to earth for a period.  Others say twins were born and that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers.  And the basis of a “godfather” is that Joseph did know Mary denying the birth through a virgin.  Then, since Jesus is God, Mary is the mother of God and Joseph is the godfather.  Pay money to the godfather and he will protect you.  Give money to the “church” after you confess your murders and you are forgiven.  Modern day indulgences and criminal families.

We focus on Jesus but we do not ignore the corruption among us.  I am so aware of Jude’s message.  Some have come in the door and will cause trouble.  Empty and vain words come from them.  I have known my own thoughts that I thought were from God.  I am growing more and more careful with my words.  But those that sow discord are exposed by their fruit.  And sometimes exposure comes as we do not see any growth.  We need sound beginnings.  As the Baptist said, He will thoroughly beat His floor into shape.  Sure foundations are necessary.  Perhaps, in some ways, we may need to start over.  For some we need a realignment.  And for some, simply press on to know Him more.  Know Him who was from the beginning.

Bitter and Sweet

Bitter and Sweet

(Rev. 1:9, 10:10,11,  Ex. 15:23-25)

On Patmos, John had what we might say is the greatest revelation of the glorified Christ recorded.  As this progressed he was given a little book to eat.  It was sweet in his mouth and bitter in his belly.  When Moses led Israel through the wilderness, they were thirsty and found water at Mara.  It was bitter.  Moses turned to the Lord and was directed to a tree that turned the water to a sweet drink to quench the thirst of those on the journey.  We know the tree represents the cross that Jesus bore.  Symbols of the cross show up again and again through the wilderness.

At the cross, Jesus gave us the answer to bitterness.  He bore the pain by spitting out the medicine that would cover it up.  He did not allow the pain inflicted to be diminished by bitterness.  It is a test for us, a lesson learned, to not allow bitterness to fester.  We each have a little book, a journey of our lives.  That book is given to us by God.  It is like the journey of God’s people through the wilderness.  We may come to an experience that we hope will satisfy, only to find it bitter.  If we see that God has a way out, a solution, so that we can receive what we need, the bitter can be made sweet.  His solutions include letting go.  Who wants to drink bitterness?  We have heard it in different ways that it will make you sick and may even kill you.

If we consider Jesus, we see the pain He took on Himself.  It is a part of His carrying our bad stuff, our sin.  As we pass through our wilderness times, we see it is all a part of this world.  If we hear Jesus call and take up our cross becoming a true disciple, we begin to share in His sufferings.  We know something of the pain He bore and we develop grace and true kindness for others.  This was John’s experience.  His writing after Patmos is of a different perspective than others.

I noticed that John’s experience was reverse of Israel’s.  John first knew the sweetness and then the bitterness.  Is it not so with the cross?  When we first know what Christ has done, the joy, the sweetness is wonderful.  Then it’s work within reveals the bitter places.  He searches us and knows us and the work of the cross within sets us free.  When we let it work, sweet water will flow out to others.  If we do not recognize the Spirit’s working, bitter water may come out.  As James writes can a fountain bring out both sweet and bitter water?  It should not be so.  If we see it happen, we know to seek that change called repentance.  At such moments, I find myself asking the Lord, “What is my problem?”  I know the answer.

Both Israel and John were on journeys.  Both provide examples for us.  One is well before the revelation of the Son of God.  The other is after.  To whom should we pay more attention?  We might say neither.  And that last thought is important.  We need to pay heed to the daystar, the morning star, arising in our hearts.  That phrase is wonderfully creative.  Peter, a fisherman, wrote that.  When he wrote that, he had moved into his task of feeding Jesus’s sheep.  But that was Peter.  What about you?  What about today?  Are you knowing the leading of the Spirit?  Are you hearing His voice?  Are you growing in grace, in truth, in love for the Lord our God, and for those around you?

Following the Lord brings growth.  It brings change.  Along the way we will know the bitter and the sweet.  Remember Paul’s words to the Philippians, I press on to know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.  Life and death.  Death and life.  Simultaneous, synchronized working of the Spirit in us from the inner man out until we receive the redemption of our bodies.

Baptisms

Baptisms

(Eph. 5:18, Matt. 20:22-23, Luke 12:49-53, Rom. 6:4, Eph. 4:5, Ezek. 47:1-12)

Among the Greeks, the word baptism was applied to the sinking of a ship.  Most of us would understand that the Lord’s intention in baptism is that we would be fully immersed.  While the outward act is important and was specifically directed by Jesus, our experience of being totally immersed in Christ is most important.  That is a process and not a onetime event.  Nevertheless, the act of baptism is an essential beginning.

It comes to mind that Paul wrote, of God are you in Christ Jesus.  Without faith in the working of God through all that He accomplished in Christ, we would pursue outward acts to grow.  That will never yield a lasting result.  God works something in us and we respond in and by faith toward Him.  We have the example of Jesus, that at the beginning of His exposure to the masse, He was baptized by John.  Jesus called it an act of righteousness.  It represents our dying to our old life and being raised to a new one in Christ.  Today practices and timing vary but the original idea of being immersed is important.  And it is progressive.

In the passages in Matthew and Luke, Jesus refers to a baptism He is moving toward.  While the same word is used, this is another type of baptism.  He is pressing in to fulfill the will of God, the purpose of God, for His life.  If we follow Him as the 12 did, we will find ourselves moving toward this baptism also.  He refers to it in the context of fire.  It is a passionate pursuit.  He is straightened, distressed for it to be done.  This is the thought expressed.  Are we in the process of being immersed into a passionate pursuit of God’s purpose?  Ultimately it is a refinement of being conformed to the image of His Son.  It is the process of letting go so that the life of Christ would be expressed in our lives.

The picture which we have through Ezekiel is different.  Do you see the progression\?  Some mature saints I met years ago expressed the thought of letting go the shoreline.  With Ezekiel, he was led into the river until it could not be crossed.  A full baptism leads you into the currents of God and you no longer want to exert the effort to leave.  You are “free” to leave but you know that every twist, turn, and all the dangers are worth the seeming risks.  In God, our end is sure and always good.  Jesus arrived at the point where He pressed into it.  He knew His entry into Jerusalem on the foal of a colt was not the victory it appeared to be.  The victory would come when He finished His work.  And it would be revealed when He was raised.  Was there ever such an intensity of spiritual activity within such a short time?  I think even the final day and hour will not compare.

We hear much of the prophetic.  Many have dreams and visions.  Some are clear and full and their results confirm they are from the Spirit of God.  I sense others are mixed, our own desires mingling with God’s.  I see this among the prophetic when we are seeking to know God’s next move.  We miss it.  I cannot submit myself to the dreams, visions, and prophecies of others.  However, we know of the times where someone confirms what we are already hearing.  And sometimes, the words from one are confirmed later in another way.  Recently however, I have sensed whole groups of prophetic people missing it collectively.  Are we listening to one another and missing the Lord’s voice?

I am increasingly aware of our wrapping the history of earthly kingdoms with His purpose in the earth as if we know the future.  More than that we ascribe too much significance to earthly kingdoms.  The prophet Daniel confirmed that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealed the passing away as dust all the earthly kingdoms.  We do not seek for destruction but a complete displacement is coming.  It will be total.  Christ is not coming to establish an earthly kingdom.  He is coming so that the heavenly kingdom will fill the earth.  We keep seeking for Him to fix the old creation.  That is not what we read nor what we should expect.  He is bringing a new creation.  Christ Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.  He is the firstborn of a new creation.  All things will be summed up in Him.  One baptism.  To be immersed in and filled with Christ.  Will you allow the Lord to sink you like a ship?  You need to lose your anchors and let go of the shore and safety of the harbor.  All those are temporary anyway.

Treasure in Heaven

Treasure in Heaven

(Mark 10:21, Matt. 6:19-21, Luke 12:31-34)

Seek first the kingdom of God, and all that we need will be added to us.  I looked at the gospels as I began to write this and was surprised to find this very thought in the passage from Luke.  I had been thinking about what it means to seek first.  It becomes more than a passing thought or taking a few minutes to read or pray, and then move on.  As we go on, we find it becomes the first priority continually.  The Father and His kingdom are always first.

I began this reflection by reminding myself to store up treasure in heaven and wanted to read Jesus’ words.  A man has said that we need to pay attention to Jesus’ very words.  We receive much help, even an impartation of spiritual life, through the words of the writers of what we call the New Testament.  We appreciate and are fed by these lovers of God.  But Jesus own words are most valuable.  He said His words are Spirit and they are Life.  They are the incorruptible seed of which Peter wrote.  As was written for the seven churches of Asia, after Jesus had taken His seat in heaven, “Let him who has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  So let us remind ourselves of all that Jesus said.

The more we follow the leading of His Spirit, we store up treasure in heaven.  Do good works and give.  Fast and pray, but do it in secret as lovers of your Father in heaven.  Those thoughts are spoken by Jesus in the context of the verses referenced in Matt. 6.  Read that entire chapter again.  How easily we are caught up with earthly issues which will pass away.  As I have lived my life in the U.S. I have watched believers, true disciples of the Lamb, give of their time and energy to impact the culture.  I have been there and remain involved in community service.  Yet as ambassadors of an eternal kingdom we are called to not be entangled in the affairs of this world that we may serve in another battle.

While the tension is real and the battle can be intense, the call of the Lord is always to come to Him when burdened.  He tells us to receive His yoke and learn of Him.  We learn to stay in His yoke and maintain that humility with Him in the presence of our Father.  He is ever our friend and savior.  Yes He is Lord and we are not,  We are His friends, His members, His bride.  Are we keeping Him as our reward?  He responds to our prayers.  Things are changed and battles won.  Some fall in the process.  Some are lost.  Some are exposed.  Some, when exposed, repent and are knowing His salvation.  Others harden their hearts and continue in rebellion.  We often view a mass of humanity but He sees each one, even that one lost sheep while 99 are safe in the fold.

In another place, we read to set our affections on things above where Christ sits.  May our focus be on Him as we seek the kingdom.  It is easy for some of us to look for the right things to do, to make all this work, to find a better life.  We are wired for laws, rather than relationship.  Do the “right thing” and you will be ok.  Without the Spirit, we miss His ways.  Moses asked to learn His ways.  He had seen, and all Israel had seen, His works. His hand in their lives but only two in that day learned His ways.  We are not in that day, that the Lord should have only two witnesses!  In this day, He has revealed Himself in His Son.  The law came through Moses.  We honor that man but a greater has come.  Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  In Psalms we read His ways are lovingkindness and truth.  David experienced His ways in his lifetime.  Today the way is more clearly displayed to many.

The way is simple and is narrow.  We don’t like the narrow but as you pass through a time of His discipline, you find yourself in a broad place and discover new wealth in Him.  Don’t quit along the way and miss what He intends for you.  Weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning.  A dear brother reminded us on a Sunday morning, this world is a wilderness.  Don’t be distracted, don’t be entangled in it.  Keep you eyes on the prize where Christ sits, waiting for you to come.  Meet with Him today.  And then, walk with Him every day.

Separations

Separations

The writer of the Hebrews leads us to go to Jesus outside the camp.  A continual tension exists between temporary structures, ministries we call them, and life in the Spirit.  We want to learn to “do church” God’s way, and we remain earthen vessels.  We find no “church” gets it perfectly and we individually move from time to time, and place to place.  Our knowing when to move is often imperfect.  That thought exposes a personal issue of perfectionism.  The residue of religious teaching hangs around me.  When disappointment with other believers comes, we learn to avoid the negativity and critical attitudes that so easily beset us.  Those thought patterns are the seedbed of sins, of divisions.

Ministries and fellowships are formed and they grow and flourish with flows and ebbs.  And we are learning to let them go and move on.  Or are we?  We all see in part and know in part according to our spiritual maturity.  When the perfect comes, all that which we call ministry, will pass away. (1 Cor. 13)  Who has the mind of the Lord?  We have heard mature servants make supposed prophetic statements.  At times we immediately discern they are not true, not the mind of the Lord.  At other times, they prove false as events do not unfold as they said.  Alignment with the Spirit is a corporate process.  Correction is required.  Some of us learn more slowly than others.  Some never get the message.  While we need  to bear with one another, we must also be open to give and receive correction.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not seek its own prestige, nor position.  So we must pursue the ability to speak the truth in love.  The process continues.

I recently found a book by R.T. Kendall.  The title, Prophetic Integrity, caught my attention.  I flipped some passages and knew it was worth a read.  I knew nothing of this brother beforehand but have a deep appreciation for his wisdom.  And I appreciate deeply his corrective words.  In a larger picture of the church than this book addresses, I believe a part of our disagreements are semantics and language.  But this book is important for the church in this time.  The operations of the Holy Spirit are necessary for spiritual growth.  Every work of His mentioned in 1 Cor. 12 still happens.  Our description of them may change but without such working we have a shell we call “Christianity”.  We have religious institutions which do nothing for spiritual growth.

We do not minister without order and administration.  The balance of structure and spiritual life is our continual battle.  Again the tension remains.  The answer is grace.  To the measure we each are knowing the grace of God, we extend that to others.  Which of us has not failed in this?  So Paul wrote that we need to bear with one another, forgiving one another and so fulfill the law of Christ.  I have personally known this aspect of the battle in the past few years.  I must say we talk far too much about elections and politics rather than being salt and light.  This applies to our relationships among believers as well.  We have alienated one another by fanaticism.  Jesus is never fanatical.  He is passionate.  And His passion is for men, women, and children to know our Father.  He is not passionate for morality, which can be outward only.  He is passionate for our hearts.  He knows the heart of men and wants to bring light to the darkness.  What is our pssion.?

Separation is not division.  It can become so and gave rise to all the denominations.  But we need to face a distressing truth.  Every fellowship name becomes a denomination, a temporary entity.  I want to apologize for writing that but I cannot.  The Lord’s remnant is always ready to move to be separated closer to His thought.  We sometimes view it as isolation but it is not so, although it can be for a time.  Saul went away to Arabia.  Jesus drew aside to spend time with our Father.  During the past season in the U.S., perspectives regarding responses to the covid pandemic and political situations led to separations among believers.  The less mature among us would get into arguments.  It happened to me.  Once.  I have often thought about Paul’s separation from Barnabas.  John Mark showed signs of what Paul considered immaturity.  He was not committed to the work.  They separated.  It was painful I would think.  I think it reveals human imperfection.  We know Paul’s course onward.  We do not know Barnabas’.  But we do know that John Mark later was a help to Paul.

Current separations have been related to following various prophetic voices.  Some have proved wrong.  As one may have a revelation, an understanding from the Lord, we each should be testing that word.  I have found that we can add to what the Lord has revealed.  I have caught myself doing it.  Sometimes we should let it cook.  I had the sense that as a hen sits on the egg for a season, we should let some things hatch.  Don’t say anything.  The Lord will bring it to birth.  He knows how to make it happen His way.

So as Paul wrote to the Philippians (Chapter 2), humility is essential for unity.  Our self-life takes time to die.  Others come to us hoping we will be corrected.  I think at times, the Lord allows their blind spot to remain to see how we will react.  It was so with the religious rulers who opposed Jesus.  He dealt with them but also separated Himself before that final confrontation where He lid down His life in front of them.  For some their eyes were opened to their own errors later.  We should ask the Lord to search us when other believers separate from us.  He is after something in each of us.

We Are His Workmanship

We Are His Workmanship

(Eph. 2:4-10)

If we have heard the essence of the gospel, we are learning to move on with the Spirit, to count all things loss in pursuit of the high calling of God.  We are on a journey to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus.  That is the high calling.  It begins with the cross as the cancellation of our fallen nature.  Man, as Adam, was put to an end there.  And God raised us in Christ to make us alive to Him by the Spirit.  The process, the journey, continues with the cross daily.  We learn to stay yoked with Christ, and be listening to our Father.

The Scriptures (Paul’s letters) allow of no other sustaining factor in the body of believers (the church) than the life of the Spirit.  The tragedy of so many systems of church organization is that they often serve as a scaffolding to hold up an edifice from which the Spirit has departed and which ought to be allowed to collapse.

The paragraph above in italics is from a booklet on unity by a Scot, a brother in the Lord, John Kennedy.  In his later life, he served as an itinerant teacher encouraging local believers in India.  He had a maturity which is needed always.  Unfortunately it is too often lacking in what I will call the Western church.  He wrote two booklets on this same topic and addresses practical issues.  If we learn to listen by the Spirit, we can understand beyond the written words.  This man John shared valuable insights.  I am not sure these messages are still in print or I would recommend them..

The word of the cross has far-reaching impacts if we will allow the Spirit to apply it to us.  This application is needed corporately as well as individually.  It was so in the church at the beginning, in the first century.  They knew Christ as crucified and the potential to be killed for worshipping Christ was a reality until the days of Constantine and the emergence of a harlot church.  It continues today.  A most important truth for believers to practice is a commitment to the Lord Himself.  True unity exists as we allow the Lord to grow us up into Christ.  Jesus said He would build His church.  The strongholds of our adversary (the gates of hell) cannot resist that church.  That church is His body.  That is not a concept but a spiritual reality.

As I reread the passage in Ephesians and saw the phrase I use as a title, the word “we” caught my attention.  Individual knowledge of the Lord is essential.  Each of the 12 first disciples had that with Jesus but much of the time they were relating to Him as a group.  Leadership among them was established yet a strong sense of humility was imparted as well.  This was exemplified at the cross.  They saw it happen.  Not everyone of them had the same experiences.  Three were taken to the mount and saw a heavenly reality.  Thomas had a unique experience of the resurrected Jesus.  We too often see that critically but we miss the point.  Jesus met him where he was and he touched a resurrected man.  The 12 continued on together and were all in one place, of one mind, with about 110 others in that upper room when the Spirt fell on them all, and they were filled with that Spirit of God.

As we each go on, we need individual time with the Lord as well as gatherings.  Times may come for personal separation for a season.  Saul had this after his time in Damascus.  Jesus did it regularly.  We each need recharging.  Those times bring rest and refreshing and direction.  Sadly, however, we still try to do church and too often it comes short.  This will be a distressing thought but every time we organize and call it “church,” we continue to miss it.  A generation of young ones is rising who do not want to do it anymore.  We do need gatherings and they are happening.  I must be full of care (careFULL) not to discourage what the Lord is pleased to accomplish as we gather.  He does show up.  He does encounter.  But so much is activity that feeds our need to do.  Been there done that.  The Lord is bring us to higher place.  May we allow Him to work on us and leave behind the frameworks.  Lord, revive Your work in our time.  Even so, come Lord Jesus and walk among Your lampstands and speak so that we may be aligned with You.

Of Whom the World Is Not Worthy

Of Whom the World Is Not Worthy

(John 17:5, Heb 11:36-40, Heb.12:1-3, John 15:18)

Jesus was never at home in this world.  He was a foreigner in this place.  He wanted to be with His Father sharing that glory that He knew before the world was.  He is the author and finisher of faith.  So we are encouraged to fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and everything that went on before it.  His life here culminated in the cross where He said, “It is finished.”  More than His work in this world was completed.  So much more was done.  Sin was put to death.  Death was overcome and destroyed,  We read that He destroyed him who had the power of death.  We are no longer under a sentence of death but have a life that will never die.  That life is Christ Himself which brings us to, and keeps us, in the presence of God.  It is for us to continue on in faith no matter what we may face.

Faith is believing and trusting.  It is substance.  It is not wishful thinking.  It is right thinking, based on right believing.  Our thoughts and beliefs cannot be separated.  We must remember that the flesh, ourselves apart for God, resists the Spirit, and vice versa.  We want our own way.  We want every good thing but can be deceived.  The Lord works by His Spirit to transform us and free us from every false notion.  He opens our eyes to see heavenly realities.  Without a vision, a vision of the Lord, we get off track.  This vision is what Paul prayed for, a spirit of wisdom and revelation, an ongoing experiential knowledge of the Lord Jesus.  Faith is the evidence, a conviction of truth, of things not seen by the natural eye.

Everything we see can oppose this.  When we have spiritual eyes to see, we see God in all that our natural eyes see.  Sometimes we can be fooled by and through those distractions our spiritual eyesight is refined.  The Bible is full of examples of this.  Samuel is sent to anoint a son of Jesse and learns his own lesson that God is looking at the heart.  When David shows up, Samuel, trained in knowing the Lord, knows that David is the one.  Saul is blinded on the road to Damascus and remains so for three days.  That is the length of time Jesus was in the grave.  Jesus was fully convincing Saul of the truth in those three days.  Now that was the hand of God.  It was the same hand that covered Moses from seeing the full glory of God as He passed by.  His ways are higher than our ways and always bring a glorious result.

Saul’s natural sight was restored but the spiritual insights he began to receive while blind provided the foundation for the wisdom written in his letters.  He began his process of transformation and the Spirit’s work in conforming him to the image of Christ.  Like Paul, those mentioned in Hebrews 11 are men and women who believed God  for heavenly interventions at the cost of things held dear.  Some lost their lives to receive a greater reward.  You may have heard the words of Jim Elliot.  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  Jim was killed as he was bringing the gospel to unreached people.

So in the mix of these stories and people of faith, we have this thought, “of whom the world was not worthy.”  The world cannot receive the Spirit, Jesus said.  The world runs on the desires of unfaithful men and women.  They do not believe God.  They do not want God.  God has extended His love to them and they have refused.  God would lead them to repentance and they will not.  In this, we do not only consider leaders whether elected ones or those over businesses, we consider the people who support them in self-centered activity.  They care nothing for eternal values but want only to satisfy earthly desires.  Materialism, power and control, and what the Spirit calls fleshly lusts which wage war in us, and against the souls of men. May we be careful not to love (agape) the world nor the things in it.  They are given for us to enjoy, and we all learn the balance of enjoying our Father’s good gifts.  But may we learn that pleasure of His as He rejoices over us as His children, chosen in Christ, to know Him and enjoy Him forever.

Still and Listening

Still and Listening

(Ps. 46:10, Rom. 10:17, Hebrews 3-4, 1 John 2:20,27)

Be still and know that I am God.  Many of us hear this said often.  If you have never heard this before, pay close attention.  That is the point of this message.  Paying attention.  The psalmist heard it directly.  He wrote what he heard.  He was not parroting something he heard from another.  He heard from God.  Moses spoke with God as a man speaks with his friend.  A continual call goes out from God by His Spirit.  Come up higher.  The potential for knowing Him more than before is unchanging.

The Lord’s passion is to be known.  Jesus invites us to prepare for a marriage feast.  I am being consumed with this on His behalf.  The apostles carried this fire.  Zeal for His house consumed them.  The Father’s heart is yearning as He sends us as shepherds looking for the one who is lost.  You meet them every day often without knowing their stories.  You will simply stop and say a word or two.  A response will come and you continue.  His Spirit in you is reaching out to them.  He sends us into the world wherever we may find ourselves and He is drawing others to find their seat at His table.  He wants every seat to be taken.  I think no limit exists to the number of seats.  Only He knows the number.  His thoughts are higher than ours.

In these days, some struggle with the notion that we can hear God speak.  Some prefer to express it as God caused them to know.  We tangle it up with our semantics.  If Moses learned by experience to know God face to face, thousands of years before God was displayed to us in the person of Jesus Christ, why should we not expect such today?  As I write that, I am reminded of the kindness of the Lord.  He is not concerned at all with our semantics.  He can cause us to know Him no matter what words we use to tell the story.  But be careful not to dismiss what you have not experienced.  Have you spoken with angels directly?  Many have.  Do you believe that Mary herself has visited some young women in eastern Europe, speaking with the teenagers like an older sister?  She has.  The cloud of witnesses is not far off.

He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  The more we experience of Him and heavenly realities, the more we let go of this present evil age.  In our earnest desire to keep our left brains doctrinally correct, we do not believe stories of deep faith.  The Lord responds to faith.  And it is often from those we might least expect.  Jesus marveled at a Roman centurion who knew He could simply say words and healing would be carried to his servant.  The Lord speaks, angels hear and go, and the cells of a person respond.  Perhaps, the angels were not even involved.  Do we need to know every detail?  We never will but that does not mean we ought not pursue understanding.  The point is do not be unbelieving.  Believe God.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by a spoken word of God.  In the reference from Romans, Paul is speaking of those who preach, who speak, who declare the words of God.  He makes it clear that such are sent by God.  They have not spoken on their own initiative.  How many voices are out in the earth?  Too many we would say.  But the Lord’s bondservants speak.  And God Himself speaks.  Are we quiet enough to hear Him?  Are we discerning to hear truth among the many voices?  May our ears be tuned.  John writes that we have an anointing, the Spirit of God, in us so that no man need teach us. In Psalm 46, the writer speaks of trouble.  In the middle of the swirls around us, be still.  He will speak.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that those who did not hear with faith never moved on from the wilderness.  The Lord delivers us out of oppressive circumstances  (like Egypt) that we might learn His faithfulness in all things.  Listen and believe.  He is God and will be exalted in our lives and among the nations.