The Problem with “Instant” Perfection

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When I was a newly born believer, I was so shocked that God did not instantly make me a perfect Christian. There was still this albatross around my neck called “the flesh,” even after experiencing the love and closeness of Christ in my life and even His healing miracles. Why didn’t He just do the “Tinker Bell” thing with His magic wand and make me an instant “super Christian’? I soon learned that the Christian life is a life chastened by trials and that God’s work of bringing forth His Son in us is a lifelong process.

Over the years I have asked Him why He chose this slow agonizing way to bring forth Christ in us. He has shown me that because of our Adamic roots, we have to learn obedience to the Father by the things that we suffer, often the consequences of doing it wrong. Even Christ chose to come in the form of a lowly servant.  We reason, “but wouldn’t God have made Him more useful for His purposes if He had come with the power of a Roman Emperor or High Priest?” No, He forsook that kind of power to show us that a man born of a woman in the lowest social position can overcome everything that is of Adam and learn obedience to the Father through suffering.

So why is it that God does not make us like the angels, perfectly obedient to Him? The answer can be found here in this description of Satan:

You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were upon the holy mountain of God… You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you… you have sinned: therefore I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy you, O covering cherub… Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you. (Ezek 28:14-17, KJ2000)

How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the farthest sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet you shall be brought down to sheol, to the sides of the pit. (Isa 14:12-15, KJ2000)

If one of God’s perfectly created beings could be corrupted by his own beauty and wisdom, how much more we who have been born in the likeness of sinful Adam?

God has chosen to bring forth upon the earth–the very domain of Satan–a Son who was first a helpless baby and then a man who had “no form or beauty that any man should desire Him” (see Isaiah 53:2-3). He was the proto-type of many sons and daughters He would bring into full glory by overcoming trials and weakness through faith in His Son.

This life of weakness and living death, dear saints, is for one purpose—so we learn that except for the grace and mercy of God working in us, we would be our own worst devil, capable of the worst sins and pride. God has already lost a third of the angels to this delusion of worshiping their own greatness and perfection and He is making sure that we have the mind of Christ and not Lucifer in His kingdom. He is working by making us weak, humbling us so that we rightly assess our old natures, despise them, and call on Him to do whatever it takes to bring forth the spiritual maturity of His very own Son in us. He wants an unconditional surrender to His perfect will and for us to abide in His wonderful love. We love Him because He first loved us and gave everything He had to save us from ourselves.

So What Is “Perfect” for Us When it Comes to Fellowship?

As I was mulling this over this morning, it became evident that our idea of perfection and God’s idea of perfection are not be the same. Jesus was made perfectly obedient through the things that He suffered. He was also made perfect in love while surrounded by doubters, sinners and twelve disciples who often didn’t get what He was teaching them. To one of them He had to say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” In all honesty, they ALL desired the things of the typical Jewish male — for Messiah to come and set up a worldly kingdom with them in charge — not so different from another one who said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God [the angels and the people of God]: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation”? Some of us have come across that delusion, first in bad church leadership, and finally having to admit that it was in us!

No, dear saints, God uses our imperfection and humanity so that our “iron” sharpens another saint’s “iron” and we call out for Him to form His perfectly forbearing love in our hearts. God puts us with other people (even in marriage) who are not perfect, but that have been made “perfect” in their imperfections to be used by His power to change us! Even Jesus cried out, “Oh you of such little faith. How long must I suffer you?”

In God’s wonderful plan He has been able to turn the tables on Satan by using our flesh to humble us and work forgiveness in our hearts for others just like us. Like Joseph said to his brothers when they came before him in Egypt, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.”

Body life in the body of Christ is not something perfect in our way of thinking, but it is perfect in His if we live in close enough proximity to one another and dwell together in transparency. Fellowship is designed to bring us into His perfection as we work through our own imperfections and those of our fellow saints. John wrote:

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:7-9, ESV2011)

Dear saints, may we look upon the imperfections in one another and see the hand of God working. It is easy to find fault with one another, but it is best to look for those things that are “…true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things… and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9, KJ2000)

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The Battle Against Our Unity in Christ

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In Jesus’ final prayer before the cross we read,

 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:22-26, ESV2011)

I have never known such a battle in my life or the lives of God’s people than the one to maintain our unity in His love. There is a reason for this. When the world’s people see Christians truly living together in Christ’s love for one another (and I don’t mean one hour together on Sundays only), as a family in the Father, Satan starts to lose his grip on his kosmos—his worldly kingdom. Those deluded by him can see that these special people have something that they do not have, but need desperately. So, all the minions of hell are brought to bear against even two people walking together in the unity of Jesus and the Father. Remember, our unity is exponential. One can put to flight a thousand but two ten thousand.

T. A. Sparks wrote:

The higher position of “Ephesians” is this – that now, being quickened and raised together with Christ and seated in the heavenlies is a matter of relatedness to other believers, and in that relatedness, you are going to find your fullness. You are never going to find spiritual enlargement just as an isolated, separate individual, but in relation with other believers. “God setteth the solitary in families” (Ps. 68:6), and there is no doubt about it, whether or not you understand or accept the doctrine of it, you can prove very quickly in experience that our spiritual enlargement does come by way of true spiritual and heavenly relatedness with other believers. That is proved by the fact that it is not always easy for Christians to live together for very long. It sounds a terrible thing to say, but you have a lot of other factors to reckon with. If you were ordinary people in this world, you might get on very well, but being Christians you have to meet the whole force of Satan working upon any little bit of natural life he can find. So he makes for difficulty between Christians that they would not find if they were not in a heavenly position. They are meeting forces in the heavenlies. There are the rub and friction and all the cross currents that try to divide Christians but which do not try to divide other people, because there is so much bound up with true spiritual oneness amongst the Lord’s people – so much for the Lord, and so much against Satan. Satan is going to break up that spiritual oneness if he can. He knows what that means for him, and the Lord knows what that means for Himself – and hence the special and extra difficulties when it is a case of Christians living together, especially for a long time.

Now what is the upshot? When these difficulties arise we must say, “It is evidently necessary for me to get a new spiritual position, to get on top of this. If I am not going to give it up and leave, I must come to some spiritual enlargement; I have to know the Lord in a new way, to have more grace, love and patience.” That is spiritual enlargement, and it comes by relatedness. (Of course, that is only one way; there are many others by which spiritual enlargement comes by relatedness.) If only we can keep together in prayer, there is spiritual enlargement.

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001719.html

Yes, unlike many eastern religions, there are no “holy hermits” in the kingdom of God. There are no Christian one-man-bands! The prophet spoke of this unity we are to have in Christ when he said, “A body have you prepared for me (see Hebrews 10:5).” Those who belong to Christ are called as members of His body AND members of one another.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom 12:3-5, ESV2011)

Christ has equipped each one of us who are His to function as a member so that the whole body might be edified and built up. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read:

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15-16, ESV2011)

To speak the truth to one another in love is to walk in the light as Jesus is in the light and make no provision for the flesh hiding its faults in darkness, not just for our sakes, but for the sake of the body of Christ.

Paul wrote, “every man that is among you [those who have surrendered to Christ]… not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith,” This is about rightfully accessing our current state of growth and faith in Christ according to the working of our Father to bring about our transformation. We don’t over estimate who we have become by His grace and we don’t underestimate it, either, by burying our “talent” in the earth. The temptation is to become too proud in our estimate of who we are, exalting ourselves as having some “Christian office” to lord over others, or to spend our time downcast as we constantly look at how far there is to go. Our hope is found as we see ourselves by God’s grace IN the arms of the Son while His perfecting work in us proceeds. We are not our own, but Jesus has bought us with the great price He paid for each of us on the cross and as such we are to be led by the wind of the Spirit, not our carnal minds.

We not only have to battle the enemy in gaining and keeping our unity in Christ’s body, but we have to battle our fleshly thinking as well. The whole thing is a very humbling process once we see this life with spiritual eyes and set our goal to function as a spiritual member of Jesus’ mystical body with one another.

Father, please do whatever it takes to make us all one in your Son. Amen

 

 

Can These Two Walk Together?

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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/

Unity in Christ’s Light…Coming Into Full Stature

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…until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. (Eph 4:13, NLT)

God has one goal for each of us and that is to grow up in the Lord until we measure-up to the full stature of His Son. That cannot happen without the unity of His saints (See John 17:21-23). What is Christian unity? Does it happen when we reach 100% church attendance on any given Sunday? Or does it happen when we all adhere to the “articles of faith” handed down by the home office of our denomination? Maybe it happens when all the local churches (as they did in our area) agree to have a great rally together at the local fairgrounds one Sunday each year. All these things were totally foreign to the early church, yet they had a unity in the Spirit that caught the attention of the world around them. They were even accused of turning the world upside down for Christ.

Oh, how far this thing called Christianity has fallen! How about we start with just two people walking together in unity for openers? How often do we see that in our Christian experience? Many of us who “have a ministry” are still Lone Rangers at best and it shows our weakness to the spirit realm. Our “ministry” is still all about us! It is interesting to me that most of the examples of effective ministry in the New Testament are found when two people walked together in the Spirit of God. Wouldn’t this be good place to start? Maybe we should be praying that God puts us together with another saint so we can both prayerfully support one another as we encourage each other to focus on Christ and what His Spirit is saying and directing us to do.

God has no Lone Rangers when it comes to walking in the power of the Spirit much less the unity of the Spirit, yet we totally overlook this in modern Christianity. A person who walks alone is an easy target for the enemy and “one-man band” ministries fall every day. In Mark we read a very interesting thing that Jesus did. “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth two by two; and gave them power over unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7, KJ2000). It was being sent forth by Him in pairs that they were given power over the works of the devil. When will we ever learn, dear saints?

We don’t know how long Adam walked alone in the garden with God until God observed, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” In Ecclesiastics we read:

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up… and if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Eccl 4:9-12, KJ2000)

Two saints walking together in the Spirit of Christ are that threefold cord. Unity in the Spirit and walking in the transparency of the truth of God He calls “walking in the light” and it is imperative if we are to know the fellowship that Jesus shares with His Father. In John’s first letter we read:

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

First, notice he did not write, “If you walk in the light as He is in the light…” He wrote we! If we walk in the light of the Father and the Son, the light of the Spirit that He defines as doing the truth, not just talking about it, we will have fellowship with one another. All through Christendom we see people desiring fellowship and not finding any meaningful form because they overlook this one important prerequisite, walking in the light of the Spirit. Allowing God to shine His marvelous light into our hearts seems to be too great a price for most of us. John put the problem this way:

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are worked in God. (John 3:19-21, KJ2000)

Revelation by the Spirit

It is one thing to read the scriptures and another thing to have them revealed to us by the Spirit of Christ. When we walk together in the unity of the Spirit, we soon find out that His marvelous light starts showing us things that He wants us to walk in and understand so that we can enjoy the unity of the Father and the Son. We soon start experiencing our fellowship around the deeper things on God’s heart.

And their eyes were opened, and they knew him… And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:31-32, KJ2000)

I believe that the unity of the Spirit in revelation is what was meant when Peter wrote,

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to which you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of one’s own interpretation. (2Pet 1:19-21, KJ2000)

Here in this passage we see light, revelation and fellowship among the saints of God who walk in His light together.  They don’t try to be complete in themselves, have their own private interpretations, or compete with each other. We need to have the light of God shine into our darkened hearts! Darkness attracts darkness and Light attracts light. We need the Day Star to arise in our hearts as we fellowship together in the Father and the Son.

Praying in God’s Love

James gave us a key to keeping our unity alive in the Spirit.

 “Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].” (Jas 5:16, AMP)


When we walk in unity with the one that God puts us with, we soon find that totally opening up to one another in transparency is imperative if we are to continue to walk in the light. Two people who hope to walk this way must be so crucified to themselves that they can trust one another with their deepest secrets and know that the other person will not use these things against them or turn away when we dare to “hang out their dirty laundry.” We dare to reveal such intimate things so that we can pray for one another and be healed of what caused these slips and missteps in the first place. There is one thing needed for this to happen–God’s agape love that knows no selfishness and lives for the good of others. There is tremendous power over sin when we pray for one another in this kind of unity.

The Christianity most of us have experienced in the churches rarely knows what it means to worship God in Spirit and in truth, but what a blessing it is when we dare to embrace and seek the truth with one another and truly walk in His all-revealing light. But this can only be experienced between two hearts that have been broken and crucified in Christ. May these hearts find one another by the power of God. Amen.

Revelation, Love and Intimacy

Circle-1  It is hard to envision what the Garden of Eden was like before the fall of man. Can you imagine an existence on this earth where there are no laws to break except one, and no conscience to violate, but only love and acceptance? Man dwelt there with his Creator in love and all his livelihood was provided for him with no fear of death or sickness. There were no animals or men to fear, and no weeds or briars to fight. It was a place where there was total peace and fellowship with all God’s creatures. Even the animals communicated with man in love, using a common language that was heard from heart to heart instead of head to head. This is the world that God made for man to enjoy. Adam and Eve ran around like little naked kids with no sense of shame whatsoever and felt such love and intimacy together that their relationship was only driven by God’s agape love for and in them, not by self-centered lust. God was loving and communing with them as their Daddy.

After thousands of years of suffering the consequences of the fall, it is hard for us to imagine such a world. Yet the image of the garden gives us a glimpse of heaven. Man ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and unleashed evil upon the earth, but God has had a plan to fully restore man to Himself and so we can walk in love with Him and one another once again and that plan was summed up with the words, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”[1] Paul wrote of this saying, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.”[2]

God so loved the world that He actually sent His own Son into this vile and dangerous place to restore man. Jesus not only consented to come here to the earth, but to be rejected, falsely accused by His own people and then tortured and killed in the most gruesome way possible, hanging on a cross. He did this so He could blot out the offence of our transgressions once and for all by taking our sin on Himself so we might be justified.[3]

The Hebrew word translated “restore” in the Old Testament is shub (shoob) and is found 1339 times in that ancient text. One of the most familiar verses is in David’s prayer, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit.”[4] Restoration of mankind is high on God’s list of priorities.

The drawing above in my mind pictures what God has been showing many of us in one form or another as He calls us out of ourselves and into Him as His sons and daughters. The tangle of weeds and briars along the bottom represents the curse that man has been under for thousands of years. A concern over good and evil is an endless tangle and a trap that pitches one man against another through sin and the rigidity of laws and regulations. Much of Christianity is trapped there today. The first fruit of this wrong tree was Adam and Eve seeing their God-given state of nakedness as evil and making garments of fig leaves to cover themselves and hide from God. It is interesting that God said to them, “Who told you that you were naked?”[5] It was the serpent who filled them with guilt and shame as they submitted to him in order to become wise. On that day they lost their child-like faith and trust in God.

But God had a plan to pull us up out of the muck and mire of sin, law and death through the death and resurrection of His Son[6], the spotless Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world.[7] We all know His plan to bring about the salvation (the saving) of man by Christ’s death on the cross, but there is so much more to it than just getting us out of the miry clay and setting our feet on the Rock.[8]

God has wanted an intimate, loving relationship with man from the beginning. He identified Himself as a husband to both Jews and Gentiles in both the Old and New Testaments.[9] And finally in the New Testament, Jesus is identified as the Bridegroom and those who truly love Him as His Bride.[10] This brings up the subject of intimacy.

As depicted in the drawing above, Revelation, Love and Intimacy flow between and out from the Father, Son and Spirit. In this relationship, the Spirit reaches down into our lives with what the scriptures and is called the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.[11] Jesus said that He would send the Spirit to us to lead us into all truth.[12]

With this revelation from Him we realized that God loves us and we in turn love God because He first loved us.[13] We come into a relationship with Christ because He calls us and reveals Himself in us.[14] We are also called into the intimacy of the Father and the Son, and from this intimacy comes and ever growing revelation of who They are.[15] With this growing revelation grows an ever greater love for Them in us as well. We are caught up into this circle of love with them as well.

In all this, we who are His elect grow together in our love for one another as we are made perfect in love. The perfect love of God casts out all fear.[16] This freedom allows us to walk in the transparency and the Light (spiritual intimacy) of Christ[17] with one another in true fellowship[18]. We pray for each other and work toward each other’s wholeness as members of Christ’s body[19] where all things are done unto edification.[20] As God unites us together in His love for one another, all our walls of separation come down, because in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, or male nor female, but a new creation allowing real intimacy and fellowship between us.[21] As our love grows for one another, our relationships take on a depth we never knew possible in the world. “Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!”[22] Jesus said:

A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34 KJVCNT)

You might say that we are being sucked-up into this tornado of love where the Father, the Son and the Spirit live for us because they love us so much. The closer we are drawn to Them, the more we become like Them and the more the world rejects us because we are no longer of this world.[23] Soon, His love is so strong for and in us that we gladly loose ourselves from our earthly moorings like houses torn from their foundations in a tornado, and are totally caught up into the love of the Father and the Son. All the things of this world that were once near and dear to us lose their grip on our hearts.[24] In my own case I used to live to fish and hunt and have a place of my own in the country that made it easier to do so. I even built my own hunting lodge that was on 20 acres of forest near lakes and mountains, but before I was done, God’s love so changed me that it was all I could do to finish this lodge so we could sell it and move into town where Father wanted me.

Paul, who loved Jesus dearly, put it this way:

 Those things were important to me, but now I think they are worth nothing because of Christ. Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ and to belong to him. Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but because I believed in Christ. God uses my faith to make me right with him. I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death. (Philippians 3:7-10 NCV)

 How else can we as His bride ever become one unless we have a common depth of love for Jesus and the Father? Soon we become so enraptured with Christ and the Father that we are in total identification and unity with them and with one another in this same love. This is the goal of the gospel!

 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is 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 righteousness of saints. And he says unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he says unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:7-9 KJVCNT)

 Speaking of love and intimacy Oswald Chambers wrote:

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them… —Mark 16:12
Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many people who have never seen Jesus have received and share in God’s grace. But once you have seen Him, you can never be the same. Other things will not have the appeal they did before.
You should always recognize the difference between what you see Jesus to be and what He has done for you. If you see only what He has done for you, your God is not big enough. But if you have had a vision, seeing Jesus as He really is, experiences can come and go, yet you will endure “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
Jesus must appear to you and to your friend individually; no one can see Jesus with your eyes. And division takes place when one has seen Him and the other has not. You cannot bring your friend to the point of seeing; God must do it. Have you seen Jesus? If so, you will want others to see Him too. “And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either” (Mark 16:13). When you see Him, you must tell, even if they don’t believe. ~ http://utmost.org/have-you-seen-jesus/

(a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for sharing this and her own experiences on her blog. https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/a-life-redeemed-now-or-later/ )

 Seeing Jesus as He IS makes all the difference in the world. Jesus calls us to be not only His friends, but His bride, intimately connected to Him. As called-out ones, we share a greater intimacy with Him and, as a result with others who have seen him, too. We cast off our earthly moorings and let the Spirit wind take us wherever He sees fit. The perfect love of the Father does a deep work in our hearts and draws us away from the cares, goals and values of this world system. Jesus had a circle of 70 disciples, but the original 12 were closer to Him. Inside this smaller group were the three He took up in mountain where He appeared to them clothed in Light. Finally there was John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

So it is with the called and chosen. He loves everyone the same, but not all are able to receive everything He wants to share with them. John was not afraid to lay his head on Jesus’ breast because he was connected to Jesus by His great love. Of the twelve, only John was there with Him while He died on the cross.[25] The depth of love for Jesus and the ability to cast off our worldly and religious expectations and be caught up in Him alone will eventually make the difference for all of us.

At the last supper, before Jesus was taken captive by His murders, He prayed a very important prayer with His disciples.

 

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you: As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know [Grk. ginosko – intimate knowing[26]] you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent… I pray not for the world, but for them that you have given me; for they are yours. And all mine are yours and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are… 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. O righteous Father, the world has not known [ginosko] you: but I have known [ginosko] you, and these have known [ginosko] that you have sent me. And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:1-26 KJ2000)

 

Here we see a prayer for revelation, love and intimacyONE. I cannot get away from this phrase, “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.” His desire was and is not only for us to join in their unity and love, but for us to know it among ourselves as His people! This vortex of love between the Father, Son and Spirit draws us up into intimate fellowship with Them.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.., and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 RSVA)

This precious promise is not in future tense, but in the present. Dear saints, let these words sink into the depths of your heart, for here is the reality of His revelation and love for us in the greatest intimacy imaginable. May we all come to know this intimacy and love as we abide IN Them. Amen.

[1] Gen. 1:26

[2] Romans 8:29 RSVA

[3] Romans 3:23-26, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10

[4] Psalm 51:12 KJV

[5] Gen. 3:11

[6] Rom. 8:2

[7] John 1:29

[8] Psalm 40:2, 1 Cor. 10:4

[9] Jer. 2:2, 3:14, 31:32; Isa. 54:5; Eze. 16:8, 23:4; Hos. 2:2, 3:1 ; John 3:29 and 2Cor. 11:2

[10] Matt. 22:1-14, John 3:29; Rev. 19:7-9, 21:2-9 and 17

[11] Eph. 1:17

[12] John 16:13-15

[13] 1 John 4:19

[14] 1 Cor. 2:7-16, Galatians 1:5 and 3:27, Acts 17:28

[15] Matt. 13:11; Mark 3:11; Luke 10:23; John 15:15; John 17:6-7, 26; Romans 16:25-26;1 Cor. 2:11-12; Col. 1:26

[16] 1 John 4:18

[17] John 1:9

[18] 1 John 1:5-8

[19] James 5:16, Eph. 1:17-18, Eph. 4:21-25

[20] Eph. 4:14-16

[21] Gal. 3:26-28 and 6:15, Eph. 2:13-22, 4:1-6 , 4:15-16, 2 Cor. 5:17

[22] 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a CEV

[23] Matt. 5:10-12, Matt. 10:22, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 6:22-23, Luke 21:17, John 15:18-20, John 17:14

[24] Matt. 10:37, Luke 14:26, 2 Cor. 5:14-15

[25] John 19:26

[26] Matt. 1:25

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)

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