Fellowship in the Spirit

Fellowship in the Spirit

( 2 Cor. 13:14, Rom. 8:5-11)

We had written concerning prophecy and it caused me to think of fellowship and what we refer to as prophetic.  We use that word “prophetic” to describe conferences and ministries.  We want to belong to the right group.  We want to identify with some movement that makes us feel valuable.  True identity and value comes from one source.  God gave His uniquely born Son and sacrificed that Son of Man as the Lamb of God to redeem you and restore you to Himself.  While  our value is fixed on the cost God paid for us, that value is strengthened through relationship with other believers.  We often hear the phrase, iron sharpens iron.  More important I think is that the life of Christ might flow by the Spirit from each member of His body to other members.  This is that life which every joint supplies.  Read Eph. 4.

True fellowship is based on seeing another believer by the Spirit.  True evangelism happens when we see another person the same way.  Speak to a person’s spirit to awaken that one to Christ.  No formula exists here.  If we look at Jesus’ life, we do not find Him repeating some script to different individuals.  The apostle Paul told his story of meeting Jesus repeatedly.  He was “testifying” of Jesus Christ according to real experiential knowledge.  Paul had met Jesus in profound fashion.  Whatever level of experience we have had, ought to be the basis of our words of evangelism.  Simply talking about truth has no power.  A demonstration of the Spirit is necessary to have an impact.  I don’t think that means only a visible miracle although we are encouraged to earnestly pursue such.  See 1 Cor. 14:1ff.  Our words can be the very arrows of the Lord to pierce a heart.

A man who was a Jew, Arthur Katz, shared this as his story.  He shared a meal with a believer who had become a friend.  As they sat and ate, that believer said, “What we need to do is wash one another’s feet.”  I may not have the quote exactly correct.  That word pierced Art Katz’s heart.  He became a strong disciple of Christ and had a true ministry.  His story caused me to see the value of those who had the teachings from God through the law and prophets, and then met the Savior, the Lord.  This is the necessary basis for true fellowship.  We must know the Lord for ourselves.  As we truly grow in spirit, that fellowship can increase.  Yet we grow unevenly.  We go through ups and downs, mountaintops and valleys, well-watered and dry places.  We must learn to bear with one another’s weaknesses.  And we ought be ready to speak truth to one another with grace.  Love does not seek its own but the other’s growth.  We also must be ready to receive from others.  Listen and receive with grace, and speak the truth with grace.

I often remember Jesus words to those gathered when Lazarus came out of his tomb.  He was in graveclothes.  He was wrapped.  It was probably very ghastly, like a mummy.  Yet it was not frightening, I don’t think.  Jesus did this, it was amazing and wonderful!  He called Lazarus out of his grave, his place of death.  Jesus told them standing by to take off the graveclothes.   Without minimizing the magnitude of the miracle, it speaks to us of spiritual resurrection.  When we meet believers, those who responded to the Lord, and we find graveclothes on them, we ought to remove them.  Speak life to their spirits.  Strengthen them in their inner man.  Listen for the Spirit to give you wants needed.  Sometimes it is for us simply to pray.  Too many times, in the church, we have locked people into their graveclothes, their old patterns.

True fellowship in the Spirit will bring true liberty.  To be sure, correction is part of that.  As we grow in fellowship, refining will come.  The closer the human relationship, the greater the human friction.  Marriage is a prime example.  It is a place we learn grace.  It should be so among the Lord’s people, preferring one another.  This is not a catering to one another, or enabling, but allowing room for growth.  We learn the difference between what we can offer and do to serve, and what needs to be between the Lord and another.  True discernment and discretion are important qualities the Lord will develop in us all.  May we cooperate with Him.

True fellowship in the Spirit will also bring ministry.  That will be ministry that is initiated by God.  The world has always needed that brand, that sort of work.  That which is born, which is impregnated, of the Spirit is Spirit, that which is born of the flesh, of human stuff, is flesh.  When many mature and gifted believers, prophets and teachers, came together in Antioch, it’s written that they ministered unto the Lord.  They had a focus not on what they do but upon the Lord Himself.  And I am sure they shared wonderful fellowship.  Read the account in Acts.  For over a year it was a gathering of believers and a thriving church.  Out of that place of fellowship with the Lord and one another, the Holy Spirit spoke and sent out Saul and Barnabas.  We have fellowship wit the Father, with the Son, and with one another by the Spirit.

Prophecy and the Prophetic – Part 2

Prophecy and the Prophetic – Part 2

(Revelation 19:10)

Continuing on this theme, I retained the same Bible reference because of its importance.  Apart from the Spirit of Christ leading us, a spiritual gift becomes corrupted.  We learn to be in tune with the Lord.  We learn to speak only what we hear Him say.  I have made mistakes, not rightly understanding a situation or the Lord’s thought on it and said things I ought not have said.  Timing is also a part of using our gift maturely.  I have learned this in practical ways such as not bringing up money issues with my wife early in the morning.  Bad timing.  If we find ourselves always wanting to share our revelation, we may need to learn to defer so that others have opportunity to share theirs.

We also learn that God’s truth can be spoken without it sounded like a “prophecy”.  The Lord speaks to us in a way we can understand.  He knows our personal and cultural language.  It seems to me this is an overlooked part of 1 Cor. 13 where Paul writes about speaking with the languages of men and of angels.  That includes earthly languages.  Are we speaking to show off or are we led by the Spirit to bring a timely and truly helpful word?  He spoke in parables and used natural realities to teach spiritual truths.  The Bible is full of the Lord speaking to us through natural pictures.

Since the time of Christ upon this earth, the Lord has been speaking.  He was speaking before Christ’s appearing but He clarified and magnified the message in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Read Hebrews chapter 1 again.  Knowing the Son and the only true God is the essence of it all.  The Holy Spirit was poured out to be carried to the ends of the earth by transformed messengers.  So we are today.  As He is, so are we in this world.  We become the message.  Yes, we speak but it is also the Spirit when people are drawn to us because they recognize something in us.  When they see, when they hear Christ in us, the hope of glory, they desire that glory.  His glory is His life.

John knew the Lord closely, intimately, by the Spirit, before his eyes were opened wider on Patmos.   He was given a full revelation of the awesome One, the Lamb of God.  And the Lord and angels gave him messages of things yet to come.  His revelation is similar to Daniel’s and Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s.  The Lord was still speaking through His servants, whom He called prophets.  Looking back we see fulfillments.  Jesus prophesied (foretold) of the destruction of Jerusalem.  Every believer, and I suppose some non-believers, have read Matthew 24.  Jesus says that the end will be as it was in the days of Noah.  Simply understood, those who are in a hearing relationship with God will prepare.  The others, with evil in their hearts will be taken away.  The Lord brought a flood of rain and waters from underground.  He will do it by fire at the last day, the great and terrible day of the Lord.  Further, He says, two will be side by side and one will be taken away and the other left.  They are at work, at their places of daily responsibility.  Who was taken away in the flood?  The wicked, evil-hearted ones.

Jesus, knowing the Father’s perspective and ways, knew the temple would not stand.  The system under the religious, the combination of Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes, and others, was desolate.  It could not bring life.  That system was wiped away in 70 AD.  It’s continuation by some today is still desolate and dead without Christ.  Jesus told of a situation and warned that when they saw an abomination in a desolate place, they should flee to the mountains.  Like Lot, they would be safe there.  This going higher to safety is a natural, but a spiritual picture as well.    We draw close to the Lord as He warns of coming trouble.

The Bible, in the new testament writings, is full of warnings so that we may prepare.  In Acts, we twice read of Agabus, who spoke of a coming famine, and later, gave a personal prophecy regarding Paul.  In the second case he gave a visual demonstration as well as words concerning what Paul would soon experience.  Note that in Acts 21:10, it’s recorded that he made a trip to deliver that message.  That is a picture of being directed by and obeying the Spirit.  The Lord does the same with us today.

We are all learning to follow the Spirit’s lead today.  In the Lord’s eternal purpose, nothing is new under the sun.  It may be new to us personally.  May we remain open vessels to receive new understandings of what God ordained beforehand that we should walk in.  When He comes He will reward us for what we have done.  That will not include those works of our own, done independently of relationship with Him.  Those will be burned in the fire.  Whatever we do, whatever we say, may it be done in love and humility as He leads.

Prophecy and the Prophetic – Part 1

Prophecy and the Prophetic

(Revelation 19:10)

The importance of words remains foremost in my mind.  Life and death are in the power of the tongue.  I have learned some personal lessons here.  As with any principle of truth, we can try to live by this one.  Life does not operate that way.  We live by the Spirit, and we learn to walk by that same Spirit.  Similarly we need to learn to talk by that Spirit.  Walking and talking go together.  I will mention some extreme examples of words spoken that do not seem right to us.  Jesus cursed a fig tree and it shriveled and died.  Peter confronted Ananias concerning his hypocrisy and he dropped dead.  He then told his wife Sapphira that she would be carried out dead also.  (Acts 5:1-11)  Some speak of this as if their holding back part of their property was the cause of death.  I don’t hear the Spirit say that.  I understand the story that their hypocrisy, their lying, caused their quick departure.  The church was newly born and the Spirit cut off that hypocrisy abruptly and gave a tough love lesson to the church.

Peter had insight by the Spirit and asked questions that confirmed what he, Peter, was understanding.  Peter did not cause their death, but he cooperated with the Spirit for the Lord’s purpose to proceed.  This is an aspect of what we call prophetic.  During the Reformation, many truths were restored in principle and men and women began to again walk in them.  The corrupted “church” of the Dark Ages had buried much truth.  One such truth is that every true follower of Christ is a prophet, priest, and king.  Let’s focus on the prophet aspect and look at the reference scripture.  The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.  True prophecy will bear the image of Christ, of Jesus.  It will smell, feel, and taste like Jesus.  If my spirit does not bear witness to words from someone, I do not receive them.  Jesus and the apostles warn us of false prophets.  Have you known of such?

I have.  I have written of a specific experience of discerning self-ambition in so-called ministry and will not repeat the details here.  The heart of the matter is motivation.  Is one seeking their own glory in their use of a gift from God, or are they truly looking for the life of God to be increased in the one receiving?  In 1 Cor. 14, Paul refers to prophecy as that which edifies, that which builds someone up in their spirit, in their inner man.  True words from God should encourage one to go with God.  This can include correction.  We need to be open to correction.  Many have gone away from the Lord because they cannot make changes.  Often a wound remains from the past.  In other cases, a purely rebellious, wicked spirit can be at work.  Consider Ananias and Sapphira again.  Self-ambition.  Read the previous portion in Acts concerning Barnabas.  They wanted to look good and be admired like Barnabas.  Such is criminal activity in God’s house.  I have known it and had to severely end a relationship with a man in ministry because he was using me and my family.

When the life of a larger group, church, or ministry is in danger of corruption, a strong word may come.  When it is not heeded, separation may come.  Take a look at the history of the church at large.  Our problems rise to schisms when we then think we are superior to the others.  The issue is to go on with God and of necessity leave the others behind.  That always includes humility.  Some of those who have missed God may turn again later.  Ultimately, it is God’s house.  He dropped Ananias and Sapphira.  I know that word sounds brutal.  Imagine being there and seeing it firsthand.  It should cause us to go to the Lord and stay in a place of humility.  Great fear fell on them all.  But not all prophecy is severe.  In fact it is far and away to encourage the hearer to one end; to press on, to continue on to know the Lord.  Whatever gift, whatever the Spirit may work in us, we remain a vessel in His hands.  It is not about us, that is, the focus should be on the Lord Himself.  True prophecy increases the life of Christ in the hearer.  If it doesn’t bring you closer to the One who is worthy of your life, let it slide away.  And be aware the next time that person talks with you.  If you do not receive something of value, look for real fellowship elsewhere.

Logos and Rhema

Logos and Rhema

(Hebrews 1:1-3)

God has spoken to the world through His Son.  He sent His Son and gave Him as the Lamb, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  Our activity is simply to agree, receive, give thanks, and present our bodies a living sacrifice every day.  And to be still so that we might hear what the Spirit of Christ may say to us today.  Today if you would hear His voice, harden not your hearts.  His words are given through the written word where we read the facts of spiritual truth.  This is logos.

The writer of Hebrews begins with the thought of the preeminence of Christ.  Some think Paul wrote that letter and some think it Apollos or some other.  I tend to the thought that it was Paul and he did not identify himself because of the opposition to himself among Jews.  We ought to recognize that some come to a reception of the truth quickly, and for others it takes some time, from our perspective.  We can never rush someone else into revelation and true spiritual relationship with Jesus.  We cannot make it happen.  We cannot do it for ourselves.  But we can, and must respond, to the revelation we receive.

Whoever the writer of Hebrews was, he wrote to those who still held onto some of the old.  Read the entire letter and much is included to help us to leave the shadows.  Everything done through the law and the prophets was a type and shadow.  As I write that, it does not mean that God was not the author of it all by the Spirit.  Here is a mystery.  That means it is simply the truth that His ways are higher, deeper, and wiser, that ours.  His ways include mystery that we cannot grasp by analysis.  The idea of dispensationalism is that God changes the way He works.  I think it is better to say He chose to reveal Himself to mankind in an increasing clear manner.  His revelation culminated in sending His Son to take on human flesh (incarnation) and being sacrificed for us.  And He was raised from the dead without any work through any human vessel.  While the prophets had done similar miraculous works, Jesus’ resurrection was uniquely God alone.

Malachi is the last recorded prophet included in what we call the canon of scripture.  He was in the period of history we call the Old Testament.  At a much later point in history, men earnestly considered what should be included in the Bible, as the written record of the Lord’s relationship with mankind.  We ought to say that some include other writings.  We avoid such debates here.  The point of this is that we have a written record and we need to pay close attention to it.  If we think we can operate outside or apart from what is written, we are open to deception.  Jesus Himself used what was written in the law and the prophets to resist Satan himself.  This was direct confrontation.

I believe the Lord’s hand was upon those who confirmed which books were collected into what we call the Old Testament.  But we miss the entire message if we do not understand that the word testament is another word for covenant and that is a relationship upon which the writings are based.  It is much more than a collection of stories or principles.  The law and prophets provide a record of a family relationship that had failed but set the stage for the Savior.  Natural Israel was to be the bride of the Lord but she could not.  The flesh profits nothing.

Through Malachi, the Lord ended the record of His controversy with Israel.  We should understand in that period few understood God’s mercy and grace as well as His severity.  And I don’t think anyone understood His highest nature is that of Father.  They would never use that word.  Yet Moses, Elijah, and David were men who lived that experience.  Moses spoke to the Lord as a friend.  His was a close relationship.  Same with Elijah and David.  The psalms tell us that the Lord’s ways are lovingkindness and truth.  By the new birth, we come into a living relationship as a child and the normal spiritual life in Christ is to grow to full spiritual maturity.

These words are from the Spirit.  They are expressions of the truth in the Bible.  The apostles who wrote the gospels and the letters had close spiritual walks with the Lord.  He desires that for all of us.  The words that the Lord, in the still small voice would speak to us, are apples of gold.  If they do not line up with what’s written we should question them.  When something is called gold it is divine.  It’s from God.  It has His life in it.  It produces goodness, righteousness, in the one who hears and receives it.  It brings faith.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by a word of God.  And that is the rhema, the spoken, the uttered word of God.  This spoken word is spiritual, and it has at times been physically heard.

Apples and Earrings of Gold

Apples and Earrings of Gold

(Prov. 25:11, 12)

I continue to consider this thought.  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  We look to speak words that will edify, that will encourage, that bring life.  I don’t believe it is necessary to say but we ought not say everything that comes to mind.  When we find ourselves in an argument and the heat is rising, we often do best to simply shut up.  So often we add fuel to the fire.  We can destroy relationships and set wars in motion through words.  James warns us of this. See James 3:5 & 6.

On the other hand, words flowing from the Holy Spirit, can set hearts ablaze for Christ.  Jesus spoke words that brought life.  He also hid parts of His message to draw men to the truth.  I am thinking of the parables and how Jesus addressed those blind in self-righteousness.  That is the heart, the foundation of “religion”.  We think we can justify ourselves before God by some self-initiated behavior.  We revert to outward behavior.  We bring a “sacrifice” to God that He did not call for, or initiate.  To such people, Jesus spoke an indirect message in parables.  He also performed works beyond the natural realm.  Along with the miracles, He spoke the truth.  In this He was seen by many as a prophet.  He is that and so very much more than that.  He spoke words that were initiated by His Father.

His words flow perfectly in the Spirit.  And I write without presumption, but in faith, as led by the same Spirit.  If that sounds prideful, it is not.  It is in humility, and in obedience to what the Lord directly spoke to me and led me.  He has specifically called me to pray, and to write.  I have been listening to Him and sitting at His feet for 45 years.  And as many have been called to ministry, I too have been called and chosen to do what He directs me to do.  Be careful to stay in the place of listening.  We too easily slide off into side streams.  A brother recently said to me, “Stay in your lane.”  He delivered it as encouragement, and yet it has a corrective aspect.  Jesus Himself said He was sent to the lost sheep of the house (family) of Israel.  He stayed mostly within those specific boundaries.  He never went to Rome Himself.

We are all in different stages of relationship and true spiritual growth.  We need to give others room to grow.  If we are in a prayer meeting, and someone’s prayer is not as aligned as we are with His purposes, don’t always correct them.  Pray for their spiritual growth.  As you may have opportunity, encourage them in the truth.  We must be patient, forgiving.  Ultimately, we are not their Father.  Our Father sees them and knows them in a way we don’t, and never will.  I have been corrected sometimes rightly and sometimes not.  I have learned to ask the Lord about it so that I get the real message.  He is the only perfect teacher but we still learn from each other as well.

My words are expressions of the truth in the Bible.  When I speak to the Lord’s people, I only want to speak what is of and from, the Lord.  Will my words always be perfect?  Only One speaks the truth perfectly.  The apostles who wrote the gospels and the letters had close spiritual walks with the Lord.  He desires that for all of us.  The words that the Lord Himself, in that still (quiet) small voice, would speak to us are apples of gold.  If what we think does not line up with what’s written we should question those thoughts.  When something is called gold it is divine.  It’s from God.  It has His life in it.  It produces goodness, righteousness, in the one who hears and receives it.  It brings faith.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by a word of God.  And that is the rhema, the spoken, the uttered word of God.  This is spiritual speech, and it has at times been physically heard.  I am thinking of the very voice of God.

So the apples of gold are those words that are from God.  Jesus said I only speak the things that my Father speaks.  He spent much time in prayer, in communication with His Father.  He was perfectly in tune with His Father.  He would by His Spirit lead us into such a walk. The rest of that proverb refers to these words as set in silver.  That picture makes me think of a sculpture with golden apples and a border, a frame, of silver.  Or perhaps it’s like a ring, where in place of diamonds, we have golden apples.  The setting is pure silver.  It’s a beautiful picture.  Silver represents redemption.  The words of God that bring His life are framed with His redemption.

The Beauty and Value of a Timely Word

The Beauty and Value of a Timely Word

(Prov. 25:11)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  These words sank deeply into me many years ago.  Recently I recalled them with great appreciation.  I would say I relished them in my spirit.  My inner man is refreshed by the wisdom they impart.  So this word reflects on itself a glory from God as it speaks about words.  Consider the times you heard exactly what you needed to hear from Him.  Perhaps through a preacher, a teacher, a brother, sister, or even a stranger.  I know a song by David Brymer, and it begins, “Your words are spirit, Your words are life.”  See John 6:63.  He was singing of the words that are spoken to us by the Lord Jesus.

In the writings of the disciples and apostles, two Greek words are used for our English, “word”.  One is logos, and one is rhema.  That second word refers to more than information about something.  It is communicated person to person in relationship, a spoken word that one hears.  That is God’s intent, to communicate directly to each of us.  Jesus said, “Let him who has ears to hear, hear.”  We must be attentive and take that word in.  It is important.  In fact it is life, Jesus said.  He knew exactly what to say in every situation.  He only spoke what He heard the Father say.  I don’t believe this was robotic but I do believe it was directed.

Having said this, I warn us that not every thought we have is from the Lord.  A favorite bumper sticker I have seen reads, “Don’t believe everything you think.”  So true!  The logos, the logical, informational word of God which includes the Bible, the written word, is so important for our lives.  Jesus resisted the lying thoughts from the enemy by using words written by Moses and the prophets.  I think that creation also is a part of the logos we have from God.  The heavens declare the glory of God, the psalmist wrote.  Normal everyday responsibilities and the world around us can express God’s truth as well.

I sometimes have a thought to share but often I pause and listen in my spirit to the Lord, whether to proceed.  I may be overly cautious but it is far better to have our tongues submitted to the Spirit then just talk.  Recently, I read a discussion of verbal communication.  It said the actual words used were 7% of the message and that 55% was tonality.  Our attitude comes through facial expression, body language and our tone of voice.  Jesus, said that we speak out of the content of our hearts.  As we spend time with our Father, our Abba, our Daddy, we will live and speak by His Spirit.  In His presence we are transformed so that even our words will be His.  Twice in the prophets, the Lord says, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Is. 51:16, Jer. 1:9, also Is. 59:21)  Of Moses, it is written that he knew the Lord face-to-face and mouth to mouth.  Do not corrupt what is spiritual with an earthly thought.  The meaning concerning Moses is the same as with Isaiah and Jeremiah.  We are drawn to know the Lord intimately.  Go back and read all of John 6:63.

So as the Lord has put His words in us and they become our life, our walk, we can speak His words with authority.  As a pastor and brother, David Wagner, has said, “If you have a testimony of Jesus, you can prophesy.”  By prophesy, it simply means to speak God’s words.  It must be with authority or it will fall to the ground, that is have no effect on the listener.  We can learn to parrot what others speak but I have learned that we must digest the words Christ speaks to us.  That is meditation.  We process what the Lord speaks in the spirit of our mind.  That is where we are renewed and transformed.  Jesus spoke about us keeping His commands, His words.  Hold them fast, eat them.  Allow those words to become part of you and walk them out.  Live in obedience to them.  Let them light your way and direct your path.

By that process, the word will become flesh in and through you, and like the first-born Son, you will live and speak more as a son of your Father in heaven.  Jesus always spoke accurately and with authority.  He spoke the words that He knew from His Father.  So it will be with us who follow Him.  We seek to stay close, to abide, to be aligned and refined by His Spirit.  It is His desire also, and was His intent before you knew Him.  As you learn of Him, you too will speak apples of gold in settings of silver.

Sent From the Lord’s Table

Sent From the Lord’s Table

(Ps.127 & 128)

We are sent from a place of communion, of true spiritual fellowship, with the Lord.  The Lord will bring heavenly awareness and revelation of Himself according to the magnitude of our present calling.  Too many are in a hurry to “change the world”.  Mother Teresa is quoted as saying something like this.  “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”  Jesus did that for 30 years before He left Nazareth to fulfill the will of His Father in heaven.  My point in repeating that is that if we do not learn to love family, and in the process learn to love Him more, our love is not real.  We do not know what love really is.  True religion is to care for the orphan and the widow.  Begin with your own family so that no one is made an orphan or widow.  Or a widower for that matter.  We learn first in knowing His great love for us.  It takes focused time in His presence.

Read the referenced psalms.  It begins speaking of a city, and our focus is brought to the city that the Lord is building.  Men build cities, they make names for themselves.  (Gen. 11:4)  It will all come to nothing.  Confusion enters into all that men do without the Lord’s initiative.  This age and all of man’s construction will pass away.  Let us learn to edify one another by the Spirit, in love and honor toward the Lord, that His city may be built.  He is building an eternal dwelling, a heavenly city.  Only that city will remain.  And the Spirit cautions us in Psalm 127 not to do the watching over the city in our strength.  Don’t burn the wick, the candle that you are, from both ends.  No burnout!

This psalm is a song written by Solomon.  It is called a song of ascents.  We are on our way up, to a higher place, a place of the Lord’s perspective.  May we not be fearful of the heights trusting that He will be our guide.  He is the good shepherd, faithful and trustworthy, the One we must focus upon.  So, as with John’s revelation, the picture of the city, shifts to a family.  For John, he saw the bride, the wife of the Lamb.  Solomon writes of a family of children.  He is writing of natural children but more than this.  I hear of the Father’s spiritual children.

First consider natural children.  They never “belong” to us as parents.  We are responsible to nurture, to raise them, and then release them.  They are the Lord’s inheritance.  They are like arrows in the hand of warrior.  Happy is the one whose quiver is full of them.  The Lord and all the host of heaven rejoice when new ones are born of the Spirit.  And godly parents rejoice with the little ones around their table.  If they are wise spiritually they will raise them to honor God and respect all authority.  Yet they will teach them, by example, to recognize usurped, corrupt authority and to resist all darkness.

The Spirit speaks to me concerning the preparation of the arrows for flight.  The shaft is made straight and polished.  The feathers must be placed carefully so that the flight will be true to its target.  Then a sharp and balanced arrowhead must be set.  After all that, the arrow is placed in a quiver to be withdrawn at the right time.  Do you hear the Spirit speaking of a full preparation?  We are not to be in a rush.  He, the Lord of the harvest, the Lord of the battle, knows when to set you in His bow.  Wise, godly parents know when to release their children into the Lord’s direct parenting.  Children are under our care and nurturing for a time.  Then we should encourage them to move out knowing the voice of the One who is the Good Shepherd to each of us.

A final thought from Ps. 128:3.  Our heavenly Father has many children like olive plants around His table.  So may it be in our families and fellowships.  True fruitfulness in every area of our lives will result as we sit at the table together.  In my Spirit, I have seen a progressive picture of seats at the Lord’s table.  First, as I was taking the seat He had prepared for me, I saw empty seats and heard our Father’s desire that they be filled.  See Eph. 2:6, and Ps. 23:5.  He looks for all men to come and know Him where He sits is in the heavenly realm.  At a later time I saw a table with many seated around.  The table grew to allow for many to come and then I was aware of many interconnected tables which I understood were the many prayer fellowships around the globe.  The Lord is rapidly expanding a global, interconnected house of prayer!

The Lord is calling and many are responding.  Many more are still on their way.  They will be like olive plants, filled with His Spirit to overflowing.  They carry His life wherever they go.  They will be like arrows in His quiver, straightened and fitted for Him to shoot as He chooses.  Know that His working and preparation continue as the olives are pressed so that the oil will flow.  He who began a good work in us together will complete until His glorious day.  See Phil. 1:6.

The Darkness and Light Are the Same to Him

The Darkness and Light Are the Same to Him

(Ps. 139:11 & 12)

The entire Psalm referenced is wonderful.  The Lord’s eye is on us from the “darkness” of the womb until our final earthly breath.  Will we acknowledge His love and care and stop trying to fix our lives?  Will we live in fear or allow the perfect love of a heavenly Father to embrace us?  We must be knowing Him closely as our heavenly Father.  The prayer Jesus taught the disciples begins “our Father”.  I think it should be called the “Disciple’s Prayer.”  The title “The Lord’s Prayer” should be applied to John 17.  Just a perspective to consider.

Are you afraid of the dark?  Spiritual darkness is real and can be intimidating and foreboding.  Think of Israel and Goliath.  As we grow in our relationship with our Father, as David did, we find we are encouraged to defeat enemies.  In David’s mind the outcome with Goliath was certain.  This was not because David was strong in His own strength, or being the tough guy.  No, it was because David had the learned the Lord’s strength in himself when he saved his father’s sheep from a bear and a lion.  He knew that the arrogant, defiant spirit manifesting through this enemy of God’s people could not survive.  And the Lord showed His people, His nation, that His deliverance comes from an unexpected source.  He chooses the weak things to confound the wise.  The Lord had chosen David for that hour.

I know of believers who have faced overt manifestations of darkness.  Some of this seems strange and weird to the Western, sophisticated mind.  Demons, principalities, and powers, are real.  See Ephesians 6:10-20.  While many enter into spiritual warfare, do we really know what are weapons are?  We may understand the armor but the actual waging of war is summarized in verses 18-20.  Praying in the Spirit for all the saints (believers) and for utterance to be given to ambassadors of the mystery of the gospel to speak boldly.  I have prayed loudly, and quietly, but if we are not praying according to the will of God as being revealed by the Spirit, it is empty noise.  Don’t be discouraged by those words.  All of us can learn to pray.  It does take time; time in His presence, learning to be aligned with His Spirit.

Some of us have grown up in more evidently dark, spiritual atmospheres.  Witchcraft takes different forms in different earthly cultures but the results are the same.  In the West, the darkness has come via a denial of spiritual reality.  The gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God has been has been diluted, corrupted resisted, and ignored.  And the patience of God has waited (1 Peter 3:20).  What time is it on the Lord’s clock, we might say?  As it was in the days of Noah, Jesus said.  A day will come when all will be exposed, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And all the dark will be blown away forever.  I do hope for and look for that.

As we do look toward His coming, we resist darkness now.  Do not be afraid to be sent into dark places.  If He sends you, He will go before and behind you.  David was prepared in an obscure place.  Moses had his 40 years in the desert.  Israel had 40 years in the wilderness to lose its unbelief.  They (the young ones) learned to know the Lord as their source, their strength, their provision.  They learned they could trust Him and were led by His voice.  And His glorious Son, Jesus, was prepared for 30 years as part of a family.  He knew His Father from the womb.  If anyone knew what it was to be sent from the light of the presence of God into darkness, Jesus Christ knew that.  He came to a world lost in darkness.  The Greeks had been overcome by the Romans and their Republic was slipping into deep darkness, licentiousness, and depravity.  Yet the Lord sent His Son in divine wisdom and strength to destroy the works of the adversary, the kingdom of darkness.  He destroyed him who had the power of death, even the devil.  Do not fear the valley of the shadow of death, that dark place, for He is there with you.  The darkness and light are the same for Him.  He is light and the darkness cannot stand against it.

Paul’s Journey to Rome

Paul’s Journey to Rome

(Acts 22 & 23 and 27 & 28)

Paul was chosen, and captured by the Lord, (Eph. 4:1), to be His carrier of the Gospel to the Gentiles.  He was not alone in such a calling.  As an example, we understand that Thomas, one of the twelve, went to India.  We know well of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  As we read the book of Acts, we see Paul’s progression, and notice how many times he tells his story which is a testimony of Jesus Christ.  I learned early in my walk with the Lord to do just that.  The content and extent of my story will change depending on my audience.  I encourage you to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and alert to your hearer’s spiritual location.  We learn to have our words seasoned with grace.

Paul had been warned by the Lord (Acts 22:18) that those in Jerusalem would not receive his testimony, and that the Lord would send him to the Gentiles, to non-Jewish people.  We read in Acts 21:10-14 that Paul was nevertheless constrained in his heart to go back to Jerusalem.  A prophet, Agabus, displayed what would happen and the people were distressed but Paul was not to be dissuaded.  The words, “The will of the Lord be done,” resound clearly.  Paul, Luke, and others went to Jerusalem and we find Paul in the center of another uproar.  The Lord prepared him to remain steadfast and composed in such situations.  Paul saw the stormy scene as an opportunity for his story.  He seized it.  May we be ready in season and out of season.  The Lord is our rock also.  Not many among us speak to crowds but each of us is a vessel to be filled and poured out as the Spirit directs.

So Paul spoke and when the crowd reacted, the Roman authorities took him aside and questioned him.  It is interesting how Paul used his wits and was spared a scourging when he declared his Roman citizenship.  A place exists for us to use our heads to avoid trouble, even pain.  As the clamor rose and Paul was threatened, the Roman guards pulled Paul to safety.  The message had been delivered.  The Lord gave those in Jerusalem another opportunity to repent and turn to the Lord.  Perhaps they did later but at that moment the Roman guards (they were equivalent to today’s police) saw the danger and pulled him aside.  Paul was placed in jail for safety.  My focus of this writing is Acts 23:11.  As Paul has been saved from a band of false Jews (Rev. 2:9, 3:9) led by Ananias, the high priest, Jesus comes to him.  The Lord tells him to be of good cheer and that he will tell his story and bear witness for the Lord in Rome.

The rest of the story is quite amazing as the Lord protects Paul through his nephew hearing of a plot against him.  Read in Acts 23:23, what level of earthly protection was afforded Paul.  His Roman citizenship was a means used by the Lord to bring him to Rome.  Bear in mind all the opposition and physical trouble Paul has already been through.  But the Lord stood by him, coming to him at night.  Many are the afflictions, the troubles, of those who are bond-servants of the Lord, but the Lord will come to you, stand by you, and speak to you.  Paul does not wait to land in Rome, he takes opportunity before regional, Roman appointed leaders to speak of Jesus Christ.  In the middle of it, he appeals to Caesar, and the earthly rulers declare it, “To Caesar you shall go!”  Yet that was the very purpose of the Lord in Paul’s life.  Paul knew he was in the right place because the Lord was directing his life, and the Lord had spoken directly to him.

I was impressed to write this as I thought about Paul’s shipwreck.  On the way to Rome, at the expense of the Roman treasury (all expenses paid, the Lord will provide), Paul endured another severe hardship.  He had warned the ship’s leaders not to sail as he had wisdom concerning the time of year and weather.  They did not listen to him and he later reminded them of the warning.  It seems that we, as disciples of the Lord, think that every storm will see us stand, rebuke the storm, and we will be at our destination.  To be sure, the Lord does do that.  But not in every situation.  In this case, the Lord was giving a lesson to all concerned.  On the ship, in the middle of a horrendous storm, Paul prayed for himself that God’s purpose in his life would be done.  The Lord, by an angel, had assured Paul that he would speak before Caesar.  And all were with Paul were spared and saw the goodness of God in their lives.  As we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, it will be the same for each of us.  He will fulfill His purpose in our lives.  No purpose of His can be thwarted.

Everything That Can Be Shaken, The Revealing of Christ

Everything That Can Be Shaken, The Revealing of Christ

(Hebrews 12:25-28)

The writer of Hebrews clearly expresses that everything that is seen comes from a realm that we do not see with our natural vision.  That’s a lot of words to say what we must recognize.  No one sees God fully and directly in this life.  I use the word fully very purposefully.  Many of us, by the Holy Spirit, have had a revealing of God to our spirits, to our inner man.  This is what the new birth, being born of the Spirit of God is about.  We know Him.  It comes by faith, because of the words spoken by others. (John 17:20)  Some have had open visions of the Lord Himself.  Peter, James, and John saw Him in a glorious way on the mountain.  (Matt. 17:1-9, 2 Peter 1:16-18) John experienced that at a higher level on Patmos when a more glorious revealing came that caused him to fall down.  At that time, Jesus Himself had been fully glorified and restored to the heaven.  In our day, stories of dreams and visions of Jesus Christ Himself abound and are increasing.  It seems He reveals Himself to the extent that is required.  We could say that it is according to the purpose and calling in a man or woman’s life.

I think His revealing carries more than the thought of purpose and calling.  He reveals Himself to the ones He loves; the ones who love His appearing, His presence.  Francis Frangipane shared a wonderful teaching on Jesus revealing Himself to Mary Magdalene.  Jesus had cast 7 demons from her.  The one who is delivered from much, loves much.  She had gone to the tomb and found it empty.  Peter and John had gone away but she remained weeping.  At first she did not know it was Him, but when Jesus called her by name, she recognized Him.  So she is the first to see Jesus Christ raised from the dead.  While calling and purpose are always part of the Lord’s work in us, here with Mary, we see it is all about love.  She loved Jesus and Jesus loved her.  Only John records these details but no surprise for he is the disciple that deeply knew Jesus love.

When Jesus appears, when angels show up, when the reality of the kingdom of God hits us, we are shaken.  People trembled.  The Lord says He looks to this one who is humble, of a contrite spirit, and trembles at His word.  As we read in the reference from Hebrews, he speaks and says, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth but also heaven.”  And the writer says, this indicates the removal of things that are made.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will never pass away.  Everything will be shaken.  We must be aware that this includes the natural earth.  A new heaven and a new earth are on the horizon.  It will be totally new, a spiritual new creation in which righteousness dwells.  It will be incorruptible.  For that to be, the old must be removed.

Jesus spoke of earthquakes and famines and other trouble that would come upon the earth.  So it has happened and continues.  We read of a man, Agabus, who was a prophet and revealed by the Spirit that a great famine was coming to the world (Acts 11:28).  That phrase, by the Spirit, is so important.  Through history, some believers have made predictions, declarations, started projects, or built churches, and God was not in it.  Such things fail, they collapse and the fall of such a house is great and devastating for those who were drawn into it.  Agabus and the ones who came together at Antioch were truly led by the Spirit.  His words were accepted to the extent that they gathered resources and sent relief to the believers in Jerusalem.  A practical response followed the expectation of trouble.  The Lord warned and they responded with preparation.

In Matthew 24, Jesus plainly explained that great trouble would precede the end of this age.  He said many would be indifferent, and in violent opposition to the truth.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be.  Noah was led by the Lord to prepare.  Today we are hearing of coming earthquakes.  After hearing this myself, two earthquakes on consecutive days registered in California.  A sister shared that 34 minutes after one occurred, the shock was felt on the east coast.  Some shakings are with purpose as idols, the work of men’s hands, the products of our pride, are brought down.  Do we mourn their loss?  Will any of those wonders of our hands be brought into glory?  The Lord’s works are greater.  Our response to human opposition must be in love.  Prepare as we are led by the Spirit and be ready to help in practical ways.  Jesus included earthquakes as well as famines when He spoke of the days coming.  The Lord will shake until His great and terrible day when the heavens will pass away with a great noise.  And Jesus Christ will be fully revealed to all.