Our Ever Expanding Spiritual Universe

Big bang.jpg

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:7, KJ2000)

A strange thing has been discovered in the last decade or so. Creation is defying the laws of physics. After many centuries, scientists finally discovered that the universe is expanding  after starting in a flash of light they call “The Big Bang.” They tell us that all matter started from one highly compressed and very small object that exploded, going outward in all directions, creating the universe as we know it. But then a problem was found in their theory. Not only is the universe expanding, but it is continuing to accelerate away from that central starting point. According to the second law of thermodynamics, matter can’t do that unless there is a continuing force applied to cause that acceleration. An influence greater than the first “big bang” seems to rule over the universe! So, the scientists just call it “Dark Energy” and “Dark Matter” because they can’t see it. The real darkness is in them because they refuse to acknowledge God as the Creator and Energizer of all things.

Susanne Schuberth recently wrote about three women she knows in Germany that are so steeped in their religions that they are always judging her for not going to their churches and believing in their doctrines. As a result, they never give her an opening for her to share what God has been doing in her life outside their religious institutions and traditions. She started out where these women are, going to churches in similar denominations, but Susanne has learned that continuing to grow in Christ soon causes those old wineskins to burst if we try to stay in them. In her story about these three ladies is a warning to us to not become fixed in our ways of thinking about the kingdom of God. Denominational teachings and thinking can be the worst enemy of growing in Christ. Even worse, we can be blessed by God in a “ministry” of our own that grows into something we become emotionally attached to more than our obedience to the upward leading of the Lord. We become fixed, not wanting to let go of what has grown into our Ishmael as Abraham found out. And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”

God has given and taken away wonderful Godly things in my life, even wonderful fellowship with individuals from time to time. These wonderful God-given things served a purpose for a season, but once He wanted to take me further in His upward call than they allowed, He had to remove them or remove me from them. The Bible is full of stories of great people of faith where this has happened to them: Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David, Ruth, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc. In Hebrews they are called God’s people of faith. The early Church in the New Testament was blessed with the Spirit of God in wonderful fellowship in Jerusalem. Then after a couple of years, God scattered them to the four corners of the earth, and they took the gospel of Christ with them. Sometimes we are just like these early believers. We know that Jesus told the disciples to take the gospel first to Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria and unto the utter most ends of the earth, but what happens? We become settlers and happy campers and what Jesus said becomes, “first Jerusalem, then Jerusalem and finally to the uttermost parts of Jerusalem!”

In today’s devotional, T. Austin-Sparks expands on God’s desire for us to continue to grow. As I read it I saw a picture of a crab. Crabs constantly shed their outer shell and make a larger one as they grow. During this time they are quite vulnerable with little protection, but it has to happen or they will die. When our comfortable shell, our “house,” becomes rigid and inflexible, God has to take us through a molting period where the outward things pass away and all things become new.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” This verse and many others take on scope if we are willing to be stretched by God’s work in our hearts. Even if God has blessed us so far as we have obeyed His voice, the vision He has given us will not always be the same tomorrow. As the Spirit pushed me to grow in Christ, I had to leave many churches and fellowships behind. He even gave me a dream where He destroyed my comfortable house and rooted up the old foundation because it was not sufficient for what He wanted to build on my “site.” He had to go deeper and wider with a new Foundation that would support the “building” He wanted to place on it. This is God’s way in our lives if we continue to follow His Son and let HIS government and peace continue to increase in us. To resist this stretching and His increase in us is to lose our heavenly peace.

Paul was first a Pharisee of Pharisees with great scriptural knowledge, but counted it all as dung in a flash once he saw and heard the resurrected Christ. He then spent years in isolation being taught by Jesus. Then one day Barnabas came to Paul’s home town of Tarsus where he was making tents, and took him to be in fellowship with the saints in Antioch. After a year or so he was separated from that wonderful fellowship he had in the Spirit and was sent off on what was the beginnings of his missionary journeys. That did not last forever, either. God finally confined him in prison and then under house arrest for years in Rome. It is from this season in his life that we have so many of his wonderful letters in our New Testaments. Finally, after he finished the course that God had for him, he was martyred by Nero. Yet, Paul was obedient to his upward call at each stage along the way, even unto death. What a lesson lies in all this for us. Those who hate Paul and his teachings today, like those rebellious Jews of old, refuse to follow the Spirit of God as they cling to a covenant that has been replace by a New and Living Covenant IN Christ. Zion is our heavenly habitation, not an “ism” or a war-torn country in the Middle East (See Hebrews 12:22-24 and 1 Peter 2:4-9). Now back to what I read by Sparks this morning that said it so well.

The implications of any movement of God are not always recognized at the beginning, but if we go on with Him we shall find that much that is done here and is of time is – and has to be – left behind. The spiritual and the heavenly is pressing for a larger place and becoming absolutely imperative to the very life of the instrumentality and those concerned. It is spontaneous, and just happens. We wake up to realize that we have moved into a new realm or position, and no amount of additional earthly resource can meet the need. It is not only something more that is demanded, but something different. This is a crisis, and it will only be safely passed if there is vision of God’s ultimate object. This demands spiritual mindedness, capacity for grasping heavenly things. One world may be tumbling to pieces, but the full and final is the explanation.

The great pity is that so many just will cling to the old framework or partial vision. God presents His heavenly pattern in greater fulness and demands adjustment. He does it with foreknowledge, knowing of a day which is imminent when this vision alone will save. But, because it is ‘revolutionary’ or not ‘what has been in the blessing of God’ etc., etc., it is rejected and put aside. Then the foreseen day comes and all sorts of expedients have to be resorted to to save the ship. Paul warned out of his intuitive vision that such would be the case on the journey to Rome, and it proved true, the ship eventually foundered and much was lost.

Abraham had a vision of “the city which hath foundations” and he “looked for” it, but never found it on earth. He found it at last in heaven, but it was the climax of a walk which was ever upward. Ezekiel saw “in the visions of God” the glory lifting from the earthly scene, and moving up and on; and this vision related to all his other visions, culminating in a spiritual house and river which have their counterpart alone in the revelation given to Paul and John particularly: heavenly, spiritual, universal. What a significant phrase that is about the house seen by Ezekiel – “there was an enlarging upward” (Ezek. 41:7). God-given vision is always “the heavenly vision”, and always moves away from the merely temporal and sentient. If this were apprehended there would be much more vital fruit, and many fewer ‘white elephants’.

God is never on the line of reduction, limitation. It may look like that, but it is not so. If we really had His vision, that which looks like trimming and reduction is His way of enlargement, but spiritual and heavenly enlargement.

It was “the God of glory” who appeared to Abraham (Acts 7:2). It was the pattern in the heavenlies that was “shewn” to Moses (Heb. 8:5). It was “…above the firmament… a throne… and upon… the throne… a man above upon it” that Ezekiel saw. It was “that the heavens do rule” that Daniel apprehended. These are not only sovereign factors in government, but heavenly conceptions in the nature of things.

These two things proceed as one. God in sovereignty will run the risk of shattering, or allow the shattering, of so much that He has used of scaffolding or framework in order to realize the fuller purpose. It is not that it was wrong, but now He wants something more. We thank God for ever that He took Paul away from his travelling ministry and let him be shut up in prison. It was then that the full glorious vision and revelation of the “heavenlies” and the “eternal” was given to eclipse all the earthly and temporal. It was worth it, and was no tragedy! The Holy Spirit is the custodian of the full purpose of God, and under His government the Church and the individual believer will move ever on and up.  (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002082.html)

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The Bridegroom Cometh!

The Fall of the Church

Destruction of the Church of Reconciliation in Berlin’s ‘death zone’ in January 1985 (Picture credits https://www.rbb-online.de)

But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. (Matt 25:4-6, KJV)

The last call of God, as judgment is pending, is a call to Himself. Here then is the call of God in our time. The last movement of the people of God is to Himself: not to a movement as such; not to a teaching or interpretation of truth; not to a sect or party; not to an enterprise or mission – but to Christ. The final true and Divine movement is to the Lord Himself. The sheer pressure of the conditions in the gathering storm and tempest will demand a leaving of all lesser interests and objects, however good a purpose they may have served hitherto, and a moving toward the Lord Himself. ‘Things’ divide; the Lord unites. ‘Things’ must pass; the Lord abides. The time comes when all the means and accessories which the Lord has sovereignly used will cease to avail. This includes all the organized side of Christianity, and the Lord will force the issue as to how much there really is of Himself. ~ T. Austin-Sparks (1)

Someone pointed out that God does not tell time in hours, days, or even years like we do, but in ages (See Ephesians 3:1-6) or dispensations. One of these ages lasted from the fall of man to the flood, the next one from the flood to Moses and the age of the law. That age came to a close 2000 years ago on the Day of Pentecost when God poured out His Spirit on all flesh (See Acts 2:16-22 and Ezek. 36: 26-27), not just on an appointed few as in the Old Covenant.

With all this in mind, think of how traumatic it was at the end of each of these ages–a world ending flood, Egypt all but destroyed, the destruction of the temple, and the end of Israel as a nation and the Jewish worship and sacrificial system, etc. What do you think will be the sign of the end of the “church age” before God ushers in what I believe to be “The Age of the Bride and the Bridegroom”? I believe it will be a complete destruction of this false system built by men around the gospel of Jesus Christ, coinciding with the raising up of His bride as she has made herself ready to go out to meet the Bridegroom in grace and Truth.

“…and the light of a lamp may be appearing in you nevermore; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride should be heard in you nevermore; for your merchants were the magnates of the earth, for by your enchantment all nations were deceived.” (Rev 18:23, CLV)

What started out as a comment on an inspired article by Susanne Schuberth eventually turned into this article. The above quote from T. Austin-Sparks also came from her article. Take a look at the above picture that she chose for her blog post.(2) It shows the destruction of “The Church of Reconciliation” in the “Death Zone” of Berlin. How apropos! For the past few years almost all denominational leadership have been striving to bring their organizations into reconciliation in a sort of humanistic unity. Their efforts are failing  to come into agreement with one another no matter how many doctrines they do away with, for unity in doctrine does not make a people of one heart and one spirit. Jesus came not to bring peace but the sword of division! All man-made sects will be divided against one another even if they are forced under one title and human head, just as it was at the tower of Babel. Babylon the Great is the end result of their efforts– religions that have formed around “Christianity” — and God’s judgment is on it. Why? Jesus put it this way, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt 15:13, KJV). God is ushering in a new dispensation. The sword is necessary because the previous administrations are so embedded that they never willingly let go and follow His lead!

Peter wrote,

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pt 3:8 ESV)

A day is as a thousand years with God. We are also about to go into the third millennium of the church age, but not without a bang! Hosea prophesied,

“Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” (Hos 6:1-2, KJ2000)

Yes He is tearing us, the church! It is not the devil, ISIS, communism or anything else. These man-made temples that Christendom is so focused on are coming to an end along with the political systems that support them. Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus command the apostles to go forth and build churches and organizations to support them so Christians would have a structured form and place to worship! Quite the opposite! He stated that all worship would no longer be in holy places, but true worship of His Father would be in the Spirit and in verity, truth in our inward parts, our hearts. He also said that the temple system would be torn down and that His temple would be made of living stones, the very hearts of the true worshipers!

So, all that said, after two days (2000 years) of Him tearing us, He will heal us and bind up our wounds. In the third day, not at the end of it, He will raise us up that we, His bride, may dwell in His sight. Jesus is coming back for His perfect bride who is filled with the oil of His Spirit, not a divided and self-destructive church system that is so focused on its own greatness and need to survive that it cannot see Him coming!

Look up, dear saints of God who truly love the Son, because your redemption draws near!

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002100.html

(2) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/is-the-church-age-over/#more-2200

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)

Making Room for the Spirit to Mature Others in Christ

By Michael Clark and George Davis

Church

“My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the severer judgment. For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man…” (James 3:1-2 KJ2000)

Lately the Lord has drawn our attention to a problem that exists among many of us “more mature” saints of God who have a lot of Bible knowledge and have had many decades of experience following the Lord. That problem is that many of us are not making room for the saints who are more timid or who are still learning to experience first hand the Living Christ and assure them that they can hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to and leading them. Paul wrote,

“Let us have fond affection for one another with brotherly fondness, in honor deeming one another first” (Romans 12:10 CLV)

“Deeming one another first”…How often I (Michael) have listened to a brother or sister tell about their latest insight they got from the Lord only to jump right in with a couple of scriptures and assure them that I also knew all about this truth before they did. You see, this is not demonstrating fond affection and deeming the other saint first before myself. In fact when I have done this or seen it done, the more timid of God’s little ones will often just shut down, feeling that their little offering is only “one talent” compared to ours and go away and bury it out of intimidation because of the glaring neon lights of our own “giftedness” compared to their “pocket flashlight.” Is it any wonder that churches are filled with silent observers that do not personally know the voice of THE Good Shepherd?

When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am,” it was not so that He could lord over them with His great knowledge as the Son of God. He was the consummate Teacher and often taught by asking questions to draw people to engage with what He taught and to hear God Himself speak to them. When Peter answered Him and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus did not say, “Well, it is about time you guys figured that out! I have known that from the foundation of the world!” No, He commended Peter that he himself could hear the Father speak to him and said that it was upon this foundation that God would build His house! How often do we look for or make opportunities that we might show other saints more honor and commend them in their faith to walk and listen to the Spirit for themselves and move with His wind? We cannot expect to grow the kingdom of God by making people perpetually dependent on professional clerics and teachers. Real maturity takes place when His followers are doing as He did, only speaking what they hear the Spirit saying and doing the works that the Father foreordained them to do.

If we are not making room for others to interact with the Spirit of God and encouraging them to do so, but instead trying to be their “be all and end all” for everything that has to do with faith, we are putting ourselves in their lives instead of Christ. The very definition of the word “anti-christ” is “instead of Christ!” Real maturity does not happen when we do all the “fishing” for those around us. Real maturity takes place when they also learn how to “fish” and can teach others to do the same (See 2 Timothy 2:2).

Jesus taught the 70 disciples for a few months and then sent them out and said, “Okay, boys, go do it!” It was time to “get tough or die.” He equipped them to fly and pushed them out of the nest and they came back with glowing reports of their success (See Luke 10:1-19). How often we have heard in the last few years about the glories of the “five-fold ministries.” Yet, if we read the context of Ephesians 4:11 where these graces are listed we see that they are not an end unto themselves. These were given to individuals so that they would work themselves out of a job,

“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge 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)

In our experience the more we have heard men teach the importance of these five gifts they claim to have, the less we have seen the saints under them “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Rather we have seen these men and women trying to do all ministry (except the nursery, setting up chairs, mowing lawns, and janitorial work, etc.) while the faithful sit there Sunday after Sunday in their pews sucking on their spiritual thumbs. One dear saint referred to this syndrome as “the perpetual babyhood of the believer.”

Dear saints, we cannot count on that system that men have built around themselves, that produces weak Christians at best, to get the gospel out into the highways and byways or teach those who are saved to listen to the Spirit as Jesus did, growing up in every way into Christ who is their Head. We have to point all who believe Christ to Him and His Spirit, not ourselves! Like John the Baptist, we must decrease and Christ must increase. He who is supposed to have the bride is the Bridegroom not the friends of the Bridegroom (See John 3:25-31).

This is the NEW Covenant, Not the Old

Most of the dysfunction in the church today is due to an inadequate comprehension of the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant prophets, priests and kings preformed mediatory functions between God and the people. In the new covenant “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5 RSVA)

In the Old Covenant there were many teachers. In the New there is only one. Christ commanded His disciples not to be called teachers, “. . . for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:10). Foreseeing this in the Spirit Jeremiah prophesied,

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD . “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD ,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD . “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34, NIV)

The Author of Hebrews quoted this passage to emphasize the vast difference between the Old and the New Covenants.

“. . . And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (see Hebrews 8:10-11 – emphasis added)

they shall not teach . . .

One of the primary differences between the Old and the New Covenants is teaching. In the old, men taught every one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ but in the New Covenant all are taught of God and all know Him.

Quoting Isaiah Jesus said,

 It is written in the prophets, “‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John 6:45, NKJV – emphasis added)

John wrote of the individual believer’s submission to this One Teacher saying, “The anointing you received from him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. Instead, because his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not a lie, abide in him, as he taught you to do” (1 John 2:27, ISV – emphasis added).

To make one’s self the teacher of God’s children is to become a busybody in the affairs of another. To do so is to attempt to control others through doctrine and to usurp the role of the One Teacher. Jesus said, “But you must not be called Rabbi, for One is your teacher, Christ, and you are all brothers” (Matthew 23:8 MKJV – emphasis added).

Paul addressed this at length in Romans 14. Regarding the then hotly debated matter of what one should eat. Paul wrote, “Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should” (Romans 14:4, NLT – emphasis added).

The Greek word translated condemn here is Krinoto rule, govern, to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong. This is the same word translated “judge” and “judged” in this verse that we know so well, “”Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 NKJV).

Individual believers are accountable directly to the Lord not to each other. And so in addressing this inordinate ambition Paul does not advance special doctrines to enforce uniformity, in doing so he would have been guilty of the very thing he was exhorting the Roman believers not to do. He encouraged them to live their lives in direct accountability to the Lord and to allow their brothers and sisters to do the same. knowing that it is God who teaches each one right and wrong and it is He who keeps them standing as they live before Him alone. Our faith finds its proper place privately before God. “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. . .” (Romans 14:22). The exhortation here is clear– forcing our opinions on the servants of God is counter to true faith. True faith believes that they are kept by Another. True faith believes that they will be made to stand by their own Master. True faith holds its piece and allows the one Teacher to instruct without constantly interjecting our “superior” knowledge, opinions and will..

The Brother with the More Perfect Word

A friend of ours shared with us a problem that repeatedly stifled mutual sharing in there gatherings. Someone would be telling about what God had been teaching them and then a seemingly well-meaning brother would interrupt them and give them a quick course in one-upmanship. He always completed their thought by adding his fuller revelation. Soon no one was sharing. The only one left standing or speaking was the brother with “the more perfect word.” How often have we seen this? Or rather, how often have we been guilty of this very thing? In our pride we want to flaunt our biblical knowledge, but behind it all the underlying message we communicate is this, “Look at me. See how special I am. I have traveled down the Christian road further than the rest of you. My understanding of spiritual things is vastly superior to yours. Who better then to be the final arbiter of truth? Or does experience count for nothing?”

There is a word for such delusion–pride. And by it we reconstruct the old mediatory system and privately christen ourselves king, prophet and priest. By such arrogance we both disrespect our brothers and sisters and their Teacher. Nothing could be further from the self-forgetfulness of those truly spiritual individuals who think of others as being higher or better than themselves.

Not understanding the New Covenant, many believers have returned to the Old Covenant mediatory system. They have replaced the one heavenly Teacher with many human ones and have garnered to themselves teachers who tickle their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Some have ambitiously risen up “. . . speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30). Some are unduly exalted above their calling while other men and women are dishonored and subjugated. A few high profile people assume responsibilities well beyond their appointed measure leading the rest to abdicate their proper function in the body of Christ. What a travesty! We are not rightly discerning the body of Christ and many are spiritually emaciated and sick among us.

Once again we see an Old Testament system using New Covenant terminology. The result is the same–believers are once again relegated to the outer court instead of boldly coming into the throne of grace.

“Male and Female Made He Them”… the Gospel

boy and girl and benchSteadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. (Psalms 85:10 RSVA)

So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27 GW)

Many of us have grown up in a misogynistic culture that was promulgated by the churches we attended where only men could do the “God stuff” at the altar and gave out, under certain conditions, the sacraments that made the difference in one’s life between heaven and hell as our final destination. Women need not apply!

The problem with a culture dominated by men is that half of the image of God is missing! He made mankind in His image, both male and female. As a youth when I thought of warriors, judges, law makers, law enforcers and even pastors and priests, I thought of men clad in special uniforms that set them apart from and above the crowd. These men were aloof, stern faced and cold, so that was the image of God I grew up with.

Thank God that in the last fifty years things have changed and women have made inroads in all these areas. But if that same hard male-like image prevails in these professions where women exist, have we really gained anything toward seeing who God really is? He is still the law maker, the law enforcer, the judge, the warrior that avenges, and can even be the distant and set aloof priest who is supposed to be touched by all our afflictions, but he doesn’t have the time to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice because the very size of the church he has built is too much for him.

“God so loved the world…” wrote John as he described the gospel (good news) in his gospel narrative. He did not write, “God so judged the world.” Christ was given to us that we might have Life and that more abundantly. The Old covenant was more about judgment and death than it was about life. In other words, you might say that the Old Covenant was primarily about the male side of God, and the New Covenant takes us deeper into the female aspect of God’s nature.

What I am trying to say is that there is in the nature of women (if it has not been distorted by the harsh world of men in which they exist) a tenderness, kindness and nurturing love that is rarely seen in men. This nature is the “feminine side” of God because He is also the God of forgiveness, kindness, love and mercy. God created Adam in His image and His likeness. But He then said it was not good that man should be alone since Adam didn’t find a helper fit for his human companionship among the animals. So, God put Adam to sleep and took a rib out of him and formed Eve. You might say that God removed the female part of Himself from Adam, formed a separate being from it, and called her Woman. For Adam to become one once again, he had to cling to the woman and she to him in the love and unity of God. Intimacy between a man and a woman was born that day and God saw that it was good! We read later this same verse in Genesis about a man and a woman clinging to one another in unity in the New Testament when Paul wrote:

We are parts of his [Christ’s] body. That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with [joined to] his wife, and the two will be one. This is a great mystery. (I’m talking about Christ’s relationship to the church.) (Ephesians 5:30-32 GW)

You see, we must have the unity of both the man and the woman and all that they are meant to be IN Christ if we are to truly be that city set on a hill that God desires the world to see.

You do not have to teach little boys to play with tools, toy trucks and toy guns. It is natural to them. Likewise you do not have to train little girls to play with dolls or play house or “Nancy Nurse.” Their whole makeup is to love and nurture. God made us to be complementary to one another in His image.

King David grew up in a culture that was all about obeying the laws of God or else. He served in the courts of a harsh and spiteful king named Saul. Yet David was chosen to be king in place of Saul because he was a man after God’s own heart (See 1 Sam. 13:14). This same David handed out judgment as the King of Israel, yet he also handed out mercy, even to his enemies! David understood the love and mercy of God where his predecessor only understood law and punishment and showed no mercy. The law demanded sacrifices to be offered up for sin, but Hosea was quoted by Jesus when He said to those who judged His disciples, “But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7 KJ2000)

When David was caught in his sin, plotting the death of Uriah so that he could have Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, He cried out to God for mercy as the God of all mercy and wrote Psalm 51 as his prayer.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:1-10 ESV)

Here we see even in the Old Testament the good news of the gospel. David appealed to God’s love, mercy and tender washing as a mother does with her child. He cried out to God for a new clean heart and for Him to blot out all his sins and to put a new right spirit in him. Jesus was called “The Son of David” because this is what Father sent Him to do in each one of us (Read Hebrews Ch. 8). All these attributes are what the New Covenant is about.

In the same way that Saul judged, he was judged. He lived by the sword and died by the sword. It is interesting that David lived by love and mercy and died in the arms of love and mercy with a young woman named Abishag, who kept him warm in his old age.

Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm. So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not. (1 Kings 1:1-4 ESV)

I believe that in these last days, our culture has disdained the feminine nature, even among those who have advocated women’s lib. Women have left their homes for a career in the world so they can compete with men in harsh environment of dog eat dog business or even choose combat in the military. They have left the raising and nurturing of their children to institutions, just as the church today has become a cold institution and a business run primarily by men. The tenderness of God in the image of “male and female made He them” has, for the most part, been lost in a world gone mad. Without this we do not have a demonstration of the Good News and mercy of the love of God.

The older I become, the more God has tenderized my heart. Like David, the more I see “my [own] sin that is ever before me,” the more I want God’s mercy and the more I want to show His love and mercy to others. Jesus said, “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:2 KJ2000). I don’t know about you, but these words are enough to scare the judgment of hell out of me (See Revelation 12:10)!

In closing, I encourage the brothers in the body of Christ to yield to the gift that God has put in the sisters in their loving and nurturing natures and open your eyes to see how Christ Himself so often showed His love and mercy to those who needed healing in not only their bodies, but also their broken hearts. And I would encourage the sisters to see that there is also a need at times for firmness and discipline as when Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Together both the male and female natures of God are needed if we are to see Him as He is.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are… 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 RSVA)

Who ARE You, Lord?

Hubble Photos“I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless persistence and insistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” (Luke 11:8-13 AMP – emphasis added)

The human mind tends to be lazy. We want to get an initial understanding of something and “get a handle on it.” From that point, it is fixed and we move on to get another theory neatly under our belt. But the wisdom and knowledge of God is infinite. Just about the time we think we have Him figured out, He does the opposite. And how many times I have had the meaning of a verse opened by Him into a greater depth I never saw before!

Imagine the shock that came upon those faithful Jews who administered the daily sacrifices and guarded the temple of God, knowing that what they were doing was necessary for maintaining their covenant with God. Yet, this same God allowed the Babylonians to come down upon them, take them into captivity, destroy the temple, and put an end to their daily sacrifices! The Ark of the Covenant was lost, never to be seen again. The shekinah glory above the mercy seat was gone! Men built more temples, but the glory of God was lost forever. Every time we think we have God in our nice, neat little doctrinal box, He blows up the box with a new and greater revelation of who He is! In this particular case, He was doing away with the Old Covenant to make room for the next one—a new one not based on law-keeping, but rather the mighty power of His grace.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 RSVA)

Oswald Chambers wrote,

God cannot reveal anything to us if we have not His Spirit. An obstinate outlook will effectually hinder God from revealing anything to us. If we have made up our minds about a doctrine, the light of God will come no more to us on that line, we cannot get it. This obtuse stage will end immediately [when] His resurrection life has its way with us.”

We try to resist God with our puny human minds–minds that have been infected with the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! For instance, we constantly use our minds to categorize people and things (this is good and that is evil). The way the typical carnal Christian thinking works when we meet another Christian is to start asking questions to find out how they believe and where they go to church. Then we say to ourselves, “Oh, you are one of those,” put that person in a convenient pigeon-hole and don’t listen to them any longer unless they are in the same pigeon-hole with us! Our beliefs are not tried and tested when we pigeon-hole people and shut them off if what they say is a challenge to us.

The Pharisees had a hard time with Jesus. They were constantly trying back Him into a doctrinal blind alley. Nicodemus had his mind blown by Jesus one night when he tired to pigeon-hole Him! So, in typical Pharisaic fashion he said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him…” Jesus stopped him dead cold in his tracks and told him that he was not even in the game, much less on first base. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus was speaking of a spiritual rebirth of the New Covenant in which the Spirit of God comes into those who keep seeking and are not content with their religious status quo. But that old man could only relate to a spiritual answer with another carnal question, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” As Oswald Chamber rightfully wrote, “If we have made up our minds about a doctrine, the light of God will come no more to us on that line, we cannot get it.”

One of the most important aspects of being led and taught by the Spirit of God is spiritual flexibility. Jesus went on to tell that old Jew,The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit”(John 3:8 RSVA). You cannot predict the wind. Its very unpredictability is demonstrated in Tornado Alley in the mid-west United States every year. Hundreds die in those storms in spite of their storm cellars and early warning systems. Religious people use their knowledge of the Bible to put God in their doctrinal boxes. They say, “Oh, God would not do that!” Or, “It says this in the Bible so God has to do it!” God laughs at our attempts to control Him with our puny minds so we can be God. Isn’t this the very motive behind so much of our Bible studying? Aren’t we trying to get a handle on God so we can control this unpredictable, wild Lover who swoops into our lives and longs to take us to ever greater heights of intimacy with Him?

Yes, He is a wild Lover. He calls us to follow Him, keep seeking Him, keep asking what His will is for us each moment of each day, and keep knocking on His heavenly door until He lets us into His inner chambers where He dwells. Here we abandon ourselves to Him and say as Mary did, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.”

Oh, dear saints, our Father has so much more for each of us to discover and experience– who He is and the depths of His great love for us. Don’t be content with your own shallow understanding and stop there, thinking you have arrived. One of the most damaging things men do is give another man a theology degree that tells him He has arrived and knows all about God. Paul had one of those degrees because he sat at the feet of and learned from that highly regarded Jewish scholar, Gamaliel. Then on one fine day when Paul had God all figured out and was going about to kill all those cult followers of Jesus, He had an encounter with the living God. All of a sudden his fine education and training became so much dung. But Paul did ask the right question in his divine encounter, “Who are you, Lord?”

My dear Christian friends, if we are to ever apprehend this God by whom we have been apprehended, this is the question that we all should ask Him every day and then stand by to have our minds blown.

Who ARE you Lord?

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and he made him suck honey out of the Rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.” (Deuteronomy 32:11-13 RSVA – emphasis added)

The Power of Our Words and Prayers

altar_of_incense

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door were shaken at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged. (Isaiah 6:1-7 KJ2000)

I was in fellowship with a dear saint recently and we started to talk about prayer and how important it was for those of us who are in unity as members of Christ’s body to pray for one another. This person felt the power of God when we prayed together and saw results in their life. Words are a wondrous thing. With our words we have the power to move heaven to act, bless those dear to us, or to do them harm. Really getting to know others in close relationships is wonderful, but the closer and more open we are with each other, the easier it is to wound one another with our words. I’ve apologized numerous times to people I’ve hurt without intending to. Each time I’ve wounded a dear saint, I’ve been reminded of Jesus’ words that it would be better for a millstone to be hung around my neck and be cast into the depth of the sea than offend one of His little ones. In this last year God has put me in relationships with people who are serious about the kingdom of God and what it means to walk together in the light as He is in the light. We know that unless we are walking in this kind of transparency with the ones He has placed us with, we are not having real fellowship (see 1 John 1:5-9).

After seeing both the negative and positive effects of my words, I was reminded of some verses in the Bible that God has given me in the past.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote:

Dead flies cause the ointment of the perfumer to send forth a foul odor: so does a little folly to him that is respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1 KJ2000)

Paul wrote:

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…Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:1-4 ESV– emphasis added)

As I experienced both blessing and wounding coming out of my mouth more recently, He reminded me of what James wrote.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. (James 3:10 RSVA)

For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:2 KJ2000)

Yes, brethren, this ought not to be so! I started asking God to do a miracle in my life in this matter of the tongue. He started answering my prayer by letting me feel in my own heart the pain others were feeling. A couple of times it was so intense I had to go lie down because I couldn’t function any longer.

Fourteen years ago, while watching the movie, “The Green Mile,” I started weeping and praying that God would use me to take some of the suffering out of this world. I was inspired by the empathy of the main character in the movie, John Koffey. I had no idea what I was asking when I prayed that God would use me this way. As is so often the case, He starts answering our prayers by dealing with us first! He wanted me to deal with the pain I was causing others in this world! I soon found that the closer these people were to me, the greater the pain I felt when I offended one of them. Pain is a great teacher. C. S. Lewis wrote,

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ~ C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

At this same time, God started talking to me about really seeking His face. God told Moses, “You can not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20 KJ2000). There had to be somewhere else that God said to seek His face, and I found it in Psalms where David prayed:

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When you said, Seek my face; my heart said unto you, your face, LORD, will I seek. Hide not your face far from me; put not your servant away in anger: you have been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Psalms 27:7-10 KJ2000)

David was a man after God’s own heart and a prophetic type of Christ. Man might not have been able to see God’s face and live in the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant we are called to boldly enter into the Father’s presence as we abide in His Son, Jesus.

 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 RSVA)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. (Ephesians 2:13-16 RSVA)

About four months ago as I pleaded to see our Father’s face, He gave me Isaiah 6:1-7 and this was the part He wanted me to feel:“Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Father told me, “If you want to see me, you must be undone.” I knew that something must be done about my unclean lips. Since then, I have never been so conscious of the words that come out of my mouth and the effect they have on others! I have never felt so much heart pain either! I have cried more in the last four months than I had in my whole life as He has let me experience the pain in the hearts of others. I have become “unhinged”… undone and cry at the drop of a hat. He was answering another longstanding prayer of mine. He was letting me in close to His heart and experience the fellowship of His sufferings.

I have become so sick of the damage my uninspired words were cause others that I have started praying He would take a coal from His altar and put it in my mouth as He did with Isaiah. I am tired of hurting others with my words, especially His “little ones,” those who walk in humility before Him.

To become sons and daughters of God it takes a miraculous work. We must be made into a new creation, and that is what He does. 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)

There is nothing of that old Adam in us He can use. Paul wrote,

 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:49-50 RSVA)

Over the last ten months God has gone deep in my heart after some bitter root judgments (see Heb. 12:14-15) I have held on to from old wounds in the past. These wounds have kept His love from flowing through me. The process of dealing with this has required the constant working of death in me. I have been going from death to death so that He can spring forth with new life unto life in me. Paul wrote:

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient [capable] for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 RSVA – emphasis added)

Who is sufficient for these things? God is!

 And such trust have we through Christ toward God: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (2 Corinthians 3:4-5 KJ2000)

Paul went on to say that we are:

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:10-12 KJ2000)

Are we willing to let death work in us so that life might abound through us to others? I’ve had to go though a lot of pain and tears, yet I have never felt such intense love for others in my heart as well. I never knew that love could be so painful, yet so rewarding at the same time.

This Thing Called Prayer

Today Father showed me something new about prayer. Luke tells us about Zachariah, John the Baptist’s father.

According to the custom of the priest’s office, his [Zachariah’s] lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the time of incense. (Luke 1:9-10 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

It is interesting that here we see a passage speaking about prayer and incense at the same time. For 35 years my prayer life was in the tank. In 1980 God removed any sense of His presence from me and put me out into a spiritual wilderness. As a result, I quit praying on any regular basis. Prayer that had once been personable, powerful and fulfilling was lost in that wilderness. When I tried to pray the words seem to fall off my lower lip and hit the floor like a “sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.”

But today something happened. He spoke to me about prayer and let me see that our prayers are not just mere waves of energy that go flying by God’s ear at the speed of sound, never to be seen or heard from again. No, just like faith, prayers have substance and are gathered at His altar just as our tears are gathered in His bottle (see Psalm 56:8). A strong sense of peace came over me as He showed me this passage in Revelation:

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire from the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1-5 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

At first I thought prayer and incense were two different things, but then I read David’s words,

Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalms 141:2-3 KJ2000)

Here we not only see prayer as incense before the Lord, but we also have an admonition about every idle word that comes out of our mouths. God tied both of these issues together in the same passage of scripture! In Revelation we see those prayers as incense being hurled back down to the earth to do a work as God has intended. We might not see an answer to our prayers come in the form we had expected, but they are still valuable to Him. When the time is right, He sends them out with His power to accomplish His will.

He had taken me full circle –from the idle words of my mouth that smote my heart as I felt the pain they caused in the hearts of others, to how our prayers are incense to God and something He uses to accomplish His divine will. As I meditated on this fresh revelation, my tears flowed! Prayer has taken on new meaning to me and I feel that its importance has finally been restored to me after 35 years. So Father I pray that you will…

 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 KJ2000)