Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hooray for Sola Scriptura!

**Note: “Sola Scriptura” is Latin for “by Scripture alone.”  It was the war cry of the Protestant Reformation and the sole authority upon which it was based.

My experience:

Outside of the scope of much objective and historical proof that the Protestant version of the Bible with its 66 books constitutes the divine and inerrant testimony of God is my personal and powerful proof—albeit subjective—that it is divine and effectual to cause and maintain salvation.  After a tremendous encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ (in the summer of 1979) wherein there was no doubt of not only His existence, but His divine and loving posture towards me, I began to voraciously devour the Bible (the Protestant Bible) and attend Protestant services (of a Pentecostal or Non-denominational bent).  Not only was I “saved” but I got baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues.  God was alive to me and was with me everywhere I went in palpable Presence.  Though I was immensely impacted by the reading of Scripture and the services, and they both stirred me more and more to the core, I still had many questions.  But mostly I had a burning desire to KNOW THE LORD better and quicker than I seemed to be able to know Him; it was an insatiable appetite that sometimes tended to frustrate more than satisfy.  This tremendous desire to know Him is the backdrop of the following vision/experience and which happened mere weeks following the day of my conversion:

I worked as an assistant to a maintenance man at a beach resort hotel in that summer of 1979.  One early morning as the sun was rising I was dutifully cleaning the pool.  As I mindlessly skimmed away debris with a large net my mind began to be crowded with more Scripture verses—and thoughts of their meaning—than I could possibly manage or organize in my brain.  I honestly thought I was going insane.  But just as quickly as it became confusing and overwhelming, a complete stillness possessed me as I saw in a vision the word “JESUS” in emblazoned letters come up from my feet and impact/imprint my forehead; at the same time this happened, I heard the words, “THE WORD!” emphatically communicated to me at the center of my being (not to my mind straightway—though I did understand in my mind also).  I knew as a knowing beyond my comprehension made through study or observation or any other way that a man might know something that the Bible (and the Protestant Bible in particular) was the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ and the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth!  The instant calm and perfect peace that accompanied this experience is—even to the day—more convincing to me than any argument for or against the inerrancy of Scripture as it is constituted and comprised of within the pages of the Protestant Bible (without the Apocrypha and other supposedly “divine” books).  Without this “revelation” experience, it is doubtful that I could maintain such assurance based solely on my human intellect; all the arguments, on the whole (by themselves), do not persuade me.  But God, in glorious splendor and convincing proofs of His love and divine Presence (and always in line with and through the words of the Protestant Bible), convinced me in the beginning of this way, and continues to convince me now that it is a living document, the revelation of Jesus Christ and the restoration narrow path to life.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beyond the Jordan

“It was winter...and He went away again BEYOND THE JORDAN to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there.  Many came to Him and were saying, ‘While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.’  Many believed in Him there” (John 10:23, 40-42 NASB).

Many came and believed in Jesus Christ beyond the Jordan experience performed by John the Baptist even though that baptism performed by John is herein declared to be “no sign.”  IT WAS WINTER and Jesus now stood in John’s stead; the summer days of wading in ignorance and basking in much optimistic promise is now both cold and frightening.  The gentle Lamb is now a ferocious Lion.  The full revelation of Christ is as ferocious as winter and as gentle as summer; He spans the seasons and all the climes, and we must “follow on to know the Lord” (see Hosea 6:3) in everyday day and night of every year and circumstance that exists if we are to know Him as He really is.  

And so often the context in which the Lord is marveled at by His saints is winter and beyond the initial glad day we first heard of Him and experienced the rudimentary aspects of our faith.  Indeed, “Let us stop going over the same old ground again and again, always teaching those first lessons about Christ. Let us go on instead to other things and become mature in our understanding, as strong Christians ought to be. Surely we don’t need to speak further about the foolishness of trying to be saved by being good, or about the necessity of faith in God; you don’t need further instruction about baptism and spiritual gifts and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2 TLB).

“And this we will do, if God permits” (Hebrews 6:3 NASB).

INSERT: as I was writing the above article a thought of a past article came to mind because of its pertinence to the subject matter.  When I found it I was amazed!

Nine months ago (to the very day!)—ironically the gestation period of a human child—I wrote the article below.  Amazingly, it ties in perfectly with my thoughts this morning (11/21/2014), and therefore, rather than rewrite more today...

2/21/2014, by Edward V. Beck

You Have Not Come to a Telletubby Mountain

When my grandkids were very young they were enamored with a television show called “Telletubbies.”  In it there were these colorful and chubby creatures in soft teddy-bear-like costumes with baby sounding names like: “Tinky Winky,” “Dipsy,” “Laa-Laa,” and “Po.”  They lived in a bright and symmetrical world with no barbs.  They lived like hobbits in underground dens that they accessed through molehill-like mounds; these mounds were shaped like upside-down cereal bowls covered with perfectly cropped (but artificial) green grass.

The Telletubby mounds, low, and unthreatening, are appropriate for infants and very young children, but ridiculous for even children of kindergarten age, let alone teens and adults.  But what astounds me, is how so many Christians today fear not only Mt. Sinai, that mountain “ablaze with fire, and…gloom and darkness and a raging storm,” but also Mt. Zion, that mountain which is “the city of the living God” (Hebrews 12:18, 22).  It reminds me of those type of people who never grow up, those who move into the molehill homes of their childhood imaginations and never leave.

I see too often today those who descale God’s majestic peaks and marginalize—not only the height of those peaks—but the range of the bases of their grandeur.  At least it is manly to come to the wrong mountain, but these pitiful creatures don’t even come out through the doors of their molehills onto an artificial stage under a manmade light.  Their idea of God is as small and unthreatening as is the size of their spiritual ambition outlined by a starved imagination fed by a malnourished intellect.

Hills may indeed be alive with the sound of music, but music is too often the sound of fools, those ignorant, not because of innocence and infancy, but because of WILLFUL ignorance and STUBBORN immaturity.  Additionally, the hills are alive with clamor, whereas the mountains are still with God’s silence (not a silence born of repression, but of expression beyond words).  In the low and heavy-aired valley dirges reign; in the high and thin-aired mountain God reigns.

But mercifully, our God is the God of both the valleys and of the mountains (as the Arameans learned many years ago; see 1 Kings 20:27-29); and even more mercifully, He is also the God of the molehills (and of all the cowering creatures who live in them).  But as is already mentioned, babies need to grow up, and fear needs to be surmounted.  It is time to make mountains out of molehills without fear, to enlarge the base of our platform to support the full range of life, inclusive of all the hills and valleys and mountains experiences we are destined to overcome and obtain.

Fear of the unknown is a groundless fear for those who know God in more than infantile terms intimated to them by an internal dialogue of baby-talk.  Fear is the BEGINNING of knowledge, but mature love, its adult END.  “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else” (Oswald Chambers).  God disciplines every son He receives, not to meanly make infants cry, or to harshly force little children to stop crying, but to evoke a directed sentiment, to establish hearts in righteousness, and consequently to drive out genuine tears of repentance from the depths of our soul into bottles of remembrance to secure a matured end. “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity. … And this we will do, if God permits” (Hebrews 6:1, 3 NASB).  He permits!

Though we have come to a sunnier and more optimistic mountain than where law brought us, law is not done away, just absorbed and reconfigured along the range of a different line of thought.  The peak from where Jesus speaks is higher and more majestic and even scarier in some aspects than even the dark outline of a dying Mt. Sinai we no longer come to (and which is fading away).  Just as light shines out of darkness, so the shadow of the law frames the art of grace.  Love is only beautiful in the context of terror, and mountains only majestic in high and sharp relief.  Though the mountain is free like salvation, and its peak costly like sanctification, its craggy outline rends the heavens in priceless expression.

In the end, “People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the SPLENDOR OF HIS MAJESTY, when he rises to shake the earth” (Isaiah 2:19 NIV); but let it rather be said of us, “Look!...The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in” (1 Samuel 14:7).  Yes, come out!  You have not come to a Telletubby mountain, but you have come to Mount Zion and the Splendor of His Majesty.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Spacious Place

“I called to the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and put me in A SPACIOUS PLACE” (Psalm 118:5 HCSB).

“I go to prepare a place for you”—Jesus Christ

I have experienced as of late, and have noted many others experiencing the same, that we are all being painted into a corner, that we are all being brought to dead ends.  Many of us are being brought to discontent, to narrow confinement, to prison-like existence in the small place of our current experience.  All the promises of God that are yes and amen in Christ are seemingly no and no way in our experience.  As was often the cry of the psalmist, so we too are crying: “Where are you Lord!?”  But God’s way to enlargement is always through prison doors.  Confinement to expansiveness is counterintuitive, just as death to resurrection is counterintuitive.  A narrow gate leads to an expansive mansion.

The paradoxical truth is that that which is most refined, that definition which is most resolute in its stubborn refusal to deviate a whit from its exact meaning and is the most populated with pixels (resulting in the best resolution—the best and brightest depiction of truth in pictorial form) is the clearest and most expansive knowledge.  All definition narrows to a point and thereby sharpens the understanding which in turn broadens the perspective.  Though it is true that to focus too hard and too long on one tree fades the forest from view, seeing many trees in the proper bounds of their individual sharp and true relief populates the forest.

Christians are often accused of being exclusive or narrow-minded, and some no doubt are so in the wrong way, but there is a right way, a way that is, indeed, very narrow.  But on the other side of that narrow gate is a table-land of understanding, a place of abundant nourishment: a place of wide, rich, and expansive pastures in which to graze and freely roam about.  When Jesus Christ is defined as the narrow and only way, the only gate by which one might legally enter the presence of God, and when He is described as the complete embodiment of all wisdom and knowledge and understanding, He is paradoxically representing both stricture and boundlessness.  Another way this paradox is expressed is in those who choose the wide road to destruction.  Whereas the narrow and dark path of sorrow on earth leads to the wide and full effulgent plain of joy in heaven, the broad and riotously and raucously expansively gay spirit way on earth leads to the narrow, dark, and confining prison cell of hell in the afterlife.

In the booklet “Faith unto Enlargement through Adversity,” by T. Austin-Sparks, he says: “‘Out of my distress I called upon the Lord: the Lord answered me and set me in a large place’ (Psalm 118:5 ARV).  Are these words of the Lord Jesus?  Yes: out of His distress He cried: ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me.’  ‘And being in agony He prayed more earnestly...’  ‘Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, Thy will be done’ (Matt. 26:39, 42; Luke 22:44).  ‘Out of my distress I cried...’ and, although it does not seem that the Lord answered and delivered, the Apostle says that He was heard (Heb. 5:7).  And how was He heard?  Have we the proof that He was heard and answered?  ‘The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.’   A large place?  Yes, a very large place He is in.  How enlarged was our Lord through His Cross!  ‘How am I straitened,’ He said—‘how am I straitened till it be accomplished!’ (Luke 12:50).  This was enlargement through suffering: His passion meant enlargement, release from limitation.  But it is the voice of faith.  As He goes to the Cross, faith goes beyond the Cross and claims the answer of life, not death; enlargement, not limitation.”

“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

The word “tribulation” here means “narrow” or “tight place”; it suggests “trouble” and oppositional crowding, “to cramp.”  God cramps our style, and we are in trouble all the way through and every day (whereas the wicked are not in trouble as other men).  We must through Jesus Christ—and sharing in His experience of death, burial, and resurrection—enter spiritual life and the privileges associated with that life.  And there is no other way to get there except through this narrow way.  Yes, it is frightful to realize it means flaying the meat of our flesh off its skeletal support—that it will indeed kill us as we are presently constituted; but once we go through it, it is over, and we walk in newness of life no longer tormented by the insistent suggestion of sin and the confining ravages of depravity.  Flesh only gets tribulated because it is too big, and if we are sorrowful and hurting about it, it is only because we are not as spiritually mature as we thought we were.  Webster’s 1828 version dictionary defines tribulation as “Severe affliction; distresses of life; vexations. In Scripture, it often denotes the troubles and distresses which proceed from persecution,” i. e., “When tribulation or persecution ARISETH BECAUSE OF THE WORD, HE IS OFFENDED” (Matthew 13:21).  The verse preceding this one explains the one who gets offended (and falls away [at least on some level]); he has no FIRM ROOT in himself.  In other words, he never married himself in REAL belief to it; he is superficial, and values his own mind about things above the whole truth of the word of God.  This is epidemic today!

But Isaac (for an example), whose name means “laughter,” did not laugh with joy straightway; likewise, we too cry before we laugh.  When Isaac was commanded by God to not return to Egypt during a time of famine in the land, he settled in Gerar (an oxymoron, because Gerar means “sojourn” or “to be a stranger”).  In other words, settle while in a state of exile or pilgrimage or “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13).  Isaac’s first attempt to obey God’s word about remaining in Gerar resulted in digging a well at Esek, which means “contention.”  Then he ups and tries again at Sitnah, which means “enmity.”  Is warring and enemies our lot?  Will we ever reach pay-dirt?  Will we ever win?  Will we ever be happy?  Oh, up and try just one more time!  And Isaac does; at Rehoboth, which means “plenty of room.”  Indeed, “At last the Lord has made room for us [Isaac, his family, and his entourage], and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:22).

The point is this: God is making a spacious place for us, but sorrow fits us for it, not joy (though joy is promised and is never-ending ultimately).  Indeed, “God in His power is guarding through faith for a salvation that even now stands ready for unveiling at the End of the Age.  Rejoice triumphantly in the prospect of this, even if now, for a short time, you are compelled to SORROW amid various trials” (1 Peter 1:5-6 Weymouth).  “I assure you: you will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16:20 HCSB).

Another example of sorrow preceding joy—and thus narrowness preceding expansiveness—is found in the life of Jabez.   “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10 NIV).  Preceding Jabez’ cry was his mother’s cry when she bore him; she bore him in pain, thus she named him Jabez, which means “he will cause pain” or “sorrow maker.”  But Jabez was more honorable than his brothers!  Yes, “sorrow maker” or “he will cause pain” is more honorable than his brothers, just as “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6 NASB).  Smallness is where evil prevails upon us; it is only the magnanimous—the enlarged-above-pettiness-person—that walks above the storms of mortal man (we are not to walk as mere men).  Small-mindedness is selfishness, and selfishness is blindness and lameness (forms of death by stagnation); “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 Amp.).

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to heart.  Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better and gains gladness.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth and sensual joy” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 Amp.).  “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing.  He who goes forth bearing seed and weeping...shall DOUBTLESS come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6 Amp.). “Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!  Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!” (Matthew 5:3-4 Amp.).

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Commentary on Judges Chapter Four

The book of Judges is a book about apostasy (apostasy is defined as “renunciation of a religious faith” or “abandonment of a previous loyalty”), a time when “there was no king in Israel” (suggesting anarchy or lawlessness); it was a time best described by the closing words of the book: “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  Our times, no doubt, parallel those days.  BUT!—there is hope; just as there was hope for Israel in the wide ranging days of apostasy.  God is always working behind the scenes to bring about judgment unto victory, and in support of that goodness at the backend of a difficult process, God faithfully works His sovereign will to accomplish our salvation by raising up deliverers all along the circumstantial and materially constructed narrow way that leads to spiritual enlargement and everlasting life.  Here is the entire chapter (Judges 4:1-24), with my remarks throughout:    
1 “And the children of Israel (the new creation spirit in us) again did evil (siding with its own soul/flesh) in the sight of the Lord (God sees it all and will in no wise leave the guilty unpunished), when Ehud (“joining together” in a succession mold, kind of like an ecumenical unity formed outside of genuine spirit unity) was dead (after God killed that idea altogether).”

2 “And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin (“he will understand” eventually [as God will again be High and lifted up again in the land]) king of Canaan (“to be brought low” or “to be humbled”; all flesh bows before God, either willingly, or by force), that reigned in Hazor (“in a fenced in circle” or “a castle”); the captain of whose host was Sisera (“a field of battle” or “something that moves along swift and vigorously, like a horse or swift/swallow bird”) which dwelt in Harosheth (“a mind filled with devices or human reasonings”) of the Gentiles (“relating to the nations at large, as distinguished from the Jews,” and that which also corresponds to anything in us that is yet uncircumcised and therefore useless for holy service).”  In other words, God will eventually be exalted in the earth after the reigning element in the human soul is humbled and removed from the throne of power therein; it has too long reigned within its own selfish sphere, holing itself up into its own high-tower of supposed elevated position from the suffering way of the cross that leads to resurrection power.  The soul in elevation is not right in its vaunting; the just who live by their faith are those who practically lay down their souls in obeisance, getting out of the way of the glory of the Lord—which by design—ought to shine forth from within their spirits into the dark regions of the soul and flesh, and thereby be made enlightened and useful to instruct/disciple the nations (outward to others).  

3 “And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.”  So in particular, the immature new creation spirit cried like a baby to their Father for help against the oppressive rule of human reasoning that was darkening their spiritual understanding.  Nine hundred (900) is significant.  It suggests judgment unto victory, war to peace; it is divine completeness (9) multiplied by God’s election of grace/children of promise (100).  Nine is just short of law and responsibility, and therefore is worthy of judgment; however, the children of promise are still children of promise, so that iron which sharpens iron concept continues to chisel away flesh from off their spirits.  The twenty years of heavy oppression that afflicted their human reasoning was all about their redemption from that suffering mentality.  Iron is the mettle of man, inflexible rule, the tyranny of flesh; for twenty long oppressive years judgment prevailed against the idol of man’s natural strength.  When enough pressing made the children cry, God sent a mother (Deborah, a mother to Israel).
4 And Deborah (“a bee,” but not a busy-bee in diffusive and divisive fashion, but one “being eloquent and diligent, doing all things in order, which the nature of the bee symbolizes”; also, the work of the bee is to sting away the force of evil to protect the corporate sweetness of the revelation of Christ), a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth (the helpmeet of “torches,” one who, like Gideon with his 300, shattered the jar to reveal the torch—siding with those who are willing to be crushed in order to allow the light of Christ to shine through them), she—the mothering and nurturing aspect of God—judged Israel at that time.

5 “And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah (“a lofty place” consecrated to idols) and Bethel (“house of God”) in mount Ephraim (“two-fold” fruitfulness; fruitfulness only achieved through much pruning): and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”  The judgment of God sat enthroned in a motherly nurturing way between children who still idolized their own thoughts and ways and strength above God’s, and God’s completed way cleansed of those wrong alliances.  God’s ultimate plan for children of promise is elevation, not humiliation, but the process is always down before up.  The palm tree is the symbol of victory in Christ (death, burial, and resurrection; humility before honor).  Deborah was established there, and from that internal place of being grounded in Christ, God nurtures His children, maturing them from flesh rule to spirit rule.  

6 “And she sent and called Barak (“lightening” or “thunderbolt”; he who strikes fear in the hearts of the enemy by his strength and dauntless courage) the son of Abinoam (“father of pleasantness or beauty”) out of Kedeshnaphtali (“the sanctuary of my wrestling” to be consecrated), and said unto him, ‘Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor (“stone-quarry” or “separated”; from the root “to sever or to point”), and take with thee ten thousand men (a number representing the law and responsibility of becoming and maintaining divine completeness) of the children of Naphtali (“my wrestling”) and of the children of Zebulun (“wished for habitation”; “co-habitation”)?’”  In other words, she, the mothering aspect of God’s nature, sends a pleasant verdict out of His desire for our sanctification.  Its specific instructions are that we are to ascend the mountain of separation, a place where we will be truly circumcised, a place where our stony hearts are to be replaced with hearts of flesh; we have a responsibility to become like Christ (through and through), and we must wrestle with God in our hearts until Christ is formed in us REALLY.  
7 “And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon (“tortuous”; “winding or meandering about”; the river where Elijah, many years later, slew the prophets of Baal) Sisera (that “field of battle”), the captain of Jabin's army (the leading head of the force behind coming to an understanding through the process of being made humble), with his chariots and his multitude (his strength and cunning); and I will deliver him into thine hand (God will establish the works of your hand).”  Oh how the carnal mind vexes us!  Its endless rationalizations and fruitless musings twist the simple Word of Truth, destroying peace and tranquility, and, amazingly, no matter how vigorous it works and how brilliant it thinks, it never resolves anything.  But here God prevails by humbling the carnal mind of man; once freed from leviathan (the false government of man), the church is set at liberty to be governed instead by the Holy Spirit (the true government of God, the kingdom of God in His people).

8 “And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”  Although Barak is a seasoned warrior, and knows how to man-up, having many times previous proven himself worthy of honor, here against the prospect of going to war with leviathan, he is wise not to go alone.  Taking a cue from Moses, Barak like Moses says to God, “If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).  God is personified in the tender character of Deborah here just like He was represented in the battle-hardened character of Moses previously; to rely on this tender personification—in this particular case—is not weakness per se, but discernment.  Perhaps Barak was knowledgeable of what God said to Job out of the whirlwind concerning the government of man.  Think of leviathan, not as an animal, but as what it represents (“reasonable stubbornness”), the largest giant in the Promised Land (excepting perhaps behemoth—which I believe—is “unreasonable stubbornness”).  “Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, restrain his tongue with a rope?  Can you put a cord through his nose, pierce his jaw with a barb?  Will he beg you at length or speak gentle words to you?  Will he make a pact with you so that you will take him as a permanent slave?  Can you play with him like a bird, put a leash on him for your girls?  Will merchants sell him; will they divide him among traders?  Can you fill his hide with darts, his head with a fishing spear?  Should you lay your hand on him, you would never remember the battle.  Such hopes would be delusional; surely the sight of him makes one stumble.  Nobody is fierce enough to rouse him” (Job 41:1-10 CEB).  In spiritual warfare, it is as David noted: “You have...given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand has held me up; your gentleness and condescension have made me great” (Psalm 18:35 Amp.).  Strength perfected in weakness, God inside of man, is the only way to victory, and God in Deborah is God condescending to man in nurturing and mothering fashion (not to affirm babies in their immaturity, but to encourage them to grow up into maturity).
9 “And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh (sanctuary).”  So, here goes the mothering aspect of God like a thunderbolt, and it travels more swiftly down into the inner sanctum of man than even that swift field of battle resistance man makes in response to God’s soft but compelling touch; God’s gentle answer turns away wrath, and also He wins against the circuitous carnal reasoning heart/mind of man that dared to think it could keep Him out.  God’s own right hand, stronger than man’s grasp—yet more gentle than a woman’s touch—saves us, not we ourselves; the honor is His, open shame ours!  Indeed, “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame” (Daniel 9:7).
10 “And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.”  And here, with the tender mercies of God upon her, the soul wrestling with God and striving to enter the rest of her co-habitation with God—and standing on the foundation of the law and responsibility of becoming and maintaining her divine completeness—makes an advancement towards that good end.
11 “Now Heber (“fellowship”; “a society”) the Kenite (“a nest,” especially in a high rock, as an eagle’s nest) which was of the children of Hobab (“most beloved”) the father in law of Moses (“saved out of the water,”), had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim (“enormous migrations”), which is by Kedesh (sanctuary).  Herein is the isolated individualist who thinks to oppose the corporate well-being; he is beside the sanctuary, but not inside it.  Their rebellion from gathering together as eagles keeps them solitary and blind to God’s overarching purposes, and because of that rebellion, they find themselves opposing the plan of God.

12 “And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.”  Apparently, Heber had some family and/or friends that sided with him, but to no avail.  The fierce beauty of the Lord and the Consuming Fire presence of His glory cannot be stopped even by rebellious and stony hearts; here God begins to separate man from his entrenched stubbornness (the behemoth spirit).
13 “And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.”  A field of battle is drawn in the sand, and all the might of that oppressive rule of human reasoning mounts up for battle against the insistence of God and the compelling of His gentle Spirit that demands that the soul lay down her arms, but alas, the soul fights God to the “nth” degree.  Indeed, from the manufacturing of excuses and devising of vain imaginations up to spurious arguments and all the way down and out to tortuous overwrought musings, the uplifted soul, which is not right in man (because it refuses to live by faith) must be humbled (no matter how hard it fights God for supremacy in the body temple sanctuary).  

14 “And Deborah said unto Barak, ‘Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee?’ So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.”  Here, our nurturing God sends out His quick flash of revelatory light into the imprisoned soul, and the message declared is that “Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2).  From the sanctuary location of God’s throne in our spirit, God graciously comes down to the base of our beings, to our flesh/soul aspects of our beings, and there affirms to us the law and responsibility we have to come up to an agreement with God in our spirit (and thereby achieving our destiny to reach divine completeness).

15 “And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.”  The Lord via the Holy Spirit wielding the sword of the word of God displaces the enemy that had a stronghold field of battle in the soul, and so quickly did judgment come, like a thunderbolt, that all the engines and implements of warfare the enemy used against the soul are lost to the enemy forever as he whimpers away in weakness and shame.

16 “But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.”  So thoroughgoing is the judgment of God against the heart and mind of man that manufactures excuses, devises vain imaginings, and makes spurious arguments, and so tortuous is it to the soul which is thus afflicted, that when God judges on behalf of His people, He makes a clean break of the enemy off of our lives; so much so that we end up completely amazed beyond belief.  Indeed, “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream” (Psalm 126:1).

17 “Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.”  Now, figuratively, the field of battle tries to take itself up to a gathering of eagles high upon a rock (a big mistake!), because there in the thin air, in the modest tent of man in the weaker natural mold of a woman, is a spiritually hardy and agile seer with deft and dutiful hands.  How unsuspecting is Sisera!  His fatal error is that he relies on a tenuous relationship founded on human perception rather than on a covenant of marriage relationship founded on the true God who sees all.

18 “And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, ‘Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not.’ And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.” Yes, the wild goat (Jael) tricks the swift cunning of the head of carnal understanding (Sisera) into being at peace within the outermost covering of her thinly veneered and deceptive intent; she beats him at his own game, and lulls him into a false security.  And truthfully, so the Lord must work with us; it is only because we are deceitful that He seems to be deceitful to us.  As God declares, “To the pure, you show yourself pure, and to the morally corrupt, you appear to be perverse” (Psalm 18:26 NIV), and as the apostle affirms, “Behold...I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.  And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.  But be it so, I did not burden you: NEVERTHELESS, BEING CRAFTY, I CAUGHT YOU WITH GUILE” (2 Corinthians 12:14-16 KJV).  Even though “God created mankind upright (ramrod straight)...they have gone in search of many schemes (ways and means to not be straight; they look for excuses to justify being crooked)” (Ecclesiastes 7:29 NIV).  “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise or anything of [lasting] worth” (Job 5:12 Amp.).  “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’” (1 Corinthians 3:19 NIV).

19 “And he said unto her, ‘Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty.’ And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.”  As the scriptures say, “If your enemy...is thirsty, give him a drink” (Romans 12:20), and herein Jael does more than offer water, she offers milk!  And in addition to upgrading water to milk, she also goes the extra mile in covering (or concealing) him again.  It is the first and foundational duty of a mother to give the breast and protect the infant in nurturing care.  “A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench; He will bring forth justice in truth” (Isaiah 42:3 Amp.).  Before judgment comes, and any hope for mercy to triumph over judgment, mercy and grace must be administered to the furthest extent.  Though Jael had already devised a plan in her heart to carry out vengeance against Sisera when opportunity presented itself, nonetheless, until that opportunity came, she remained dutiful to gracious care.  And such is the way we are to act; we cannot touch leviathan without God’s finger behind our hand in the matter.

20 “Again he said unto her, ‘Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, “Is there any man here?” that thou shalt say, “No.”’”  Here is the whispered strategy of the enemy of our soul!  Stand at the entry points of enlightenment, at the door-gate senses of perception, and when God comes to you and asks about my evil presence, deny it!  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say...?’” (Genesis 3:1 ESV).  

21 “Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.”  Oh how significant is a tent nail!—with it she strikes a lethal blow into and through the head of the serpent, both destroying him and claiming the ground upon which he died.  God decreed for all time, that “I will put contempt between you (the serpent; the devil) and the woman, between your offspring and hers.  They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels.” A hammer in hand (the active word of God, not so much in the mouth of man [that spirit part of us], as in demonstrative power in the gentle and weak hand of woman [the soul part of us]) is about God helping the feeble hand of man do his futile thorn and thistle work until He causes victory to come forth from judgment/justice.  Again, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench,” but when?—He answers, not “until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20 ESV).  The foundation of justice is a firm but quiet resolve, an insistent but unassailable-to-argument position at the core of our beings; before God brings justice to victory however, the divine record says “He will not strive or wrangle or cry out loudly; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:19).  Likewise, we must, in quietness and trust, hide ourselves away from evil into the inner sanctums of our heart, and there, in humble prayer, breathe out His judgment: Jesus Christ prevails!  Then this day arrives!  The enemy tires and sleeps the sleep of death inside the sphere of our domain.  The enemy bruised our heel, but we now destroy his head.  We claim this ground!  We enlarge our domain; indeed, the tent peg we drove through the temple area of the enemy’s head goes through that leviathan part in our temple.  Finally, we are free!   “Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs.  For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left” (Isaiah 54:2-3).  We must not be duped into thinking of this act by Jael as an act of self-will; no, for whatever else it might have been in God’s eyes—beyond our ability to see into Jael’s deceptive behavior—her example and instruction to us is figuratively about God using our weakness to demonstrate His power.  Her act creates no contradiction for us.  Spiritually, and by God’s command, we drive a tent peg into ground gained; we enlarge our tent, the territory of our inheritance, and we do so the moment we claim it with violent intent and hammering resolve.  These words are still obligatory upon us: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.  On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21 NIV).  Charles Finney, that great revivalist of the nineteenth century and one of the catalysts of the Second Great Awakening here in the United States of America, said “that the minister should hunt after sinners and Christians, wherever they may have entrenched themselves in inaction. It is not the design of preaching to make men easy and quiet, but to make them ACT. It is not the design, in calling in a physician, to have him give opiates, and so cover up the disease and let it run on till it works death; but to search out the disease wherever it may be hidden, and to remove it. So, if a professor of religion has backslidden, and is full of doubts and fears, it is not the minister’s duty to quiet him in his sins, and comfort him, but to hunt him out of his errors and backslidings, and to show him just where he stands, and what it is that makes him full of doubts and fears.”

22 “And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, ‘Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest.’ And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.”  The key here is that Barak continued to pursue the enemy, and success came to him regardless of his own personal lack of involvement in the final act of Sisera’s destruction.  A small gentle hand, like still small voice in whispered tone, goes to the deepest recesses of the human temple, and there, in that quiet place, rebellion is thwarted.  God, though Almighty, is also All-Humble, outside the box and in it too; nothing escapes Him, even the tiniest detail.  It is “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11 Amp.) that we must pursue our enemies down to smallest seed of their potential to wreak havoc in us.  You must not give up until “The God of peace” crushes “Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).  

23 & 24 “So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel. And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.”  Three times for emphasis “Jabin the king of Canaan” is mentioned here.  As Cortland Myers said, “The finest china in the world is burned at least three times, some of it more than three times. Dresden china is always burned three times. Why does it go through that intense fire? Once ought to be enough; twice ought to be enough. No, three times are necessary to burn that china so that the gold and the crimson are brought out more beautiful and then fastened there to stay.  We are fashioned after the same principle in human life. Our trials are burned into us once, twice, thrice; and by God's grace these beautiful colors are there and they are there to stay forever.”  In other words, the emphasis—and thrice made—is on the idea of true understanding being linked to humility.  All our works are designed—contrary to popular and common belief—to produce futility that leads to humiliation.  “For what has a man left from all his labor and from the striving and vexation of his heart in which he has toiled under the sun?  For all his days are but pain and sorrow, and his work is a vexation and grief; his mind takes no rest even at night. This is also vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility)! ...THIS, I HAVE SEEN, IS FROM THE HAND OF GOD” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-24 Amp.).  And again, more explicitly, “Behold, is it not by appointment of the Lord of hosts that the nations toil only to satisfy the fire [that will consume their work], and the peoples weary themselves only for emptiness, falsity, and futility?” (Habakkuk 2:13).  There, with our mouths in the dust and our cheeks given to the smiter as prescribed by the weeping prophet Jeremiah (see Lamentations 3:29-30), God thrusts a tent peg through the temple of our carnality, and we die to ourselves.  Only then is Canaan-land—the Promised Land of the soul that died to its old construction of itself and then made new and alive in its present construction of self replicated after the image of Christ—opened to us.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Double Incarnation

He (Zerubbabel—“one born in Babylon”) shall bring forth the HEADSTONE thereof with shoutings, crying, ‘Grace, grace’ unto it” (Zechariah 4:7 KJV).
Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the HEAD (see Ephesians 1:22) and the STONE (see Matthew 21:42), i. e., the HEADSTONE.  BUT, the foundation is comprised of not only Jesus Christ, but also of the apostles and prophets.  The double pronouncement of grace and the dual witness of oil anointing (that which was poured out over the headstone) speaks of the grace and anointing inside not only God’s only begotten incarnate Son, but God incarnate (Jesus Christ) incarnate (in us)—a double incarnation.

Those of us who were born in Babylon—born into confusion and chaos—are also those who are born again into the record of heaven and are therefore delivered from the foundation of confusion and chaos.  The New Jerusalem come down out of heaven is like Dorothy’s house falling from the sky and squashing the wicked witch; she was not in Kansas anymore, and we are no longer in Babylon!  Let us not like Dorothy click our heels together and wish a return to our birth-land; we have a better country!  

Ultimately, this consecrated Headstone is a grave marker here on earth but a record of the vision of heaven inscribed on a stone tablet to the one who runs this Christian race.  Grace said twice implies a twofold meaning.  When this second temple’s headstone was laid, the old generation wept while the new generation cried for joy, and the sound of sorrow and joy mixed together.  Ezra 3:13 says  ‘So the people could not distinguish the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far off.’”

God—by declaring grace twice—is affirming both God and man; grace to the Headstone (Jesus) and Petra (the little stone) us Peter-people (in Christ).  We weep for what we lost (Solomon in all his glory; the opulent and the-remarkable-to-the-natural-eye temple—representing our natural life), but shout for joy at what we find (something better than Solomon, but in less obvious clothing, in less ostentatious or showy garb—representing our supernatural life).  God has established a new order of man; stop weeping at what is passed away!  The sound might be mixed and loud right now, but joy will prevail, and the new man alone will stand when it’s all over.  Get with the program!—Get with the new man!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Defacing Diana

“But when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again and kept it up for two hours: ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians! Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’”—Acts 19:34

“Woman is the glory of man”—1 Corinthians 11:7

“Many walk...whose glory is in their shame”—Philippians 3:18-19

Realization of spiritual Jewishness is disconcerting to the natural and unregenerated mind, and often when it is realized, unbelief, followed fast by confusion and anger, manifests in violent protest.  Man in his own glory is woman in authority, man out of divine order (in spiritual symbolism).  A brief survey of the goddess Diana (as the Romans called her; the Greeks called her “Artemis”) reveals something profoundly insidious, and as pertaining to the elect in the process of redemption, something we would be wise to better understand in these last days filled with so many “lying sign and wonders.”

Diana means “bright sky” or “daylight” and Ephesus means “desirable”; in spiritual meaning, however, Diana of the Ephesians means to desire the lesser natural light of night above the greater spiritual light of day.  For the Christian, it is to put the weaker vessel in prominence above the greater treasure (Christ) that is inside it; it is to glory in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.  To worship one’s own enlightenment is to worship the woman Diana, to glory in one’s own shame.  Here is the result: “The noble and precious sons of Zion, [once] worth their weight in fine gold—how they are esteemed [merely] as earthen pots or pitchers—the works of the hands of the potter!” (Lamentations 4:2 Amp.). 
Behind the idea of the worship of the goddess Diana is man seeking his own glory.  As Jesus Christ asked the Jewish leaders yesterday, so might He ask those who bow down to the spirit of Diana today: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44 NASB).

Unredeemed man at the height of his powers—in his pomp—is man glorying in his shame; there is no way around this illicit inordination except by redemption.  Moreover, those on the path of redemption, but as yet purged of idols, are also glorying in shame when to those idols they still bow.  But this is bowing to the lesser light, worshipping and serving “the creature rather than the Creator” (see Romans 1:25); this is circumventing the divine order, elevating woman above man and man above God. 

No matter how bright someone shines—whether intellectually or physically (or in any other way in natural gifting)—the light of that kind of glory is disconnected from the Son, and is therefore, a secondary and terminable light.  The bright sky of Diana, however much she enlightens the mind of man and however much she may seem real as a result of that enlightenment—if she is measured by eternal measurement (which is how God measures)—she is illusory (all moonshine without heat).  In fact, some ancient writers considered the word “Diana” to mean “dies,” or that which is related to “the shine of the Moon.”

When I think of those that Daniel said would have insight and shine like the firmament, and of those upon whose heads (and extended upward to “something resembling a throne” whereupon “the appearance of a man” sat—see Ezekiel 1:26) that an “awesome gleam of crystal” like an expanse (a firmament) would appear and shine, I think of the “bright sky” lie of Diana of the Ephesians, and of the angel of light appearance of Satan as two examples of glory mimicry.  Behind the lying signs and wonders of these last days are the false apostles who do not know God; the elect which are wont to be deceived are near deceived by this dance of darkness disguised as light.

Wikipedia defines the mythology of Diana as “heavenly” or “divine”; it also says she “was the goddess of the hunt, the moon and birthing.”  This is eerily similar in meaning to Jericho, which means “a breathing moon.”  In connection with the concept behind Jericho, is the idea of the human heart disconnected from God (yet still trying to breathe!).  A breathing moon is an impossibility (a moon being a dead satellite).  She can only “breathe” out the breath of another; she can only reflect the light of another.  Likewise, Diana’s “bright sky” can only be bright based on reflected glory.

This is the essential or core deception behind the enthronement aspect of the weaker and feminine light of man.  This is not a gender issue, but a misunderstanding of God’s divine order.  Man enthroned without God outside the church is like the bride of Christ enthroned without Christ inside the church; both effectually worship Diana.  Since the woman is the glory of man—woman worshipped (in any form)—is man worshipping his own glory.  Wikipedia also said this about Diana:  “The celestial character of Diana is reflected in her connection with light, inaccessibility, virginity, and her preference for dwelling on high mountains”; this puritanical depiction of her virtues, and her ascended placement on top of “high mountains,” is indicative of man elevating the premise of vain imagination above the holy ground of the Most High.

The glory of Diana is the light of humanity undiscovered and in its pure and undefiled nativity; but the glory of the Lord discovers her whereabouts and shines a light on her true character.  The elevated places she ascends to are indicative of the soul that is uplifted and not right in man.  Idol worship of the goddess Diana in a formal shrine might be gone, but it is really not so much gone as it has changed its color and shape to better appeal to the “supposedly” more enlightened modern man.  But do not let overt idol worship be the only rule of measurement; behind all worship is the spirit of that worship, and covert idol worship is regularly done deep in the heart of man.  Whatever we look at affects us; if to our own nature we stare, we become narcissistic; if to God we stare, we are transformed. 

“For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]”; “And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit”; “But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth].  For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; for he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like” (1 Corinthians 13:12 and 3:18; James 1:22-24 Amp.).

Ultimately, to deface Diana, we must take our eyes off self and put them on God.       


Friday, September 19, 2014

Meriting Unmerited Grace

“For the grace of God has APPEARED, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12 NASB).

The unmerited favor which defines the biblical word “grace” is often misunderstood, and perhaps more so now than ever before in history.  The Western culture—and the  context in which the American church exists—is so promiscuous and morally anarchical, that it has overflowed its banks and flooded us with its language and behavior to such a degree as to pervert the very foundation of godliness: GRACE.  That’s right!  Unmerited favor is the floor of the house of godly living.  Our righteousness is not our own; it is imputed as a gift.  And only after it is received, do our lives begin.

The grace of God HAS appeared; all men are without excuse.  The first graces of life are already given; what we do with it—or if we receive it at all—is now obligatory upon us.  Just as the unconditional love of the mother (who embraced us in her womb and nourished us at her bosom), is the foundation of our well-being, and must grow into the conditional love of the father (who instructs, disciplines, and hardens us for service and viability in a harsh world environment), so the initial graces of life (the unmerited favor of life) must grow into the merited glory of a life fully matured in Christ.  God rewards us disproportionally to utter merit always, but He does require that we DO something with the unmerited grace He gives us. 

Indeed, “The grace of God (His unmerited favor and blessing) has come forward (appeared) for the deliverance from sin and the eternal salvation for all mankind.  It has trained us to reject and renounce all ungodliness (irreligion) and worldly (passionate) desires, to live discreet (temperate, self-controlled), upright, devout (spiritually whole) lives in this present world, awaiting and looking for the [fulfillment, the realization of our] blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One), who gave Himself on our behalf that He might redeem us (purchase our freedom) from all iniquity and purify for Himself a people [to be peculiarly His own, people who are] eager and enthusiastic about [living a life that is good and filled with] beneficial deeds” (Titus 2:11-15 Amp.).
Matthew Henry, concerning these verses of Scripture, said: “See our duty in a very few words; denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly, righteously, and godly, notwithstanding all snares, temptations, corrupt examples, ill usage, and what remains of sin in the believer's heart, with all their hindrances.”  In other words, there is no longer a cloak for sin, no acceptable excuse for living in base drunkenness and debauchery; fleshly desires and dissipations (squandering money, time and energies on worthless pursuits), excesses, misspending, overconsumption and self-indulgence must give way to sobriety of mind and heart, imputed righteousness, and living after the image of God in Christ that has been placed inside us in Seed form.

Yes, in Seed form!  That is the key to meriting unmerited grace.  Christ is in our hearts by faith (a faith God graced us with); what will we now do with Christ?  Will He form in us to the full stature?  Will the Seed become the Son?  This great unmerited salvation merits our attention and the full powers of our effort to realize its potential.  Mom loved us, dad disciplined us, and we—incorporating all that they taught us (from that premise)—we build the superstructure of our lives.  Likewise, the master-builder apostle (representing the Apostle of our faith), after birthing and establishing us (by his New Testament writings), insists that we work out what is worked in.  Indeed, Paul said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).  Spurgeon, remarking on these verses, said, “Now, the matter to be worked out is a something which the text tells us is at the same time worked in. We may safely defy anybody to work a thing out which is not first in. God, we are told in the second verse of our text, works in us, therefore it is that we are to work the inward towards the outward.  We work out, bring out, educe from within ourselves to our exterior life that which God constantly works in us in the interior secret recesses of our spiritual being.”

Though unmerited favor is always unmerited, there are those who propagate a grace so disconnected to consequential behavior as to warrant the moniker characterization “hyper-grace.”  So misunderstood is grace that I wrote a short article titled “The Misnomer of Hyper-Grace” on 3/29/2014; it is worth repeating here in support of this article:

“I guess I have been in my own world for so long that I hardly knew there were those who labeled certain ministers as hyper-grace propagators.  And as I discovered this idea, and the misconceptions surrounding it, I realized it is like so many things I encounter: it is misunderstood.

“Grace, like love and mercy (and God Himself for that matter) is inherently superfluous, super-abundant, without end, based on an I AM the Alpha-and-Omega everlasting God who INHABITS eternity (BEING at all times at all places all at once, outside of time and in it too).  It is IMPOSSIBLE to hyper-exaggerate God and His goodness, and consequently, His grace.  It is, however, possible to be hyper-ignorant.  I am not trying to be cruel, but many don’t understand things deep enough to see the logical addendum to their arrived at dogmas and the truncated view of things their dogmas are based on.  Yes, we all know in part, but how small does that part need to be?  Someday we will be like Him, we are told, and every intervening day between now and then ought to see our part growing bigger and therefore closer to the whole truth.  If we get honest, I imagine, most of us would have to admit that we have not studied to SHOW OURSELVES APPROVED UNTO GOD, and that we are more like a Sadducee than a disciple (one that God had to soundly rebuke) when He said to them: “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29 NASB).

“We cannot afford to let experience be our only teacher.  Just because our experience with sin has not been victorious does not mean that Christ did not overcome sin and transmit that victory to His children.  If grace is not afforded us (or so we think), and sin dominates our lives, it does not negate the power of God to do all things in us, for us, and through us.  It only means we are deficient in FAITH, in appropriating the grace He abundantly lavishes on His children ALWAYS.  It can only mean we have an evil and unbelieving heart, no matter how benignly we try to tell ourselves otherwise.  I’m inclined to think that most of those who accuse others of hyper-grace teaching are more like the ten spies who could not overcome giants, rather than the two spies who did overcome giants. 

“Nonetheless, I am sympathetic to those who do not seem to experience the full measure of grace.  I am a prophet by office, and therefore, I TEND towards 'doom and gloom' and 'law'; perhaps that is why it took me many years to reconcile the idea of grace with the righteous requirements of holiness.  Nonetheless, grace cannot be exaggerated, only a perverted view of it.  Grace is not license of flesh, but law of spirit.  It is encouragement of spirit and rebuke of flesh always.  It comes tied together in one love package from God.  Grace gives us the ability to obey the gospel from the heart, and inclusive with that enabling of heart (or spirit) to obey, is a correcting of soul (to agree with spirit) and a destruction of the energy of flesh (to remove its base poison from our ascended spirit’s expression).  For many years I could not overcome the giants, and therefore I died a thousand deaths in a barren wilderness.  'Only the rebellious dwell in a dry land' say the Scriptures, and all that I can say is that—looking back and being completely honest—I was practicing witchcraft and wondering why God was so spartan with His grace toward me.  Through the dirty lens of my own viewpoint, I thought all people were like me, and those who walked in 'hyper' grace were delusional (and somehow even scripturally wrong).  But I finally came to accept that it was this simple: BE IT UNTO YOU ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH.  And IF we accept that IT IS FINISHED, striving ends and grace begins; more grace is given IMMEDIATELY when we BELIEVE (faster than even the hyper speed of a twinkling eye).”

In the end, it would be wise of us to consider ourselves merely unworthy servants (having only done our duty), and as those—however much our stature grows to personify eldership (or even kingship/sonship for that matter)—that rejoice to throw their crowns at His feet.  It is sufficient that we hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23), however much of an elder, king, or son we become.  The Lord Himself showed us the way.  Indeed, “Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.  And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 Amp.). 


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Error of Balaam

“They...have abandoned themselves for the sake of gain [it offers them, following] THE ERROR OF BALAAM” (Jude 1:11 Amp.).

“Having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed THE WAY OF BALAAM, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:14-16 NASB).

“I have a few things against you: you have some people...who are clinging to THE TEACHING OF BALAAM, who taught Balak to set a trap and a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, [to entice them] to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols and to practice lewdness [giving themselves up to sexual vice]” (Revelation 2:13-15 Amp.).

In the above three portions of Scripture we see three different aspects of one truth concerning Balaam, and it is expressed as the ERROR, the WAY, and The TEACHING.  Because I see them all caught up into the one expression, i. e., “the ERROR,” I have changed the sequential order of their introduction into Holy Writ, but the proper order found is the WAY, the ERROR, and the TEACHING.  This is significant when compared to the fact that Jesus Christ is expressed as the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE in John 14:6.

In the life of our Lord we see the WAY as the way of suffering, the way of the cross (the way of death unto life); in the life of Balaam we see the way of deviation, avoidance of suffering, avoidance of the cross means to life.  The “eyes full of adultery” which marks the way of Balaam is based on greediness of desire and an inordinate love for the wages of unrighteousness or sin (which is death).  This way is really an anti-way, because what is behind this way is a relinquishing of responsibility or a letting off of effort to do righteousness.  Behind it is the belief that God’s way is too hard, which flies in the face of the fact that “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).  Spiritual laziness tends downward into baseness, down into our fallen nature; we must always rise with the Spirit to mortify our flesh.  If not, we will crystalize our characters along the wrong lines.  To be carnal minded is death, and internal rationalization leading to external compromise is the evidence of that death.  And Balaam’s way is this way of carnal death.  Ultimately, it is the broad way that leads to destruction.

Jesus Christ is the TRUTH—the personification of Scripture; in Him, there is no lie.  In Balaam, it is not so much that he lied factually (which of course he did—ultimately and immediately), but that his very person was dispositionally off-center (he personified himself after the mold of the character of his fallen nature).  The error of Balaam is found in the limited scope or tight parameters of this false mold; he “abandoned” himself as God originally constructed him to be.  “One thing I have learned [found]: God made people good [virtuous; upright], but they have found all kinds of ways to be bad [sought out many devices]” (Ecclesiastes 7:29 EXB) to avoid their responsibility to maintain that good and virtuous and upright (straight) mold of character God provided.  Balaam—like Solomon and the Galatians after him—started out well, but also like wanton Solomon and the fleshly Galatians, he went the way of his lower nature; this is the error of Balaam.  Abandoning self for the sake of gain is to throw off all restraint; but it is ironically and ultimately to lose rather than to gain (just as “godliness with contentment is great gain”—see 1 Timothy 6:6—so ungodliness with discontentment is great loss).

The teaching of Jesus Christ—the LIFE—glorified God not man; He affirmed God’s righteousness and condemned man’s unrighteousness always in the expression of that life.  Balaam, contradistinctively, taught man’s rights and God’s stinginess always.  His skewed perspective, born of greed, made him believe a lie concerning the true nature of things.  Whenever we see God—but not ourselves in relationship to that vision—we misinterpret His teaching and misrepresent His intent.  When flesh is enthroned in our hearts, our spiritual sight is less than partial; it is faulty even in its partiality!  Compromise is making concession to flesh, and making concession to flesh is to teach false doctrine.  This is the teaching—the LIFE—of Balaam: COMPROMISE.  It is a teaching (or life) expressed as divided loyalties (eating both at the table of demons and communing with God); it is often expressed as sexual looseness (being given over to the appetite of sex without restraint or conscience), but also, in symbolic terms, being given over to anything else that takes the place of God in our lives.

The name Balaam means “destruction of the people” or “swallowing up the people”—and in a ravenous appetite way; he had a gluttonous appetite for ruining Israel.  Beor means “torch” or “lamp” and is from the root word meaning “to consume, to burn up, to depasture (to denude of pasture by constant grazing).”  Balaam is therefore the overwrought seer, the over-penetrating eye, the flash of too much light too quickly upon the subject matter of man (it is enlightenment without purity—a dangerous mix!).  Thus, in the ministry of Balaam, the pure in heart (the Israel of God) that sees God—but before purity of heart is achieved—is brought too quickly to the throne of God (where judgment is).  Inevitably, therefore, those that come to God in their own righteousness—in their native impurity—are consumed by a Consuming Fire rather than merely salted with fire (and thereby preserved).  

Just as there are false apostles who show great signs and wonders and yet know not God, so there are false prophets who see accurately and speak correctly and yet know not God.  Though the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, fruit is judged according to merit.  And just as only men who KNOW women know fatherhood, only those who KNOW God bear fruit.  And the fruit of righteousness grows only on the tree of life, and the tree of life—in the midst of the garden of our hearts—is only arrived at through the flaming sword which guards it.  If we eat of it in an unworthy manner, we crystalize our character into the mold of our sinful nature.  Only death to ourselves as presently constructed—and then life from that death—makes us able to eat of the tree of life without harm.  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.  And as many as walk according to this rule (of the new creation spirit), peace and mercy be upon them (their entire person comprised of body, soul, and spirit), and upon the Israel of God (the new creation spirit at the center of that person)” (Galatians 6:15-16 NKJV).

So, in other words, only those willing to be cut and cauterized by the “flaming sword” reach the tree of life.  Balaam—associated with Moab—is someone (by inference to Moab) associated with incest, someone inordinately absorbed with self; someone who inverts the stream or river of their life (greedily returning it back into themselves) rather than distributing it outward in blessings to others.  The error of Balaam is to be close to the river of life, but not in it, nor to drink from it.  The first mention of Balaam in the Bible finds him “by the river of the land of the children of his people” (Numbers 22:5 KJV).  This first mention is the telling mark of his nature, and it characterizes him—and all those who never lay hold of life—as antilapsarians (those who deny the Fall of Mankind).  They are near life, but never in it.  This is the error of Balaam. 

Later, the prophet tells us how to know the righteousness of God by looking at how Balaam answers the Moabite dilemma (we are all born of spiritual incest, but what we do with that fact determines our destiny).  “O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim (“plains or meadows of acacia”) unto Gilgal (“liberty” or “rolling away”); that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord” (Micah 6:5 KJV).  The plains or meadows of acacia trees in the land of Moab is representative of essential or native human nature, and the liberty given by God in Christ Jesus—and the rolling away aspect that creates that liberty—is suggestive of God rolling away the stone off of the graves of our deaths, the removing of the force of our essential or native nature.  This is to “know the righteousness of the Lord,” but the antilapsarian spirit of Balaam removes any chance of this righteousness by removing the fundamental ground of repentance upon which to build it.  
The error of Balaam is therefore the error of not embracing God’s way when once we are brought to it (all those who heard the gospel but never obeyed it are included here).  We cannot be righteous until we admit unrighteousness; we cannot know the narrow path of life until we get off the expansive plain of death.  And then, once there, we must maintain that separation.  The error of Balaam is the error of not embracing the circumcision of the cross that separates us away from our baser fallen nature in perpetuity (we must die daily to maintain that separation).  The cutting edge of reality is the cross of Christ in sharp relief; God on the resurrection side of it must be encountered regularly to keep one's self out of hell, death, and the grave.  As the apostle asked, “What partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?  What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement [can there be between] a temple of God and idols?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16 Amp.).  The error of Balaam is the antithesis instruction to guard ourselves from idols.  “Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods)—[from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life]” (1 John 5:21 Amp.).     

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

America the Proud!

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”—Proverbs 16:18

Drop the moral ground out of the equation and the bottom line drops with it.  But rather than repent to reestablish that high moral ground in order to strengthen our bottom lines, most of the church in America is still stubbornly and defiantly redoubling their efforts to elevate their bottom lines above morality.  The Almighty Dollar is the church of America’s god (her idol), and because of this tragic fact, God is about to break the staff of her bread (her ecclesiastical economy); He is about to pull it down, pulverize it into a powdery chaff, and blow it away by the breath of His mouth.  If it were not enough that the church in America continues in pride and arrogance—with “fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness” (like wicked Sodom before her)—the church in America is now (also like wicked Sodom before her), not strengthening “the hand of the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49 KJV).  Indeed, “This was the sin of...Sodom,” she was “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; (she) did not help the poor and needy.  (She was) haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with (her)” (Ezekiel 16:49-50 NIV).

If “The punishment of my people (Israel) is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her” (Lamentations 4:6 NIV), then what makes us think that the church in America will not fall also (and by the same example pattern)?  Wicked indulgence always means more than mere selfishness; it always means oppressive treatment of others—ALWAYS!  Jerusalem, “the great city where the Lord was killed,” and “[…which is figuratively/symbolically/spiritually called Sodom and Egypt]” (Revelation 11:8 EXB) is, no doubt, being referred to in this verse of Scripture as apostate Israel—and by inference—the apostate church.  The idea that wicked self-indulgence is also an oppressive disregard of others is clearly seen in the remaining portion of Revelation 11:8 in the Expanded Bible: “Jerusalem is symbolically named after places judged by God for wickedness (Sodom) and for oppressing God’s people (Egypt).”

The New Jerusalem, however, is come down out of heaven, and is therefore unlike apostasy; it is rather of the divine nature of truth and fidelity (the opposite of “defection” or “revolt”—the definition of apostasy).  But just as the Lord said concerning Israel the whore, He is now saying to the apostate American church: “Now I will uncover her nakedness in plain view of her lovers, and no one will rescue her from me.  I will end all her religious celebrations” (Hosea 2:10-11 CEB).  The ordinary door of mercy is shut!  “But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV).  Because after God removed Israel’s idols—after He took her into the desert/wilderness experience to accomplish that—He restored her (albeit in humbled and numerically smaller form).  Likewise, God, in His wise and merciful counsel, is about to deliver the American church from her apostasy.  She is about to lose everything and have her skirt lifted up before the world in shameful and debilitating fashion.  But God’s exposure is redemptive.  As He said to Israel long ago, so He now says to us:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.  There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.  There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt” (Hosea 2:14-15 NIV).

Of special note is the “Valley of Achor” as “a door of hope.”  The Valley of Achor was the site of the destruction of Achan (“serpent”), his family, and all he possessed.  He “troubled” (the definition of Achor) Israel by stealing what God had cursed in the siege of Jericho.  Jericho (which represents the human heart) was the gateway to the conquest of the entire Promised Land.  Any mistake there is a mistake of extraordinary consequence (out of the heart flow the issues of life).  The serpent and his serpentine family is issued a death sentence for what they did to us in the garden, and our complicity, that ties us to the serpent (and all his wicked children), is only completely destroyed at his destruction.  The Valley of Achor, the valley of our being troubled (tribulated or being narrowed and crammed into the kingdom of God), is the narrow door of our escape.  It is there that the serpent is judged to condemnation, whereas we are judged to victory in the same location.   “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?  Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:18-19 KJV).

The American church as she is presently constructed is being removed; her new mold will be less ostentatious and more spiritual.  Just as “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17 NASB), so are the lusts of the American church passing away, and all those who refuse to do the will of God in her midst.  The removal of what can be shaken (created things—inclusive of us—and certainly also inclusive of the American church and her apostasies)—“so that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27)—is upon us!  As Albert Barnes put it (in his commentary concerning this verse), “And this word, Yet once more - That is, this reference to a great agitation or commotion in some future time. This is designed as an explanation of the prophecy in Haggai, and the idea is, that there would be such agitations that everything which was not fixed on a permanent and immovable basis would be thrown down as in an earthquake. Everything which was temporary in human institutions; everything which was wrong in customs and morals; and everything in the ancient system of religion, which was merely of a preparatory and typical character, would be removed. What was of permanent value would be retained, and a kingdom would be established which nothing could move.”

Barnes further elaborated on the idea behind Hebrews 12:27 as follows:

“(1) All that was of a sound and permanent nature in the Jewish economy was retained; all that was typical and temporary was removed. The whole mass of sacrifices and ceremonies that were designed to prefigure the Messiah of course then ceased; all that was of permanent value in the Law of God, and in the principles of religion, was incorporated in the new system, and perpetuated.

“(2) The same is true in regard to morals. There was much truth on the earth before the time of the Savior; but it was intermingled with much that was false. The effect of his coming has been to distinguish what is true and what is false; to give permanency to the one, and to cause the other to vanish.

“(3) The same is true of religion.  There are some views of religion which men have by nature which are correct; there are many which are false. The Christian religion gives permanence and stability to the one and causes the other to disappear. And in general, it may be remarked, that the effect of Christianity is to give stability to all that is founded on truth, and to drive error from the world. Christ came that he might destroy all the systems of error - that is, all that could he shaken on earth, and to confirm all that is true. The result of all will be that he will preside over a permanent kingdom, and that his people will inherit “a kingdom which cannot be moved;” Hebrews 12:28.

“The removing of those things that are shaken - margin, more correctly "may be." The meaning is, that those principles of religion and morals which were not founded on truth would be removed by his coming.

“As of things that are made - much perplexity has been felt by expositors in regard to this phrase, but the meaning seems to be plain. The apostle is contrasting the things which are fixed and stable with those which are temporary in their nature, or which are settled on no firm foundation. The former he speaks of as if they were uncreated and eternal principles of truth and righteousness. The latter he speaks of as if they were created, and therefore liable, like all things which are “made,” to decay, to change, to dissolution.

“That those things which cannot be shaken may remain - the eternal principles of truth, and law, and righteousness. These would enter into the new kingdom which was to be set up, and of course that kingdom would be permanent. These are not changed or modified by time, circumstances, human opinions, or laws. They remain the same from age to age, in every land, and in all worlds.  They have been permanent in all the fluctuations of opinion; in all the varied forms of government on earth; in all the revolutions of states and empires. To bring out these is the result of the events of divine Providence, and the object of the coming of the Redeemer; and on these principles that great kingdom is to be reared which is to endure forever and ever.”

Now as pertaining to America and her church, mighty is God who judges her!  Yes indeed, in the end, all iron, clay, bronze, silver, and even gold (representing the different governing models of mankind) will be crushed, pulverized, and made like chaff to be blown away by the breath of the Almighty, as Jesus Christ, that stone which did all that crushing and pulverizing, becomes a mountain and fills the whole earth with a majestic and high government.  It is upon us, “the final removal and transformation of all [that can be] shaken—that is, of that which has been created—in order that what cannot be shaken may remain and continue.  Let us therefore, receiving a kingdom that is firm and stable and cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:27-28, Amp.). 

The seventh angel then blew [his] trumpet, and there were mighty voices in heaven, shouting, The dominion (kingdom, sovereignty, rule) of the world has now come into the possession and become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (the Messiah), and He shall reign forever and ever (for the eternities of the eternities)! (Revelation 11:15, Amp.).

Our nation and the American church are increasingly proving themselves as vaporous as what man is within himself without Christ; he and everything he conceives of and makes with his hands is ultimately baseless.  But the good news is that Jesus Christ is not only on the horizon for all who cling to Him, but is Himself THE HORIZON.  “Therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a Stone, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone of sure foundation; he who believes (trusts in, relies on, and adheres to that Stone) will not be ashamed or give way or hasten away [in sudden panic]” (Isaiah 28:16, Amp.).  Do not fear what is coming upon the earth, and do not fear the fact that Jesus Christ and God have been removed from our nation; God is greater than our nation, and He can never fade away except in delusional minds and hearts.  Place your future on solid ground—that which cannot be removed—upon the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.  America the proud is her downfall, yes, but mercifully—by the intercession of God Almighty—only to the baseline ground of Truth!