Everything That Can Be Shaken, The Revealing of Christ

Everything That Can Be Shaken, The Revealing of Christ

(Hebrews 12:25-28)

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

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

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

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

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

The Bridegroom and His Bride

The Bridegroom and His Bride

(Psalm 45, Rev. 21:9, Eph. 5:22-33)

The Lord has caused us to know that the church is His bride.  In the reference to Revelation, John was specifically told, “Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  She is not the wife of the lion, but the wife of the Lamb.  The Lamb is the One who lays down His life for the sheep.  This is the One to whom we are joined by the Spirit.  This is the One we are made one with.  Marriage is the ultimate earthly picture of our unity with the Lord.  Following that verse in Revelation, John sees a city.  Purposefully, the Spirit changes the picture as He does frequently throughout John’s experience.  Recognize that we are His dwelling place, we are His city built as living stones upon the foundation of the apostles.

All this is expressed as we read through the entire chapter in Revelation.  Yet I am again focused on His people as His bride.  Recently, our Sunday morning gathering was opened with a brother reading Ps. 45.  I recalled much that had been opened to me years before.  The publisher’s/translators’ heading of the Psalm reads, “The Glories of the Messiah and His Bride.”  That is Jesus Christ and us, as we follow the Lamb wherever He leads us.  Do you find yourself in a tough, perhaps impossible, situation?  Has the Lord led you there?  Or do you find you have wandered off?  The Lord Himself is after something.  He wants all of us.  When we say we commit our lives to Him, heaven rejoices.  At times, many times, it is for us to consider it joy that He is refining us to be members of His bride, fit for a heavenly joining with Him.

The passage of verse 10-15, has always been precious to me.  That beauty is refreshed now.  The daughter is addressed and told to listen carefully.  She is called to leave her people and her father’s house.  I think of Abraham.  “When he was one I called him,” the Lord said.  The Lord made of him a great nation and all the nations have been blessed through his seed, Christ Jesus. Consider Rebekah.  Abraham’s servant was sent to relatives to call and bring another out from her father’s house.  She heard of Isaac and she left all to meet her bridegroom.  And Ruth left her Moabite people to go with Naomi to another people, the Lord’s own.  And there, Boaz takes her as wife.  The Lord’s purpose goes forward through Ruth’s loving obedience.

It is the same for us.  Jesus said to his disciples that the one who loves father and mother more than Him is not worthy of Him.  We must leave people, places, things behind to follow Him.  This never means neglect of family responsibility.  This often requires wisdom and a seeking the Lord for His thought on the specifics.  It often requires an increase of our faith.  We get stretched.  I love how the writer expresses the thought that she is all glorious within.  In verse 13, translators have added the words “the palace”.  I think they missed the meaning.  Within her, in in inner self, she is all glorious.  As she leaves her earthly attachments to know the Living God, her spirit glows with His life. So we let it shine out.  Don’t hide your light, Jesus said.  It is so very simple.  The psalmist continues, her robes are gold and of many colors.  It sounds like some of what John saw in Revelation.  He saw this at the throne.  See verse 9.  The queen, His bride is standing at His right hand.  As we follow Him, we know, we experience that we are seated with Him in the heavens.

As I write, this, I am aware of the distance I still must go in overcoming every trace of my flesh.  Those things that distract and trip me up; that reveal my fallen humanity.  As His bride, we wash our robes in the blood of the Lamb.  It’s wonderful to hear the Lord Jesus say, as He did to Peter, “You are clean by the word that I have spoken to you.”  He was washing Peter’s feet and that man wanted to be sure he was completely clean.  Jesus, the perfect servant, does the same for each of us as we follow Him.

The Church Which Is His Body

The Church Which Is His Body

(1Cor. 12:27, Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 1:24)

The Lord has given various pictures of the church through the scriptures, the Bible, and by parallel understanding by the Spirit,.  By church, I mean the ecclesia, the called out people who are gathered to God through Christ.  To be part of this gathering necessarily includes an individual hearing of the call of God and our response.  When Abraham was one I called him, says the Lord.  And Abraham went out not knowing where he was going.  The journey was not a straight line.  The Lord led him and through his single son, Isaac, he made of Abraham a great nation.  Do you hear the foreshadow of Christ Jesus and us, His nation of kings and priests?

One of those pictures given us is the church as the body of Christ.  While we refer to it as a picture it is an awesome reality.  Of God are we in Christ.  He Himself has done this, joined us by His Spirit to Christ.  Having been born of heaven, we are one Spirit with Him now.  Our souls are being saved.  We are being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We are growing together to be that body that God purposed from before the foundation of the world, of the cosmos.  As we increase in our spiritual life, we experience that His body is not a mere concept but a reality of our lives.  We relate to one another as we pass through much trouble in this life to enter the kingdom.  We enter into experience of the flow of life, that which every joint of His body supplies.

Paul addresses this in different ways.  Consider the Corinthians, with whom he dealt sharply yet graciously.  He compared their “giftings” as parts of a body, teaching them to honor every part, allowing room for each to express itself. (1 Cor. 12 & 13)  Yet all was to be done in love, true love, which never seek its own status.  To the Ephesians, he acknowledges the flow of life as speaking the truth in love.  (Eph. 4: 15-16) In the first reference below the title of this message, Paul plainly writes, “You are the body of Christ, and each members of it.”  That is an amazing statement.  He does not say you should merely think of yourselves as members of Christ’s body.  Now pondering this and meditating on this is important, very much so.  That is the beginning of it becoming part of us.  But consider that this is more than an idea.  It is a fact greater than the earth upon which we stand.

By His Spirit, as faith works in us who believe, God’s intention becomes our reality, our walk.  We do His will spontaneously without trying.  The Spirit carries us if you will.  Our intention is important but only as it lines up with His intention.  John wrote in his gospel and then his letters thoughts such as these.  “If we say He abides in us, we ought to walk even as He walked.”  (1 John 2:6, my paraphrase)  And when he wrote of the Lord, he said, “The Word (Christ) became flesh and dwelt among us.”  As we receive, meditate, and spiritually digest the Word which He is, that same transaction occurs in us.  The result is we walk as He walked, yet imperfectly.

Don’t let your imperfections, your failures, your sins, discourage you and take you out.  You are a member of Him if you have believed and received Him.  Don’t be lured from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3)  By this I mean that His death and resurrection are enough for sins to be washed away; that means gone!  And enough for you to walk in resurrected, brand new creation life.  If your own heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart.  (1 John 3:20-21)  The Lord by His blood washes away the condemnation and we have confidence toward God so we can move and cooperate with Him.  Let His spirit encourage you after every failure as you turn to Him.  That is repentance.  Read again how Jesus met Peter on the beach after Peter’s denials at the crucifixion.  Peter’s experience of failure broke his self-reliance.  I have known this sort of experience many times.  In a way I have known this daily.  I began to understand that we can live at the Lord’s table.  That may make us think of communion.  The Lord Jesus, and Paul, specifically told us to take bread and wine to remember Jesus Christ.

This is important and I understand many who follow the Lord are doing this daily.  I have mentioned before a pastor, Thom Gardner, who has written concerning our family relationships that we come to the table without our personal agenda.  This thought applies to our relationship with the Lord also.  I heard a message here in Frederick, MD which focused on Mephibosheth.  He was a relative of Saul, who had sought to kill David.  Mephibosheth had been injured as a child and was lame ever since.  David, to honor his friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, and Saul’s family, sought out Mephibosheth.  That lame man was brought to David’s table and lived out his days in the house of the King.  Such is the love of our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus has called us into fellowship with Himself and with our Father.  This is eternal life.  By His Spirit we have been made members of His body.  As we grow in this reality, His very life flows through us.  In this His body is strengthened and grows into that mature man.  Yes, as we have many pictures, that new man is also displayed as the bride of Christ.  May we grow in the understanding that we are His being matured into one new man that will be the bride that satisfies the bridegroom.  As Eve was drawn from Adam’s side, the bride was drawn from His, and now grows, as the Lord adds to her members, and we together we become the one He waits for.  This is a mystery as Paul wrote but it is now revealed in us, Christ, the hope of glory.

John, The Apostle – Part 3

John, The Apostle – Part 3

(3 John)

I am writing to disciples of Jesus Christ.  If you have not yet heard Him call you to follow, know here that He calls all to follow Him.  He said it this way, “Whoever chooses to come may come to me.”  Further He said, “ If anyone wants to come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.”  It is about more than believing and going your own way.  It is a narrow way and you will lose things but it is worth it. An eternal reward waits for the ones who follow Jesus.  I stop here thinking about what the cross means.  Criminals carried crosses.  Condemned men carried crosses.  For the man Jesus, death on the cross represented the ultimate in humiliation.  We read in Hebrews that He despised the shame of it.  I heard it said that means He refused shame.  He did not do it before men.  He was so focused on God.  He did it as the will of God and to satisfy His Father’s heart and desire.

As we follow Jesus, relationships will be lost for what we wanted and expected them to be.  Even death cannot take from you what God reserves for you in heaven.  If you are struggling ask God to reveal Himself to you.  He is kind and faithful to answer.  I write this as I think about John for that man was a disciple close to Jesus.  While other disciples and apostles were martyred, that is they died for their faith in Christ Jesus, not all paid that ultimate earthly price.  John went through attempted murder at the hands of the highest earthly authority of his day.  He passed through that fire.  I think of Joseph whose brothers were ready to murder him and sold him into slavery.  He passed through the valley of the shadow of death.  And then he, Joseph, was falsely accused and thrown into prison.  And John was exiled to Patmos among criminals.

And there in that forsaken island, He sees Jesus Christ in His glory.  Later He is released to simply encourage and oversee the Lord’s people, disciples who were following Jesus Christ.  The basic story has not changed.  The call is to follow Him.  When you see Him for who He is, and recognize your spiritual poverty, get up and follow.  Let nothing dissuade you from your pursuit.  And when you are ready to quit, He will show up if you have been following.  If you have never responded, why should you expect Him to cater to you?  As we go with Jesus, and connect with His people, His disciples among us, we learn to love, bless, encourage, and admonish.  That last activity takes some maturity.  Correction requires gentleness and humility.  Those are signs, fruit, of true maturity.

John left Patmos and ended his days in Ephesus.  Read his third letter.  As with his second letter, he opens referring to himself as the elder.  Trouble and selfish ambition have surfaced among those he addressed.  John’s gentleness and maturity are expressed with a firmness.  When he comes he will remind the self-seekers what they have done.  They will be put to shame.  And John closes with the desire to see those disciples face-to-face.  Hear the Spirit in those words.  The Lord is drawing His bride (the chosen lady of 2 John), to that time of seeing Him face-to-face.  We will see fully even as we have been known.  John, after Patmos, writes and leaves a legacy for us, 2000 years down the road.  I think he had no idea of what he was leaving for us today.

I think more is wrapped up in the testimony of John’s life.  His walk is a type for the church, His body and bride, at the very transition to new heavens and new earth.  John did not see physical death as part of His testimony of Jesus.  I mean by that He was not “martyred.”  As Paul wrote we shall not all sleep.  This is greater than John’s story for he still died a natural death.  There will be a people like Simeon and Anna who are alive and remain.  Some of Christ’s members will be martyred.  Some are experiencing death and returning.  Some will pass through the valley of the shadow and be spared, like John was.  And a company of people prepared for the Lord’s appearing in the sky will not sleep.  His life will keep those He has chosen for that day.

John, The Apostle – Part 2

John, The Apostle – Part 2

I am impressed to continue looking at the life of this man, John.  We understand he was younger than Jesus.  It’s been suggested he was in his later teen years.  He grew up and lived in  Galilee.  As mentioned previously, he was a cousin, or some extended relative of Jesus.  I used to think that the disciples were all completely unknown to Jesus until He called them.  I now think He may have had some acquaintance with them.  John and James were sons of Zebedee.  Many of these details are relatively unimportant, that is, they are not critical for our lives.  I mention them to consider the reality of Jesus’ life on the earth, and John’s walk with Him.  I think we can glean some thoughts for our own walk with Him in this life.

John was a fisherman.  As I did some research, John was misunderstood to be a bit feminine, even effeminate.  This was extended from him laying against Jesus’ chest but that effeminate picture does not fit being a fisherman.  He may not have been as rough and tough as the others but being a fisherman took some strength and normal masculinity.  Further, that physical closeness is mentioned once.  We do not discount his closeness with Jesus but John was not always physically hanging on the Lord.  It’s recorded that he and James were mending the nets while the others were engaged elsewhere.  Jesus saw that and called them.  See Matt. 4:21 and Mark 1:19.  Later John and James are active in ways that were stitching believers together.

For many of us as members of Christ, we find that same calling.  We work to see His body, His people knit together in love.  I find such ease meeting and connecting with those who know Jesus well.  They are secure in His love.  They are not threatened to be known.  Our religious walls come up when we are afraid to relate to someone.  This may be a believer or an unbeliever.  In those moments we can trust in God, and not look to our own self-protection.  Is He our refuge and strength?  Or do we look to our natural wits?  We have all done this, as we see in the lives of the Lord’s people in the scripture.  David feigned insanity in front of an enemy king.  And Paul divided his adversaries, the Pharisees and Sadducees, when threatened. See Acts 23:6-10.

Rather, remember the words of Jesus Christ, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  We learn not to open up to everyone about everything.  I learned some hard lessons in this area.  Not every believer can be trusted to keep our confidence.  We learn to be wise, trustworthy, and slow to speak.  Speaking the truth in love is one of the most important lessons we must learn if we are to be fruitful spiritually.  By that His body builds itself up in love toward that place of maturity to which He calls all men.  May we hear and follow on after that.  It becomes so very simple.  Let knowing Him become your goal and don’t be distracted.

John was one who was secure in the love of Christ.  Psalm 91 comes to mind.  John grew into that secret place of the Most High.  We can follow his story from Jesus calling him as he was mending the nets, to Jesus baptism by John and seeing the dove and hearing the voice, through the 3-1/2 years of miracles, to watching Lazarus come out of the tomb.  John saw all this.  And he also watched as Jesus commented that those who know the will of God and do it are His family.  Luke 8:19-21.  I think that afterwards Jesus went out and spoke with His mother.  Going on from Lazarus resurrection, John leans on His chest at that last covenant-making meal and betrayal, he watches the trial in the courtyard, and sits at the foot of cross.  With 4 women, he watches the unthinkable, supporting them.  He hears the cry of a Roman oppressor, “Truly this was a son of God.”  Did that soldier fully realize what he was saying?  I am sure he was never the same after.

Do we know Him crucified?  This is the beginning.  It seems that some start somewhere else.  Perhaps one has been healed, or some other miraculous change in their life has occurred, and it was evident that Jesus did it.  If such a one turns away, he does so in danger.  Do not harden your heart.  Yes, you may find yourself in a struggle but do not turn away.  Jesus once healed 10 lepers who had come to Him seeking that healing.  Only one returned to thank Him and that one did so in an attitude of worship.  In Psalm 2 we are encouraged to kiss the Son.  This is about worship.  He is worthy and we resist yielding all.  I have struggled through much myself.  It is our self-love that is under all our struggles.  We must love Him more than all including our own selves.  He said exactly that. Luke 14:26.

John knew overcoming because he followed Christ and learned to stay close.  He knew the love of the One who not only called him but who gave Himself on the cross.  All must come to see this and receive Him as given by God Himself.  He is the gift of God to the world.  I have found this is not a one-time experience but the reality of it increases each time I stumble or fall short in some way.  The blood avails always, fully and completely.  There is that place of mercy and as He was raised, so we rise by His grace to continue on.  Like John continued on eventually receiving that Revelation on Patmos, we must press on.  Never give up, never surrender to your self.  Keep yielding to Him.

John, the Apostle

John, The Apostle

I am drawn to this man, John, as he was drawn to Jesus.  As I consider those words, I turn my eyes past him to that One, Jesus Christ.  John is among the cloud of witnesses now.  He is one of the twelve who lived a full life.  His martyrdom (martyr=witness) was not one that saw death in the brutal way as we understand most, or all, of the other first disciples.  They were all personally called to follow Jesus.  John and his brother James were both called.  They were not the same in their calling or their life journey.  The same was true of Peter and John.  Jesus’ conversation with Peter on the beach after breakfast is so amazing.  Quiet, deeply personal, and wonderful.  He wants to meet each of us that way.  Have you ever had breakfast with Jesus?  He will sit with you at a table, you know.  Read Rev. 3:19-20 again.

I have understood that John and James were part of Jesus’ extended earthly family.  That makes me think, he had known them as they grew up as kids.  Yes, this awesome One, Jesus, grew as a child.  John was close to Him from the start.  At the table, on the night Jesus was betrayed, John was leaning on Him.  Men will hug, but in today’s Western culture, we avoid the appearance of a distorted lifestyle.  John was the closest one to Jesus of the twelve.  Their was an intimacy and trust between them.  And Jesus knew John’s destiny was different than the others.  Read John 21:12, 20-25.  Peter would experience the sufferings of Christ by crucifixion.  John would know it another way.

Tradition tells us, and I believe it, that John suffered severe persecution under a Roman emperor, Domitian.  That man was known as the one of the most violent persecutors of believers.  He had John dipped in boiling oil but it was to no effect.  With that, John was exiled to Patmos which was the prison for the worst criminals and the insane.  We understand that John brought with him the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and we expect many on that island were transformed.  The Lord saw and knows.  Having passed through all this trouble, the Lord brought John to the place for a most awesome revelation of Himself.  John was in the Spirit and heard and saw the things that were about to take place.  He saw The Lamb of God, the root of David, The Lion of the tribe of Judah, open the scroll of God’s purpose through the remainder of human history.

This was two thousand years ago.  We could follow that trail but we want to continue with John.  Jesus had indicated on the beach that were He to want John to remain until He returned that was up to Himself.  John went on to clarify in His gospel that Jesus did not say that he, John, would not die.  On Patmos, he did see the glory of God.  He saw and experienced more than Daniel, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah.  This exile was not John’s end.  Domitian died and his successor allowed for John’s release.  He went to Ephesus, where we understand he had been earlier.  I have heard, and believe it true, that he was then part of that gathering where Timothy was the overseer, the elder.  We also understand it was there that he passed fully into the glory he had seen in part on the island.

While there is some disagreement about the timing and the sequence of John’s writing, if we consider his own spiritual growth, the content and character of each book speaks for itself.  I should also mention that all may not agree or accept the history I mention.  That history is not essential.  I think it valuable that we agree that he wrote all his work after Patmos.  He writes having seen so much that is truly heavenly reality.  Consider that in his gospel, chapter 3, he writes of Jesus saying that He is in heaven as He speaks to Nicodemus.  That is not included in all manuscripts, I know, but it is in most.  Jesus walked in a spiritual awareness of heaven to which He later introduced Peter, James, and John.  We know it as the transfiguration.  In Jesus day, the Jews and others recognized spiritual realties.  Angels appeared and people fell into trances produced by the Holy Spirit.

Consider that Jesus knew the experience to which He was bringing the three when they went up to a mountain.  Also consider Moses and the elders sharing a meal with the Lord at the glassy sea.  I am not writing to exalt such experience.  Peter was caught in that mentality as he was ready to build a “church.”  Hear the message here.  We want to build earthly structures.  The experience of the transfiguration and John’s revelation of Christ and heaven on Patmos had the effect of losing more of earthly pursuits and a greater alignment with the Lord’s purposes.  I repeat Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians, “Pursue love, yet earnestly desire spirituals (it is a singular Greek word).”

Paul had been blinded for three days, and then the Lord sent a man, Ananias, to pray and Paul’s eyes were opened.  John’s eyes were opened.  The Holy Spirit gives gifts severally as He wills.  I asked for the gift of tongues as I saw it as valuable by Paul’s discussion.  Without drama, alone in my bedroom, I received it.  I look to use it wisely.  I have had unction, leading of the Spirit, to pray for a brother’s healing.  He received it.  It happened as I prayed.  On other occasions, I had no such leading although I wanted to see a dear one avoid a surgery.

John had seen much as he walked directly with Jesus, sat at the foot of the cross, was at the transfiguration, and heard and saw Jesus Christ resurrected.  As John went the way he was led by the Spirit, he endured and passed through much persecution.  See Rev. 1:9.  It was intense.  Those experiences brought him to Patmos where he was given tremendous revelation of the ascended, glorified Lord and heavenly reality.  He was forever changed and ended his days in peaceful joy, loving the believers and exercising true authority by the Spirit.

Heavenly Encounters

Heavenly Encounters

(John 3, Rom. 7:23-25, 8:2,14,29,37-39)

When we look at this chapter from John’s gospel, we may first think of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten (uniquely born) Son, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”  Those words are rich and we might take them in several directions.  Rather I want to direct us to consider the full context of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.  Jesus begins to speak to this man, this teacher of the law, of the need to be born of the Spirit.  Nicodemus does not understand but He knows that Jesus has the life, the real goods.  He knows Jesus has something that he needs and wants.

That life is in the Spirit of God and begins in us when that Spirit has an entrance into us.  I could write and preach the gospel at this point but I have another goal.  In John’s first chapter, he wrote that those who receive Him (Christ) receive the ability to become children (sons) of God.  Throughout the writings of the New Covenant, the theme of becoming mature sons of God is repeated.  If you consider this presumptuous, I say it is the Lord’s ultimate intention.  In Hebrews 1:10, we read that Christ was, and is, bring many sons to glory.  It is by His Spirit that this process is accomplished within us.  When we receive Christ, we receive His Spirit.

With Nicodemus, Jesus says something that stretches our understanding yet more.  As this man does not understand birth in the Spirit, Jesus says “If you don’t get this, how can you believe if I tell you of heavenly things that I have seen.”  My paraphrase.  The heavenly realm is being opened in greater measure to a broader audience than ever before.  We need to be aware it did not begin with this present generation.  A wonderful book I have read is entitled, “Heaven and the Angels”, by H. A. Baker.  He shares the heavenly revelation stories of John Bunyan, writer of Pilgrim’s progress, William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, and a dear sister in Christ, whose name I cannot recall.  Their stories of walking in heaven with Elijah as their guide are strikingly similar.  Doubts and questions may quickly come to our minds.  Paul writes that he was brought into the third heaven but says it was not lawful for him to share details.  That was similar to John being told not to write everything he saw when in heaven.  But he did see and hear heavenly things and he wrote much.

Heavenly visions are not something new.  The increase of angelic encounters, salvations through dreams revealing Jesus Christ, and after death experiences should get our attention that the Lord of the harvest is up to something.  I do not mean to trivialize it by those words.  The end of the age is fast approaching people!!  Awake, or in other words, wake up, get out of your slumbering comfort.  Do you consider yourself, a “Christian’?  Do you know that Christ lives in you, that you are born of His spirit?  Do you hear that you are called to an overcoming life?  It is not a call to self-striving in an outward, religious way.  Now some things we do, have meaning, they are truly acts of faith.  We are not called to passivity.  It is those acts truly born of love and energized by faith that are true, real and have effect.

Jesus Christ met John on Patmos and gave him messages for the churches.  Each includes specific words to those who overcome.  As we look at ourselves apart from Christ, we sound like Paul at the end of Romans.  We know a momentary despair.  I say momentary so we do not stay there.  Keep moving right into Romans 8.  Whoops, I am preaching the gospel.  The Spirit of Christ sets us free from the law of sin and death.  His life in us carries us to overcoming.  We are too hungry and He will not allow us to stay in a low place.  His desire for us.  His great love is irresistible.  Nothing can separate us from that love and we become more than conquerors.  That is salvation as the process.  So we grow as His sons.

Each encounter with Christ, hearing His still small voice, having a heavenly vision, whatever the Spirit may bring, is part of our transformation.  Moses at the burning bush, Mary visited by Gabriel, Ezekiel at the river Chebar, Daniel on his bed, yourself when His life was made real to you, we are changed and can never go back from that place.  Each of us get changed.  So it was for John on Patmos.  We will continue with John in our next writing.

Personal History

Personal History

(Gal. 1:15-16, Ps. 139:13-16, Eph. 2:10)

Each one of us has a destiny that God has purposed for us.  Many biblical references come to mind as I consider this.  I was reminded this morning of realizing that my mother prayed something specific about me when I was in her womb.  She never shared such with me but I think it must be so.  She was a godly woman, a person who believed and trusted in God and Jesus Christ.  She had a miscarriage before I was born by way of a Cesarean operation.  Mom was a very small framed woman.  I think she prayed something like Hannah did before she conceived and gave birth to Samuel.  You will have to search that story out in 1 Samuel.

Whatever she may have prayed exactly I don’t know.  I eventually came to the awareness that the Living God had called me to a purpose which He knew beforehand.  This is true of every believer.  While He has a personal, individual, and very specific purpose for each of us, a common calling overrules those.  That is the calling recorded in Romans 8:28-30.  His calling and purpose are wrapped up in His Son, Jesus Christ.  To enter the kingdom of God is to be found in Him, having died to our former way of life.  This has a very practical outworking through true ministry and connections with His people.  We may move in different circles but those should be leading and encouraging us to grow closer to the Lord Jesus Himself.  And by Him to our Father, our Abba, in heaven.

For me, and for each of us, this begins in a deep, personal, encounter with Christ.  That is the beginning and the rest is a growth to true maturity.  As in natural lives, some do not grow, whether through fear or other hindrances.  We all know of people who are immature, unable to cope with daily life.  We must pass through seasons and our own wilderness type experience.  In that place, everything of unbelief and mistrust must be lost.  We lose our self-reliance and find the Lord to be our source for everything, spiritually and physically.  Then, we must enter the land, the life experience, of our inheritance, driving out, by the life and strength of Christ within, every hindering spirit.

Early in my spiritual walk, I met and was drawn to many in what we might call Pentecostal and Charismatic circles.  Yet my exposure also included those not typically seen as “Pentecostal”.  An understanding registered that this Christian way was not about a superficial life but an ever deepening relationship and journey.  Reading Watchman Nee, A. W. Tozer, T. Austin-Sparks, Keith Green’s Last Days Ministries’ newsletters, David Wilkerson, and others, I became hungry to see God’s purpose in my life fulfilled.  Along the way, many times, the Spirit of the Lord kindly turned me away from trying to be one of them.  I am so grateful that the life of Christ in them left a deposit in me.  I was fed, watered, cultivated, and pruned by them.  Now I will mention that women were involved much also.  Elizabeth Elliot wrote of her husband, Jim.  Gwen Shaw, Jeanne Guyon, Martha Wing Robinson, and Amy Carmichael to name some others had impact on me.  More recently, Kathryn Kuhlman and Ruth Heflin added to my life.

These are in the cloud of witnesses.  More immediately, are the many whom I have met and sat in meetings with.  Wade Taylor, Devern Fromke are two significant ones.  Others who have brought life are more well-known and their giftings are significant.  Yet, they were not of the same stature as these two.  I do not mean to be critical, simply a personal observation.  One does not have to be in the presence of someone of maturity for a long time for true impartation to happen.  With Jesus, healing was immediate, when someone came close to Him.  Demonic deliverance typically took a moment or two.  Now concerning the cloud of witnesses, I have in the last few years become increasingly aware of their presence.  That is also true of angelic presence.  We must at all times keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ.  It is easy to become fascinated with spiritual realities and become distracted.  Remember, Jesus Himself was visited by Moses and Elijah.  And Peter, James, and John witnessed that meeting.  Peter becomes an object lesson for us when he wants to memorialize it.

Such encounters are purposeful.  The Lord sends such for encouragement, instruction, and counsel.  I wonder whether the old creeds of the earlier church meant some contact with those among the cloud when they spoke of the “communion of the saints” they were including those in that cloud?  That is a question, not a doctrinal statement.  Whatever the case then, visits are happening more in the current days.  On two occasions I was in a meeting where Bob Jones shared a few words.  He was a wonderful brother with a heart of compassion and a laser sharp spirit of discernment.  The words he spoke were amazingly on target.  It had to be God.  He has since passed into heaven.  I have been aware of him prodding me on and encouraging me.  When I shared specifics of those fleeting encounters with some who knew him, they said, “That’s Bob.”  I will continue this theme in the next post.

Overcoming with the Lamb

Overcoming with the Lamb

(Rev. 12:7-12, I John 2:12-14)

I love John, the disciple and apostle.  While this is subject to scholarly dispute, I think that the experience on Patmos that resulted in the writing of Revelation happened before John wrote his other works.  The unveiling of the glorified Christ so changed John’s perspective, he then wrote in a more profound, more deeply spiritual way.  His mind had been so deeply transformed.  He beheld Jesus Christ in His glory and was never the same again.  So after Patmos, he wrote his gospel account and three letters.

If you read the reference passages, you see a progression in each.  First the background.  In the cosmos exists one who is jealous, envious, and a thief, a liar, and a murderer.  His main weapon is that of accusation.  He accuses God to each of us, and accuses us to God.  And he accuses us to one another.  So John tells us the accuser has been cast out of heaven, cast down to the earth.  Now we must overcome him here and now.  Notice that angelic forces threw him out.  A battle has been fought and won by the Lamb of God and heavenly armies.  Through death He destroyed him who had the power of death even the devil.

I believe, I understand, the blood of Jesus Christ has ended the ability for the devil to accuse mankind before God.  I believe he no longer has access because it the blood on the heavenly mercy seat simply drives him away.  Not to mention that Michael and the hosts of angels have thrown him out.  So he has only to try to wreak havoc among us here.  For years I would hear believers plead the blood of Christ as if that phrase was the answer to every problem.  I did not understand.  A few years ago, it was clarified for me.  When accusation comes in that legal sense, the atmosphere of a spiritual courtroom, we answer that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin.  And we simply walk out of that legal atmosphere free to be led by His Spirit.  “How do you plead,” an earthly judge may say.  We do not respond by what we have done, or not done.  Yes, we may have sinned, but the greater reality is His grace poured out through Jesus Christ.

Now John, having seen the glory of Christ ascended and seated, writes the same message.  The mercy seat is there, you know, in heaven, where the Lord beckons us to draw near.  He called to John to come up higher.  It will cost you all your self-reliance.  First John fell on his face.  We have failed, all of us, but He says draw near with full assurance of faith to find grace to help.  Realize that John had been with Him in His earthly days and been through much.  Records tell us the Roman emperor had dipped our brother in boiling oil to no effect.  Away with him to the vile, the insane on Patmos!  That earthly fiend did not know he was sending John to the place of heavenly revelation!

So John expresses our growth, our progress in two different ways.  We overcome the accuser by the blood of the Lamb.  That is first, the foundation.  Then the word of our testimony.  The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophesy.  The power of an endless life resides in words that truly speak of who Christ is.  And we love not our lives, our earthly lives even unto death.  See the previous blog post for Jim Elliot’s words.  In his letter, John writes of us as little children, whose sins are forgiven, and that we know our heavenly Father.  Young men are those who have overcome the wicked one, the devil himself.  They are strong and the words of God have a home in them.  And of fathers, those who are mature, and bear spiritual children, John repeats the same words twice.  They know Him who was from the beginning.  They know by intimate relationship the eternal One, they have grown to be sons of our Father.

John was such a one.  In his writings he so focuses on Christ.  Apart from Revelation, he does not refer to himself by name.  Perhaps that was done in wisdom to avoid earthly traps but I sense a deep humility.  Nothing compares to the work in our hearts as what is accomplished by a revelation of Christ to our souls.  John experienced an open, heavenly vision.  May we pursue the same, walking by the Spirit, and allowing Him to bring us through trouble to such a place.

Follow the Lamb

Follow the Lamb

(Rev. 14:4, Luke 12:32, Matt. 11:29)

Are you following the Lamb, Himself?  We are His sheep and He is the good shepherd.  In the opening of the heavens, John, the one who laid against His chest, saw Jesus Christ glorified.  He was then, and is, no longer the man Jesus who walked on the earth.  He has been glorified.  Those who truly see Him are changed and will never be the same after that vision.  The Lord chooses to whom He reveals Himself and He does so for us according to His wisdom and His purpose in our lives.  And when we do see Him, we cannot help but to want more.  If we resist, He will hide Himself and wait.  Jesus gave an open invitation when He said, “If any man would come after me, let him pick up His cross and follow me.”  The cross is the means by which our self-centered life is removed.  We find things that mattered are no longer so important.  Jim Elliot said it well, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep (this earthly life), to gain what he cannot lose (eternal life with the Living God)”.  Parenthetical thoughts are mine.

A dear woman, Dr. Sandy, spoke at a local church one Sunday.  We had never met before but we were in instant fellowship.  We had separately been on the same path after the Lamb.  She mentioned that in that record of that awesome revelation of Christ that John received, Jesus Christ is referred to 39 times as the Lamb of God.  Once He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Today I hear more about the lion, not enough about the Lamb.  Everyone wants to be a lion.  No one would dare touch you.  A lamb is vulnerable.  I see another difference between the two descriptions.  One is related to God Himself; the other to an earthly tribe.  What is our identity?  Related to men, we ought not back down to men, yet if we want someone to spend time with us, we need to be vulnerable.  We want real relationships, not superficial.

Jesus was only tough with the religious and I do not think He was ever mean or harsh, even with those who opposed Him.  They opposed their own eternal destinies, for no man has an eternal destiny, and eternal hope, apart from Christ Himself.  Do you want the Lord’s fulness in your life?  Follow the Lamb wherever He leads you.  Along with overemphasis on the lion, I do not hear enough of the fact that the new covenant in the blood of Christ has supplanted all other covenants including that made at Sinai.  Read Galatians 4: 21-31 and focus on the last verse.  While many may not see this, Paul’s words are clear.  We are not children of both.  The Jerusalem above is the mother of us all.  So elsewhere we read that the blood of Christ, the blood of the Lamb, is the blood of the eternal (unchangeable) covenant.  Every other covenant has failure because it depends on human behavior.

As we follow Christ, we are confronted with our inability to do so based on any resource apart from His life.  So Paul could write, “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.”  That is the gospel.  Jesus calls us to abide in Him.  We wander but as we go on with Him, we realize that wandering costs us something.  A security comes as we draw near and learn to stay near.  Farther on, we know we are seated with Him in the heavens, in the place of absolute, certain authority and we learn to allow that authority to flow through us to others and it is the river of His life.  We live in the throne room, in His presence and there we know the fulness of His joy over us.

The reference verses confirm this simply.  He redeems all our failures.  He washes them away in His blood.  Let them go and continue following Him.  It is His Spirit leading you into true righteousness.  We do not have to fight our way into the kingdom.  As we follow Him, it becomes the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.  We apprehend the kingdom in greater and greater measure.  The violence that is necessary, is the violence to our self-centeredness.  That was accomplished at the cross but we must agree and allow it to work in our lives.  I see it as experiencing the pain of childbirth.  With all respect for women who experience that, a man can experience something akin in the spirit.  Christ is in us and we must cooperate with the spiritual contractions and allow our souls to be transformed.  As we learn to lean on Him and move progressively closer, we stay in His yoke.  And in that place we find Him meek and lowly in heart and we find rest.  And we know the heart of our Father.