Posted July 23, 2021
CIRCULATE, BUT DON’T CAPITULATE
Sometimes we just want to get away from all the corruption and confusion.
To a monastery?
A Christian village off in the hills?
A hermit hut on a rocky crag above the ocean?
The “escape solution” has been tried a million times and always failed.
No matter how far we run, the world is always there.
So why run?
Jesus tells us to circulate, but not capitulate.
“Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
But where will we get the wisdom of serpents? And the innocence of doves?
“I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.”(John 17)
We become wise as serpents and innocent as doves when Jesus consecrates us.
“And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
He makes us wise as serpents.
So that we stay focused.
We don’t get sucked into the mind-set of this world.
We know who we belong to.
We’re on our way to a cross.
By this wisdom we discern deceit.
We smell evil when it enters the room.
And we fix on the “one thing needful”:
The Father’s Kingdom.
The Father’s will.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10)
He makes us innocent as doves.
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.” (Luke 10)
We are innocent when we become babes before our Lord.
When we trust him like little children.
Child-like innocence is a wall of protection.
Causing us to recoil from temptation.
Helping us to discern lies.
Empowering us to speak and live the truth.
We live our lives in the thick of the confusion.
We circulate, but we do not capitulate.
That’s how our Lord did it.
And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9)
That’s how Paul did it.
Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (II Corinthians 11)
That’s how we do it.
We circulate with our eyes open to the forgotten ones.
We never capitulate because our hearts are fixed on God.
We move among people who are…
Trying to make a living.
Trying to have some fun.
Trying to find a friend.
Trying to “make a bundle”.
Trying to climb the social ladder.
Looking for a fix.
Enduring the devastation of war.
Struggling with bad memories.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Prayer- Open our eyes Jesus to the forgotten ones. As we go out to those that you send us to… consecrate us, protect us from the evil one so we may remain innocent. And yes, while we are in the midst of the sick, the lost, the confused…cause us to recoil at evil, discern lies, and continue to speak the truth … give us wisdom and prudence as well. As we circulate among the lost… we look to you… without you we are powerless and lost ourselves. Cover us with your presence, your holiness, your wisdom, your healing power… Maranatha Mirror
REB July 2021 Printable Copy
Images: Photos from Covenant Community Care Homeless Outreach Program in Detroit
Posted July 16, 2021
THE GRIP OF GOD
After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” (John 6)
The minute we show any serious resolve to follow Jesus, things begin to happen in and around us that try to destroy that resolve.
As soon as the seed is sown it’s vulnerable.
– Birds come along and take the seed away.
– It grows on rocky soil and withers under the sun’s heat.
– Thorns spring up and choke the growing plants.
There is not one of us who has not felt the pressure to turn away from the light – to compromise, to back off and fall asleep.
How many of those who started out with us have long since given up and gone back to their old life! Will we be next?
But some of the seed does grow. There is always a remnant that makes it all the way.
Our Lord prays on his last night in flesh-and-blood,
“Those whom thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition that scripture might be fulfilled.”
All the big guns of the enemy had been aimed at those men to blast them out of God’s hand. But there they are, in spite of devastating temptations, still focused and alive, because these men were held in the grip of God.
“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. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
And we say, “That’s where I want to be! In His hand.
I want to be held in the grip of God so that no one can tear me out of God’s Kingdom – ever! That’s where I want my children to be, and my loved ones, and my brothers and sisters.”
“Lord, get us through this uncertain world where the enemy has the power to mislead and destroy us. Bring us into your grip and hold us.”
But the grip of God is not what a lot of people seem to think it is. They picture God reaching down and grabbing them, and lifting them to glory with or without their cooperation.
God will grip us, hold us, carry us to glory.
But never against our will. And never without our cooperation.
When many of our Lord’s disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him, the little handful that stuck with Jesus was clearly held in the grip of God.
But notice, it was not as if Jesus said to these men,
“You can’t leave me. Others, yes; but you I hold in my power. You have to stay.”
On the contrary, Jesus makes a point of reminding them that they are free. They can go if they want to.
“Will you also go away?”
Jesus never built a wall around them and said,
“Now you’re safe. The devil can’t get in and you can’t get out.”
Jesus never took them out of the world. He kept them safe from the evil one in the midst of all the dangers, because their hearts were freely given over to Him – every day, every hour.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
It’s hard to say whether it was a vision or a dream. I was climbing this mountain when I began to hear the most beautiful singing. Were they angels? Or were they human voices? I came up over the edge of a plateau and saw an immense glass dome several hundred yards ahead and could hear the singing coming from its open door.
From all directions people were streaming toward the giant dome. As I got closer, I could distinguish the words of these beautiful songs. They were praises to God.
At the door of the dome a man was directing the newcomers to various open spaces under the dome that were not yet occupied by people. As I entered I made the unsettling discovery that the people who were rapidly filling the dome and singing these magnificent praises to God were not sitting on chairs, nor were they standing. They were actually planted in the ground like flowers! It almost seemed that their hands, lifted heavenward in praise, had become leaves.
Were these people turning into plants before my eyes?
Was this good or evil?
All these questions were swept out of my mind by the absolutely heavenly songs.
One man, walking down the aisles between the groups of singers, seemed to be in charge. Under him were various workers with sprinkling cans, hoses, bags of fertilizer, who went among the singers cultivating, watering, adding nourishment to the soil.
“This is the most magnificent singing I have ever heard,” I said to the man in charge.
“Would you like to join us? Commit yourself to this endeavor and you’ll be praising God too. Moreover, you will be safe in here from wind and storm. Like these, you too will grow in the sunshine of God’s love.”
Suddenly I felt as if I were choking and knew I had to get out of there. As I ran for the door I could hear the leader and his workers shouting after me.
“You unbeliever! You selfish soul! You individualist! You’ll never survive out there!”
Nor did I stop running until the singing was out of earshot and the dome was out of sight.
I came to a gorge in the mountainside where a scruffy collection of hard-looking types were sitting together on the bank of a stream. They too were singing God’s praises. “
But what a contrast! Half of them couldn’t carry a tune, and the chap who was trying to play the guitar was forever breaking a string.
“Welcome!” shouted one of the group as he spied me climbing down into the gorge.
“Have a bite with us. We’re combing the mountains calling people into the Kingdom. There was a clap of thunder, followed by a downpour of rain, but these people went right on singing and eating as if the sun were shining.
“Back to work!” shouted the leader. And they broke into pairs and fanned out through the mountainside with stretchers and bandages, looking for wounded souls.
The thunder became louder, and the wind rose. Soon a ninety mile-an-hour gale was tearing across the ridge of the mountain and I was afraid.
I remembered the words of the man in the glass dome promising safety from wind and storm, and decided to make my way back to it. But when I arrived, there was nothing left of the dome but twisted steel and splinters of glass.
The dead bodies of the singers were lying like flattened tulips all over the plateau.
In the distance I could hear the songs of the workers from the gorge blending with the wind and the rain.
God’s grip is not a glass dome. People in God’s grip are not hothouse flowers protected from the storms of life by smiling circumstances.
People in the grip of God are simply those who have come to the place where they say with their hearts,
“Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life and we have believed
and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
And they live with Him right out there on that stormy mountain. No storm can keep them from going right on following the Lord.
God alone knows who these people are, knows each of them by name.
Here are some things to remember about those enduring saints.
1.The saints who are in the grip of God take the words of Jesus straight.
All the others eventually say, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it.” And they either turn away from his words or dilute his words and soften them.
But the tough saints who are abiding in the Vine hang on to Jesus’ words and conform their lives to them, even when they don’t fully understand.
“What do you mean, Lord, forsake all that I have?
Nevertheless, I’ll do it. Just keep showing the way, Lord.”
“What do you mean, Lord, turn the other cheek?
At your word I’ll do it.”
“And these things that you say about adultery, pulling out the eye, cutting off the hand, faithfulness to one’s mate – that’s not how they do things these days.
But I’ll do what you say.”
- The saints who endure are those who aren’t afraid to go out of their way.
They’ve long since given up the idea that you can follow Jesus and have what the world calls “the good life.”
They know they’re going to be disrupted, or perhaps sent to do monotonous tasks.
The hothouse Christians live programmed lives. Always the right temperature, the right amount of diversion – everything controlled.
But the saints who follow the Lamb of God are willing to be inconvenienced, to die to self again and again.
This is what gives them heaven’s power.
- Saints who are in the grip of God are not afraid of rejection.
Hothouse Christians are forever weighing their words to make sure they don’t offend the Pharisees, because Pharisees are convenient friends to have in this world.
But the saints who endure know they’re going to be rejected, written off by their best friends as fools, despised by the very ones whose respect this flesh craves.
“A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”
We’re not here to win friends and influence people. We’re here to do the will of our Lord. To go out there and make disciples before night comes when no man can work.
- Finally, the people who are in the grip of God pass through tough circumstances as if they were vapor.
Their hearts are not tied to circumstances.
– They are not depressed when the results are small.
– They are not elated when results seem great.
We’re here to please God, not to seek great things for ourselves.
When the woman swept her house looking for that lost coin, she didn’t fall into a fit of depression after three hours of fruitless searching. She went right on searching until she found the lost coin.
Some of us are being lured by music coming from the hothouse. We’re looking for a place of security where we can grow like little tulips in the sunshine of our spiritual delusions.
But if we really want to be held in the grip of God, we abandon ourselves to the Christ who still roams that stormy mountain looking for lost sheep.
He’s not in the hothouse. He’s out in the storm!
– His words are often hard.
– His path is often inconvenient.
– His goal is a cross – rejection by men.
The circumstances that surround Him are ever-changing.
But if we want the kingdom of God, where else can we go but with Him?
“Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life and we have believed
and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Prayer–Yes Lord may the call of our hearts be … “Lord to whom shall we go…your words are life to our souls, in you we see your eternal kingdom, we know beyond anything that you are the Holy One of God”. Keep us in your grip despite storms, trials, rejection. Holy, Loving Shepherd… help us to long for your grip, to treasure it, to seek it knowing we are safe in it and that you are worthy of our abandonment to you.. MM
Unknown Date …EDITED 2021 REB Printable Copy
Featured Art: All art details from the sketches and drawings of Jane Spencer … The Secret Place https://www.facebook.com/artjspencer/
Posted July 9, 2021
THE KINGDOM AND THE CHURCH
It’s staring us in the face, and we don’t see it.
It’s spreading fire over the earth and we ignore it.
It’s shaking the nations with a thousand signs, and we’re too busy fund-raising to notice.
The one thing Jesus revealed with every parable, every healing:
The kingdom of God.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field….”
“The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand!
Repent and believe the good news!”
The kingdom of God was Jesus’ single focus.
It still is.
When will we open our eyes?
The kingdom and the church
While Jesus is focused on the kingdom, it seems we Christians are focused on the church.
True, Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my church”.
But Jesus’ church is not a religious institution with pompous men walking around in fancy robes.
With millions in the bank.
And tons of real estate.
Jesus’ church is not a religious club for like-minded people who hold “Christian values”.
Jesus’ church is simply the ecclesia, his followers, gathered around his Name.
The ecclesia is Christ’s Body on earth.
The ecclesia is the doorway to God’s kingdom.
Wherever people are truly gathered in Jesus’ name, there is the ecclesia—the church.
But Jesus did not preach about the church.
He preached about the kingdom.
Only twice in the gospels do we hear the word “church” (ecclesia) on Jesus’ lips.
His focus was always the kingdom.
The kingdom of God.
“The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent and believe the good news!”
The kingdom is simply God’s World.
Where God is known and loved.
Where there are no lies.
Where truth rules.
Where sickness and death are no more.
Where love is supreme.
And joy has no end.
The kingdom of God is already here—in part.
Wherever Jesus is known and loved, there is the kingdom.
Wherever men and women show mercy to every neighbor, and love even their enemy, they have found the kingdom.
Wherever leaders are down on the floor washing feet, and the greatest are the least, there is the kingdom.
But that’s only the beginning.
We are awaiting the kingdom’s arrival in its fullness.
Waiting for Jesus to return and take charge.
No more wars.
No more lies.
No more pain, sickness and death.
Just glorious peace.
Isaiah was given a vision.
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Lift up your eyes round about, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Mid’ian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.
Daniel received a glimpse.
Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the issue of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.
Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but those who are wise shall understand. (Daniel 12)
The Apostle John was taken to the edge of glory and shown the kingdom’s arrival.
Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads.
And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22)
It’s time for us to see the church for what it is, and the kingdom for what it is.
The church ….Is the Body of Christ on earth.
It is not an institution ruled by religious professionals.
It is the creation of Jesus alone.
Wherever people are gathered around Jesus only, there is the church.
Wherever the kingdom of God is revealed on this earth, there is the church.
The kingdom …. Is God’s World penetrating this world with truth.
Preparing for the day when the world, as we know it, will be no more.
Calling all who have ears to hear to come into the light.
Until Jesus arrives and takes the throne.
Then Gabriel’s prophecy to Mary will be fulfilled.
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1)
Prayer– Holy, perfect Lord, rise upon us and reveal your wonderful kingdom to us. Draw us to your light so we can know you and love you with all we have… so that faith, obedience, mercy and love purify us as we seek your kingdom. Cause us to shine as we find your kingdom and live your kingdom now. MM
REB – July 2021 Printable Copy
Featured Art: Kind permission of Jen Norton details from the piece “Works of Mercy” also “Heart to Heart” and “Amen”.
Posted June 25, 2021
TO BE BORN AGAIN
To look at Nicodemus you’d wonder what more he could want. He was a man of importance. He had a beautiful family. He appeared to be deeply religious. He was a teacher in Israel. If there was any man in the city of Jerusalem who seemed to be living a well-rounded God-pleasing life, it was Nicodemus. But Nicodemus knew better.
Like more than a few people reading these words who give the impression that they have the answers and have found “the good life”, Nicodemus knew that his fine exemplary, religious exterior was hollow.
Inside was an emptiness, an emptiness that he rarely admitted even to himself. All you had to do was look into his eyes and you could see that his soul had its shades pulled down.
– Something in there wasn’t right.
– Something was missing.
– Something was crooked.
– Something was sick.
So he covered the windows so nobody could look in.
Meanwhile, Nicodemus kept going through his act.
– He sat down to breakfast every morning like a king.
– He nodded graciously to the multitudes that made way for him in the temple.
But how long can you live your life going through an act? How long can you go on pretending that you have the answers when you know very well you’re as confused as anyone? How long can you wear that phony smile, pretending that you’re happy when inside you’re weeping? How long can you keep hardening your heart when you know the living God is calling you and calling you and calling you to draw near?
What keeps us from breaking down, admitting we need help, and going wherever we have to go, doing whatever we have to do to get this heart healed?
It’s our pride.
– We don’t want anyone to know what a mess we are inside.
– We don’t even want to admit it to ourselves.
– We’re so proud we don’t even want to confess it to God who sees it all quite clearly.
Pride – that poisonous weed, planted (with our permission) in our hearts by Satan himself. We love it so much. It looks so beautiful to us we’d rather lose God and let that weed go on growing. We let it grow on and on until it has poisoned everything about us – blinded us to the truth and turned our hearts to granite. Until there’s nothing left of us but that hideous monstrosity growing in our desert-dry hearts, killing every good thought that comes into our minds and marking us for the harvest day of God’s judgment.
Nothing in us will ever change until that poisonous weed of pride is pulled up by the roots, even if everything else in us has to come with it.
Nicodemus, like so many of us, wouldn’t admit the shape he was in until Jesus came to town. As he stood on the edge of the crowd and listened to Jesus speak,
– it was like fresh water coming into a desert,
– it was like day breaking forth in the middle of the night.
all his importance,
all his fancy religious ideas,
all those flowery prayers he could pray, showed up as so much filth.
Nicodemus looked at himself and saw an empty, wasted life.
A lot of people, when they get a dose of truth, simply can’t stand it. They turn and run. They hide their faces until they are buried in darkness. Or, they run to a church where nobody will ever bother them with truth. At least Nicodemus didn’t run.
What can I say when I look at Jesus and see God in everything He does, and hear God in every word He speaks, and then look at my dried-up, shriveled, fruitless life?
What else can I do but admit that I need help?
But Nicodemus tried what so many of us try, instead of surrendering all the way. He went furtively to Jesus with his mask still on, hoping to keep all the goodies of this world and have God too. Hoping that Jesus would give him God without making him pull up that hideous poison plant of pride. Hoping the conversation would run something like this:
“Rabbi, we know you’re a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
“That’s right, Nicodemus. I’m glad you recognized that. Now what can I do to help you?”
“Well, teacher, there’s something missing in my life. I thought maybe you could give me that extra touch I need.”
“Of course I can, Nicodemus. All you need is to think more positive thoughts. When you wake up in the morning just repeat this sentence: ‘God is in everything, God is in me.’ It will make a great difference. And then, Nicodemus, go out and get involved in the great challenges of our day. Join hands with the forces of good and your life will be fulfilled.”
And Nicodemus would have gone home a twofold child of Hell, more blinded by pride than ever.
But the conversation didn’t go that way. Jesus loved Nicodemus. He understood the battle the man was having with his pride. So He told Nicodemus the exact truth he needed to hear:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew he cannot see the Kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.'”
John 3:3 &6-7
You don’t need improvements, friend, you need life! A whole new life.
Patching will never do it. There’s nothing in your life that can be patched.
It’s no good. Leave it behind and be born anew.
Nicodemus, like so many of us, really thought he had something.
– He knew it wasn’t enough.
– He knew there was an emptiness.
But he was rather proud of his life as it was. To him, and to all of us who are in his shoes, Jesus says,
“Dump it, and be born again.”
That fancy life of yours is flesh, and flesh can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God. You must be born of the Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus Himself has to come in and replace that flesh-life and take over and rule. And this is the miracle that has not happened in a good many lives reading these words because you refuse to let it happen.
You want to go on patching, patching, patching.
And what do you have for all your patching?
Underneath the facade of piety and happiness that you show to the world, you are the same mess that Nicodemus was, until Jesus told him, as He’s telling you now,
“You must be born anew.”
This new birth is something that God will gladly give you,
– if you will reach out and receive it,
– if you’ll turn your heart away from flesh and lift it to the Spirit of God who is with you now.
To the Spirit of the Christ who is knocking on the door of your heart at this moment.
To be born anew is to withdraw your heart from everything else and fix it on Jesus.
Nicodemus wanted to drag his pride with him, just as many of us are trying to do. He wanted to keep all the fine accomplishments he had achieved for himself in this world.
But Jesus said,
“You have to be born out of all that into God.
Take your eyes and heart off those things and get them on me.”
It’s so simple, so uncomplicated.
Yet how few are willing to give up their abominable pride – let go of everything and take hold of Jesus!
“How can a man be born again when he is old? I’ve lived this way all my life.
How can I change now?”
He will change you … He will amaze you … He will work miracles in your life.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, how set in your ways you are, how enmeshed in this world you are.
– Turn your eyes on Jesus.
– Fix your heart on Him.
– Call on His name.
And Jesus will visit you in the power of His Spirit – bring you to life.
Your rebirth will begin today..
And to stay alive in God, you draw your life daily, hourly, no longer from the flesh, but from the Spirit.
“Whoever drinks this water will thirst again. But whoever drinks the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become, in him, a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail. The words that I speak to you, they are Spirit and they are life.”
Prayer– Lord we turn our hearts away from our pride, from clinging to this life, from clinging to our ways. Help us to let them go. We need you, we need the promised life you offer us. We fix our hearts on you, we call your name…Jesus, Jesus. Birth us anew into your Spirit so we may have your well of water springing within us that gives life now and eternally. MM
REB – Unknown Date Printable Copy of short version
Featured Art: By Henry Ossawa Tanner 1859-1937 To Be Born Again, Bishop Tanner, and Self Portrait all in the Public Domain https://www.biography.com/artist/henry-ossawa-tanner
Posted June 18, 2021
LET THE PEACE OF CHRIST RULE IN YOUR HEARTS
When the Lord Jesus departed from his disciples for the last time, forty days after the resurrection, he left nothing tangible behind. No money in the bank. No writings. Not a scrap of writing from Jesus’ hand! The only record we have of Jesus writing was when he wrote in the dirt, after they brought him a woman caught in adultery.
And yet, Jesus did give his followers something priceless, something that made them richer than all the riches earth could give: he gave them peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Not the peace of tranquil circumstances.
Not the peace of earthly security.
His peace — which is more than a feeling or a mood.
His peace is power, as when he said to the storm, “Peace! Be still!” and the wind died away, and the waves settled down.
Or when he appeared before his followers in that room with the door shut, alive from the dead! His first words to them were, “Peace be with you!” and their hearts were flooded with the peace of heaven.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”
But why is it that so many people who claim to follow Jesus don’t seem to have that peace?
Instead of peace within, we have worry, anxiety, resentment, fear, anger, self-pity.
I’m not talking about people out there who have never tasted God’s mercy, who have never met the Lord of Peace. I’m talking about believers who are trying to walk the walk. Who share in the word. Who commune with the Master in the bread and wine.
What happened to this promise?
Where did it go?
Why isn’t his peace flooding our lives with the power of heaven?
Why isn’t it putting us to sleep at night and waking us to the new day with joy each morning?
This peace, which the Lord Jesus gives to all his disciples, including us, is not like a tranquilizer that gets into your blood stream and quiets you down. It’s not Yoga Peace, or Soft Music Peace. It’s not a mental state achieved through meditation and breathing exercises.
The peace we’re talking about comes from another world. From heaven.
It’s his peace.
This supernatural peace, which held the early believers through all their storms and trials, is a gift, a gift which we can have even now. A gift which we can keep for the rest of our lives.
Here’s how this gift becomes ours. It requires our cooperation in three steps.
It’s a rhythm we develop like walking or breathing.
- You receive it.
- You let it rule.
- You give it away.
Receive it. Let it rule. Give it away. Continuously.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
The Lord Jesus lives in those words.
When we take those words into our hearts, he comes with them, and so does his peace.
Now we begin to breathe them in, just like we breathe the air. Until it becomes second nature. Until it becomes as natural to us as breathing.
“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the gift of peace. I open my heart to continually receive it, as I walk through the turmoil of this world. Just as I keep drinking in the air to stay alive, I keep drinking in your peace to stay alive.”
Let it rule.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in the one Body. (Colossians 3:15)
We have two choices: our hearts can be ruled by this world’s anxiety or by the Lord’s peace.
I can be in a tizzy all the time, wondering what’s going to happen next….how I’m going to beat the odds….how I’m going to survive the rat race; or I can let the Lord’s peace rule me, trusting his peace to show me the way.
Here’s how his peace rules us, if we allow it to:
Every time I start walking down a vanity side-track, his peace disappears. But when I turn and come back to where I know I need to be, his peace returns.
Every time I start bad mouthing someone, his peace disappears. When I repent and get things right, his peace returns.
When I walk around with an attitude against my brother, or when I pass judgment on my sister, I lose his peace. I know what I have to do to get it back.
So when I’m tempted to open my mouth and say something that I know will drive it away, I say to myself, “It’s not worth it. I think I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”
When I’m inclined to walk down a path which I know is shrouded in shadows, I say to myself, “It’s not worth it. I think I’ll stay on this path.”
What a difference it makes, when I allow the peace of the Lord to rule my heart!
Give it away.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in the one Body.
In the Body is where we learn to give it away.
And the more we give it away, the more we have it.
The less we give it away, the less we have it.
If we don’t give it away, we lose it.
It has to be more than a liturgical ritual, “Peace be with you,” as we move around our fellowships uttering these awesome words as if they were a
password in our secret club.
It’s got to be a genuine gift of peace from my heart to yours.
Holy peace. The peace of Christ!
Of course I cannot give it to you, unless I’m at peace with you. Nor can I bring the peace of Christ into the fellowship and give it away, unless my heart is at peace with everyone here.
No grudges. No resentments. No attitudes.
Forbearance. Forgiveness. Mercy, ruling my heart toward everybody — no exceptions!
If my heart is truly at peace with you…
I can give Christ’s peace to you, whether I say the words, pray them or think them.
The peace which passes all understanding flows out of my heart into yours….and from your heart into mine.
And the more we give it away, the more we have, until our fellowships overflow with peace.
Until the peace of the Lord Jesus fills our gathering places and spills out into the streets that surround them.
The more we give it away, the more we have it.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
The world in which you and I live is not at peace.
It’s a world of strife, tension, mistrust on every level.
But we can live in this world, with all its turmoil, wrapped in a peace which passes all understanding.
This peace is with us now as we read these words — if we’re thirsty enough to receive it, humble enough to let it rule us, and generous enough to keep giving it away —
— to each other
— to our neighbors out there in the world
…as we serve God together.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.”
Prayer-Yes, yes Lord make us thirsty enough to receive your holy, heavenly peace. And yes, may we receive it and give it as naturally as breathing. We thank you for this wonderful, powerful gift. Oh, how we need it to live in this chaotic, uncertain world. And Lord when our thoughts, attitudes, and actions separate us from you and the peace you offer us. May the emptiness we feel, cause us to stop straying. May we hear you calling us back.; “grasp my peace, my beloved child, grasp it.” And dear Lord of peace, help us to be your true sons and daughters…true peace makers, true peace givers. May our thoughts, attitudes and actions pour your peace that passes understanding into others, into situations, and even into the face of turmoil and uncertainty. May we be enfolded into your blessings as we enfold ourselves and others into your peace. MM
REB – 2009 (shortened version 2021 MM) Printable Copy of short version Copy of full version
Featured Art: Kind permission and generosity of Anne Cameron Cutri at anne-cutri.pixels.com
Posted June 11, 2021
FAITH NOT FEELINGS
Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, for the help of his countenance. (Psalm 42:5)
It wasn’t the worst prison in the world…but it was a prison.
– You ate well enough.
– There were books to read.
– They had a swimming pool and a steam bath.
But the doors were locked, and there were no windows.
The prison consisted of a giant cave in the heart of a mountain.
…. all light was artificial,
…. the air was dank and stale.
There was a rumor among the prisoners that there was a way out. It was said that a certain prisoner was not a prisoner at all and at certain times would pick out one man or woman and lead them through a hidden door and a labyrinth of tunnels to blue sky and fresh air. And true enough, prisoners were disappearing. But there was also a rumor that the way to freedom was not easy. Accounts came back of prisoners who panicked on the escape route and ended in a dungeon infinitely worse than the prison.
One day just before dinner as a certain prisoner was standing in line waiting to get into the mess hall he was nudged on his arm. “Quick! Follow me,” said the voice beside him. What could he lose? So he followed this man who looked like any other prisoner, and whom he had seen a thousand times, down a corridor, through the boiler room, and out through a narrow crack between two walls of rock. Everything went smoothly until, as they climbed along a ledge, the heat became unbearable. There was a distant roar and the smell of smoke. The ledge brought them to a clearing from which two paths emerged.
– One was cool and covered with soft green moss and beautifully lighted.
– The other led to what appeared to be a tunnel of fire one hundred yards off.
“Come!” said the guide and headed quickly toward the fire. “Wait a minute! You’re making a mistake!” cried the prisoner. “No one will ever survive those flames. Let’s take this path. See, it’s cool and easy on the feet. And you can see where you’re going.” The guide ran back and grabbed the prisoner by the arm. “We don’t have time to fool around! Come on! We’re going through those flames! Beyond them is blue sky. That mossy path where you think you can see where you’re going leads to a prison far worse that you’ve ever been in. Once you’re in you’ll never get out.” But the prisoner wrenched himself loose from his guide’s grip and started running toward the other path. “I don’t like the feel of flames,” he cried as he turned the corner and disappeared from sight. “Better he should never have come out of his prison,” said the guide, “than that he should turn down that path.”
One of the most dangerous things we can do is start following Jesus out of our old life and then switch to letting our feelings become our guide. And how often we allow ourselves to be guided by our feelings.
“I don’t feel the presence of God…. I must be lost.”
“I feel great …I must be on the right track.”
“I don’t feel good about myself these days… something must be wrong.”
We measure where we are, what we are by how we feel. Once we attach major importance to how we feel, our feelings rule our lives.
Perhaps we don’t take Tylenol or Sominex to alter how we feel. Perhaps we resist the compulsion to eat three sandwiches before we go to bed to counteract the empty feeling inside our souls. Maybe we don’t fish for compliments to retain our feeling of insecurity. But, if we measure our relationship with God by how we feel we’re still in bondage to feelings.
– We will chase after experiences that make us “feel” the Spirit.
– We will be drawn to places that give us the feeling of peace or divine power.
– We will take the path that makes us feel comfort and avoid the path that causes us to feel pain.
Even if we do “feel” the presence of God, that “feeling” will never by itself hold us in God’s presence. When the feeling has passed, as the feeling always does, does that mean God is gone? It’s one thing to “feel” God… quite another to know God.
– I can feel God now …and feel nothing of God tomorrow.
– But if I know God now …
…. then I have what I need to still know God tomorrow regardless of how I feel.
…. 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; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death….. (Philippians 3:8a-10)
…. that I may know him….
Knowing Jesus in the power of his resurrection may be attended by wonderful feelings.
But knowing Jesus in the fellowship of his sufferings, for all its joy, involves feelings of pain.
And becoming like Jesus in his death takes us through a tunnel of fire.
…. that I may know him….
On Palm Sunday everybody felt God.
And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.” And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. (Matthew 21:9-14)
They felt God as they shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Yes, and they felt God as they watched Jesus enter the temple that day and turn over the tables of the money changers and knock down the seats of those who sold pigeons. They felt the holiness of God burn through their hearts as Jesus said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.”
Again they felt God as they watched the blind and the lame coming to him in the temple and walking away healed. But how long did the feeling last? In a few days these very people who felt God in such a wonderful way as they followed Jesus around that day were screaming for Jesus’ blood.
And who were the ones who kept going when everything turned sour? Those whose roots of knowing Jesus penetrated below the level of feeling.
…even when their minds were confused,
…even when their hearts were broken,
…even when their nerve left them,
…still held on to the words that he spoke and kept going though they felt devastated,
For example, Mary Magdalene. If Mary had gone by feelings she would have been destroyed by the absurdity of it all Friday afternoon. But Mary kept going.
– She stuck by Jesus’ cross, attended to his burial, kept the Sabbath, was first at the tomb the next morning to finish what needed to be done. No wonder she was also the first to see him alive from the dead.
But what do we do if we find that,
– we are preoccupied with our feelings,
– we are measuring our spiritual condition,
– gauging our relationship with the living God by whether or not we feel his presence?
With an act of will, a thousand times a day if necessary, we have to defy feelings and start living by faith.
1. To live by faith is to believe with our will even when our hearts feel as weak as water.
“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.”
“Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,”
In your mind you feel troubled.
In your body you feel nervous …
…. but you refuse to let your heart be troubled.
With your heart you will… to believe Jesus … to trust that he will do exactly what he has promised.
– When my best friend says to me, “Don’t be upset,”…I’m still upset.
– When my doctor or my spiritual advisor says, “Don’t be upset”…. I’m still upset.
But when in my heart I hear Jesus saying to me…
“Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me,”
This I can do because when I take hold of his words with my will, those words come to life.
Again and again he says to us,
“Do not be anxious about your life.” (Matthew 6:25)
“Do not be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or how shall we be clothed?”‘ (Matthew 6:31)
“Do not be anxious about tomorrow.” (Matthew 6:34)
“Have no anxiety about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
And when we respond to those commands with our will, the peace of God which passes all understanding keeps our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus no matter how we feel.
Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?
Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, for the help of his countenance.
…for the help of his face … the help of being able to look into this face instead of measuring my feelings. And the face of God in this world is the Spirit of Jesus and that face is always near.
2. To live by faith is to act even if our feelings have to go through a tunnel of fire.
And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son o£ man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Matthew 20:17-19)
Jesus was going to his baptism of fire…and he calls us to follow him through those same flames.
“If anyone would come to me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
There will be things we are called upon to do which won’t feel good.
– Words we are called upon to speak which won’t make us comfortable,
– Changes in our way of life, perhaps, which may be costly or painful.
– Circumstances that will sear our very flesh.
But as we walk through the flames we have fellowship with Jesus himself. With our feelings we experience the flames, but with our hearts we know Jesus in the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, even becoming like him in his death.
Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?
Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, for the help of his countenance.
God help us to build our lives not on the sinking sand of feelings, but on the solid rock…
– on Jesus … God’s Mercy who exists outside our feelings,
– on Jesus … God’s Word who will still be true when heaven-and- earth. have passed away,
– on Jesus … who in this world is the very face of God, breathing upon us with never failing help.
I shall yet praise him,
for the help of his countenance.
Prayer-Yes Lord, help us to build our faith on you. Despite our circumstances, despite our feelings …may looking upon your face be enough. Your face dear Lord, to know your face … Jesus…where there is mercy, ultimate truth and where we find your very life. Help us take hold of you with our wills…help us defy our feelings and to turn our hearts to you. And in the midst of all things, when our hearts turn to your face, may we be lifted from despair, to an awe of you…turning our feelings into a melody of love to you. MM
REB – Unknown Date found in the booklet “Faith”… which is available upon request.
Featured art: Permission and kind courtesy of Jonathan Allan Farrell facebook.com/jonathan.a.farrell
Posted June 4, 2021
“These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”
Jesus never bubbled with happiness.
Why should he?
Who needs happiness, when you can have joy?
Jesus was sustained by joy.
All the sneers and nastiness hurled against him could not penetrate his joy.
It was always there.
It carried him all the way to the cross.
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.”
Jesus wanted his disciples to have joy.
He wants us to have it.
He prayed that we might have it.
“But now I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
So what is joy?
Joy comes from the world beyond.
Joy is a flame which no earthly wind can extinguish.
It warms the heart, when the world around us turns to ice.
It connects us with the heart of God.
It enables us to love our neighbor, our enemy, our persecutor.
The joy of the Lord is our strength.
His joy is our final guide through the door of death.
Joy knows that the Father has everything under control.
It gives thanks that God is on the throne.
It knows Jesus as its Lord and Friend.
It guards us in the Spirit, waking and sleeping.
Joy in the shadow of sorrow
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
In this world of sadness and suffering, how can we not mourn?
We see pain all around us and God’s Spirit weeps within us.
Where we can, we help.
And how can we not mourn over our own failings.
Words we wish we had never spoken.
Things we should have done, and never did.
Lord, have mercy!
In this world the joy of the Lord is always paired with holy sorrow.
Yet always rejoicing
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
II Corinthians 6
The joy of the Lord sanctifies our sorrows and overrides our regrets.
All we have to do is open our hearts to this gift from heaven, focus our minds on the Master, and rejoice in him as our Lord and Friend.
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, rejoice!
Let all people know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Prayer-Lord Jesus our precious friend, how beautiful that you offer us the gift of joy. How wonderful that even in our sorrows, disappointments, fears, loneliness and shame over our own failures that we can still find joy. Thank you, thank you. Lord, we open our hearts to this precious gift. We lift our eyes to you and trust that you have everything under control. Oh Loving Father, connect us to your very heart where we can be loved, where we can find peace, where we can find the power to love others, where our hearts can be guarded against evil and where we find the only joy that can sustain us. Lord, thank you for refining us, for using these trials to draw us to you, to make us more like you, to make us need you and cling to you. Instead of allowing suffering to whittle away our faith, may suffering increase our faith. Instead of being overcome by trials, may we let them produce endurance, moral strength and hope. May we let them cause your love to flow from us. And yes, Lord may the trials we face make us complete in you and in this may we find joy. MM
REB – May 2021 Printable Copy
Featured art: Karen Harkema facebook.com/karenharkema.art
Posted May 28, 2021
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you, to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God.
I Peter 4:12-16
Who of us hasn’t complained secretly in our heart, (or perhaps even at the top of our lungs),
“Why is my life constantly disrupted?
Why do I have to go through all this?
Why can’t I have a little peace and quiet?”
As if these trials we’re going through were some kind of abnormal thing, intruding on our divine peace, spoiling our joy in the Lord.
Have you ever known anyone who is seriously following Jesus whose life wasn’t disrupted? Who had no trials?
If you think you met such a person it was only because that person’s trials were hidden from your view. Behind their outwardly tranquil circumstances, and outwardly comfortable life, that follower of Jesus was going through trials too.
The abnormal Christian life, the life that will never survive this world, is the life without trials, where things are always smooth. No hassles, no dangers, never any money problems, no enemies; satisfaction and fulfillment on every front.
In this world of flesh and blood an un-disrupted, untroubled, satiated life, is a life of certain death. Such a life ends up in Laodicea where believers are so proud of their prosperity and so comfortable in their lukewarmness that they have no idea how dead they are.
For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by 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 … gold made pure by being brought through the heat and the flame of trial.
– The white garments are given to those who have come through great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
– Salve to anoint your eyes that you may see…
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
What is this salve that opens our blind eyes to reality – to see things as they are – but the trials that shake us out of enchanted slumber?
One thing all believers have in common along with the presence of Jesus in our lives; love, joy, peace in the Holy Spirit – is trial of one kind or another. Something that puts our lives under stress, causes pain, baffles us, makes us weak.
It is by these very trials that the Spirit of God;
-develops us into the likeness of Jesus,
-forms us into sons and daughters of the living God.
Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.
Without these trials we would never emerge from our spiritual infancy and we would be flattened by the first storm that hits.
Some of us are experiencing the trial of persecution…
People are giving us a hard time because we’re walking a road strange to them.
If they are giving us a hard time because we’re so obnoxious, because we’re self-righteous, hypocritical, lazy, thoughtless of others in our great piety, that’s not persecution. But there is genuine persecution going on in the lives of some among us….
.…. and this persecution is a trial, a refining fire.
There is the trial of monotony…
Do you think Jesus’ trials began only after He started to preach? What about those thirty years of monotony in the drab, tedious, narrow minded town of Nazareth? … a detestable place according to Nathanael…
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
It’s not all high adventure. It’s serving God among people that are petty, amid routines that are dry as dust, on and on, day-after-day, year-after-year, in the same boring place.
….But this very monotony is a refining fire.
There is the trial of loss…
– a loved one,
– a friend turns his back and walks out of your life, divorce tears up a home,
– a mate or a parent takes off, and it’s like part of your very soul is gone.
…. This too is a refining fire.
There is the trial of danger…
Paul talks about the perils he experienced.
Perils of water,
perils of robbers,
perils by Jews,
perils by Gentiles,
perils in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea,
perils among false brethren.
We too are exposed to dangers of violence to our person, our property.
….These very dangers are refining fires.
There is the thorn in the flesh
Some physical or mental malady that buffets us and we ask the Lord to take it away and He tells us that His grace is sufficient.
…… And we begin to accept this thorn in the flesh as a refining fire.
There is the trial of weakness…
Some tendency, some twist inside us like a broken wheel on the cart in the supermarket that causes it to keep crashing into the merchandise. Some fear, some perverse desire, some sick compulsion. Of many of these things we can expect to be healed.
… But from some there comes a refining flame that keeps driving us to our one source of strength.
There is the trial of loneliness…
…where we seem to be isolated by an invisible wall that no one can get through – not even our loved ones.
“Which of us has known his brother?
Which of us has looked into his father’s heart?
Which of us is not forever prison pent?
Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?”
Thomas Wolfe may have exaggerated in these words, but there are moments in most of our lives when that certainly seems to be true. And by those flames of loneliness our lives are refined some more.
So the trials come and the flames lick our lives. What do they produce?
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
- If we let them, our trials produce endurance.
The only way a runner builds up endurance is to run, and the only way a fighter learns how to take punches is to take punches, and the only way a child of God develops the power to endure is by passing on through trials.
Some of us look back on insults which almost drove us to suicide in the past … now we laugh them off and praise God. Setbacks that once seemed like the end of the world are all now part of a day’s work. Disappointments that once would depress us for days … now we shrug them off and keep going.
- If we let them, trials produce character, moral strength.
The power to walk through temptation and not fall apart. There are those whose moral strength puts us to shame because while we were living in the hothouse, they were plowing through storms and hard times. The solid dependable mind of Christ is formed in us only by enduring trials.
- If we let them, trials produce hope.
Our eyes begin to see the goal instead of forever, chasing the little goodies by the side of the road.
When you’re hanging on to God in a trial,
– your vision of the Kingdom sharpens,
– your desire for the Kingdom increases.
John didn’t have his Revelation vision during the good times in Ephesus. He had it when he was exiled on the barren isle of Patmos. Stephen saw Jesus more clearly as he was being pelted with the stones that killed him than at any other time in his life.
Our destiny, now that we’ve entered the Kingdom is not confined to this earth. Our very home is in the universe beyond — it all belongs to us as sons and daughters of God. But when do we catch a glimpse of our Father’s universe?’ Only when it’s dark.
- If we let them, trials cause the love of God to be shed abroad in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit:
The love of God will flow into anybody who opens their heart. But for the love of God to flow out of us with any consistency we need the flames of trial.
There was once a man who had ten children. He loved them in his own way but was always distant, hard, critical of them. Then one of his sons became mentally ill, and suddenly for the first time in his life the father forgot his own concerns, dropped everything, spent piles of money, drove miles and miles, stayed up whole nights, became a broken man. And the kindness that began flowing toward that stricken son soon was flowing toward all his children. He began to love.
- If we let them, trials bring us into fellowship with Jesus as never before.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s suffering…
I Peter 4:12-13
When you share in Christ’s suffering you fellowship with Christ Himself. You experience unspeakable peace, your inmost heart walks and talks with the Son of God.
- If we let them, trials bring the Spirit of Glory and of God to rest upon us.
If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
I Peter 4:14
When the trial is connected with the name of Christ, when we begin to suffer with Him outside the camp, the Spirit that was on Him, received Him in death; raised Him the third day, rests on us!
- If we let them, trials make us complete in God.
Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
When we’re complete in God they can take everything away from us that can be taken away – even life itself – and we’re still complete in God. We can pass into the next world with His praises on our lips.
There are many places in Christendom where they proclaim a gospel free from trials.
“Follow Jesus and your problems are over.”
“Follow Jesus and you’ll go first class all the way.”
Multitudes are flocking to those places. And who of us hasn’t sometimes thought how nice it would be to lie down on those rose petals and float to heaven? But God knows what we need. As surely as we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit we need by baptism of fire — trials.
We don’t have to go looking for them, they come by themselves. All we need to do is receive them in the name of the Lord, trusting that these trials may accomplish their purpose in our lives.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but under that name let him glorify God.
I Peter 4:12-16
Prayer- Lord, thank you for refining us, for using these trials to draw us to you, to make us more like you, to make us need you and cling to you. Instead of allowing suffering to whittle away our faith, may suffering increase our faith. Instead of being overcome by trials, may we let them produce endurance, moral strength and hope. May we let them cause your love to flow from us. And yes, Lord may the trials we face make us complete in you and in this may we find joy. MM
REB – 1978 and edited 2015 Printable PDF
Featured art: From the Heart series created by Sarah-Rebecca (Sai). The art featured here are close ups pulled from scripture cards that Sai has created that speak of the beautiful love of God. the-heart-series.tumblr.com/
Posted May 21, 2021
THE WANDERING BRANCH
One morning the little branch woke up and said to itself, “I’m tired of being stuck in this one spot forever. I think I’ll shake myself loose and take a little walk around the farm to see what’s going on.”
The little branch pulled and tugged until it was free of the Vine.
“It’s my constitutional right to be a free branch,” said the little branch as it tumbled to the ground.
The little branch walked down the road and came upon a crowd of branches gathered on the edge of the apple orchard listening to a tall branch dressed in a fine suit with clusters of gold hanging where grapes should be.
The leaves on this well-dressed branch were yellow and shriveled. But what an eloquent speaker he was!
“Trust me,” said the branch dripping with gold, “I will show you how to prosper.”
There was a stirring of admiration in the crowd. But the little branch was wary. “Why were those leaves yellow and shriveled?” said the little branch to itself.
“Hey! Over here!” came a voice from the onion patch. The little branch drew near and saw a branch wrapped in pure linen with a golden sash around its chest.
“All these years you have languished on that Vine and you still don’t know how to heal the sick and cast out demons. Listen to me. I’m going to teach you the secret of spiritual power.”
A crowd of branches came running to hear what this magnificent branch had to say.
“I will show you how to perform miracles. Come join me, and together we will change the world.”
The little branch was fascinated and came closer. But it noticed the leaves on this magnificent “spiritual branch” were brittle and brown.
As it turned away the little branch had the shock of its life. Its own leaves were beginning to shrink and shrivel.
“I don’t belong out here,” said the little branch to itself, and hurried back to the Vine.
Trembling with shame, the little branch cried out to the Vine, “May I come back? Will you take me to yourself this one last time?”
“Come,” said the Vine, and scooped up the little branch and fixed it back in its proper place.
“I am the true Vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit he takes away. And every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
Each branch has a direct connection to the Vine.
No preacher, no prophet, no spiritual advisor can be its source of nourishment.
Only the Vine can sustain the branch.
If we keep our connection to the Vine strong, we bear fruit.
If our connection is weak, we bear no fruit.
There are independent branches that offer prosperity, spiritual power, wisdom, and even grace.
But if we connect with them, our leaves wither and our fruit dries up.
Only the Vine can sustain us.
And the Vine can sustain us only if we are rooted and grounded in him.
“The one who abides in me, and I in them, that one bears much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
The Vine has a warning for those who wander off, asserting their “constitutional rights” to “freedom”.
“If a man does not abide in me he is cast forth as a branch and withers. And the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.”
And the Vine has an awesome promise for the branch that draws its life from him.
“If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
I abide in the Vine by soaking up his words and walking in his light.
I abide in the Vine by listening for his voice and obeying it.
“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.”
Prayer- – Kind, gracious Lord …. our strong vine …. our source of life, draw our wandering hearts back to you. Without you we dry up and wither away. Without you we can do nothing. Only you can give us the vibrant, fruitful life we need. Only you can sustain us amongst the distractions, fears and dissension that call us away from your very heart. Oh Lord, reach out, pull us tightly to you, keep us from anything that would snatch us away from you. May we listen to your calling voice, follow you and cherish the intimacy, the care and the life we find in you. MM
REB – May 2021 Printable PDF
Art: Courtesy of Signe Flink https://www.deviantart.com/signeflinkart
Posted May 14, 2021
She would sit on that bench in the park with a grocery cart stuffed with all her earthly belongings. If you came and sat on that bench and waited, she would tell you a story that would fill you with awe. She could transport you into another world simply with her words. Nobody knew where she came from. Mary just appeared one day on that bench. And for three years, summer and winter, every day she would sit and wait. Whenever someone came by and listened, Mary would lift them into her world.
Then one day she was gone. She was never seen again.
Those of us who opened our hearts to her, maybe shared a few dollars, or brought her some groceries, knew that Mary’s stories were not fiction.
She talked about God with such power and such joy that heaven sent glory upon that bench as Mary spoke. Through this strange woman many of us were introduced to another world:
So now we walk this earth like everyone else.
But we are actually living in God’s World.
God’s World has been at work in this world for a long, long time.
In his dream he saw a ladder rising up to heaven with angels swiftly moving up and down upon it. From far above Jacob heard the voice of God speaking directly to him.
When he awoke, Jacob was terrified. “This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven!”
That night, the old world of Jacob the cheater vanished. Jacob was now in God’s World where he would learn what it’s like to be cheated again and again the way he cheated his brother, Esau.
Yet Jacob would be watched over, protected and blessed by God for the rest of his days.
God’s World is a mystery. It seems to come and go like those angels on the heavenly ladder. God’s World is the Reality behind everything that happens on this troubled earth.
God’s World remains mostly hidden until “the appointed time”.
But God’s World is already at work among us.
Daniel revealed God’s World to King Nebuchadnez’zar long ago.
“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.”
This world, with its movers and shakers is the terrifying image. It appears to have great power and glory.
But its days are numbered.
“The head of this image was of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.”
Observe those feet of iron mixed with clay.
At the bottom of all the pomp and glory is weakness.
Its power is a fraud. Its glory is a lie.
“As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it smote the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces; then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
The stone is God’s World.
The stone is God speaking.
When Jesus arrives, he is the stone in its final form.
“The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news!”
To the movers and shakers of this world Jesus seems weak.
He possesses no wealth.
He carries no sword.
He commands no army.
Yet the moment Jesus breathes his last on that cross, those feet of iron and clay begin to tremble.
No wonder there’s an earthquake!
And when Jesus steps out of his tomb, never to die again, the iron and clay begin to shake.
Yes, the image of Nebuchadnez’zar’s dream is still standing.
But not for long.
The hour is near when those feet of iron and clay, the gold, silver, bronze and iron, will turn to dust.
Even now God’s World is the only world worth living in.
It’s the treasure hidden in a field.
It’s the mustard seed that will fill the earth.
The door to God’s World is open.
The Master calls us to leave the image behind and follow him into Reality.
Until God’s World arrives in its fullness we enter it by faith every day.
Every day we leave the image behind and walk in the Light.
Until God’s World is all there is.
Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.
Prayer– Lord though we live in two worlds, connect our hearts to your world. May the desires, concerns and troubles of this world crumble to dust in our hearts as we are struck by the stone of your Word. Lord, may your Word become a mountain within us and be our enduring reality. Help us to cherish it and to walk in its light each day until we dwell in the world where you are ever enthroned and we shall see your face and you alone shall be our light, our world. Amen.
REB – May 2021 Printable PDF
Art: Kate Austin … Deliverance from Man and All things New; Jacob’s Ladder Marc Chagall (Fair use policy) Iron & Clay via Sermon View License
Posted May 7, 2021
THEY WILL KNOW THAT YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It’s the rock-bottom command for all who follow Jesus.
A command, not an option.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
“This I command you: to love one another”
Yet, it is a rare thing to see followers of Jesus manifesting love for one another ….
…. across all the barriers we have created.
“Are those people really believers?”
We sniff out their doctrines.
We check their politics.
We measure their commitment.
We evaluate their grasp of scripture.
We roll our eyes at the way they worship.
The fire of God is falling on the Body of Christ worldwide,
calling us to repent and obey the Master’s basic command.
This fire is dividing those who repent from those whose love is missing, limited, or false.
“That you love one another as I have loved you.”
“Lord, how can I love that Republican hypocrite?”
“By getting over yourself and seeing that person as I do.”
“Lord, how can I love that Democrat do-gooder?”
“By getting over yourself and seeing that person as I do.”
“Lord I’m tired of hearing her say she is saved and can never be lost.”
“So you can’t love her?”
“Lord, that guy says he believes every word in the Bible. As far as I can see his life doesn’t show it.”
“So love him anyway.”
“Sister Brown says she’s ‘Spirit filled’. So how come she’s the town gossip?”
“I’ll do the judging. You do the loving”
And how do we love our sisters and brothers with the Lord’s kind of love?
We treat them with high honor.
It is impossible to love someone with Christ’s love unless we treat them with high honor.
His love in us belittles no one.
His love in us sees the “thou” in that person as holy.
We care about them.
God’s love moves us to care about every sister, every brother who claims Jesus as Lord.
We repent of the jaundiced eye and the cold heart and allow the Lord’s love to humble us.
….Until we care enough to wash their feet and serve them.
We pray for them constantly.
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.
I John 5
We lift them up before the throne by name day after day, these sisters and brothers with whom we have only one thing in common: Jesus.
We may not see eye to eye on doctrine.
We may be on opposite sides of a thousand issues.
We simply trust that they are trying to follow the same Jesus we are.
Maybe they’re misguided.
Maybe we are misguided.
What better thing to do than to lift them before the Father every day and plead his blessing on them?
We listen to them with the ear of the Lord.
When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, or blind Bar-Timaeus, or even Simon the Pharisee, he listened with grace and responded with quiet truth.
His ear was as open as the ear of his Father.
And our ear needs to be as open as the ear of our Master.
Back off, be still, and listen.
We speak to them and with the grace we’ve been given.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.
We repent of our attitudes and opinions as we speak to a sister or a brother in the Lord.
We speak with integrity and humility.
Our desire is to encourage and bless.
If we think a rebuke is needed, may the Lord enable us to do it with fear and trembling.
We forgive and ask for forgiveness.
The Body of Christ is a School of Forgiveness.
In his wisdom the Lord puts us together with people with whom we have nothing in common but Jesus.
Now Jesus is giving us a little exercise in the practice of patience, forbearance and forgiveness.
At the same time the Master is using our strange ways to try the patience of sisters and brothers.
The more we practice forgiveness, the more our love for one another increases.
We walk through fire with them.
Held together by the Master’s love and by our love for each other, …. we approach the coming days with faith.
We will walk together through smoke and flames and the chaos of a world in free-fall.
Suddenly our differences will evaporate …. and the Master’s love in us will become…..
our strength, our unity, our power, our authority over evil.
We let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in the one Body.
And be thankful.
No matter how violent the storm, we are together in the boat with Jesus. This time he does not raise his hand and rebuke the wind and the waves.
This time he simply says to us,
“Peace be with you.”
And we are not afraid.
His love in us,
Our love for him,
Our love for each other, is all we need.
Prayer- Lord we fall before you in our great failure to love one another as you love us. We repent of this, we grieve that the love we should have is stopped up by our opinions and attitudes and divisive thoughts. We know this separates us from you. Without this love pouring out of us, we are dead inside and outside. We seek to come to life again. Lord, we seek true love for our brothers and sisters… even though we struggle with feeling it, Lord, help us to act on it until it is real. Help us to treat our brothers and sisters with dignity. Help us to truly care for them. Help us to be there for them. Help us to pray for them constantly. Help us to listen to them with true attention and concern. Help us to speak lovingly, kindly and graciously to them. And Lord help us to pour blessings on them. Light our hearts with the knowledge that we all cling to you together. Nothing, no difference between us changes that. May we draw closer to each other, leading us to find your love and your peace in the love we have for one another and opening the eyes of the world to the power of your love. MM
REB – May 2021 Printable PDF
Art: All by Lars Justinen via Good Salt license
Posted April 30, 2021
HEARING THE SHEPHERD’S VOICE
Christianity is complicated these days.
So many issues:
You have to stay sharp to be on the right side of things.
By contrast, Jesus keeps it simple. All those issues are swallowed up in one sentence:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Jesus speaks, we listen.
Jesus leads, we follow.
Jesus commands, we obey.
It all begins when we hear his voice.
Until we hear his voice, we may be doctrinally sound, politically “Christian”, we may have a life-style that rival’s John the Baptist.
But we’re dead.
We’re dead until we hear the Shepherd’s voice.
“The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And those who hear shall live.”
The Shepherd says, “Follow me!”
Do we hear it down by the river?
Do we hear it in a church?
Do we hear it from the bottom of a pit?
Do we hear it while a friend is tempting us with a fortune?
Jesus is not an ideology, or an insight or a program, or “seven steps to salvation”.
Jesus is our Shepherd.
Either we follow the voice of the Shepherd….or we’re still in darkness.
It’s his voice that counts, the words that he speaks.
Those words are Spirit and Life.
Those words are fire.
They are a dividing sword.
The Shepherd is able to make his voice heard without our help.
He draws us to himself and speaks to us in a thousand ways.
The Shepherd gathers us together and speaks.
“Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
It could be five souls sitting under an oak tree.
It could be a handful gathered in a storefront.
Or a mega church or an old cathedral.
When it’s more than a “church routine”, when the focus is on him, the Shepherd speaks.
Through the words of a hymn.
A casual greeting.
A message from scripture.
Maybe two sentences in a dry sermon.
“My sheep hear my voice.”
The Shepherd speaks through the voice of a stranger.
My wife and I are sitting at the departure gate and have just been told that our flight has been cancelled.
A young woman begins to weep.
We ask if we can help.
“I’ve got to get home! I don’t know what to do.”
This is no accident. This is the Shepherd saying, “Forget your own problem and help this woman.”
The Shepherd speaks through the four gospels.
Jesus never wrote a book. He did not need to.
The Spirit bore witness to him through his followers.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
When we go to the four gospels seeking a word from our Shepherd, he never fails to speak words that empower us.
Sometimes to repent.
Sometimes to forgive.
Sometimes to move a mountain.
The Shepherd’s voice—from Genesis to Revelation.
Once we begin hearing the voice of our Shepherd in the gospels, he leads us through the mystery of redemptive history from its dawn to the present moment.
Reading the Bible is like climbing Mount Sinai to meet with God. The mountain is rough and strange. We are mystified and baffled. Then we begin to hear the voice of the Shepherd.
All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
By the time we get to Revelation the voice of the Shepherd thunders like rushing water.
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
When we pray, the Shepherd not only listens, he speaks.
And when we pray, we not only speak, we listen.
We listen in silence.
We let the Shepherd speak to us through a Psalm.
We remember a promise.
We ponder a command.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father. And he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.
You know him, for he dwells with you and shall be in you.
I will not leave you desolate. I will come to you.”
Christianity is complicated these days.
Following Jesus is simple.
Our Shepherd speaks, we listen.
He leads, we follow.
He commands; we obey
“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.”
Prayer- Loving Lord, tender Shepherd, without your voice, we are lost, we are dead. Speak to us Jesus, so we may live again. May we hear your sweet voice above all the other calls in this world that seem like they are right, but instead lead us to despair, division and darkness. May the Counselor, your Holy Spirit be with us, dwell in us, so we know when it is truly you calling. Help us to open our ears to hear you throughout our days… in our prayers, by a word, in a verse, in a conversation, by a coincidence, in circumstances good and bad. Empower us to follow and obey you because we know you, the Holy One is speaking. And may we also know, really know that as we follow, we are never alone… because you know us… you hold us tightly, you protect us, you we will never abandon us, and you will lead us to life. MM
REB – April 2021 Printable PDF
Art: Kind courtesy of Signe Flink deviantart.com/signeflinkart
Posted April 23, 2021
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit;. and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.!’
And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
“They Were Not Able!”
We know how those disciples felt when the man brought his demon possessed son to them, and they were powerless to help. There is a discrepancy between the life Jesus offers to those who follow him and the life we’re living.
“If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Jesus promises that we will have authority over all the power of the enemy, that rivers of living water will flow out of our hearts, that the works that he does we shall do in this life … in these bodies of flesh and blood.
That we, like our Lord himself, will go forth into this troubled world and set the captives free.
But is it happening? Too often the poor and the maimed and the halt and the blind come to us with hope, and after a while this. hope fades and they limp away, still hurting in their souls.
Yet we know our Lord means it to be otherwise. It can be otherwise!
We know what it is that will bring an end to our inadequacy. If there is one word Jesus Christ speaks to our hearts it’s the word “Believe!”
“O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?”
“Believe in me! Trust me!”
When they told the ruler of the synagogue that his daughter was dead, Jesus fixed his eyes on the man and said, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” As Jesus approached the grave of Lazarus, he said to the dead man’s sister Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he were dead yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”
Believe! Believe! Believe!
Jesus never tires of uttering that word because it’s the only way anyone will ever come out of the darkness into the light.
“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)
“While you have the light, believe in the light… that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36)
What a contrast between the disciples who stood there that day with empty hands — they tried to cast out a demon and it wouldn’t go — and this heartbroken father who kept pressing on to get some help for his son. The disciples, in this situation, were powerless. But this father was making progress. He was going to get what he was after — his faith was getting stronger by the minute in the promise of Jesus.
And he answered them, “0 faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” (Mark 9:19)
0 faithless generation! Never belittle those disciples of twenty centuries ago … they far outperformed us. Can we deny that we lack faith? “Believe!” Jesus says to us. What stands in the way of the faith he calls us to have?
Removing The Hindrances
Burning faith in Jesus Christ is always thwarted by our insistence that we do believe when we don’t.
How often we go on pretending to ourselves, and others, to have a faith in Jesus that simply isn’t there! “Don’t worry about me, Lord, I have plenty of faith!” But if every cupboard is bare, if we’re totally empty inside, there will be no change until we admit our need, until we begin to cry; “I believe! Help my unbelief!” When we admit our unbelief, he helps us, and faith wells up and things start to happen.
Burning faith is always thwarted when we try to put our faith in principles and doctrine’s, or even in faith itself, instead of the person of Jesus Christ.
We’re busy reading books and going to meetings trying to “build faith,” always careful never to say or think anything negative for fear it will tear down our faith.
But what kind of faith is thus produced?
Self-conscious faith … faith in our faith.
We’re like a man walking in a crowd who feels for his wallet every three minutes to make sure it’s still there — ever feeling for our faith. “Do I still have it? Ah, yes, praise the Lord, it’s still there!” ….What’s still there? Forget your principles and your doctrines and your faith-building exercises, and your “positive confessions” and get your heart on Jesus himself.
And when he says, “Believe!” answer him, even if you have to say, “I believe, help my unbelief”
Burning faith in Jesus Christ is thwarted by our seeking our own glory.
“How can you believe who receive honor one from another and seek not the honor which comes from God only.” (John 5:44)
We cannot have faith in God when we have our eyes on men. We will never put our lives into the hands of Jesus so long as we are still lusting after human approval. The boy’s father didn’t care what anybody thought …. didn’t care if the whole world saw him weeping for his troubled son.
“If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us!”
“What do you mean, if I can? …all things are possible to him who believes.”
“I believe!” cried the father in tears, “Help my unbelief!”
O God, help us to cry out to your Son like that!
Burning faith in Jesus Christ is thwarted by an unforgiving heart.
Notice how often the promise of answered prayer is connected with the command to forgive.
“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one….” (Mark 11:24-25)
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. An unforgiving heart is an unbelieving heart and it will never be a believing heart until it is a forgiving heart.
Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief! Help me to forgive!”
Burning faith in Jesus Christ is thwarted by a prayer less life.
And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately,
“Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them,
“This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Some manuscripts add “fasting” … “by prayer and fasting.” When we are living a life of prayer we will know when and how to fast. But it is important to remember that fasting is a part of prayer, not a thing in itself.
The same Holy Spirit who enables us to say, “Jesus is Lord,” enables us to pray. If I yield to the Spirit as he moves me to say, “Jesus is Lord,” but hold back when he directs me to pray; how long will I continue to say and believe that Jesus is Lord?
Surely if we are going to do the works that our Lord did, as he promised believers would, we are going to have to be the men and women of disciplined, faithful prayer, Jesus calls us to be, even if we have to start every day with the prayer, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”
We can eliminate the discrepancy between the life Jesus offers us and the life we’re actually living. We simply need to listen to one word from the lips of our Master which he speaks as urgently to us today as he ever spoke to anybody,
“Believe! All things are possible to him who believes!”
Prayer- Lord in the midst of suffering and sorrow, the burdens that are brought to me, the prayers I speak for healing… I feel helpless. My faith is not enough. I want to help, but I fear any smidgen of unbelief and any sense of self pride on my part, hinders your power. Lord have mercy, I do believe, help my unbelief. Forgive me. Help me to do what you ask… to admit my emptiness and my longing for man’s approval when it comes to prayer. Help me to have faith in you and not in my faith or theology. Help me to forgive from the heart as I turn to you. Help me to seek you, only you in the midst of the overwhelming needs that surround me and in the midst of my own powerlessness. You are more powerful, more merciful than my unbelief. Light a fire of burning faith within me, give me power over the enemy, cause living water to flow out of my heart, help me to set the captive free. All in your name Jesus. I know you can do all things. You are Lord of Heaven and earth. Nothing is beyond you. MM
REB – Unknown date (Found in the Guidance booklet, free upon request) Printable PDF
All Art: Permission of Chris Cook at chriscookartist.com
Posted April 16, 2021
KNOW WHO YOU ARE
And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
“Knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, that he had come from God and was going to God.”
Jesus knew who he was.
The False Reference
The reason we have such a difficult time laying aside our garments and washing feet is that we’re still trying to find out who we are.
Most of us have a very shaky sense of our own identity.
We’re like a man who wakes up on a plane and can’t remember his own name, or where he came from, or where he’s going; hoping with all his heart that when the plane lands he’ll meet some familiar face at the terminal that will bring it all back to him.
To be poor in spirit, to be meek and lowly of heart does not mean to be forever in a panic trying to figure out who we are….
….But to be secure enough inside about who we are that we can cheerfully face the truth of our utter need of God’s mercy.
The problem among believers is that instead of finding themselves by losing themselves in God, they lose themselves by trying to find themselves in the eyes of men.
We’re living in a world where everybody keeps losing track of who he is, where everyone’s self-image keeps blowing up in his face because it’s founded on human opinion rather than the Spirit of God.
Here’s a woman who when she entered into marriage a few years ago was strikingly beautiful and overflowing with happiness. Now she has three children, a husband who lives for ABCs “Wide World of Sports,” days filled with sickness and boredom. The walls are closing in. If you asked her if she’s the radiant bride who walked down the aisle a few years ago she’d laugh in your face!
Take a look at her husband. He had great plans for his life — once. But now his whole personality looks like it’s been spin-dried. He’s resigned himself to a monotonous job, boring home life, whining children, complaining wife, and escapes into T.V., hockey, baseball and football. He has long since lost track of who he is. His mind is shriveled and getting smaller every day. And these people we watch on our television and read about in Time Magazine, whose lives seem so interesting; most of them have about as good a grip on who they are as on that bar of soap in the bottom of the bathtub.
They have the same anxieties about their identity, the same emptiness, the same inner desperation as the rest of the population.
Ever since the fall of man, humans have tried to establish who they are by comparing themselves with their fellow man. Cain looked at his brother Abel with envy that turned to murder because Cain only knew who he was with reference to Abel; and it made him sick. Korah, Dathan and Abiram and the two hundred and fifty who challenged Moses in the wilderness were trying to find their identity with reference to Moses. “Who do you think you are, Moses? You’re no better than the rest of us!” (Moses never said he was.)
The Pole Star
But in the Kingdom of God we know who we are not by comparing ourselves with someone else, but from within – ever knowing who we are in relation to God.
He is the pole star.
Outwardly we travel a road that gives us little reassurance as to who we are.
If we don’t know who we are and keep knowing, we’ll soon be swallowed up by the dullness, the monotony, the hard things that come to us, and open ourselves to seducing spirits.
It happens to many believers. They travel well for a while. Then circumstances become rough. And when they get no assurance from outward sources or admiring friends, they become victims of whatever lying spirit tells them something nice.
…Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
This man, washing the feet of his friends like a slave, suffers no identity crisis.
He is able to serve so freely because he knows who he is in relation to the Father. Knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, that he had come from God and was going to God, he was able to lay aside his garments and serve.
A person who is in doubt about who he is can never do such things.
“For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”
II Timothy 1:11-12
Paul is able to suffer as he does and not lose his mind because he knows who he is in relationship to the true and living God. He knows who he belongs to, where his anchor is.
To survive the storms and eerie calms and continuously live in the mind of God, which is mercy, free of the need to find our identity in circumstances, or our comfort in lying spirits, we must know who we are, not as some idea we read in a book, but as blazing inner truth.
It’s up to us to know and to keep knowing who we are.
Know Who You Are
- It’s up to you to know and keep knowing that you are a redeemed child of God.
But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son. into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. Galatians 4:4-7
A son of God — male or female — born of his nature, redeemed and set free from those things that kept you in bondage to your old nature. And the proof that God has adopted you as a son is that you have the Spirit of the Son crying in your heart, “Abba! Father!”
The man or woman who takes hold of this truth and bases their life on it will begin to experience its reality. The old chains that bound you will fall away and you will start living, thinking, praying, choosing, conquering, like a son of God.
- It’s up to you to know and keep knowing that you are a chosen vessel.
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. John 15:16
Long before you ever heard of Jesus Christ he knew you and he chose you to be his disciple. And now he ordains you to go and bring forth fruit that will last.
He didn’t choose us because we’re so talented, or so kindhearted, or so spiritually inclined.
He chose us as living evidence of the mercy of God.
If he can save us he can save anybody!
If he can use us he can use anybody!
So how can a chosen vessel have an identity crisis?
Only by taking its eyes off the One who chose it and by starting to compare itself with other vessels.
Peter was chosen to do what Peter was ordained to do, not what John was ordained to do. “If I want John to tarry until I come, what’s that to you? Follow me. Keep your eye on your own work and leave your brothers and sisters work alone.”
- It’s up to you to know that you have been called into a royal priesthood.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. I Peter 2:9
And what does this priesthood do?
Everything the Messiah, the High Priest does.
It enters into his work of worshiping the Father and serving him night and day, ministering the life of God to the world through the blood of the Lamb, and above all interceding, praying.
The best place to discover again and. again who we are in relationship to God is in prayer –especially intercessory prayer.
As we pray for others by name, faithfully lifting them before the Throne for blessing we will know that we are indeed members of a royal priesthood and we will see life descending from heaven upon those for whom we pray.
- It’s up to you to know and keep knowing that you are on your way to glory.
Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. I John 3:2-3
“Knowing that he had come from God and was going to God.”
Knowing that in spite of the humiliating and agonizing things that lay directly ahead he was on his way back to the glory of the Father.
If we allow ourselves to lose sight of the goal we make ourselves vulnerable to every false goal, every distraction the enemy dangles in front of our minds.
We are on our way to a place where all the glory for which we were made, all the good our hearts have ever longed for, the beauty of the living God to which the whole universe sings in harmony will be visible to our eyes. We will see his glory, we will hear unspeakable music, and we will taste unimaginable delights.
And the assurance that this glory waits for us is that the foretaste of all this is ours now through the Holy Spirit.
But it’s up to us to know and keep knowing where our destination really is.
Who we are is clearly connected to where we’re headed.
If I forget that I’m a pilgrim passing through this world in the service of God on my way to glory in the service of God…I’ve lost my identity, I’ve forgotten who I am.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God….
So we, knowing that we are ….
redeemed Sons of God,
a royal priesthood
and on our way to glory…
…. we can lay aside our garments, gird ourselves with a towel and wash feet until Jesus comes.
May the Spirit of God help us to be clear about who we are and remain clear through whatever storms may come until the day dawns and the night is gone forever.
Prayer- Lord, deliver us from looking to men for our sense of identity. Rescue us from the emptiness and despair we bring on ourselves because we are trying to measure up. Free us from the lying spirits that set our hearts on our own self image. Dear Father, help us to keep our eyes and hearts on you, never forgetting who we are, your beloved children. May we live like your redeemed children, knowing our inheritance, knowing what you offer us now. May we find confidence and joy knowing that you chose us, you chose us Abba, Father. May we enter into the royal priesthood you call us to, lifting many before your Throne, ministering your life to this world, knowing this is our call. May we continually remember that you, the Living God, are our destination. No matter where this journey takes us, we are yours, Alleluia. MM
REB 1977 (Found in the Guidance booklet, free upon request) Printable PDF
Art: All through kindness and generosity of Melani Pyke melpyke.com
Posted April 9, 2021
AN OFFERED LIFE
What better way to live than to pour out our life as an offering to God!
It’s not just a lamb to be sacrificed, or some wheat from your harvest, or some money you put on the plate.
Such things are but tokens of the only true offering which is your life.
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. (Genesis 4)
There are two ways we can give ourselves to God.
We can give ourselves to God as an offering.
We can give ourselves to God as an investment.
We give our life to God as an offering out of thanksgiving for who God is.
His kindness to us is a fathomless mystery.
So we give ourselves to God in gratitude, without looking for a reward.
We give our lives to God as an investment when we calculate,
“If I give myself to God, he’s obligated to do special things for me.”
In this case we’ve merely deposited our life with God like a money-market certificate. And we’re looking for a pay-off!
I remember a friend in high school who complained at the end of his date, “After all the money I spent on her she wouldn’t even give me a kiss.” That money he spent on her was a risky investment, and he lost.
So often the life we claim to be spending for God is merely a risky investment.
We’re expecting a return.
And when there is no return, we decide that God is cheating us.
“Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!” (Luke 15)
Like the Older Brother in this parable we throw in the towel and say,
“It doesn’t pay to follow Jesus!”
“What’s the use of prayer?”
“I’m tired of being good!”
A “right offering”
“For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord.” (Malachi 3)
The leper, when he saw that he was healed, turned back praising God with a loud voice and fell at Jesus’ feet giving him thanks, was presenting a “right offering”.
He was saying ‘Thank You’ with his body, soul and spirit.
The woman who took an alabaster box of ointment worth a year’s wages and lavished it on Jesus before his crucifixion was presenting a “right offering”.
She was overwhelmed with gratitude for the new life Jesus was giving her!
What shall I render to the Lord?
What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people….
….I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, 0 Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 116)
What can I do to show God my thanks?
I will live in his presence, calling on his name, speaking to him, thanking him, communing with him, joyfully seeking to please him.
“I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all his people…”
I will offer myself to God here, in the congregation—before these witnesses.
“Thank you, Lord, for your salvation.
– I receive it.
– I live by its power.
– I call on your name.
– I commit myself to you afresh.
“I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call upon the name of the Lord.”
A sacrifice of thanksgiving is a life poured out in gratitude to God!
I thank God with my mouth, but also with deeds of mercy toward those God sends across my path.
Suppose the person I help doesn’t even say thank you.
No problem … my deed was an offering to God, not an investment.
Suppose this person never returns the kindness. No problem.
It was an offering not an investment!
What a difference it makes when the things we do for people are done as an offering of thanksgiving!
-The prayers we pray.
-The visits we make.
-The letters we write.
-The meals we cook.
-The gifts we give.
-The time we spend listening, serving.
What freedom, when we can do these things in thanksgiving to God!
Our body as a living sacrifice
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12)
Spiritual worship, is not a business transaction…
“I’ll give you my life, Lord, if you give me a reserved seat in heaven.”
You already have a reserved seat in heaven if you’re crucified with Christ.
The Spirit of heaven is breathing upon you as you read these words.
God help us,
– to turn our invested lives into offered lives,
– to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.
Prayer- Oh kind and merciful Lord, who bears the weight of our shame and yet still tenderly loves us, how precious your gifts are to us, how precious your tender love. We abandon ourselves to you in thanksgiving. We offer ourselves to you. May our offering be one of joy and love with no intent of a reward. May our offerings be acceptable to you precious Lord. MM
REB 1981 (shortened version edited 2021) Printable PDF
Art: Kate Austin christart.co.uk
Posted April 2, 2021
I CAME TO CAST FIRE ON THE EARTH
When Jesus of Nazareth hung on the cross that dark Friday afternoon, it looked like the end of the road. He’d had a good run while it lasted. He shook things up for a while. Now it’s over. He’s done. Everybody can see that this prophet wasn’t the prophet he claimed to be.
His disciples were devastated. His mother was heartbroken. Jesus had failed. And all his wonderful promises turned out to be worthless.
So it seemed.
Nobody had a clue about what was actually happening as he hung on that cross— nobody, except one of the criminals hanging beside him, and a Roman army officer who could not stop trembling.
Who could have guessed that this hour of defeat was actually the fountainhead of his power.
“I have come to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled,”
Well, now that fire is kindled.
Kindled at the cross.
The fire of heaven.
It’s a fire that brings down judgment, a fire that divides like a knife.
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
It’s a fire that consumes evil. A fire that refines the precious gold that comes out of the flames.
Long ago this fire fell on Elijah’s sacrifice at Mt. Carmel, bringing judgment on the people of Israel. Now, at the cross, this fire falls on the sin of the world—all the world’s sin collected in the body of this dying man.
This dying man, who is more than a man; this man is the heart of God. A broken heart. A heart pouring out forgiveness on the lost sheep.
All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
But this fire did more than burn up the sin of the world.
Three days later the fire raised this man from the dead, the Firstborn of the New Creation.
Then it began to spread. Those followers of his, who were so devastated—suddenly, when they saw him alive from the dead, burst into flame. The fire came down like a knife and cut them off from their past, from the ways of this dark world. These men and women were now ablaze with a fire which they themselves could not contain.
It was like a forest fire. It had a will of its own. If it came near you, you burst into flame. You blinked your eyes and suddenly found yourself cut off from your past, standing inside the Kingdom, anointed with the fire of heaven.
But here’s the part we often forget:
the source of this fire is the cross.
Jesus’ cross is where it began, and from which it spreads even now.
The cross is where the power is.
You will find this power nowhere else. Because…..
….On that cross the Lamb of God drained all our darkness into his Light. Swallowed all our guilt into his death. And then set fire to the earth—a fire which judges, divides, raises the dead.
A fire which is meant to burn in our hearts today.
Maybe the Muslims don’t understand the power of the cross. Maybe the Jews don’t understand the power of the cross. But why is it that so many Christians keep looking for power in a thousand other places, when God’s redemptive power is to be found nowhere else?
The cross is the spiritual Big Bang, the door through which heaven spreads its fire of judgment, division, and resurrection life out over the face of this earth.
It’s not money, it’s not political clout.
Not crosses sitting on top of church steeples, or crucifixes hanging on our walls.
Not the sign of the cross we make as if we were working some kind of magic.
Our only power is the refining flame of Jesus’ death, burning in our bones, just like it burned in the bones of the Apostle Paul.
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. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
I Corinthians 2:1-5
The cross is our only power. Jesus’ death working in our souls until we die to ourselves, and rise out of our vanity graves to live our lives to God.
At this hour the worldwide church is going through a radical cleansing by means of this fire. The church that emerges from this cleansing will be very different from the church we see today. Out of this refined, chastened church will flow the grace of God as it has not been seen for a long, long time.
The signs our Lord performed with utter simplicity, will occur with that same simplicity among believers near and far. No more hocus-pocus. No more drama. Right in the middle of a hymn, a woman racked with pain will suddenly feel warm all over, as the pain leaves. A man with suicidal thoughts will walk away from the Lord’s Table, no longer depressed.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he/she who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will they do, because I go to the Father.”
We won’t need evangelism committees and church growth seminars. We will have our hands full helping all these new believers who come through our doors—helping them to walk the way of the Kingdom.
But we will need to keep our eyes open and pay attention. Because there will also be men and women who prophesy and cast out demons and do many mighty works in Jesus’ Name, who are not part of what God is doing. On the surface, their signs and wonders look like the real thing, but they will lack the fire of the cross. These people will seem pious and “spiritual”, but they are not crucified with Christ. They are not burning with his fire. They have an agenda of their own.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’
So—on the one hand, there are those who perform signs of the kingdom who, at the end, will hear,
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
On the other hand, there are those who perform signs and wonders in Jesus’ Name, who, at the end, will hear the Master say,
“I never knew you.”
We need to keep this in mind, because, in the coming days we are going to see, in our places of worship, and in our daily lives, an increase of spiritual power.
But we need to make sure that the source of our power is the fire of the Cross.
Indeed, we ourselves need to learn to live under the power of the cross every day.
To live under the power of the cross means three things.
Daily cleansing at the cross.
Daily renewal at the cross.
Daily walking the way of the cross.
- Daily cleansing at the cross.
I knew a man who many years ago sat in this church and had a vision. As he sat, looking at the cross on the altar, he seemed to see a stream of blood flowing from beneath the cross, out through the air, and straight into his heart. He had the impression the stream went through him and came out his back as an ugly black substance that gradually became clear as crystal as the stream kept flowing, and disappeared. The man walked out of here with his burdens lifted.
But I’m sure that man found, as we all do, that such a cleansing is never once-and-done.
Who of us does not need to find cleansing at the cross every day? Every hour.
Sometimes a memory rises up and accuses us. Some nasty thing we said, some cowardly thing we did. Someone who still bears the scars of our neglect. So we take this thing and bring it to the cross, and with fear and trembling, let the fire of God burn it away and set us free.
- We need daily renewal at the cross.
To be renewed at the cross these words of Paul are a great help:
“I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”
Christ cannot live in me, unless I am crucified with him. Dead to myself and burning with his fire.
So I find renewal by reminding myself daily that when he died on that cross, I was up there wrapped inside him. He was the seed falling into the earth and dying. I am one of the countless seeds he produced when he rose from the dead.
Just as many of us begin our daily prayers by praying the Lord’s Prayer, we might find it helpful also, to repeat those words of Paul:
“I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ to lives in me.”
There is no better place to go, when we feel lost and confused, than to the cross. And then, we just hold still, until the heavenly fire burns away our confusion.
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.
- Finally, we need, daily, to walk the way of the cross.
Faith is not a mental state, it’s a walk. It’s following the Way which our Master walked.
“If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
No matter who we are, or where God has placed us in this troubled world, once we start following the Master, we carry a cross inside us. We offer ourselves up to God daily, as our Master did.
And, behold, there he is, right there with us!
“Lo, I am with you always.”
Throughout each day we simply do what needs to be done in the midst of our mundane chores. We open our ears to burdened hearts. We speak words of encouragement. We breathe prayers of blessing. We keep doing what we know our Lord wants us to do.
Even though we feel inadequate! Even though we feel unworthy, in the midst of our weakness, the power of the cross burns like a flame within us, sustaining us with its power.
Every day we find cleansing at the cross.
Every day we find renewal at the cross.
Every day we walk the way of the cross.
And the outcome?
Resurrection life from God, every single day.
The fire of heaven that raised Jesus from the dead raises us from the dead, moment by moment, until we reach the Final Resurrection. For all our aches and pains and worries and fears the fire of heaven keeps raising us up out of the darkness, and sending us forth to do the Father’s will.
And when our work is done, the fire of the cross leads us into worlds beyond our knowing, where eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man….
the things God has prepared for those who love him
Prayer- Lord we seek the fire you cast upon this earth, the fire kindled by your cross, the fire that shows us the very heart of God, a fire filled so filled with mercy and forgiveness that it conquered the power of the grave. Set our hearts ablaze with this fire. Unite us with you O Lamb of God. And yes, may your refining flame work through us, burn in our bones and bring us to die to ourselves and to live in you. May the only power we live and walk come only from you. We need you daily, hourly to truly live in the power of your flame. We bring our sins, our weaknesses, anything dark and twisted within us to you. O lord burn them away. Renew us, sustain us, resurrect us so what we cherish and desire is you in us…our hope…our glory. And yes, Lord as we step forward into each encounter in our lives may the fire of heaven burn in us, dispel darkness, and sparks new flames that continue to cast your fire on this earth to the end.
REB 2017 Link to printable PDF
Art: Jonathan Allan Farrell at jonathanfarrell.com and Facebook. All untitled pieces are by Chris Powers at Fullofeyes.com. Some are stills from animations.
Posted March 26, 2021
WHEN YOU STAND PRAYING
Anyone who claims that prayer is easy has not been at it for very long.
We may have a “prayer honeymoon” when we first encounter Jesus.
Suddenly prayer flows like a river, and awesome things happen. God is answering our prayers almost as fast as we can pray them.
We are like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. It’s a time of great joy, as God reveals his goodness and his power.
After the Red Sea comes the Wilderness. Suddenly prayer is a mystery. The answers no longer come flying down from heaven.
What’s wrong? Have we lost touch with God? Have we taken a wrong turn?
Not at all. The Wilderness is the place where we learn to walk by faith. We are now in the School of Prayer. The Wilderness is where we are taught to keep praying, even when nothing makes sense.
When we emerge from the Wilderness and enter the Promised Land of faith, prayer becomes the foundation of our walk with God.
Jesus never ceases to promise answers to our prayers. He tells us to keep praying and never lose heart.
“Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
“Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.”
“Ask and it will be given you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you.”
“And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily.”
(The “elect” are simply those who cry to him day and night, who are connected to God through prayer.)
Our Lord keeps it simple. If you ask, you will receive. If you pray, your prayer will be answered.
Jesus never tells us why some prayers are answered instantly and others require persistent repetition.
He just tells us to pray and keep praying, and never give up.
The door to answered prayer
But why should God answer our prayers? What claim do we have on God?
Is it our righteousness?
Is it because we’ve “discovered the secret of prayer”?
The only claim we have on God is his unspeakable mercy.
Behind every answered prayer is God’s forgiveness.
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The forgiveness of the cross is our only claim on God. Forgiveness has opened heaven’s door, so that we can come to the Father and ask.
God answers my prayer, not because I’m worthy, but because he has forgiven me.
Without the unspeakable forgiveness of God, prayer would be impossible.
And our Father does more than forgive us. He sends us help with our prayers.
The Holy Spirit ignites our prayers.
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.
As long as we are in these bodies we are “beginners” at prayer. We never become skilled. We are never experts. We are children. And only when we approach the Father as children (rather than “experts”) do our prayers receive the help of the Spirit.
The Spirit quickens our faith.
The Spirit gives us words.
The Spirit brings our minds into focus.
Every time we pray the Spirit joins us to the cross of Jesus.
And doors open.
But there is one essential which is often missed.
The forgiveness of God needs to rule our hearts as we pray.
When you stand praying….
Jesus tells us,
“When you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone.”
If there is a trace of unforgiveness in my spirit my prayer is hindered. Just as the Father makes prayer possible through his forgiveness, he expects that forgiveness to rule my prayers to him.
“When you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone.”
What do I do if I just cannot find the strength to forgive some detestable thing that was done to me or to my loved one?
My first prayer needs to be a prayer for help.
“Lord, I’m not willing. But I’m willing to be made willing.”
Then I need to pray for the one whom I cannot forgive.
“Lord God, I’m not sure I can even mean these words. I need your help. But I am praying that you will flood the one I’m thinking of with your fulfilling mercies, meeting all their needs.”
Many of us have found this prayer, taught by Rex Andrews, to be helpful in clearing the way when our prayer is blocked by resentment.
In his teaching about the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus makes clear that God’s forgiveness flows only when we forgive.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
If we’re having trouble with this, we can be sure of our Lord’s help.
We need to lay that bitterness before him and ask him to cleanse it in his blood.
And he will.
“When you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone.”
Prayer- Lord we stand before you in your name, in your mercy, in the power of your forgiveness. Give us hearts that do cry to you day and night … hearts that don’t give up, hearts that know you have opened heaven’s door for us, hearts that know you extend unbelievable mercy to us. Spirit, help us with our feeble prayers. Give us vision, give us faith, and yes ignite our hearts. And Lord as we stand before you in your tender forgiveness, help us to forgive as well. Pour mercy, conviction, and compassion into our hearts so we can be united in the power of forgiveness which pours from your throne. And Lord, as we struggle to forgive and let go of our bitterness…help us. Flood those who hurt us, those we disagree with and those we don’t like with your mercy. Take care of their needs, give them the desires of their hearts. Handle them with the same gentle compassion we ourselves desire. Help us Lord, help us Lord as we stand before you praying.
REB : March 2021 Printable PDF
Art: Elizabeth Wang at radiantlight.org.uk
Images: T-00050-OL Fire of Love, T-00070-OL Perseverance in Prayer, T-01069-OL God’s Forgiveness, T-00417-OL Reverent Prayer, T-00317-OL Lift them Up, T-05930-CW True Prayer
Posted March 19, 2021
HAVING HIS MIND
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.
When someone talks about divine guidance we tend to picture a “walkie-talkie” relationship with God where we keep getting messages, “Now go here…..” “Now go there….”
While there are times when the Spirit of God intervenes in this way, the vast bulk of divine guidance is an inner thing. It’s not a matter of getting messages….but of being so indwelt with the Spirit of God, so saturated with the love of God, that we begin to think in God.
God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways his ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts. But when, by the power of his cross, we come into Jesus Christ, we are called out of our ways and our thoughts into God’s ways and God’s thoughts. We are invited by the Spirit of God to enter into the mind of Christ.
The Unrenewed Mind
The natural mind is the throne of the Deceiver, the dwelling place of Satan. The Deceiver keeps urging us to eat of the Tree of Knowledge promising that as we do we shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. But knowledge apart from God— knowledge that excludes the reality of the living God – becomes distorted and false, is inflamed with a weird imagination, vanity, suspicion.
…for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
All these things flow out of a mind which is estranged from God and is held in the grip of the Father of Lies. How can a reprobate mind receive divine guidance? If the mind is deceived it will then be “guided” by strange voices and think they are the voice of God. If the mind is deceived the life we live becomes an out flowing of that deception.
Certain of our rightness, we set about to change the world. But the changes turn out to be destructive. How many of us are “seeking direction” with minds so bent out of shape we can’t recognize truth which comes to us? We swallow lie after lie as if it came from the Throne of God!
The Renewed Mind
The basic requirement of divine guidance is to have the deceived mind set free from the lies that hold it prisoner and brought into truth; no longer conformed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life; but renewed in the image of God—given the mind of Christ.
What we need – desperately need – is not to hear voices, “messages from heaven” as if we were plugged into a computer….
but to have in us the mind of Christ:
a free mind,
a clear mind,
a mind that is able to recognize and appreciate the mercy of God.
Then guidance comes from within as the Spirit speaks to the heart.
Is this too much to expect?
Why does Paul make the fantastic claim in I Corinthians that he has the mind of Christ?
Why does he exhort us in Philippians 2 to have the mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus?
Why does he tell us in Colossians 3 to set our minds on things above?
Why does he beseech us by the mercies of God … not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds?
Because he knows from his own experience that we can have the mind of Christ –
A mind that thinks God’s thoughts, moves in God’s ways.
A Mind That is literally saturated with the life, the mercy, the wisdom, the truth of God.
This mind is ours for the receiving.
A mind we can enter if we will.
Have this mind in you
… Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
… Set your mind
… Turn your mind toward the Lord
…Open it to that living truth which comes rushing down from Calvary like a river and washes away the lies which have held it bound for so long.
Soon you will be thinking God’s thoughts of mercy. And you will be doing God’s deeds of mercy from a mind that is set to do the will of God, which it knows as well as it knows its own name.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…..
The Mind of Christ
The mind of Christ is down-to-earth.
…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, ….
Jesus was in the form of God but he gave it up and came, down to earth. We are not in the form of God, yet we are forever trying to rise up and vie with God for the power and the glory to be our own god.
To enter into the mind of Christ all we have to do is let go of our vanity and come down to earth.
I need to forsake the idea that I have superior insight, “I can criticize all I like because I’m right. I discern. I see through people.”
To have the mind of Christ is to give up such nonsense, which we know to be false, and come down to earth.
I need to desert the idea that I have a superior destiny – “I’m not like other mortals, I’ve been chosen by God for some great work. I’m God’s special messenger to my fellowship. I’m the martyr of martyrs.”
To have the mind of Christ is to give up these delusions and come down to reality.
The mind of Christ is the mind of a servant.
…taking the form of a servant; being born in the likeness of men….
No longer in the form of God, yet manifesting what God is like, clearly for the first time on earth as a servant.
“For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.”
This is the Father’s nature; this is what the Son is like.
And as we enter into his mind this becomes our nature too.
To serve, to pour out our lives as quietly and unobtrusively as the household servant. Not as a duty, or as proof that we’re totally committed, but as our joy! Glad to serve in the lowliest, meanest, most thankless place.
The mind of Christ is a passion to do the will of God—which is mercy.
And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Jesus didn’t do this as a chore. He did this as a burning passion.
“My meat is to do the will of God and to accomplish his work.”
“I have a baptism to be baptized with (of fire) and how I am constrained until it is accomplished?”
“Father, I came to do your will, in the volume of the book it is written of me.”
If we awaken in the morning with the mind of Christ … we awaken with a desire, a passion, to do one thing:
To offer ourselves up as a living sacrifice to God in the exact place where we are
– in our present circumstances.
To pour ourselves out in performing the will of God, which is mercy, even unto death.
Each new day we bring our mind to the flame of Christ’s mind until it catches fire with that flame afresh, until it burns with his passion.
When our minds burn with the passion of the mind of Christ there is little need to hear voices or “get messages.”
What a strange sight we must be to the Father so much of the time. People who desire to be led by God; and yet when God looks at our minds what does he see? Cobwebs and dust to be sure, clutter and distraction indeed, but far worse he sees minds that are satisfied to go on and on locked in deception and vanity, minds that are darkened and dull and sluggish and base.
Do we think God can’t see the perversity, the sick twisted thoughts that occupy our minds?
Can we presume to think our minds are capable of divine guidance in this shape?
Are we willing to exchange these minds for the mind of Christ day-by-day, hour-by-hour?
Are we willing to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in the mind of Christ?
What a change will come over our living when our mind becomes the dwelling place, no more of the serpent who beguiles…
but of the Christ who sets us free.
Prayer- Merciful Lord help us to enter your mind. Rescue us from our futile, dark thoughts. Rescue us from our own sense of rightness. Set our minds free from this prison we put ourselves in. By your power, in your mercy give us minds that know what your Spirit is calling us to. Help us to let go of our vanity and self importance, to give up our delusions and come down to earth. Help us to willingly embrace a servant heart and to do it with joy. Help us to live lives obedient to your call of mercy. Indwell our minds, fill them with your love. And yes saturate them with your life, your wisdom, your mercy, your truth so they do ignite with a passion to dwell in you each day.
REB Unknown …. Found in the booklet Guidance Link to Printable PDF
Art: Chris Powers … Fullofeyes.com
Posted March 12, 2021
AWAKENED THROUGH PRAYER
Abraham is 99 years old. He’s sitting at the door of his tent looking down over the Jordan Valley. He can see the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah off in the distance. Suddenly Abraham leans forward and narrows his eyes as he notices three men coming toward him through the heat haze. Something inside Abraham tells him that these are no ordinary men. These are visitors from the World Beyond. Abraham calls to Sarah his wife, and tells her to order the servants to prepare a feast. He rises and walks toward his visitors and bows down before them in reverent welcome. Soon Abraham’s visitors are feasting on a sumptuous meal. When the meal is over, one of the visitors announces, “Next year about this time Sarah will bear a son.”
Abraham is an old man. Sarah is an old woman. How can this be? Abraham pushes his doubts aside and believes — he knows he has just heard a word from God. Sarah, listening from inside the tent, begins to laugh. “I’m going to have a baby at my age? Barren all my life, and now I’m going to be a mother?” Soon after the visitors are gone, Sarah and Abraham experienced an awakening in their hearts and in their bodies. Something comes to life within them that was never there before.
All they have to do is go with the flow.
A year later Isaac is born.
When God’s world breaks in on our world, the laws of God’s world prevail.
Wonderful things happen.
Frightening things happen.
Such things are happening even as you read these words.
Suppose those three men come to visit your church and mine next Sunday. They announce, “Next year about this time this church will be filled to capacity week after week with men and women crucified with Christ—servants of the kingdom whose hearts burn with fire.”
Would we laugh like Sarah did?
Yet soon after we’ve heard the promise there is an awakening among us, like the one that came to Abraham and Sarah.
Next year about this time our churches are not only full week after week, everybody’s focused and on fire with zeal as never before.
God’s promise to Abraham was followed by an awakening.
When God makes a promise to us, he confirms it with an awakening.
May God give us ears to hear the promise and hearts to obey the command that comes with it.
One day Jesus looked out over a crowd of people and was moved with compassion. Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “See these people? You’re not just looking at a crowd of needy souls, you’re looking at a harvest for the Kingdom of God.”
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9)
Pray for laborers
“Pray for laborers” was not an after-thought, it was a command.
It was at this point that Jesus gave these men authority to heal the sick and speak with grace, and sent them out into a harvest for his Kingdom which continues to this day.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
And it begins with the command,
“Pray for laborers.”
Once we start praying for laborers, the Lord awakens in us the authority of heaven.
Soon we are not just praying for laborers, we are laborers.
Imagine that all the people in your church and mine are suddenly transported to a far-away island. The inhabitants are poor and half-starved even though this island has all the amenities we enjoy. The supermarkets are stoked with good food, but who can afford it?
The governor of the island lives in a luxurious mansion. He and his associates are loaded with money and control the island like Mafia bosses, making sure the citizens remain poor.
As soon as we arrive, each of us is given a satchel full of money. Thousands and thousands of dollars are stacked in hundred dollar bills.
Our job is to give this money to the struggling citizens without drawing attention to ourselves.
You go into a coffee shop and sit at a table with some local folks. You slip each of them $1,000, order them to tell no one, and leave.
You get on a bus, sit next to a mother with a baby on her lap, and pass her $1,000, and get off at the next stop.
You visit a supermarket and move through the aisles, slipping money to shoppers and ducking down another aisle before they can ask questions.
Every morning we are each given a new stash of hundred dollar bills to spread out through the populace. Every evening we come back with our satchels empty.
Within days the island is transformed. The Governor and his Mafia buddies are scratching their heads in fear and wonder. People now have hope. They begin to figure out ways to make a decent living. They are no longer under the thumb of the Governor and his gang of thieves.
The people on that island were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. And we harvested them into a better life by the power of the One who gave us all that money.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
So we pray for laborers.
As we pray for laborers a strange thing happens. The Lord comes along and says, “Your prayers are answered. I’m sending you out into the harvest. I’m giving you everything you need to get the job done.”
Instead of a satchel of cash the Lord pours the power of his Spirit into us as never before.
No doubt we’ve all done good things for people throughout our lives.
But now the good things the Spirit guides us to do are drenched in the power of heaven as never before.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.
Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5)
Maybe it’s just listening to someone bare their soul in a coffee shop. Maybe we slip a few bucks to someone to help with groceries. Maybe we provide a ride to the doctor.
Through simple deeds people are being touched by the power of the cross and drawn toward the light.
And now our deeds are followed by words.
Where did those words come from?
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary.
Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50)
It could be a conversation at a bus stop. A few words of comfort given to a child crying on a street corner. A chance meeting with an old friend—or an old enemy.
We don’t ask people if they’re saved.
We give them an encouraging word, as God sends people across our path.
To our surprise an old acquaintance says, “Do you really believe in God?” Or they ask, “How do you know that Jesus rose from the dead?” And instead of racking our brains to figure out how to answer, the words we need just come to us.
Instead of getting a fresh stash of cash each morning to spread around that troubled island, we get fresh words from God every day.
“Morning by morning he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.”
Every morning we get a fresh supply of living words as we go into our room and shut the door, and pray.
Suppose you have a secret spring in your bedroom closet that bubbles up with life-giving water. One drink from this spring each day has kept you young and strong for 300 years and you still look like you’re only 35. Would you complain, “Oh I have to go get another drink from that spring today!”?
So now we drink the living water of God’s Spirit every day, listening to his words, offering up our prayers, interceding for each other.
And out we come each day with a fresh supply of life for those who need a sustaining word.
The three men who promised a son to Abraham and Sarah, followed that promise with an awakening in their bodies and their souls.
When God makes a promise, it’s always followed by an awakening in those who believe the promise.
If God is promising us a harvest, we, too, can expect an awakening.
The awakening will increase as we pray for laborers.
Once the awakening takes hold of us, who knows what our church will look like about this time next year!
Prayer- Holy, all powerful Lord…in who resides the power to do all things, unbelievable things, we believe in your promises to us, we believe the words that come from you. Awaken us to this. Awaken our hearts, come to life within us. We believe that our prayers bring us to wondrous things, that our prayers pour your incredible power unto this earth and into our lives. Lord, may many laborers be drawn and inspired to pray your will on this earth. Cover the laborers with the authority of heaven, and yes drench them with power like the world has never seen before. Raise us up, let our light shine, touch our deeds, our works all we do with your authority. Give us tongues that sustain the weary. Awaken our ears. Draw us to you each morning, day by day, moment by moment to draw a fresh supply of life. Draw us with a thirst that can only be quenched by you… so that our prayers will truly lead to a new awakening.
REB edited March 2021. Link to Printable PDF
Art: Rik Berry rikberry.com
Posted March 5, 2021
THE SIGN OF LAZARUS
“Take the stone away.”
“Lord, there will be an odor. He’s been dead four days.”
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?
Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me….
Lazarus, come out!”
Lazarus came out, still wrapped in his grave clothes.
“Unbind him and let him go.”
It was the last sign Jesus performed in the gospel of John.
A sign of the Kingdom.
A sign of things to come.
The raising of Lazarus was a foreshadowing of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
It was also a foreshadowing of the end of the age when the dead will rise to enter their destiny.
It was also the foreshadowing of the final awakening of the Body of Christ.
The world has already concluded that the church is dead.
A few gullible souls still carry the banner of Christendom.
They are whistling in the dark.
It is now the post-Christian era, according to the wise of this world.
But the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.
“Take the stone away.”
“Lord, there will be an odor. He’s been dead four days.”
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
From all appearances the church, like Lazarus, is dead and buried.
The Risen Lord is calling his church out of the tomb.
Raising it from the dead.
Refining it with the fire of heaven.
Flooding it with resurrection life.
The Lord of heaven and earth is doing this without our help.
So where do we fit in all this?
We do three things:
We recognize that we, along with countless believers, are like Lazarus in the tomb.
We answer when the Master says, “Come out!”
We shake off our grave clothes, and live by his power.
We recognize that we, along with countless believers, are like Lazarus in the tomb.
We are not standing outside the tomb, waiting for Jesus to resurrect a dead church.
We are part of that dead church.
Whether we belong to the hottest mega church in town, or the best house church in the western world, or a struggling main-line church in a bustling suburb, we are in that tomb with all the other stumbling saints.
We’re part of the problem.
We are as needy as any believer.
Like Lazarus, we cannot raise ourselves from the dead.
We need more than brains and money and “creative ideas”.
We need a resurrection!
When Jesus received word that Lazarus was deathly sick, he deliberately waited two more days. He waited until Lazarus was dead—beyond human help.
Likewise, the Lord has allowed the church to stumble and stagger and fumble and fall until it has reached a point where human tinkering is useless.
Jesus knew when it was time to go to Lazarus.
“Our friend Laz’arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep. “The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Laz’arus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
And Jesus knows when it’s time to resurrect the church.
Now that the church knows it’s beyond human help, it is ready for a visit from the Master.
We answer when he says, “Come out!”
“I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead.
Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3)
From deep in that tomb, from far away in the region of the dead, he heard the words, “Lazarus! Come out!”
Suddenly the power of the world to come flooded that cold corpse, burned away all sickness and death, stood him on his feet and nudged him toward the mouth of the tomb.
We are beginning to hear what Lazarus heard.
And, like Lazarus, we will find ourselves on our feet and moving toward the light.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” (Ephesians 5)
We shake off our grave clothes, and live by his power.
The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11)
Lazarus was wrapped in those grave clothes—death and the past were still clinging to him. And now the Lord says, “Unbind him, and let him go,” to the angel of the resurrected church. All the extras that have wrapped themselves around the church over the centuries are now to be torn away like useless grave clothes.
Doctrines that have nothing to do with the call of the Lord.
Traditions that have no connection to the Kingdom of God.
Disciplines that detract from our simple obedience.
Forms of worship that dull our eyes and ears to the HOLY.
“Prophesies” which deviate from the clear warnings of the Master.
These grave clothes are now to be shaken off and pulled away.
The church that comes out of that tomb is the church Jesus will send into the world with the final Kingdom Call.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 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 25)
The same Lord who raises us from the dead anoints us with fresh power and sends us out
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes. (Matthew 10)
Prayer- Lord, call us out of the tombs we’ve been living in. Unbind us from the grave cloths. Take the stone away from our hearts and minds. Lord this is the only way we can truly face what’s ahead of us. This is the only way we can endure to the end. This is the only way we can have the life to carry to the nations. We acknowledge we have been in a tomb and cannot leave it without your help. Help us, resurrect us. Wake us up from our sleep, give us your light so we can rise up to our destinies. And Lord unbind us from anything that is holding us back. Tear it away so we can shake off these grave clothes and live by your power.
Art: Resurrection Changes Things, Resurrection from the Dead and the last piece are by Sukirtha Joseph Premnath (Suki) on Facebook at sukisfineart. Finding Release, Unbind Me and Wake Up Sleeper by Lauren Wright Pittman at Sanctified Art. The art by Chris Powers are stills from the animation The Word of the Cross found at Fullofeyes.com
Posted February 26, 2021
THE LORD’S SABBATH
There is no such thing as weariness in the life of faith. Of course we can be physically weary if we’ve worked twelve hours straight, or mentally weary trying to deal with a string of problems that come all at once.
But when we find ourselves feeling spiritually drained so that we’re overwhelmed with the thought of taking even one more step on the road of faith, this is a sign that we’ve lost touch with our source of life.
It often happens that believers seem to be moving along with zeal, sharing life with people, getting things done. Then it’s as if they suddenly run out of gas and everything stops. Perhaps after a month or two, or even a year or two, they get going again with more zeal than ever. Then again without warning they burn out. They may be good for one or two more infusions of life then they seem to die out for good. If you ask them what went wrong they often say, “I just got tired of it. I couldn’t keep it up any more.” There’s not one of us who hasn’t been through some of this … and it will happen to us again until we learn that weariness in the life of faith is unnecessary.
God has provided for every child of faith a permanent, continuous Sabbath Rest.
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven….
Jesus goes on to define and clarify the law in such a way that we are driven to throw ourselves on the mercy of God and pursue a righteousness which comes only from him.
But there is one law about which Jesus is strangely silent in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus talks about murder, adultery, covetousness, the idolatry of mammon, taking God’s name in vain, but he says nothing at all about the law of the Sabbath. Moreover, as Jesus’ ministry gets going he is very soon in trouble with the religious establishment because from their point of view he’s breaking the Sabbath law.
One Sabbath as he was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger; grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Here are two episodes early in Jesus’ ministry which already have him a target of the leadership of Israel over the Sabbath law. In John’s gospel we see this same tension. Jesus heals the man at the pool of Bethesda…on the Sabbath. He tells him to carry his pallet on the Sabbath. Jesus heals the man born blind on the Sabbath by making clay… illegal on the Sabbath. The Pharisees insist, “This is not from God for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
So what was Jesus doing? Abolishing the Sabbath? Changing the law?
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.
There probably was not a Sabbath day in Jesus’ life from the time he left infancy, that Jesus wasn’t found in the synagogue or the temple.
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….
But for Jesus; the Sabbath was not some meaningless rule to add another burden to men’s lives and to bore them to death.
This is what religious flesh has made the Sabbath … another burden … one more thing to weigh down their lives and weary them and add to their guilt.
What was the purpose of the Sabbath?
Very simple: rest. A gift whereby the human race, worrying its way through life outside the Garden of Eden, might have a little rest, a little peace, a chance to heal and recover.
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath…
….a chance to taste a little of the joy of Paradise in the midst of desolation.
Just as night was given for sleep so that our bodies and minds and earth-weary spirits can be renewed and wake in the morning fresh and ready for a new day, so the Sabbath was given for an even deeper rest, a break in the monotony of time whereby we get a taste of eternity to keep us going.
The Sabbath was for Israel in time what the temple was for Israel in space…a chance to turn from all the distractions of life and come into God’s presence and find God’s peace again.
A place of rest.
A place of prayer.
A place of cleansing and refreshment.
The Sabbath law actually pointed to the time when everything will be at rest and the lion will lie down with the Lamb. But the Sabbath law also points to a time this side of glory when it would be possible to experience Sabbath rest continuously, even in the midst of the turmoil.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary,
his understanding is unsearchable.
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 men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord 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.
This is a description of a continuous Sabbath rest, a resting even while we’re in motion, a renewing even while we’re pouring ourselves out…like eagles that soar without getting tired, like a heart that keeps pumping for 70, 80, 90 years and never misses a beat.
…Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…
“I will raise it up to be your temple. I will be the place where you meet God.”
Jesus could also have said, “Bury me on the Sabbath eve and when the Sabbath is past I shall rise from death to be your Sabbath, your continuous rest, your never ending revival.”
…so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath,
because the whole meaning and power and glory of the Sabbath is found in him.
Jesus is our Sabbath for the weariness of spiritual fatigue.
Many of us are laboring under loads we were never meant to carry. For instance, we’re exhausted trying to carry the load of our own guilt, or trying to live up to some ridiculous reputation we think we have, or should have, or trying to achieve some vain goal, or trying to make something happen that was never meant to happen.
Whatever it is we’re trying to carry, Jesus says,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
“If you’re outside the Kingdom, come in.
If you’re inside the Kingdom, leave all that alone and come to me and be renewed
Get under my yoke and I will teach you how to spend yourself, pour yourself out and never get weary.
In fact, you’ll get stronger and fresher all the time. While your outer man is wasting away, your inner man will be renewed day-by-day.”
Jesus is our Sabbath from the weariness of dissatisfaction.
When you’re dissatisfied you tire very quickly. And one of the most unsatisfying, frustrating situations to be in is to be religious and yet never touch God.
To be reaching out for God and never finding him …thinking about God but never communing with him.
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…”
Literally satisfy your thirst with a deep satisfying draft of God himself.
“He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water”
Jesus is our Sabbath from the weariness of an aimless life.
And how many believers are still drifting, lacking a dominating interest, a consuming passion …. aimless! And when we lack a dominating interest we’re always tired.
It’s much easier to see how absurd other men’s goals are than it is to abandon ourselves to the pursuit of God.
Rest comes to our spirits when we have truly found the way and are walking in it.
And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever….
When I find myself drifting, losing my sense of purpose, I turn to him who is the way.
And as I walk with him and in his will of mercy ….
…I find God, and in God, peace.
There is no such thing as weariness in the life of faith because the life of faith is lived in a continuous Sabbath.
And if we take one day in seven to come together and worship him who is our Sabbath, it’s only because he goes with us into those other six days to be our daily, heavenly rest.
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.
Indeed the Son of man is the Sabbath.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Prayer- Lord we do want to find you, to commune with you… to find rest from our weariness, our strivings, our dissatisfaction and our aimless wandering. Instead of being spiritually drained and burdened … may we be filled with delight in your presence, overflowing with awe and joy. Lord help us to know that we can release our cares because you are in control, you are God, and you offer us the gift of your Sabbath rest. May we thirst for you, with all we have. May we find continuous rest and never-ending renewal in your presence as we drink from you dear God may your living water flow into and from our hearts.
Written REB 2003. Found in booklet Let Down Your Nets…available upon request
Featured Art: Courtesy of Signe Flink at deviantart/Signe Flink and Jeremiah Yao at j316studio
Posted February 19, 2021
ETERNAL LIFE…. STARTING NOW
“You only go around once. So get all the gusto you can.”(TV commercial)
In the popular book LONG FOR THIS WORLD, we are told that researchers are seeking to extend human life to 120 years, even to 200 years or more.
Who knows what lies on the other side of death? Let’s figure out a way to extend life here.
Meanwhile, people are still dying by the millions from pandemics, bullets and bombs.
So we have one group of scientists making a good living researching ways to extend life, and another group of scientists making a better living pursuing more efficient ways to destroy and kill.
And lurking in the shadows of all these scientific projects is the specter of Death.
Our bones are scattered at the graves mouth, As when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth. (Psalm 141)
Maybe we don’t think about it, even when we go to funerals, but deep within we know our day is coming.
We’re going to die.
So what are we going to do about it?
Are we going to focus on seeing how long we can hang on to life in this world?
Or are we going to focus on Jesus’ offer of a life that overcomes death?
Seven men were on retreat at a quiet lake in Nova Scotia. We were sitting around the fireplace after supper when the conversation took a serious turn. We were thinking about our lives and why we were even on this earth.
Someone wondered, if Jesus gives us new life, how come our lives are still so trivial and dull.
Next thing you know we were on our knees praying. I can still remember, after all these years, how John, a no-nonsense marine architect, suddenly began weeping.
We heard a distant clap of thunder, although the sky was studded with stars. It seemed like the fear of God had taken hold of us. Was the Holy Spirit paying us a visit?
When it was over, Harry stood by the mantle and matter-of-factly said, “Now I know that I’m never going to die.”
What did he mean? Did Harry believe he was never going to leave this world? Not likely. Harry has since died, yet Harry’s confidence that he would never die was valid.
Because that night Harry began to live in a way he had never lived before. He was not suddenly sinless. But he was now inhabited by the Spirit, flooding him with a life which would sustain him both in this world and the next.
“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.” (John 10)
“I give them eternal life.”
Jesus is talking about something more than life that has no ending. He’s talking about life that is inhabited by the Eternal.
A life that knows God.
“This is eternal life: that they know thee, the only true God and Jesus the Messiah whom you have sent.” (John 17)
Eternal life is to know God.
Not to know things about God.
Not to have opinions about God.
But to know God as our Father.
To know Jesus as our Master, Lord, and Friend.
To be connected to him.
To breathe his life.
To know his voice.
To do his will.
To be more certain of him than of anything else in all creation.
Eternal life, a gift from the Lord Jesus, begins on this side of the grave. It’s a life we live here on this earth that continues right on through the door of death into the world beyond.
When we receive this gift, it’s like stepping out of a tomb into blazing daylight.
This supernatural life consists of four things:
The Breath of the world to come filling our soul.
The Truth of the world to come holding us to account.
Love from the world to come, turning our heart from stone to flesh.
The Risen Lord … transforming our weakness into power.
The proof that we have received this life is not a fuzzy feeling, or chills running down our spine.
The proof that this life has come to us is that we can no longer trivialize God or the things of God without consequences. Once we have this gift, every time we get flippant with the things of God, we pay a price.
Yes, this new life transforms our prayers, and gives courage to our heart. It empowers us. It causes God’s love to burn like fire in our soul, affecting the way we see people, the way we treat them.
But the anchor that holds us close to the Lord Jesus is holiness…
God’s blazing holiness.
Once we begin to understand that God is holy, and everything connected with God is holy, our hearts are ready to receive the four springs of eternal life.
First, God fills our soul with the breath of the world to come.
The breath of the world to come is not a feeling, not an ecstasy but a Person: the Holy Spirit.
“The wind blows where it wills; and you can hear the sound of it, but you cannot tell where it came from or where it’s going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3)
Nicodemus needed this gift. The woman at the well needed this gift. You and I need it. Jesus’ death and resurrection have made it available to us.
All we have to do is ask and receive—-and obey the Spirit.
“If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11)
Being holy, the Spirit never responds to our glib prayers or shallow devotions. But when our hearts are bowed before him, the Holy Spirit begins to breathe into us his mysterious heavenly life.
Secondly, God causes the truth of the world to come, to hold us to account.
Truth in this world is under constant attack from the father of lies. Many a man or woman who starts out as a champion of truth, ends up compromised by this world’s power. It happens, not only of politicians and celebrity evangelists, but of ordinary folks like you and me.
The truth of the world to come is incorruptible. We can’t twist it to suit our agendas. It stands over us like a plumb line from heaven and holds us to account. Once we begin walking in the Spirit, every time we deceive, or exaggerate, or manipulate, we pay a price. Heaven’s truth is teaching us that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Now that we belong to God, we are required to walk in the light and leave the darkness of deceit behind.
Thirdly, God’s Spirit causes love from the world to come, to turn our heart of stone into a heart of flesh.
A heart of stone is stingy. A heart of flesh is generous.
A heart of stone is always busy with itself. A heart of flesh takes time to listen.
A heart of stone manipulates people. A heart of flesh serves people.
A heart of stone is always complaining. A heart of flesh is always giving thanks.
The hand of the Lord Jesus reaches into this heart of stone, touches it, and slowly it begins to soften.
Then in his wisdom the Lord places us together with a motley crew like your church or mine—to teach us how to be patient, how to forgive and ask for forgiveness.
Gradually we change as God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts.
Finally, the Lord Jesus turns our weakness into the power of the world to come.
By this power Jesus healed the sick and opened blind eyes.
By this power his words burned their way into hearts and caused them to repent.
By this power he was raised from the dead, the Firstborn of the New Creation.
This power seemed trivial to John the Baptist, as he sat in prison, waiting for Jesus to do something “significant.”
To this day the power of the world to come walks the earth in ragged clothes.
Nobody knows where he came from, or where he lives. It’s hard to remember what he looks like. He’s a nondescript man like a thousand others. Yet this man has a strange impact on your soul. You might find him sitting with a group in a coffee shop, or chatting with an old woman at a bus stop. Sometimes he appears in the park pushing a child in a wheelchair.
Rumor has it that this man has a healing touch. A month ago you talked with a woman who was in the final stages of cancer, only to discover her a week later the picture of health. “What happened?” you asked.
“You wouldn’t believe it. A stranger shook my hand at a bus stop and told me to go home and take a nap, ‘Jesus has a surprise for you,’ he said. When I awoke from my nap, all pain was gone. I feel fine. My doctor put me through a series of tests, and just shakes his head.”
Of course, we do not control this power. It comes and goes at God’s pleasure. It moves where it will.
But once we abandon ourselves to the Crucified One, the power of the world to come makes its dwelling in us, flowing out of us where and when it chooses.
This power is simply the life of God: Eternal Life.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life.”
What waits for us beyond the grave, what happens to us at the Lord’s glorious return, depends on one simple question:
Will we receive and live the Life which the Master offers?
Is it in us now?
If we have begun to breathe the breath of heaven,
If heaven’s truth is holding us to account,
If heaven’s love is burning in our hearts,
If the power of the world to come has found a home in us….
Then we have Eternal Life…
and we are even now walking this earth as Sons and Daughters of the World to Come.
Lord Jesus, may it be so for every thirsty soul who reads these words!
Prayer- –Holy Lord, we want to hear your voice, to know you so we can be inhabited by your eternal nature now. Breathe into us your Holy Spirit so that we can bow before your holiness and our hearts are ready for this supernatural gift that you offer us. Teach us to desire truth and reject darkness so that darkness and deceit can’t separate us from you. Reach into us and soften our hearts so they can be filled with your eternal love. Help us to stay abandoned to you so that your eternal, healing power can dwell in us and flow through us. May this thirst to know you, to seek your eternal goodness never leave us and continue to help us to find eternal life.
REB 2014 edited February 2021 Link to Printable PDF
Art: Kate Austin christart.co.uk