Angels and Heaven

Angels and Heaven

(Gen 18:1, Gen. 32:24-30, Isaiah 6:1-4, Luke 1:19, 26)

The Bible is the most unique book available to mankind.  It is one of God’s means of revealing Himself to us.  Sadly, it has been misused, abused, and ignored.  When read with humility and an open hungry heart, the Holy Spirit can speak to us through it.  Truth is simple and profound.  In that book we read of the lives of many.  I wonder if anyone has counted the total number of individuals identified by name.  Many we honor and want to emulate.  Others we see in dishonor.  We read of spiritual experiences and heavenly encounters,  While some entertained angels unaware of their identity, others knew full well who came to them.

I could comment on controversies of what God uses but our time is worth more than that.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  If at the end of this age, all the graves will open and every eye will see Jesus Christ, Lord of all, in His glory, why would we doubt He could raise the dead today as He wills?  The Lord is not flippant or capricious.  He has clear intent in all He does.  Reading through John 4, after His work in Samaria, Jesus returns to Galilee and is now received because of the miracles.  As a prophet He was not received but when He does the miracles He is welcomed.  Some things to ponder there.

In my early years as a believer, I recall a time in prayer that I was aware of spiritual presence in the room.  I knew they were angels.  Question if you choose but I knew.  I was fearful of seeing them and I saw nothing.  More recently, with much of my fear of heavenly realities diminished, I have seen and spoken with angels.  Some of it was very unusual and I could say, strange.  Many years before I had read a book, Visions Beyond the Veil, written by H.A. Baker.  He is the grandfather of Roland Baker who is married to Heidi.  They minister under Iris Ministries.  I have very deep appreciation for them.  Grandfather’s book records visions seen by Chinese orphans.  H.A. and his wife cared for these as missionaries in the 1930’s.  Without ever hearing of the visions John had on Patmos, these children were seeing the very same scenes.  The Spirit opens spiritual eyes as He wills.

As we would hear what the Spirit speaks, our eyes will be opened wider.  It will cause us to earnestly desire experience with the Lord.  We are ever in the school of the Spirit.  We may attend schools, gain certifications and degrees but it is the Spirit of Christ that will lead us into all truth.  The orphan children in China received something that no one was expecting.  So it is with the Spirit.  He will lead us into circumstances that will cause us to grow.  Awareness of the heavenly when rightly received alongside sound doctrine, causes our spirit to grow.  I have considered and written before concerning John, the son of Zebedee.  He is a man like us but now, in glory with the Lord, no longer like us in the flesh.  He went through many troubles and adventures before Patmos and the revelation of Christ he received there.  The Lord prepared Him and it is preserved for us to digest and believe.

May we know our place seated with Christ in the heavenly realm, the place He dwells.  That is what it means to be in the Spirit.  We can know this on a continual basis while times of focus are essential for a spiritual walk.  In the first century, the presence of Christ, parousia in Greek, was not about a future event but a present reality.  And so it has been with many through history and today.  The day now is that we worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth.  Or are we following empty tradition and simply mouthing words?  We can appreciate the shadows, traditions which had value but our brother Paul said he considered all as stuff to be left behind and he pressed on to know Christ and reach a better resurrection.  He ran into man and his kingdom in the extreme of Nero.  May we His people desire no other kingdom.  No king exists but Jesus Christ and only His kingdom will stand.  Every earthly institution will pass away.  May we set our affection on things above and experience being seated with Christ Jesus there.

Wellsprings

Wellsprings

(John 4:14, Gen. 24, Gen. 26, John 7:37, 38)

I have recently heard a man exhorting us to be digging wells of revival.  I understand that message.  I am again grateful for understanding I received through the Lord’s servants years ago concerning digging wells of spiritual life.  If we look at the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we see a theme of wells and water. The referenced chapters in Genesis are rich in teaching this.  It all speaks of the Spirit and our hunger for more of Christ.

Many of us have dug our well.  We have begun at the place where all must begin.  We have believed Jesus Christ came from God.  Hunger is part of who we are as created by God, in love.  He created us to long for Him.  He longs for us.  As I looked at Genesis 26 and John 14, I could see the repeated theme of the Lord seeking and finding His bride.  First look at Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for his son Isaac.  Do you hear the Holy Spirit brooding over the earth today seeking for a heart, and hearts, that are ready to belong to Him?  The servant goes to the place where the women, the churches we might say, go for water.  How much of our activity is motivated by spiritual thirst?  Now Rebekah was doing what she did every day.  She did not know God was about to turn her life in a whole new direction.

And Jesus is moved by the Spirit to pass through Samaria.  It is the place of spiritual mixture.  Rejected by the pride and arrogance of the Pharisees, those who are of Judah and religiously pure in their own eyes, the Samaritans began to worship in their own mountain.  While we can trace this back to the division of the kingdom after Solomon, it goes back farther.  Jesus met the woman at the well which was known as Jacob’s.  Of all the people the Spirit would have singled out, here is a woman who has had failed relationships and is something of an outcast.  She comes to the well all alone.  She had no idea that morning how her life would flip.

Jesus plainly reveals Himself to her.  That is not His typical way.  But no encounter with Jesus is typical.  He is always new, always fresh, always right on target for the situation and person.  The manna was fresh every morning and you had to gather it every day.  It would spoil if you try to save it.  And He is the living water He offers to the woman.  Of the water He says she will never thirst again.  She had known several men.  None satisfied.  Here was a man who was leading her to another level, another place.  He was offering the Spirit.  He, the Spirit, is the well springing up to eternal life.  That life is knowing Him, growing in grace and the knowledge of Christ.  Jesus tells this dear woman that it will become in her a fountain springing up to eternal life.

This is for each of us who believe.  Receive the Spirit who has come to lead us into all truth.  He is in us to reveal Christ in and through us.  He is like the mountain spring that never dries up.  We cannot run out of Him.  Be being filled up 24/7 with Him and let Him overflow wherever you are, whatever you are doing.  His glory and presence can touch washing the dishes or folding the laundry.  And it can touch your mouth as you speak of Christ Jesus to a thirsty soul.  Or you may just say, “God bless you.”  Consider Rebekah and Abraham’s servant at the well.  Her heart, her servant nature to water even the camels that brought this stranger to her neighborhood. opens the door to her greatest adventure.

More than that is going on at the well.  Proposals and marriage go on at the well.  Are you married to Him?  Are you one Spirit with Him?  The Samaritan woman begins a journey with Jesus that does not end that day.  It would not surprise me if she made it to the upper room.  I do not know this but who were among the 120?  We only know a few names.  At that day, the windows of heaven were opened.  Today, we pray that they be opened.  I understand that prayer but I tell you, it is for us to believe and receive, and continue on.  When we are dry, we are to stir up the gift of God in us.  Stir up the fountain.  Say, spring up o well!  It cannot be stopped when we are open and willing.  Let it flow and be careful not to interrupt Him.  If we grieve Him, be quick to repent and He will return.  Thank you, Lord, for your patience and forbearance, and your persistence to have us fully.

Life in the Spirit

Life in the Spirit

(Rom. 7:4-6, John 3:5-8, Rom. 6:4-11)

Are we walking by the Spirit?  Are we born of the Spirit?. No one can live a spiritual life without the Spirit of God.  Now we can get harsh with many who are spiritually immature but that reveals our own immaturity.  Mature love is patient and kind with the weakest among us.  Paul gave the example of not eating meat in the presence of one whose conscience was weak so that they would not be troubled by it.  He also knew how to deal with blasphemy and false teaching.  We grow as we go on with the Lord.

After many years, I understood that when we receive Him, when Jesus Christ is revealed to us and we agree to follow Him, the Holy Spirit comes alongside to help and takes a place in us.  Our spirit is joined to His.  That is what Paul expresses concerning the law.  We are then dead to outward attempts at pleasing God and truly alive to Him.  He is our Father and we become one of His children.  The law leads us to the Lamb of God who was crushed, ripped to shreds, for us all.  In the ministry of Jesus and His end as crucified before the eyes of man, God demonstrated that He was not looking for outward observances of religious practice.  He put an end to shadows and was bringing in the substance.  Remember, the veil of the old system was torn from the top to the bottom.  A tremendous transition was happening in the history of mankind.

God had determined that the days of Jesus of Nazareth would come at that moment which is called the fulness of times.  It was a time of spiritual deadness and the world’s darkest time when Jesus Christ died.  Fellowship with Christ brings us to a personal knowledge of this in our lives and the time that we live here.  We see the darkness in us and around us.  Peter encourages us to pay attention to Christ the rising star in us as we are aware of the darkness.  We are waking up to who we are by the Spirit, even a new creation.  As children we begin to learn to walk.  As we grow, we may hear the Lord say if you cannot keep up with the footmen, how will you run with the horses.  The Spirit will teach us to move quickly with the Lord.

These words are all about growth and learning to cooperate with the Spirit, with the Lord.  Without human wrangling over the understanding the Father, Son, and Spirit, remember the simple truth.  The Lord is the Spirit and where He is, one has liberty.  We are dead to the law, and free from any domination of our bad selves, so that we might walk in love.  We are enabled to live fruitful lives since we re united with Christ in resurrection.

His death was total and complete.  And His life is total and complete and in that Life is all that we need.  He has poured out His Spirit on all flesh.  That is being carried by His witnesses into every corner of the inhabited earth.  That work, the harvest of God, has been in clear process for 2000 years.  The battle continues to be for a refining and maturing of a people who are like Christ, the Lamb.  Review the meaning of that name for the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God.  I heard a so-called renowned teacher referring to Him as a ram as if to display His horns and some mature strength.  That is not what I hear by the Spirit.  In contrast, that name “Lamb” is of a young, even little, lamb.  Rather, hear the humility of the One who said He is meek and lowly in heart.  That is the Spirit we are to live and walk by.  Continue to resist every religious spirit, and walk by the One who is eternal.

Our walk must be new every day.  If we are still trying to be new wineskins, we will never get there.  Yes we pursue spiritual realities but they are given.  Truth is found in the seeming contradictions of God.  When we are weak, we are strong.  We are dead to our flesh, and alive to God , all at the same time.  Eternal life.  It cannot be taught, but must be known.  We learn what it means to wait upon Him and allow the fresh dew of the Spirit to refresh our spirits to rise within.  It is like the mist that rose from the earth.  And now it flows from our innermost being as rivers of Living Water, His Spirit.  Let it flow unhindered.

One Body

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One Body

(Eph. 4:4,5,13-16, Isaiah 61, Heb. 1:1-3)

A few years ago, I saw a display in a Christian bookstore.  In large letters it read, “There is no B.C.”  I thought for a moment and understood.  Before Christ appeared in the flesh, the Spirit was speaking.  We recognize that Christ appeared to Moses in the manner of a burning bush and the voice Moses heard.  He appeared to all Israel in the wilderness as the rock that gushed water and the daily manna.  Well before that He appeared to Abraham as the three at the oaks of Mamre.  And He appeared as Melchizedek.  Those appearances were limited and part of the shadows expressed in the tabernacle.

Read and consider Isaiah and his words recorded for us.  I focused on chapter 61 but have pondered the final chapters from 60 through 66.  The pronouns switch and Jesus Himself turned to those words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”  He had known that truth for a long time but that day He went public.  As members of Christ, that same oil flows down on us.  I am speaking of the Spirit of the Lord and that we are His body.  Yet it flows as we are in the unity of the Spirit, the oneness that He has expressed in His Son, and the Son’s matured harmony with His Father.  The Son learned that harmony, or obedience, by allowing, or suffering, all the troubles God ordained in His life.  The same Spirit that spoke in and through Isaiah speaks today.  Now it is clearer and brighter and sharper for it is expressed through His Son.

We must hear the clearer, deeper, higher, more matured word which is in His Son.  In these days, God has spoken to the church through and in His Son.  Are we listening to Him?  I have often prayed for the Lord to tune my ear.  Many voices are heard over the entire world but are we hearing Him?  Are we in tune with Him?  Are we allowing Him to synchronize us?  Today I hear the word prophetic used so much, its significance has been diluted.  Far too much as been spoken as if from the Lord, but it falls to the ground.  And many are disillusioned.  And those who have spoken out of turn, have acknowledged it and some have then defended their ministry.  We are all learning but I hope we learn more quickly.

The truth expressed in Ephesians 4 is a message that is simple, eternal, and is basic to God’s purpose in His church.  For years I heard the desire to be a new testament church, a first century church.  But what is that?  What does it really mean?  Follow the pattern of those words.  Grow to see yourself as a prisoner of the Lord to be given to people.  Then allow our Father to send you to a few or many and pour you out,  It includes speaking truth as it is in Christ, always maintaining a gentle and humble spirit.  The goal of God is a unity expressed that the world will hate and deny, but will draw people to Christ.  The church will shine with the brightness of His appearing. And the kingdom will fully come.  That kingdom is heavenly and is untainted by the hands of man, and by this world, this present evil age.

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.