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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Are His Workmanship

We Are His Workmanship

(Eph. 2:4-10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Whom the World Is Not Worthy

Of Whom the World Is Not Worthy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still and Listening

Still and Listening

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer and Communion

Prayer and Communion

(Prov. 20:12, Heb. 3:7-4:13, Rev.1:11)

Many words apply to communication with God.  Two are used in the title.  Fellowship is another.   Meanings differ but the thoughts expressed are all aspects of God’s relationship with us.  He began the process by creating us with a spiritual nature so that we can communicate with Him, the Living God.  It is pure and simple.  He takes the initiative and catches our attention.  If we want to know the pattern, we can look in that book we call the Bible.  And we can look at human history.

In the beginning the Lord communed with Adam.  They walked together in the cool of the day.  It was sweet.  We have no record of God telling Adam He was going to put him into a deep sleep.  Rather He gave Him an object lesson by Adam observing and naming the animals.  The Lord may bring understanding without speaking directly.  He simply causes us to know.  Yet I am sure Adam and the Lord had conversations before that.  He made us so that He can communicate with us.  And we with Him.  He made the hearing ear and the seeing eye.  That is about the spiritual side of us.  Jesus came to His churches as recorded in Revelation 2 and 3 and said to each, “Let him who has ears to hear, hear.”  He is telling us to listen, to pay attention.  That we have learned to do.

It requires a quiet spirit.  We learn to still ourselves in His presence.  At times, we know His presence and nothing is said.  Other times an entire download, a vision, a message, understanding, or wisdom may come.  He, the Lord, knows what we need before we ask.  And He knows us, the secrets and intentions of our hearts.  His words are sharp and discerning to expose those thoughts whether good or bad, from light or born of darkness.  We do not need to be afraid of His searching us, although we can be.  We can be unsure of His intention.  But He never comes to condemn, although He may come to judge.  That is not contradictory.  He is never wanting to condemn us, He is wanting to save us from those thoughts and intentions that draw us away from Him.

After Adam and Eve discovered their nakedness, their break from the close relationship with the Lord, He called, “Adam, where are you?”  Adam heard His voice.  When we stray, when we have believed a deceiving voice, we can still hear Him.  He will again take initiative and call.  The Good Shepherd is the One who will go out and look for the lost sheep.  He is always present.  Eternity is heaven.  It is here, not a faraway place.  It is always today.  Today, if you would hear His voice, stay soft.  If you find yourself hard and resistant, earnestly ask Him to soften you again.  We draw near to obtain mercy and find grace.  He will not withhold it.

We live in a day well past the writings which are so foundational for us.  Part of the world has been saturated with the gospel, the preaching of the kingdom of God.  This began as the Spirit was first poured out.  Pentecost was fulfilled.  And that Spirit, the Spirit of Christ is yet being poured out on all flesh.  So we find people who do not share our theological understandings but have experienced the love of God, the presence of God.  And we rejoice together with them as we together we grow in the true knowledge of Him who saved us.  As we commune with Him day after day, knowing His presence and all that He brings. I catch myself as I write these words thinking it’s a lot of words to express the simple truth.  The Lord mad us for communion with Himself.  It overflows to others and we can know a fellowship in the Spirit.  That is a joy!  Walk by the Spirit and the flesh, our self-centeredness cannot prevail.  That is walking in victory.  Keep listening.  Keep your lamps filled.  Watch and pray.  Otherwise we can grow dull, lukewarm, and potentially hardened.  You do not want to go there.

Little Stones and Growth – Part 2

Little Stones and Growth – Part 2

(Eph. 4:7,13-16,  Matt. 28:18-20,  Rev. 21:10-14)

We are being built together by the Spirit operating among us.  His goal is a church without spot or wrinkle, and a weapon which the gates of hell cannot withstand.  These are two of the pictures we have of what God is doing in and through His people.  Are we with His purpose, His program?  When Jesus walked upon the earth, the Lord clarified His purpose and His nature.  Jesus did not raise up an earthly army.  He did not wage a holy war, a crusade.  He brought a revelation of God as Father to all who would come to Him.  This assembling of living stones has the same purpose.  From the time of Jesus’ years upon the earth, God has been in the business of pursuing and bringing home those that are lost and restoring them to His original intention.

We must say yes to Him and follow Him.  This is the way of disciples.  The 12 were close to Him, walking with Him every day for 3-1/2 years.  And they continued after that as He appeared over 40 days and then came to them by the Spirit.  As He said from then on He remains with disciples always, even to the end of the age.  And we will be with Him, and He with us, forever.  The Spirt comes to reveal Christ to us and in us.  As He leads us into all truth, the measure of Christ in us increases.  We are becoming those precious stones set in place in the wall of the city.  It is for us to cooperate with the work of His Spirit, maintaining a welcome place for Him.

Some years ago a man visited the fellowship I was with and taught over a weekend.  He had a real and practical grasp of the truth that we are seated with Christ above principalities and powers, the dark rulers of this present evil age.  That means all those forces are below us.  We are not under constant attack of the enemy.  And we do not overcome him with yelling and shouting.  Now there is a time for a shout, for loud praises, for our voices to be lifted like trumpets.  But overcoming can be quiet.  It comes from a place of rest in Him, the source of strength.  We overcome evil with good. 

After the teaching which had a strong basis in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, I had a picture in my spirit.  I saw us as living stones built on one another with self-giving love as the mortar.  The stones, that is us, were expanding.  They were growing so that the entire building was growing.  It is a living wall, of a living city, even a bride.  Recall Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as recorded by Daniel.  A stone is cut from the mountain, and after it destroys the kingdoms of the earth it becomes a great mountain, filling the earth.  So here we are, by the working of Spirit, becoming that mountain to fill the whole earth and bring the light of Christ to the nations.

In our own eyes, we may see ourselves as little.  It is wise not to be self-reliant and not to think of ourselves too highly.  But we are unwise if we diminish the work God has accomplished in us.  Jesus knew who He was as He walked the earth, the land called Israel.  He did have to flaunt it.  When He knew the miracles would draw crowds, He told the one restored to tell no one.  But He could not avoid the crowds.  People came out of their need.  For some, it appears that is all they wanted.  That is the danger of being satisfied with the gift and not seeing past the wonder to see the Giver.

The stone that Christ is was rejected by many but is the foundation of mankind.  He is creator and was manifest in the person of Jesus.  So the Spirit moved men to write, He has become the chief cornerstone.  Jesus Christ Himself grew into this so that we might see the potential for maturing in ourselves.  That same Spirit that raised Him from the dead so raises us.  It is the yeast of the kingdom that fills the whole lump.  But don’t think this is for you alone.  We should know by now we cannot fulfill His purpose by ourselves.  For He has created us in Christ as a many-membered body.

Little Stones and Growth

Little Stones and Growth

(Prov. 16:18,  Eph. 4:7,13-16,  Mat. 16:18,  Gal. 2:11,14,  2 Pet. 3:14-16, Rev. 21:10-14)

One of the problems among us as disciples is our innate desire to be somebody.  Pride goes before destruction and a cocky attitude before a failure.  I have paraphrased the reference in Proverbs.  The disciples and the women who traveled alongside them with Jesus had a first-hand, PhD level, course in humility.  Jesus’ strength of character is unmatched among humanity.  No one comes close.  The Roman soldier standing by as He yielded up His spirit, recognized Him as a true Son of God.  He bore the pain and humility of that most heinous torture as no one else.  Here He displayed the ultimate demonstration of what it means to be filled with the Spirit.

As I prayed, I thought again of Jesus’ definition of maturity, that we love our enemies and bless them that curse us.  Jesus confronted those who opposed Him in ways that were intended for their spiritual eyes to be opened.  At the end, He allowed them to destroy His body, knowing that He, that His Father, would raise Him up.  Yes, His person is a mystery yet we know it is true.  But I am thinking of true humility.

I think the essence of it is related to knowing our identity as our Father’s sons yet remaining totally submissive to Him.  Humility knows that we are not Him.  And we are not “better’ than anyone else.  We are all on the same plane when we consider the cross and what the Son of God did.  The gospels and the record of Acts provide the story of those early disciples learning the lessons, of growing into the stature the Lord intended.  Look at Peter’s life and progress.

It would take many words to trace Peter’s experiences with Jesus.  I think most of you reading this know something of those stories and we have many.  A Bible website I use indicates his name is mentioned 153 times.  He is an example for us all as we see his mistakes, his failures.  He followed Jesus.  He did not want to leave Him.  But Peter had to see all of the weakness that was in him, all of the words and intentions that could only be fulfilled when he received the fulness of the Spirit at Pentecost.  And Peter still had some imperfections after that.  See the words in Galatians.  They are very significant for our day, as they were at that beginning of the Lord building His church.  But that is another message.

I have heard perspectives on the meaning of Jesus’ words to Peter when he recognized Jesus for who He is.  The Greek word for rock does not imply a little stone   Further, while the revelation of Christ is foundational to spiritual life, Jesus did build His church upon Peter.  What?  No, I am not agreeing with false teachings of the Roman variety.  Jesus’ church does not need, or have, a single head leader.  Christ is the singular head of the body, the rest of us are His members as God has grafted us into Him.  How has Jesus built His church upon Peter?  Read the passage in Revelation and see that the foundation of the heavenly city includes Peter as a precious stone.

This is not a future reality but a present one.  Now it is true that we do not yet fully see this but the Lord is now seated in the heavens and Peter and the rest of the 12 are with Him.  And spiritually speaking we are seated with Him and them in the heavens.  The cloud of witnesses are not far off, nor is the Lord, by the Spirit.  He is here!  And we here are built together as precious stones fitted into the wall of this house the Lord is building to be a place He can reside.

At the time of his clear revelation of Jesus as the Christ, Peter was still immature for in the next few moments he heard Jesus say, “Get out of my way for I must fulfill the will of God.”  Read that full passage also.  But Peter was being prepared to fulfill a ministry which would end with his death being a witness of Christ.  In his life he was a witness of and to Christ in powerful ways as divine healing flowed as his shadow fell on people.  Yet he was able to be corrected by Paul and honor that other apostle.  They remain on equal footing for the foundation of the heavenly city has 12 stones, Christ Jesus being the chief cornerstone.  There is no other.

Teachers and Fathers

Teachers and Fathers

(John 1:12-13, 1 John  2:12-14, 1 Cor. 4:14-21)

After the revelation on Patmos, John more clearly expressed many aspects of our spiritual lives.  I have come to deeply appreciate how he describes our growth.  In John 1, we read that as we receive Him, Christ, we have the potential to become born-ones of God.  I used to think our reception of Him is the fact of a new birth.  Whoops!  I hear my analytical side getting in the way.  Scratch that last sentence.  Receiving Him is all important and spiritual life begins.  Like it happens with a seed hidden beneath the surface, a shoot, a sprout, erupts.  It is not by a formula we can analyze.  It is according to a working of His Spirit and the process begins.  He makes all things new.  Everyday. We cannot make any of it happen.  It is our part to be workable, malleable, good lumps of clay.  Let Him work you into shape. Then we are fit to cooperate with Him.  Receiving Him is the start and provides the ability to grow.

John continues to speak to us about growth in his first letter.  There, he refers to believers as children, young men, and fathers.  When we see a repetition in the words we read in the Bible, we should pay close attention.  We will simply because of that repetition itself.  John addresses each season of growth twice.  He leaves no one out.  See how he refers to the little children and fathers both as knowing God.  The difference is that fathers have a greater sense of the eternal.  Are we knowing Him who was from the beginning?  Moses was 80 years old when he met the One who called Himself I AM.  Our eternal destiny is the main thing.  That is what the Lord has in mind.  A vast family of sons who are full grown.  They know the patience of God and lack nothing.

A father gives life.  He imparts a seed that causes conception.  As we mature, we impart spiritual life to people.  Paul echoes that thought to the Corinthians.  He had a fatherly care for them.  His words to them were firm but not harsh.  They were an immature bunch.  He warned them he might have to be severe if they did not listen and respond.  He carefully addressed the issue of marriage with them recognizing their humanity.  We can have many teachers but we need true fathers.  Firm but gentle.  It can be our greatest challenge.  And it is the transforming work of the Lord by His Spirit.  Christ in us meets every challenge and His life overcomes.  The faith of the Son of God becoming our faith.  This is the way to overcoming.

The young men overcome the evil one.  The truth is that we have an enemy that is a person, a spiritual being.  He stirs up thoughts, uses other people, and wants to harm us.  We may find he has ground in us but the Lord is our freedom fighter.  His way is grace and the cross where He destroyed the fear of even death.  John writes that we turn from loving this world.  Jesus told us not to love our lives.  The young men are those who have eaten the Lord’s words and digested them.  The word of God has a home in them.  So they have overcome the evil one.  If he comes, they have the means to resist him and he will leave.  He goes to look for others to trouble. We begin as children.  We may see that some grow very quickly, seemingly much faster than others.  Growth is expected, it simply happens.  A child needs care, nourishment and the experiences of discovering and using its body.  First is the natural, then the spiritual.  Now we read in Rev. 12:3 that a child is born mature.  We understand this woman who gives birth is the church, the bride, the wife of the Lamb.  It indicates a working of God’s Spirit that gives birth to a nation of priests for God in a day.  While our response is to look for something to yet happen, may we see that we are members of that bride, so close in spirit to Christ that our lives of intercession bear such ones to the Lord.  While we may not have this experience we can grow into it.  It is part of the process.  Jesus’ words are spirit and they are life.  He will put His words in our mouths and we will impart life to others.  Stay rooted and grounded in Him and growth is certain.

A Throne of Grace

A Throne of Grace

(Heb. 4:16, Rev. 12:10-12, Ps. 91)

This thought from the letter to the Hebrews was posted as part of a prayer request on a ministry website.  I needed to hear it again.  The Lord as eternal mediator has made the way for us to live in the throne room of God.  It is a throne of grace.  I hear much in these days born of a desire for righteousness.  It is often repeated that justice and righteousness are the foundations of God’s throne.  It is so.  But how does God define that justice and righteousness?  He defined it at the cross of Christ, not in our fleshly efforts to rule by laws patterned after the law of Moses.  His justice is met with the blood of the worthy Lamb.

Our enemy is quick to accuse and condemn us.  When we fail, the accuser is correct in that we have fallen and come short.  But we hear too little to remind us that the seat of His throne is a seat of mercy.  The words from Revelation tell us that the accuser has been cast down.  Here is a little trouble for my human understanding.  Some explain that three heavens or levels of heavens exist.  The highest holds the throne and the Lord dwells there.  The second level is the area where Michael and his angels have warred with Satan and his helpers, and thrown them down.  The third or lowest are those created heavens that we see.  No understanding is perfect but I think this passage tells us that the accuser has no more access to accuse us to God. 

How is this?  The blood of the pure Lamb of God is there.  This blood that is simultaneously human and the demonstration of the unfathomable love of God.  The blood speaks forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness.  The devil cannot approach there for it speaks his eternal, complete defeat and ultimate shame.  His time is short.  He runs around in the world among us accusing God to us, accusing believers to one another, and spreading lies and distortion wherever he can.  He began his jealous war against humanity in the Garden with insinuation of God withholding good from us.  He has no new weapons.  When we think of bringing every thought captive to Christ, let us include every twisted word from the serpent.  Remember Jesus’ confrontation with him in the wilderness.  The enemy will distort truth.  But the word of God in us is greater.

How important to feed on the truth, on the bread that Christ is.  When we receive by the Spirit, not merely the letter but the Spirit of truth, our spirits are strengthened.  The word becomes flesh in us when digested and tested.  It takes time for spiritual growth and meditation on the truth is part of the process.  Do you read the Bible?  Are you biblically literate?  It is important and includes the law and the prophets.  It also includes what we have as the gospels and letters. 

May we as the people of God see ourselves in a spiritual battle and cease from playing into our enemy’s hand.  Cease from accusation.  Correct and counsel when offenses come.  Sometimes they should be ignored if small.  When correction is not received repeatedly we should avoid such so-called brothers.  I come back to Paul writing that he prayed and turned certain men over to Satan that they would learn not to blaspheme.  The Lord is patient and His goal for everyman is that they would be saved.  It is important for us to never hinder that process.  Be careful not to offend young believers but recognize their immaturity.  How important we who are mature learn to help young ones to grow.  True love is patient, kind, and gentle but firm.

Growth happens as we are transformed by, and in His presence.  It includes exposure.  Every corner of hearts will be searched by the One whose eyes are flames of fire.  Are we willing to submit to that? We approach the throne without fear knowing that His end is for our good, our eternal good.  We learn to live in His presence, to dwell in that place of unapproachable light.  Yet it is forever approachable to those who have known He is love.

Shadow and Substance

Shadow and Substance

(Col. 2:17, Heb. 8:5-6, 10:1, 11:1, 12:18-25)

Jesus taught in parables to use earthly frames of reference to teach heavenly realities.  He asked to what He could compare the kingdom of heaven.  He spoke of the kingdom.  He never taught us how to build a church.  He was focused on us entering the kingdom.  He builds His church His way.  We do best to simply allow Him to fit us together.

Similar to His teaching in parables, the Lord gave to Moses the law and the model of the tabernacle.  Many years ago, I visited a museum with a full scale model of the tabernacle in Pennsylvania.  I appreciated that.  I had already studied the scripture and sat in on teaching concerning the tabernacle and it’s relation to our spiritual lives.  It is valuable, even critical, to understand the process and progression to enter the Lord’s presence.  In simpler words, the tabernacle shows the way to get close to God.  Once there, our purpose is to stay there.  Fellowship, close relationship, has been God’s purpose and desire.  He walked with Adam in the cool of the day.  Enoch walked with Him.  Jesus said, He and the Father are one.  That is close.

Jesus prayed that we, His members, those who have received His words, would be one as He and the Father are one.  This goes beyond agreement in our thoughts with one another.  Much of our thoughts are too low.  They do not align with the thoughts of God.  How important is it that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are pleasing to Him.  No question mark with that thought.  It is of the greatest importance that we grow up into His mind and His heart.  As this happens, it becomes our delight to do His will.  It becomes spontaneous, naturally spiritual we might say.  Alignment with the Lord, true oneness with Him is a process.

While it is a process, we find times we call breakthrough.  We find ourselves thrust out of old ways, more into the continual newness of the Spirit.  We may find ourselves restrained, restricted in some way and we want to break out.  True freedom is not the absence of restraint, for our self-centered self wants its own way.  The Lord brings us to be constrained by His love.  Like a little child, we want and when we have, we do not want to let go.  When we see the Lord’s ways are better than our desires, we learn to follow His lead.  The breakthrough is like the Passover out of Egypt and like the entrance into Canaan.  They were very different but both brought a maturing.

In the wilderness time between these two significant transitions, the Lord gave the tabernacle as instructive.  In that day, a few saw beyond the structure to pursue the Lord.  Namely these were Joshua and Caleb.  Consider that their families, wives and children were included with them to enter the land.  I should check out the record to confirm this but I will leave that to you.  I mention this because Joshua later says that he and his house will serve the Lord.  Joshua knew that Moses had something more and so he hung close and stayed at the door when Moses went into meet with the Lord.  All of this I mention that we might see that all of us are called to be like Joshua, to be hungry to pursue what we see in others as substance, as something more than what we have known.  We want it to rub off on us. As we pursue, we will find the Lord’s calling and choosing.  So it was with Moses, so it was with Joshua and Caleb, so it was with the twelve.  Now, Jesus has offered to all, “If any man would come after me, let that one take up his cross and follow me.”  Anyone!  This goes out to every man, woman, and child.  I am convinced that children can begin to follow the Lamb of God.  Some are called from the womb.  Some hear the call later.  When you hear, respond.  It is worth the cost.  In the shadows we learn, we begin to understand.  Don’t stay there.  The Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, is calling.  When you hear, get up and follow.  It is worth every cost.