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
Posted February 12, 2021
THE CROSS: A DOORWAY TO A NEW MIND
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no guile.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old
through my roaring all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:
my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.
I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.
I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;
and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee
in a time when thou mayest be found:
surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Thou art my hiding place;
thou shalt preserve me from trouble;
thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:
I will guide thee with mine eye.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding:
whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle,
lest they come near unto thee.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked:
but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous:
and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
The Importance Of The Mind
To accomplish the work which God has called us to do we have to live lives that are truly Spirit-led. We need to know that we are in the place where God wants us to be, doing the work God calls us to do.
But what does it take to be really Spirit-led? Many of us still seem to think that to be guided by the Spirit of God we have to blank our minds and become like puppets on a string. “Here I am Lord. Press the buttons, pull the strings. I’m your puppet.” But the Lord says,
“Be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle….”
“And how can I instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go, how can I guide you with my eye unless you think?”
To be guided by the Spirit is to be taught by the Spirit, instructed. He can’t instruct a robot or a puppet. He can only instruct a thinking mind. Our Lord was guided by the Spirit of his Father and he was far from a puppet on a string, mechanically responding to impulses sent to him from above.
He was a son, a thinking man. He had a mind and he used it to bring the instruction of his Father and the needs of men together.
And that’s where the problem lies. Our minds don’t seem to be able to receive instruction. We’re confused about what’s coming from God and what’s coming from self and what’s coming from Satan. We’re seldom sure about our guidance. And sometimes when we think we’re sure, we find out later that we were misled.
The Misdirected Mind
The reason for this confusion is that our minds are no longer aimed at heaven as they were created to be, but are turned in upon themselves.
It’s as if we have a magnificent telescope capable of scanning the heavens and beholding untold wonders. But one night when nobody was around, an enemy installed a weird elbow on the telescope which, with a system of mirrors, bent its field of vision to the earth. Now when you look into the telescope, instead of seeing blazing stars and distant galaxies, you see only bugs, dirt, spiders and cockroaches crawling in the shadows, magnified to absurd sizes.
Our minds, through the corruption of sin, have been twisted away from the glory of the living God and bent earthward, self-ward. All we seem to be able to think about is self.
Guidance from above can only come to us when our minds are cleansed from the sin that warped them — straightened out so that we can see heavenward once more.
This is why Psalm 32, which promises guidance, begins with:
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin in covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputed not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
(Blessed is the man, the woman, who has been to the cross.)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
It is possible to get that elbow off the telescope so it can scan the heavens again. It is possible, by the power of the cross, to get the twist out of our minds so that they can truly receive instruction from the Spirit. But don’t try to be instructed by the Spirit until your mind is straightened out, until you’ve been to the cross.
For instance, our vanity cannot be taught by the Spirit of God any more than a horse can learn to use a computer. Yet many of us are desiring to be guided by the Spirit without first bringing our vanity to the cross. What can the heavens declare to a telescope that only sees cockroaches and magnifies them a thousand times? Our ego can no more be taught the ways of God than a mule can be taught to build a house. Yet many of us are trying to be guided without first bringing our ego to the cross. What can we see of God’s glory when we’re all wrapped up in our own ego problems? And how can our lust, envy, greed and anger submit themselves to God’s goodness when our minds are filled with these things they are incapable of receiving guidance from the Spirit because they are chained to the earth, saturated with false hopes and false promises?
A New Mind Through Death and Resurrection
First this vain, covetous, lusting mind must pass through the door of death in order that it may be replaced with a mind which is alive to God. That’s what the cross of Jesus is for. It is the place where not only Jesus dies, but our old mind which was incapable of receiving instruction dies with him. The cross of Jesus is literally the doorway to a new understanding which is able to grasp the things of God, where the mind of flesh, the mind of self-seeking is replaced with the mind of the Son. A teachable, open, God-seeing, God-trusting, God-loving, God-worshiping mind.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin in covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputed not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
The man or woman who has come to the cross of Jesus—and keeps coming—has put away the things which have blocked the Spirit from entering and has now set the mind on the things of the Spirit.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
You have died. You have been to the cross. Now the guidance of the Spirit begins. The Spirit begins, literally, to instruct us and teach us in the way that we should go and guides us with his eye. But this guidance of the Spirit requires continuous cooperation from us in two areas:
1. The continuous putting to death of those things in us that interfere with the operation of the Spirit of God in us.
So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices….
Why should I keep that grudge if keeping it causes my telescope to see giant cockroaches instead of the glory of the heavens? Why should I continue walking around in those fantasies when I know they cloud my vision of God? Why should I go on coveting things I don’t need when I know how covetousness warps my mind?
There was a time when I had no place to go with these grudges and fantasies. I didn’t know what to do with them. They came in and took over my life like troops of an occupying army. But now I know where to go to put these things to death — to the cross of Jesus. “Lord, here’s another load of self and flesh. I drop it at your feet and leave it.”
2. To maintain a mind which is teachable by the Spirit we need to continuously enter by faith into the goodness of the Lord, not just as mercy received, but as a life lived.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Enter into the goodness God has shown to you by living it. Jesus forgives us so we forgive. Jesus gives so generously to us so we give. Jesus intercedes for us so we intercede. Jesus shows compassion to us so we show compassion.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
We can live this life.
There was a time when we couldn’t, but now we can. The promise is very, very clear that we will be guided by the Lord himself.
“Lo, I am with you always….”
“I will not leave you desolate
I will come to you.”
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go”
“I will guide you with my eye.”
We will be guided. Not by hearing voices. Not by having buttons pressed in our reflexes and emotions, but by our freely and gladly entering into the goodness of the Lord which has come to meet us at the cross.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin in covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputed not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
That man, that woman, will be led by the Spirit of God.
Prayer- – Lord help us to continue to keep coming to your cross, to keep laying our sin before you, to keep setting our minds on your Spirit. Remove the iniquity from our souls. Free our minds, draw us into your forgiving embrace so we can enter in your goodness and live it.
Written REB unknown date… found in the booklet “Guidance”
Featured Art: Chris Hopkins chrishopkinsart.com
Posted February 5, 2021
“I have yet many things to say to you; but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
If there’s any promise Jesus made which is indisputably intended for all his followers, it’s the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will come to you and you will know he has come. You won’t be standing around wringing your hands wondering, “Did he or didn’t he?” The Holy Spirit will accomplish definite things in our lives.
Jesus did not promise…. warm feelings or cold chills when the Spirit comes even though such things may happen (then again they may not.)
Jesus did promise….
That the Spirit would guide us, speak to us, teach us, remind us, fill us with the life of God so we can get the job done.
Jesus did promise….
That any time we feel inadequate for the needs that come pressing in all we have to do is lift up our hearts to the Father and ask and he will pour out his Spirit upon us.
And when the Holy Spirit is resting upon us we will have more than enough of God’s life to give to those who come to us.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Jesus did promise ….
That he would go right on talking to us from the Father’s throne and that the Holy Spirit would make us know clearly what the Lord has to say.
“He will take what is mine (my word) and declare it to you.”
To be so led by the Spirit is the normal condition of every child of God.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
And when we are so led by the Spirit we work in harmony and unspeakable joy in the midst of our trials.
But while all this was promised to us can we honestly say that this is what we’re experiencing?
Many of us are inclined to sigh and shake our heads, “There was a time when I really expected that life to become mine. In fact, I tasted it. But I learned the hard way that it just isn’t that simple.”
Somewhere along the line our hopes were dashed.
The pattern for some of us was like this: One day our eyes open to the amazing discovery that the Spirit of God has come –is guiding us. We’re thrilled to learn that the apostles weren’t exaggerating! They weren’t some special breed! This thing is still going on and we’re part of it!
We’re cruising along in this new Spirit-directed life, enjoying a new attitude, a fresh vision of Jesus, until one day a particularly strong challenge comes our way. We cry out for guidance but nothing seems to happen. We wait and wait for an answer. Nothing. There’s a knock on the door, a man hands us a book and says, “Read this,” and disappears. We sit down and read. “Why, this speaks exactly to my need! This must be the answer to my prayer!” In the book we are told to get up and do something daring for a change. “Look at Hudson Taylor! C.T. Studd! Corrie Ten Boom! Elizabeth Elliot!” And now some act of daring comes into mind. But even as we consider it the light seems to dim. “Never mind,” says a voice, “This is the path, take it!” So we do. Before long we’re sitting on the floor of an abandoned quarry, surrounded by snakes, howling wolves, confusion, and despair.
“God knows I wanted to be led by the Spirit. God knows I was sincere. Then how did I end up in a place like this? Is this what happens to people who desire to be led by the Spirit?
Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide me into all truth, truth that would set me free. Yet here I sit paralyzed by confusion – undone!”
But did God let me down?
Does the fact that I’m sitting at the bottom of this quarry, mired in error, mean that the Spirit failed to guide me? Not at all. The erroneous paths we take, the false experiences we have, these excursions into the weird, occur not because we’re overly zealous for God, as we suppose, but because we doubt God and start jumping at straws.
If Jesus says the Spirit will guide us
then we can be sure that the Spirit will guide us.
But when the guidance doesn’t come as soon as we think it should, or in the way we think it should, when the light isn’t as bright as we think it should be, or the interval of silence seems unbearable.….
we panic – we doubt.
We take our eyes off Jesus and open ourselves to whatever lying spirit happens to be drifting through town. So when there’s a knock on the door and this stranger gives us a book and commands us to read it we think it’s an angel. We’re in such a hurry for guidance we fail to perceive where it’s coming from.
Experience the Promise
If you ask your Father for bread he won’t give you a stone. And if you ask him for fish he won’t give you a scorpion.
But if you turn your heart to the side in unbelief…
… if you get tired of giving God thanks for his goodness to you,
…then when someone comes to the door with a stone and calls it bread you may be foolish enough to bite into it.
“When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
That’s a promise to each of us even as he gave it to the eleven in the upper room.
Just as surely as Jesus feeds us with the body and blood….
He gives us the Spirit of Truth to guide us into all truth, to lead us into the very heart of God.
The Holy Spirit comes to us today to do in our lives all the things Jesus promised he would do….
if we will trust him,
if we will let not our hearts be troubled nor let them be afraid.
Believe that the Holy Spirit will guide you.
Don’t panic and try to force the situation.
If there’s a time of silence, let there be silence.
Don’t corrupt God’s silence with your own talk and speculation.
If it thunders let it thunder. Don’t immediately try to decode it into a divine message.
If someone knocks on your door and breathlessly urges you to hurry into the. desert for a rendezvous with the Lord, don’t go!
When the Spirit is ready to move you one step beyond the place where you now are you’ll know.
Meanwhile, live in God’s mercy right where you are
with your heart fixed on the Lord.
The Spirit will guide us without any help from us.
All we have to do is trust.
Don’t try to force the situation.
Don’t sink into a depression.
And this promise will be fulfilled day after day in your life.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Prayer- Lord Jesus, help us not to panic. Help us not to doubt. Help us not to despair. Help us not to look for other paths that lead us from your gentle call. Help us not to force the situations we face. Instead, Lord, help us to fix our hearts on you. Everyday we live, may we know your Spirit of Truth is with us, continually declaring you to us, continuing to glorify you, continuing to lead us even when we hear silence, even when nothing seems to be happening. We trust you. We believe in your promise, so lead us Lord, lead us and we know you will bring us into unspeakable joy.
Written REB unknown date… found in the booklet “Guidance”
Featured Art: Art: Courtesy of Ramone Romero ramone-romero.blogspot
Posted January 29, 2021
THE LEADERS TOOK THE LEAD AND THE PEOPLE OFFERED THEMSELVES WILLINGLY
It’s true to say that revival in the Body of Christ never begins with us…it always begins with God.
– We don’t engineer revival.
– We can’t program it.
– God has to send us his Spirit.
– God has to speak a word that wakes us up…raises us from the dead.
But it’s also true to say that whenever God sends revival, it only really begins when certain people, inspired by the Spirit of God take initiative. And the revival only picks up momentum when other people respond with open eyes, penitent hearts to what God is doing.
And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the people of Israel cried to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years. Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and ten thousand men went up at his heels; and Deborah went up with him.
Israel turned from God and stumbled into 20 years of cruel oppression from Jabin king of Canaan. The people were so low they had no hope that things would ever change… they lived their lives in fear.
But there was a woman of God, a prophetess Deborah, who judged Israel…ruled Israel…during this difficult time.
– There were men who were jealous of her.
– There were men who resented her….
but there wasn’t a man in the land with half her courage.
Under the anointing of the Spirit Deborah declared,
“The time has come for us to break out of this bondage.” She sent north to the tribe of Naphtali and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam…”The Lord God of Israel commands you, ‘Go gather your men at Mount Tabor, and I will draw out Sisera the general of Jabin’s army to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops and I will give him unto your hand.”
This was the beginning of revival in Israel.
It began, when under the direction of the Spirit, Deborah took initiative… she took the lead. Barak the Jewish captain wasn’t quite as confident. “I’ll go if you come along…if not, I won’t.” “I’ll go with you,” says Deborah, “but the glory in this victory won’t go to you, it will go to a woman.”
When Sisera was told that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera called out all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the men who were with him, from Harosheth-ha-goiim to the river Kishon. And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak at the edge of the sword; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. And Barak pursued the chariots and the army of Harosheth-ha-goiim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left. But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. And he said to her, “Pray, give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. And he said to her, “Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is any one here?’ say, No.” But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, till it went down into the ground, as he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died, And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael went out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent; and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple.
“What a gruesome story,” you say. It wouldn’t seem so gruesome if you’d felt the kick of Sisera’s boot for twenty years and had some of your children dragged off by his troops as slaves.
Sisera is a symbol of Satan himself.
We need to understand that Satan is an enemy…you either conquer him or he conquers you…
…this is a war.
And the weakness, the impotence, the paralysis…. in the Body of Christ
…. doesn’t end until this enemy is pushed back and his strongholds are pulled down and the people of God rise up and take the territory which is rightfully theirs.
This won’t happen until the leaders take the lead
and the people offer themselves willingly.
So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. And the hand of the people of Israel bore harder and harder on Jabin the king of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin king of Canaan. Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day: “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!”
….that the leaders took the lead in Israel,
….that the people offered themselves willingly.
Whenever the Spirit of God brings revival to the Body of Christ, two things are always present on the human side…always: the leaders take the lead, the people offer themselves willingly.
What does it mean for the leaders to take the lead?
Who are these leaders?
In the world, leaders are those who assert power over others.
In the kingdom, leaders are those who take the lead in serving.
“He who is greatest among you let him be the servant of all.”
As the Spirit moves in the Body, certain people will emerge as leaders because they take the lead as servants. We’re not talking about electing somebody to the church council or appointing somebody to a committee. We’re talking about any man or woman or young person responding to the guidance of the Spirit and acting.
For instance, all over the earth the Body of Christ is forming itself not only into congregations, but also into small groups…small groups where people can meet together, share with each other, encourage each other, and pray.
Such groups are forming where you are too, Dear Reader…
How will they form? Very simple.
There will be as many small groups as we have people to lead them…to pull them together.
Every one of those groups has to have somebody to take the lead. So a man or woman feels responsible … takes the lead…invites people to come to their house on a certain day.
Encourages, visits, prepares, shepherds….is consistent and responsible… prays for them.
And the people offer themselves willingly.
Perhaps there are those who feel they have a gift to teach.
“Ah, but no one ever gives me the opportunity. No one ever asks me to teach.”
You have something to teach…you have a gift…don’t wait for someone to give you a Bible study on a silver platter. Take the lead! Gather some folks together at the house of your best friend and teach. Pretty soon it will be clear that you do indeed have a gift to teach and the people will respond willingly…or that in fact teaching is not your gift, that perhaps your gift is in another area.
Maybe you decide that there are people in your church who would be greatly encouraged by a personal visit from someone who cares. Take the lead…start visiting and sharing and praying. Take someone with you and the people you visit will respond.
They will offer themselves willingly to the Lord.
Perhaps you have a conviction that there is an area of outreach that is being missed…take the lead… move on it…gather one or two others together and share and pray.
Some time ago there were some women in the congregation I belonged to who were deeply concerned about a certain aspect of our corporate life. They arranged to meet for prayer at one of their homes on a Friday night…they prayed all that night. The following Sunday morning the matter these women prayed about began to resolve itself.
Light began to shine among us…peace began to spread…the leaders took the lead, the people offered themselves willingly.
Let’s pray that the spiritual awakening which is happening worldwide will manifest itself very clearly in leaders emerging in the fellowship where the Lord has placed us….leaders who simply take the lead as servants of God.
Whether it’s Deborah speaking a word from God or Barak gathering his army, or Jael driving the tent peg into Satan’s head…
… people who in the past were shy, hesitant, self-pitying or critical,
will take the lead as servants of God.
And as this happens the second glorious sign of revival will occur….
The people will offer themselves willingly.
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are Far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
What were they doing when they were being baptized? They were offering themselves willingly…giving themselves body, soul and spirit to God…joyfully dying to themselves!
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
They were offering themselves to become disciples so they could serve the purpose of the Kingdom of God.
And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
They were offering themselves to each other, so they could be one.
And together they were offering themselves to the world in Jesus’ name so others could be harvested into the Kingdom.
– Nobody had to beg them to come together.
– Nobody had to push them to send them out.
– Nobody had to manipulate them to proclaim Jesus to the world.
– Nobody had to force them to let their light shine.
….they offered themselves willingly.
May this be happening in all our fellowships in the coming days.
As the leaders take the lead, the people will offer themselves willingly.
And your neighborhood, and your city…
And all the people you work with, will feel the impact of the Kingdom of God through you.
And the Lord will add to our number daily those who are being saved…..
….and the revival will go on and on…
Prayer- Lord it is well enough time for us to wake up to what you have for us. Give us the vision, the initiative to take the territory that belongs to us, to step into our destiny. May we truly let your love propel us to action. May these actions lead to your very heart being revealed to others, lead to others to being so covered with your grace that they willingly give themselves body and soul to you.
Written REB: 1985
Featured Art: Art: Courtesy of Gwen Meharg drawneartogod.com
Posted January 22, 2021
I WILL COME TO YOU
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.”
I hadn’t seen Mary Hartford for 20 years and couldn’t believe the change in her!
When we were kids, Mary was the one we all went to when we were in trouble. She always had time for us, always helped us find our way.
Mary was sitting at a table in Tim Horton’s, beautifully dressed and gracious as ever. But when my eyes met hers I could see that her quiet joy had given way to deep sadness.
“I couldn’t hack it any more,” Mary said, when I asked her how things were going at the church. “For years we’d been going through the motions, but the life was gone. So I decided to take a break from church until I can find God again amid all the ‘Christian stuff’ they’re peddling these days.”
I was no encouragement to Mary, since I lost my way long ago. I’m just trying to get by like everyone else.To me it’s a spiritual wasteland out there, for all the Christian media and Christian politics and Christian lawyers and Christian car salesmen.
What happened to integrity?
Where is God in all the noise?
Is Jesus fading into oblivion as the world stumbles on?
In the main-line churches, it’s gray heads and dwindling numbers. And, for my money, those mega churches are too cozy and comfortable to be the Kingdom of God.
So who was Jesus talking to when he said ?…
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.
Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more,
but you will see me; because I live, you will live also.”
Was Jesus talking only to those eleven disciples?
Was he talking to Mary Hartford?
Was he talking to me—to you?
“I will come to you.”
“You will see me.”
“And because I live, you will live also.”
Those words came true for the disciples. But when will they come true for Mary Hartford? For me? For you?
Let’s be honest:
Has Jesus come to us?
Have we seen him?
Are we alive with his life?
If this isn’t happening, then all we have is quiet desolation and an empty religion.
Mary Hartford is “waiting to find God again.” Most of us are waiting for something to happen when we go to church, or when we get away by ourselves to pray.
When Jesus says, “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you,” he’s not talking to the world at large. He’s talking to people who have drawn near to learn from him—to disciples.
“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
If I love Jesus, I’m going to do what he tells me to do.
And he is going to manifest himself to me.
“I will love (you) and manifest myself to (you).”
So why isn’t Jesus manifesting himself to us?
Is he holding out on us?
Or are we holding out on him?
The voices we listen to
Long before there was Fox News or CNN or Facebook or Twitter, there were voices calling out to us. Since the dawn of history there have been prophets and priests in every land to tell us “how it is.”
We gravitate to the voices that appeal to our proclivities. These voices give us hope. They stoke our anger. They fan our fears. They arouse our curiosity with juicy conspiracy rumors.
But these voices have an agenda. They have an axe to grind. The more we listen to these voices the farther we drift from the truth. As we drink in the “gospel” of our choice, our ears become deaf to the voice of heaven.
We will not hear the voice of heaven until we tune out the noise and begin to soak our spirits in words that are true.
Soaking up the truth
The Bible is like Mount Sinai. It is rough and ragged, yet loaded with gems from heaven. If we’re looking for those gems we will be guided to them. And God will help us to dig them out.
But there is one place in the Bible which is pure gold. We don’t have to dig. We don’t have to refine the ore. The gold is right there for the taking.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain the pure gold of the words of Jesus. Jesus’ words are vastly different from what we find on Fox News, CNN, Facebook or Twitter. Jesus’ words echo with the ring of eternity.
When we allow the words of Jesus to take root in our hearts and act on them, we find ourselves in the presence of the Lord.
“I will not leave you desolate. I will come to you.”
Scrolling, texting, googling.
It’s how we stay on top of things. We cling to our smart phones day and night so we can call for help, see how things are going, find out everything we need to know.
Never before has it been so easy to get the answer we seek with the touch of a finger. Pretty soon we’re at it all the time, swamped in a sea of google searches.
But have we escaped our desolation?
Calling on his name
“If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14
In other words,
“Talk to me.
Call to me”
We don’t need a smartphone to reach him. We just lift up our hearts and start talking to the Master.
Just start communing with Jesus.
Tell him what’s on your heart.
Pour out your soul.
Tell him what’s going on with you.
Even if you have trouble believing that Jesus is there, do it anyway!
You won’t be talking to the empty air, you will be talking to the Lord of heaven and earth, whether you realize it or not. And you will get an answer no smartphone could ever give you.
“I will not leave you desolate. I will come to you.”
Guided by my GPS
Where would I be without my GPS? It tells me when to turn right, when to turn left, the next street to look for. It’s my amazing guide from somewhere out there in space.
And yet I still don’t know where I am or where I’m going. My GPS just can’t seem to find the path my soul is seeking.
Walking in the light
To find our way through the desolation out there and especially through the desolation in our own souls, we need more than a GPS. We need light from above. Just enough light for the next step. And if we walk in that light, we get more light.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go. I will guide you with my eye.”
That chance meeting at Tim Horton’s must have been arranged by heaven. As Mary Hartford and I sat and talked, it was as if the Lord himself joined us and gave us hope.
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.”
It’s a promise to all who are disenchanted with the noise of this nervous world, who seek the gold of heaven, who listen to the words of the one man that consistently spoke truth, who is Truth Incarnate.
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.”
If we’ll put down our smart phones for a while, and call on the Master, we won’t be disappointed.
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.”
And if we’ll give our GPS a rest and start walking in the light that comes as the Master speaks to us, we will begin to know where we are and where we’re going.
“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.
Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also.”
Prayer- Lord, our attempts to escape this world’s desolation through technology, social media and other means just leave us more lost and desolate. Help us to leave the chaos, the distractions and our concerns and fears about the desolation swirling around us behind. Help us to set them down and to look up to you. We don’t need them, we have you instead. And we know, we know, you will not leave us desolate… you will come to us. We call on you again dearest Jesus… Come to us, come to us…. instruct us, lead us, guide us into your light away from the desolation, we want to see you, we want to live because you live.
Written REB: December 2020
Featured Art: All through the kind courtesy of Jane Spencer. Jane does not have a website but posts on facebook.com/artjspencer . Here is her artist statement “The secret place is my place to rest with my Father in Heaven. To read his word to pray what he lays on my heart, these drawings are inspired and created in that quiet place. I pray they will inspire you to deeper relationship with Jesus. In His matchless name. Jane.
Posted January 19, 2021
OUT OF THE REFINING FIRE…COMES PURE GOLD
Out of the refining fire comes pure gold.
Out of the refining fire comes a purified church.
We will see it with our own eyes.
We will be part of it,
if we open our lives to the flames.
Presently, the church is busy judging the world, while God is judging the church.
All the righteous pronouncements we make against that pagan world out there are evaporating into thin air.
Our Christian values.
Our Christian prayers.
Our Christian morals.
The world is not impressed.
They shake their heads and sigh.
They call us hypocrites.
Has the gospel lost its power?
No, the gospel has not lost its power.
We have lost the authority of heaven, because heaven is less pleased with us than it is with that world out there.
The church is under judgment.
We are under the judgment of God.
“`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.
Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.”
God, in his mercy, is refining us.
When we emerge from the refining flames, focused again on “the one thing needful”, the authority of heaven will return to us.
The world will once again see Jesus in us.
It will again hear the Shepherd’s voice.
Many will be drawn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.
Heavenly Father, cleanse us with your refining fire, until we no longer see anything in our vision but Jesus.
Until we respond to his voice alone.
“This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Listen to him!”
Prayer- Yes Lord, refine us so that we once again are shining like pure gold. We confess we no longer shine with your precious mercy or walk in your perfect steps because we have forgotten what we have seen and heard. Your beauty no longer shines from us because we are deaf and blind to our own emptiness. We have been on the point of death without acknowledging it. Awaken us, Lord. Purify us. We open our heart to your refining flames once again. And yes Lord, as we emerge from the flames, may we shine as gold… pure, beautiful, valuable, precious to you and others….so that your voice is heard through us, so that your light shines from us… causing many to be touched by your beauty, your mercy, your majesty so that they are ignited within and reject darkness forever.
Written REB: January 2021 Link to printable PDF
Featured Art: Anke Wiemer ankewiemer.de/english
Posted January 15, 2021
WHEN THE FIRE FALLS
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled.”
The plane was an hour late and I was getting worried. When at last my friend Marcus came through the arrival door, his face was ashen.
“It must have been a rough flight,” I said as we hurried toward baggage pickup.
“The flight was okay,” said Marcus, “but what I heard on that plane is frightening. The guy sitting behind me was talking to his wife in a low voice, but I could hear every word. He seemed to know the markets like the back of his hand. He says they’re about to tank.
We’re just staggering to our feet after a pandemic, and now a crash? It will push the world over the edge.”
“What if he’s wrong?” I asked.
“What if he’s right?” said Marcus. He was thinking of millions unemployed, unrest on the fringes of society and chaos overseas. I tried to cheer him up. But Marcus could see nothing ahead but doom.
Two days later Wall Street took a dive, followed by markets around the world. Panic is everywhere. Governments are trying to mitigate the crisis, but things are still unraveling.
When God speaks, and no one pays attention, he waits his time.
Then comes the fire.
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled.
I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am constrained until it is accomplished.
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
When the fire falls, it does four things:
The fire awakens
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Eli’jah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that thou, O LORD, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back.”
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.”
I Kings 18
The fire that fell on Elijah’s sacrifice was a sign of things to come. Many times over the centuries the fire of heaven has shaken us out of our slumber.
“The Lord, he is God!’” is heard as the fire spreads.
Spiritual awakenings are never created by us. They come from God alone. We are now seeing the beginning of an awakening, as once again, God’s fire spreads across the earth.
“The Lord, he is God!”
“Show us the way to Zion!”
“Jesus is Lord!”
We will be hearing more of this in the days to come.
The fire redeems
People who never gave God a second thought suddenly see the light. They rise from their slumber, abandon themselves to the Master, and begin to live as sons and daughters of God.
To the awakened ones Jesus is no longer a “religious symbol”. He is Lord. He has raised them from the dead. He has opened their eyes to the glory of God.
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
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.
Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
The fire that fell on Jesus at Calvary has burned up the evil which cursed us all. And now the fire redeems us from evil, refines us, cleanses our souls. All we have to do is repent, open our hearts, and walk in the light.
“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 fire divides
Even now, fire of heaven is dividing the earth.
On one side of the divide are those who turn to God and begin to walk in God’s mercy.
On the other side are those who despise the awakened ones and persecute them.
“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; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
When the fire falls on our slumbering churches, they turn into war zones. Those who answer the Master’s call to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow, are opposed by hecklers and persecutors right inside the church walls.
“You’ve become a fanatic. So go be a fanatic somewhere else!
We don’t need fanatics in this church!”
Jesus calls us to burn our bridges and follow him into God’s World. Some answer his call. Others turn away. Wherever the fire falls the human race divides.
The fire consumes
Yes, the fire redeems, but it also judges. The Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet (the Unholy Trinity) in John’s Revelation vision are finally thrown into the Lake of Fire. These angelic beings used their freedom to become hideous and grotesque deceivers, spreading misery across the earth. They destined themselves for the fire.
But the masses who followed them, are they destined for the fire too? Who knows what abuse they suffered as children? Who can understand why they stumbled into the path of darkness. Is it fair to send these fragile humans into the Lake of Fire?
C.S. Lewis reminds us that each of us is growing into the likeness of the Lord we follow. Ultimately each of us will either shine with the glory of the risen Lord, or we will take on the hideous likeness of the Prince of Darkness and share his fate.
Whether it suits our taste or not, Jesus tells us that he will one day have to say to the “goats”,
“Depart, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink….…Inasmuch are you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”
When God speaks, and no one pays attention, he waits his time.
Then comes the fire.
Even now it burns across the earth,
calling us to wake up,
redeeming all who follow the Lamb,
dividing light from darkness, truth from lies, bringing down the mighty from their seats and raising those of low degree,
consuming evil, until it is gone from the earth.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe;
for our God is a consuming fire.