The Death of a Vision

Under Juniper TreeElijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, LORD,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!” He lay down under the tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Wake up and eat.” (1 Kings 19:4-5 GNB)
Have you ever heard of the death of a vision? God gives us a taste of what He has for us to walk in, even does the work of that vision through us for a brief season, and then takes it away. You see this pattern in Moses setting out to deliver the Hebrew people from the hands of the Egyptian slavery one task master at a time, only to learn that God had something far greater in mind. With the Hebrews he was trying to help turning on him, he high-tailed it for the back side of the wilderness in fear of Pharaoh. There he tended his father-in-law’s sheep for 40 years. So much for that vision—at least that was what Moses thought until he had an encounter with God 40 years later!

Then there was Joseph and his dreams of greatness as a young man. His dreams did not please his folks or his brothers when he told them that they would all bow down before him one day. The brothers did their best to make sure that this dreamer never ruled over them, and plotted to kill him! You know the rest. He was sold into slavery in Egypt, and thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Insult and injury seem to be his lot for being faithful to God. Twenty-three years after the brothers sold him into slavery, the dream was fulfilled.

How about the great apostle Paul? Everyone seems to think that Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road and “insto-chango,” Paul was a super evangelist on the mission trail! That was not the case. Jesus first put him in the Arabian Desert for three years where He taught him and stripped him of his Jewish traditions. It was a total of 14 years before he went out on his first missionary journey, only after the Holy Spirit spoke to the brethren at Antioch, where Paul was living as one of the brothers and said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

A lot of dying has to take place for God to get a purified vessel He can use effectively after He calls him or her. My case was similar. About 1978 He started to move by His Spirit in me through words of knowledge, prophecy, dreams and such. We had a group of people meeting with us in our home as well. It was a heady time for me. I finally had something from God that my own father never provided for me – a sense of identity. Like Moses, I did not know the difference between my soul and what was of the Spirit, and pride started rising up in me. Because of the accuracy of things He gave me and the resulting pride, I was dangerous. He showed me the mixture, and I started praying that He would purify me. One day I heard Him say, “Michael, if I quit moving in your meetings with my Spirit, will you try to fake it?” I replied, “No, Lord, if you quit, I quit.” After that that He pulled the plug on everything I identified as spiritual in my life.

About this time, I had what I felt was prophetic dream of a dear 35 year old friend of ours who had abdominal cancer. Sandy was prophetic and we shared a lot of things back and forth. In this dream I could see my hand reaching down to her where she was lying on her sick bed and I was praying that she would be healed. I was so startled I woke up abruptly, woke my wife and told her about the dream. I then went back to sleep and dreamed the second half. You know how we have those wonderful, feel good dreams and want to go back to sleep and have it some more and it never happens? Well, not in this case! In the second half of the dream her family and mine were all sitting around a large dining room table with the sunlight streaming through the windows. Sandy was now looking like a 24 year old woman in her prime, and she was talking about her healing from the Lord. This startled me awake again and this time I stayed up.

The next day I made an appointment to see the pastor about my dream. He told me to just sit on it and wait and see if God would confirm it. I waited and waited, and Sandy got sicker and sicker. Finally, for a brief time her cancer went into remission enough that she could come to church one Sunday. It was the first time in six months and when I saw here sitting there it was like an electric shock went through me! I got a chance to ask the pastor during the service if it was time to pray for her. At the end of the service, he had me come up and tell my dream, then invited Sandy and the church elders to pray for her healing.

We had given Sandy and her husband a large Chrysler station wagon. A few months earlier, the Lord had told me that the car was going to die when it turned over 103,000 miles. It had a six-way driver’s seat, so Sandy could adjust it to be more comfortable while hauling her kids from place to place. One day about a month after we all prayed for her, Sandy passed out, drove into a tree, and slid forward into the steering wheel. From that time on, her cancer went full speed and it wasn’t long before she died. I was heart sick, and felt like the worst false prophet that ever walked.

That was the beginning of the death of my vision. God shut down my home meetings as He had warned me. Soon the church was split by two cult leaders who came in with the pastor’s permission. Everything started falling apart all around me. I took a job on the other side of the state, sold our house and gladly moved away from all that insanity. That job died and other jobs dried up as well. I finally had to take a job on a remote Aleutian island of Alaska without my family. There I was surrounded by drug abusers and alcoholics and was about as spiritual as one of the volcanic rocks on that island. Little did I know that God was answering my prayer to cleanse me from the mixture of soul and His Spirit. In Hebrews we read:

 “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13 KJ2000)

Fourteen years went by from the time I prayed for Sandy in front of the congregation before I could feel the presence of the Lord again. Everything stopped. A sense of His presence was gone, the Bible quit speaking to me, and my prayers hit the floor with a thud. I had no meaningful fellowship with other Christians. He also stripped me of the pride of the work of my hands with long periods of unemployment. I was thoroughly dead by the time He finally showed up again in a way that I could recognize as Him. As I started to feel His presence once again, He spoke to me while sitting in a church service and said, “You have not been this way before.” These were the same words God spoke to the Children of Israel as they were about to cross over the Jordon at the end of their 40 year wilderness. He also reminded me that a seed that falls into the ground and dies doesn’t look like what springs up as a sprout. The idolaters that left Egypt 40 years earlier were not the ones that God took across the Jordon into the Promised Land.

About this same time, my wife and I started going to a home fellowship again. A lady named Kathy had been battling cancer in her abdomen (Yup! Re-runs). After what I went through 14 years earlier, I would never have volunteered to pray for her healing. I figured that God didn’t want me to do that any more. Because she was weak, the leader of the group decided to take the meeting to Kathy’s house so she could be there. That evening her husband carried her down the stairs from the bedroom and put her in a recliner in the corner of the living room. At one point during the meeting, the leader’s wife said to me, “Michael, I want you to stand in front of me and hold out your hand without touching me and pray for me.” I said, “Alice, I feel like a nickel waiting for change. I think you ought to be praying for me.” But she insisted, so I did what she asked.

Next thing I knew, Alice fell to the floor, thump! So Kathy said, “Michael, will you pray for me, too? My cancer is flaring up again and the doctors aren’t giving me much hope.” I thought, “Oh boy! Here we go again — more dying!” Her husband scooted her off the chair onto the floor so we could all get around her and pray. I held my hand above her torso about six inches and started praying quietly as the others joined in. All of a sudden I felt a strong magnetic buzzing in my hand, and as I swept it back and forth from her chest to her abdomen, the buzz got stronger over one spot. She had her eyes closed and said that it was like having an MRI–she could feel everywhere my hand moved. I started hearing the word “pancreas,” so I asked her if the doctors had told her that she had pancreatic cancer. She said that they had.

We decided to keep praying until that feeling left my hand. About 45 minutes later the buzzing stopped. At that point Kathy sat right up and said, “Okay, that is healed! Now pray for my kidneys. They said one of my kidneys is dead.” So I went around behind her, and without touching her again, moved my hand back and forth from the left side to the right. The buzzing in my hand started over the right kidney, and she confirmed that was the one. We prayed for about thirty minutes. Finally the magnetic buzzing quit. Kathy jumped up and said, “Okay, I’m healed.” Off to the kitchen she went to make us all a snack tray! Mind you just two hours earlier she had to be carried into the front room. The next day she went to the gym and worked out. God wanted me to know that He still loved me could heal my broken heart as well.

About a year later I was asked to pray for another woman, a widow with terminal cancer. She was also healed, but it was not immediate and there were no signs of power that went with the prayers. Do I think that I am a healer? NOPE! I believe that the one who receives the “gift of healing” is the one who is healed! But I have learned what Paul meant when he said, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

I know that some of you have gone through similar circumstances, and I hope this has encouraged you. There has to be a death in us before the power of His resurrection Life can be manifest in and through us. Since God raised me up from my spiritual death in1994, He has used me in many diverse ways but told me not to put a label on what I am in Christ as so many people do, claiming a particular calling and title. The flesh loves titles! Most of what I do is write what I hear the Spirit saying here in our little home in the back woods of Idaho, then share it with the body of Christ over the Internet. I keep as low a profile as I can. It is no longer about me! I pray often that Paul’s words would be true, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” And, “I can do all things through Christ who is my strength.” Amen.

Oh, that car that Sandy drove into the tree? They had the auto body class at the local technical college fix it up. One night it caught fire and burned, and that was the end of it. Yup, the odometer read 103,000 miles.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25 RSVA)

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How Does the Bride Make Herself Ready?

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of saints. (Revelation 19:7-8 KJ2000)

 Bride_getting_ready1

And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25 RSVA)

The woman stared at the fruit. It looked beautiful and tasty. She wanted the wisdom that it would give her, and she ate some of the fruit. Her husband was there with her, so she gave some to him, and he ate it too. Right away they saw what they had done, and they realized they were naked. Then they sewed fig leaves together to make something to cover themselves. Late in the afternoon a breeze began to blow, and the man and woman heard the LORD God walking in the garden. They were frightened and hid behind some trees. The LORD called out to the man and asked, “Where are you?” The man answered, “I was naked, and when I heard you walking through the garden, I was frightened and hid!” (Genesis 3:6-10 CEV)

God created men and women to be naked before Him in perfect harmony and communion with Him, but with sin consciousness came a need in man to cover up and hide. It was the first time that man was aware of his self apart from His Creator. Suddenly he could see both good and evil within himself. What he saw was out of harmony with God for the first time. The wonderful fellowship he once had with God was broken.

We do many things to hide from ourselves, others and God. But we cannot really hide from God because He does not look at the outward, but rather He looks at the heart (See 1 Sam. 16:7). When God looks deep into us, we have one of two options–we can let our sin remain and start trying to cover what is there, or we can confess our need for healing, be stripped of our filthy garments of self, and put on the garment of the righteousness of Jesus Christ His Son. Paul wrote:

For as many of you as have been baptized [immersed] into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s descendants, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:27-29 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“The greatest characteristic a Christian can exhibit is this completely unveiled openness before God, which allows that person’s life to become a mirror for others. When the Spirit fills us, we are transformed, and by beholding God we become mirrors. You can always tell when someone has been beholding the glory of the Lord, because your inner spirit senses that he mirrors the Lord’s own character.” – Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest”

I think that for most of our lives we have been like Adam and Eve in the garden after they became conscious of their sin – we set out to cover up our nakedness with garments of our own choosing. Some of our shame came on us by evils others have done to us or the evil things we have done ourselves under the influence of the prince of this world (see Ephesians 2:1-6). So, what is our reaction? Many of us try a new persona to cover over that one that is crippled by shame, so we set out to find our identity, but do so again and again without looking to our Father. The mantra of the Hippie movement of the seventies was, “I am trying to find myself.” So we seek an identity and start putting on airs so that others might either find us more acceptable or that we might be “big and scary” enough to keep away people that might want to hurt us again. Some hide inside themselves by putting on gross amounts of weight. Down through life we become like the kid, who being told to change out of his dirty clothes, goes to his bedroom and puts on a new set of clothes over the dirty ones. The old layer has become part of us and it is too painful to remove, so we just add one dirty layer upon another. Is it any wonder that when God starts stripping us of all that is not of Him, we feel like an onion that is being peeled?

Religion is one of those layered garments that people choose so that they look better to others on the outside and thereby find acceptance without being stripped first. Religion is all about outward appearances, but Jesus said the reality of His kingdom is just the opposite. “The kingdom of God comes not with outward observation… behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” It is His kingdom within that He wants to reveal to us and to others, not our religious fig leaves. All the time we are covering, Jesus is bidding us to bare all before Him and to let His light and love be our covering as we are immersed into Him and put on Christ. Jesus wants us to stand before Him naked so we can be clothed in Him. He even is there to help us undress, but we keep putting on more layers, more masks, more veils. Zechariah records such an undressing and re-clothing of a man named Joshua.

 THEN [the guiding angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before [1] the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at Joshua’s right hand to be his adversary and to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! Even the Lord, Who [now and habitually] chooses Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this [returned captive Joshua] a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and was standing before the Angel [of the Lord]. And He spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And He said to [Joshua], Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with rich apparel. (Zechariah 3:1-4 AMP)

Isn’t this a picture of what happens to us as we struggle to be free in Christ? We are like a brand He rescued from the fire. He then strips us of all our filthiness and clothes us with His own rich apparel. None of our own covering can be left. Only He provides our wedding garment. Beware of coming to the wedding feast dressed in your own garments (see Matt. 22:1-14). The righteousness of Christ is our covering, not our garments of shame and self-righteousness. We read in Revelation, “He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white clothing; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5 KJ2000). And how does this happen? Further down in this chapter we read, “I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white clothing, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:18-19 KJ2000). But what is the attitude of the Laodicean church? “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” They had bought into their own prosperity! To them He says, “Know you not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked?” (Revelation 3:17 KJ2000).

Paul wrote:

Nevertheless when one shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
(2 Corinthians 3:16-18 KJ2000)

What a promise! We turn to the Lord and He takes away our veils as well as the veils over our eyes, fills us with His Spirit, and gives us perfect freedom. It is in this state, filled with His Spirit and clothed in Christ, that we are changed as we behold Him. We no longer look in a mirror and see ourselves as broken and shameful, but we see Jesus in all His beauty because we are being changed into the same image from glory to glory.

I have been reading a book by Becky Johnson called, “A Grit and Grace Collection.” It is written like a diary of things she has been experiencing as a Christian sister. One entry is called “The Mud Room.” The “mud room” in a house is the room where we come in from the outdoors in country living and shed our dirty clothes before going on in. Coats, boots, muddy clothes and such are left hanging there. She saw that the mud room is where Jesus has called her to take off all those filthy things that this life had done to her. She wrote:

“Something is happening in the mud room. Suddenly it’s filled with divine light as He draws with a relentless love that moved Him to death. I feel the holy tension that stirs me to do the unthinkable, to walk towards the impossible. I find myself removing all the layers and am now before Him, all raw and shaky. And He fills me with Himself. It’s the only way. It really is the only way.” (page 23)

http://www.amazon.com/Grit-Grace-Collection-Reflections-Tender/dp/1500385042

God’s Crucible of Love

firey furnace of afliction“But I see four men walking around in the fire,” the king replied. “None of them is tied up or harmed, and the fourth one looks like a god.” (Daniel 3:25 CEV)

Have you ever thought of love as not only what holds our relationships together, but as a crucible in which they are refined and purified? If it were not for love given us by God, my own marriage could never have endured these 48 years of trials and testing, nor could any of the other enduring relationships God has given me in the body of Christ have lasted. Relationships are grown by enduring trials together and coming out the other side triumphant. They do not grow and take root by having everything go our way in some storybook fantasy life where Prince Charming gets his Cinderella and they live happily ever after in marital bliss. This fact is also true of Christ and His bride.

A crucible is usually made of a high temperature substance like ceramic or lined with such, so that it can endure the high temperatures that metals have to be melted and refined at. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about a substance like this. “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fade-less under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails.” Love is a crucible!

Peter wrote to the church:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. (1 Peter 1:6-8 RSVA – emphasis added)

Yes! Without having seen Jesus Christ, we love Him and believe in Him. We love Him because He first loved us! Love is the crucible we are being refined in by His loving hands. We suffer many trials and testings in the fires of affliction for a little while . Actually, Peter says that it is our faith that is being tried—we have already been tried and found not guilty because of the atonement of Christ–so that our faith might be found genuine and precious in the eyes of our Father as Christ is revealed in us! It is His love and vision for us as sons and daughters of God that keeps us hanging in there and coming back for more that we might not fall short of the glory that our Father wants to share with Christ’s heavenly body.

How long must we endure this suffering and trials? Malachi, the last book of the Old Covenant, speaks of God’s Messenger coming to His temple with a new covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31-34), but His coming will be a day of endurance! Why? Because He comes to refine those who are His until we yield to our Father. He is after sons and daughters who live to and reflect His glory.

“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 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. (Malachi 3:1-3 RSVA – emphasis added)

Is this an ideal process the way we think that ideal should be? Probably not. In Daniel we read, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but those who are wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:9-10 RSVA – emphasis added). “…and some of those who are wise shall fall, to refine and to cleanse them and to make them white, until the time of the end, for it is yet for the time appointed” (Daniel 11:35 RSVA – emphasis added).

I once had a neighbor who worked in a foundry. One day I asked him about his job, and he told me that they refined and cast iron products like manhole risers and manhole covers. They took old radiators and engine blocks, broke them up and melted them down in a giant crucible. I asked if it was ready to be poured into molds once melted, but he said there was more to it than that. The melted iron has to first be purified. The liquid metal always has impurities that float to the top and have to be scraped off each time it is melted. Casting the iron risers that the covers fit into only takes one melting and scraping before it is ready, but for the covers that will have heavy truck wheels rolling over them, the metal has to be cooled again after scraping and reheated and scraped off again a total of three times. Each time the metal is heated, it releases more impurities. If you are content to be a lowly riser buried in the dirt, one time is enough. If you are content to be a sewer access lid, three times is enough, but if you are destined to be a son of God it takes seven times!

“Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” The promises of the LORD are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. (Psalms 12:5-6 RSVA – emphasis added)

For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall by calamity. (Proverbs 24:16 KJ2000 – emphasis added)  (Also see also 2 Kings 5:1-14)

Refiners of gold and silver heat, melt and scrape off the dross from the molten metal seven times. Heated and cooled and heated and cooled again, scraped each time, but that is not all. On the seventh time, before the molten metal is scraped, they add arsenic and it causes the metal to boil violently. That brings up the last of the impurities to the top and they cling to the arsenic. It is interesting to me that arsenic is a deadly poison as well as a purifier of precious metals. Jesus said, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39 RSVA). You see we both lose the one life and we gain the other. Our Refiner is after one thing. When He looks down into that crucible of His love, He wants to see His own reflection and nothing left of that old, rebellious Adamic mixture. At first we rebel and complain a lot about the heat and the scraping, but the further the process goes on in our lives, the more we submit to it, because we start seeing the goal of what God is doing. We agree more and more with Him in His methods of dealing with us because the intense love surrounding us keeps us in His marvelous ways.

In the midst of the [seven] lampstands [stood] one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; (Revelation 1:13-15 RSVA – emphasis added)

We are Christ’s feet and as such we must be refined so we can to walk in Him among men.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 RSVA – emphasis added)