Posted November 28, 2020
RECEIVING HEAVENS TOUCH
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.
This is the proof text which is used to explain infant baptism. “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” Of course, Jesus wasn’t baptizing babies. He was putting his hands on them and blessing them. Taking them up in his arms and blessing them. These mothers believed that if this man, who healed the sick and spoke such words from God, would touch their little ones, they would be touched by heaven—a touch that would follow them for the rest of their lives. Who wouldn’t want this for their little child?
Of course, the disciples couldn’t see the point of all this fussing over little children. After all, Jesus always taught grown-ups. Never once do we see him teaching children…singing little songs… putting on puppet shows. No, Jesus was busy laying heavy stuff on adults, shaking things up wherever he went, giving fits to the big-shots in Jerusalem.
So the disciples were not at all pleased, when these mothers started swarming Jesus with their little ones. “Go away! We don’t have time for blessing children!”
“Wait a minute!” says Jesus. “What are you guys doing? “
“Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.
Jesus was blessing the little ones. But he was also putting out a strong message to adults, including us.
Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter it.”
So how do we receive the kingdom of God like a child? I’m an adult. I have an adult mind. I have adult problems. How do I lay all that aside and become a child?
The thing about a child—a little child that has not yet been infected with adult vanity—is that this little child is satisfied to be totally dependent on its parents. Trusting. Its heart is open. This child is not trying to prove anything. Its tender little heart has not yet hardened.
No wonder its angels always behold the face of the Father in Heaven!
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter it.”
For us to come back to that child-like trust, that tender heart, we need to do some unloading. If we want to enter God’s world, we have to get rid of some baggage.
To enter God’s kingdom like a child here are four pieces of adult baggage we’re going to have to dump, and keep dumping, until they no longer control us….
First, we need to unload our misguided confidence in our own importance.
Here’s Mike the Millionaire. He’s a decent chap. He took over a small business and turned it into a real profit machine. He knows all his employees by name. He gives them turkeys at Christmas. Mike is generous. Soft-spoken. Yet when Mike walks into a room you can feel his importance. You can feel it! In his business, Mike’s the guy in charge. And this “guy in charge” atmosphere goes with him wherever he goes.
Most of us do not have Mike’s wealth, or his record of business success. But even those of us who regard ourselves as shy and inferior, have a lot more of Mike in us than we think. For instance, when we’re ignored…or walked on….or talked down to, we bristle, just like Mike does. “Who do they think they are! Don’t they know who I am?”
To repent and become like a child before God we need to unload this misguided confidence in our own importance. What are we trying to prove? I don’t need to find my worth in the admiring eyes of people. If I know that God knows me, what more do I need?
My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation.
Second, to become a child before God we need to unload our misguided confidence in our own smarts.
Look at Geraldine the Genius. Geraldine is really, really smart! And nobody knows this better than Geraldine. She can do astonishing things with a computer. She can speed-read books. She has an answer for every problem.
We may not have Geraldine’s brains. But when we look at all the fools around us, we give ourselves a pretty good grade. And, like Geraldine, we seem totally unaware of how little we really know about anything.
We won’t find our way into God’s World until we come down to size and begin to see how vast is our ignorance of the things that matter.
Arrogance. Presuming to know the meaning of life, when we know nothing. We need to unload this misguided confidence in our own smarts.
Behold thou desirest truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part, thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Thirdly, to become a child before God we need to unload our misguided confidence in our knowledge of God.
Over here we have Theodore the Theologian. Theodore knows all about immanence and transcendence, free will and predestination, prevenient grace, Docetism, Gnosticism, etc.
Theodore has God’s ways figured out. He knows why people have to suffer, and how it’s all going to shake down in the end.
Yet, for all Theodore’s theological knowledge, his personal life is a mess. He knows all about God, but he hasn’t figured out how to get along with his wife and kids.
Now we may not claim to know all the stuff Theodore knows about God. But we do have our opinions about life after death, divine justice, why bad things happen to certain people. And when these opinions don’t quite line up with what Jesus says, we become theologians in our own right. We know how to take the edge off a command of Jesus that doesn’t suit, and brush it aside.
If we’re serious about living in God’s world, we need to take off our theologian’s hat and confess that we know no more about God’s ways than that little child in Jesus’ arms.
How unsearchable are his judgments, And his ways past finding out!
Finally, to become a child before God we need to unload our misguided confidence in our own goodness.
I have a friend who underwent nothing less than a supernatural transformation of his life. He met the Lord Jesus, began to follow him. He continues as a disciple of Jesus to this day. But there was a time, before this miracle happened, when this man seemed unreachable. “Look,” he would say, “I’m okay with God. My good deeds outweigh my bad. I’m basically a good guy.”
Who of us has not been afflicted with that disease? A misguided confidence in my own goodness…..”My good deeds outweigh my bad.” Give me a break!
Sooner or later, in his mercy, God sends each of us a dose of reality. Something happens in our life that wakes us up. Suddenly we discover that…
…we aren’t as important as we thought we were.
…we aren’t as smart as we thought we were.
…we don’t know God as well as we thought we did.
…and, (heaven forbid!) we aren’t quite the saint we thought we were.
Once we get that message, we may be ready to humble ourselves and become that little child in Jesus’ arms. And when we do, the door to God’s world opens. We walk in, not as the vain adult we’ve been for so long, but as a little child, stepping into the Father’s house.
Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter it.”
It sounds so simple.
Yet it takes most of us a lifetime to figure it out.
But once we figure it out, it only takes a split-second to submit to the word of the Lord, asking him to help us to truly repent and become a child before him.
Here’s a prayer that’s always answered, when it is prayed with an earnest heart:
Lord, help me to empty myself of myself and become a child before you!
That prayer is the doorway to God’s world.
A doorway we need to come back to every day.
Art: Karen Harkema propheticsgallery.com/karen-harkema
Posted November 13, 2020
Some of us are irritated when we hear that call from God.
“Leave me alone. I’m busy!”
Just like Jonah.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”
Jonah was a respected first-class prophet.
He was happy to proclaim the word of the Lord to his fellow Jews.
But preach to the people of Nineveh, those wicked Gentiles?
No way! That’s asking too much!
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
So what do we do when we get a call from God that intrudes on our plans? We take a ship to Tarshish.
Perhaps some of us at this moment are on that ship. We go to church and say our prayers and read our Bibles. But we ignore the call. And when our heart reminds us of that call, we turn on the TV or go take a nap.
Just like Jonah.
Jonah ignored his troubled conscience and went down into the ship and pulled the covers over his head and went to sleep.
But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.
When we try to run away from the call of God a mysterious storm cloud follows us. All the people near us fall under its shadow too, just like the sailors on Jonah’s ship.
“Hey Jonah, wake up! The storm is getting worse.
This ship is about to sink! What are we going to do?”
“There’s only one thing to do,” says Jonah.
“Throw me overboard and the storm will cease.”
“We don’t’ want to do that!”
“Do it,” says Jonah, “It’s your only hope.”
So they tossed Jonah overboard.
And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Once we’ve heard God’s call, there is no escape.
We can fly to Hong Kong, or flee to the Amazon jungle.
Sooner or later we’ll end up in the belly of that fish.
A dark, lonely place. A place where there’s nothing to do but think. A place where we finally learn to pray.
Perhaps some of us are in the belly of that fish right now.
Why is everything so dark?
Why do I feel there’s an invisible wall between me and everybody else?
What’s going on?
Then one day the light comes on. “You’re in the belly of the fish!” says a voice deep inside. “When are you going to wake up and cry out to God who alone can deliver you?”
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and thou didst hear my voice.”
“Okay, Lord. I give up. I’ll do this thing you’re calling me to do. Just get me out of here!”
Now at last, Jonah obeys God and goes to Nineveh, warning of its approaching doom.
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he cried, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
To Jonah’s consternation, these wicked Gentiles repented! Jonah was not pleased. He would much rather have seen them be burned up in flames of judgment.
Right up to the end Jonah was still pouting. He still hadn’t figured out why God would spare those wicked Gentiles.
Here’s what Jonah was missing, and what you and I often miss:
When people repent, God forgives, no matter who they are.
Even if they’re hard-nosed atheists. Even if they’re self-righteous hypocrites..
And here’s something else many Christians are missing: God is going to see to it that everybody gets a chance. That’s why the Incarnate God died on that cross. To atone for everybody’s sin.
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
To give everybody a chance to be forgiven, just like the people of Nineveh.
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth (on the cross) will draw all people to myself.”
Nineveh, Beijing, Damascus, New Delhi, Main Street and Skid Row. Sooner or later they’re all going to find their way to the cross, where they are offered forgiveness. All they have to do is receive forgiveness and walk in it, and they’re lifted into God’s World.
But God will not force people into his Kingdom. They are free to choose the Darkness. Our Lord tells us that the Broad Road has many travelers— perhaps even some professing Christians?
So where do we fit in all this?
Maybe we are not called to go marching down Main Street shouting, “Forty days, and this city will be destroyed!”
Maybe, for starters, all God wants us to do is have a cup of coffee with our neighbor, or spend an afternoon with Aunt Jessica. Or take that grumpy old man to lunch. Or pick up the phone and show a little kindness to the woman who gossiped about us last week.
Jesus draws people to his cleansing cross through us—through simple acts of obedience, right where we are.
Our Nineveh begins right here.
None of us has a video link to heaven. But just as surely as God spoke to Jonah, God speaks to us—on his terms, in whatever way he chooses.
If, at this moment, we are walking with the risen Lord, it’s not because we decided to follow Jesus.
It’s because our Lord decided to call us.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”
“And I didn’t choose you to be wrapped in pink plastic and tied with a bow and put on a shelf, waiting to be raptured off to Heaven.
I chose you to go to Nineveh, to bear fruit for my Kingdom.
So get off that ship to Tarshish, pray your way out of the fish’s belly, and follow me to the Nineveh right in front of you.
People you see every day. People who need a little encouragement, a little hope.
I will confirm your words with unspeakable power. And you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams, as you watch your friends and enemies pass from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.”
If we’re following Jesus, if we’re working in his Vineyard, we are low-profile prophets.
And each one of us is under a call, just like Jonah’s.
And, like Jonah, most of us have been trying to squirm out of our call to Nineveh for a long time.
If we say, “Okay, Lord. Here I am. Lead on,” we can be sure that we will be guided. We will get all the help we need.
Starting now, God will open doors and turn on lights.
Soon our Nineveh will begin hearing the voice of God,
seeing the power of God—-through us!
Prayer- Lord we cry to you from the belly of the fish. We are suffocating by our own inaction. We have stifled ourselves, stifled your call to our hearts. We are ready to go to Nineveh, ready to heed your call. Show us the Nineveh that is right in front of us. Lead us, help us so that our Ninevehs’ will hear your voice, see your power, pass from darkness to light and be released from the grip of Satan into your forgiving, merciful hands.
Original: REB… October 2020… Found in the booklet- The Encounter (available upon request)
Art: Father Forgive Them Stephen Sawyer art4god.com
All other pieces in the public domain. Jonah- James Tissot, Before the Walls of Nineveh- Rembrandt, Ocean Storm photo Matt Hardy via Unsplash
Posted November 6, 2020
A GALILEE INTERUPTION
We think of ourselves as Christians. Yet many of us never really expect God to have any personal dealings with us, this side of death.
We believe in prayer, yet the idea of God making himself known personally to me — actually breaking in on my life with some kind of miracle, forget it!
So we keep on praying. Asking for stuff. Crying out to God for help when we’re in a tight spot. Life rumbles on at its dull pace. Then, in the middle of an ordinary day, there’s an interruption. This interruption fouls up your plans for the whole day. It could be an upsetting phone call. Or an unexpected (and unwelcome) visitor. A flat tire.
Suddenly, in the middle of the confusion, something strange happens. It’s like a miracle! You’re looking at a sign from heaven. You’re looking at the hand of God, reaching out to you, speaking to you. Now you are on a journey of faith that you never thought you’d be taking. You have a Friend walking at your side who is none other than the risen Lord Jesus. And now the term “born again” doesn’t sound so silly.
It’s a new life, directed, not by you, but by the living God.
What I’d like to do in the following paragraphs is try to help us get ready for an encounter with God which is likely to take place in each of our lives in the near future.
Call it a “Galilee Interruption” —
God breaking in on our lives at just the wrong time — with a miracle!
Even if we’ve been believers for years, even if we’ve had revelations from God in the past, we know that there’s more to the life of faith than we now have. We also know that nobody can make the light come on, nobody can open the windows of heaven and flood us with the Spirit — but God.
What many of us do not understand is that God is more eager to flood us with the life of heaven than we are to receive this gift. That’s how it was with Peter — until he had his “Galilee Interruption.”
Peter was a fisherman. He had a good business going. He was making a decent living. He had a wife whom he loved, a house to live in, plenty of food to eat. Yet there was an emptiness in his soul. Peter did not just brood about this emptiness, as many of us do. He took steps. One day Peter and his brother, Andrew, beached their boat and took the long journey on foot down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. There they met a man who was able to look right into their souls.
This was their first encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. It established a loose connection with Jesus, a connection like many of us have had with Jesus: loose enough that our life continues in the same rut in which it has always been. We go about our business, perhaps “touching base” with Jesus occasionally. But we do not know him very well. He has no real impact on the way we live, think, speak, handle our money, relate to people.
That’s how it was with Peter — until that morning many days later, back in Galilee. Peter and Andrew had been up all night fishing. They caught nothing. They were washing their nets, getting ready to go home and get some sleep, when along comes a crowd of people behind Jesus. He’s looking for a place to teach them.
“Hey Peter! Lend me your boat!”
What can he say, but, “Sure, Lord.” Peter and Andrew hold the boat steady while Jesus teaches, eagerly waiting for Jesus to finish, so they can get home to bed. Finally it’s over.
“Okay, Peter. Now launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” “Master, we worked all night. Didn’t catch a thing. We’re tired. But, okay, at your word I’ll let down the nets.”
Talk about inconvenience!
Suddenly Peter can’t believe what he sees. The nets are so full they’re tearing! Peter falls at Jesus’ knees in the boat and says, “Get away from me, Lord! I’m a sinful man!”
“Practical Andrew” hollers to James and John to come out with their boat and help with the catch. Jesus says to Peter, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you’ll be catching men.” And from that moment Peter’s life is never the same.
(See Matthew 4, Mark 1 and Luke 5)
And when they brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Now it’s no longer a loose connection with Jesus, it’s the controlling fact of Peter’s life.
This did not happen at a revival meeting.
It did not happen in the synagogue.
It did not take place at a prayer meeting.
Peter did not make it happen.
It happened on an ordinary day in an ordinary place.
And it all began, when Jesus said to Peter at the most inconvenient time,
“Lend me your boat.”
That’s exactly what the Lord Jesus keeps doing, to this day, in the lives of those who hunger for God.
Your “Galilee Interruption” and mine will probably not happen in church. Although we need to be there, gathered with other believers, to strengthen each other and be renewed as we worship and give thanks. But the breakthrough we need is more likely to happen, as it did for Peter — at a moment of inconvenience.
It’s like Jesus comes along at just the wrong time.
He catches you when you’re tired, when you’re discouraged, and says, “Lend me your boat.”
It could be a phone call. Or perhaps a neighbor needs a ride to the garage to pick up his car. Maybe it’s somebody’s birthday party that you do not want to go to…. But before it’s over you hear something, you see something, you meet someone…and suddenly God is there! Jesus is more real than he has ever been!
And when you bring your boat to land, you leave everything and follow him.
No matter how many conversions, renewals, awakenings you and I have had in the past, there is at least one more waiting for each of us up the road. This eye-opening, pivotal moment is totally in the hands of God. It will happen when he chooses. Where he chooses. We have no control over when, where or how it will occur.
But we need to make sure that we don’t miss it when it comes. Because people do miss their moment of revelation. They missed it in Noah’s day. They missed it in Jeremiah’s day. They missed it by the thousands in Jesus’ day.
In order to be ready for that moment of revelation, that “Galilee Interruption,” here are three things we need to pray for:
- A holy discontent with second-hand faith.
- An open ear.
- A sound eye.
First, let’s ask the Father to stir up in us a holy discontent with second-hand faith.
Second-hand faith: If I tell you that God spoke to me last night and told me to tell you that you are to move to Chicago, and you take my word for it and begin packing — that’s second-hand faith. You didn’t hear God tell you to move to Chicago. You took my word for it.
But how can you be sure that I was sane when I got the message? How do you know I was speaking the truth? How do you know that I wasn’t trying to get rid of you? Real faith can never be second-hand. Real faith is based on a direct, living word from God to you.
It’s true, God may speak to us through a prophet or a priest or a perfect stranger, or a passage of scripture. God chooses the means. But when it’s God speaking to us, we know! Too many people are stumbling through this world, basing their lives on second-hand faith. They’re taking somebody’s word for it — the preacher, the evangelist, something they read in a “Christian” book, something they saw on “Christian” TV. Don’t be satisfied with anything less than a direct word from the Master to you.
Second, let’s ask the Father to open our ear.
….So that we recognize the Shepherd’s voice when he speaks.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
That kind of hearing is not something we’re born with. It’s a gift. Isaiah explains to us exactly how this gift works:
“Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear, to hear as those who are taught.”
Isaiah is describing how God opens his ear every day — because he makes himself available every day.
“Give me an ear, Lord God, to hear your voice! So that when you tell me to launch out into the deep and let down my nets, I’ll know it’s you, and not some crackpot.”
Finally, let’s ask the Father to give us a sound eye.
…An eye that knows the difference between spiritual darkness and light, and chooses the light.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
“Lord God, give me an eye that can read the signs. So that when my net comes up loaded, I’ll know what it means. Give me an eye that can recognize your hand at work….an eye that discerns a broken heart hiding behind a smile. Deliver me, Lord, from a distracted eye, a wandering eye, an unsound eye, an eye that leans toward the darkness!”
Do not make the mistake of thinking that the stuff we read in the Bible all belongs to a different age. “That was okay for those people. They lived way back then! But I’m living in the modern age; it’s a different world!”
No it isn’t. God is still the same. Jesus has not changed. Back in the days of his flesh Jesus never made a production out of anything he did. He still doesn’t. Jesus is always down-to-earth, matter-of-fact. He comes around, often, at the most inconvenient moment.
So here’s what we need to pay attention to: One day soon, each of us is likely to be visited by a “Galilee Interruption” like Peter’s. At a most inconvenient moment, Jesus will show up and say,
“Lend me your boat.”
God grant that we may be ready.
Discontented enough with second-hand faith to be open to the real thing.
Ears open wide enough to hear the Shepherd’s voice.
Eyes that can see in an ordinary event, the hand of God at work.
And when they brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Whatever it takes, Lord, get us there!
Prayer- Dear Lord grant that we are ready for the Galilee Interruption in our lives. Open the window of heaven for us, light up our souls so we can see your revelations, fill us with your Spirit, so we reach for and accept the new life you want to pour into us. Give us faith that expects no less than a personal living call from you, ears that can hear it, and eyes that recognize when your hand is at work. Make us willing, brave, and expectant when it is time to let down our nets. Worthy Lord, we lend you our boats, take them they are yours….no matter the inconvenience, the timing…. they are yours. And yes Lord, whatever it takes, get us there, get us to the point where we can leave everything and follow you.
All Art: Rik Berry rikberry.com
Posted October 30, 2020
LED BY THE LAMB
Then one of the elders addressed me saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within the temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
There are two things we can be absolutely confident of if we allow ourselves to be led by the Lamb of God:
The first is that ultimately we will be following Jesus in a world beyond this one –
…on the other side of death. Call it “pie-in-the-sky by-and-by” if you like, but one day quite soon, unless the Lamb’s return comes first, we’re going to die. And it’s not at all impractical to find out from the One who has the keys of death and Hades what waits for us on the other side of death.
People who have no vision beyond the grave are living in a narrow world. They’re living in a cave as if the cave were the entire universe. They never take the trouble to climb to the mouth of the cave and look beyond those iron bars to the sky and the mountains and the rivers and the sun and the stars. Everything you do in the cave has an influence on the life you will live when those bars open, and you pass into the world beyond. “If you follow me here you will follow me there.
You will see the God of all glory. You will serve him day and night in his temple
You will never again know hunger or thirst or scorching heat for I will be your Shepherd and I will guide you to springs of living water. And the Father will wipe away every tear from your eyes.”
The second thing we will follow Jesus into tribulation
We can be absolutely confident of, if we allow ourselves to be led by the Lamb of God now, is that on our way to that glorious day we will pass through tribulation.
“…In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you…”
“They will put you out of the synagogue; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
Just as surely as….
….we have to have a vision of the life that waits for us beyond the grave and on into the resurrection of the dead….
… we also have to have a grasp of the hour of trial which, one way or another, comes to every saint of God who walks this earth.
When it is to come, how it is to come, is God’s business. But we need to know that it is coming.
“I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them…”
We are going to get our opportunity to know Jesus in the fellowship of his sufferings, to wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. And when this hour comes, we can look the fire in the eye and say, “I knew you were on your way. At last you’ve come, so let’s get on with it.” And we will find that the same Lamb of God, who leads us now will lead us through the fire. He will guide us, direct us, preserve us, flood our hearts with glory. We will have a clearer sense of Jesus’ presence as we walk through those flames than we had in all our life.
But what are we to do in the meantime?
The baptism of fire hasn’t fallen yet. Nor has the hour of glory begun.
So what do we do now? Sit around and wait?
We are to do in this season of our lives exactly what Jesus called Peter and Andrew to do: “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Follow Me and I will Make You Fishers of Men
One day we will follow Jesus through flames.
And one day we will follow Jesus to springs of living water –
–no more flames, no more scorching heat.
But now we follow Jesus out into that world of anguish and strife and catch men in the net of God’s mercy. We draw them into God’s kingdom. “I will make you become fishers of men.”
None of us was born a fisher of men.
None of us can learn how to do it as a skill or a technique.
We are made effective as fishers of men by the burning presence of Jesus within us. We may be tongue-tied, shy, slow of mind, unattractive to look at, but Jesus makes us become fishers of men if we follow him.
Most of us still find it hard to believe that Jesus of Nazareth intends to put us into this kind of service. “Lord, I’m just not cut out for that sort of thing. I’ll gladly support a missionary. I’ll pray for others to be effective. I’ll try to live a decent life. But don’t expect me to bring people into your kingdom.”
And yet, that’s exactly what we’re going to do – all of us. In the most natural down-to-earth ways, without any spotlights or trumpet fanfares, every single believer is going to see friends, acquaintances and even enemies respond to our invitation to enter the Kingdom of God.
It might happen on the telephone, or on a lunch break, a word spoken on an elevator, or a street corner, or in a 747, a letter, a hospital visit, a bowl of soup given to a sick neighbor, or a prayer prayed with a troubled soul after a Bible study.
“Follow me and I will make you become Fishers of men”
“Follow him where?
Follow Jesus first into the presence of God.
Surely that’s where Jesus took Peter and Andrew: into the presence of the Father. He made God real to them. He taught them to pray. “When you pray say, ‘Our Father who art in heaven…’”
Ask, and it shall be given you,
Seek and you shall find….
God’s living Spirit.
The only one who can bring you into the presence of God is Jesus.
There have been magnificent teachers. There have been religious giants, awesome prophets. But there is only one Lamb whose shed blood tears away the veil.
Each day that breaks you can follow Jesus into the presence of the living God. “Lord, I don’t know how to pray, take me on into the presence of the Father.” He will!
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
There in the presence of God….
we learn to deny ourselves – to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
Follow Jesus into the temple and the synagogue, the gathered assembly.
The temple was corrupt and the synagogue was loaded with hypocrites. But Jesus was there with his disciples. He took his disciples to the place where people who loved God and people whose religion was only a pretense were all mixed together. That’s where Jesus began his teaching. That’s where Paul went every time he entered a city. Don’t make the mistake so many are making these days of saying, “Those people in that church are all hypocrites.”, “That fellowship is a bunch of phonies.” If there are two people gathered there in his name —- amid two hundred phonies — Jesus is there. And you may find that among the two hundred “phonies” are people who, on the last day, will turn out to be holy men and women of God.
Don’t presume to be separating the wheat from the tares, that’s God’s business. Be satisfied that if Jesus worshipped his Father in that mixed company of the synagogue we join him in that mixed company of wheat and tares he calls his church. It’s in the fellowship, mixed as it is with human error and sinful pride, that the Spirit of God refines and strengthens us for the work he has given us to do.
…not neglecting to meet together… (Hebrews 10:25)
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
It’s in the fellowship that Jesus teaches us how to deny ourselves – to lay down our lives for one another.
Follow Jesus out into the midst of the masses, out to the people for whom he died.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the mist of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
“I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor…”
Never has the Spirit of God more explicitly commanded the saints to go out than he is commanding believers today. Because that’s where the Lord is.
Surely every one of our lives takes us out among people who haven’t heard and don’t know the goodness of the Lord.
All we have to do is be there as followers of the Lamb.
Allow him to direct us as we mingle with people. There Jesus will make us fishers of men as we learn how to pour ourselves out in his name, even as Jesus poured himself out for us while we were still dead in our sins.
One day we shall follow Jesus in another world to springs of living water.
One day soon we shall follow Jesus through flames.
But now we follow him out among the multitudes of this world knowing that as we do, Jesus himself will teach us how to deny ourselves for the salvation of others … how to catch men and women into the Kingdom of God.
And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Prayer- Holy Lord, dearest Lamb of God, despite our shortcomings and reservations lead us to be fishers of men now. Help us to follow you to the very throne of God so we have something real to draw people. Be in our midst as we fish together with other believers, as we learn to love, to forgive, and to draw strength from our fellowship with each other and with you, to rejoice in your goodness, in the miracles that happen when we are united. Lead us into the world where our touch is your touch. Where hearts are caught into your beautiful Kingdom..
Original: REB…Unknown date … Also found in the booklet- Guidance (available for the asking)
Art: Meghan Williams Dyed4yourart.com and Rik Berry rikberry.com
Posted October 23, 2020
ARE YOU DEAD OR ALIVE?
If someone came up to you and said, “Are you dead or alive?” you’d shake your head. “What’s wrong with him? Can’t he see? I’m breathing. I’m walking, talking. I had my breakfast this morning. Of course I’m alive!”
Yet, as far as God is concerned, most people who are breathing, walking, and talking, are essentially dead. Of course they don’t know it.
The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who pay attention shall live.”
“I’ll follow you, Lord, but first let me go and bury my father.”
“Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but as for you, go and preach the kingdom of God.”
Satan says to Jesus, “You’re going to starve to death if you don’t eat something soon. If you’re the Son of God, turn these stones into bread”.
Jesus answers, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
According to Jesus, you’re dead, until you hear words from the mouth of God—until you hear those words in such a way that they enter you and become your life.
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Here’s Martha, slaving in the kitchen to prepare a nice lunch for Jesus. And Mary? She’s sitting in the living room at Jesus’ feet, drinking in his words, never lifting a finger to help her sister. And what does Martha get for all her effort? A rebuke.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”
So Mary gets the gold star for doing nothing. Martha gets a rebuke for trying to be a servant! For 2000 years people have been hearing Jesus rebuke Martha for simply trying to give him a nice lunch. So let’s make it up to her. Let’s give Martha the gold star. Somebody has to stick up for Martha!
One reason why we stick up for Martha is because we have a lot more Martha in us than Mary. We identify with Martha. Martha comes from Lunenburg County! She knows how to work! She knows how to cook! She knows how to get things done! She doesn’t sit around and dream and waste time.
So where’s Jesus coming from? Giving the bouquet to Mary instead of Martha? He’s setting a bad precedent. There are enough lazy slobs in this world! If we all sat around, meditating, doing nothing, we’d all soon starve to death.
When you think of it, it looks like Jesus is playing favorites. Maybe he was flattered with Mary sitting at his feet listening, looking up at him with her big blue eyes. Maybe he was annoyed with Martha, making angry noises in the kitchen, banging those pots and pans. No. Jesus wasn’t playing favorites. Jesus was putting his finger on something most of us are missing, while we run around trying to get things done, while we worry and fret over things we cannot control. Here’s what we haven’t figured out yet, and Mary had: What was going on in the living room that day was 1000 times more important than what was going on in the kitchen.
God was speaking through his Messiah.
And when you get a chance to hear God speak, you forget about making lunch. You go into the living room and pay attention. There’s more to life than getting lunch ready. There’s more to life than scraping a pile of money together. There’s more to life than making love. There’s more to life than making a name for yourself.
When you get a chance to hear God speak,
you drop whatever you’re doing, and you go there and listen!
We don’t live by bread alone.
We live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God!
When God speaks in heaven, a million angels hold their peace and listen. When God speaks on earth, it’s time for us to push everything else aside and pay attention.
“Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked!” “Yea, rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Here’s what was really going on that day…. While Martha is fretting in the kitchen, Mary is in the living room getting connected with God.
To be connected with God—heart, soul, strength and mind—-
—is the essential need of our lives,
the One Thing Needful.
To be connected with God.
To know God.
To be alive with God’s Spirit.
And there is only one way to be alive with God’s Spirit:
you have to hear God speak!
You live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
That’s what Mary was doing. Martha could have been doing it too. She could have said to herself, “Jesus is in there teaching, and I need to hear what he’s saying. I’m going in there and listen until he’s through. And if lunch is late, too bad! If nobody eats today, too bad!”
The reason our faith is so dull and dry is because we haven’t figured out what comes first. We’re banging around in the kitchen, chasing after this world’s bread, while the Bread of Heaven is being passed out, free-of-charge, in the living room.
We’re all bent out of shape, pursuing a thousand distractions, fretting over a thousand worries, while the real prize—life from God—is being offered. And we’re missing it.
“Okay,” you say, “but for Mary and Martha it was a simple choice. Jesus was right there. They could see him. Touch him. Hear him speak. If I could hear him like Mary was hearing him, I’d be there too. But today there are a thousand different voices out there, all claiming to speak for Jesus. Who’s right?”
It’s true. There is a lot of religious garbage out there, claiming to be the gospel. False prophets. Religious hucksters, preaching the gospel for money. Conflicting voices. And Jesus warned us that it would be like this.
But he also promised that his words—the words he spoke in Martha’s living room, the words he spoke by the Sea of Galilee—would echo through this world and stay alive on this earth through all generations.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
His words. Pure, clear, living words, can be heard. If you want to hear them, God himself will get you there and open your ears.
“Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”
If you really want to hear the living Word, God himself will make sure that you do. But you will first have to downgrade all the stuff going on in the kitchen, the garage, the bedroom, the local bank….
…. and start listening first for the Shepherd’s voice.
Above every other voice that calls to you.
Funny thing about God: he doesn’t even exist for you, until he gets top priority in your life. You can be super-religious. You can be in church seven days a week. You can be acclaimed the “Outstanding Christian of the Year.” But until God himself is Number One in your life, above everything else, you don’t know God. You’re too busy fretting in the kitchen.
God becomes real in your life only when he is Number One.
So that when he speaks, you drop everything and listen.
So that once you have heard, you rise from your fanny and act.
Mary understood this. She “got it.”
Martha didn’t “get it” that day.
So what about us?
Are we listening for his voice?
Are we walking in his light?
The biggest tragedy in the life of religious people like ourselves is to come to the end of our days, and discover that we spent our whole life fretting in the kitchen, while Jesus was giving out the Bread of Heaven in the living room.
Prayer- Lord Jesus, without you we are dead, all our busyness is meaningless. We admit, we’re missing out on the Bread of Heaven because we’ve been too busy fretting in the kitchen … and the result is we’re starving ourselves to death. Help us to put down the things that keep us in the kitchen, that keep us malnourished. May our hunger cause us to come running to you … So we can connect with you, heart, soul and mind…. So we can truly hear your voice… So we can be filled with your Living Bread and come back to life again.
Original: REB… 2010
Art: Jeremiah Yao- Living Hope j316studio.com and Chis Higham builtonrockart.org.uk
Posted October 16, 2020
THE UNFETTERED HEART
But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like, a snare for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth.
There was a man who for years walked through life with a heart of stone … so hard, so barren, so unhappy. One day he was invited into a house where he met a king who worked upon him the greatest miracle of his life. The king gave him a heart of flesh for his heart of stone. When the man left the king’s house not only was he tender, kind in a way he had never been before, but his heart was light, so much lighter than stone. His family couldn’t believe the change in him. His old friends were moved with the fear of God by the transformation.
Then, what perversity was it that caused this man to do a very strange thing? One day as he was walking along the road he saw a stone that struck his fancy. Was it an agate? So fascinated was he by that stone, he picked it up and placed it on top of his heart of flesh. His wife asked him, “is something wrong? You don’t seem as lighthearted as you’ve been these many months.” “Oh no,” he protested, “I’m just fine.”
Perhaps he didn’t want it to be known that his heart was being weighed down with this ridiculous stone … perhaps he didn’t realize what it was doing to him.
He just seemed to be getting used to the heaviness that was upon him, when one day he spied a piece of gold colored rock, part of a formation in the side of a mountain where he was walking. He took his pick and hacked at it until it flew loose. He ran, picked it up, and thrust it on top of the other rock on his heart.
Here we have a man who has been given a heart of flesh for a heart of stone. But now this heart of flesh is so weighed down, so burdened, so weary, so heavy by the needless weights laid on it that it is unable to function.
Slowly his heart begins to harden into the likeness of the weights it carries.
So what happened to that carefree, joyful, child-like heart you got when you first came to Jesus?
Did He not give you a heart of flesh for a heart of stone?
Then why all the heaviness, the sadness, the despair, the confusion?
You had peace for a while — where did it go?
But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare….
It’s possible for your heart, even after Jesus has given you a new heart, to become so weighed down it can’t function, can’t rejoice, can’t think, or see, or decide.
What happens to that new, broken, contrite, heaven-filled heart if you lay upon it the stone of dissipation? “Oh, but I don’t dissipate,” you protest. “I go to bed at a decent hour each night.”
But dissipation is not just gambling all night, or throwing your life down the sewer.
Dissipation is the squandering of your life on things that are trivial … pouring out your strength and your time upon nonsense. You can dissipate yourself on;
– Facebook, You Tube,
– memories of your childhood,
– some hobby that absorbs your mind and will,
– your latest ambition.
And you will find that every time you dissipate yourself on any of these things your heart begins to feel burdened and weary and too tired to think.
There may be people reading this who are so dissipated, so drained and numbed by their vanities they cannot lift their heart into the presence of God.
They are much too burdened, and will remain so until they remove the stone of dissipation.
The heart can be weighed down by the stone of drunkenness … actual drunkenness or its equivalent.
We’re drunk when we withdraw from reality into a illusion of any kind. People get high to be relieved of the burden of reality. But my friend, the burden of unreality is a million times heavier.
You may think you’re cheering yourself up every time you dream of winning the lottery … but you’re actually weighing down your heart.
You may think you’re finding relief by going off on that pretend trip with that pretend person, but you’re simply putting another stone on your heart.
Or when you imagine what you’d like to do to your boss at work … how you’d like to push him into the mud, or see him fall on his face – another stone settles on your heart.
Some of us may come to fellowship drunk with wine, and some of us come … staggering in a stupor of our own false dreams.
Our hearts are so weighed down they cannot worship or praise the living God … nor hear His voice.
Cares of this Life
And who of us needs proof of how the cares of this life are weighing down our hearts like a stone? Of course we can’t escape the cares of this life.
– When the roof leaks, it needs to be fixed.
– When the battery in your car gives out you have to charge it or replace it.
– Bills have to be paid.
– Misunderstandings with our neighbors have to be cleared-up.
Of course we are to be responsible for every obligation we make. But do the cares of this life really have to be carried next to our heart?
Do we have to get ourselves so tangled up in obligations, financial and otherwise, that we can think of nothing else? When we are bent over by the weight of all our cares we need to ask ourselves whether we haven’t overloaded ourselves with unnecessary cares.
Some of us are so loaded down with the stone of cares we haven’t thought a truly godly thought in months. How can you lift up your heart in praise to God when it’s flattened under the weight of needless, ridiculous cares?
The only reason Jesus tells us to take heed to ourselves lest our hearts be weighed down is because He has made it possible for us to throw off these weights.
It’s totally unnecessary for you to walk around with your heart crushed flat under these stones. You can pick up those stones and throw them away and breathe freely, and think clearly, and rejoice in God today.
…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us….
Laying aside every weight
1. Lay aside the weight of dissipation/squandering , beginning the day with Jesus Christ.
“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
You don’t just do that once, you do it daily, continuously. You won’t dissipate your day if you put that day into the hands of Jesus at the outset. Concentrate your heart on Him, see Him, who is the center of all things.
Many of us still think of prayer at the beginning of the day as a kind of duty, “Yes, I know I really should.”
– It’s not your duty, it’s your joy!
– It’s your door to life!
Do you think of it as your duty to eat breakfast? Don’t you enjoy that hot cup of coffee and toast with jam? Do you think of it as your duty to take a bath? Perhaps after a month it becomes your duty, but isn’t it a pleasure to get your body clean and be refreshed?
How much more a joy to bathe and feed your heart in the light of God in Jesus each morning.
2. Lay aside the weight of drunkenness and every escape by facing reality at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Come to the place where the unreal world opens into the real: Calvary.
There you face the reality of the living God who in loving-kindness and tender mercy offers up His most precious possession, His everything, His only begotten Son to redeem you.
Here all your warped twisted ideas of God
end in a vision of His fathomless mercy.
And in the light of that mercy you begin to face the reality of your own need. All your ridiculous illusions about yourself vanish and you see that you are just another needy sinner who can’t live without God’s forgiveness.
And you begin to face the reality of the human need around you. Other people are not things to be used, or fools to be belittled, enemies to be hated. But they are sick, wounded, troubled souls as desperately in need of God’s mercy as you are.
When you face reality you won’t need to get drunk any more.
Every form of drunkenness among us will end the minute the afflicted ones
choose to face reality and keep facing reality at the cross.
3. Lay aside the stone of cares by seeking first the Kingdom of God.
Decide what you’re truly living for.
– What is your purpose?
– Where is your goal?
– Where is your heart fixed?
– Where does your treasure lie?
And if you discover that you’re actually aiming at some childish illusion, that your heart is enslaved to mammon, money and the things it buys, do as Matthew did that day in his tax office. Drop everything and come to Jesus. Leave it all back there and put your life, body, soul, and spirit, past, present, and future, at His feet.
But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.
You’ll still have to eat, pay bills, buy shoes, get the car fixed if you have one, but as you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness your heart will become light again and all the things you need will be added to you.
The hand of God is at work in this world these days in a way that is even causing hard-boiled atheists to stop and think. Yet believers go on their way wrapped up in their petty lives with the new heart God gave them weighed down and fettered.
God help us to throw off the stones, to lay aside every weight, and lift up unfettered hearts to Him in praise, thanksgiving, and service; that we may stand before Jesus not only at the end, but every day until the end comes.
Prayer- Gracious Lord how we long for the hearts of flesh you once gave us. The stones we have placed on those precious hearts of flesh are weighting us down, making us weary, making us bitter, judgmental, and merciless and robbing us of vitality and joy. Lord, we confess that we have squandered ourselves on the trivial, we have been captivated by false dreams and illusions, and we have carried the cares of this world too close to our hearts. Give us the strength to lift these stones off. Give us the strength to stop dissipating ourselves on the unimportant as we open our hearts to your sovereignty, to your majestic presence each day. Give us the strength to sober up, facing the reality of our great need for you and your unfathomable, tender mercy towards us. Give us the strength to exchange the cares of this world for hearts that seek you, your Kingdom, your righteousness above all else. Precious Redeemer, forgive us, heal us, so we may joyfully live these lives with hearts of flesh once again and lift unfettered hearts to you to the end of our days.
Original: REB…1977 … Edited 2016
Art: Through the grace of Gwen Meharg www.drawneartogod.com
Posted October 9, 2020
FREEDOM OF A COMMITTED HEART
While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Genessaret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word, I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Oh God.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
“And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything….
…they left everything, and followed him.”
What a wonderful thing, to be able to leave everything and follow Jesus with such freedom – no agonizing, – what will my wife say? or my husband? What will my relatives think? Who’s going to run the business? Who’s going to take care of the equipment?
They just pick and go. Why was it so easy for them, while it’s so very, very hard for us, it seems. Why did these men find it within them to so light-heartedly, so joyfully, pick up and go with Jesus, and leave their nets, their careers, and even their families, when we, it seems, become so heavy-hearted even when we just think of the word “commitment”.
Remember, too, that the commitment they made that day lasted for the rest of their lives, whereas we commit ourselves, and take ourselves back. We commit ourselves again, and take ourselves back. We surrender everything to Jesus, and pretty soon we’re withdrawing again. What was it that gave these men the freedom to get up and go, and keep going, in the footsteps of Jesus from that point on?
If we compare our commitment with their commitment, we will notice one fundamental difference:
Our commitment, at least in most cases, is commitment to an idea, to a concept.
Theirs was a commitment to a person.
If, that day in the boat, Peter had said, “Lord, I’m really, really impressed with your teachings, and I just can’t get over this miracle I see here, and so what I’m going to do is, from now on I’m going to change my lifestyle. I’m going to live the way you do.” That would have sounded great but it would not have lasted one week.
Peter did not commit himself to a new lifestyle that day.
He did not commit himself to a ministry that day.
He committed himself, simply, to Jesus.
Of course, as he followed Jesus, Peter’s lifestyle changed; he received a ministry; he began to accomplish supernatural things; and he ended up on a cross. But Peter was not committed to a lifestyle, or to a ministry, or even to a cross. He was committed to Jesus. And as he followed Jesus, he was brought into all these other blessings.
If we’re having a hard time – and most of us are – with this idea of commitment; if commitment so often inspires gloom and heaviness, and confusion, it’s probably because we’re committed to the wrong thing.
When we get our commitment where their commitment was…. we will be as joyful, and as free, and as lighthearted as they were.
Hence, we need to make sure that we are not committed to a lifestyle…. We are committed to a living Lord, to Jesus.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found, and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has, and buys the field.
The big message in that little parable is not that he sold all that he had.
The big message in that parable is that he found the treasure.
He wasn’t committed to selling all that he had, he was committed to the treasure. We, on the other hand, so often, get ourselves hung up on lifestyle, and we determine what kind of lifestyle a radically committed follower of Jesus should have.
We get ourselves bent out of shape, and twisted and contorted into miserable hypocrites trying to arrive at a “discipleship lifestyle.” Then the big issue becomes, “Shall I sell all that I have? Can I sell all that I have?” And the minute we sell the first piece of furniture, we’re looking around to see whether the others are doing it too.
We’re not committed to selling all that we have,
we’re committed to Jesus.
If we get our eyes off the lifestyle, and on to the treasure, Jesus, then it becomes easy to sell all that we have. Then it’s no big sacrifice, and we’re not looking around to see whether everybody else is making the big sacrifice. When our eyes are on Jesus, and we hold them there, when our hearts are on Jesus, and we keep them on him, we let go of, and kick out, and push away every thing that we have to get rid of, in order to have him.
Nor are we committed to a ministry.
We are committed to a living Lord.
Commitment to a ministry will never hold us. When you’re committed to a ministry, pretty soon you’re going to find your ministry boring, and discouraging, and absurd. Commitment to a ministry will never keep us going, we can’t stay committed to a ministry, unless the ministry is somehow tied up with our own ego; then it’s not really a ministry. For instance, Jesus was not committed to a ministry; he was committed to his Father.
His Father gave him a ministry to perform, and he performed it. But his commitment was not to this ministry; his commitment was to his Father.
Peter was a fisher of men – that was his ministry. But he was not committed to fishing for men; he was committed to Jesus. And there were times that fishing for men got to be a pain in the neck. Remember that night when he finally says, “I’m going fishing!”? – for fish. (You get fish in the net, and they stay put.) So some of the disciples say, “That sounds like a great idea, we’re going with you.” And so they take a little vacation out on the Sea of Galilee, back to doing what they used to do. And it was great—except they didn’t catch any fish. All night long they were out there, fishing, fishing, fishing.
Dawn breaks. The resurrected Jesus is standing on the shore, shrouded in the morning mist, but they don’t know who it is. He shouts across the water, “Children, did you catch anything?” They holler, “No!” “Cast the net on the right side of the ship and you’ll get something.” They still don’t know who it is. Well, who cares? We might as well try it, nothing else has worked. Down it goes, and up comes the net that looks just like it did that first time, three years ago. They’re stunned! Now they know who it is on the shore; and as fast as they can, they drag up the net, three-quarters of a ton. They can’t even get it into the boat, so they pull it behind them.
Jesus is waiting. Breakfast is ready. “Come and dine,” he says. They eat, and after breakfast, as we read from John 21:15,
Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Do you love me more than these (fish)? He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Notice, Jesus does not say to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love your ministry?”, because the truth was, he didn’t love his ministry. He went fishing last night; he was sick of his ministry. “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know that I love you.” “OK then, get back to it. Feed my sheep.” And it was this commitment to Jesus, this love for Jesus, that kept Peter feeding the sheep the rest of his life.
And so he says to each of us, “Do you love me?” Not, “Do you love your ministry?” Each of us has a ministry; each of us has work to do. Sometimes we love our ministry. Sometimes we hate it. Sometimes we’re bored by it. Sometimes we don’t even know if we have one. “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
We are not committed to success.
We are committed to Jesus.
The primary job of the branch is not to bear fruit. The primary job of the branch is to abide in the vine. If the branch abides in the vine, then it will bear fruit. So we read from John 7:37.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
My commitment is not to make rivers of living water come out of my heart. The harder I try to do that, the worse it’s going to be. If I try to make living water come out of my heart by my efforts, it will turn out to be nothing but death seeping out.
My commitment is to go to the fountainhead of the living waters, and drink, and drink, and receive from him. Then, rivers of living water will flow out. If I’m drinking from Jesus, if I’m receiving him, abiding in him, then I will have life for the world around me.
I will heal the sick, I’ll raise the dead, I’ll cast out demons, I’ll set the captives free.
But I’m not committed to any of those things.
I’m committed to Jesus.
What I am committed to is to know him in the power of his resurrection, to know him in the fellowship of his sufferings, and to know Jesus, even to the point where I become like him in his death, so that every day, I come forth alive, risen from the dead, in the power of his resurrection, with life for other people.
Finally, we need to see that we are not committed to a goal.
We are not committed to a cross.
We are committed to Jesus
Even though we know that our goal is a cross. We are committed to the Lord Jesus.
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded your self and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. And after this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned, and saw following them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper table, and had said, “Lord, who is it who is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man? What shall this man do?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”
Jesus tells Peter that he, Peter, is going to die on a cross. Right away, Peter looks at the cross instead of Jesus. The first thing that comes into his head is, What about John? Is he going to die on a cross too?
When you get your eyes off the master, and start looking at the goal, you will soon be comparing yourself with someone else. Jesus says, “If I want John to stay alive until I come back, what business is that of yours?” i.e. Follow me. Keep your eyes on me, Peter. And Peter did.
What a wonderful thing! Peter kept his eyes and his heart on Jesus—held them there long after Jesus was no longer physically visible to Peter. Jesus was Peter’s joy. Jesus was his fulfillment, his treasure, his comfort, his glory, his everything, so that when the time came for Peter to lay down his life on a cross, it became, for Peter, a thing of glory. He wasn’t looking at the cross; he was looking beyond the cross, to his Lord.
There’s a cross at the end of our road too. We are each of us called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. But our commitment must not be to the cross, it must be to Jesus, who will get us to the cross, through the cross, and beyond it.
So where is our commitment today?
Are we committed to a lifestyle?
Are we committed to a ministry?
Are we committed to some dream of success, some worthy Christian goal?
None of those kinds of commitment will ever keep us going in this stormy, turbulent world. If we try to commit ourselves to such things, we’re going to find ourselves burdened down, wounded, gloomy, discouraged, and depressed. When they see us coming, people will run and hide.
But freedom, joy, and power will inflame our commitment, when we put our commitment where it belongs—when we get our hearts off all these good, Christian programs, and fix them exclusively on the Master.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Do you love me?
He says to each of us, “My little brother, my little sister, do you love me? If you love me, then go and feed my sheep.
I’ll give you living bread to feed to them.
I’ll give you courage to lay down your life for them.
And I will be with you all the days, even to the end of the age.
Prayer- Jesus how lonely and forlorn we have become. Your tender voice has dimmed in our hearts. Forgive us for getting so caught up in service that we have wandered from you, our love, our life. Forgive us for not being committed to you, yourself alone. Open our hearts to your voice calling to us…do you love me…do you love me, do you love me? May our hearts respond…yes, yes, yes Lord, we love you, we need you… until nothing else matters but drawing close to you and responding to your love. In this love may we go forward and feed your sheep, in this love may we experience the freedom, the joy and the power that is ours. In this love may we find comfort and courage all of our days.
Written: REB 1983 Found in the booklet: Caught Into Freedom which is available upon request
Art: Melani Pyke www.melpyke.com/ Anne Cameron Cutri anne-cutri.pixels.com and Marybeth Stafford www.marybethart.com
Posted October 2, 2020
HEARING HIS VOICE
….And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
I Kings 19:11-13
It was probably the most discouraged and troubled hour of Elijah’s life. But Elijah nevertheless was able to distinguish between hearing noise and hearing the voice of God. God was not in the wind. God was not in the earthquake. God was not in the fire. But when Elijah’s heart began to hear the voice of a gentle stillness, he knew he was hearing God. The most important gift on this earth, and it is a gift imparted to every follower of the Lamb, is the ability to know the voice of God, to distinguish it from all other voices.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”
Books are coming off the press by the carload, teachings are being given – often almost in a whisper, that claim to show you how to hear the voice of the Lord, as if it were a skill to be developed. But the more you read those books and the more you expose yourself to those teachings, the more confused you will become: the more vulnerable you will be to every weird spirit that comes drifting down the road. Because you’re making a science out of a faculty you already have. You’re complicating something that must be kept simple.
“My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me…..”
Hearing with The Heart
How do I hear the voice of the Shepherd? With these ears? Sometimes I hear with these ears words that I know are coming straight from the lips of the Son of God, uttered perhaps by a friend or a stranger. I don’t need to wait for a voice of thunder to waken these ears. They can hear, if my heart is right.
Do I hear with my mind? At times, a thought comes into my mind which is pure Christ, I know it came from him, but if I start playing games in my mind, asking questions and waiting for answers, I will soon get strange answers.
Much deeper than my ears or my mind, I hear the voice of the Shepherd with my heart, my will. If my heart is fixed on the Lamb of God in thanksgiving and worship and praise for his great kindness, for who he is, for his death on the cross, then somehow in any one of a million ways – in whatever way he chooses – Jesus makes me to know the next step.
If my heart is fixed on Jesus, I don’t have to hear a voice telling me to forgive, I know that is his will. I don’t have to hear a voice telling me to pay my bills and make certain wrongs right. Or to stop making a pig of myself at the table, or to be thoughtful of those people I have often taken for granted.
But if there is something I don’t know which I need to know, some change I haven’t understood that needs to be made, somehow the Shepherd will make me to know. I will hear his voice. And, it will almost never be an audible voice. Rarely will it be one of those many voices that rise and fall in our minds. When he speaks, the Shepherd’s voice will be as different from those “mental noises” as the voice of a gentle stillness differed from the wind, earthquake, and fire.
The Idolatry of The Means
The means by which the Shepherd speaks will continuously change, remaining a mystery, so that we can never develop a system of hearing the Lord like dialing the weather or conducting a séance.
So many believers start out following the Lord with great joy. Wisdom from heaven visits their minds; they understand the things of ‘God; they minister; they help others to find the Lord. Then comes a testing time, a dry period, when they seem to experience confusion. They long for that clear-cut relationship they had before.
A voice is heard which claims to be the voice of the Lord. It promises blessing, asks some innocent act of obedience to itself. As they respond to this voice things seem to “click”. The voice demands another act of obedience. Again the response seems to bring blessing. Then imperceptibly the demands this voice makes start becoming strange. The voice divides and becomes two. Then five. Now the believer is on a fast for some grandiose cause. Or locked in a room refusing to see people, or in the jungle trying to figure out what to do next, or flying to Jerusalem to be one of the two witnesses of Revelation, or simply part of some “prayer group” that operates more like a séance than the kingdom.
“How can such things happen?” we ask. “How can it be that people can start out in all sincerity, following Jesus, listening to his voice, practicing his mercy, and end up so far in left field? Doesn’t the living God promise to instruct us and teach us in the way that we should go? Doesn’t he promise to guide us with his eye? Doesn’t Jesus assure us that if we ask our Father for bread we won’t get a stone?”
How can it be that people who start out presumably hearing the voice of the Shepherd end up hearing a cacophony of voices that literally drives them out of their minds?
The same Jesus who promises to make his voice known to his sheep warns us to beware of false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing, who claim to be fellow sheep following the same Shepherd listening to the Shepherd’s voice, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves who devour and destroy. Jesus makes us responsible for knowing the difference between a false prophet and a true one. And the same Spirit who spoke through the Son of God and who has guided and directed the church down through twenty centuries also counsels us to test the spirits that speak to us, through men or in our heads or through the air itself. He makes us responsible for knowing the difference between the Spirit of God and spirits that purport to be of God but are from the Pit.
And what do these false prophets and lying spirits do? Time and again they lead us into the trap where we are more taken up with hearing a voice than we are with doing the will of the Lord that we already know.
So instead of doing the will of God, which is mercy, instead of going forth and proclaiming the word which is Jesus crucified and risen, we sit around waiting for some spiritual voice to tell us what shirt to put on. People are being taught, “Don’t get out of bed unless the Lord tells you to get up.” “Don’t shop at The Superstore unless the Lord shows you to.” “Don’t do anything until the Lord tells you.” The Lord has already called them to rise up and follow him in the doing of the good and merciful will of God, to think with sanctified brains, to labor with sanctified hands, to speak words that reflect his grace. But instead, these troubled souls sit around waiting for some hollow voice to say, “Now, my child, get up.” “Not the Superstore, my child, Farmer Jack’s.” And before long a voice indeed is heard that will even tell you what socks to put on. But is it the voice of God?
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God……
I John 4:1-2
The Word Was Made Flesh
What does it mean that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh?
It means that Jesus came into this real world of flesh and blood, won the victory in this realm of flesh and blood, and so he never leads you into a realm of sheer spirit – not in this life. When you start hearing spiritual voices that offer to lift you into spiritual heights – look out!
Jesus didn’t call us to listen for voices. He has already made us to hear his voice, called us to follow him in the doing of the Father’s gracious will. He has already told us exactly what God’s will is:
“…. go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’….”
Mercy……. Goodness……Forgiveness……. God’s peace.
And if we should have problems translating his mercy into day-by-day living, Jesus will help us. Through the Spirit he will make his specific will known in the voice of a gentle stillness as we faithfully do what lies in front of us.
“0h, but I don’t know what Jesus wants me to do today!”
What do you mean you don’t know what Jesus wants you to do today?
You know that Jesus wants you to love God with all your soul, strength and mind.
You know that Jesus wants you to pray and not to faint, to trust the heavenly Father.
You know he wants you to forgive, to love your neighbor, to give to him who is in need, to humble yourself, to do good to those who give you a hard time, to proclaim the kingdom.
To hear the Shepherd’s voice is not to hear voices but to acknowledge that the words of God which have already come to us, through Jesus’ gracious lips … are true, by believing them, by doing them.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”
If your heart is drawn to the Jesus of the gospels, you will hear his voice and you will be known by him and you will follow him, and he will give to you eternal life and no one will snatch you out of his hand.
Prayer- Dear Loving Shepherd, we desire to hear you, to be known by you and to live our lives safely in your hands. May we hear your gentle, loving voice calling us. Lead us to a place where our hearts are fixed on you, bowed in awe of your goodness, loving you with all that we have, and ready to follow. Shut our ears to any voice that misleads us from following your will. Tune our hearts to hear your still, small voice above all the other noise around us. Keep us practicing your will of mercy, goodness, and forgiveness… reflecting your grace, and proclaiming your Kingdom in both word and deed because we believe the words from your lips are truth and life.
Written: REB 1977… found in the Guidance booklet available upon request
Art: St. Elia panel in public domain. Do Kindness; Hanna Varghese hanna-artwork.com, and Your Word is a Lamp to My Feet; Signe Flink deviantart.com /signeflinkart
Posted September 25, 2020
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Certainty of Faith
According to Luke this episode comes at the very start of Jesus’ ministry, before he has performed one miracle. Jesus has just returned from the region of the Jordan where after being baptized by John he was swallowed up by the wilderness for more than a month. He has been teaching in the synagogues of Galilee with a word of authority which has been stirring the people. But no healing – no casting out demons. And now in his own home town this man Jesus, whom they have known since he was a child, stands up to read from the prophet Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives …today these words are fulfilled in your hearing.”
His words are so absolutely certain, so sure, without the slightest tinge of boastfulness that everyone is stunned. This man has authority. But where did he get it? Has he been to school? No. Has he been appointed by the leaders in Jerusalem? No. Who gives him permission to talk like that?
And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his month; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which the city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away.
Remember now, not one miracle of healing has occurred yet. Jesus goes on to Capernaum and teaches in the synagogue and again the people are astonished at the force of his words. Suddenly Jesus’ teaching is interrupted by a man with a demon, and his ministry of healing begins. Until that first healing, the only one who knows for sure that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus, that Jesus is going to deliver the captives and open the eyes of the blind, is Jesus.
Jesus is utterly certain and remains utterly certain until he breathes his last breath at Calvary…
…. that he has been sent.
“Big deal! He was the Son of God wasn’t he? Naturally, he knew that he was sent! ” But remember, Jesus was also a human being — every bit as human as you and I. And Jesus had to know that he was sent the same way that we have to know it….
…by faith, by trusting the invisible God who had sent him into this world of visible trouble.
Jesus’ words had authority over human hearts, over demons, over the elements, over the wind because he believed that the Father was with him and that those doors would open when he told them to.
There would be fruit! If people disbelieved him, Jesus marveled at their unbelief; but it made absolutely no difference as to what he thought of himself. Jesus didn’t need to have believers or admirers or followers to be reassured as to who he was.
If nobody on earth believed him as was the case when he hung on the cross – Jesus still knew why he was there.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind!” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
“While I am here, I am the light of the world … I have been sent to open blind eyes … Go, wash in the pool of Siloam — which translated means “having been sent.” Of course the man comes back with his eyes opened!
We Can Have It Too
But not only did Jesus know that he was sent, he expects us to know that we have been sent.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The men and women of God who today are preaching good news to the poor and bringing release to the captives with the authority of heaven are not those, who speak the most eloquently, or the most loudly, or have the most publicity, or the largest following; but those who know that they have been sent.
They know that they have been sent by the Son of God even if no one on earth believes this to be so, and are clear in their minds as to what they have been sent to do.
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took .food and was strengthened.
Look back over your own ministry. Is it not true that in every situation where you knew yourself to be sent by the Son of God, the presence of the Son of God attended your words, and your deeds? But when you were in doubt about your being God-sent, when you looked for reassurance to men, when you sought to get your sense of authority by seeing approval in their eyes, your words were empty. Nothing happened.
If we pat each other on the back or appoint each other as elders, independently of the direct presence of the Lord in our lives, our authority is not only questionable, it’s demonic. The commission has to come directly from the Lord. Confirmed by the church, indeed, but initiated by the Lord.
When Paul and Barnabas were sent out from the Church at Antioch, other human beings were involved in the sending. They were fasting and praying and worshipping the Lord. They laid their hands on them and sent them off. But the one who called them and sent them clearly was the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of the Lord.
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia…
And the long-term results confirmed that it was the Spirit who sent them. The one who does the sending is the Lord. And he sends us to a work so simple, so down to earth that every one of us can do it. Jesus never sends us to do grandiose things. He never sends us to make headlines. He simply sends us to touch human lives with his forgiveness.
“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Touch lives with the forgiveness of God.
Manifest God’s mercy.
Show them God’s goodness.
Now I’m sending you to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
Where are we to do this?
In exactly the place where we are now. In our present set of circumstances. Among those people with whom we are now in touch.
The minute you know yourself to be sent by God, to manifest the forgiving love of Jesus in that place where you are, there will be a change within you….
… An inner certainty. An awesome peace.
You will feel no need for haste. No need to prove anything or to work miracles or collar people and harangue them, because you know that at the right time God will open doors in those circumstances.
And you will do what you’ve been sent to do,
say what you’ve been sent to say.
There will be fruit!
For instance, what about the people we live with. Is it clear that we are to be touching their lives with the forgiveness of God? That we have been sent to them for this one purpose? Our husbands, our wives, our children, our parents, the old folks.
Is God’s goodness touching them through us? God’s patience? God’s mercy? Or are we always up tight?
The people we associate with in our daily work, do we really understand that our presence among them is sacramental? Believers and unbelievers. The attractive ones and the repulsive ones. The ones who accept us and the ones who don’t.
Do we believe that God’s mercy, God’s forgiving grace, is to be touching them through us? San Francisco, New York, China, Africa come later if God chooses to send us there.
Right now he sent us here.
Notice where Jesus read that passage from Isaiah. Not up in Jerusalem or down by the Jordan, but in his hometown, in the midst of the people he’d been with all his life… Nazareth. Among his brothers and sisters and cousins. They rejected him and he went on to other places. But he kept coming back because his ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel began right where he was.
If Jesus had not begun in Nazareth and cared about Nazareth, what truth would there have been to his words in Capernaum, Bethsaida, Jerusalem, and Samaria?
In the future God may send us forth to distant places. We may never see our familiar brothers and sisters again until Messiah comes. But for now we have been sent here. And here is where we touch lives with the forgiveness of God.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you as the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
You will walk in peace, you will dwell under the unction of the Holy Spirit, you will set the captives free and bring to life many who languish in the shadow of death, when you receive those words of Jesus into your heart, and believe that as the Father sent him, so he sends you.
Majestic, kind, Holy Lord send us to the pool of Siloam to wash the blindness from our eyes. We want to know with absolute certainty that your Spirit is upon us, that you are with us, that we walk in the authority of heaven to bring vision to the blind, release to the captives, and good news to the impoverished. Help us to see that our presence is sacramental… that your mercy, your kindness, your forgiveness can be manifested through us. Right now, right here, wherever we are…. give us the vision that this is where you have sent us. Here is where we find the peace you offer us, here is where the holy is manifested in us. Amen and Amen.
Original: REB… Date unknown … Also found in the booklet- Guidance (available for the asking)
All art: Berna Lopez bernalopez.org
Posted September 11, 2020
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
II Corinthians 4:16-18
To follow Jesus in this world of flesh and blood is to walk every day in the middle of a discrepancy. On the one hand is that vision of God’s glory which came to us at some point in our life … a God who is utterly good … a Kingdom of God where there are no tears, no sickness, no pain, no death … a Savior who heals the sick, opens the eyes of the blind, forgives the sinner, changes people into new creatures. Surely it was the vision of this God which opened the door for us into a new life. We have seen the merciful God and once having seen him we can never be the same.
On the other hand, we have to live every day in a world which absolutely repudiates our vision of God … a world where the hard realities are tragedy and evil, a world where on every side we see weeping, sickness, pain and death. Where people don’t receive our gospel and where even among those who do receive our gospel there often seems to be no change.
The man goes on drinking, the woman goes on hating her husband. A world where the nations are getting ready for an inevitable war and we can see that it is only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.
Here’s the vision of God …
Here’s the anti-God reality of daily life.
The trick is to keep the vision clear, keep our feet on the ground with real living in this real world, and still keep our sanity.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves…”
“For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”
Consider what happens to many believers as they experience this tension between their vision of God and the anti-God realities of daily life. It is like having two giants, each pulling on one of your arms until you feel as though you’re going to be torn apart. And the temptation is to try to back away from one or the other.
There are those who try to eliminate the tension by scaling down their vision of God. “How can I serve a merciful God in an unmerciful world?” “How can I live by his Spirit of giving when the world is cheating me and taking from me at every turn?” So they lower their sights to a vision of a God who is very mild and very weak … to a Jesus who contents himself with patting little children on the head and posing for religious pictures.
And when you scale down your vision of God, you end up with a lukewarm life. Numberless people who started out as burning and shining lights have settled for the lukewarm routine of a little bit of church, a little bit of prayer, and a life without strain or risk or pain, which is also a life without joy and without lasting fruit.
There are those who become alarmed and give up the vision completely. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars – see that you’re not alarmed.” When believers become alarmed they panic and run from the vision. “I must have made a mistake. Perhaps I only imagined that I saw the glory of God.”
And when they let go of the vision, despair sets in. Soon their minds are engulfed by the absurdity of life and they spend the rest of their days lying on the bottom of an ocean of cynicism, like sunken ships.
Then there are those who try to preserve their vision of God by running away from the world. Whether we find a quiet cabin on a lake a hundred miles from the nearest town, or whether we bury our heads in “Christian sand” and withdraw from everything that seems to be of the world – only listen to Christian radio, Christian T.V., read Christian books, (never talk to anybody at work but Christians and one or two red-hot prospects) – we’re running away.
Soon our vision of God, far from being preserved, begins to shrivel until the God we serve turns out to be as unreal and demonic as all the idols of Babylon.
“I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one … As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
John 17:15, 18
But there are believers who keep their vision of God right in the middle of all the turmoil and they don’t wear out or become bitter, or stale, or stagnant.
They live every day in this tension between their vision of God and the anti-God pressures of this world and become stronger and fresher and keener all the time. How do they do it? They are renewed by God! In the midst of the strain, pressure, and tension which they experience every day, they have found the Sabbath Rest.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
That’s what Jesus is talking about –
– inner rest, inner renewal.
Living water that keeps you fresh for the raging battle.
We cannot afford to compromise our vision of God; it’s the most precious thing we have. That vision needs to get brighter with every year that passes because that vision of God, shining from the face of Jesus, is our life.
Nor can we afford to withdraw from the world. God put us in this world. Jesus has sent us out into this sea of troubled human life to proclaim his gospel, to call souls into his kingdom. We need to be out in this crazy world with our eyes open and our hearts on fire.
But to keep the vision and continue our labor in this world we need to be renewed by God himself. He promises to do it if we will but make ourselves available.
God himself will give us an inner renewal.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.”
II Corinthians 4:16
Paul was getting older when he wrote this. He experienced the bodily changes that age brings to all humans. But the inner Paul was younger than ever.
“That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts … that you may be filled (inwardly) with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19
“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.”….
“Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:6,10)
“Give for alms those things which are within…” (Luke 11:41)
God renews us from the inside out. Don’t worry about the outside. Give him the inside and watch the change that will come over your whole life.
God himself will give us a daily renewal.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed …. every day.”
This isn’t a once-a-year thing or even once-a-week. It’s a daily thing. Just as our bodies are renewed with sleep – daily, and our strength is renewed with food – daily, so our vision of God is renewed daily.
0f course, there is a need for us to make ourselves available to him daily. How can God renew me if I don’t take the time for this?
If I’m going to expect God to renew me inwardly as I do my daily work and drive down the freeway I’m going to take some time, daily, to hold still before him. Jesus, the incarnate Son, found this necessary; so did the apostles. Holding still before God in prayer is not a luxury, nor is it a religious chore. It is a wonderful necessity.
God himself will give us a renewal of the mind.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The mind is the place where we imagine, weigh, consider, decide – if it is not the dwelling place of God it becomes the dwelling place of Satan, the habitation of lies. If it is not constantly renewed in God it soon becomes home base for weird thoughts, suspicions, lusts, fantasies that are the very atmosphere of the world.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
So if we open our mind to him, God puts his word into it – his life.
He gives us thoughts to think, mental visions to behold, that cleanse us, refresh us, draw us afresh into the reality of his kingdom. God himself will give us a renewal of all our powers.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young man shall fall exhausted; But they who wait for the Lard, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
How many times we go to prayer in a state of actual physical weakness and come out strong. How many times we lie down at night drained of strength even to think of that obstacle we have to face the next day. In the morning we rise renewed – by sleep to be sure – but by sleep in which God restored our strength on every front.
We have brothers and sisters in prison camps who know much more about this than we do. While others around them, with much more stamina faint with weariness, they mount up on wings like eagles.
They don’t just survive, they burn with holy light! And in our relatively safe situation, needs press upon us from all sides which will also exhaust us, unless our powers are renewed by God. And we soon find that the most important function of our lives is not eating, or sleeping, or even ministering to the world, but inwardly waiting on God in whatever we’re doing. Ministering to him with our hearts while we work, while we rest, even while we sleep.
As the end of this age draws near, the tension between our vision of God and the surrounding anti-God atmosphere of daily life will increase.
And as that tension increases the lamps of some will flicker out.
If there has ever been a time when we need to offer our inmost lives to God’s Spirit for daily renewal, it is now! There is a life of freshness, zeal, unquenchable joy, closer than we may have imagined.
God help us to receive it and live it,
… that we may mount up on wings like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint.
Holy, Beautiful Lord, Living Water, Perfect One…We call to you to keep our vision of you fresh, alive and deeply adoring in the midst of this anti-God reality we live in. Give us inner rest, inner renewal as we are drawn to you, O Precious Lord. We open our hearts to you in the midst of our own weakness and decay, our increasing frailty. Enliven us, renew us. We open our minds to you as well. Transform them, renew them, rescue them from darkness and despair. Cleanse them, make them your dwelling place. Keep our vision of you, burning and strong. Keep us burning with your Holy Light as this anti-God atmosphere closes in …may we arise from your presence daily, refreshed, and yes filled with zeal, filled with unquenchable joy and a new closeness to you stronger than ever before. May our lamps burn strong until the end.
Original: REB…1977 … Also found in the booklet- Guidance (available for the asking)
All art: Permission and generosity of Nancy Cupp nancycupp.com or nancycupp.net
Posted September 4, 2020
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (NRSV)
The underlying cause of whatever failure we experience in following Jesus is a low expectation of what the Lord will do in our lives. Most of the time we really have no conception of how far God is willing to go, how eager God is to satisfy our hearts with his own presence.
” so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,”
Paul prays. Can you imagine the change that would sweep over any assembly if the answer to that prayer came to pass? Picture not only the praise that would rise up from our hearts toward heaven, but the transformation of our actual living.
If we’re filled with the fullness of God….
our hearts will be like God’s heart,
our tongue will be as God’s tongue,
our eyes will see from God’s point of view.
The sermon on the mount is a description of the kind of life a person will live when that person is filled with God’s fullness. And it begins with the beatitudes which are promises of God’s fullness.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
– God’s fullness.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted
– with God’s fullness.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth
–as part of God’s fullness.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied
–with God’s fullness.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy
–which is God’s fullness.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God
–in his fullness.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God
–because they are filled with God’s fullness.
We can live the magnificent life Jesus calls us to live here on this earth now –provided our lives are filled with God himself.
So filled with God that our hearts are satisfied, joined at last to the One for whom they were made.
Filled with Everything God Is
.. so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
At first glance it seems absurd to try to picture a flesh-and-blood human being filled with all the fullness of God. How can people such as we contain God in his fullness? How can you put the Atlantic Ocean in a quart jar? Yet Paul prays for his readers, including us, to be filled with all the fullness of God. And he prays this prayer because he knows from his own experience that it is possible to be saturated with everything that God is.
Jesus promised that if we love him and walk in his word he and the Father will come and make their abode in us. And when they come and make their abode in us they don’t half-come.
“I’ve brought my wisdom to dwell in you but I’ve left–my love back in heaven.”
“I’ve come with light but for peace you’ll have to wait until another time.”
He comes to us with everything he is.
And the effect of God filling us with his fullness is that we are satisfied, really satisfied, for the first time.
If I have a drinking problem it means that I’m basically unsatisfied, unfulfilled. But when God comes in with his fullness I’m so satisfied that I can take charge of this unruly craving and put it in its place. If I’m trapped in a drug habit even though I loathe myself and say I want to be free, in my heart of hearts I’m bound to drugs as my satisfaction in life. I will steal and connive to obtain drugs until something more fulfilling comes. And there are only two things which will satisfy the heart more than drugs: a life-consuming hatred, or the fullness of God.
If I live in a fantasy world of adultery and perversion it’s because I’m trying to find my fulfillment in the area of lust. That endless games of sexual intrigue, imaginary or real will go on and on… with plenty of help from Hollywood and Madison Avenue and the clothing designers, until I taste and keep tasting the liberating satisfaction of being fulfilled with the fullness of God.
If we can’t stop pursuing money, playing the numbers, dreaming of what we’ll do when we hit the lottery, scheming ever new ways to acquire more, it’s because we’re finding our real heart-satisfaction in mammon. We will continue to live for it because we love it until we’re filled to overflowing with him in whose light money is seen as the “unrighteous mammon” which he alone can sanctify.
If we need recognition every hour from other human beings, if we can’t stop craving to be admired, liked, noticed, it’s because that’s where our heart is. That’s where we are getting our satisfaction. And we will endlessly be in bondage to the eyes of men until we find a superior satisfaction in the superior eyes of the living God.
He Needs Our Cooperation
“Well, if God filling us with his fullness will set us free and enable us to live that new life, why doesn’t he do it?
Why doesn’t God send the mighty rushing wind into our lives and cause those flames of fire to descend on our heads?
Why doesn’t he fill us now with his Spirit as he filled the believers on Pentecost?”
The answer is that God is more ready to give than we to ask. He has already sent the Spirit into our midst. The Spirit is here. But, if you want sunlight and fresh air in your house, you have to open the shutters and the windows and the doors and pull up the shades.
You have to open up!
God is striving to fill us with his fullness in four ways.
In each area the question is not, “Why isn’t God doing something?” but rather, “Why aren’t we letting God do it?”
God is striving to strengthen us with might by the Spirit in the inner being.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit…
My inner being has eyes, ears, and a mouth like my outer being. They are weak, but as they yield to the Spirit they are strengthened.
So what am I looking at with the eyes of my inner being?
What am I listening to?
To whom am I calling?
Is my inner being allowing itself to be strengthened by the Spirit of God?
God is striving to cause his Son to dwell in our hearts by faith
…and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…
Am I letting it happen? Christ Jesus is knocking on the door right now but am I opening that door?
Is Jesus really welcome in my heart?
Jesus can only dwell in my heart if I make up my mind that I’m going to trust him. He dwells in our hearts by faith, an act of the will that says, “Lord, I trust you,” and lives that way. “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. I want you living in my heart all the time”
God is striving to pervade our lives with his love.
…as you are being rooted and grounded in love I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth….
…but are we letting it happen?
How can we be rooted and grounded in love unless we make God’s love the chosen atmosphere and dwelling place of our life?
…God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
I dwell in love when I take hold of God’s love with all my heart and when I show that same love in deed and in truth to my brother and sister and neighbor.
God is striving to make us to know the love of his Son.
…and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…
The love of Christ which surpasses knowledge is staring us in the face.
It is all around us.
It’s in the bread and wine.
It’s in the kindness of brothers and sisters.
It’s in a word of encouragement which God speaks to our hearts even now.
But we will not know it unless we choose to recognize it and appreciate it and thank God for it.
Can we honestly say that we know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge?
Isn’t it more true to say we’ve barely tasted it yet, we’ve barely opened our eyes? God help us to open our eyes!
…so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
God wants to satisfy our hearts with his fullness, to fill us with everything he is.
Not after we die, but in this life.
When we desire this one thousandth as much as he desires it for us, it will surely be.
God help us to yield!
God help us to let it happen!
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Oh Lord to know that you are striving to fill our hearts with your presence, that your love knows no bounds, that we cannot begin to comprehend the height, breadth, and depth of such love. That you desire to fill us with all your fullness. We fall to our knees in awe, wonder and joy. Oh Lord may we respond to your striving, to your call to our hearts, may we open up and drink in until we are truly satisfied. What a blessing, what joy, may we not close our hearts to this most beautiful of gifts. May our inner beings respond, welcoming Christ to dwell in our hearts, may our lives be saturated with your love and may we abide in it as we live our lives. Help us to see it in and share it with all whom we touch. Yes, God we yield to you, help us to let you satisfy us.
Original: REB…1977 … Also found in the booklet- Guidance
All art: With the love and blessing of Jeanette Sthamann brushedbythespirit.com
Posted August 28, 2020
THE FINAL TEMPLE
God’s love is unconditional.
God’s holiness is a consuming fire.
Jeremiah stood at the entrance to the Temple and shouted,
“Do not trust in these deceptive words: `This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’”
The people figured everything was just fine. They were attending the Temple and “practicing their religion”. What more could God want?
“The Lord wants more,” said Jeremiah. But no one listened.
Soon the Temple was a pile of rubble. Jerusalem lay in ruins as the people were hauled away as captives to Babylon.
God’s love is unconditional.
God’s holiness is a consuming fire.
Centuries later, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, entered the restored Temple, and started overturning the tables of the money-changers. Jesus had a few things to say to the Temple folks.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
So the Temple folks arranged to have Jesus executed.
Before long this Temple too was a pile of rubble.
God’s love is unconditional.
God’s holiness is a consuming fire.
Today the Temple of God is the Church, where the love of God is to spring forth as a fountain of Living Water. But what happens when this Temple, like those Temples of old, becomes shallow, when the fountain is dry, when warnings of Jesus are no longer heeded?
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Yes, there are deeply committed followers of Jesus all over the earth. There are gatherings of disciples where the Fountain of Living Water flows freely.
But Christendom as a whole (the Temple) stands today under the same judgment as those Temples of old. This Temple, as we have known it all our lives, is soon to become rubble. The Church in all its forms is being weighed in the balance and found wanting.
God’s love is unconditional.
God’s holiness is a consuming fire.
Consuming Fire is visiting the Church. And out of the ashes will rise two new Temples.
One Temple will be a religious monster, ruled by deceit and driven by malice. This Temple is none other than the Harlot of Revelation 17.
But out of the ashes another Temple will rise. This Temple is that motley multitude from every nation, tribe and tongue that will pass through the Great Tribulation and “wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb”.
This Temple will be focused on simply doing the Master’s will.
The members of this Temple will be characterized by 5 things:
They will know what it means to be “crucified with Christ.”
They will live and speak the truth.
They will share the Master’s suffering as well as his power.
Their hearts will be ruled by the Father’s unconditional love.
They will respect God’s holiness as a consuming fire.
They will know what it means to be “crucified with Christ.”
I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
If I’m crucified with Christ, I am dead to my ego, dead to the need for attention, dead to “hurt feelings”, dead to the compulsion to make things go my way.
I am learning daily to back off and let the Lord Jesus lead the way, always paying attention to what he has to say.
I am living by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
They will live and speak the truth.
In today’s crumbling Temple, Truth has long since been pushed aside in favor of “the end justifies the means”.
But in the Last Temple, Truth will reign supreme.
“You say that I am a king. To this end was I born. For this cause I came into the world: to bear witness to the truth. Whoever is of the truth hears my voice.”
They will share the Master’s suffering as well as his power.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.”
We will not have to look for persecution. It will find us. And the suffering we endure in our obedience to the Master will, in a mystery, be accompanied by his unspeakable power.
“If they kept my word, they will keep yours also.”
Their hearts will be ruled by the Father’s unconditional love.
Unconditional love is not in our nature. We were born of Adam’s race and are prisoners of our egos. But all that changes when our Lord brings us into God’s World and enables us to walk by God’s Spirit.
Now we can do it. We can walk in love.
“You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We can do it. The Lord’s Spirit can do it in us.
This love which God puts into us is also a holy fire.
They will respect God’s holiness as a consuming fire.
In this Temple everybody knows the meaning of….
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
In this Temple believers mean what they say, when they pray….
Hallowed be thy Name.
God grant that we may find ourselves in this Temple.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
Lord we are awed by your unconditional love and your holiness. You are worthy, so worthy of all we have to offer. Refine us so you are on the throne of our hearts, so you alone are our temple. May we heed your warning, listen to your call to leave Babylon. May we live the truth you speak into our hearts. Oh to be one with you in your suffering, in your offering, in your love, to be consumed by it. Dwell with us, dwell with us Oh Holy One. Amen.
Written: REB August 2020
Art: Through the kindness of Rebecca Brogan at jtbarts.com
Posted August 21, 2020
THE RIVER OF GOD
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46 (ESV)
If we’re forever taking our spiritual pulse we can end up so introverted as believers that we’re useless, we will never bear any fruit. We need to disregard our feelings and press on no matter how we feel. We need to keep doing the thing that needs to be done even when we don’t feel the presence of God with us
But what do you do when it’s not just your feelings that are unsettled? What do you do when you wake up one morning and discover that down in your heart of hearts you’ve lost touch with God? You’ve lost your bearings. Now it’s not a matter of disregarding your feelings and going on and doing what needs to be done. Because you don’t even know what needs to be done.
When we have lost that inner sense of the presence of God there’s only one thing to do… stop everything, and work on bringing that relationship with God himself back to where it needs to be.
In the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, every time the Lord has a complaint with any of those churches, it has to do with their relationship with Him.
– “You’ve lost your first love.
– You’ve compromised.
– You tolerate evil.
– Your works are no longer whole-hearted.
– You’re lukewarm.”
– And in every case, the solution is to repent. “Turn back to me… Seek my face.”
Normally we have thought of Psalm 46 as a psalm of protection. And it is. But the protection which the Spirit of God offers us as we read that psalm is not to make the sea stop roaring, or the mountains stop shaking.
The protection which God offers us is not to cut down on the external dangers, but rather to give us something inside that will hold us
“though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.”
When I have that inner certainty toward God,
when I have that inward peace,
when I inwardly know, and commune with Jeshua my Messiah
– then there’s nothing, absolutely nothing that can shake me.
As we read Psalm 46 we see a picture of a world that is falling apart … everything’s going to pieces, nothing’s stable anymore. And in the middle of all this confusion there is this city which remains firm. Surrounding the city are nations with their armies moving in from every side. As they move toward the city, surrounding kingdoms are toppling like dominoes. Just when they get to the edge of the city, God, from within the city, speaks. The earth melts. And the war is over.
Now what we see here is a picture of what is going to take place with the actual, physical, Jerusalem in the days ahead. But we see more than that. We also see what is now beginning to happen to Zion, the church, in this hour. If we have any perception at all, we see that all around us things are beginning to fall apart. Not only is the sea roaring, (the sea has always been unstable.) But the mountains are beginning to shake, mountains which have always been a symbol of stability. Now they are turning to jelly and melting down. Everything is falling apart.
But while everything seems to be crumbling on all sides of us, God is doing a thing inside His people, the church, which is going to hold them no matter what takes place.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
What is that river?
Obviously, the river is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is now coming down like the latter rain upon the earth.
– Lives are being transformed.
– Eyes are being opened.
– The gifts of the Spirit are coming forth in the church, and it’s beautiful to see.
But, as this river of the Spirit of God flows in the midst of His people, this river of the Spirit has a particular character, a nature, it’s doing a certain thing. It’s not just zapping people, knocking them cold, making them prophesy and speak in tongues, and letting it go at that.
Rather, the river of the Holy Spirit is bringing to God’s people on the earth at this hour one thing needful: forgiveness.
If you’ve lost your sense of the presence of the living God it is because you have lost your vision of your own forgiveness.
– Somehow, you’ve forgotten where you came from, where you were brought from by God.
– You’ve forgotten what God has already done for you
– You’ve lost sight of how desperately you need God’s forgiveness, day-by-day, hour-by-hour.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God…
And how do they make it glad? By conveying to them continuously that forgiveness, without which we don’t even live. This River is not just for the day you got saved. Nor is it just for that time when suddenly your sin is exposed and you’re embarrassed. But it’s day-after-day, moment-by-moment, all the time.
Until the day when we’re brought up into the fullness, the perfection of the nature of Jesus, that River of forgiveness is our life. It means that God looks down on me and sees me struggling to be like His Son, I want to be of His nature, I want to be changed. And so because of this, He accepts my bungling efforts and He keeps giving me a new start. He lifts me up in His arms and He helps me to do these things.
The cross of Jesus Christ, which is the fountainhead of this River, is not just for what I was thirty five years ago, or last week, but right now.
Daily we have to plunge into that River of Forgiveness.
Daily God has to reach down with His hand and lift us up,
.…. and transform us, and change us, and make us new.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9 (ESV)
So long as we allow the River of God’s forgiveness to flow down upon us, and in us, and through us, that means that God is in us and we can’t be shaken. And as long as that’s happening, even if the world is falling apart around us, we won’t be shaken because the war inside us is over. And when you understand that the war inside you has been ended, your warfare is accomplished, your iniquity is pardoned, then you also begin to understand that the same God who ended the war in your own heart through the blood of the Lamb is also going to end the war going on outside.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
– And how will He be exalted? …
– By ending strife.
– By bringing the war to an end.
We know in the Spirit of God that the war out there is not ready to end yet. It’s going to get worse. This land that has been fighting wars and causing wars in many places, is one of these days, very soon, going to see wars in its own streets. You’re going to see things that will break your heart.
But while the war outside is going to get worse, the time has already come for the people of God, Zion, to experience the end of strife.
– Just as surely as the River of God is a river of forgiveness,
– So the City of God is a city of forgiveness.
– And you cannot be a citizen of that city unless you are a man or woman of forgiveness.
To be a man or woman of forgiveness has two sides.
It means that you’re learning, constantly, to receive forgiveness from God.
And it means, secondly, that you’re learning to give forgiveness.
There are many of us who are not even trying to receive forgiveness from God on a constant basis … daily plunging into that river … daily crying out for mercy… not drinking of that river.
You don’t think you need it? Do you really think that you’re all right?
God help you, if you think that.
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3)
Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 14:2)
When you get up in the morning don’t just stand there in front of the mirror and compare yourself with all the crummy sinners. When you get up in the morning, plunge into that River of life which is forgiveness, and cry out to Him for mercy.
Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning,
For in thee do I put my trust….
Teach me to do thy will,
For thou art my God and thy Spirit is good.
– Daily that’s the basis of our life.
– And if we don’t live in that River, we die… we go off the track on a thousand tangents.
But after I have gone down into that River, afresh today, I come up out of that River and immediately I am to start showing forgiveness to those around me, near and far.
What is the City of God, my friend, what is the church, but a school of forgiveness?
It’s not a club for nice people.
It’s not a gathering of the elite.
And everybody who tries to make it a gathering of the elite falls under the influence of the antichrist, whether he knows it or not.
The Church of Jesus Christ in this hour is a school of forgiveness, where we learn, daily and hourly, to start showing some mercy to those around us. Maybe those sisters should have come to see you when you were sick. But what are you doing to yourself, and to the Body, by holding that against them, the fact that they didn’t? And maybe that brother actually said those terrible things about you that were repeated to you. But what are you doing to yourself, and to the Body, by holding a grudge?
– So your sister-in-law is a hypocrite,
– and your mother made you wear long stockings when you were ten,
– and your teacher laughed at you in the third grade,
– and your best friend knifed you in the back when you were fifteen.
What are these things but exercises into coming up into the nature of God, which is mercy?
How in the world is the River of forgiveness going to flow in your home, if you won’t forgive? How’s that river going to flow out through you to your children if you won’t forgive?
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating compromise with sin. Where there is a factious spirit, it has to be dealt with and where there is a rebellious, unforgiving, self-righteous spirit it has to be dealt with. But the instant there is the slightest spark of a desire for help, the slightest glimmer of repentance, we are to go out of our way to forgive…and even where there is no repentance at all. The offender remains hard as nails. In no case, in no case, are we to hold a grudge!
The proof that we are people of God is that we are learning, every day, by the Spirit’s grace, to come down off our pedestals and forgive our husband, our wife, our child, our parent, our enemy, and even the person who’s out to destroy us. How can the person who is out to destroy us succeed at destroying us if there is, in our heart, a spirit of forgiveness?
I praise God for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit that’s falling upon the earth right now… for the fact that eyes are being opened…streams are flowing in the desert…lives are being refreshed … the gifts of the Spirit are coming forth.
But, may God help us to hold very clearly in our minds that this stream of life in the Holy Spirit is not some kind of mystical force, not some metaphysical energy, not some kind of spiritual electricity.
That River is the Holy Spirit himself, who brings in himself the very nature of God which is forgiveness.
And this River flows to us for one reason, to transform us into a people who are forgiving.
Granted there are many abuses to this river. There are those who are busy trying to bottle the living water and sell it. There are those who want to wash off the external crud while the inside of their life is filthy, so their experiences with the Holy Spirit, in time, become false and misleading to these people and to those around them.
The Spirit of God comes to me to make me a forgiving woman/man.
That’s the miracle of miracles.
If I will yield to Him, He will do that.
But if I say, “No, Holy Spirit. I want power. I want tongues. I want prophesy. But don’t touch that grudge, that I’m going to keep,”…when I do that I’m coming very, very close to the sin against the Holy Spirit for which Jesus said there is no forgiveness.
The Lord is asking us two questions:
Will you let the Holy Spirit show you, afresh today, what you’ve been forgiven?
Will you let the Holy Spirit bring you down from your pedestal and teach you to forgive?
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God….
That river flows among us now. The question is:
Are we allowing it to make us glad?
Dear Holy, beautiful Lord forgive us for being shaken as things fall apart around us. Forgive us for forgetting that you are in the midst of it with us, for forgetting that you are in control. Help us to see your face, to sense your presence and to find the peace and beauty it brings us, daily, as we enter your River. May we not be refreshed until we dive into your cleansing River of forgiveness and mercy. Bring an end to our strife…the strife within us, the strife around us and the strife we pass on to others. Lord help us to stop damming up your mercy. Transform us into people of forgiveness, as we yield to you, as we move in the current of your River that flows with power and life bringing healing, peace and joy to all.
Original: REB…date unknown … although found in the booklets.. The Inner Connection to the Unseen God and the Renewed Mind (free for the asking)
All art: Thankful for the talent and graciousness of Melani Pyke at melpyke.com. May God continue to lead her and bless her.
Posted August 14, 2020
A WALK, NOT A TRIP
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16 &25
Sometimes a strange thing happens when people get “spiritual.” It’s as if their spiritual experience puts such a strain on them that they split in two. The upper half of their personality begins to float free and soar heavenward – this part of them is just burning with zeal for God.
– They come to fellowship with glory in their souls.
– They have the most marvelous insights into the truth of the Word.
– They have faith for healings, miracles, casting out of demons.
– They have a tremendous confidence in the testimony that pours forth from their own mouth.
– When they pray it’s almost poetry.
– They have an insatiable appetite for “spiritual books”, especially the really heavy books that get into the deep truths.
– They are strongly attracted to people who are spiritually as “advanced” as they are and generally prefer to fellowship where they don’t have to wait around and listen to those who are spiritually slow.
– They like to be part of a prayer group, or a community, or a camp, where the restraints are off and you can “really worship.”
But while all this spiritual excellence is going on, the lower half of the personality of these same people is sinking like a lump of lead in the Nile River.
While the upper half is floating heavenward, the lower half is sinking into the very things that Paul describes in Galatians as works of the flesh.
Who would ever guess that these ultra-spiritual people, who speak such marvelous words, who know such marvelous truths of God, pray such magnificent prayers, have lives which are thinking, imagining, speaking, and sometimes living in “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like”?
The higher the upper half soars into the spiritual stratosphere, the lower the under half sinks into the works of the flesh.
At bible studies and prayer meetings they’re radiant, but at home they make the people who live with them taste a lot more Hell than Heaven.
Then one day, perhaps after months or years of living this split life, the upper half of their personality suddenly begins to falter. Like a wounded bird it flutters and falls and plunges down into the depths to rejoin its other half.
This is the story of Cain who appeared to be a spiritual man until the day his spiritual half fell and he slew his brother.
This is the story of King Saul, Judas, and countless others down to this day.
When Paul warns against the works of the flesh, he’s talking to people inside the Body, warning that you can profess faith in Jesus Christ even while your down-to-earth life, your day-by-day life, your home life, produces nothing but bad fruit.
Walk by the Spirit! When Paul says walk, he means just that! The life you actually live when you move around on those two feet.
If we live in the Spirit let us also walk by the Spirit.
– Let’s translate our spiritual life – our communion with Christ – into a life actually lived in this body.
– Let’s take the atmosphere of Heaven our Lord breathes into us as we worship before His throne, and turn it into ….
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
…. not just at prayer meetings,
but at home,
and in our driving,
and in our daily work,
and in our day to day dealings.
There can be little doubt in the minds of those who have their eyes open in the slightest degree that the Lord Jesus is pouring out the Holy Spirit upon us – here as He is doing in many places these days.
What else is it that draws us together?
What else is it that causes us to swallow our racial pride, our institutional loyalties, or our anti-institutional bias, and come together, but the knowledge that God’s Son is breathing life upon us as we gather in His name?
Jesus Christ is breathing on us as He breathed on the apostles of old.
– He is causing that mighty rushing wind to be heard and felt.
– He is anointing His saints with tongues of fire, giving them a door of utterance to proclaim the wonderful works of God.
– He is giving us power to stand against the kingdom of darkness.
– He is giving us authority to minister the life of God to others.
But this power of the Holy Spirit never splits us into halves – one half floating toward Heaven and the other sinking toward Hell.
The power of the Spirit of God is given to us to enable us to walk this earth as Jesus walked.
Whoever says they abide in him ought themselves also so to walk even as He walked.
Walk by the Spirit means three things:
1. We let the Spirit lead us in our ordinary life
– Not in exotic adventures you’ll be able to write a book about and have everybody trying to imitate in the “fellowship farthest out.”
– Not in some spiritual balloon ride far above the maddening crowd.
You’re not floating in the Spirit, you’re walking in the Spirit!
As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
And in this age of grace, the only place the Spirit leads us is on this God-created earth. Through hardships, calamities, watchings, fastings.
Not above them – through them!
“I had such a wonderful time with the Lord last night I couldn’t go to work this morning.”
“I was so uplifted by the things of the Spirit I forgot to pay my light bill.”
“Sorry about these peanut butter crackers for supper, but I was so deep in prayer I didn’t have time to put the roast in the oven.”
If you’re walking by the Spirit of God,
– you’ll get to work,
– you’ll pay your light bill,
– you’ll have a decent supper for your family.
2. By the Spirit we put to death the works of the flesh.
You don’t just “reckon” these works of the flesh dead and then go right on doing them. By the life-giving power of the Spirit you destroy these things of death.
Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
This doesn’t mean you quit eating and stop making love to your wife or husband. It means that fornication, impurity, licentiousness, strife, jealousy, anger, are put to death,
Stop thinking of yourself as some kind of special case;
… as if you’re the only person in the world with twisted thoughts, and a weird imagination, and a vile temper. That’s part of the sin-warped human nature we all share.
But now, by the power of the Spirit, we reject these things even as our Lord did. We die to them.
We crucify them.
The first thing the Spirit did with our Lord was to drive Him out into the wilderness to be tempted – so that He could crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.
Crucify the flesh!
Put off the old nature!
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, foul talk.
This is not just for St. Francis of Assisi or Catherine of Sienna – this is for you and me!
One of the primary reasons why the Spirit of God is being poured out on us today is so that by His power we can destroy the works of the flesh in our own lives.
3. By the Spirit we bear the fruits of righteousness in ordinary life – even as our Lord did.
He didn’t wait to forgive until He got back to Heaven, or until He was carried away in a state of ecstasy. He forgave when the weight of His body was pulling on the nails in His hands, when every breath He drew was torture, and the people who put Him there were right in front of Him, sneering and goading.
Our Lord manifested love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, when the pressure was on, when even His closest disciples were letting Him down. There was always time for a troubled widow, or a leper, or a prostitute, or a tax collector, or a dying thief.
And now we have His Spirit brooding over us, stirring within us, so that we can be that way too.
– If speaking in tongues will help us bear the fruits of the Spirit in ordinary life, then may we all speak in tongues – seriously, may we all speak in tongues.
– If prophesying will help us to bear the fruits of the Spirit in ordinary life, then may we all prophesy.
But if tongues and prophesy are going on in your upper half, while your lower half is loveless, joyless, restless, impatient, unkind, then it’s very doubtful whether your inspiration is the Holy Spirit.
The best thing you can do is flee to the Cross of Jesus and cry for help.
“Lord, help me to conform my daily life to your will! Take control of my heart and mind as I walk through my house, as I pass through the door of the place where I work! Lord, help me!”
If Jesus heard the thief on the cross, He’ll hear you.
Is there one of us who doesn’t need to flee to the Cross? Is there one of us who doesn’t need to cry for mercy and help to make our salvation real in our daily life?
May God help us all to draw near to His Son and be healed. May our split lives be joined together, not in Hell but at the foot of that Cross, this day.
May we open our hearts now and receive help to walk by the Spirit here on this earth until the trumpet blows.
Original: 1976 REB
Art: Jeanette Sthamann at brushedbythespirit.com, Hanna Cheriyan Varghese at hanna-artwork.com. Ira Thomas at catholicworldart.com, Krieg Barrie publishes via Goodsalt.
Posted August 6, 2020
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed if anyone first let him come to me and drink, he who believes in me as the scripture has said out of his heart, shall flow rivers of living water.
In all the teaching that goes on in our flocks, the emphasis has been and will continue to be,
that we are to live a life that matches our message.
We are to live our gospel.
We are to walk as children of light.
I am to be an embodiment of the gospel that I proclaim…and if I don’t live toward my wife and children, the gospel that I proclaim to other people, then my message loses its edge, not just with my wife and children, but with people who never see my home life.
As long as we are in this body of flesh and blood, we continuously strive to bring our life along with our gospel so that even the most private and secret and hidden areas of our lives are lived as men and women who have in fact become new creatures in Christ Jesus.
But there is a problem at the other end of the picture, which we often miss, most of us are having difficulty not only living our Gospel, but we’re also having trouble speaking it.
There are many of us who have, in fact, and in truth, coming to the kingdom, we know Jesus, he has become real to us. He has manifested himself. He has changed our lives. He lives within us.
And yet we have no utterance.
Somehow we find that we are not able to proclaim in words. The truth about Jesus, which is in our hearts, either the words just don’t come, or when they do come, they simply lack authority.
They don’t have power.
And so instead of telling people about Jesus, instead of speaking for the word of God, with the tongues that God gave us, we think we have to take people over here to listen to somebody who will have the words, we hope …“Come to our church and listen to our preacher, come to our fellowship. We have a wonderful teacher, read this book by Watchman Nee or Oswald Chambers. Take this tract and read it. It explains everything.”
The word of the living God ought to find a way of uttering through our mouths at that moment of opportunity, at that place of need, we don’t have to be dragging people around to hear the gospel from somebody else’s mouth.
Is not the body of Christ, in fact, a nation of prophets… every man, woman and child who is indeed born of the Spirit …should have….. rivers of living water flowing out of his heart and across his mouth.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
Notice that it does not say certain gifted ones of you are to do this. All of you, all of us are called to speak for the Gospel of Jesus Christ with living power.
Well, then why isn’t this happening?
Why isn’t the word of the living God just gushing forth in every single mouth in this assembly?
How is it that so often the words come but they’re dead?
On the day of Pentecost, the first organ of the human body to manifest the power of the Spirit…
…was the tongue.
Now, this door of utterance, this power to speak forth the word of God is one of the most holy mysteries in the life of the believer.
It’s not some skill that you acquire by going to seminary or bible college or some kind of training program, not something that you acquire, like learning how to swim or ride a bicycle or become an artist or an after dinner speaker.
Nor is it some kind of gift that you’re born with, like the gift of gab.
It’s a spring of supernatural utterance, which God opens up in your heart, causing words to flow across your lips, which you know are not yours, but they are God’s.
And you are dependent upon God, hour by hour and day by day to keep that spring flowing.
Don’t be misled by these slick, glib testimonies that you sometimes will hear on so-called Christian programming or by the smooth flowing gospel that comes from the mouth of the professional Christian orators.
Divine utterance is not skill with words. Divine utterance is not being able to say these things fast and easy. Divine utterance is being able to speak for the witness to Jesus Christ, which God put in your heart, and to do this without worrying about how this sounds.
One of the reasons we don’t have that liberty to speak is because we’re all the time worried. How does it sound? How is it getting over? The apostle Paul, for instance, was a man who had absolutely no eloquence. He was unimpressive to look at. And his speech was of no account, yet the Spirit of God opened up a spring in that man’s heart… So that the words that poured across his mouth, even though they stumbled and fumbled, even though they came painfully and hesitatingly, those words that came across that man’s mouth, for all the lack of eloquence and all his stuttering, were alive with the power of the living God. They accomplished that to which they were sent. They did not come back empty.
Next to Jesus, no words ever flowed across human lips accomplished more than the words that came across the mouth of Paul. But Paul, of all people, was well aware of the fact that he was utterly dependent on God for this to happen. He never got to the place where he could say to himself. “Now I know how to preach. Now I’ve acquired skill at speaking forth God’s word”. Never.
All his life long in every situation, he had to be crying out to God for words of utterance.
And we read this in the epistles, how he’s continuously asking the believers,
And pray for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the Gospel.
For the servant of God… the source of our utterance, is Jesus himself.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink.
He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” He who believes in me, as scripture has said, out of his heart, shall flow rivers of living water.
If the words don’t come.
It’s because we’re simply not going to the source.
We’re not going and drinking of that river of utterance,
We’re not trusting him to give us the message that he promised that he’d give us.
On the other hand, in some of our lives, we have no problem with words coming, we’ve got all kinds of words coming out… they come profusely… but they have no power …. because they are not coming from the source, the spring of Christ himself.
They’re coming from our flesh.
Out of our flesh flows
…. hardness …. religious platitudes that have knowledge…. but no life.
Jesus Gives all his People Utterance.
Just as surely as he opened the mouth of the mute man. Jesus opens our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our mouth to speak.
All of our mouths, not the mouths of just some of us, all of us. But we have to learn how to depend upon him to do this the same way that Paul depended upon him to do this.
And every other man and woman of God who ever walked this earth depended upon him to do this. And the problem is that some of us think we can talk… and we talk, man, do we talk… But everything that comes out is death.
And some of us think, I can’t talk. I have to leave that to my brother and sister because I just don’t have that gift God. And we say nothing.
So nothing happens
Open your mouth and I’ll fill it.
Whether you have a gift for gab or whether you’re shy and self-conscious about speaking. In both cases, we have to come to Jesus. Are we, in fact, coming to him for the message? Are we seeking from our father that door of utterance that he promises to give us, to open up that well of living water, to flow out of us?
Utterance in Prayer
Now, the place to begin is not out there on the streets. Begin in your room with the door shut and ask the father to give you utterance in prayer.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And as he intercedes within us, deep down inside, something happens below the level of utterance entirely, which is the work of the Spirit.
And as this happens, we begin to experience liberty, fresh liberty from our sins, deliverance from guilt through the blood of the Lamb and then our own spirit takes off and begins to rise up toward the throne, clothed in the righteousness of the Lamb.
And as this happens, our tongue is loosed. The string of our tongue is set free, and we find that we are able to speak to our Heavenly Father. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. And that liberty includes a tongue that is set free from self-consciousness, and from the weight of its own worthlessness and is able to speak simply and clearly to God.
Don’t ever get the idea that prayer comes easy for some people.
Prayer comes easy for nobody.
Prayer flows by a miracle of the living God. And every time you pray, you need that miracle. And apart from the miracle of the living God working in his Spirit, in your hearts, you’re not praying. You’re talking to yourself.
Utterance in Praise
The four living creatures before the throne of God ceaselessly, never give up, praising God for his glory.
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
And the elders, and the angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect… never get tired of praising God. And now that we have been made sons and daughters of the King, the chains that have made us mute and speechless before God’s voice must break, so that we can indeed praise our Father
I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be continuously in my mouth.
And by the way, that praise of God doesn’t just go on in secret in your prayer closet.
Sing unto the Lord, a new song and his praise in the Congregation of the Saints.
If we’re so bound up in ourselves and so tight and so self-conscious that we’re not able to praise God in company with each other, where do you think we’re going to get the authority and the power and the liberty to speak about Jesus out there in the world?
Recite the Psalms. They’re beautiful!
Praise ye the Lord, praise God in his sanctuary, praise him in the firmament of his power, Praise him for his mighty acts. Praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Psalm 150: 1-2
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
And when you’ve gotten loosened up by the Spirit of the living God to praise him, then ask for a door of utterance to proclaim the gospel.
Utterance to Speak the Mystery of Christ
The only ones who can proclaim the gospel are those who have come from the throne of God. First you go to the throne, then you turn as ones who are sent, and you go forth from the throne as one sent by the living God. And the same tongue which God set free to praise him in the holy of Holies, is now put at liberty and given an utterance to proclaim to the world the marvelous thing which he has done through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus.
Now, God says, “open your mouth and I will fill it. Open it wide and I will fill it.”
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned
God will give you words, and you will know that those words came from God, even if you stutter and even if you have no eloquence at all, even if you think you ruined the whole thing, open your mouth and let God go with it, and he will. He will give you words and you will know that if your eyes are on the living God, that those words are God’s and he watches over them and they will not come back void. They will accomplish that to which he sent them, and they will point men to Jesus Christ. They will glorify Jesus and they will, by the power of the living God, create faith in Jesus in every heart where they are received.
Now for what other reason does God gather us together, but to give us utterance in prayer and praise.
And for what other reason does he send us forth from this place? Then to cause the gospel of Jesus Christ to flow from these hearts and these mouths, as rivers of living water, in a dry and thirsty land.
May God deliver every single one of us here from the idea that utterance belongs to somebody else.
Whoever you are, if you believe in Jesus, utterance is your portion.
God will give it to you and he will show you how to use it and you will answer to him if you don’t.
Let’s wait upon him in prayer.
Just asking, Father, that you will confirm the truth of the word and that you will fulfill it in the lives of those reading this today. Lord Jesus, even as you cast out the demon in the mute man, setting free that speechless man, loosening his tongue so that he could speak plainly. Grant the same to those reading this. May they experience liberty in their hearts and in their tongues to pray to you, to praise you, and to speak forth your glorious gospel out there to the world, this day, beginning this day… old and young, all of us, Father may all of us come under the authority of the spirit, as the spirit works this now in all our lives afresh, we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.
Original preached 1973 REB
Art: Art by permission. Healing Words and the Power of Words by Melani Pyke at melpyke.com. Rivers of Living Water by Melanie Havnaer at propheticart.com. Full of Grace by Fr. James Hasse at claverjesuit.org. Singing Rainbows by Eric Holmlund at ericholmlund.com
Posted July 31, 2020
THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
…..and the lack of joy in many of our lives can be traced back to just this:
We’re afraid to take hold of this promise.
We don’t want to stick our necks out anymore. What if we ask and nothing happens? Then the few drops of faith we have left will go down the drain, and we’ll have nothing.
Better to keep it vague.
Better to pray in generalities.
“Dear God, bless all the people in the world.
Bless all the brothers and sisters in the fellowship.
Help everyone in trouble.”
Oh, there was a time when we got specific and we saw fantastic answers to prayer. But then it seems we hit a season when,
– we prayed for certain things, and nothing happened,
– we cried out for that mountain to move and it was still there and we felt like fools.
So, we thought…..
Maybe those early answers to prayer were only coincidence.
Or, maybe God has withdrawn from that miraculous relationship with Him we once seemed to have.
Or, maybe when the honeymoon is over we’re not supposed to get answers to prayer in the same way.
So now we’re cautious. That boldness we once had is gone. And now our prayers are more monologue than prayer.
We still say the words,
“Lord, help us…..
Lord, give us…..
Lord, open those doors….
Lord, send forth your light.”
But we know even as we’re speaking these words, that we aren’t really expecting much to happen. All we’re doing is “saying our prayers.”
No wonder we can’t find time to pray!
No wonder our minds travel around the world and back when we’re trying to pray!
– We’re not expecting anything.
– We’re not claiming the riches of our heavenly Father.
– We’re “doing our duty.”
If we really believed that the God of this universe is listening to our prayer, that we have a heavenly Father lovingly drinking in every word we say, if we really believed that…there wouldn’t be a person reading this who’d come around with the excuse “I can’t find time to pray.”
We’d find time to pray if we had to quit eating!
Let’s admit it. Our problem with prayer is that most of the time it isn’t prayer at all.
– We don’t really believe God is listening.
– We don’t really believe God is interested.
– We don’t expect anything to come of it.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
With this promise Jesus is calling us into His prayer life, calling us into the very communion with the Father that He had during His life of flesh and blood, offering us the privilege of praying the way He prayed.
In that day you will ask in My name. I will not ask the Father for you because the Father loves you. He loves you because you love Me and believe that I came from the Father.
Everything that Jesus did for us,
– His death on the Cross,
– His resurrection,
– His ascension to the right hand of the Father,
– His outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church,
…. was done so that we might now be able to come boldly, confidently, joyfully, and with praise into the presence of God, and ask, and know that…
a loving Father is listening to every word we say.
If this isn’t happening in our lives, if we’re not coming before the Father’s Throne and asking and receiving, this means that the purpose of our Lord’s death is not being fulfilled in us. Jesus didn’t atone for our sins for some future showdown…
He atoned for our sins so that we could come into the presence of the Holy God now!
The first sign that our lives have really come under the power of His blood is that we are able to come into the Father’s presence and really pray.
– If our prayers are weak,
then our salvation is weak.
– If our prayers are weak,
our experience of our Lord’s resurrection is bound to be weak.
– If our prayers are weak,
our vision of the ascended Lamb is weak.
And when these things are weak, what can our daily walk be? How can our practice of love toward our brother be anything but weak? How can our witness to the world out there be anything but weak?
“Until now you have asked nothing in my name.”
It’s not a matter of learning certain truths about prayer and applying them, it’s a matter of entering into the mind and spirit of the Lord Jesus Himself and praying to the Father. That’s what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. Not merely tacking the magic words, “In Jesus’ name” on the end of our prayer, and hoping they will make something happen,
…. but being lifted right up into the mind of the Son of God.
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, Abba! Father!”
To pray in Jesus’ name is,
– to yield to the Spirit of the Son,
– to obey the Spirit,
– to submit to the Spirit.
Then prayer becomes…
a living, burning, unselfconscious, free communion with the living God.
And things happen!
– What we bind on earth is bound in heaven.
– What we loose on earth is loosed in heaven.
– What we claim on earth is released in heaven.
Doors open. Mountains move. Walls come crumbling down.
The prayers we see being prayed in the Book of Acts, or in Paul’s writings, or in Revelation don’t come from earth. They come from heaven. They breathe with the Spirit of Christ. Men and women of flesh praying prayers with a wisdom and a liberty which are utterly beyond them. They’re talking to the Father as they never talked to the Father before Calvary and Pentecost.
What a change we see in Peter from the old days. Now Peter is a man of divine authority and the root of that authority is inspired prayer.
– He kneels by the dead body of Dorcas and prays and calls her back to life.
– He goes up on the rooftop to pray and learns he’ll have to take the gospel to a Gentile household —an unheard-of thing.
When Peter’s in prison, earnest prayer is made to God for him by the church, and the prison opens for him.
These people weren’t just “saying their prayers”, they weren’t just holding “prayer meetings”, they were a people gathered into the name of Jesus,
– thinking with the mind of Christ,
– seeing with His eyes,
– hearing with His ears, loving with His heart,
– and, above all, inspired by His Spirit as they called upon the Father.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name.
We need to learn to enter into the name of Jesus.
We need to learn to pass out of ourselves and enter into our Lord; into His mind.
Into His will.
Into His nature.
Into His love for the Father.
Into His love for this sick race.
And pray to the Father, not in ourselves, but in Him.
There are two things we need to remember that will really help us to be in Christ when we pray:
Every prayer we pray to the Father is based on the Son’s death.
No matter what you’re asking. If you’re asking the Father for forgiveness, for peace,
or help with a financial problem,
or guidance for one of your children,
or deliverance for a brother or sister,
the basis of your prayer — the one thing that gives you the privilege of calling upon the Holy God — is the blood of Jesus.
Every time you really pray, you’re standing at the cross.
The more clearly you see that, the more boldness you’ll have.
Sometimes we go through all kinds of acrobatics to try to prove to God that we’re really sincere, or that we really have faith, that we really deserve an answer — “after all, we are more religious than most people.”! That doesn’t mean a thing. That doesn’t give you any leverage with God. It’s the fact that Jesus died and washed away your guilt that enables you to come now as a real son of the Father, a true daughter of Yahweh, and ask.
And who sent the Son to die for your sins? Who caused Calvary to happen? Why the very God you’re talking to! The same love that sent His only begotten to die is now listening to the cry of our heart!
but unspeakable love …
… that knows you by name and everything about you and is pleased to call Himself your Father!
Every prayer we pray is made possible by the Holy Spirit.
You couldn’t address a single word, or cry, or groan to the heavenly Father if the Holy Spirit weren’t moving on your mind helping you.
You don’t have it in you to pray. You have neither the faith nor the vision. It’s the Spirit of the Son poured out upon you from on high who helps you from within.
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
So when we yield to the Spirit who stirs in our hearts, we don’t pray “off the wall.” We pray with the mind of Christ. Now we ask what needs to be asked. We ask for things we wouldn’t have dared asked for or would never have thought to ask for…
…. and we receive, and our joy is full.
There are miracles hanging over our heads waiting to come down the minute we abandon ourselves to the Spirit of Christ and ask, as He leads us.
Before we can expect to go out into the world and speak forth the Word of the living God with authority, we have to learn to go into the Holy of Holies and stand before the Father in Jesus’ name, and ask and receive.
The same unbelief and fear that keep us from going out to the world with boldness are also keeping us from going into the Holy of Holies and claiming our Lord’s promise.
So, He tells us as a body, and as individuals,
whose prayers are far from the joyful, refreshing, heavenly thing they should be,
“Draw near to the Father. Don’t be afraid.”
Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name
He will give it to you.
Original: Written REB… 1973. Also found in the booklet “Broken Boldness” which is available for free, just ask.
Art: Kind permission of Cynthia Christine www.colorsofcynthiachristine.com
Pieces by Lisle Gwynn Garrity permission of Sanctified Art A Sanctified Art LLC and are found at www.sanctifiedart.org
Holy Father, Abba, we want to draw near to you without being afraid, with a living, burning love. We want to abandon ourselves to your unspeakable love, seeking the depth of joy you desire to give us. O Living God help us to truly come to you in the name of Christ. Fill us with his Spirit, so we can approach you, the Holy of Holies and receive what we ask for. Help us to see with his eyes, to hear with his ears, to think with his mind as we lay our hearts before you. May our prayers breathe with the Spirit of your Son…. his will…his nature…his love, allowing us to come boldly and confidently before you as you lovingly listen to the cries of our hearts. Lord we know you answer prayers and that miracles await us as we abandon ourselves to your Spirit, to your leading. We know if we dwell in your presence and we think, live, breathe and walk in the name of Jesus we will not only be covered by your joy but we will be able to go forth in that joy and speak it into this wandering world.
Posted July 24, 2020
BUILT ON HIS LOVE
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These closing verses of Romans 8 are a favorite passage at funerals. When we’re looking at the death of a loved one and, through that death, contemplating the moment when we too shall leave this familiar world, what a comfort to be told of a love that goes right through that door of death with us and still holds on to us!
The love of Christ which passes knowledge…
never lets go,
never dies out,
never becomes stale,
never withdraws from us in disgust.
Love that holds on to us and keeps us sane even when the whole world is falling apart, when everything else we were ever sure of turns out to be a myth.
Love that remains, though the earth be moved, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”
That there is such a love and that it does such things is the whole meaning of the gospel.
Until you taste that love you can’t possibly understand who Jesus is, or why He laid down His life for His sheep. Nor can you possibly believe that He rose from the dead.
You have to hear His voice calling you by name and experience what it means to be led by Him beside the still waters and to have your soul restored by the breath of His Spirit.
You have to taste that peace which comes over you like a flood when Jesus tells you personally that He has taken care of your sins. Your sins are forgiven … your life is healed.
If there is a reader who hasn’t tasted this love, be sure of this: Jesus who opened the eyes of the blind, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, and cast out demons wants to do no less for you. His desire is that you might experience some sign of His love, that you might know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that your God does love you and that He has given His only begotten to be your life. So Jesus sends out His call. And it goes to believers, unbelievers, seekers, hypocrites, sinners, phonies… everybody!
“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
“If any one thirst let him come to me and drink.
He who believes in me, as scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers off living water'”.
“Draw near!” “Call on my name!” “Open your heart!” “Confess your sins.” “Tell me your needs!” There’s not one of us who doesn’t need to be touched by that love.
And there’s not one of us who need go away empty.
“He who comes to me shall not hunger and he who believes on me shall never thirst.”
Jesus meets us where we are, deals with us according to our present need, manifests God’s love to us in terms that we can surely understand.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
But so often at funerals where this magnificent passage is read people overlook an important fact. They overlook the fact that to be so held and preserved by the love of Christ it’s understood that you have given yourself to that love.
You’ve said yes to it with all your heart. You’ve surrendered to it.
To stand by the coffin of a man who all his life spurned that love, and read, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” is meaningless. How can you talk about being separated from something to which you were never joined?
Yes, Jesus’ hand is a hand of love that never lets go. But to be held by it you first have to surrender to that hand. You have to answer when He calls. You have to come when He invites. You have to put your life into that hand by doing the things Jesus tells you to do.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”
You cannot say to the house built on sand, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” since the house isn’t built on the love of Christ, it’s built on sand. As long as the weather’s good you can’t see any difference between the house built on sand and the house built on rock. For all you know, beneath that lovely lawn is a foundation of granite. Nobody would dream that that life is anything but a solid, dedicated, true disciple. He appears to be doing the will of Christ. He’s going through all the right motions and saying all the right words.
Ah, but when the storm comes …. when the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat against that lovely house it falls, and its fall is great,
because it was built not on God’s love but on the sand of self.
To be more than conquerors through Him who loved us so that nothing can separate us from that love, there is one thing we have to do: we have to build our lives on that love by doing His word.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock…
Isn’t it strange how often we think that doing Jesus’ word is something hard or unpleasant, something that’s going to wear us out and dry us up.
Whereas the doing of Jesus’ word
is the gateway to life,
the threshold of constant joy.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Everything Jesus tells us to do, He tells us because He loves us.
“Stop being anxious about your life,” He says. Why does He say that?
Because He loves us.
He’s the best friend we ever had. “Stop being anxious, it isn’t doing you any good.”
“Judge not.” Why does Jesus say that?
Because He knows what judging does to us …how it warps and twists and sours our hearts.
Give to him who needs.
Love your enemies.
Don’t practice your piety before men.
These are the words of One who cares about us.
He’s telling us to do things that run contrary to our nature, but what miracles start happening in our lives when we do them. The best proof of who Jesus is, is to notice what happens to you when you start keeping His words.
- Everything Jesus tells us to do is based on the fact that we have been forgiven.
You don’t take the Sermon on the Mount and lay it on a man or woman who hasn’t been to the cross. How can a person whose heart is crushed with guilt be expected to love his enemies or forgive men their trespasses?
First, you take that person to the cross.
You show him the Author of the Sermon on the Mount hanging there for the sins of the world. You show that woman the blood which cleanses her from all sin. You call that man to repentance and offer him peace with God through the blood of the Lamb. Then you bring that person to the Sermon on the Mount and say, “Now you can do these things because God has freed you from your past and given you a new heredity.
This is how Jesus calls His forgiven ones to live, who are born of His Spirit.”
- The things Jesus tells us to do are not legalism, but life.
He’s not a tyrant spitting out rules and regulations to make your life complicated. He’s your friend, giving you truth that will set you free, raising you from the dead with His spoken word.
Even when you hear words from Jesus that seem impossible, or don’t make sense to you, just remember that the One who speaks them is closer to you than your beating heart. And He will absolutely make clear how those words apply in your case … what He wants you to do.
Notice how Jesus always connects His words with Himself. They are not some impersonal body of truth, they are part of Him and He is in them.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine…”
“If any one keeps my word he will never see death…”
“If you abide in me and my words abide in you…”
“The words that I speak to you, they are Spirit and they are life.”
And when we take hold of these words we find again and again that we are taking hold of the living Christ Himself.
- Everything Jesus tells us to do is watched over by the Spirit of God.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments and I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth.”
The Holy Spirit goes where the word of the Lord goes.
The Holy Spirit undertakes where the word of the Lord is obeyed.
The Holy Spirit moves with power where the word of the Lord is believed.
The words of Jesus are never allowed to drift out there on the sea of this world unattended. Wherever those words are, the Spirit hovers above them, ready to come down and confirm them to any heart that receives them. If the words that you now hear are truly from the Lord, you can be sure that the Spirit of the Lord is hovering above them and the minute you open your heart and receive them, and make them part of your life, and act on them, the Holy Spirit comes in behind like a mighty rushing wind to help you do them.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The question is,
have we been building our lives on that love?
If we have, the storms that are approaching will do us no harm.
If we haven’t, may God give us wisdom to listen to the words of Jesus as we’ve never listened before. And may God give us grace to do them. For it is only in the doing of Jesus’ words that we come to know that love which never lets go.
Original: Written by REB… date unknown by manager. Found in the booklet “Love” which is available upon request.
Art: All art by Melani Pyke who has a passion for bringing hope and encouragement to others through her art. Melpyke.com
Prayer- Gracious, kind, loving Jesus… We seek your perfect love. A love that will never let us go. We draw near to you now, we call your name…Jesus, Jesus… We open our hearts to you. Flood us with your love, flood us with your presence. We give ourselves over to your love, we surrender absolutely to it. We seek your forgiveness, your healing. We behold how deep your love for us is, dying for us to purify us, to forgive us. We are awed by such love. We want to embrace and follow what you teach us, because it brings us to your love. Fill us with your Spirit, so we can receive your truth, so we are empowered to live it, and so we can build our lives on your love that will help us conquer anything and never let us go.
Posted July 17, 2020
HE GATHERS, HE SIFTS
When Jesus saves, he saves all the way. He doesn’t save you for five minutes or a year-and-a-half. He saves you forever. Nor does he save you from Hell, and then let you go through the rest of your life having temper tantrums or going on weekend binges.
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away and behold, all things have become new.”
“Whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”
“He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”
From the moment Jesus Christ takes up his abode in you, and forevermore, if you walk with Him…
Your life becomes a fountain of living water in this desert-dry world.
Your mouth becomes an oracle of the living God.
Your hands, as the hands of your Lord, lift up the fallen and feed the hungry and heal the broken-hearted.
Salvation is not just a feeling; it is a life.
When you went down to the altar in some church and fell on your knees, there was a feeling of God’s presence, an inward peace. Or should you come down to the altar today and ask Christ to come into you and take over, you’ll feel relieved and clean.
But the important thing is not that feeling.
The important thing is the life, the divine life, that burns in you when you get up from your knees and start living as a reborn son or daughter of God.
The life of the Son of God in you is a life that stays with you when the going gets rough, a life that increases in purity and power as you obey its leadings. Your body ages. Your circumstances keep changing. But the life of the Son of God in you burns on and on, brighter and brighter, stronger and stronger.
Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs. The early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength.
And in the strength of God they bear fruit.
They bring forth a harvest.
They turn men from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.
These so-called “saved” Christians, who are sitting around in their spiritual plastic bags, with their hands folded and their eyes shut to reality, these so-called “saved” Christians who never lift a finger to help their fellow man, who never go half-a-block out of their way unless they smell some kind of reward for their ego or their pocket-book, who think they’re saved because they had “that feeling” once-upon-a-time. Time will test them. Time will show what they are.
Give them a little time and you’ll hear-them hollering, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
No, my friend, the proof that you are saved is not that feeling. The proof that you are born of God is that you are walking with His Son, even when His road takes you through fire. In fact, that’s why we’re put through fire; to sift out those who love Jesus Christ from those who are in love with their own emotions.
The people who stood along the road into Jerusalem that day just couldn’t help themselves, as Jesus came riding along, the multitudes singing and the children waving their palms. They were overcome by a spirit of praise. Men who’d never cried since they were children begin to weep. Women who ruled their households without ever raising their voices start shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
Who can explain it? These dead, flat, colorless people are praising God and calling this man the Messiah! Heaven has broken out-upon-that street and there’s glory all around. Their eyes are opened and they can see that this is God’s Anointed. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “That God should let me live to see this day with my own eyes! Praise His name!”
Now the same Spirit that poured out glory on that multitude has lately been stirring this church as He has never stirred this church before. I’m not saying that this is the only church where this is happening. I know that it is happening in many places in this city and across the earth. But it is happening here. Many of you sitting in this room have already been caught up in this spirit. You’ve been awakened. You’ve begun to see the Son of God with new eyes.
There’s power moving in you that you never knew before in all your days.
And some of you will be touched by this thing for the first time today. Before this service ends, something inside you will break and there will be a flood of God’s forgiveness pouring over your mind and rushing through your heart.
You will see Jesus by faith. And you will worship Him. You will fall on your knees before Him.
For some of you it will take a little longer. Perhaps you’ll awaken from a dream some night soon and you will know that the Spirit of Christ is in the room. Before long, in some way, every soul who is connected with this flock will be awakened to a new vision of the Son of God. People who never came to a bible study in all these years will start turning up at bible studies with a Bible in their hand, a Bible they suddenly begin to read and love. People, who in all these years never talked about anything after church but the weather and the latest gossip, will now be talking about the things of God.
People in this church will begin to pray for each other as never before, and for their friends and for their enemies…. and gathering here to worship God and His beloved Son will become more important to you than food and drink. You’ll want to come. You’ll have to come. It will no longer be a duty or a habit or an occasional ritual you go through to prove you’re respectable. It will be both necessary and a thing of joy.
People in the neighborhood, people among your friends will catch wind of this thing and come, and be caught up in the Spirit of God with the rest of us. Again and again you will look up and wonder if you’re “seeing things” as someone you never ever expected to see here walks in…. perhaps kneels at this rail.
How fast this thing will develop or how long it will go on I do not know. It has only barely begun and it is already glorious.
But you might as well know now that this glorious time of revival and God-consciousness and worship and praise that we have begun to enjoy will be followed by a sifting.
Jesus gathers the multitudes to Himself, gives them vision, blesses them.
Then He sifts.
He shakes that multitude.
He causes the winds of God to blow upon that multitude.
He builds a fire under that multitude and soon the dross is consumed and only the gold is left. The chaff is driven away in the wind and only the wheat is left. The half-baked souls who want a cheap salvation are offended by His words and only disciples, true disciples, are left.
If you read Matthew 21, from which today’s gospel comes, you find that as soon as He reached the Temple this King of Zion, meek and sitting upon an ass, gets off that ass, climbs the Temple steps and starts turning the place inside-out. He drives out the merchants, upsets the tables of the money-changers.
“it is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of thieves.'”
This was the beginning of the sifting.
Read through to the end of Matthew and you’ll see how that sifting goes on—how Jesus offends more and more people by calling them to turn that Palm Sunday joy into concrete living, obedience, true worship of the living God day-by-day and hour-by-hour.
And this is precisely what Jesus is going to do with the multitude He is gathering and is going to be gathering here in the coming days. He is going to gather. Then He is going to sift it down to the disciples who are serious. Then He is going to send those disciples forth to gather others and sift them down. This is, and will be, going on in many places. Until He has literally gathered and sifted this whole city and this whole earth. Then comes the End.
And there’s one thing which determines whether you will remain true or fall away when the sifting comes: your obedience.
Not your grasp of the doctrines.
Not your good intentions.
Not your strong religious feelings.
Your obedience to Jesus Christ.
You have to do more than say, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” You have to do what the Son of David tells you to do or your “Hosannas” will turn to “Crucify! Crucify!”
Obedience: In today’s gospel the disciples “went and did as Jesus commanded them.” And Jesus, riding that donkey, was doing what His Father commanded Him. He was riding that donkey toward His cross.
And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
The Kingdom of God is made up of those people who obey the Son of God— Just as the Son obeyed His Father, so we obey the Son.
We don’t just do good deeds according to our own whims.
We obey Him.
That obedience to Him is our life, our strength, our power.
As we obey Him, He lives His life in us.
As we obey Him, He manifests the Kingdom of God through us.
Please, for your own good, understand what Jesus Christ is really after as He breathes His Spirit- of glory and holiness upon us today.
– He’s glad to see our tears of repentance.
– He’s glad to see you kneeling at this rail and surrendering yourself to Him.
– He’s glad to hear you calling on His name and He will answer you and bless you.
But what He really looks for in you, as you weep and kneel and pray, is a heart that is set to obey his commandments.
It is the only thing that will hold you when He begins to sift.
Is your heart set to obey His commandments?
if you love me you will keep my commandments.
This is my commandment:
– that you love one another as I have loved you.
– love your neighbor in deed and in truth. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, welcome the stranger.
– confess me before men without shame.
– abide in me and let my words abide in you.
The blessing of Christ is for everyone. But in that blessing is a call to obey Him—all the way…with your whole life … even unto death. God help us to answer that call now, while the door is still open.
O Jesus, I confess that I have been far from what you have called me to be. I fall on my face before your Cross, name my sins, and ask to be made clean by your blood. Then give me power by your mighty Spirit to begin anew to follow you all the way, whatever the cost, to serve you wherever you put me, however you choose to use me, until the hour of your glorious appearing. Amen
Prayer- Lord keep us holding to you, obeying you as a new sifting is happening. Oh that we would never stop loving you, never turn and be of those who cry “crucify him” because the circumstances have changed and our love has grown cold. Keep us faithful and prepared for the final gathering.
Original: March 22,1970 REB, edited 2015. Also part of the booklet “Spiritual Power for the Underground Church”.
Art: All art by the kind courtesy of Colleen Briggs (Fragments of Light gallery) colleenbriggs.com
“A message that came to the flock at Messiah Palm Sunday, 1970, the day the Spirit fell as never before. It was our Pentecost. It was the day we finally caught fire with the fire of God.”
Here it is 50 years later and we are still being challenged to live the divine life God calls us to… “The life of the Son of God in you is a life that stays with you when the going gets rough, a life that increases in purity and power as you obey its leadings. Your body ages. Your circumstances keep changing. But the life of the Son of God in you burns on and on, brighter and brighter, stronger and stronger.”
Since that time there has been plenty of gathering and sifting. May once again during this sifting we are going through now, the life of God burn in us so brightly that it leads to another great gathering, a great harvest until the whole earth is gathered and consumed with the fire of God.
Posted July 10, 2020
YOUR BURNING BUSH
(Based on Exodus 2:11-3:12)
You can be sure that Moses had been a religious man all his life. Though he was raised in Pharaoh’s palace he was a Hebrew, and he never forgot that he was a Hebrew. But in those early days, Moses’ religion, like the religion of so many of us, was mixed with a thousand impulses of his own flesh.
He killed an Egyptian for abusing a Jew and figured he had done a religious thing.
It was a blundering religion that got him into trouble and finally drove him into exile in Midian.
It was a mixture of faith and doubt.
One can imagine that Moses alternated, as so many of us do, between moments of deep piety as he stood on those wild semi-desert slopes, and moments of excruciating doubt.
“Where is the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
Why does he not hear the cries of his children?
Why am I spending my life out here in this wilderness away from my people, cut off from my own soul?”
One can imagine that there were entire days when he did nothing but pray as he looked out over those flocks, whole days when he did nothing….
and question, as the years of his life kept slipping by.
Then came the day when Moses met God personally at the burning bush.
“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Now a clear road is opened up before Moses and God says,
Walk in it!
Do what I tell you!”
Moses’ days of standing around brooding and guessing and wondering are over.
Now it’s either “Go and accomplish the work that I’ve sent you to do”, or “Take your own road and the consequences it leads to”.
Like Moses, in those early days, we too may be religious and still not be getting anywhere. We say our prayers at night, and think about God, but deep within is the question;
– Is God really there?
– Are things really the way I want to believe they are?
– Does it make any difference whether I believe or don’t believe?
Sometimes you seem to have faith – strong faith – you feel as though you could move mountains. And sometimes there’s nothing but doubt. Gradually you bring your faith and doubt into balance.
Now you have what they call sane, “reasonable religion.”
You have enough faith to quiet your uneasy conscience when it starts jumping.
And you have enough doubt to keep you from turning into a fanatic.
And so you walk down the road with other decent, sensible people doing your bit for humanity and taking your share of this world’s delights.
– The branch to the right arches up into the mountains.
– The branch to the left bends down toward the mud flats.
As you stand at that fork in the road, God speaks to you.
“Take the branch to the right”, He says.
“No”, says your flesh. “Don’t be a fool, take the one to the left.”
Now you’ve come to your burning bush, the days of your neat little compromise are over. Now it’s either the way of faith or the way of doubt. One or the other.
There may be some reading these words who have already passed that fork in the road – you’ve made that crucial choice. Your life has now begun to ascend or to descend, as the case may be.
But there are many who have yet to reach that place of decision. You are travelling on your merry way – a kind of dual citizen. You have a claim on heaven, and a claim on earth. But soon, you too will come to your burning bush.
No one can tell you when or how it will be.
– It may happen while you’re sitting in your kitchen drinking a cup of coffee.
– Or when you’re standing by the lifeless body of a loved one.
– Or when you hear the crack of gunshot piercing the night in your quiet neighborhood.
– Or when you’re sitting in a chair reading the New Testament.
– It is even possible that you might arrive at your burning bush this very hour.
But when it comes, everything that happened to Moses on Mt. Horeb will happen to you.
Some ordinary thing of this world will begin to burn before your eyes like the bush which was enveloped in flames but remained green.
– It may be the face of a child in the newspaper one day that will somehow burn in your mind all day long. You won’t be able to forget it.
– Or a passage of scripture that flashes upon you with glory and brands itself on your memory.
– Or a word someone speaks to you that turns on a light in your mind.
And out of that fire – out of that light – God will begin to call your name even as he called, “Moses, Moses”.
Suddenly you’ll forget all your questions about whether there is a God or isn’t a God. And all your questions about whether the Bible is right or wrong, or whether fanatics are crazy or not. And you will know, without the shadow of a doubt, that right then and there God is calling you by name, not Preacher Jones telling you how it is – –
–God Himself calling you to open your ears and listen to what He has to say.
99 times out of 100 there will be no audible voice, no vision, no bells ringing, no angel choirs, but you will know that it is God.
“Don’t come any closer. Take off your shoes,
for the place where you are standing is holy ground”
And now you will begin to know what it means to be standing on holy ground. Whenever you are in the presence of God, in such a way that God is speaking to you, you’re on holy ground…
– you take off your shoes,
– you get down on your knees,
– you bow your head,
– and you confess your sins.
The soldier who watched Christ die,
– beat his breast,
– walked away with a shudder running through his body,
– knew that he was on holy ground!
God the Spirit was speaking in his heart as God the Son laid down his life for that man’s sins, and he was filled with awe.
Pity help the people whose eyes are open and they see that Cross and what it means, but they refuse to take off their shoes!
Pity help the people who see their Redeemer and hear His word of forgiveness, yet they stand there as if they’re at a carnival!
When God brings you up on Mt. Horeb and reveals Himself, and manifests His glory, take off your shoes and bow down before Him! Humble yourself in His sight even if it makes you look like a fool in the eyes of men.
And now, God begins to tell Moses what He wants him to do.
“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh…. there is work for you to perform, by my power.”
God doesn’t reveal himself to you so that you can sit down and write a book about your mystical experience. He reveals Himself to you to tell you what He wants you to do – to put you to work.
“You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.” (Matthew 20:4)
“You didn’t choose me, I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bring forth fruit.” (John 15:16)
If it were merely a matter of saving your soul, God would have wrapped your soul in plastic and whisked it off to heaven long ago.
” But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
….and they live the life of children of God,
….and they do the work of children of God.
“Occupy till I come!”
“Prepare the earth for my return!”
Now if you haven’t been to the burning bush, you may still be able to sit around and be pious. But once you’ve been to the burning bush you’re going to have to get out there among those people and work.
Your job is to bring them out of bondage. Get them out of the clutches of Pharaoh. Take them through the waters of remission. Show them the way to the Promised Land.
“Who am I Lord, that I should do such things?”
“What do you mean ‘who are you?’ If I say I’ll be with you it doesn’t matter who you are. Go and do what I command you!”
When Moses walked down from Mt. Horeb he was no longer a citizen of Midian, or a citizen of Egypt, or anywhere else.
– He was a citizen of Heaven.
– He belonged to a city that cannot be found on this earth…
– Whose builder and maker is God.
And for the rest of his life and forevermore,
his eyes are on Heaven,
his mind is on Heaven,
he gets his orders from Heaven,
he lives in the dimension of Heaven,
he grapples with earthly problems as he never grappled with any problem before, but he solves them with the power of Heaven.
And when you walk down the mountain from your burning bush, you too belong no longer to this earth.
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior…” (Philippians 3:20)
And, if our citizenship is in Heaven, that’s where our minds are, that’s where our eyes are.
“Our Father who art in Heaven…..”
The proof of whether or not a person is really in Christ is,
where’s their citizenship?
where do they belong?
what country are they living for?
“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. —-even though they claim to be Christians.
“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18 & 19
They’re not citizens of Heaven. Their minds and their bodies are chained to the earth.
When you walk away from your burning bush a citizen of Heaven,
…. keep your citizenship alive
…. by keeping your mind where it belongs.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
One thing is sure: Every single soul reading these words has either come to the burning bush, or will soon be there.
If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will…. soon.
When it does,
– May God help you to take that road that rises up toward that heavenly city in the distance and stay on it.
– May God help you to walk right through the troubles of this world with your eyes on Him.
– May God help you to stand before Pharaoh and his magicians and every high thing that exalts itself against God….
That you may do the work that God put you in this world to do, by the power of the Spirit he gives you to do it with.
So when the end comes for you and for this age,
you may be able to stand before Him without shame.
“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)
“Go, make disciples of all nations……”
Prayer: Precious, Holy Lord bring us to our burning bush. Bring us to the place where we prostrate ourselves in the midst of your Holiness, the place where we hear you calling us by name. May we choose to do what you call us to. Help us to take the high road, keeping our minds on Heaven and living like your sons and daughters as we face our own troubles, as we grapple with darkness, as we bring people out of bondage, and as we stand up to our own pharaoh’s. May we carry our burning bush as we journey through the days of our lives so we may stand before you without shame because we were humble and obedient to your call.
Original 1973, REB, edited 2016. Also part of the booklet “Spiritual Power for the Underground Church”. This booklet is now available for mailing. The manager is unsure if it has ever been offered in the past.
Art: All by the kind courtesy of Melani Pyke… at melpyke.com
Posted July 3, 2020
THE RESTORED VISION
To the angel of the church of Laodicea write: “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation, “I know your works: you are neither cold or hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by the fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
These strong words were addressed to the church at Laodicea, not to demoralize these believers, but to call them back to life. Here was a church that had begun to die the most dangerous kind of death – the death of the “lukewarm”, who are so comfortable they don’t even know they are dying.
How do you get back that flame? How do you restore fire to a church that has sunken into a lukewarm stupor?
Jesus says, Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by the fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
Gold refined by fire….. truth that begins to dawn on us when we feel the heat of God’s refining fire.
White garments to clothe you and keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen….. righteousness that comes from above never from within.
Salve to anoint your eyes that you may see….. vision which comes to those whose hearts are pure.
But for now, let’s just concentrate on our need for that eye salve.
I counsel you to buy from me… salve to anoint your eyes that you may see.
i.e. “Get your vision back, because if you get your vision back that lukewarm stupor will go.” Many of us can look back to a time when our vision of God was far more clear than it is now. At some point in our past, Jesus broke through the darkness of our unbelief and manifested himself to us.
We saw Him. And seeing Jesus we saw the Father.
We began to see the world around us with new eyes.
We saw the Kingdom at work in the midst of all the chaos.
We had a clear view of the road we were called to walk.
And as we walked in the light of that vision, having faith in God was easy. Being able to touch the world around us with God’s grace and healing was our joy.
But somewhere down the road our spiritual eyesight began to fade. We woke up one morning and found that our vision of God had fallen under a cloud. And instead of crying to the Father, “Father, the vision you gave me is fading! Father, I can’t live without that vision!”
No, instead of calling for help, we went on pretending that everything was normal.
We accepted our fading of this vision as a perfectly natural phenomenon.
And settled down to a dull preoccupation with…
things these eyes can see, and these hands can touch, and these mouths can eat, and drink.
Where there is no vision the people perish.
In Acts 26, Paul is standing before King Agrippa in chains. And although he is in chains giving an account of his life, Paul is the only free man in that magnificent royal meeting hall:
Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles – to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then at Jerusalem and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.
Paul is describing to Agrippa the turning point of his life, which was a vision of Jesus. This vision of Jesus came to him as a gift. It was nothing that he earned or deserved. It just came.
But when that vision came to Paul, he did two things:
He acted on that vision immediately.
He went on into Damascus. After his sight came back to him three days later, he received the Spirit, and was baptized. He then immediately went to the synagogues and began proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah!
When they were about to kill him in Damascus, he escaped. Later in Jerusalem he again bore witness. Then in Antioch, and on into the Gentile world Paul continued to obey the heavenly vision.
The Lord Jesus revealed; Paul obeyed.
Paul disciplined himself to keep that vision bright through the rest of his life.
Years later Paul discloses to the Philippians how he continues to pursue the vision. “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
He never allows the vision to fade.
And now the vision has come to us. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t deserve it. It just came.
BUT when that vision came, it was up to us to act on the vision.
As we acted…
As we responded, offering back our lives to him who had already given his for us,
As we began to worship Jesus, and thank him, and praise him, and confess his name to the Father, and to each other and to the world, and
As we began to go out into the world and practice his mercy, and show grace toward other people…
the vision became ever more clear.
The vision is not something on the outside – it’s on the inside. It’s a flame burning at our center.
Driving us like a divine obsession.
Fitting us into a plan far bigger than we are.
Joining us to the Body of Christ.
Guiding us to take good news to the poor,
and deliverance to the captives,
and sight to the blind,
and release to the oppressed.
So why didn’t the vision stay?
How come it’s not as bright today as it once was in so many of our lives?
Paul’s vision remained fresh. Years later Paul stands before King Agrippa wrapped in chains, but his vision of the Lord is brighter than it ever was…because Paul acted on that vision, not just in the first couple weeks or months, but consistently down through the years.
Once God gives us vision of his Son, it’s up to us to act on that vision, not just for the first three weeks, but through the rest of our lives. And if the vision, at any point, starts to get dull, it’s up to us to get it back.
I counsel you to buy from me… salve to anoint your eyes that you may see.
So how do we get that eye salve? How do we restore that blazing flame that once burned in our hearts?
The first thing we do is to admit that the vision is not what it once was.
It has grown dull.
It has become weak and vague.
It is eternally dangerous to go on stumbling through the darkness, pretending to have a vision that we don’t have.
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Many of us have wasted years of our lives pretending to ourselves, to each other and yes, even to God that the flame of life that once blazed inside is still there, when in fact it is not. We know all the right words to speak.
We know what motions to go through…
… motions of praise and thanksgiving.
…motions of love and care.
But what do we do if the vision has lost its power in us?
When the words we speak are empty?
When the motions we go through are hollow?
When people come to us with desperate needs and we have nothing to give?
God, help us, to admit the truth when our vision has departed!
When the flame has turned to ash.
We can only move forward when we confess the truth to our Lord Jesus.
Once we have admitted that our vision has faded, we can then ask God to restore the vision to our thirsting souls.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.
Restore to me the vision I once had! Clear my eyes so I can see once again! Put salve on my eyes, Lord God! I’ve run out of bread. A friend has come to me on a journey and I have nothing to set before him. Open my eyes, Lord, so I can see what I’m doing and minister the Kingdom to this person.
The promise is that if we ask for vision we will get it.
For every one who asks receives and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it is opened…
provided we keep at it…
The man who went to his friend at midnight did not get the bread at the first knock. He had to keep knocking, and knocking, and knocking until the dullness of his own soul, which had caused him to run out of bread in the first place, was overcome. Then the door opened for him. And this is what we have to do. We have to keep at it until we prove to ourselves, and to the Lord, that we truly want to be restored.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew in me a right spirit. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your free Spirit.
Everyone who asks for restored vision receives it –
But there’s one more thing we have to do.
As the Spirit begins to fan the dying coals with us, we need to stir them up. The Spirit blows on the coals: we stir them with our obedience. God works his life into us; we work his life out with action.
The Lord imparts the power…and by that power we obey.
Stir up the vision.
Hence I remind you to stir up the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord…
2 Timothy 1:7-8
Stir up the gift by opening your mouth and bearing witness to what you have seen.
And I tell you, every one who confesses me before men, the Son of man will confess before the angels of God…
Is Jesus talking only about the end of the age when he will confess us before the angels? Or is he also talking about now? Just as surely as Jesus lives to make intercession for us according to the will of God, he also ever lives to confess us before the angels. I confess Jesus before men boldly: Jesus confesses me before the angels.
Suddenly my eyes open and I begin to see again.
My vision is coming back.
We have opted to be, what we piously call, “silent Christians.” No wonder our vision has faded!
Our excuse is that there are so many phonies around. “You hear them testifying to Jesus, and bigotry is oozing out of their pores!” “In church their mouths are full of praise to God, but out in the rat-race they’re deceitful, and hard, and mean.” “Man, we don’t want to be lumped in with those people! We’re not going to talk all that pious talk like they do. No, we’ll go through this world like Jesus did – doing good.”
But remember that while Jesus did indeed go through the world doing good, he also opened his mouth and proclaimed the Kingdom. It was his words that shook that world. …. And got him in trouble with the religious folks.
True, the apostles went about doing good, but it was the words that came from their mouths that shook the face of this earth. And it was the words that came from their mouths that kept their vision bright.
Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then at Jerusalem and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.”
Restore unto me the joy of your salvation.
The vision will be restored, brighter than it ever was,
if we will admit that it needs to be restored,
if we will ask God to restore it, and …
if we will stir up the gift we have been given by opening our mouths and speaking the truth God has already put in our hearts.
“Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord…”
Father, father our vision of you is dimming and we are stumbling in blindness. Without the vision of you burning within us, we are poor, wretched, pitiful, blind, and naked. Open our eyes to our own emptiness…to our self-delusions, pretending we have life that is burning within us, when in truth, it’s nothing but ashes. We are not truly alive without you; we have nothing to give without you. Give us thirsty souls for you once again. Restore to us the vision we once had. Clear our eyes, put salve on them so we can burn with love for you and minister your Kingdom once again. Restore to us the joy, the pure joy of living in your salvation and sharing it with others. And Lord as you once again fan the flame within us to life, may we stir it up, feed it, by confessing your name loudly and boldly until we shake the world and our own lives with your beautiful truth.
Original publication date 2007 REB
All artwork by gracious courtesy of Melanie Havnaer. Propheticart. com … Some titles of paintings unknown by the editor.
Posted June 26, 2020
THE RENEWED MIND
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
There is a tendency among believers today to make a mistake the scribes and Pharisees made in our Lord’s day: to vastly underestimate the importance of the mind in our relationship with God. Then, and now, if people perform the correct motions on the outside, mouth the right words, follow the acceptable pattern of behavior, they are considered right with God.
Jesus stressed that the presence of God in our lives is not a matter of adhering to certain external standards of behavior. It is a matter of what’s going on inside. And when Jesus talks about the inside, whether He calls it the heart or the eye, He’s talking about the mind, the place where we think and will, where we imagine and plan.
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”
Jesus is not talking about the heart that pumps blood. He’s talking about our inner life, the place where we think and decide. When Jesus declares that the eye is the lamp of the body – (if the eye is single, the whole body is full of light ) — He’s talking about what we observe, not only with our physical eye, but with our mind.
Every time Jesus spoke He was addressing people’s minds, calling them to think thoughts totally different from what they were accustomed to.
He opened their minds to understand scriptures, showed them that what went on in their minds was what they really were.
How does a person commit adultery in his heart?
-By thinking adultery.
How does a person covet?
-By thinking covetousness.
It all begins with thinking.
Likewise, when God comes into our lives, when our minds begin to delight in God,and the ways of God, and the word of God,
– our outward life will follow.
We break conformity with the old system of this world by changing our thinking. We enter into the realm of God’s kingdom by allowing our minds, our inner life, to be constantly renewed.
“...be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may prove what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
It would be nice if one could go to some spiritual hospital, have spiritual surgery, and come out thinking godly thoughts from then on. But the renewing of the mind is a thing we have to apply ourselves to daily as long as we live. Just as we take up our cross daily and follow the lamb.
Specifically, a renewed mind;
“Mary kept all these things and pondered
(thought about them in her heart.)
“Beware of false prophets … you shall know them by their fruit.”
…this requires thought!
“Be not unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
… an idle, lazy, self-satisfied, opinionated mind cannot be inspired!
“Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”
The disciples of Jesus – male and female – may not have had much formal training but they were thinkers, their minds were active, asking questions, trying to find out.
The tendency in Christendom today is for people to swallow things without thinking, and call it faith. A well-known teacher comes along with some new insight and they swallow it whole,
…forever devouring some new teaching
– without thought,
…endlessly clinging to some old opinion
– without thought,
… or submitting to some self-proclaimed authority,
– without thought.
Why is it people so often prefer some soothing pre-chewed piece of Christian literature to wrestling with scripture?
– Because scripture requires thought!
Every word Jesus speaks (in the Old Testament as well as the New) requires thought.
“A man had two sons. The first said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward repented and went. The second said, ‘I go, Sir,’ but did not go. Which did the will of his father?”
Think! Think! Think!
The parable of the virgins, the parable of the talents, in fact all our Lord’s parables are a challenge to thought. You don’t need an IQ of 150.
A renewed mind is a mind that is ever choosing the way of the Spirit over the way of the flesh.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6
Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. II Corinthians 3:15-16
Every day there has to be a turning of the mind.
If the clock in your car fails to keep time, you reset it, and reset it, and reset it, until it stays on time.
So we keep turning the mind toward the Spirit until it stays on the Spirit.
The fact that our mind wanders is part of our old nature — the veil that lies over the mind of the Gentiles as well as the Jew. To bring the new nature into our mind we have to direct it into truth, away from the lie, — turn it!
– If our mind wanders while we’re praying, we reset our mind.
– If our mind is caught up in one of the delusions of this world, we reset it.
– We take hold of our mind and turn it away from vanity, to glory.
As time passes the ability of our mind to recognize when it’s being misled, and the power to turn from darkness to light, becomes stronger and stronger until our mind points to God like a compass points north.
A renewed mind is a mind that takes the form of a servant.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”
“He who would be the greatest among you let him be the servant of all.”
“I am among you as one who serves.”
…not a heroic servant with someone keeping notes on all the wonderful things you’re doing so they can write a book about your life and make it into a movie.
– Just a plain servant, a real servant.
When we begin to see that serving is a function and purpose for being here, we have tremendous liberty.
The mind of this world is vanity.
The mind of heaven is mercy which ever takes the form of a servant.
So I said, “Here I am! I’m coming to you as a sacrifice, for in the prophetic scrolls of your book you have written about me. I delight to fulfill your will, my God, for your living words are written upon the pages of my heart.” Psalm 40:7-8
For us it begins and ends with worship. As our minds are renewed in the Spirit of God we begin to find supreme joy in worshipping and praising God,
– for His goodness,
– for this mercy of the Lamb which is forever,
– for His revelation of Himself in Jesus,
– for the gift of His Spirit.
And as our hearts rise in worship and our tongues are set free in thanksgiving and praise we now, with renewed minds, begin to prove in daily living what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Now we begin to taste the joy of the Son in doing the Father’s pleasure, the joy of the angels in ministering to God.
Even the hard things, the monotonous things, the painful things become our delight as we serve God with a renewed mind.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
The believers who mount up on wings like the eagles,
who run and never get weary,
who walk and never faint,
are those who see the importance of waiting on the Lord with their minds.
God help us to renew our minds this day and every day, until the only mind we have is –
the free mind,
the clear mind,
the perfect mind of a child of God.
REB- Original publication date unknown. This is found in the booklet “The Renewed Mind”… which can be mailed out upon request.
Yes, Lord, we seek these free, clear minds that you ask of us. In your mercy, help us to transform our minds, change our thinking. Give us the mind of Christ; Servant minds, merciful and obedient. Rescue us from the thoughts that defile us. Help us to set any thought aside that prevents us from focusing on you, drawing close to you, in your secret place. Remove this veil that separates us from you. May we keep resetting our minds whenever our minds wander, whenever the lie tries to draw us away, help us turn our thoughts back to your truth. Give us the strength to continue turning our minds from darkness to light until our minds are locked on you. May our minds eventually be so focused on you, that our thoughts are saturated with thankfulness and praise for your goodness, your mercy, and we are set free to experience true heavenly joy. Amen.
Posted June 12, 2020
“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.” John 15:12-17
In these simple words to his disciples … not just the eleven gathered in the upper room … but to all disciples of all time, Jesus explains how we can enter into the life of the kingdom of God here on this earth.
We enter the life of the kingdom in three stages:
First, obey his commandment to love
“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me…..
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
It starts with commandments … words … from Jesus, that call us to..
radical trust in him,
We don’t really know Jesus yet, we just hear these words and we know they come from God. And we take hold of these commands which are so high and so wonderful … so far above where we are … and struggle to do them. Even when we fail and fall short — still we know that this is the way we have to go.
Oh Lord Jesus, may we love you so deeply that we have no choice but to keep your commandments, especially the commandment to love one another.
And as we keep struggling to do Jesus’ words we arrive at the second stage: friendship with Jesus.
Second, Friendship with Jesus
“He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
“You are my friends if you do what I command you.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
……friendship with Jesus.
Suddenly, in the midst of our struggle to obey his commands, Jesus comes to us and manifests himself to us as our friend. He’s not just our Master — he’s our Friend who opens his heart to us and leads us into the very heart of God. Now the kingdom of God becomes for us much, much more than a set of wonderful commands.
– It’s fellowship with God the Son … heart-union with Christ so rich and so comforting that all our fears are driven out by this burning love of Jesus.
Beloved Jesus, in our struggle to obey you. Manifest yourself to us. Become our dearest friend. Open your heart to us…lead us to the very heart of God.
And in the power of that love we begin to love each other and to reach out to the wounded world.
Which is the third stage: fruit bearing.
Third, Fruit Bearing
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.”
So now in union with Jesus,
– we’re bearing fruit,
– we’re asking the Father for life for others… and getting it,
– we’re loving each other with the love of God.
Our friendship with Jesus moves us out into the world with
– prophetic words,
– signs of hope,
– power to overcome evil,
– power to set the captives free.
Jesus in the power of your love and friendship, pour life into and out of us so we may bear abiding fruit. In your love… may life, healing, hope pour out of our lives and mouths, may captives be set free, may evil be overcome.
- The commands of Jesus.
- Friendship with Jesus.
- Bearing fruit in the name of Jesus.
In describing the kingdom life in this way we’re not ignoring the cross. The cross of Jesus was the event which made these things possible … the fountainhead from which all this life springs. And as we walk with Jesus we learn to know him — not only in the power of his resurrection, but in the fellowship of his sufferings we become like him in his death as we lay down our lives.
But we only begin to see the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection as we come to know Jesus himself in these three stages.
“You keep talking about Jesus as if it’s possible to know him in a personal way here on earth, yet scripture tells us that Jesus is at the headquarters of the universe in heaven … that we are to look for his return.
So how can he be ‘here’ and ‘there’ at the same time?”
“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to stay on this earth until he (Jesus) returns and that the Spirit will convey Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ life.
Where the Spirit is, Jesus is.
So it is the Spirit, the living, burning Holy Spirit of God, who brings us along on these three stages….
…… as fast and as far as we allow.
– It is the Spirit who wipes away the distance between earth and heaven, who opens our eyes and enables us to see the unseen.
– It is the Spirit who brings us into the first stage by causing the commands of Jesus to burn with fire in our hearts.
– It is the Spirit who brings us into the second stage by enabling us to truly know Jesus as our friend.
– It is the Spirit who leads us into the third stage by anointing us with power to bear fruit in his name.
Jesus we need your Spirit to bring us along, to carry us into the life you call us to. Give us your Spirit so that our eyes are open and we can see the unseen. Give us your Spirit so that your commands burn within our hearts.Give us your Spirit so we can know you as our dear friend. Give us your Spirit so we are anointed with the power to bear fruit in your name. May we allow your Spirit to take us faster and deeper not holding back anymore.
So, the first stage becomes the call of the Spirit.
The Spirit calls us through the words of Jesus.
“It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh is of no avail.
The words that I have spoken to you, they are Spirit and they are life.”
So we hear Jesus’ words spoken by someone, or we read the Sermon on the Mount in the Bible, or we wake up in a crisis and recall one sentence or one phrase from his mouth.
And we grab hold of those words.
“That’s what I want! I want to make those words real in my life!”
We may not realize it at the time, but this is the Holy Spirit calling us out of darkness into God’s light. The Spirit is quickening the words of Jesus to our minds and wills. And as we struggle with those words trying to do them … and perhaps failing … and wondering how in the world he can ever expect us to live them, we’re starting to love Jesus—starting to love him.
Oh Lord may we hear the call of your Spirit like never before. May that call draw us close to you, may we grab hold of your words. May love for you pour into our hearts as we realize the truth and beauty of your words.
The second stage becomes the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is when we are flooded and filled and overwhelmed by the love of Jesus … when we really begin to know Jesus as our friend.
To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:3-5
And when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit they knew the friendship of Jesus from within …they knew Jesus as they never knew him before.
And for anyone reading this to whom this hasn’t happened yet,
– you should expect it,
– ask for it,
– open your heart to receive it.
John baptized with water … Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
He floods you with the life of God and specific things begin to happen to you.
– Suddenly Jesus is right there and you know that he’s your friend he’s with you, he loves you, his hand is on you.
– And with that wonderful awareness of the presence of Jesus, the scriptures open. Things in the Bible that never made sense before now begin to fit together.
– Prayer begins to flow from you with a freedom and a power you never knew before.
– Your tongue is set free and you find yourself giving testimony to Jesus.
Perhaps there are some people reading these words to whom this all happened some years ago, but now it’s like a fire that has almost gone out.
– Stir it up!
– Put some kindling on it.
– Get down on your knees and coax it until those coals which are almost out … begin to glow once more and burst into flame.
The Holy Spirit was given to you so that you could know Jesus and love Jesus and serve Jesus, not just for a year-and-a-half, but forever.
Lord Jesus, flood us, overwhelm us with your love. Flood us with life. Open our hearts to the beauty, power and truth of your scriptures. Relax us into the tender embrace of your friendship… so that we can coax back to life even the tiniest of flames, so that our prayers unleash holy power, so our tongues are finally set free.
The third stage becomes walking in the Spirit.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit,”
– You’ve been baptized in the Spirit,
– You’ve been brought into union with Jesus,
… so now you can do those commands which before were impossible.
You can love your enemy,
you can go the second mile,
you can be pure,
you can get rid of your grudges.
Now it’s not simply friendship with Jesus out in the desert away from the hassles, now it’s friendship with Jesus in the midst of the pressures, confusion, and trials of life.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should abide. So that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give it to you … “
….” even power to obey the commandment to love one another.”
Lord may we be so filled with the power of the Spirit..that we walk with you at all times. May we step forward willing to go the second mile, committed to loving our enemies, letting go of our grudges, May we walk in the power and confidence of your friendship in the midst of all things. Thank you dear Lord for choosing us, anointing us, drawing close to us and giving us the gift of bearing fruit.
And so we go out into the world in unity with each other.
– We go out with prayer in our hearts.
– We speak those same gracious words of Jesus that drew us into the kingdom.
– We speak those words under the authority of the Spirit.
– We speak them as friends of Jesus who are walking with Jesus and know Jesus.
And people are drawn just as we were drawn … we bear fruit.
Each of us may be in the kingdom of God at one of these stages….. right now.
– At very least we can take hold of Jesus’ commands and start to do them by answering the call of the Spirit.
– We can enter into friendship with Jesus by opening our hearts to the power of the Spirit.
– We can get under the yoke with Jesus and start to bear fruit by walking in the Spirit.
Consider these words from John 15 one more time … remember that these words of Jesus are addressed to us today. And as we respond to them we will certainly experience the life of the kingdom of God.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
This I command you, to love one another.”
Original sermon 1982 REB. This is found in the booklet “LOVE”… which can be mailed out upon request.
All art from the generous heart of Ineke Hopgood inekehopgood..weebly