Can These Two Walk Together?

ga5-25

Can two walk together, except they are agreed? (Amos 3:3, KJ2000)

Do not keep company with those who have not faith: for what is there in common between righteousness and evil, or between light and dark? …for we are a house of the living God; even as God has said, I will be living among them, and walking with them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people. (2Cor 6:14-16, BBE)

God has always hated a mixture. According to the law wool could not be woven with linen, meat and dairy products could not be cooked together, they could not intermarry with foreigners and in the New Testament we read that believers are not to be unequally yoke with unbelievers. Oh, the misery that has been caused in the Church and marriages by that!

God feels the same way about the work of the Spirit and the work of the flesh. The work will either be instigated by Him and done by His Spirit as it was with Christ or He will withdraw until we figure out that our flesh profits nothing! As Paul said said, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” We can struggle by our own strength to be righteous, but He backs away until we figure out that apart from Him, we can do nothing. Paul wrote,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal 5:16-17, ESV2011)

Watchmen Nee and some other Christian men were swimming in a river when one of the men got a cramp in his leg and began struggling and was sinking. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men, who was an excellent swimmer, about the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the man fight to keep his head above water.

Mr. Nee was angry to say the least, but the swimmer was calm and collected. Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. Mr. Nee hated the good swimmer who just stood and watched him suffer from the shore when he could have jumped into the river and rescued the drowning man. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer dove in and was there in a moment, and both were soon safely on shore.

After the rescue, Mr. Nee accused the man of loving his own life too much and being selfish. The response of the swimmer revealed, however, that he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river, and he was right. He told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.

Such is the case with our salvation. When we stop trying to save ourselves, then the Lord can step in and save us as we fully surrender to Him. The same is true about our efforts to be righteous. He will allow a temptation to beset us that is beyond our strength to resist unless we cry out to Him to deliver us. He leads us not into temptation for as James says, we are drawn away by our own lusts. But God DOES deliver us from evil if we cry out to Him, though we may have to become totally exhausted in the process to reach the level of desperation that He is looking for. You see one of the desired outcomes is to get us to have mercy on all sinners and KNOW that “except for the grace of God, there go I,” by first hand experience.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal 5:24-25, KJ2000)

Thank you to Susanne Schuberth for her encouragement and inspiration. See her latest blog: https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/death-and-resurrection-or-i-need-a-savior/

Do We Desire the Kingdom of God or the Kingdoms of Men?

He is Faithful

Today we see well-meaning men and women building their kingdoms and pushing their agendas all in the name of Christ all through Christendom. Some put their hopes in who gets elected in the world’s political systems. Some are so bold (and blind) as to name their ministries after themselves, yet we take this all to be perfectly normal. Can you see a huge sign above the banks of the Jordan 2000 years ago reading, “John the Baptist Ministries”?  Can you see ushers seating all the people that went out to observe him in action, handing out baptism request cards, and taking up a collection (or two) at every “service”? Of course, all had to be done “decently and in order.” No, none of this nonsense was how the Spirit wind moved through John the Baptist. He upset the whole religious and political establishment and told everyone they needed to repent as he prepared the way for Christ to appear. The religious establishment didn’t take too kindly to him either.

How easy it is for us who call ourselves “Christian” to hold on to our worldly mindsets, values, earthly ambitions and views on what the Father’s kingdom should look like and how it should operate. Such was the case with the disciples of Christ. They all knew that when Messiah came, He would set up a new world order with the Jews at the top of the heap and themselves as its administrators. How wrong they were! He made it clear to Pilate at His trial that HIS kingdom is not of this world! Jesus finally told the disciples that He had to go up to Jerusalem, be rejected by the leaders of the Jews, be tormented by them and die the death of the cross. Their minds went “tilt”! Peter even took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be unto you.” (Matthew 16:22, KJ2000).

Do you remember where it is written that Satan stopped tempting Jesus for a season after His temptation in the wilderness? That season was now over. Satan was back in His face in the form of a beloved disciple who Jesus loved, trying to get Him to go against the will of His Father and save Himself. Until then, Jesus had always said regarding going up to Jerusalem, “My time is not yet come.” What was Peter thinking? Jesus answered Peter’s challenge by saying, “Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense unto me: for you consider not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Yes, Satan wants us to spare ourselves and save our lives by finding our niche here on earth. To this mindset Jesus went on to say to the disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” After this Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, AKJV).

Even though we might confess–as Peter did–that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that is not enough. Down deep inside we have to ask ourselves, “Have I truly been converted?” Or do we, like Peter, still desire and consider the things of men and operate in the ways of men–ways like seeking popularity, fame and wanting worldly safety and comfort more than the plan that God has for our lives? When Jesus bids us to take up our flesh-killing cross and follow Him, will we deny ourselves all these temptations of Satan and His world system and do the “unreasonable thing” even in the eyes of our fellow Christians? When God allows him to sift us, will our faith in Christ survive? It will if we submit to Christ’s preparatory work of the cross in us. We know for sure that when God calls us to walk in His kingdom way, we will hear those who are still in the world and not truly converted calling us to be “reasonable” and spare ourselves as Peter did with Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well:

“…the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (1)

God has no use for our flesh and its talents (see Romans 7:18). They are useless to Him. The more talented we are, the larger obstacle these talents become and the greater temptation to “do something great for Christ” without His Spirit leading us.

How many of us American Christians have heard the lie of Satan that we as Christians are called to live a happy, successful life in the eyes of the world as a living advertisement on why they should also be Christians? This is not the gospel of God’s kingdom, but rather a false gospel designed by Satan to keep us under his control in his kingdom. If we have bought into this, we are no different than Peter under the influence of Satan, desiring the things of men instead of the things of God. Yes, Satan desires the things that carnal men desire! The flesh of man wars against the Spirit of God and His Spirit wars against our flesh. Which side will our hearts come down on? That is the question.

If the cross has not yet met us in a real way and become a life changing crisis in our daily lives, we are still like Peter was. We have not yet been converted and we have not yet turned from the ways of the world in our hearts. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

 You see it is a matter, in the first place, of the ground which is taken and occupied by the one concerned. When Peter took heavenly ground – “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” – he was in a very strong position. The keys of the kingdom of heaven, binding on earth and binding in heaven, were his. He was weak, and in a very weak position, when he took earthly ground, the ground of men, the ground of his own judgment and of his own selfhood. The ground taken decided whether he was spiritually strong or weak, and whether Satan had power over him or not. (2)

The flesh in man loves religion because religion gives him an opportunity to have the best of both worlds. With religion we can claim Christ as our Lord, yet remain the one in control of our lives, seeing His cross as a thing of the past and go after “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” After all, isn’t this our God-given “inalienable right”? This phrase from the Declaration of Independence is the opposite of desiring the things of our Father in heaven, yet you would think it came from the very mouth of Jesus Christ if you observe the lives and goals of American Christians. There is no life, liberty and true happiness outside of living IN Christ in obedience to and unity with the Father. We might think we are independent of Satan as we pursue the things of this world, but we are deluded and have not yet been converted in the eyes of God. We are still not seeking to find our lives in God’s kingdom nor His desires for us. Finally Sparks wrote,

 Then, if we are really going to come through to the place of spiritual power as did Peter, that ground of the enemy must continually be forsaken and refused. The enemy has to be robbed of that which will destroy us and give him power to destroy us, and we have to be very ruthless with anything that arises to give him that position and defeat God’s intention where we are concerned. This battle of heaven and hell, God and Satan, goes on in our souls, but there is for us this consolation, that we have a High Priest ever living to make intercession. We have a great asset in the continual intercession of the Lord Jesus for us. Let us close on that note of encouragement and assurance. (2)

May God continue to draw us ever deeper into Christ and out of Satan’s delusions in this world. Only then can we know the love and unity that is ours in Christ, the abundant life of which He spoke.

(1) The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 99

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000476.html

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.

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)

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

Out of the Same Mouth!

Exposed_tree_rootsFor every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With this bless we God, even the Father; and with this curse we men, who are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (James 3:7-11 KJ2000)

Today, I had something happen that my heart is still smiting over many hours later. I got too comfortable in a conversation with this dear sister in Christ and the next thing I knew I offended her with the words of my mouth and if she had not felt the freedom to tell me so, I would still be ignorant of it! Well, after I saw what I had done and asked her forgiveness (which she did grant) I turned right around about 15 minutes later and did it again! God only knows how often I have wounded my own wife over the years!

There is a saying that familiarity breeds contempt. I was not trying to hurt this sister, but I just got too comfortable with our relationship and forgot that she is a tender child of our Father and that I needed to respect that and be sensitive to her for this reason. Out of my mouth was coming both sweet water and bitter. In one moment I was blessing her and unwittingly in the next I was hurting her. “My brethren, these things ought not to be so!” The conversation ended on a positive note with tears shed, but these things aren’t easily forgotten even by the best of hearts.

As I later prayed about it the Lord showed me that at the root of what I said was a reaction to things I had suffered as a young man… rejection by the young ladies I grew up with, especially the pretty ones. I had not forgiven them and that bitter root was still down in there putting forth its fruit even with one who has never rejected me in any way! Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). But we know that God looks upon the hearts of men, and HE knows them! He just wants us to see our hearts as HE sees them and times like these happen for a reason.

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)

“Lord show us our bitter root judgments that we still harbor in our hearts from old wounds, that we may truly repent and be healed before many become defiled by them. Father, make straight paths for our feet and let us follow after peace and holiness (wholeness) with all men and women, least out of our fleshly ways the weak and the lame become offended and are turned away from You by our words and deeds. My Father, continue to do a deep work in my heart and let your Son’s ax be laid to the root of everything that is still down in me that is not of you. Amen.”

 

 

 

 

The Dominion of Sin vs. the Law of Love

KingQueenThroneYesterday as my wife, Dorothy, and I were talking with a brother in our back yard, the Spirit brought to mind a verse I have read for years in a whole new light. We were talking about how people’s actions and reactions are often governed by pains, abuses, and sins from their past. It was then that this verse was given new life for me:

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14 KJ2000)

Sin as a principle seeks to have dominion over our lives. Sin in many forms wants to rule over us and dictate to us how we act. We are all familiar with the sins of drug addiction or adultery, anger, hatred, and such, but there are other sins that no church would list that we might not be aware that we are in bondage to. For instance, I remember many things that my mother said and did to me from my youth that were not always kind. So what happened? I married my dear wife and I was loaded for bear. Without thought I was looking for her to do or say anything that reminded me of my mother and when I thought I recognized something, I squashed it without mercy. On the other hand, she was watching in me for anything that reminded her of her father’s old habits and would react against that. The sins of our parents still had dominion over us and were taking dominion over our marriage as well.

We were both projecting our fears on one another and if we do that long enough, guess what? That person will finally start acting like we are expecting them to! It is a form of witchcraft—soul projection. The stronger our soul (what Paul called “the natural man”) is in us, the worse it can be and the more damaging to our relationships. It got so bad between my wife and I that she finally started to lose her personality out of fear of my reactions to anything she might do or say. She was becoming a non-entity. When I saw the damage I was doing to her and our kids, God woke me up. I finally had to repent of who I was and ask God to change me and give me a new heart. I had a great change immediately after that and it saved our marriage, but He keeps bringing more things to the surface for me to repent of as well. Thank God that He has given my wife and kids much grace to put up with me while these changes have taken place.

Sin desires to rule and take dominion over us. We start saying things like, “You always blah, blah, blah!” Or “You never do what I tell you!” We start formulating laws in our minds we hold other people to. We even formulate laws that we hold ourselves to. Laws like, “I will never let that happen to me again!” Or, “I will never trust another woman (or man) again!” Or, “I will never be like my mother (or father) and do thus and thus.” Laws come in many forms besides the ones written in law books. The ones we write in our hearts are often the hardest to be free of.

If we are the saints of God and walk by the Spirit, we are no longer under the law, but under grace. You see God’s grace frees us from law. It heals us and then frees us to follow the Spirit wind of God wherever it blows. There are no longer any “nevers” or “always.” To walk after the Spirit is to be free to go with His wind wherever He leads us not where we or law leads or forbids us. Don’t take me wrong, I am not teaching lawlessness, but freedom that is our as we abide IN Christ! There is a higher law that covers all God’s laws and that is the law of love. The love of God provides us with an inward motivation that empowers us to do right. In Hebrews we read about Jesus being our new High Priest of the New Covenant not after the order of Aaron, but rather after the order of Melchizedek, the King of Salem.

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law… And it is yet far more evident: that after the similitude of Melchizedek there arises another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For He testifies, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. For there is verily an annulment of the previous commandment because of the weakness and uselessness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by which we draw near unto God… The Lord swore and will not change, you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant. (Hebrews 7:11-22 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Did you get that? We are not under the law of a carnal commandment, but now, like Christ, are under the power of an endless life! So what is this new law that we are under in the new Covenant, this better Covenant? Jesus gave us a very simple answer. “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:34-35 KJ2000). When we are under the grace of God, He takes our stony hearts out of us and puts in new hearts. His new commandment, the law of love for one another as Christ loves us, is written on our new hearts. The ravages of sin in our lives are dealt with by His great grace and His love is inscribed on our hearts as He heals us.

Dear saint, if you find yourself under many laws because of the ravages of sin in your life, ask Jesus to heal you and make you whole, a bride that has been made ready for the coming of her Bridegroom, without hang-ups binding her. Let us all go forth with our lamps filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit and our wicks trimmed of all their dead, fleshly ways to meet Him at His coming.

With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow. (Proverbs 3:5-6 CEV)