Communion With the Lord

Communion With the Lord

(Song of Songs 2:4, Psalm 23:5)

Most times I write, the title comes to me quickly.  It was not so today.  We are in a time of trouble that has come upon the whole earth.  In the natural, it feels a bit like a wartime.  I do not want to spend much time in those thoughts.  My intent in writing today is far different.  As recent events began to unfold, the Lord drew me into a time alone with Him.  He brought me again to Song of Songs and a theme He had emphasized many months ago.  He has a table set for us, always.  We can live at that table.

Some of you may know of Thom Gardner who has had a fruitful ministry which includes authoring some books.  I have read three and one of those addresses coming to a table with others where true relationship can grow.  It’s important to come to the table without an agenda, without an expected outcome.  We learn to listen.  I have seen this operate wonderfully with my wife Augusta.  I must say that is not always the case but when we talk in the right spirit, something genuine happens.  We hear each other.  That is the key.

So it is with the Lord. And there, as it was with Mary in Bethany, we learn at Jesus’ feet.  Yet Jesus lifts us up, inviting us to sit at the table where He sits.  He so invited them at Laodicea when He invites them to share a meal.  It is so at that last Passover meal when He tells the 12 that He had earnestly desired to share that meal with them.  That is very strong language He uses there.  The word lust could be used but that has too many other connotations for many of us.  It was an intense desire for communion, a depth of committed relationship that cannot be taught, that Jesus desired.  It can only be experienced.  Jesus was about to do something that would so change the very lives of all that table.  It would have an eternal impact.

Without spending too many words on a tangent, the disciples had been on a high ride for 3-1/2 years.  While much opposition and danger existed, daily victories happened.  The triumphal entry, as we call it, had occurred.  That was going to appear to come crashing down.  The next 3 days or so were going to be devastating.  These would be followed by 50 days of amazing revelation and understanding and the explosion at Pentecost.  Talk about an acceleration!  But this is all about a depth of relationship that is so profound.  Jesus was about to destroy the very power of death.  He had foreshadowed it in Bethany by raising Lazarus.  Interesting to mention that place again.  He had spent time there simply sitting at a table with them.  Jesus knew Lazarus and loved him.

Are we spending such time with Him?  The bride, the Shulamite, sings this, “He brought me to His banqueting house and His banner over me is love.”  So much is buried in those words.  I found again that the marginal translation for “banqueting house” shows it literally means “house of wine.”  What a different level of meaning.  For me, wine speaks of joy. The bridegroom brings His own, His bride to a house of joy.  Do you hear again His prayer in John 17?  He wants us to share in His joy.  Yes, the way to that joy is through the cross.  For the joy set before us we must also endure.

David wrote of his Shepherd, “He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies.”  Paul much later writes that we are seated with Him in the heavenlies.  There, we sit above the churn of these earthly troubles.  From there, we can move about in this world bringing His life.  In a recent prayer meeting (on-line of course), a brother shared about this being a time of rest.  I think it is so.  Personally, it has been like nothing I have ever known before.  I have been sifted and He has shown Himself faithful.  I am being drawn closer and everything that can be shaken, has been well shook.  His kingdom remains.  All the rest of this will surely pass away.

The Body of Christ

The Body of Christ

(Paul’s Letters)

As I waited on the Lord for my next article, I realized that spiritual truth can get “deep”,  We can get ethereal and lost in a bunch of words and thoughts.  Frank Work’s recent piece, “The Battle for the Kingdom Will Leave Scars”, addressed the nitty gritty of our lives.  It’s a war.  And as Pogo (that’s a comic strip) said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  That is why the Lord provided the way of the cross.  As we die daily, it brings life to others.  Paul wrote, “Death works in us that life might work in you.”  The true apostle, one sent by the Lord Himself, knows Jesus Christ.  That one knows that his calling is to lay down his life, especially for fellow believers.  Beyond that, he offers life to all that he may meet.  My reference this time is to all of the letters Paul wrote to the church.  Much of his writing addresses believers relationship with one another.

Paul refers many times to the fact that we are a body.  And we are the body of Christ.  We are His very body.  After many years, the truth of this, the reality of it, sank into me.  This is not just an idea.  This fact will renew us in the spirit of our minds.  We are very members of Christ.  That is what Paul was saying to the Corinthians when he told them they can no longer go to harlots.  As I began to review the place where Paul addressed the Romans concerning being members of His body, the flow was interesting.  Read Romans 12 and he begins calling us to present our bodies as living sacrifices.  We are called to walk worthy, to be cleansed and stay clean.  He then goes on to encourage us to use the spiritual gifts that we have been given.

I will write it again.  We are members of the very body of Christ.  We are each connected directly to the head Himself.  The picture of the body seems to break down there but see it this way.  The natural nervous system transmits impulses to every part of the body.  So we all have those impulses flowing to each of us directly from Christ.  So John could write that each of us has no need of a teacher for we all have the teacher (the anointing), the Holy Spirit.  He gives each of us ears to hear.  It’s for us to use them, to pay close attention and follow His lead.

Paul has also written that the church (ecclesia) is His body.  The church, Christ’s church, is not an institution.  We have not fully learned how to administrate natural provision without creating another entity.  I do not mean this as criticism but simply as an observation.  We are learning to have true care for one another.  We lay down our lives and look to the interests of others and not just our own.  I have thought that Jesus is not returning for a collection of institutions but for those who love Him.  To the Ephesians, Paul wrote, we are one body (Eph. 4:4, 15, 16) and went on (Eph. 5:25-32) as he commented on marriage in comparison to Christ and the church.  Paul makes the profound statement that we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  And He calls it a mystery.

We should be glad in that last statement because our minds, our natural ability to process and analyze cannot comprehend this truth.  Yet as it is revealed to us by the Spirit, it is a joy that we are so joined with Christ.  It is inseparable, a mighty work of God’s Spirit.  But it must be walked out by putting off all our old ways, all the behaviors incited by our selfish desires.  How we need to walk in and by the Spirit; in close union and relationship with the Lord.  Remember, Paul was introduced to this fact on that road to Damascus as the Lord Jesus said, “Why are you persecuting me?”  Jesus was stating this fact that He was joined to His own, His disciples.  If someone harms us, they harm Christ.  And if we harm one of His own, we harm Him.

To the Colossians, Paul referred to the church being His body (Col. 1:18, 24).  So these thoughts are different expressions or sides of the same thing.  This is our identity.  These words are an expression of aspects of our identify from God.  This is why we need to honor and care for one another.  We are members of Christ, not as members of some institution, or organization but of a living thing.  We can nurture one another, or, as we are warned, we can bite and devour one another.  So let us focus on how we can build each other up.  In doing so we strengthen the church to be the lampstand and shine His light into the world.  He has called us to be that for such a time as this.

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.