An Intimate Relationship in the Light of God

Adulterous & Christ

And, behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat to eat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. (Luke 7:37-38 KJ2000)

 

What a moving story about love we read about here in the Gospel of Luke! Have you ever thought of the Bible not as a text book on God and His Kingdom or a rule book or bylaws for the church to follow, but rather a group of love letters bound in a book from Jesus to us? Man once knew true intimacy with God. Adam and Eve walked in the garden with God in the cool of the day and they were totally naked and knew no shame or separation from God. They were one. Adam named the animals with Him and He saw that Adam could not find an appropriate counterpart among them so He put Adam to sleep and created Eve out of one of his ribs. These two were one flesh by God’s design. She was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. It was not until they tried to take the fast track and become like God, knowing both good and evil that knew shame and hid from Him and covered themselves with fig leaves. They hid from God and they hid from themselves out of shame. When God came looking for them He knew where they were… He is the all-knowing God, but He said, “Where are you, Adam?” He wanted Adam to know where he was and from where he had fallen and the fellowship he had lost by this simple act of trying to be like God without God. I think that God was heart-broken. “Where are you, Adam? Why have you left me?” Paul wrote many millennia later that Christ was crucified from the foundations of the world. He was way ahead of the wiles of the wicked one and we who are His were crucified with Him and all our sins were nailed with Him on that cross.

Adam and Eve lost their deep spiritual intimacy that fateful day. Christians seem to be paranoid of it. If a person speaks of an intimate relationship with Jesus as the one who loves them and speaks to them, many people will call them a “mystic”: and go running the other way! The words “intimacy” and “mystic” are not found in the Bible, but this experience is spoken of in many ways. God desires intimacy with His creation and always has. After the fall we read about Enoch who walked with God and God took him. We read about Noah who found grace in the eyes of the Lord, Abraham being a friend of God. God spoke with Moses as a man, face to face and Samuel was so close to God that all his words were God’s words with none of his words falling to the ground. David, even though he sinned grossly, was still a man after God’s own heart who also knew how to repent. All these relationships speak of intimacy with God.

We also read in many places where God speaks of Israel as His wife or bride and of their infidelity to Him down through the years after they left Egypt as His chosen people. Stephen was so bold as to say to the leaders of the Jews,

 

And they [the Hebrews] made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O you house of Israel, have you offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, you took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Rephan, figures which you made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon. (Acts 7:41-43 KJ2000)

They were unfaithful to His love right from the beginning! And it was this unfaithfulness to His love that made them go on to kill the One whom the Father sent to them to redeem them from their sin, Jesus Christ. Stephen went on to say,

 

But Solomon built him [God] a house. Yet the most High dwells not in temples made with hands; as says the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will you build me? says the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Has not my hand made all these things? You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them who showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: (Acts 7:47-52 KJ2000)

All those years they had the tabernacle of meeting which was located by His order outside the camp because of their sin. They would stand in the doors of their tents and watch Moses walk by every day outside the camp to meet with the Lord and none of them joined him! God was just a curiosity to them, yet they would meet at the tabernacle of Moloch and worship Rephan! How cruel they were to His loving heart all those years.

So, Jesus, God’s own Son, was sent to earth to show us what an intimate relationship with His Father looks like. He spoke of God as “our Father.” And God spoke of Jesus as His Son. Then we read in Paul’s letters that it was God’s plan all along that he might have many loving and obedient sons and daughters unto His glory and that Jesus Christ was only the First Born of many brethren. Luke quotes Jesus saying that we will be like the angels of God in heaven, not marrying but I believe that we will all be equally bonded to Christ and one another in one great fellowship of love. Heaven is a place of great intimacy, not a place where Bible scholars endlessly speculate on the things of God by the power of their intellects like the Sadducees, the scribes and the Pharisees did 2000 years ago while they ignored the One who loved them. Yes, the Bible is a love letter showing us the heart of God toward us not a text book.

Let There Be Light!

John the apostle had much to say about light regarding God. He spoke of Jesus in these words, “In him [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… [He is] the true light, which enlightens everyone…” (John 1:4-9 ESV). Jesus is the Light that illuminates everyone. We are without excuse if we go on seeking to cover up our sin and live in darkness.

John later would write, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7 KJ2000).

Jesus Christ is God’s Light, piercing and purifying light. When He, Christ, comes again He will destroy the devil and his word with His pure light. Christ sheds His light upon us we have a choice to make, to run from the Light out of fear of being exposed, or to run to the Light and be cleansed and made pure and free from sin that has controlled us, destroying the works of the devil. To be a follower of Christ is to walk in the light as He is in the light of the Father. Again we see God’s great call for intimacy and fellowship with His creation.

Light by its very nature generates intimacy… there is nothing left to hide. If you hold your hand up to a bright light you can see your bones inside of them! How much more intense is the Light who’s Father is the Father of Lights? Those who walk in the light as He is in the light are God’s lights in this dark world. Through the work of Christ in our lives we can be restored to what was lost before the fall of man, walking with God in an intimate, spiritual nakedness before Him and we can also become one with one another in this same Light of Life. In this passage is where Christ’s Light and Life come together. His light purifies us so that we can walk in the light with one another without reaching for our religious fig leaves of doctrines and our coverings of self-righteousness.

Notice that John says that in the Light of Christ we DO the truth, not just study and give mental assent and lip service to it. It is walking in this truth and light with one another that we have opportunity for such rich fellowship and honesty with one another IN HIM and in His great love. Regarding true fellowship, Paul wrote something that is becoming richer to me by the day,

 

“Therefore from now on know we no man [or woman] after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 KJ2000)

How quick we seek to know one another “after the flesh.” How many of us have asked God to help us see our brothers and sisters after the Spirit? The disciples had known Jesus after the flesh… in His earthly body, but Paul had seen Him in His spiritual body and was converted from a hater of Christ and His body on earth to one transformed by His blinding light and changed forever into a lover of Christ and those who are His. None of the apostles saw the meaning of the Old Testament with New Covenant eyes like Paul.

It is dangerous in our old Adamic way of thinking to be exposed to God’s light and to be truly open with one another in His truth, so most Christians live a life of pretense with one another out of fear. The challenge is to pray that God puts us into fellowship with those who have embraced the Light of Christ so that we can walk with them in all honesty without pretense. This makes us vulnerable to them and they to us… this is what real love relationships are all about; openness, faith, love, hope, forgiving one another quickly when we blow it… knowing that in this great fellowship with Jesus, His blood is there to cleanse us from all sin that we might be restored to Him perfectly and to one another as we seek His love for one another (see 1 John 1:7).

Intimacy, Faith and Light Go Together

The Father’s desire for us has never changed from the very beginning! Here we see that for us to have intimacy with Him requires that we draw near unto Him and walk with Him in His marvelous light, in so much of HIS light that it rids us of any darkness that is still in us. It is here that we start to walk in the truth as God sees it… no darkness, walking in the light as HE is in the light as sons and daughters of God. Jesus told the woman at the well that those who would worship the Father must do it in Spirit and in Truth, not by going to some holy building or shrine on a mountain. The light of the Spirit of Christ is needed so that we will BE truth, not just talk about it for He is the Spirit of Truth. What a purging this requires of us! It requires us to take up the cross of Christ that pursues any darkness in us and puts it to death. Then we see in this passage one more thing… if WE (two or three who gather in His name) are walking in the light as HE is in the light we have fellowship not only with the Father and the Son, but with one another as members of that Light. Yet,

I as a child always longed for an intimate relationship with another. My own father was distant to all of us in the family and I remember my mom complaining to me as a young teen about feeling used, but never loved. My own experience was the same. I remember how treacherous my peers were. They would fain love or friendship to get me to reveal something intimate about myself and then run out and reveal it to others and make a mockery of me. After becoming a Christian and finding Christ’s love for the first time I only assumed that His people would be different and that at least I would be part of an intimate functional family. Well, that hope got dashed as well. Living with Christians was like tip-toeing through a mine field. I was never sure what would set the next one off. So here I am writing an intimate letter about God’s love and light, hoping that you will relate and be able to respond in kind.

There are some important things in the above passage from First John that seem to escape most Christians. The message, the very Gospel of Christ, bids us to come into His light and let all our darkness be expelled and this requires trust (a.k.a., faith)! Can we trust ourselves over to Him? In the book by C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe there is a dialogue about Aslan (a Christ figure) that is very telling, “Is Aslan safe?” “No, He’s not safe! He is a Lion, but He is good!” Once we take the plunge of faith in Christ we find out that God really is good, but after a while we find out that He also requires us to trust Him to an ever greater extent if we are to keep following Him into greater light. As our Great Physician we must yield once again to Him in this role in our lives while He cuts out of us all that is cancerous to our eternity and intimacy with Him. It is here that most Christians seek safety rather than total healing, abandoning themselves totally to Him. The world is full of Christians, but there are few Kingdom of God saints that have totally thrown their trust on Him and allowed Him to do some painful things in and to us which require an even greater faith than “the slipping up on one little finger with every eye closed and every head bowed.” We must follow Him into the Valley of the Shadow of Death in total trust and most will not go there out of fear. Many start out following Christ, but like the ancient Hebrews, they fail to enter into God’s rest by the same example of fear and unbelief which kept them from receiving all that was promised them. They fail to go in and posses the good land, Zion which is above, where Christ dwells with the Father in a unity and intimacy that is begging to be ours as well.

It is here, I believe, that the rubber starts to hit the road in HIS kingdom. In Christ’s kingdom where HE is King there is light and everyone’s secrets are revealed, in short, Intimacy is required. No more fig leaf garments. No more listening to the Serpent who constantly is telling us that we or “so and so” is naked, tempting us to know one another after the flesh. It is here that we can dare to walk in His light and we are covered by HIS righteousness and not our own. It is here that we can know one another after His Spirit in us.

We can spend our whole life as a nominal church Christian and never have to be honest with one another as we dance “the dance of the seven veils,” but never remove them all. We can get away with this lukewarm approach “in church” for we only have to fake it for one hour a week! THAT is not true fellowship. THAT is a form of prostitution where we use God and one another to do our weekly spiritual “duty” without entering into the vulnerability of His love! Christians as well as the people of this world tend to be like two porcupines trying to stay warm on a cold winter night. We are constantly coming together for warmth, being poked by the other and then fleeing apart once again seeking safety instead of warmth. Each time this happens it takes longer for us to enter into a close relationship where we might find His love again. Fear has caused many of us to stay at a distance from one another all these years and keep Christ at a distance as well.  John wrote, “If you don’t love your brother whom you can see, how can you say you love God whom you can’t see.”

Yet, we love movies and books where the couple portrayed finds intimacy and love (“The Lake House” is one of my favorites), but this is done safely at a distance in the privacy of our minds. We live out our longings and lives in a vicarious way and as a result we are never satisfied. Women choose romance novels and men choose pornography and they can never get enough. This is exactly what religion is… a holy man up front doing all the relationship stuff with God for us vicariously while we remain safe in our padded pews at a distance, just like the Hebrew children did when God invited them to sup with Him on the holy mountain… “You go up, Moses! He is not safe!” Love and intimacy are not safe, but they are good! When I find another dear saint that longs for intimacy with Christ and His body the way I do, it can be a dangerous situation. I am never sure whether we will start down that road together and then turn on one another out of fear as the light of Christ gets ever brighter. This kind of tension is shear torment. Fear has torment. Further on John wrote,

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. (1 John 4:16-21 KJV – emphasis added)

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Notice the order of things here. First we have to walk in the light, intimacy, and have intimate fellowship with Jesus and with one another. It is here that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. Sin is a fact of life’s interactions, but God has made provision for that so we can keep going and learn to walk in greater holiness as we are conformed into the image of Christ. I think that we have a too narrow definition of sin. Sin in the old English means to “fall short.” God’s idea of us falling short is when we settle for a Christian life that has not come into the fullness of His Son within us. Is intimacy safe? No! Some will slip back into sin because of the openness with one another that it requires. BUT the blood of Jesus Christ is there to cleanse us from all sin so we can continue to press into His Life and Light reality, the Kingdom of God in our midst. Intimacy with God first leads us to walk in God’s light as Jesus is in the light, THEN we who are secure in that fellowship with the Father and the Son can have true intimate fellowship and walk in the light of truth with one another. What a travesty that the sons and daughters of God are so fearful and distant with one another when we could truly be ONE even as Jesus and the Father are ONE, just like Jesus prayed before He went to the cross,

 

 “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:15-26 ESV)

 

 

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Thoughts on the “Five Fold Ministry”

ImageThe other day a brother wrote and asked me if I was a prophet. I have come to the place where I believe that all the so-called “five-fold” gifts given unto men are all about Jesus and His graces given to all who are in Christ and not about us as individuals, but are rather about Him in us collectively. Like Paul said, “I can do ALL things through Christ who is my strength.” Was Paul extra special? Not according to his own words. So, I try not to limit Christ in me by saying, “I am a prophet, or I am teacher, or I am an apostle, etc.” No, “I am IN Christ and it is from there that HE can do all things,” IF I don’t limit Him by my flesh or preconceived ideas as to what my “calling” is. We limit Christ in us when we try to put Him in a box, whether that box be a church building and our church doctrines or even saying within ourselves, “I am an Apostle!” or “I am God’s Prophet!”, I, I, I, blah, blah, blah.

This Ephesians chapter four verse eleven is right smack dab in the middle of a chapter that has terms that are about ALL of Christ’s body, not an exclusive few. It speaks of being equal as we abide in HIM; “you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness,” [where is “all lowiness and meekness” if we claim an “office” that elevates us above the rest of the body of Christ?] words like all– “God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all,” words like one, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all,” words pointing to Christ as gift given to every one, “unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ… that he might fill all things,”

But now we get to this mystery verse eleven which all of Christendom uses to justify church “offices” (another word placed in the N.T. translation that has no Greek equivalent in the text) and elevated king like authority. Here in verse eleven instead of ALL we read the exclusive term “some.” This word translated by the king’s bishops as “some” is the same Greek work that was translated in John chapter one as “the.” “In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with God, and The Word was God.” How would this read with the word “some?” “In the beginning was some Word, and some Word was with God and some Word was God…” Not quite the same. You see, the translators took quite a bit of license with this Greek word for, the definite article “ho” (a close look at the Greek in Matt. 28:11 will show the proper Greek word to be used for “some” is “tis” where it is used with the definite article “ho,” “…some of the watch came into the city…”).

The English Standard Version comes much closer in its translation of this passage, “He [Christ] who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the [ho- the not some] saints for the work of ministry [service], for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:10-12 ESV). When you look at the Greek for each of these five Spiritual manifestation of grace they are all in the singular, not plural; apostolos – one sent forth, prophetes – one who speaks for God, euaggelistēs – one who brings good tidings, poimen – one who shepherds and feeds, and didaskalos – one who teaches. It is Jesus that does all these things and many places in the New Testament refer to Him with these tiles!

So now let’s translate Ephesians 4:10-12 as it should be, “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, THAT HE MIGHT FILL ALL THINGS. And he gave THE apostle; and THE prophet, and THE evangelist,  and THE shepherd and THE teacher, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of service, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

THE Word, Jesus Christ, fills ALL things, in this case He fills ALL the body (not just some) with THE Apostle, Jesus Christ. He fills ALL the body with THE Prophet, Jesus Christ. He fills ALL the body with THE Evangelist, Jesus Christ. He fills ALL the body with THE Shepherd, Jesus Christ. And He fills ALL the body with THE Teacher, Jesus Christ through HIS Spirit that abides IN ALL who are His. Why? Because God is NOT a respecter of persons and He desires that we ALL might be made perfect and be built up into the fullness of His Son… “to equip the saints for the work of ministry [service], for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge [perfect knowing] of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to GROW UP IN EVERY WAY INTO HIM who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:12-15 ESV – emphasis added)

Dear saints, this whole “five-fold” hierarchic invention of the ecclesiarchs in the Christian religion has yet to build up the saints into the fullness of Christ and it never will. Why? Because by its very nature it divides the body of Christ against itself into two classes, the haves and the have-nots. the clergy and the laity, the clean untouchables and the unwashed masses. It is a system designed in hell itself, not in heaven. But like Paul brought forth in his letter to the Corinthians…

“For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife [divisions] among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed… Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:3-23 ESV).

All things are ours as we abide IN Christ who is our strength. Let us live accordingly as we surrender to Him and if we are being led to minister Christ Himself to others, let us do it in all simplicity and humble ourselves as He did, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

A Critical Spiritual Difference

Пасхальное богослужение в храме Христа Спасителя в МосквеFor in him [the Son of God] we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent,” (Acts 17:28-30 KJV).

 

It has been almost two millennium since Christ rose from the grave and here we are on another Easter morning with many of us celebrating that event which took place so long ago. I think it is a time to reflect on this deciding event that we as Christians have made into a tradition called “Easter.”

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a pivotal point in the annals of man’s history, but I am not sure that any of us fully understand just how big a turning point those thirty-three years lived on this earth by the Son of God really was. How much of what we call “Christianity” today is still patterned after the Old Covenant that Christ came to bring to an end and usher in a NEW Spiritual order among His Father’s creation which the writer in Hebrews called “a new and living way”(see Hebrews 10:19-23)?

We all know the gospel message, “You must be born again. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” But just how far has this message gone into the depths of our thoughts and lives? Paul wrote, “First the natural and then the spiritual.” That which is born of the flesh is natural, earthly, but that which is born of the Spirit is super-natural and heavenly.

In the Old Covenant God made provision for a fleshly people, the Hebrews, and gave them a system of government and worship that spoke to them on their fleshly level. They had just come up out of Egypt and had been captivated in a pagan culture for over 400 years and as a result they thought as pagans do (remember the golden calf). They thought of the gods as being present in temples, in their temple niches, where temple priests offered up sacrifices and incense to the gods for the people. These Egyptian gods were represented by earthly things, the sun, a frog, a bull, a hound, etc. So what did God do, He gave these newly escaped slaves earthly and tangible things for their worship of Him. He winked at their superstitious ways, so He gave them a tabernacle, a portable temple. He gave them a niche, the most holy place where His presence abode. He gave them animal sacrifices and incense to offer up before Him. He gave them a priest cast to do the “spiritual work” for the people of tending to Him in His temple. He gave the priests special vestments to wear and special services to perform before the people. BUT instead of giving them a carving of something earthly of God’s creation to worship, He gave them the Ark of the Covenant over which two golden angels, heavenly beings, presided with their wings stretch out over the lid of the ark. It was between these to representative beings that the Shekinah glory of God presence was manifest (BTW, the word shikinah is Hebrew, but not found in the O.T. text, but was used by the rabbis to describe the presence of the Lord upon the Ark and among the people when it happened).

Now let’s take this forward 1500 years. By the coming of Christ the temple system had been “refined” by man quite a bit from what God gave the Hebrews during their exodus from Egypt. They now had a massive temple built in the Promised Land by a despot king named Harod the Great in the city of David, Jerusalem, and no longer a moveable tent. As a result this temple had many more officers and functions that were needed to preserve its order that went beyond the original priest cast and heavenly design given to Moses by God. In fact Harod was not a Jew and he had killed the rightful high priest and installed his brother-in-law, Aristobulus III in his place in the temple. Herod was a murderer who was appointed by Rome as the “King of the Jews” and he killed many people that he felt were a threat to his little kingdom. He had his own secret police and anyone that even thought of going against him often ended up dead.

His temple also had an extensive bazaar incorporated into it which at the time of Christ was presided over by Annas the high priest, where people bought and sold animals and exchanged currencies for the temple currency. The temple had so change from God’s heavenly pattern given to Moses on Mount Sinai, that Jesus made a whip of cords and made havak of the place saying, “It is written, my house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”

Jesus was not a natural man as we think of men of the world today. He was a heavenly man with a heavenly relationship with God His Father. He did not march to this world’s order of things. In fact He told Pilate at his trial, “My kingdom is NOT of THIS world…” He was a heavenly Man! And being a heavenly Man, he was constantly on a collision course with all those who were intent on preserving their earthly kingdoms including the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees and temple priests as well as the Chief Priests of that Jewish system.

This should explain many of the things that Jesus taught and why Jewish scholars like Nicode’mus were so bewildered by His teachings. Nicode’mus came to Jesus by night representing the Pharisees and temple leadership saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” It is here that Jesus interrupts him and sets things straight saying, “I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In other words, “Buddy, I am telling you that with all your learning about the Old Covenant, you don’t have a clue about God’s REAL kingdom is or who I am.” That is a pretty harsh thing to say to a ruler of the Jews.

Then Jesus continued to speak to this man born of the flesh about what it means to be born of the Spirit of God and HIS kingdom, “I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell from where it came, and where it goes: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” All old Nick could say was, “How can these things be?!”

So in the economy of God’s plan for this world, first we have the natural manifested and then the spiritual. The old things were passing away right before the eyes of the religious Jews and by the time forty years went by from the above encounter with Christ, all the outward and natural vestiges of Judaism would be gone. The temple which they worshiped would be destroyed just as Jesus prophesied (see Matt. 24:1-2). The priesthood would be murdered by the Romans and done away with. The veil of the temple was torn top to bottom as Jesus died on the cross, thus making way for all who believe to enter into the presence of His Father. Even Israel as a nation would be no more until it was re-established in 1947 by the Jewish revolt. But how many of us get the full significance of all this and what God did 2000 years ago through Jesus Christ? Paul wrote,

 

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:2-6 KJ2000)

Paul, speaking of the New Covenant that is ours IN Christ wrote, “The old has passed away and behold ALL things have become NEW.” ALL THINGS! The church was established with the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus rose again. They were a NEW people who personally knew that God is Spirit and they worshipped Him IN Spirit and in Truth as the Spirit abode in them. They knew that they were all a kingdom of priests and that all who had been given the Spirit were living stones in a spiritual temple and that the old temple system and all its observances had no relevance any longer. In fact the very first martyr, Stephen, was killed by the Jewish leaders because He dared to preach this very message to them (see Acts Ch. 7).

They also knew that they were now born of the Spirit and that they also had spiritual senses with which to communicate with one another and with their heavenly Father. They no longer needed to worship Him by natural smells (burnt offerings and incense), by natural sight (magnificent temples, vestments, temple decorations, earthly priests worshipping before them, etc.), by natural hearing (trumpets, bells, incantations being spoken by priests, etc.), by things felt (anointing oils, temple tapestries, vestments, stone work, etc) or by things tasted (special feasts, covenants of salt and so on). Being newly born of the Spirit of God and having been made spiritual beings, they now had spiritual sight. They knew one another after the Spirit in them, not by the flesh (see 2 Cor. 5:16-17).

They even had visions of heaven, Jesus and the Father! They now had spiritual hearing and could hear the voice of Jesus and the Spirit as Jesus admonished them saying, “Let he who has [spiritual] ears hear what the Spirit IS saying to the churches.” It was Jesus who said, “My sheep hear my voice and another they will not follow.” They also had spiritual smelling and knew when another spirit that was not of God was present and could discern hypocrisy in their midst. They had spiritual taste as well. They were able to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” And they had spiritual touch and were touched by the presence of the Spirit among and in them as He changed their lives.

With all these thing being true we cans see why Paul was so emphatic in his letters to the Corinthians who had gone back to being carnal and living in the flesh and to the Galatians who had had done so well starting out in the Spirit and had gone back to serving God in their flesh by Old Covenant law keeping and traditions. It is this emphasis on walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh that made Paul’s letters a shining light pointing us to a New and Lasting Covenant with the Father and the Son.

The whole Letter to the Hebrews was written to us so that we could see how all those types that were so tangible in the Old Covenant were only a shadow of that which is perfect in the New. To these Hebrews who were clinging to their fleshly connection to the Old Covenant the writer admonishes, “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek [Jesus Christ], and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.”(Hebrews 7:11-12 KJ2000). Or as Paul wrote, “When that which is perfect is come, that which is imperfect shall be done away with.” He finally gets even more emphatic about the insult it is to God that they were casting-off the covenant of grace under Christ and going back to the covenant of law under Moses saying,

 

“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much worse punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done insult unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28-29 KJ2000).

So here it is another “Easter” and what do we have today among Christians who call themselves, “the Church” with all their man-made services, temples, churches, chapels, universities, bible schools, seminaries, a special priest cast called “pastors” or “priests” and “bishops,” special rites, ceremonies, feast days, holy days, vestments, tapestries, paintings, stained glass windows, sacramentalism, holy cards, religious jewelry and key rings, statues and figurines, and all the “Jesus junk” that can be imagined in our local “Christian” book and gift store where one can find everything that appeals to the flesh, even books on how to be successful and prosper in THIS world!

Even the word “Easter” was morphed by the translators from the Greek word that was translated “Passover” throughout the rest of the Bible. In Easter we have a word with its roots in Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, thus all the symbology of rabbits, eggs, virgins dancing around the May pole… a carryover from the pagan rites of calling upon their gods to bless their herds and crops with fertility.

My dear church going Christian friends, isn’t it fair to ask the question, “Are you yet carnal and not walking after the Spirit of God, but rather the fleshly traditions of men?” Is it any wonder that the church without all these material “blessings” and things was able to turn the world upside down and spread throughout the whole known world by the end of the second century? They were walking after the Spirit of Christ and NOT after all things which appeal to the flesh as Christianity does today. THAT is the difference! No wonder the dark ages soon ensued once the Roman government in the fourth century made the church into an arm of its own ruler-ship and control. Once man got his carnal hands on it, the move of the Spirit that was started on the day of Pentecost almost 2000 years ago was soon dead and forgotten.

My friends, many of us are still in the dark ages spiritually speaking! Many of us are still titillated by all things carnal and of this world as we gather together in our church buildings and name the name of Christ. We still heap after ourselves teachers that point us to the natural things of this world with their traditions and doctrines instead of pointing us to Christ and the Kingdom of His Father which is totally Spirit.

Dear saints of God, first of all search yourselves to see if you are still IN Christ… walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh. Where is your heart? Is it on the things of the world and a worldly church or is it on the Kingdom of God and all things of the Spirit? What do you spend your time talking about after the “service” is over? Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Do you as a Christian spend your time talking about sports, kids, houses, cars, politics, world news, clothes, food, TV programs and movies? Or do you find yourself speaking with others all day long about Jesus Christ and HIS kingdom? Those of the former group are YET CARNAL. The later group of Christians are obviously member is God’s kingdom and like Christ, not of this world order. They also are finding out that they don’t fit so well in a church system that is of this world.

 

So, I would ask all of us to do as Paul admonished the Corinthians on this Easter, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5 RSVA)

 

If He is alive in us, our lives and conversations should glorify the Father for that is what Jesus does and our Christian walks should not just be something that is done on one day a week to be seen of men or on special “holy days” or in a special religious building, but rather 24/7 and should exemplify our Father’s kingdom.

 

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJ2000)

Fellowship vs. Doubtful Disputations

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, [but] not to doubtful disputations.
(Romans 14:1 KJV)
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I can remember when I would jump on any differences that others had from the way I saw Christ and the church and would confront people over them without much love. It got worse once I got burned a few time in authoritarian churches. Then one day God showed me that I was getting back from pastors, church leadership and others the same thing I had been handing out! You reap what you sow. He showed it to me with this passage…

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:7-10 KJ2000)

What I got out of it with the help of a brother who confronted me in love was that if I sowed division and received others “unto doubtful disputations” I could expect the same treatment. I had to get tired of being rejected by others and getting back from them what I had been doing. God teaches us that way. He lets us get a boat load of flack back of the same kind thing that we have been handing out to others that we might learn… He rubs our nose in the very thing that He wants us to never do! If we sow love and acceptance among the saints, we will get that back. If we sow disrespect and judgment among them we will get that back as well.

The next thing I share here is important… Notice in this passage above the words, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap…” There is a delay. We go out and sow to others the way we want to be received by them and it takes a while for that new crop we are sowing to come to fruit, so we need to hang in there and keep sowing to the Spirit of Christ’s love and eventually we will get the same back from others.

In short, I had to get tired of having ME shoved back in my face! I had to come to the place where I hungered for Christ so much that I didn’t want MY point of view to be heard at the expense of finding HIM in others. Yes, I do draw a line, but it is only when people attack Jesus for what the church has done to them and even then I am patient and ask God to show me how HE sees their hearts. I don’t jump on differences in doctrine, but rather try to stir the conversation back to focusing on our Lord. Christ has to be our center if we are ever to have any meaningful fellowship IN HIM. If we keep beholding Him as His body, we will eventually become what we behold.

Uncommon Peace in Troubled Times

jesus-calms-the-stormA dear brother in Christ who lives in Louisiana named Ken Burgess, posted the following on his Facebook:

“Mariners and oceanographers have known for a long time that no matter how rough the seas or how high the waves get the water just 10 feet below the surface of the trough is completely calm. We spend the majority of our time at the top of the waves during the rough seas of life. That is where the struggle is. It is also where the, ‘seaworthiness,’ and/or weaknesses of a vessel are discovered. The weaknesses can sometimes have disastrous results. We are to remain in HIM at all times. Just 10 feet below the surface of the raging storms of life where it is perfectly calm. A submarine spends the majority of its time below the surface of the oceans of the world and the sailors are unaware of surface conditions even during the worst storms with the highest waves unless the captain surfaces. A wise captain will not risk his boat or his crew in those type of conditions. Jesus is our wise captain. HE did one of three things during stormy weather that was kicking up the waves. HE slept. HE rebuked the storm and spoke peace to the wind and waves. And HE walked on the water. It is our choice to make.”

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let now your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” JESUS: John 14:27

 

I, Michael, after spending years at sea, myself, know first hand about wave action. One time I was on an aircraft carrier in the edge of a typhoon and waves were coming over the flight deck  which was normally 90 feet above sea level! It was a wild time, but the submarines that were escorting our group were safe under the surface.

True peace and faith go hand in hand. And God allows situations to come into our lives so our faith can be tried as it was with the disciples on the sea of Galilee on that stormy night. Peter wrote,

 

[The elect] are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In which you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold trials: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:5-7 KJ2000)

I felt led to  look up each Greek word in this verse from John fourteen which Ken shared and it is interesting that the word translated “troubled” in the Greek means “roiled up” as in troubled waters on the sea. Jesus gives His peace and specifies that it is superior to the peace that the world gives. If the world (kosmos– or world system) gives “peace” it is totally conditional and is often armed neutrality at best and is a war that is just waiting for the right conditions to break out again. We are seeing this kind of “peace” all over the world where ethnic violence is only suppressed by militaristic dictators and more recent they are getting involved in “ethnic cleansing” themselves! Jeremiah saw this day when He said,

 

For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest everyone deals falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people lightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:13-14 KJ2000)


But the peace that Christ sends us forth with (the meaning of His words “my peace I give unto you”) is deep and not subject to the superficial roiling of the world around us. His peace settled deep into our spirits out of reach of all things temporal. I often think of Paul and Barnabas in that dark Philippian dungeon with their backs split open from a flogging, and their feet bound in stocks awaiting further sentencing and what were they doing? Singing praises unto the Lord! (How many Christians in America do you know that would be doing THAT under such circumstances?) Paul and Barnabas  went forth with Christ’s peace in their hearts, peace that surpasses all reasonable understanding, and they were more than overcomers as they abode IN Him. And, as we know from the story, Jesus came down and inhabited their praises and the will of the kosmos gave way to the will of its Creator (see Acts Acts ch. 16).

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in. You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever: for in the LORD GOD is everlasting strength: For he brings down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he lays it low; he lays it low, even to the ground; he brings it even to the dust.  (Isaiah 26:1-5 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Transfigured into His Likeness

 

stoning of Stephen

“And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain apart, And was transfigured [Grk. metamorphoo] before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his clothing was white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1-2 KJ2000)

What a wonderful sight that must have been for these disciples to behold Jesus in such perfection and glory. Have you ever met a dear saint who had been so changed by the living Christ abiding in them that their face shone with His glory? Is it even possible for a mere human to be so transformed by the indwelling Christ that they shine forth with His love and grace? I think that this is what Stephen’s religious persecutors saw that day as is recorded in Acts chapter seven and they broke out into a frenzied rage and gnashed on him with their teeth!

Paul wrote,

 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed [Grk. metamorphoo – tranfigured] into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-4:2 RSVA)

Stephen, that day 2000 years ago, had an unveiled face… his face shown like that of an angel.  It was the face of Jesus who abode within him. And for those who were followers of Moses with their veiled faces it was too much. His face was a witness before them that what he told them was the truth… that they had slain the Lord of Glory, their Messiah, and that their temple worship was used by them to “always resist God’s Holy Spirit.”

Have you ever noticed in a church service that any time the Spirit starts to rise and the presence of the Lord is starting to become manifest, someone in control feels compelled to rise up and put an end to it? I have seen this happen over and over. The program must go on! And the Spirit wind does not abide in the walls and the programs of men. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom and the purveyors of religious bondage will not allow freedom to take hold and get out of their control so the Spirit wind moves on.

So we who have the Spirit of Christ must move on with Him. We seek HIS glory and abide in HIS life changing truth. We cannot settle for mere words that come forth from those who quench the Spirit and handle the word of God with cunning and much tampering. We would rather read the Bible for ourselves and listen for our Shepherd’s voice speaking to us in a personal way. We would rather behold HIS face than the faces of those who would presume to take His place as they stand before us on their elevated platforms.

In the above passage Paul says we who behold Jesus’ face have a ministry. We have the ministry of Life IN Christ Jesus. We are being changed, transfigured, into the likeness of the One whom we behold. We go from one degree of glory to another because this comes from the Spirit of the Lord who abides in us! As much as we are being transformed into the image of Christ is what proves that our service “ministry” is true, not some man-made title, degree or stance behind a pulpit and in this we do not lose heart for Christ is our sufficiency in all things as we abide IN Him. Behold Him, dear saints, and shine forth with what you behold.

“The Word Was Made Flesh and Dwelt Among Us”

Jesus-washing-feetBehold, you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:4-7 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

 

In 1979 I was all about ministry “out there.” I was a “prophet” on the make and the kingdom of heaven was all about me and “my ministry.” During this time many elderly saints came to me with the same message, “Go home! Tend to your wife and children. They need you,” Then one day God got my attention with the above passage. These words of Isaiah are a rebuke to religious people who think that they can get God’s favor by fasting, all the while hiding their sins under a cloak of religiousness and “ministry.” God showed me that by my thinking that “ministry” was out there– always something to be done outside my home to be seen of men– that I was “hiding myself from my own flesh,” my own flesh and blood. My household was out of order and I had no business trying to “minister to” the saints of God until I took care of the first things first.

There seems to be two extremes that Christians fall into. One is that of thinking all service to the Kingdom of God is done outside our homes and that our kids and spouses will just have to be satisfied with the crumbs that fall from our table, thus neglecting our first God-given responsibility (see 1 Tim. 3:4-5). And the second extreme is becoming so taken up with Bible study and introspection (spiritual navel staring) that we never get out and mingle with people that really need help and a touch from the Lord through us. In a way, this also is “hiding from our own flesh”… those who are members of the body of Christ and people in general who need a personal touch from Jesus in us. Selfishness takes on many forms.

In the first chapter of John we read…

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men… That was the true Light, that lights every man that comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14 KJ2000- emphasis added)

Here we read about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who dwelt with God and was used of God to make all creation. Christ could have continued to live at the right hand of the Father, but God had a plan to send His Son into a world that had gone bad from trying to live their lives without Him. Though Jesus thought it not robbery to be equal with God, He came down to earth and took on the form of an infant, born in a stable to a poverty stricken couple. Not only that, but He took on the form of a servant to all mankind, not a high and mighty king or even a temple high priest. Jesus did not cloister Himself away from humanity, but dwelt among them as a lowly servant. He was not a holy hermit out of touch with the sufferings and rejections of fallen man, but rather, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Not only that, but the Word of God was among us full of grace and truth! In Hebrews we read,

For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 KJ2000)

Jesus was full of grace and truth while He abode among mankind here on earth. How did that grace manifest itself? He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, cast out demons, and forgave sinners. Today He continues to be our fountain of grace at the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intersession for us. Jesus was not only Living Truth before all who saw Him here on earth, but He is still God’s word of truth. He speaks through His Spirit and continues to lead us into all truth just has He promised. The Word became flesh in human form and dwelt among us 2000 years ago and He still lives among us in Spirit form today if we will receive Him. He continues to serve those who are in need and He, the Word of God, continues to speak and lead us into all truth if we have ears to hear.

In Hebrews chapter two we read,

For verily he [Christ] took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the nature of Abraham. Therefore in all things he had to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:16-18 KJ2000)

As we find ourselves becoming over-comers as we abide in His grace and help, we should also be available as instruments so that His grace can flow through us to others who are in need. We who are Christ’s are members of His body here on earth.  He wants to reach out through us to those who need His touch. This takes sensitivity to the prompting of His Spirit in us. On the one hand, He may be telling us to “go home” and not hide ourselves from the needs of our own flesh and blood, our spouses and our children. And on the other hand He might be telling us to mingle with the saints of God and be there for our neighbors and fellow workers on the job. We need to be aware of His divine opportunities that He gives us in our daily lives.

There is no such thing as a “holy hermit.” The love of God has always compelled Him to be in touch with His creation. The love of the Father in Christ has always compelled Him to be there for everyone in need. Yes, Jesus would go aside into the wilderness for a few days, but it was only so that He could be with His Father, pray, and hear His will as to what He wanted Him do. Jesus was above all a Servant and we as members of His body are called to be servants as well. He told the disciples, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and lay down His life for many.” Our lives IN Christ are not all about us, but rather about Him and His will for His creation.

Jesus was such a Servant that finally He offered up His own body and blood that we might be saved saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me… This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20 RSVA). Like the woman with the alabaster box of precious ointment, He was broken and poured out for us and the fragrance of His sacrifice is meant to fill His whole household with sacrificial love… YOU “do this in remembrance of Me!” His love compels us to be broken and poured out for the needs of others, whether they are members of our own families or those who He puts us in touch with as we go out into all the world with His Good News.

“Love it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way [does not seek its own]; it is not irritable or resentful [does not resent being pushed in on by the needs of others]; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away… the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:5-13 RSVA – emphasis added)

Father, put your heart of love within us and let us be poured out just as your Son was poured out for others as He lived and finally died on that cross. Let your resurrection Life dwell in us and let that Life be the light of men. Amen.