The Sovereign Grace of God – Walking by Faith

(The "God's Eye" helix nebula -  pic taken by by the European Southern Observatory's VISTA telescope  http://www.space.com/14282-helix-nebula-eye-amazing-photo.html )

(The “God’s Eye” helix nebula – pic taken by by the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope
http://www.space.com/14282-helix-nebula-eye-amazing-photo.html )

…the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do. (Romans 4:17, NET)

Oh, how Jesus knew and knows His Father! Our God calls those things that do not yet exist in our temporal realm as though they do. Jesus walked in this same knowledge when it came to the death of His friend Lazarus. He had received news that Lazarus was about to die, and yet He waited another two days before He started to Bethany. By the time He got there, the man had been dead four days. When He finally arrived, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ two sisters, started to berate Him. “If you had only come when we bid you, he need not to have died.” Have you ever complained to God when He did not do what you wanted when you thought you had to have it? Only God knows what we need and He will often make us wait to prove our faith. To these two women Jesus replied,

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, KJ2000)

Those things that do not exist God treats as though they do. This is what faith does–it sees things from God’s perspective. A few days earlier, after Lazarus had died, Jesus told the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” Why did Jesus tell them that this dead man was only asleep? It is because the grave has no victory in the Kingdom of God (See 1 Corinthians 15:55). Paul wrote later to the Corinthians, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8, KJ2000). We who believe in Christ will never die. Do YOU believe this? This mortal must put on immortality. There is no limbo state in between this life and next. Paul makes it clear in I Corinthians chapter 15 that we put off this mortal body and then put on our immortal heavenly bodies. Some people have died and found themselves in those perfected bodies and then were called back into this corruptible world. It was a great disappointment to have to come back.

Yes, in the mind of God, He calls those things that are not yet in this world as if they already are. Time and space are of this earthly creation and He is not bound by His own creation. If He were, creation would be god. So we see Jesus by faith in His Father (doing only what He saw His Father doing), defying the laws of nature with power over disease and weather, feeding thousands of hungry people with almost nothing, walking on water, and moving through a murderous crowd that tried to kill Him without a finger being laid on Him. Later we see the resurrected Christ walking through walls and Philip being transported over a great distance miraculously by the power of the Spirit.

Our God is the God of the impossible. Only we who are earthbound and lack the “magic” of faith are bound by our pragmatic view of creation. Faith is spiritual sight. It is seeing things as God sees them and believing in and doing what He shows us in our hearts.

Since God is outside the time-space continuum, He calls a people that are not His people as though they are. He called the Hebrew people to be His people and worked with them as His chosen wife for over a thousand years, yet they revolted against Him and His desires over and over. So what did He do? He chose the Gentiles to be His own, a people with whom He had no history. God loves to color outside our religious lines. Paul wrote about this.

And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9:23-26, NET)

Have you, like me, been one of the “not chosen” people of this world–the wall flower at the high school dance, the kid that was chosen last in a sand lot ball game, the one thought least likely to succeed by the class of your peers? Most of us who have come to Christ are of this category. Why? Paul explained:

For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, KJ2000)

He chose those things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are. “God… summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do.” Do not be dismayed because the wicked prosper in this world and you have to endure hardships. In fact, rejoice because this world system is rejecting you. You are marked by the Spirit of God as one of His, and because of this the world that is under the devil will hate you! A comfortable life in this world is not our goal, but eternity in Father’s heavenly kingdom is. The world does not know us because it does not know the very God who created it. God knew each one of us from the foundation of the world and claimed us for His own. We are not only called out (the ecclesia of God) of the world (the kosmos under Satan), but we are called into a very high calling as the sons and daughters of God. As such, our Father has done everything to make sure that we obtain what He has called us into. Paul wrote:

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:27-29, NET)

Our salvation and perfection is all about His mighty working in our lives! Paul continued with this thought.

And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:30-31, NET)

Peter wrote along this same line.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10, NET)

Oh, Father, please open our spiritual eyes of faith that we might see everything in our lives and the lives around us as you do and live according in your great hope with lives that reflect your glory. Amen.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2, RSV)

He Gives Beauty for Our Ashes

Beauty for ashes

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound… to comfort all that mourn… to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3 KJ2000)

Jesus read from this passage in His home town synagogue in Nazareth and after reading them he closed the scroll and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted, to set us free, open our prison doors, unbind and comfort us, but we also have a part in this.

It is hard to love someone when the things they say or do trigger bad memories of former abusive situations we have been through. Some of these offenses include child abuse, sexual assaults, trauma from wars, physical assaults, divorces, and abuse by authorities in the church. Sometimes someone close keeps rubbing salt in the wound that they may have caused and we become more and more reactive and closed off to them and others as a result.

God has had to go deep into my heart and show me areas in my life that were not healed and why each of them made it impossible for me to love certain kinds of people. He took on one offense at a time, showed me the past event in my life that caused it and how it formed a “trigger” in me that was reactive to that thing or type of person. Jesus also told me that He would never be able to use me in their lives until I was healed of those offenses (this, by the way, included over half the world’s population for I had a bitterness in my heart against women). I then had a choice to make–to let the Lord heal me or continue on in my bitterness, striking out at everyone that tripped my triggers. I had to face my own hardened heart and unforgiveness in each of these areas and call out for Him to heal me of all the baggage I was carrying from those old offenses.

As I though about these things I saw a picture of a hotel lobby from above with a main entrance at one end. All around its perimeter were doors that opened in to the rooms in the hotel. In the middle of the lobby Jesus stood, asking to be let into one of the rooms. The hotel was my heart. Years ago I had let Him in (see Revelations 3:20), but that was as far as He had gotten. The lobby was His but not all the rooms, because I had not given Him permission to enter most of them and take possession of those areas in my life. The New Testament says that we who believe are the house or temple of God (see 2 Cor. 6:16). With this vision and verse in mind, the following passage took on scope for me:

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3 RSVA)

Jesus has come to the Father’s house, and we who are His are that house! He is preparing a place for us and Father to dwell. It is a house made of living stones. “You also, as living stones, are built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 KJ2000)

Bitter Roots

In Hebrews we read:

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:13-15 KJ2000)

Speaking of the coming Messiah John the Baptist prophesied:

And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3:9-10 KJ2000)

Our bitter roots that spring up from past offenses have to go. Jesus is after them. They are good for nothing in His kingdom or in His Father’s house. They defile everyone they touch. Each of our locked rooms has a bitter root behind the door that is festering, and its tentacles extend under the door and trip up anyone who comes near. Instead of the lame being healed, we trip them up with our open wounds.

This is the process God has been working in me. Jesus asked me to open my heart’s door to Him in 1970, and He came in at that time. In 1978, after dealing with a couple of my festering rooms, He asked if I would be made whole, or would I be content to be like the lame man at the pool, being able to walk. I could go on without my deeper heart issues dealt with and risk falling right back on my pallet by the pool, looking for a man to help me (read John 5:7-14). At that time, I had more faith in my ability to be lame than I had in His grace to cleanse me, make me whole, and keep me that way.

So, for years I continued to carry many bitter root judgments in my heart that defiled those around me and kept Him from using me as part of their healing. I did not strive for peace with all men and women, but subconsciously I often looked for buttons to push in a vindictive way. The wounded became the wound-er instead of an instrument of healing, and many became defiled. In the last eight months the Lord has been going after the other shut doors in my heart and it has been painful, but worth it. People who have come to know me have been praising God for the healing that is going on and the fruit that is coming from it. Praise His name. I know that He is not finished yet for He also showed me that there are more rooms that have yet to be opened and cleaned out, but the more freedom I experience, the more I want Him to leave nothing in me that is not of Him.

So often the abused become the next generation of abusers when we are not healed… and the beat goes on. In Exodus we read,

“… I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me..” (Exodus 20:5-6 RSVA)

With generation after generation, sin begets sin. But wholeness also begets wholeness. It is in our holiness (God’s healed wholeness in us) that men see the Lord and as we are healed we break the cycle of handing on our sin to others.

When Jesus touches the latch on one of our doors asking enter and heal us, all the pain of the wound behind the door comes flooding up to the surface, and we bolt the door against Him as we have bolted it against everyone else in our lives who touched our door. It is up to us to not fail to obtain the grace that God has for each one of us, and to call out to Him like blind Bartimaeus who refused to be silenced, “Jesus, you son of David, have mercy on me!” In short, we have to become sick and tired of being sick and tired and sick and tired of wounding other people.

God has a new heart, a new spirit and even the mind of Christ that He wants us to have in us so we can be extensions of His Son on this earth. Jesus said, “I will not leave you alone. I will come again to you.” He comes to us again and asks to be let in so we can be healed. As Christ has freedom to heal us, He also gains the freedom to act and speak through us, and then we start bearing His fruit instead of our own. As His healthy body, we become a manifestation of who He is on this earth to everyone who wants to be healed. Jesus prayed for this just before went to the cross He prayed saying

“That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:21-24 KJ2000)

How can we be where Jesus is? Where was He when He said these words? He was in unity with the Father and could rightly say, “The prince of this world is come and has found nothing in me.” This is where Jesus also wants us to be. He had no locked rooms that the devil had the key to. We don’t have to live in a house divided against itself. We don’t have to live with all manner of dead things behind the locked doors in our hearts. All He asks is that we open up to Him and let Him come in and heal us. He loves each of us, knows our end from the beginning, and knows that when He appears we shall be like Him for we shall finally be able to see Him as He is without our vision clouded by our former hurts and wounds. He does truly give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for our mourning and the garment of praise for our spirit of heaviness.