Vessels to Be Poured Out

Vessels to Be Poured Out

(John 2:1-10, Acts 9:15, 2 Cor. 4:7)

Last year, I heard someone speak of wine and new wine many times.  When I think of wine I think of joy.  Remember how at Pentecost, some of the onlookers mocked and said those coming out from the upper room were drunk; they were filled with new wine.  We might say they were but it was not natural wine.  They were filled with great joy.  I am sure that was quite a scene.  A quiet hint of this came at Jesus first public miracle at a wedding in Cana.  Wine was a part of the wedding celebration among the Jews.

As with any story of Jesus’ life, we can see much in this passage about the wedding.  My focus is now on the vessels.  We are vessels.  Jesus calls for the servants to bring these specific water pots, made in a certain way for this purpose.  We are each made for  particular purpose.  Often the Lord will group a people together for a specific purpose.  I see this an operation of the Spirit among His people.  He calls His servants to gather some vessels for a particular purpose.  Again, I think of those gathered in the upper room.  He had directed them to go and wait.  May we hear Him direct us to the ones He wants to fill.  So Jesus directs them to fill the pots with water.

The Lord never works the same way.  He had seen Saul well before He revealed Himself on the road to Damascus.  The Lord Jesus watched him as he was taught by Gamaliel.  Paul, the new Saul, later said that he had been zealous for God but not according to knowledge, meaning the personal knowledge of Jesus.  The Lord watched when Stephen was stoned and Paul assented.  And He heard Stephen say with a loud voice, “Lord do not charge them with this sin.”  I think Stephen wanted the crowd to hear.  Jesus was preparing this man for when He calls Ananias (Acts 9) to pray for Saul, He says that Saul is a chosen vessel to be His witness to the Gentiles.  The wisdom of God is so far above ours!  He reveals it in His time.  May we be ready when called as Ananias was.

I am sure Ananias did other things as the Lord calls but he is only mentioned here.  He himself was a vessel, prepared and set apart for this purpose.  We have all known this in some measure.  We have heard God’s call.  According to the gravity of assignment the Lord will come to us and make it clear.  He came to Ananias in a vision and gave specific instructions.  We can read the rest of that story and we know the far reaching ministry of Paul.

And we have this treasure in earthen vessels.  Paul wrote that to the Corinthians, speaking of himself.  Today we know that is for us all.  We are called, chosen, each for a specific purpose, that the Lord might be seen through us.  He fills us with living water as the pots in Cana, and when we are poured out to others they taste new wine.  Joy!  We allow the troubles of this life to mature us so we are fit for use at a wedding feast, His wedding feast.  And we follow Him and obey His directions and others receive a blessing.  The Lord is glorified and His vessels are prepared to fulfill His call on their lives.  Thank you Lord for the faithful servants that you have used to pour into our lives, that You might pour us into others.

God Has Exalted Jesus Christ – Part 1

God Has Exalted Jesus Christ – Part 1

(Acts 5:29-32, Phil. 2:5-11, Ps. 2)

God has exalted His Son.  He has given Him a name above every name.  It is expressed in various ways for us.  God Himself, the source of all, the Living God, has exalted the man, Jesus, and given Him all authority.  This man who is called the first-born from the dead is seated at the right hand of God.  Jesus Himself says to John on the isle of Patmos, “I am He that lives and was dead.”  He later says, “I have sat down with my Father on His throne.”  Some years ago, I was in a diner for breakfast and some men had gathered there for fellowship.  I use that word as their clear purpose was to share the life that Christ is.  One of them was clearly the leader.  We could call him an elder.  It was so plain that he had a maturity beyond the others.  This is not to say the others were immature as I spoke for a few minutes to one of the group as they got settled.  I said something to the leader and he responded, “It is a mystery and a marvel.”  That is a simple and wonderful expression of who Jesus is.

It is written that all things were created by Him, for Him, and through Him.  He was with the Father before the world was, and He knew it.  No other man is like this man.  Born of a virgin, without earthly father, born by a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit.  He is the first born of all creation in this.  At His natural birth, God was doing something greater than the creation of Adam.  That was only the beginning of the revealing of His Son.  God gave Him to be the Lamb, the sacrifice for al the sins of mankind.  And He accomplished more than that.  He is the last Adam.  He is standing, and laying down His life, for us all.  The essence of the good news is that when He died, we all died.  Now some extend this that all our saved.  No, we were all dead in sins.  But God made us alive together in Him.  We must receive the life of the risen Christ.  We must believe that so that it becomes our life.

How was it that God so honored Jesus above all?  Read Isaiah 57:15 and 66:1-2.  He regards the humble, the broken and contrite among men.  Christ became sin for us.  That in itself is a mystery but it is the very wisdom of God.  We read in the passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Jesus humbled Himself.  The Son; like His Father is meek and lowly in heart.  This is essential to His nature.  This may not compute to us.  The Lord is who He is.  He is I am that I am.  He does not have to prove anything.  His purpose is to reconcile all things to Himself, and this He has done in and through His Son.  And we are invited and pleaded with to come and participate.  Read Romans 12:1-2.  The Spirit through Paul beseeches us to be transformed.  Humble yourself under God’s hand and process, and He will exalt you at the proper time.

Humility is the way to honor.  It was so for Jesus and it is so for us in Him.  True humility results in obedience.  He who is willing and obedient will eat the good of the land. (Is. 1:19)  The Lord is referring here to spiritual good.  Jesus was in tune with His Father and did what He saw the Father doing.  He spoke what He heard from His Father.  He was focused on this.  It’s written that  the Lord creates the hearing ear.  This is that ear of our inner man, our spirit.  We can call it conscience where we hear the still small voice.  While we cannot always be in the secret place, we learn to maintain a stillness and a listening ear.  We live in His presence.  He is our very present help by the Spirit.  As Jesus said, by the Spirit, He and the Father will make their abode in us.

As He makes His dwelling in us, His kingdom has come to us.  It is increasing in us.  AS we His people are so possessed by Him, His testimony, His witness is increasing in the earth.  This did not begin yesterday.  The Lord has been working through the entire earth for 2000 years.  Yes, that process is not yet complete but it is in progress and is accelerating.  Many continue to resist the truth.  So we include Psalm 2 as a reference.  The nations rage.  Resistance to the true revelation of Christ continues.  It shows up on many levels including among the collection of believers.  Churches divide over what, for many of us, are obvious issues.  These separations reflect that final separation of sheep from goats.  Mankind wants mercy without justice.  The justice of God was fulfilled at the cross.  The world hates Jesus Christ because His death seals it’s end.  Now that is not the final end for the Lord is creating new heavens and a new earth. So we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Jesus Christ Preeminent

Jesus Christ Preeminent

(Col. 1:15-20)

We move into a new year and a new decade.  But the testimony of God, the living words that proceed from the mouth of our Father do not change.  We look for a fresh word, something like that manna in the wilderness that is for today.  He is always the bread of life.  He always is life Himself.  We can always turn to Him that our inner man, our Spirit would be strengthened.  So I was unsure what to write for this blog and I heard “write about Jesus.”  Pretty simple, very direct, and always appropriate.

This passage from Paul’s letter says so much in a few words.  I have a card for introduction to this blog and the words on the back state my purpose.  “That Jesus Christ might be seen for who He truly is .”  We could stop right there and sit with that thought for a long while.  Do you know Him?  Are you growing in that knowledge?  He is the image of the invisible God.  After 2000 years, it does not cease to cause me to wonder why such resistance to Him continues.  Over the last few years, Psalm 2 continues to ring true.  “Why do the nations rage and the people imagine a vain thing?”  We cannot face the fact of our deep human need and that God has provided the answers in His Son.  That sounds so trite, so simplistic, and our human pride says it must be another way.  To be sure life has it’s complexities and we can get stuck in perplexity.

Don’t stay there.  He has made peace (vs. 20) through the blood of His cross.  He has reconciled all things to Himself.  We must say that in the broad view of humanity and the cosmos, that is yet a work in progress.  For Paul, I think he had a present awareness of that reality.  He walked worthy of his calling to be a demonstration of that reconciliation.  He gave his life, laid it down, so that God might pour him out for many to come to the Lord.  That is an apostolic calling.  Paul knew and continually worked that God’s purpose was to reveal Christ to the world.  Continue reading his words to the Colossians and Paul expresses these thoughts deeply and beautifully.  Remember Paul had significant, spiritual experiences.  He was blind for 3 days after His initial meeting with the Lord Jesus.  It blinded him!  And the Lord sent a man for his restoration.  Later he was brought into the third heaven.  While he was not free to share the details, it changed him and his perspective.

Are you growing in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to desire spirituals (I Cor. 14:1) but we are warned by many about seeking “experiences.”  Is your goal to know Jesus?  Paul, Saul at the time, was not looking for Him, he was persecuting Him!  Are His ways higher than pour ways!  Yes they are!  Paul later said he was zealous for God but not according to knowledge.  And we must say that Stephen’s witness as Saul held the coats of those who stoned Jesus’ friend Stephen, was part of that process of the Lord capturing Saul.  Transformed so that he changed his name to Paul.  So I, and others, continue to seek His face.  Yes we do so to seer our land healed but a higher call exists and is heard.  Come to me, the Lord says, so that we might know each other.  Whether the land is fully restored to our liking, or not.  Does your heart belong to Him?  Are your affections set above where He sits today?

We are aware, or we should be aware, of the importance of the cross of Christ.  It has been a symbol, a picture, almost an idol.  The reality of what Christ did shook the natural and spiritual world.  For those present in Jerusalem at the time, it was filtered through their relationship to the man, Jesus.  Some loved Him dearly.  Some thought He was the hope of the nation and that was now dashed.  Many hated Him and thought His death would save the nation.  The high priest had no idea what he really said when he declared that it was good for one man to die.  He was the reconciliation of man with God.  The Father’s plan and purpose were accomplished.  God had seen it from the foundations of the world and the world was about to hear what had been done.  It was important for the Son to spend 40 days with them, with His church, to show Himself.

It has not changed today.  He told them before His death that He would not leave them orphans.  He would not leave them alone.  He would come to them.  He came by the Spirit.  As though that were not enough, He met John on Patmos and gave specific instructions and messages for each of 7 churches throughout Asia.  I think it important to note that Jesus focused upon what were in lands foreign to the Jew.  He did not have a message for the church at Jerusalem.  That church had been dispersed.  Peter in his first letter addresses believers as pilgrims dispersed.  The thought is that these who had been scattered from Judea were like seed spread throughout the world to carry the truth.  The Lord of the harvest had scattered His people for a purpose.  May He so move us and direct our steps, arranging divine connections that life might flow and He would have that people, that bride, that He gave Himself up for.

Unto Us A Child Is Born

Unto Us A Child Is Born

(Isaiah 9:6, John 3:16)

During this Christmas season, I have been thinking much about the Lord’s coming.  The Lord has come, beginning as an infant.  His Spirit was always present in some remnant of mankind.  His Spirit has been brooding and striving.  As it is written, in the fulness of time, God sent His Son.  God knew the right time, the precise moment to have His Son come to the earth.  He was sent and given.  He was vulnerable.  He was unprotected yet stewarded by Mary and Joseph.  Some writings comment on His early years but those were omitted as not being fully reliable.  We are encouraged and taught to avoid controversies.  Most important, and we might say only important, is that Christ be at home in our hearts through faith.

We must receive Him.  He alone is Savior.  We in the church, have learned, and are still learning this must be a reality not some doctrinal position.  We find those outside of the “church” who own more godliness than some of those taking seats among our love-feasts.  Consider again the Roman centurion who recognized His great authority, the Syrophoenician woman, the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Gadarene demoniac.  These were not seen as Israel but became true people of faith.  Heart circumcision is God’s only way.  And it is dependable.  His word, and the work it does, is never void or unfruitful.  Unless we resist it.  Open our eyes and hearts Lord.

The incarnation of the Son as Jesus is one of the greatest miracles in all of the history of the world.  Before the foundation of the earth, the Lamb, the Son, was slain.  This was in the mind and purpose of our eternal Father.  The time came for this to show up in the earth.  His birth was timely and the same is true for His death.  At the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  I recently saw an endorsement for one of the movies depicting the life of Christ.  Most of them have a value.  The corrupted and irreverent depictions aside, I consider one of the most valuable to be The Passion of the Christ.  It is very hard for some us with tender and sensitive souls to watch it.  The crucifixion was violent and horrible.  Jesus Christ was totally disfigured.  And in reality He was naked on the cross.  He was put to total shame.  I think it to be the most violent act in all of human history.

The apostle Paul writes He became sin for us.  In Him, God condemned and put to death sin in the flesh.  That is the finished work.  Will we allow it to be worked out in us?  It was worked out in the 12 who followed Him closely, except for Judas.  He was lost as Jesus acknowledged in John 17.  Yet after His resurrection, 500 saw Him alive.  The Lord God ensured a testimony of direct witnesses.  And 120 were kept in an expectant atmosphere, not unlike what happened to Mary by the Spirit.  She was in that upper room among those waiting for a promise that came and was formed in them all.  Something changed as He who had become a life-giving Spirit poured out and fulfilling the promise spoken by the prophets.  See Joel 2.

Are we open to His brooding, transforming power and ability today?  He has no new means.  Much is new to us, every day.  To Him, the Living God, He saw it all before time began.  Our understanding fails us at every turn but our spirits are strengthened.  It is for us to submit to His working as did Mary.  For me, these are not mere stories recorded in the gospels.  They are historical records of heavenly encounters.  Forget our foolish science fictions of aliens.  The angel Gabriel came to Mary and her words ring for all of us.  Be it to each of us just as God says.  He will speak to you.  This he says to us all.  Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Repent, turn to God, and believe the good news that a Savior has come and wants to know you as you know Him.  He came as Jesus of Nazareth and now sits in God’s presence with all authority.  Receive Him, more of Him than your mind can fathom.  He is awesome, wonderful, beautiful, and so glorious, it will humble you and lift you up.  May we have ears to hear and listen and receive all He would say to us today.

Many Members, Streams, Colors

Many Members, Streams, Colors

( 1 Cor. 12,  Ps. 46:4, Col. 3:1-4)

This theme returned to me.  We hear much said about diversity.  Outside of the Spirit of God, it means anything goes.  In the Spirit of God it speaks of a variety of expressions of the beauty of the Lord.  It is the Spirit’s creative nature expressed through every ethnicity as they are redeemed and gathered out of their earthly natures.  Yet who we are in the natural does not disappear.  We live a life in this earthly tent, our bodies.  The Lord works in us and we become transparent vessels, living stones, jewels, in the wall of His heavenly city.  I have understood and expressed this before.  The heavenly city comes down out of heaven from God.  He builds it without human hands.  It is spiritual and has no earthly content.  We may be uncomfortable with that truth but it is summarized in the words of Paul.  Our bodies are corruptible.  They will decay, and ultimately be transformed.  We learn to possess our vessels, our bodies, in honor, so that all we do and say may reflect who the Lord is.

We can operate as people, as His creatures, but without His Spirit working in us, our efforts are fruitless.  No fruit remains.  It does mean we, individually, cease to exist.  It means, we die daily to our agenda, hopes, and dreams, so that His will be fulfilled in us.  He does give dreams and expectations, and those are wonderful.  He gives us all things richly to enjoy.  He is a good father and gives perfect and satisfying gifts.  Yet only what is initially from Him will endure and be to our heavenly account.  Our accounts here, our earthly successes, do not accompany us into our eternal existence with God.  He loves us and calls us to be connectors, ambassadors, priests, to bring others into contact to the One who is worthy of us all.

As we remain humble before Him, committed, consecrated, separated for His purposes, He causes His light to shine through us.  It will diffract through the prism of our person, our personality, as the colors of the rainbow.  The Lord preserved the variety of the animal kingdom by means of the ark.  Noah’s walk with God, His listening and obedience provided for their preservation.  And we know after the flood, the rainbow appeared, and a promise, a covenant from God Himself was signified by that rainbow.  So now, through a many-membered body, Christ is displaying His glory.  The colors of the rainbow are a natural picture of the diversity of who we are in the Spirit, by the Spirit of Christ shining through us.

I have mentioned again the glory of the New Jerusalem.  The Jerusalem of this earth is a city beloved by the Lord.  Also is every city upon the earth.  The message of the cross as expressed well through Paul’s letters, is that God has ended the division between Jew and Gentile. The Lamb of God was given for the world, the cosmos, the universe.  All men were included.  If Christ died for all, then all died with Him.  The last Adam died at the cross, once for all.  Jesus decried as God intended that it was finished.  He finished Adam.  God was completing the work of death through Christ.  So if all died, are all thereby saved?  No. Those who receive Him, who welcome the One who is worthy, they receive His life.  Only the life that Christ is can carry us through this life into that eternal place in the heavens.

We pray for heaven to come.  It shines into the earth beckoning all to come.  It shines through those built together as a habitation of the Spirit.  Here is the value of unity in the Spirit.  We are One in Christ.  It is not for us to make it happen.  Walk in the truth and be diligent to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Read Ephesians, especially chapter 4.  We are working out with one another the answer to Jesus prayer in John 17.  We need to put on love, the divine love.  It must be firm yet gentle.  It takes the Spirit in us to even respond to the call to maintain the unity that Christ died to display.  It is the humility of being debased, abused, physically assaulted, according to the purpose of God in our lives.  As Jesus prayed that unity will be accompanied by true joy, His joy.

In the same way, we read in Psalm 46 of the river whose streams, like the rainbow colors, make glad the city of God.  That river is the pure river of life that flows from the throne of God.  The Lord’s rulership and authority are in that river.  No hypocrisy can stand in that river.  It has no place.  Nothing of our selves can remain there.  The purity is Christ, His life.  Are you dead yet?  Have you agreed with God that who ae are apart from His life has any value at all?  Do you choose to identify apart from who He is?  You are a member of Christ of His body, if you know He is Lord.  In that is your true identity and your eternal value.

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.