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August 2019

THE RETURN

 

 

One night in the near future, after a time of severe upheaval on this earth (a time which has already begun) you are awakened by the sound of voices in the street.   You look out the window and see crowds of people gazing at the sky.  

 

It’s the middle of the night, yet there is this perfect rainbow, bright as day hovering above the earth.   What does it mean?  

 

All over the planet people are looking up and seeing a rainbow.   On the dark side of the earth it shines with an eerie light. On the daylight side of the planet it’s so bright, it hurts your eyes.

People are weeping for no reason at all.  Men who never shed a tear are sobbing like babies. 

 

What’s going on?

 

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, 

and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn.”

  Matthew 24:30       

 

Beneath the rainbow there’s a tiny point of light which becomes larger and brighter until everybody can see what looks like a huge cloud made up of living beings in dazzling brilliance, suspended out there in the heavens. It’s drawing near.  At the head of this multitude is a being of unspeakable splendor as his glory mysteriously surrounds the planet. 

 Nobody doubts who it is.  Everybody knows.

 

And now the weeping is mixed with shouts of joy, as the earth trembles and the sea roars, and the graves burst open.  

 

“And he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

 

Many of us repeat those words of the Apostles Creed every Sunday with sober faces.   Do we realize what we’re saying?  

 

 “And he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

 

Jesus puts it this way….

Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

                                                         Matthew 24

 

If we’re having trouble wrapping our minds around the idea of Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven, we need to listen more closely to how Jesus describes reality.   Jesus teaches that there is another world which penetrates this world of space, time and matter. This other world cannot be observed, weighed, or measured by the Hubble telescope or by any scientific instrument.  This other world, says Jesus, is the real world. 

 

From time to time, at God’s pleasure, this other world breaks through to our world, and strange things happen.   

People are suddenly healed.  

Stony hearts melt.  

Eyes open to see beyond the visible.  

When Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God, he is talking about this other world

—-which pervades this world, and actually surrounds you, as you read these words.

 

One day soon our transient world will give way to the real world, God’s World.  

Then everybody will know who Jesus is.

 

Meanwhile we need to get two things clear:

 

1.            Everything that happens in this world is moving it toward a Climax.   When the Climax arrives, we will all be there—the living will be changed and the ones we think of as dead will be alive.   Then will begin the Final Sorting Out, by One who makes no mistakes, and by his servants. 

 

2.            The second thing we have to get clear is that God is now giving us all a fair chance to be on the right side of things when the Climax comes. On that Day, nobody will want to be on the wrong side of things.

 

It’s amazing how many people who say they believe in Jesus, completely ignore the things he tells us about the Last Day.   Yet everything Jesus taught and did, right up to his death and resurrection, was aimed at preparing us for the Last Day.

 

Because— to enter the new world when it arrives,  to be a part of things when a Garden of Eden—a place of unspeakable beauty—- opens up before our eyes, we have to be right with God and with our neighbor. 

 

“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, 

you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

                                         Matthew 5:20

 

When the Kingdom of Heaven arrives in fullness, and this world is transformed into what it was always meant to be, those who are ready will enter this magnificent world.  Everybody else will languish in what scripture calls the Outer Darkness, the Second Death.

 

When we pray:

 

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”,   

 

we are acknowledging that at this hour, God’s will is not being done on earth as it is done in heaven.  But soon these days of sorrow and pain will end. The Kingdom of God will be here in fullness.

 

Until then, we need to remember that everything in this world is temporary.  

Our bodies are temporary.  

Our health is temporary.  

Our money in the bank, our aches and pains.   

Soon it will all be gone. 

The only permanent thing within our reach at this moment is the Kingdom of God, which is closer to you than your own breath, as you read these words.  At this moment the Spirit is saying, “The door is wide open.  Now is the time to focus on God’s Kingdom.”

 

And the door to the Kingdom is this mysterious thing called Calvary.   Just as the Sign of the Rainbow will one day surround the earth, so the redeeming power of the cross now circles the earth as the door to God’s World.  Even if we don’t understand the cross, (who understands it?) we need to draw near to the cross, open our hearts, and begin to breathe the air of the world to come.

 

Somehow, when we draw near to that mysterious Event, when all the evil of the earth was funneled into the death of God’s Incarnate Heart—the atmosphere of the World to Come surrounds us.

 

This is why the Spirit of God keeps calling out to us,

 

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

“Look unto him and be saved, all the ends of the earth.”

 

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth (on the cross) will draw all people to myself.”

 

The essential message is this: Come to the door of God’s Kingdom, while there is still time. Enter God’s world through the forgiveness of the Lamb, and you will find yourself in the realm of the world to come.

 

This is his message to us, and to the whole human race.  But who’s paying attention? Seems like everybody’s busy doing their own thing. 

 

The call is going out, “Wake up!  It’s getting late!” But everybody’s busy telling their Facebook friends what they had for breakfast.

  

Long ago, there was this crazy guy building a huge boat on dry land far from the ocean.  

 

“What are you doing, Noah?”

 

“Can’t you see? I’m building a boat.”

 

“But the Ocean is far away.  Why are you building a boat up here?”

 

“There’s going to be a flood.” 

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

“They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the flood came and swept them all away.”

 

“Okay, so God told Noah there was going to be a flood.   Why didn’t God tell everybody?” God was telling everybody through Noah.   The word got around about this crazy man, preparing for a flood. He was the butt of jokes on all the talk shows.  Who could imagine that in this monotonous world, where things never change, that there would be a flood?

 

“….until the flood came, and swept them all away.”

 

This time God is giving the whole world an unmistakable heads-up.  

 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.

                                                        Matthew 24:14

 

This is not theory.  The Spirit of God is trying to shake us out of our slumber, as I write these words, and as you read them.  Calling us to wake up and pay attention. Because the Day of the Lord is near.

 

But why are you making it so complicated? (You say.)  We’ve always been taught that when we die we go either to heaven or to hell.  That’s it. Who cares about the end of the world? Who ever thinks about the Last Day?

 

According to Jesus there’s more to it than “going to heaven when you die.”

 

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

                                                       John 5:28-29

 

“So what happens to me, if I die tonight?” you say.  “Where do I go?”

 

Jesus tells us that when we die, we become more conscious than we were when we were alive.  The Rich Man and Lazarus knew exactly what was going on after they died—the Rich Man knew he was in Hades; Lazarus knew he was in Paradise.   But they were both incomplete. They were without bodies. Then, on the Last Day, according to Jesus’ teachings, the Rich Man and Lazarus will emerge into a new state of being.

 

—-those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, 

and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

 

So the goal of your life and mine is the Last Day, the day when the Lord returns and everything is sorted out. The Day when the will of God will finally be done on earth as it is done in heaven.  

The Day when this world becomes a place of unspeakable beauty and splendor. 

 

The life you and I live right now has a double destination: 

 

First, the life we now live will determine where we go immediately after we die, if the Lord doesn’t come in the meantime.

 

Secondly, the life we now live will also determine where we fit when this troubled world gives way to the new world of God’s Kingdom.  When the “trees clap their hands, and the dry places gush with crystal fountains, when the mountains and the hills sing for joy!”

 

Here’s the part we need to focus on:   If we enter the Kingdom of God now, we are already breathing the air of the Last Day.   If we are living now under the power Jesus’ resurrection, we are the new Noah.  We are preparing ourselves, and anyone who will listen to us, not for a flood, but for the final fire of Judgment …and the glory beyond.  

 

The world looks at us and says, “You guys are crazy!” 

 And all we can say is, “The door is open..  Come on in, while there is still time.”

 

The door is open to what?  

 

To the Kingdom Ark.

 

Noah built an ark.  Our ark is already built.   When Jesus rose from the dead, his risen body became the new Noah’s Ark, which will survive the coming fire of judgment.  And that Body quickly grew into something more: a Body made up of many souls, which we call the Body of Christ, including that motley crew where you gather in Jesus’ Name.    

Such as we are, our fellowships are part of the New Noah’s Ark, where the King who will be revealed on the Last Day is already at work. 

 

So when they mock us and say, “Why are you wasting  your time in that rickety boat?” we answer, “You better get on board, while there is still time!”

 

Will we still be here, when the Sign of the Son of Man appears in the heavens?   Will we look up in the middle of the night and see the rainbow? Only God knows.  

 

But whenever that Day comes, if we walk in his steps, we will be gathered from wherever we are to take our place before the One who died for us all, and calls us now to receive his Grace and walk in it.  

 

“And he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

 

                                

Prayer

Dear precious Lord, your return is with us now as we embrace your cross. May we breathe and exude the air of your Kingdom now.  Sweet Lamb of God, the power that lies in your gift to us is unspeakably beautiful and holy… the true gospel of loving, redemptive sacrifice. There is no power living or dead, on heaven or on earth that can overcome it. May we rise up and truly live in the power of your redemption, so that your testimony will be spread throughout the world before your imminent return. Lord, grant that we may bow down in humble adoration and release that power to the world now. 

July 2019

REST FROM UNREST

 


There was a time when the stars made music as they traveled in their courses like a giant choir out there in space, a time when the whole universe was filled with joy.

 

Until one day a seed of suspicion was sown among the stars; and each was told that other stars were trying to outshine it.

 

Suddenly the music stopped.

 

The festival of joy became a contest in vanity.

Some of the brighter more “intellectual” stars began to attract to themselves lesser stars who would say, “You’re the brightest star in the universe!  What a privilege it is to shine in your presence!”

 

Gradually the din of competition began to degenerate into a divided universe, descending, at last, into outright war.

 

Far off in one of the darkest regions of the universe, billions of light years away,so far away from the other stars that only God knew it existed, was a tiny star, unaware that a tragedy had occurred.

 

This tiny star went right on shining to God’s glory.

It had no thought of trying to outshine others.

It never felt neglected.

It just kept shining to the glory of its Creator. 

And as it did, it created music that spread through the dark vastness until it reached the other stars.

 

When the music from this one little star was heard among the warring ones, some of the warring stars stopped their fighting and began to weep.

 

For the first time in centuries these weeping stars tasted inward peace.  

They became so homesick for the blessedness they once knew that they gave up all thoughts of fighting and began to sing once more to the glory of God.

 

 

“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”      

 Matthew 11:28-30

 

The rest Jesus is talking about is not the rest of idleness. The laborers standing idle in the marketplace were far more restless in their hearts than those who were working hard in the vineyard. Nor is the rest Jesus talks about a rut of boredom. There are people who get up in the morning, have their breakfast, go to work. They come home in the evening, have their supper, watch television until 10:30, have their cocoa, go to bed; get up in the morning have breakfast, go to work, come home have their supper, watch television have their cocoa,

go to bed. 

 

On and on and on, for what? That’s not rest.

 

Nor is the rest, to which Jesus calls us, a cop-out.  There are those who are forever quitting the rat race, not because they see it as a rat race, but because they are losing — so they pick up their marbles and go home. They think they are out of the rat race, but they are deceived—they still have no peace.

 

The rest to which Jesus calls us is the mysterious peace….

which comes to a person when the heart is focused on God alone.

 

When the heart is settled—fixed on just loving him.

 

Most of us have no conception of how restless, how unsettled, seething, troubled and anxious we are within until we taste the rest which comes from God.  

 

God’s rest is inner peace, the end of the war within.

 

Once you have true rest, you can live with all kinds of pressure, you can work so hard that your half dead at the end of every day—and still your spirit is never weary; your soul never faints.

 

You go from strength to strength.

You mount up on wings as eagles.

You run and are not weary. 

You walk and never faint.

 

 

 

This is the rest Jesus enjoyed through all his trials. He was resting in his Father’s will in the midst of slander, envy, threats, and anger. Jesus never lost his inner peace. Whether he was laboring in prayer, teaching, feeding the multitude, or healing the sick, he was inwardly at peace.  Whether he was asleep in the storm-tossed boat, or hanging on the cross, inwardly Jesus was flooded with the Father’s peace. 

 

His spirit kept burning — 

like the star out in the darkness of space — to the glory of his Father.

 

And this inward peace he longs to give to each of us.

 

“Come to me all you who are inwardly laboring, who are heavy laden … troubled, upset, confused and disturbed, and I will give you rest. 

 

The rest which Jesus offers us, even now, takes specific forms:

 

1. The Rest of His Lowliness… from the unrest of vanity

 

If we will let him, Jesus will bring us from the unrest of vanity into the rest of his lowliness.

 

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.

There can be no rest for us as long as we think that we have to “be something” in the eyes of men. How can there be peace, when inwardly we know how childish, how vain, petty and frail we are? 

 

Yet we think we have to make the world around us see us as persons of distinction.   At the same time there is the constant anxiety that a gust of wind may suddenly blow off our mask.

 

The thing which unsettled people concerning Jesus was that he was the only one in Israel who walked without a mask. Everybody had a mask.

 

Some masks were beautiful.

Some were hideous.

Some were angry.

Some were ugly.

 

But here’s a man with no mask!  What’s wrong with him?!

 

“Take my yoke upon you, learn from me how to live without a mask.”

 

To live without a mask is not an external matter. 

It’s a matter of the heart. 

 

The minute you pull your outer mask off, another one will grow — as long as your heart is enslaved to a spirit of pretense.

 

Your mask is a sign of a puffed-up heart.  It will be there as long as your heart is inflated.

  

Let your heart come down to size and the mask will disappear.

 

My heart comes down to size when I am willing to settle for shining with God’s glory in whatever out-of-the-way spot in his universe he chooses to place me — 

 

— when all I want to do is shine for him, like that star in the middle of nowhere. 

 

When I am willing to do quality work, even when there is no one around to appreciate it.

 

When I am willing spend myself for his glory, do what needs to be done, even if there’s no one to see my “sacrifice.”

 

When I am actually able to praise God that he has put me where only his eye can appreciate what I am doing.

 

When I come to this place, I have peace.

2. The Rest of Trusting God…from the unrest of fear

Jesus will bring us into rest if we allow him to bring us out of the unrest of fear into the rest of trusting God.

 

When the disciples cry out to him in the boat as it’s about to sink, “Master, save us!” he calls them into the rest of faith.

 

“Why are ye fearful, O ye, of little faith?”

 

Perhaps there is someone reading these words who is anxious about tomorrow… about your health, your job, your family, your children … in this dangerous world. 

 

The Lord is saying to you, “Fear not, only believe. Do your work well. Do everything that is within your power. Be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove … and leave the rest to your Heavenly Father.”

 

Know that your Father will watch over you. 

He will not suffer your foot to be moved.

3. The Rest of Dwelling in His Mercy…

              from the unrest of anger

If we will let him, Jesus will bring us out of the unrest of anger into the rest of dwelling in mercy.

 

Many of us are so full of anger toward people who have wronged us, so full of blame toward those who put us in these “circumstances,” we can’t possibly have peace in our hearts.

 

How easy it is to remember the wrongs that have been done to us, while we pass blindly over the kindness we have received — often from the same people! Think of the kindness which has been shown us—without strings.  Think of the total strangers who appeared just when we were at our wit’s end, who helped us with such grace! People who happened to “show up” people who spent time, effort, even money, helping us out of our predicaments — and never asked for a thing in return.

 

Behind these people is a God who, like the Samaritan, appears out of nowhere to rescue us.  

The God of all mercy! 

 And the incarnation of that mercy is Jesus, who takes the blame that should have been ours upon himself and washes it away with his own suffering!  

Who ever since, has shown us nothing but mercy, 

if we have eyes to see it. 

 

But the Lord Jesus wants to do more for us. 

Not only does the Lord Jesus show us mercy,

he wants to teach us how to dwell in mercy. 

 

 

To bring us out of the kingdom of blame and anger…

 into the Promised Land of Rest, where mercy reigns.

 

4. The Rest of a Concentrated Life …

       from the unrest of wandering thoughts

Jesus will bring us out of the unrest of wandering thoughts into the rest of a concentrated life.

 

From where our thoughts are forever flying off into ten different directions to the place where we are focused — where we are able to concentrate on just loving God.

 

You’re trying to pray.  After the first ten minutes, your thoughts begin to wander.  You have entered the realm of fantasy.  You begin to rekindle old fires that should have been extinguished long ago.  Suddenly you wake up and realize what’s happening. 

 You cry out for help, and the Lord comes to you once again with a living Word, beside which those wandering thoughts become pale.

 

In a certain city there was a garden owned by a billionaire. In this garden were magnificent flowers that could be seen nowhere else on the planet. People crossed continents to see these flaming reds and beautiful blues, these blazing orange blooms.  The flowers themselves were aware of how unique they were.  After all, aren’t we the most beautiful garden on earth?  Don’t people come from miles around to see us?

 

One day the flowers began to argue over which of them was the most glorious.

 

Three miles from the billionaire’s garden was a slum. In the slum was an alley, which reeked of filth, flies, broken bottles, smelly cans, stray cats.

 

Yet one flower managed to push through the filth … and bloom.

A little girl came wandering down the alley, covered in dirt from head to toe. When her eyes fell on that flower, her face beamed. And the flower beamed right back.

 

Do you think that flower ever had the slightest twinge of envy toward the flowers three miles away in the billionaire’s garden?

 

If, wherever we find ourselves, we settle for simply living in God’s love, focusing on his glory 

— everything around us will be touched with healing; 

— everything within us will be filled with rest.

 

The One who can teach us to live this way …

is closer to you at this moment than the air you breathe.

 

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”                                   

Matthew 11:28-30

Prayer

Magnificent, Perfect Lord, you who are closer to us than the air that we breathe… bring us into your rest. Bring us into the peace that comes from focusing on you with all our hearts, the peace which will keep our lives singing a beautiful song to you. A song that will cause others to sense your beauty and majesty. Lord save us from the unrest of our vanity, bring our hearts down to size so that the masks of pretense we wear disappear, and we are content to shine with your glory, wherever you put us. Loving Lord save us from the unrest of fear, into a faith that is all trusting, knowing all is well within your hands.  Oh God of Mercy, save us from the unrest of anger, blame and bitterness, draw us into living your mercy where we will find true rest. Dear God, bring us out of our wandering thoughts, our confusion and help us to concentrate on loving you. And may we like the flower that blooms despite the filth and despair around it, beam with your radiance and glory bringing healing and rest to all who wander our way.

June 2019

OVERCOMING HOPELESS SITUATIONS 

Everybody on this earth has to deal with their share of hopeless situations … 

hopeless in the sense that it can’t work out the way you want it to.

If your car throws a rod in the middle of nowhere at 2 in the morning in zero weather, the hope of getting it running again that night is futile…all you can do is try to flag down a ride to safety.

If your restaurant business is thousands of dollars in the hole and nobody will give you any credit, you may have no choice but to close down the restaurant. 

If a woman has a husband who refuses to get help for his problem and abuses her and the children every night when he comes home from the bar, she might have to take the children to a safer place before one of them gets killed.

Our normal approach to a situation, once we’ve concluded that it’s hopeless, is to get out. The ship is sinking, here’s a lifeboat, for goodness sake let’s get in it and shove off.

But once we’ve come into the Body of Christ and share in the life of the Kingdom of God, our whole idea of what a hopeless situation is and what to do about it has to change.

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock (your confession) I will build my church,  and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

Matthew 16:18

 

If there’s any place that’s hopeless, it’s the place called Hades, the region of the dead.

When the rich man landed in Hades whatever hope he had was soon drained out of him.

“Father Abraham, please send Lazarus That he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.”

– “Sorry, it can’t be done.”

“Then please send him to my father’s house to warn my brothers about this place.”

– “Sorry, it wouldn’t do any good. If they aren’t listening to Moses and the prophets, they wouldn’t listen to a man returned from the dead.”

I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

My church will crash those gates …

My church will conquer the kingdom of hopelessness. 

It will specialize in overcoming hopeless situations.”

The wedding feast at Cana was a hopeless situation.  They’d run out of wine….so Jesus turns the water into wine.

The night of fishing when Peter caught nothing was a hopeless situation.  So Jesus says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch,” …he’s never seen so many fish.

The widow whose only son was being buried was in a hopeless situation. He was her only means of  support. There was no Social Security. So Jesus says, “Young man, I say to you arise.”  And the dead man sat up and began to speak; and he de­livered him to his mother.

On Good Friday the disciples of Jesus were in a hopeless situation. They had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel….  Now he’s dead. 

On the third day Jesus came and stood in their midst alive from the dead and said, “Peace be with you.” ….”On this rock I will build my church and the gates of death will not prevail against it.”

When the Body of Christ is about the business it was called to…. it’s always down in the valley of the shadow, ramming it’s way through the gates of death, overcoming one hopeless situation after another.

This was the thing which baffled the Pharisees … and still baffles them.

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Why does Jesus forever hang around with…

 the hopeless people of Hopeless Alley? 

Because that’s what he came to do!  He came to overcome

– the hopeless situation of sin,

– the hopeless bondage of death,

– the hopeless tyranny of Satan, the accuser.

The problem with us is that we still haven’t caught on to the fact that the hopeless situation is to be our normal environment … not so that we can walk around and moan, but so that we can conquer it and move on to another one. 

Instead, we still tend to react as sons and daughters of Adam.

– When the situation looks hopeless we either try to run away or we throw up our hands in despair and sink.

If we’re in a hopeless situation and we’re satisfied that it’s not because of our own rebelliousness, then we need to see that the Lord himself put us into this situation for one reason:

– to overcome it,

– to conquer it,

– to break those gates of death,

– to throw down those strongholds of Satan.

Jesus stood on the brow of the hill, looked down over Jerusalem and wept.  Beneath him was a hopeless city. It had killed the prophets of old, rejected every messenger God had ever sent.

How Jesus had longed to gather its people together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!  But they refused. So what does Jesus do?  Walk away?  No, he goes straight into that city and offers himself as the atonement for its arrogant sin. Jesus entered the temple.  It was polluted with the smell of animals being sold, corrupted with the clink of money, hot with the atmosphere of greed … a hopeless situation … the House of Prayer degraded into a den of thieves. 

Does he walk away? 

He goes straight into that situation and conquers it.

And we are called by Jesus to do the same thing.

To go straight forward into the hopeless situation and overcome it.

“Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Don’t let Satan give you a hard time, you give him a hard time!”

For though we live in the world  we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God,  and take every thought captive to obey Christ….

II Corinthians 10:3-5

 

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life; which is in the paradise of God.

  Revelation 2:7

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who conquers shall not be hurt by the second death.

                                                            Revelation 2:11

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna.

                                                            Revelation 2:17

He who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, I will give him power over the nations.

 Revelation 2:26

– Conquers what?

Conquers the lie of hopelessness … the lie that to survive in this world we have to compromise with evil.

– To demolish that lie.

– To break through those gates of death.

– To destroy those strongholds of Satan.

So, how do we do it?

First, we overcome the hopelessness within us by exer­cising our faith in Jesus. Notice that before our Lord preached one word or performed one healing, he first dealt with hopelessness at the door of his own heart in a wilderness battle with Satan.

“Are you sure you’re the Son of God?

 How do you know you’re not just another insane man.

If you’re the Son of God command these stones be made bread … jump from this pinnacle … The devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

And in each case Jesus confessed faith in his Father

and overcame Satan.

 In a similar way we’re now overcoming Satan in the wilderness of our hearts

 by confessing and living faith in Jesus.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world  but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

                                                                    I John 5:4-5

– The victory that overcomes the spirit of hopelessness, which is this world, is our faith in Jesus.

So you wake up in the morning feeling hopeless…already it looks like another dead-end day. 

You overcome this hopelessness by turning the heart away from the darkness and toward the light.

“Jesus, you are the light of the world. You are the light of my life. You are my hope.  I do not step into this day alone, I step into this day with you. And in your name, I take charge of my own heart and refuse to let it be troubled or afraid.”

We overcome the hopelessness within us by faith in Jesus.

Second, we overcome the hopelessness around us by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testi­mony, even if we lose our lives in the process.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb  and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

Revelation 12:10-11

 We conquer the hopeless situations around us by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.

The thing that makes these situations hopeless is the presence of Satan in them. 

Where Satan is present….

 death is present, sin is present, lies abound, fear rules the atmosphere.

Drive Satan out of that mess and immediately hope returns.

And there are two things that will drive Satan out of any situation;

  1. The blood of the Lamb.
  2. The confession that Jesus is Lord.

So we point to that blood, reminding Satan that he can’t stand the sight of it or the thought of it. That blood forces him to admit his defeat at Calvary.

Nor can Satan stand the simple confession that Jesus is Lord.

– He gets upset.

– He gets violent.

– He starts playing dirty.

But he will be defeated by that testimony.

When Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers to give testimony to his Father’s holiness,  he knew it would cost him, but he also knew that he would conquer.

When Jesus headed into Jerusalem to give testimony to his Father’s mercy, he knew it meant laying down his life …

… but he also knew he would conquer.

We will conquer,

    – when in Jesus’ name we quit being scared,

    – when we love not our lives even unto death,

… and we begin to give a word of testimony to the world around us, 

… even if it means rejection, even if it means danger or death itself.

Far too long we’ve allowed the hopeless situations in which we find ourselves… to turn us into a hopeless people.

God help us to conquer these hopeless situations…

 -casting down imaginations

 -and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,

 -taking every thought captive to obey Christ.

God help us to break through those gates of death and set the captives free.

Prayer

Holy Father give us the faith to conquer hopeless situations in our lives. Instead of running away or sinking in despair, may we overcome them by your blood and our confession of complete faith in you. We call to you and take up your cross, no matter what the cost. Instead of fearing and agonizing over hopeless situations, may we overcome them by crashing Satan’s stronghold on our minds. Help us turn our hearts away from darkness. Help us overcome evil with good. We repeat the prayer in the reading…

 

Jesus, you are the light of the world. You are the light of my life. You are my hope.  I do not step into this day alone; I step into this day with you. And in your name, I take charge of my own heart and refuse to let it be troubled or afraid.”

May 2019

THE ULTIMATE COMMITMENT

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.    

Mark 10:32a

Jesus was ahead of them because he knew exactly where he was going. He was leading them to a place where they would behold the love of God with their naked eye….

– where every chain would break and they would be free men and women,

– where they would be absolutely flooded with the life of God.

There was a door up ahead on that road that would do all this and more

… it was called Calvary. If he could keep them with him all the way to Calvary, their lives would be changed forever.

But they would have to stick with him.

 Jesus could see that their courage was starting to fail.

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.

If there’s any verse in scripture that describes the Body of Christ … at least as we find it where we are … it’s this verse.

Jesus is walking ahead – the twelve and all the other followers of Jesus are lagging behind. Why are they lagging behind? Because they’re amazed at Jesus … he’s heading for Jerusalem … and they’ve been told by all the people who should know that if Jesus shows up in Jerusalem for this Passover there’s going to be trouble.

The disciples are lagging behind because they’re afraid.

“If we go up to Jerusalem with him and he gets in trouble, what’s going to happen to us?”

Peter tried to tell him,

“Lord, you’re heading the wrong way. Let’s go back to Galilee and let things cool off.”

But Jesus shot him down,

“Get behind me Satan.”

The professing church is trying every excuse it can think of to keep from going up to Jerusalem with Jesus.

We’re not ready to go to Jerusalem Lord. We don’t know each other well enough yet. Don’t you think we should get to know each other better?”

“Our self-esteem is wounded. Give us a little more time to improve our self-esteem.”

“There isn’t enough joy among us yet Lord. We can’t go up to Jerusalem until we have more joy.”

But Jesus turns around and says,

“Are you coming? … Are you coming with me?”

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying,“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.”

Mark 10:32-34     

        

“I’m going up to Jerusalem to die and I want you to come with me.”

“I want you to watch me lay down my life so that you can see God’s love for you and so that you can learn how to lay down your life too.”

But instead of taking in what Jesus is saying, they’re far too busy with their own agenda.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Mark 10:35-37

Little do they realize that what they’re asking for involves a cross—

the very thing they’re trying to escape.

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has; been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”      

Mark 10:38-45

“I’ve come to lay down my life … follow me and you’ll see God’s face at Calvary and you’ll learn how to lay down your life too.”

Now let’s give the disciples credit.

               – They were reluctant.

– They were amazed and afraid and stumbling over their own egos,

               … but they kept going with Jesus.

James and John did drink the cup Jesus drank … Peter drank the cup. They were the remnant of a huge army of disciples which started out with Jesus and withdrew from Jesus as soon as the cross came into view.

The same sifting is going on in the Body of Christ on earth right now.

Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem … he’s up ahead … we’re lagging behind because we’re amazed and afraid. And now we have to decide whether we’re going to keep going to Jerusalem and the cross, or head back to the sunny peaceful shores of Galilee where it’s safe and comfortable.

The professing church is made up of two kinds of people…

 – the ones who are busy trying to find themselves,

 – and the ones who are losing themselves step-by-step as they follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.

At first it was hard to tell who was who. It was one big happy crowd. But now the crowd is beginning to separate.

And the question that decides where we fit in all this is:

Where is your ultimate commitment?

Is it to yourself, or is it to Jesus?

– If it’s to yourself, for goodness sake why put yourself through any more hassle … go on back to Galilee.

– If it’s to Jesus, you have no choice.  You have to follow him even if you lose every friend you ever had … half your family … even your own life.

Let me be blunt. If your ultimate commitment is to yourself, do yourself a favor and forget about Jesus … he’ll always mess up your plans.

But if your ultimate commitment is to Jesus, then let him be your joy.

Make it clear to yourself, to him, and to the world that he is your Lord.

If your ultimate commitment is to Jesus, then turn from the things that compromise this commitment, whatever or whoever they are.

We hear much these days, about the call of the Spirit for all of us to draw together … to fit in with each other … to wash each other’s feet.We know that our impact on the world for the kingdom is directly connected to our unity with each other. But the key to this unity, the source of this bond of peace, which is to hold us together, still comes down to a single issue in each of our lives:

Our commitment first and last to Jesus himself.

He is the vine …. we are the branches.

Our unity with each other is possible only through our unity with him

– If I am alive in him, then I can walk in unity with you.

– If I have drifted from him … if my vision of him is vague … my unity with you will be superficial, and the first wind that blows will tear it apart.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me? ….. Feed my sheep.”

The issue is not,

“Come on Peter, are you going to feed my sheep or aren’t you?”

But, “Peter, do you love me?”

If Peter’s love for Jesus isn’t clear, he’ll forever be going off on fishing trips of his own.

Peter will only feed the sheep when he’s clear about his love for Jesus.

The Spirit of the Lord is gathering a people to himself. At an hour when the professing church is caught up in its own vanity, Jesus is gathering disciples … men and women who are first and last committed to him.

When we talk about Jesus we’re not talking about an idea or a concept or a set of rules. We are talking about a person who knows us and can be known by us, who can speak to us, who can breathe life into our souls, who stands in judgment of everything in us that’s evil, false, devious and vain.

He died on that cross, he rose from the dead. He is God the Son, who through the Spirit stands in our midst and searches every heart reading these words.

Behind every symptom of disunity in the Body,

every form of lukewarmness,

every depression,

every case of burn-out, is the foundation issue:

“Where is your ultimate commitment?

Is it to Jesus or is it to yourself?”

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

I Corinthians 2:1-2

This was Paul’s ultimate commitment when he came to Corinth and all the time he was there … Jesus Christ and him crucified. Paul followed Jesus on that road up to Jerusalem, that’s why he had such power, bore such fruit.

He knew where his commitment was.

If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as lose because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith….

Philippians 3:4b-10

When Jesus says to Paul, “Come on Paul, we’re going up to Jerusalem. Walk with me and I’ll show you the love of God and I’ll teach you how to lay down your life,” Paul says, “Lead on Lord, my life is yours ….”

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him,  and kill him; and after three days he will rise.”

Mark 10:32-34

Now it’s we who are on that road to Jerusalem.

The Spirit of Jesus is searching our hearts and asking,

“Are you with me …

       are you with me?

Will you let me take authority over your everyday life?

over your thoughts,

over your dreams,

over your memory,

over your attitudes,

over your material wealth?”

Many of us are frustrated about our ministries. We are saying,

“I haven’t found my ministry.

Nobody has given me a chance to use my gifts. I’m not fulfilled.”

The only way to any ministry, that is truly a ministry in the eyes of God, is to take this road with Jesus to Jerusalem.

It leads to a cross.

It leads to the pouring out not only of his life but of yours.

Take this road and you will find resurrection power and resurrection life for a dying church in a world of death.

“Follow me. Follow me and I will lead you to the place where you will see the love of God with your naked eye.

Follow me and I will bring you to the place where every chain will break and you will be a free man, a free woman.

Follow me and I will bring you to the place where you will be flooded with life from God.

Follow me to Jerusalem … to the cross … to drink my cup … share in my baptism of fire.”

Either we answer with our lives, or we turn back to our own vain little worlds

Prayer

Lord Jesus, how many times do you have to tell me to take up my cross, until I get the message?   I hear your call.  Give me the strength to answer it all the way.  Break every chain that binds me to this world, that I may follow you with holy joy.

 

April 2019

AM I DOING IT?

Jesus did it.

Paul did it.

Numberless men and women across the earth are doing it right now.

Am I doing it?

Intercession

“But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail;

and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”

Luke 22:32

 

The visible part of our Lord’s ministry rose from a hidden part which only the Father could see

prayer and intercession  

 

Our Lord’s prayer life was like an iceberg below the surface

—-huge and hidden—-

       

“But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

 


 

 If this kind of prayer was essential for our Master, how can it be any less for us?  

Praying for others is a ministry that no one sees but God.

It’s the one ministry for which every follower of Jesus is gifted and called.

It’s the most powerful service we can render to God and to our neighbor

provided we live what we pray.  

(Don’t be asking God to feed the hungry, if you never share your own bread.)

Intercession is simply lifting each name before the Father’s throne…

Releasing heaven’s power upon that person

A power that flows only through our prayers.

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,

and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

                                                        Matthew 18:18

Binding the powers of darkness and releasing the captives is never meant to be a dramatic scene.  Jesus never put on a show.

The place where deliverance begins is in the presence of God alone.

“Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father in secret.”

                                        Matthew 6:6

Intercession

—-powerful, effective prayer for others—

is simply part of our daily life,

the foundation of all we do in the name of the Lord.

The Apostle Paul was a busy man— making tents to pay the bills, teaching and preaching.  But beneath all his activity was the relentless discipline of prayer.

I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers.

       

II Timothy 1:3

When Paul prayed for Timothy, it was no ritual act.

His prayers for Timothy and others burned with redemptive fire.  

Nor was intercession a once-and-done thing for Paul.  

It was done faithfully.  

“I remember you constantly in my prayers.”

Help from Heaven

Once we get serious about praying for others,

a strange “wind” begins to stir behind us and lifts us on its wings.  

We may not “feel” anything.  We may even find ourselves struggling (after all prayer is work) as we take hold of those lives which the Spirit puts before us for prayer day after day.  

But always we are aided by the Spirit himself.

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.

                                            Romans 8:26-27

Once we begin daily to “go into our room and shut the door and pray to our Father in secret,” the Spirit gives us a “bundle” of people to pray for by name daily—

our loved ones,

our neighbors,

our colleagues at work,

our detractors.

our hard-nosed enemies.

As we intercede the Spirit is taking us into the redemptive flow of the Kingdom.  

Most of the “results” of our intercessions will become visible to us…

only after we arrive at the Banquet of God.   

But not one prayer is wasted.

Our intellect will question the “value” of lifting names before God.  

Satan will accuse us of being pious fools.

But the Spirit will guard us with the fire of heaven as we press on.

Intercession is effective labor in the Kingdom.

Intercession brings glory to no one but God.

Intercession is the root of every visible thing we do for others in the name of Jesus.

Lord Jesus, show us how to do it, and keep doing it well!

Therefore confess your sins to one another,

and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.

       

James 5:16

Prayer

Dear Holy Lord, we come before your very presence and ask that you help us to be faithful and serious about intercession, this powerful service that we all are called to.  Move us beyond prayer as a ritual, guard us with the fire of heaven so that we don’t give up, we don’t weaken. Holy Spirit intercede for us, stir us, lift us so that our intercessions burn with redemptive fire. Lord we lay the people you place on our hearts before your throne, release them from captivity, protect them from the powers of darkness, heal them, guide them, strengthen them. May the power of Heaven be released into their lives as we lift their names to you now….

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