Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Death Swallowed Up In Victory

“We had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, BUT IN GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD” (2 Corinthians 1:9 NASB).

“They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming IN JESUS THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD” (Acts 4:2 NIV).

It is not just “God,” BUT “God who raises the dead” that overcomes sentences of death.  “As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered’” (Romans 8:36 NIV).  But this is only one half of a mighty reality.  Surrounding and giving contextual integrity to the idea of death by slaughter, are these words: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:35 & 37 NIV).

Sandwiched in between the deadly litany of things that might separate us from the love of Christ, viz. “trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword,” and the incredible and even miraculous concept of being “more than conquerors” merely because He loved us, is this realty of facing death daily and ultimately being slaughtered for Jesus’ sake.  BUT... BUT... “O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 KJV).

Indeed, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11 NIV).  Herein is an immutable principle for any and all who dare to genuinely minister resurrection power.  Death in me/life in you.  Or as Paul put it:  “So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). 

The narrow gate is Jesus Christ (which leaves no room for self or sin), and wide and everlasting power opens up only to those who go in and out thereby (experiencing death to self and life anew in Him).  Indeed, Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9 NIV).  Resurrection power is life from the dead and only realized through this portal or gate.  It is power plugged into eternity; it therefore never wanes or dies.  “For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us that is capable of dying] must put on immortality [which is freedom from death]” (1 Corinthians 15:53 AMP). 
   
I am reminded of what God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them’” (Ezekiel 37:11-12 NIV).  Are you dried up?  Is all your vigor gone?  Are you hopeless?  As the prophet Jeremiah once said, “My strength has perished and so has my hope and expectation from the Lord” (Lamentations 3:18 AMP).  We are meant to come to the end of ourselves and all of our schemes and natural strength.  But the devil isn’t doing it; God is!  Then, after some whining and perhaps a pity party, we are supposed to come to our senses just as Jeremiah did when a mere three verses later he goes on to say, “BUT this I call to mind, therefore I have hope.  It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great and beyond measure is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23 AMP).

Death cannot consume us because God’s compassion fails not!  But the death process is the road to unstoppable power, and we’d do well to realize God’s ways.  Eventually, “This perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says, ‘DEATH is SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY (vanquished forever)’” (1 Corinthians 15:54 AMP).  In the meantime, insofar as we allow the process its unimpeded way, we will walk in resurrection power here and now.  Death to self is resurrection power to others; all true ministry is birthed here.  The lack of power in the church today directly correlates to the lack of death to the selves commissioned to release this power.  Until the elders lay down their lives there remains no converting or resurrection power.  Christ only rises like a phoenix from the ashes of those dead to this world and all its charms.        
  
 

 


  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Final Stage of Trust

Oswald Chambers, after quoting Galatians 6:4—“by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world,” said, “We are to be in the world but not of it; to be disconnected fundamentally, not externally.  We must never allow anything to interfere with the consecration of our spiritual energy. Consecration is our part, sanctification is God’s part; and we have deliberately to determine to be interested in that only in which God is interested.”

The world teaches a false humility which only dresses self in modest attire.  Jesus taught that to gain self ultimately one must lose self temporarily.  To truly obtain eternal life, one must COMPLETELY die to temporal life.  Trust is taught in many businesses today by falling backwards with no concrete assurance that coworkers will catch you before you hit the ground.  Likewise, we must lay our bodies in the ground and hope that God resurrects us whole into paradise.  Trust we must!  Alas, most go to their grave afraid and hopeless, not trusting but thinly hoping.  It behooves us to settle future and exterior consequences now and internally.
 
A true martyr is dead to self, “disconnected fundamentally” and internally from this world and all its charms; if that martyr is executed externally or physically, he experiences a victory and an advancement.  His death actually becomes an unnecessary dramatic flourish; it had already been settled that his life is not his own.  He is dead to self-interest.  The final stage of his trust is now consummated awaiting only the reward God gives to all who maintain faith to the end.

If true Christianity were not supernatural and miraculous, then perhaps martyrdom would suffice as the ultimate test of devotion.  But the final stage of trust reaches beyond the realm of mortal life into the higher and more serious realm of eternal life. When Paul said, “I ... suffer ... things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:2), he no doubt TRUSTED God beyond any mortal inconvenience or death.  He even went so far as to wish himself “accursed” for others IF IT WERE POSSIBLE.  So selfless had Paul become in his Christian maturity, that he even began to speak of losing eternal life in order to save others.  Did not our Savior become a curse in order to save us?  Therein is the ultimate sacrifice; Paul went all the way and identified with Jesus Christ in His sufferings to the degree that he laid down his life for others (even his eternal life).  The impact Paul had on Christian history is born of his death for others; his words are Spirit and life because they are words resurrected and therefore eternal. 

Some final thoughts.  Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717), wrote of the deeper life in Christ, even the final steps of maturity; in regards to submission or subjugation of our wills to God’s will she said, “How far are you willing to go in yielding your will to God?  How far is proper?  What are the limits of obedience, the ends of abandonment, the ultimate willingness of the will?  The ‘Song of Songs,’ chapter 5, records a possible insight, for there you find a soul giving up the hope of eternal life!” If there was not a more explicit example in scripture of someone doing exactly that, viz., being willing to lose their eternal life in order to save others, Guyon might not have convinced me.  But there is!  St. Paul speaking: “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me [enlightened and prompted] by the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For [if it were possible] I would wish that I myself were accursed, [separated, banished] from Christ for the sake [of the salvation] of my brothers” (Romans 9:1-3 AMP).

The church is in desperate need of resurrection power, but resurrection power is only made out of the death of mortal power.  Until we trust God fully with our lives, even our eternal lives, we have not fully matured and trusted.  Until we can say like Paul, “I would...that I myself were accursed,” we are holding back from “drinking the cup” our Lord and Savior drank.  Either we go all the way and place our lives, even our eternal destiny, into His hands, or we slink into powerless oblivion.  We pray, read His word (and of course we should!), but where is the resurrection power that turns the world upside down and saves souls?  Until we complete THE FINAL STAGE OF TRUST it is doubtful the world will ever know we exist.      


Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Observer Effect

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).

“Invisible quantum probability waves are an ocean of possibilities until they are observed by the Observer and are collapsed into new realities”—Phil Mason

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place watching...”—Proverbs 15:3

According to the science of quantum physics, whenever someone looks at something it collapses from an invisible wave of many possibilities into a visible particle of materialized reality.  This is called THE OBSERVER EFFECT.  So grand and incredible was this quantum science that no less than Albert Einstein reeled at what it suggested.  In fact, he fought against it in his day, thinking it could not possibly be true.  But time and much testing/experimentation later undeniably proves quantum physics to be reality.
   
“Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, WHILE WE DO NOT LOOK AT THE THINGS WHICH ARE SEEN, BUT AT THE THINGS WHICH ARE NOT SEEN.  FOR THE THINGS WHICH ARE SEEN ARE TEMPORARY, BUT THE THINGS WHICH ARE NOT SEEN ARE ETERNAL” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV).

The genius of God so outstrips the genius of man it is laughable how many human beings trust their observational skills above God and revelation.  Objective reality does not exist in minds subjected only to their own musings.  Regardless of God’s creation objectively made and sustained, man devoted only to his lone perspective and small scope of sight cannot perceive it.  Because “things which are not seen are eternal” and Jesus Christ is now outside the shadowy substance of temporariness (the world as our natural eyes perceive it), only spiritual sight can see God and find salvation in doing so.  Indeed, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22 NIV).  The author and finisher, the beginning and the end of faith—the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen—is bound up in all that Jesus Christ is.  Enlightenment is only found in the revelation of Jesus Christ; any other so-called enlightenment is merely darkness disguised as an angel of light.

Just as reality is really only made as soon as we look at it, so salvation is only made real as we look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”  A mustard seed size faith or larger size faith is irrelevant; faith is always perfect in size and quality as it remains looking at Jesus.  Faith is begun and ended in and outside the constraint of time while it remains fixed on Jesus Christ.  “Turn to me and be saved” is always God’s word to fallen and unfallen man alike.  Align yourself to God’s objective reality and subject yourself to the phenomenon of salvation.  Observe the underlying spiritual reality behind quantum physics, and discover, by that reality, the author and finisher of all things, the Alpha and Omega, Jesus Christ.  Only by THE OBSERVER EFFECT does the objective reality of God’s salvation manifest itself into our subjective reality.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Gospel According to Abraham

Salvation is ineffectual except by faith, and learning from the father of faith, Abraham teaches us that only by the way of faith are we made righteous.  The gospel according to Jesus Christ is the consummate good news rooted in the burgeoning good news initiated by and in Abraham.  Abraham, in seed form, began the process which ultimately matured in Jesus Christ.  Let us therefore look back to Abraham in order to illuminate the future in Christ Jesus.  
  
Before Abraham was Abraham he was Abram; Abram means “exalted father,” whereas Abraham means “father of a multitude.”  From a name that stretched upward/vertical, and might have been a great name in monumental and transitory import (exalting his own name, his own family, and his own country) came a greater name in momentous and permanent impact that laid down sideways/horizontal and blessed the entire stock of man.
   
According to Oswald Chambers, “The greatest thing in Abraham’s life is God, not ‘Abraham-ism.’  The whole trend of his life is to make us admire God, not Abraham.”  Thus, the humble or meek—which are destined to inherit the earth—have a father in Abraham.  Humility that comes before honor, prostration before erection, brokenness before wholeness, and death before life, are states of heart that can only be accomplished by someone who sees beyond the obvious and natural world. 
  
Abraham is rightly dubbed the father of faith because he progressively enlarged each of those proper states of heart and perpetually searched for a better country in which to express those states of heart yearnings (he searched beyond the natural into supernatural reality).  The seed God gave him for his obedient faith (Isaac) has blessed all the families of the earth and has immortalized him far more than he would have ever been immortalized if he had remained within the restrictions of his own country seeking his own glory as Abram.  “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

The far-reaching impact that God intended through the obedience of Abraham was beyond his understanding and imagination; the increased light he received as he obeyed each command in sequence eventually caused him to see Christ’s day (“Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my [Jesus’] day; he saw it and was glad”—John 8:56).  A proper faith is never wholly blind, irrational or ridiculous (it only appears that way to natural unbelieving hearts); it is, however, always stretching the limit of reason and imagination beyond their present capabilities in hopes of grasping something more than was known previous. 
    
Abram, when he was first called, was required to leave “Ur of the Chaldeans;” to leave country, ethnicity and family out beyond the familiar familial ties or connections to a place not yet revealed (Genesis 12:1-3).  God promised him that his name would be great, that he would be blessed and that he would become a great nation.  So, having just been commanded by God to leave the very familial connections required to accomplish a promise like that—country, ethnicity and family—Abram goes out by faith (not sight) “not knowing whither he went.”  

But please note what he left!  “Ur” means “shine or flame” and “Chaldeans” means “as it were demons” (rooted in a word meaning “to lay waste, to destroy”) or “magicians” or “astrologers.”  Essentially, God called Abram to leave the flame or shine (the natural light) of magic alluring and demonic deception derived from the stars (a secondary light) or the inner light of self energized by Satan rather than God.  In other words, come out of the smoke-and-mirror-reality of all natural familial ties; come out of the natural light that family, ethnicity and country give to a place where God enlarges vision, influence, and reality.  Come out of the natural connection to the supernatural connection; come out of the earthly to the heavenly.  This is THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ABRAHAM and the pattern of the gospel according to Jesus Christ. 

In contrast to where God is taking us, our family, ethnicity and country reality is delusional.  That is why Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).  Assuredly, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6 NASB).  To leave the shining flame of one’s own fire is to be reignited and fueled by another source; natural light is darkness compared to spiritual light and reality.

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant?  Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.  But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.  This is what you shall receive from my hand: you will lie down in torment” (Isaiah 50:10-11 NIV).

Regrettably, too many walk in the passion of their own hearts and the enlightenment of their own minds rather than in real faith like Abraham.  Those who continue in natural connection in the face of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ are stridently proud and in danger of the unpardonable sin: unrequited love!  To never respond to the divine love as expressed by the sacrificial act of the Father sending His only begotten Son to die in order to save us, in the end, proves unforgivable.  “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4 NASB).  “Let the one who walks in the dark [and] who has no light” admit it!  That is trust.  That is faith.  The soul that is right in man is not enlightened, but rather devoid of understanding.  “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains” (John 9:41 NASB).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is outlined and demonstrated perfectly in the life and call of Abraham.  Come out, come out, come out (of three layers of delusion) was Abram’s call to becoming Abraham by progressively leaving in sequence the influence of his nationality, extended family (ethnicity or bloodline), and his immediate family (progeny).

The good news is caterpillar to butterfly, the second Adam resurrecting from the dead and confining first Adam cocoon.  It takes faith to die and trust the resurrection process.  Abraham coming out of all natural familial ties is symbolic of any and all who desire a better life, a spiritual and endless life.  Adam is condemned; God’s only plan is the last Adam or second man.  It is good news that we need not be outlined and defined by our natural man; it is even better news that we who believe are outlined and defined by Jesus Christ, God’s second and final chance.  THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ABRAHAM is the revelation of Jesus Christ, the consummation and goal of our faith.       
      


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Understanding Self-Denial

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25 PHILLIPS).
    
“When young we must not mind what the world calls failure; as we grow old, we must not be vexed that we cannot remember, must not regret that we cannot do, must not be miserable because we grow weak or ill: we must not mind anything.  We have to do with God who can, not with ourselves where we cannot; we have to do with the Will, with the Eternal Life of the Father of spirits, and not with the being which we could not make, and which is his care.  He is our care; we are his; our care is to will his will; his care, to give us all things.  This is to deny ourselves”—George MacDonald.

It is undeniable that self-denial is required of any and all followers of Jesus Christ.  It is also undeniable that many either confuse the meaning of biblical self-denial or understand it but refuse to obey its demands.  To the latter type of person I have nothing to say; to the former—the confused—let me clarify.  First of all, I take MacDonald’s quote above as perhaps the best explanation of Biblical self-denial I have ever heard (and at the ending of this writing I again quote MacDonald quoting an inner dialogue with himself).  Self-denial is not self-flagellation nor a correction of any kind; rather, it is a complete break away from self in any sense of following its inclinations.

“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?  These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Colossians 2:20-23 NASB).

God is not a cruel taskmaster; the Egyptian world spirit was broken at conversion for all His children.  God has forever crucified the old man and broken our bondage to flesh and carnality, but we experience it only as we cooperate with His will on a daily basis.  The work of the cross of Jesus Christ is the work of the circumcision of the heart once and forever, but daily applied as a fact—not necessarily to the intellect or imagination—but rather pleaded in the conscience and addressed to the will.  That which merely appeals to the intellect and imagination is unredemptive whereas that which appeals to the conscience and will moves a man to action.  We must apply what God has done whether our intellect is brilliant or dull and whether our imagination is colorful or black.  The intellect and imagination are more like dessert than supper; only after the main course of conscience and will are satisfied, are intellect and imagination to be indulged. 
 
To merely think and imagine is a spectator sport, whereas to see and/or hear God (the function of conscience) and obey what we see and/or hear (the function of the will) is to participate on the playing field.  Yes, those who participate might also spectate as arm-chair warriors on occasion—perhaps when injured or exhausted and replacements are available—but remember that David’s sin with Bathsheba happened “in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle” (1 Chronicles 20:1).

The daily taking up of our crosses and following the Lord Jesus is often relentless, gruesome and tiresome.  Only when He brings us to still waters and fragrant lilies are we to pause and repose.  Spring is no license to leisure however much it is okay and even pleasant to smell the roses while we walk along the way.  Spring-cleaning requires work and is as much about removal as about replacement; dirt, grime and unpleasant odors exchanged for cleanliness, spotlessness and a pleasant bouquet of freshness.  In spiritual terms, however, spring-cleaning is not about spring; in season and out of season we must be cleansed, revitalized and refreshed.  Only daily application maintains the spring in both our house and step.
  
Nonetheless, and notwithstanding our responsibilities, it is not for us to clean house except in cooperation to His lead.  Independent house cleaning might leave the house “unoccupied, swept, and put in order” (see Matthew 12:43-45), but it also opens the house to seven times the demonic possession.  If it is time to battle we must battle; if it is time to rest, we must rest.  Bathsheba might have been David’s destiny if properly widowed and met in divine order.  Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband before David killed him and took his wife to himself, might have died in battle despite David’s treachery.  Once David put himself outside the will of God, however, his eyes saw her unwrapped and desired her.  Abusing the power of his position as king, he set in motion an evil scheme to steal Bathsheba away from her husband.  Being outside the will of God is itself the issue.  Only self-denial accomplishes the will of God.  True peace is only enjoyed in the house of one will.  Independence is self-will, unbridled and rebellion; self-denial not self-pact is required however right it seems to the human eye.

I end on the inspiration of this writing of mine—the sublime words of George MacDonald’s dialogue with his Self:

“Self, I have not to consult you, but him whose idea is the soul of you, and of which as yet you are all unworthy.  I have to do, not with you, but with the source of you, by whom it is that any moment you exist—the Causing of you, not the caused you.  You may be my consciousness, but you are not my being.  If you were, what a poor, miserable, dingy, weak wretch I should be!—but my life is hid with Christ in God, whence it came, and wither it is returning with you certainly, but as an obedient servant, not a master.  Submit, or I will cast you from me, and pray to have another consciousness given me.  For God is more to me than my consciousness of myself.  He is my life; you are only so much of it as my poor half-made being can grasp—as much of it as I can now know at once.  Because I have fooled and spoiled you, treated you as if you were indeed my own self, you have dwindled yourself and have lessened me, till I am ashamed of myself.  If I were to mind what you say, I should soon be sick of you; even now I am ever and anon disgusted with your paltry, mean face, which I meet at every turn.  No!—let me have the company of the Perfect One, not of you!—of my elder brother, the Living One!  I will not make a friend of the mere shadow of my own being!  Good-bye, Self!  I deny you, and will do my best every day to leave you behind me.”  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Heard Hannah!

The irony that I heard Hannah is that “her lips were moving but her voice was not heard” (1 Samuel 1:13 NIV).  But I definitely heard in my spirit “Hannah” at the end of our church service (5/8/2016).  I knew immediately that it meant a glorious breakthrough was imminent in a similar pattern as the story of Hannah played out—she who birthed the great prophet Samuel.  As it was testified of Samuel—“Not one of his words fell to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19)—so I testify of what God is birthing now by the resurrecting testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophesy: a prophetic anointing so strong as to make not one word of that true testimony fall to the ground.
       
At the near time of the glory departing from Israel a barren woman in great anguish of heart prayed so earnestly that she “poured out her soul before the Lord” until she had nothing left to vocalize.  That of course was Hannah, whose name means “gratuitous gift.”  Peninnah, the other wife of Hannah’s husband Elkanah, whose name means “pearls,” makes for an interesting contrast.  Pearls develop in excruciating pain but in beautiful form and luster when an intruder enters into an oyster’s world and IRRITATES ITS MANTLE.  “Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival [Peninnah] kept provoking her in order to irritate her.  This went on year after year” (1 Samuel 1:6-7 NIV). 

Finally “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.  And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life...and the Lord remembered her.  So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him’” (1 Samuel 1:10-11, 19-20 NIV).

The backdrop of Hannah’s time, besides a near, constant and irritating rivalry inside her home, was a blind and impotent religion, government and society.  A famine of the full and true word of God is irritating and provoking many souls to pour themselves out before the Lord until prayer percolates in their hearts and becomes unspeakable to natural ears.  As David—who was anointed by Samuel—said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.  So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good.  But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me.  While I meditated, the fire burned; THEN I SPOKE WITH MY TONGUE [emphasis mine]” (Psalm 39:1-3 NIV).

Hannah, year after year, watched her antagonist prosper while anguish and barrenness was all she received.  But like as one Samuel is greater than a thousand Sauls and worth the protracted wait and pain, so one word spoken in season and under the anointing is worth more than a thousand words spoken out of turn and without God upholding them.
 
Not long after Samuel was weened, Hannah fulfilled her vow to the Lord to give him over fully to the Lord.  Just as Sarah’s womb had to die before the promised child Isaac (meaning “laughter”) could be miraculously born, so Hannah’s womb only came alive from the dead to birth Samuel (meaning “heard of God”) after she died to herself fully by pouring out her soul to emptiness in straitened prayer.  Desperate times require desperate measures, and just as Hannah had to sacrifice her firstborn son in order to have other sons, so we are brought to a sacrificial crises.  Many are those who quote Revelation 12:11 as “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” without finishing the thought that they also “DID NOT LOVE THEIR LIVES SO MUCH AS TO SHRINK FROM DEATH [emphasis mine]” (NIV).

Spiritual birthing only happens in the dead womb of the natural life sacrificed.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1 NIV).  Fire only falls on an unblemished and properly prepared sacrifice.  Empowerment is preceded by more than weakness; it is preceded by death!  The devil has irritated many mantles, some to the point of utter failure, but for those who continue to pour themselves out before the Lord to the point of surmounting or overcoming failure, resurrection power is on the horizon.      

Sunday, May 8, 2016

To Whom They Prostitute Themselves

“They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols TO WHOM THEY PROSTITUTE THEMSELVES. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come” (Leviticus 17:7-8 NIV).

There in the dry reading of Leviticus jumped out this idea of prostitution: sheep bowing down and giving homage to the will of goats.  Goats are extremely curious, intelligent and notoriously independent, while sheep are extremely gregarious, not too bright, and notoriously dependent.  Because sheep are inclined to meekly follow any dominance, goats are often used by shepherds to lead their flocks.  Likewise, we see at the head of many churches dominant personalities guiding whole flocks in supposed submission to the Lord’s guidance. 

“Goat idols” also means “hairy ones” and “demons” or “devils,” and especially refers to bowing down to the native strength of man’s rebellious and independent nature.  Just as Esau is hated by God, being “hairy” and “red” with native/Adamic blood, so ultimately, those “whose strength is their god” are hated by God.  Indeed, “They will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god” (Habakkuk 1:11 NASB). 

Adam Clarke, in his commentary on our text fragment, said,

“The famous heathen god, Pan, was represented as having the posteriors, horns, and ears of a goat; and the... [Egyptians] had a deity which they worshipped under this form. Herodotus says that all goats were worshipped in Egypt, but the he-goat particularly. It appears also that... [an] ...innumerable herd of...imaginary beings, satyrs, dryads, hamadryads, [and] ...woodland gods, [were] held in veneration among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.” 

In literal terms, physical prostitution was often involved in the worship of “Pan,” the “goat idol/demon.”  In spiritual terms, and as the Lord opened this portion of Scripture to me, it is about metaphysical prostitution—a whoring from God!  I would suggest that goat worship is man worshipping hireling leadership.  In today’s application, it most often represents pastor worship (and sometimes prophet, apostle or teacher or title worship).  Too many sheep prostitute themselves by joining themselves to their pastors in lieu of clinging to Christ.  However much a pastor stands as an ambassador of Christ, he remains merely an ambassador who can only operate as a delegate.  We must never lose sight of Christ behind everything and everyone; if and when we do, we worship the creature rather than the Creator (who is blessed forever amen).  Indeed, “This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.”

“Don’t you ever be called ‘rabbi’—you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers. And don’t call any human being ‘father’—for you have one Father and he is in Heaven. And you must not let people call you ‘leaders’—you have only one leader, Christ!  The only ‘superior’ among you is the one who serves the others” (Matthew 23:8-11 PHILLIPS).

On one hand, we are to esteem others better than ourselves; on the other hand, let no one lord over you!  Always bow to the Lord exclusively, no matter whose voice or action the Lord expresses Himself through.  Respect elders and those who oversee your souls in delegated authority; even give them more respect, but not in blind allegiance.  Learn to feed yourself and commune often and directly with the Lord in your own private closet.  Our God is a jealous God and will fight for His bride’s allegiance, not with coercion, but with mighty displays of unconditional and exclusive love.

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory and majesty and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him [for judgment]; and He will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right [the place of honor], and the goats on His left [the place of rejection]” (Matthew 25:31-33 AMP).

When very young, goats and sheep are nearly indistinguishable.  Even as they grow, their physical similarities often make it hard to tell them apart.  Their behavior, however, is a dead giveaway.  Goats are not so much leaders as independent and venturous which intoxicates sheepish sheep and compels them to follow them.  Goats are cults of personality.  Everywhere you turn in Christendom someone is accentuating “strong leadership.”  They are misguided!  As the parable of the sheep and the goats reveal, the meek not only inherit earth but heaven also.  The Lord’s true sheep only hear His voice and will not follow another.  His sheep are not mesmerized by inflated egos and larger-than-life personalities; wolf salesmen in sheep’s clothing cannot trick them.
 
“Wander away from the midst of Babylon and go out of the land of the Chaldeans; be like the male goats [who serve as leaders] at the head of the flocks” (Jeremiah 50:8 AMP).  In other words, wander away from the confusion you have regarding God’s gateway to truth and out of the delusionary magic trickery of the enemy; go out strong and stubbornly resolved in order to break away from spiritual adultery.  Herein the goat symbolism is good; most of the time in Scripture, however, it is bad.  When it comes to evil, be forceful and assertive like a goat in order not to be entangled or ensnared by it, but when it comes to good, merely congregate and humbly enjoy it like sheep.  Never confuse goats with sheep; in the end, it will be like confusing tares with wheat.

“Little children (believers, dear ones), guard yourselves from idols—[false teachings, moral compromises, and anything that would take God’s place in your heart]” (1 John 5:21 AMP).                           

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Consider the Lilies

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” (Matthew 6:28 ASV).

Here the Lord commands us to consider how lilies grow in order to realize how we are to live by intrinsic faith in God rather than by our own sweat and ingenuity.  The way of faith is the way of reliance on God rather than the arm of the flesh.  This is not to suggest that we do no work, but that whatever work we do, we do so in accordance with the superfluous nature of faith exercised.  Many Eastern religions teach the idea of striving not to strive; even in error, Eastern mysticism grasps a state of being (nirvana—reaching a state of “imperturbable stillness of mind” and “blissful egolessness”) that is closer to the truth than Christianity practiced through the fractural and divisive prism of Western realism.

Merely surround lilies with the proper amount of water, soil, sunlight and warmth, and they will fulfill their destiny.  Merely surround the human soul with the proper amount of the water of the word, the milk of human kindness, revelation of Jesus Christ and the warmth of God’s love, and the soul too will fulfill her destiny.  Just as there are seasons of dormancy and seasons of flourishing in the life of a lily, so there are in human development and experience.  For a lily to flower it must first set its roots in dark and damp earth; likewise, for man to flourish he must first set his roots in dark and dank experience.

The Western mindset emphasizes growth and “upward mobility” to the degree of perverting the very nature of the organism.  Violent self-effort (toiling) and self-expression (spinning) impedes rather than feeds spiritual growth.  The modus operandi for His people is always, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6 ASV).  The word “might” means “force” rooted in the idea of twisting or whirling or writhing in pain or fear; “power” means “to be firm; vigor” and implies innate ability.  So, not by the force of self-exertion born of pain or fear, nor by the resolute vigor behind one’s own abilities, but simply and gently by the Holy Spirit, are we to function.

“I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 NASB).  Planting and watering certainly requires labor of sorts, especially if the land worked needs much preparation in order to make it suitable for planting.  But “good soil [that yields] a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:8) is assumed in God’s redemptive plan.  Only “The way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15 KJV). 

So, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 49:10 NASB). Come to “imperturbable stillness of mind” and “blissful egolessness,” not by the false practice of yoga or other Eastern mystical practices, but by centering one’s self in Christ Jesus in contemplative meditation.  It is God who causes the growth; we simply remain planted in Christ Jesus and do nothing apart from Him.  Indeed, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” (Matthew 6:28 ASV).                              

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Honoring God by Being Thankful for the Fundamental Grace of Life is the Only Way to Solve the Identity and Gender Crisis

The transgender bathroom controversy (and other identity crises) runs deeper than the obvious perversions suggest, nonetheless, they are amazingly easy to resolve.  But when even many Christians admit they don’t know who they are in Christ, how can we expect the world to define themselves properly?

The root of the problem is a matter of focus and union.  Only Christians focused on self separate themselves from Christ and make themselves wonder who they are in Christ.  Christians focused on Christ—those “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of...faith” (Hebrews 12:2) perpetually—are, by that sustained focus in perpetuity, cementing their union with Christ and obtaining for themselves a new identity derived from the name and house of their Bridegroom.

I hear way too often from Christian pulpits and lips, “We need to know who we are in Christ!”  It bristles me, not because it’s not factually correct, but because I discern the selfish and erroneous spirit it is spoken from.  Who we are in Christ is the byproduct of knowing Christ.  Our identity is therefore derivative and relational, not original and exclusive.

It is an established principle that feminine beauty be derived and defined from a masculine perspective.  This is no commentary about the equality /inequality of the sexes, except to distinguish mankind’s posture from God’s.  We are the bride of Christ, and we need His masculine posture to define our feminine one.  Our eternal beauty is only a reflecting one of His.  He beautifies by His love; we are worthless, unloved, and without our own internal beauty without Him first loving us. This is an unequivocally established principle throughout Scripture and much ancient literature.  I believe Byron, in She Walks in Beauty is saying exactly this; the innocent heart at peace within the seat of emotional man is best described as “she” in the “tender light” of “the night” which the “gaudy day denies.”  She walks in beauty which walks in less than the full light of enlightenment, and the feminine posture is the posture of faith—that posture we must all walk in (both male and female)—if we ever expect to arrive at our gender specific and individual destiny (which is only found in context with, and relationship to, God and others).

To throw aside gender identity is lethal to affirmation.  Our sex is primal and one of the fundamental stamps of our identity.  This is obvious even in its perversion.  The key to solving the identity and gender crisis, however, is simple and profound.  Only by acknowledging and honoring God truthfully do we align ourselves correctly to the fundamental stamp of our form and function as made individual and original by our Creator alone.  Just as primal and fundamental as is God’s stamp on us, however, is God’s judgment against those who pervert this foundational basis of life.  Paul said that “Fools...exchange the glory of the eternal God for an imitation”; I say, sages exchange themselves for Christ.

Since I cannot say it better than Paul, here is the apostle’s take on the matter:
“Now the holy anger of God is disclosed from Heaven against the godlessness and evil of those men who render truth dumb and inoperative by their wickedness. It is not that they do not know the truth about God; indeed he has made it quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and divinity, have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known, thus leaving these men without a rag of excuse. They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such, or to thank him for what he is or does. Thus they became fatuous in their argumentations, and plunged their silly minds still further into the dark.  Behind a facade of ‘wisdom’ they became just fools, fools who would exchange the glory of the eternal God for an imitation image of a mortal man, or of creatures that run or fly or crawl.  They gave up God: and therefore God gave them up—to be the playthings of their own foul desires in dishonoring their own bodies.

“The fearful consequence of deliberate atheism

“These men deliberately forfeited the truth of God and accepted a lie, paying homage and giving service to the creature instead of to the Creator, who alone is worthy to be worshipped for ever and ever, amen. God therefore handed them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged the normal practices of sexual intercourse for something which is abnormal and unnatural. Similarly the men, turning from natural intercourse with women, were swept into lustful passions for one another. Men with men performed these shameful horrors, receiving, of course, in their own personalities the consequences of sexual perversity.  Moreover, since they considered themselves too high and mighty to acknowledge God, he allowed them to become the slaves of their degenerate minds, and to perform unmentionable deeds. They became filled with wickedness, rottenness, greed and malice; their minds became steeped in envy, murder, quarrelsomeness, deceitfulness and spite. They became whisperers-behind-doors, stabbers-in-the-back, God-haters; they overflowed with insolent pride and boastfulness, and their minds teemed with diabolical invention. They scoffed at duty to parents, they mocked at learning, recognized no obligations of honor, lost all natural affection, and had no use for mercy. More than this—being well aware of God’s pronouncement that all who do these things deserve to die, they not only continued their own practices, but did not hesitate to give their thorough approval to others who did the same” (Romans 1: 18-32 PHILLIPS). 

     

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Two Mysteries

There are two mysteries at work in the world, the mystery of Christ in man (the new creation rule or law derived from its nature) and the mystery of lawlessness.  In other words, two polar opposites exist: the mystery of law and the mystery of lawlessness.  Christ in man is God’s law fulfilled—the law of love or liberty expressed; but anyone living outside the scope of Christ inside them is lawless.  “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes [who clings to Him in marital fidelity]” (Romans 10:4).
   
The first mystery, therefore, is the “mystery of the good news” (Ephesians 6:9), otherwise known as “the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 2:2 and 4:3).  It is an objective reality offered to “whomsoever will” and a subjective experience only to those who remain faithful to the development of Christ within them until He reigns supreme and mature.  It is objective in that it is real even outside the realm of faith but subjective in that it is useless to the individual who does not exercise faith in order to experience it as “the riches of the glory of this mystery...which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

In A. W. Tozer’s preface to his book The Divine Conquest, he called its core argument, “the essential interiority of true religion.”  He went on to add that “if we would know the power of the Christian message our nature must be invaded by an Object from beyond it; that That which is external must become internal; that the objective Reality which is God must cross the threshold of our personality and take residence within.”  God with us—the definition of “Immanuel”—is the marriage of God to man.  That is why adultery is especially heinous and pervasively condemned in Scripture.  That is also why faith (a form of the word faithfulness) is a dominant theme in Scripture.

“Do you not know that your bodies are the limbs of Christ?  Then shall I take the limbs of Christ and make them the limbs of a whore?  Never.  Or do you not know that he who clings to a whore is one body with her; for, says scripture, the two shall be one flesh.  But he who clings to the Lord is one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17 LATTIMORE).  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  THIS MYSTERY [OF TWO BECOMING ONE] IS GREAT; but I am speaking with reference to [the relationship of] Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32 AMP).

Too often faith is relegated to a trait not so great as love and something akin to hope.  And assuredly, Scripture defines faith in this context but not exactly in the way it is usually interpreted and taught by the church.  Real faith—however much it moves mountains by power—is, at its core, not about power but devotion (but ironically a devotion to God who is All-Powerful).  The power in faith is incidental; devotion or love is fundamental.  Love is greater than faith not because of an intrinsic and essential difference, but because love is faith consummated or glorified.  It is possible to have faith without love but impossible to have love without faith.  Love subsumes and intensifies faith (as well as hope); love is both faith-FULL and hope-FULL—and still greater!  Love is indeed a great mystery; two becoming one is way beyond cognizance and greater than the sum of two parts (especially when one of those parts is an infinite God).  It is even emotive and visceral beyond feeble feeling and gut reaction.  May we indeed “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NASB). 
         
The second mystery is “The MYSTERY OF LAWLESSNESS [rebellion against divine authority and the coming reign of lawlessness] is already at work; [but it is restrained] only until he who now restrains it [the Holy Spirit] is taken out of the way.  Then the lawless one [the Antichrist] will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by the appearance of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 AMP).  Like never before, the Holy Spirit and His church empowered is being “taken out of the way,” not in wholesale and sudden effect, but in attritional and erosional breakdown as we hinge from one age to another.  The great falling away expressed as many hearts waxing cold by fearing what is coming on the earth seems to have spanned most of our lifetimes.

Theologian Matthew Poole (1624-1679), obviously many years prior to our day—and concerning these same verses—said that “Right now, this lawlessness is a mystery—that it is, it can only be seen and understood by revelation. Otherwise it is hidden. It is not open sin and wickedness, but dissembled piety, specious errors, wickedness under a form of godliness cunningly managed that is herein meant.”  Surely our day is closer to the rapture of the church and the evil revelation of the lawless one as is clearly the nature of linear time, but as many theologians think, it is a span of time rather than a moment of time that precedes this “twinkling of an eye” rapture moment.  Consequently, a form of godliness without power is being exposed in deepening layers in our time; blatant and even militant godlessness is now promoted openly, unashamedly and blasphemously without hardly a whit of conscience pang. 

Always a microcosm of a macrocosm occurs in the inner recesses of man; when a church or person becomes devoid of the Spirit that church or person reflects an antichrist spirit (as the world reflects it wholesale in the macrocosm).  The deep darkness covering the peoples prefigures all hell breaking loose.  Whatever can be shaken is shaken away; whatever is rooted and firm remains.  Therefore, whether someone is entrenched in sin or hidden in Christ is being exposed by the dawning fiery light of the manifesting Day of the Lord.  The great falling away is happening right before our eyes and the scarcely being saved righteous are reeling like drunkards in the tidal wave demarcation process.  Yet the Christ in us hope is also beginning to flame to a high, hot and gloriously bright conflagration.  Two mysteries are resolving in the resulting fire.  “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13 KJV).               

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Song of the Sword

“I will overturn, overturn, overturn...until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezekiel 21:27 KJV).

The “Song of the Sword” is what theologians commonly title the twenty-first chapter of Ezekiel.  In short, it is a damning prophesy of judgment against God’s people, “whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax” (Ezekiel 21:25 NIV).  “Take off the turban [priest covering or anointing], remove the crown [king covering or anointing].  It will not be as it was: the lowly [the humble] will be exalted [honored] and the exalted [proud] will be brought low [humiliated].”  Whether that judgment (that begins with the house of God) leads us to victory or to condemnation is entirely dependent on our final response to God’s open rebuke (because internal rebukes failed to change our minds!).  Though we are not destined for wrath, depending on how close we get to the world and its condemnation, we can still experience the licking flames of His hot displeasure.  We can, like righteous Lot, live too close to wickedness; so close, in fact, that we (also like Lot) are “made miserable [vexed sore or tormented] by the unrestrained immorality of unruly people” (2 Peter 2:7 CEB).
 
T. Austin Sparks, in remarking on this SONG OF THE SWORD said,
     
“The nation [of Israel; the church] which was chosen of God for a purpose, God’ special purpose: the nation which had been carefully, painstakingly and patiently constituted and disciplined unto that purpose, and then had so lamentably failed, so tragically missed the mark.  Unto that nation the words were addressed: “I will overturn, overturn, overturn...until...”  It was a progressive movement unto Christ’s second coming.
“The reason?  THE LOST DISTINCTIVENESS [emphasis mine] of that nation’s life [salt that is now insipid...salt which has lost its saltiness...now good for nothing but to be trodden underfoot].  They had gone out to the world in illicit and forbidden relationship of a spiritual character, and the world had been let into them in a defiling and corrupting way, resulting in that end which is always and ever an abomination to God—MIXTURE [emphasis mine].”

Here is that SONG OF THE SWORD in new covenant language, 

“For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even as far as the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrows, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden before Him, but all things are uncovered and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom is our reckoning” (Hebrews 4:12-13 BLB).

Indeed, He is our reckoning!  The second coming is upon us!  And that dawning light of His second coming is nothing less than the brightness of His coming to destroy all pretense.  Moreover, that sword proceeding from His mouth separates everything and everyone into their proper and respective categories (tares and wheat and sheep and goats being perhaps the most provocative categories and distinctions made).

Listen to what the apostle Paul said to the early church: “You...remember how I used to talk about a ‘restraining power’ which would operate until the time should come for the emergence of this man [of sin]. Evil is already insidiously at work but its activities are restricted until what I have called the ‘restraining power’ (of God) is removed. When that happens the lawless man will be plainly seen—though the truth of the Lord Jesus spells his doom, and the radiance of the coming of the Lord Jesus will be his utter destruction. The lawless man is produced by the spirit of evil and armed with all the force, wonders and signs that falsehood can devise. To those involved in this dying world he will come with evil’s undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil’s delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their play-fellow” (2 Thessalonians 2:5-12 PHILLIPS).
   
The purpose of the sword, therefore, like the mouth of the prophet, is to hew the unfaithful of His people to pieces (to brokenness)—“I have hewn them in pieces by [the words of] the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth; my judgments [pronounced upon them by the prophets] are like the light that shines forth [obvious to all]” (Hosea 6:5 AMP); not to leave them that way, however, but to impel them to seek the Lord in contrition and humility in order to be healed of their faithlessness.  As the Lord so graciously promised, “I will heal their apostasy and faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned away from Israel” Hosea 14:4 AMP).  Other renderings of this verse use the words, “waywardness,” “rebellion” and “backslidings” in place of “apostasy and faithlessness.”  Though God’s people are not destined for wrath, are those that are ultimately characterized as “faithless” really His people?  “Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold.  But the one who endures and bears up [under suffering] to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13 AMP). 

And therefore God sings the SONG OF THE SWORD over His people!  He separates us from our sins—the chaff (sin) from the wheat (the divine nature)—by the bruising agency of threshing, and surgically (by the sword of His word) separates the cancerous ravages of sin from our mortal souls in order to immortalize our souls with Him in righteousness.  It is better to mourn now and rejoice later than to rejoice now and mourn later.
 
William Ernest Henley, in his poem by the same title—“The Song of the Sword”—said,
 
“Edged to annihilate,
Hilted with government,
Follow, O, follow me,
Till the waste places
All the grey globe over
Ooze, as the honeycomb
Drips, with the sweetness
Distilled of my strength,
And, teeming in peace
Through the wrath of my coming,
They give back in beauty
The dread and the anguish
They had of me visitant!”

On the verge or edge of annihilation, hilted with law (external government until really governed by the internal rule of the Israel of God), let us follow the word of the Lord (His double-edged sword) to the howling waste-places of empty imagination yet considered by us in the recesses of our souls, to the gray mixture of compromise yet inside us (where we incessantly try to reconcile the irreconcilable—always trying to concoct an acceptable mixture of light and dark).  Ah, when will we learn?  Real peace is achieved only by war!  We want an easier way, but only by way of “the valley of the shadow of death” is the dwelling “in the house of the Lord” arrived at (see Psalm 23).  “Rebuke me not in thine anger [or wrath], neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure” (Psalm 6:1; 38:1 KJV) is our wish, but His desire for us outstrips our wishes for ourselves.

“‘In an outburst of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8 NASB).  It is inherently in the nature of redemption that God must turn His back on us insofar as we identify with Christ in becoming a curse for us on the cross.  But it is merely “an outburst of anger...for a moment” until with Christ we also identify ourselves in His resurrection (wherein “everlasting lovingkindness [and]...compassion” awaits us).  The process, grievous; the results, glorious!

“‘EVEN NOW [emphasis mine],’ says the Lord, ‘Turn and come to me with all your heart [in genuine repentance], with fasting and weeping and mourning [until every barrier is removed and the broken fellowship is restored]; rip your heart to pieces [in sorrow and contrition] and not your garments.’  Now return [in repentance] to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness [faithful to His covenant with His people]; and He relents [His sentence of] evil [when His people genuinely repent].  Who knows whether He will relent [and revoke your sentence], and leave a blessing behind Him, even a grain offering and a drink offering [from the bounty He provides you] for the Lord your God?” (Joel 2:12-14 AMP).

Let us therefore rejoice by singing the SONG OF THE SWORD, not because it doesn’t hurt, but because of the glorious effect it has on our eternal destiny.  As Henley concluded his poem, “The Sword Singing—the voice of the Sword from the heart of the Sword clanging majestical, as from the starry-staired courts of the primal Supremacy, His high, irresistible song,” so let us finish out our hard time of pilgrimage here on earth in rapturous and heavenly joy.  To do so, we must like Paul (who suffered more than most) be unmoved by the bloody intent of the sword that separates us from our sins.  Let us say as Paul said, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy” (Acts 20:24 KJV).  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Cross Pollination

A word by Steven Springer, posted on the “Elijah List” on 3/22/2016, included this phrase, “I see in the Body of Christ that there will be A CROSS POLLINATION [emphasis mine] of the Church and its many parts working together and encouraging each other.”

I’m pretty sure that Springer’s usage of the phrase “cross pollination” is in relationship to flowers and bees cooperating in one unified creation of honey sweetness, but I also see that it applies to the heart of man inwrought by the cross of Christ (creating the purest and sweetest compound known to man).  In the early stages of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, a mere three days into their journey, Moses threw a tree into the bitter waters of Marah to make them sweet for drinking and quenching thirst.  Many years later, Jesus Christ declared to anyone who is thirsty, “Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” (John 7:38 CJB).

Moses’s tree and Jesus’ cross are one in the same.  Since the heart is the origin from which “flow the springs [or issues] of life” (Proverbs 4:23), the heart must be healed of its bitterness all the way back to its source.  Only the cross of Christ applied to the waters of the heart sweetens the disposition, and only the bride of Christ, whose “lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb” (Song of Songs 4:11), articulates that sweet disposition corporately.  Only the tree of life (the cross upon which our Lord became a curse for us) thrown into the abundant waters of the multi-membered heart expression can transform a synthetic corporation of mechanical efficiency (the bone-of-His-bone body of Christ) into a biological oneness of organic harmony (the flesh-of-His-flesh bride of Christ).  Our Bridegroom is looking for one sweet, cohesive and single-minded bride, not a multitude of swarming busy bees working overtime to produce sweetness.

A cross (of Christ) pollination grounds unity on the revelation of Jesus Christ (sweetness of taste and stomach [as to its digestibility]), whereas a cross pollination grounded on the church is merely sweetness in the mouth (sweetness of taste and bitterness in the stomach).  Honey, which is the end product of cross pollination, represents the individual’s mature wisdom; the honeycomb, which is the end housing of honey, represents the congregation’s mature and manifold wisdom.  In short, honey represents individual wisdom and the honeycomb represents corporate wisdom.  Wisdom, being the proper application of knowledge, and honey its representative compound, the honeycomb simply says it more fully.  The body of Christ, like worker bees, each contribute to the edifying of itself in love, thus taking many private revelations public (making a manifold expression of the full counsel of God).  Unconscious function (like breathing and blood circulation), however—though a necessary and fundamental function of the body—does not rise to the level of conscious and voluntary commitment.  The mysterious bride of Christ, rising up and out of the body of Christ in conscious and voluntary commitment, is giving herself wholly and exclusively to her Bridegroom in this glorious hour!  Everything hidden is being exposed (except nakedness and shame) to those in covenant marriage.  
        
If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom then love is its end.  Indeed, love is the greatest of the three primary graces (faith, hope and love).  In fact, faith and hope sometimes fail, but “Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]” (1 Corinthians 13:8 AMP).  Many have rightly discerned the pertinence of Hosea, chapter 6, verses 1-2 in this hour: “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.”  But the next verse is the point: “So let us KNOW, LET US PRESS ON TO KNOW THE LORD.”

“Knowing” in Scriptural vernacular speaks of sexual intimacy between a husband and wife.  He is calling His bride into the bedchamber!  We must press past fear and give ourselves wholly and exclusively to our Husband; shrinking back now is a grievous reaction to His extended heart of love and desire for intimacy.  For the bride to shrink back in fear on her wedding day is unthinkable and virtually unforgivable.  An act of visceral repulsion cannot be feigned.  Those that shrink back from the heart are in danger of remaining forever unknown.  These are those who do all kinds of things in His name—even working wonders—but have never entered into the Holy of Holies (the  bedchamber of our Lord) to experience true intimacy (see Matthew 7:22-23). 

Though honey glistens the individual eye with revelation, and new life is breathed into endurance by its sweetness, we need the dripping honeycomb of the corporate eye of revelation to enter into the bridal chamber of bittersweet love.  The Rock is the root of every sweet flower and to enjoy the fullness of Christ we must be both cross (of Christ) pollinated and cross (the body) pollinated.  Just as many stings occur in pursuit of pure honey, so we must endure much stinging to obtain the sweetest revelation.  We are made a city compact together; if war is needed to bring peace, if flesh must be rebuked to reach spirit, then we must be willing to pay the price to place our unity on spiritual ground.  We can no longer pray and seek God with all our hearts and then shove aside the answers because we do not like the vessels used or the methods employed.

It takes the pollen of a thousand flowers to make a cup of honey, and it will take many unified Christians to clarify our mind and individual purpose.  We see and know in part, but the more our part is shared and enlarged toward wholeness, the larger our part becomes and the more enlightened we become with growing consensus.  Yes, it takes courage and purpose to delve deeply into life with others; the deeper we penetrate into relationship with our brother or sister, the more real we become with each other, the more stings we encounter.  Our flesh and theirs will object to such intrusion.  However, and notwithstanding this price, if we are to sweeten our lives (and others) we must deal with each other at a stamen level.  A stamen is the pollen-producing reproductive organ of a flower; we must have intimacy at a reproductive level if we are to enjoy the drippings of the honeycomb and reproduce after our kind.   


Thursday, March 17, 2016

On the Strength of their Dreams

“The dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3 NASB).

Lately a Christian friend of mine—who is struggling to hear from the Lord—has taken a keen interest in dream interpretation.  He’s having numerous dreams, and then he relates them to me and a handful of friends.  Occasionally I see something, and I relate it to him, and he is no further enlightened.  Additionally, he gets numerous and varied interpretations from those handful of friends.  Putting all of our interpretations together, however—and with the few interpretations he conjures up himself—is contradictory, confusing, and ultimately very frustrating to him.

Some years back, I went to a home meeting where two ladies taught dream interpretation.  As the meeting progressed, I was spiritually agitated and sensed error.  These ladies taught a rigid symbolism that placed objects, colors, emotions, etc. in very specific meanings; they basically forced their interpretation onto others under the auspice of expertise.  Throughout the meeting people shared their dreams, and as these two ladies interpreted them, the Holy Spirit was speaking to me and showing me a different interpretation.  Many things they were saying I was seeing differently, and as I could, I spoke out about what I was seeing.  But alas, THEY were the “experts,” so I was hardly heard.
       
There are many books on dream interpretation, both from a Christian and New Age/secular perspective.  Too often, however—and I’m speaking to the Christian—there is mixture and formulation rather than purity and spontaneity.  The young dreamer Joseph said “DO NOT INTERPRETATIONS BELONG TO GOD?” in response to two downcast souls who said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it” (Genesis 40:8 NASB).  Now the fact that Joseph was the channel through which God interpreted their dreams does not change the fact that “Interpretations belong to God.”  It only means that God can use anyone, anything, or even Himself directly, to communicate with man.

Please allow me some latitude as I seemingly go sideways or even backwards in order to fill in some gaps in our understanding.  Let us look at various excerpts of Scripture which touch on different aspects of dreaming.

When Joseph was brought before Pharaoh two years after his encounter with those two “downcast souls,” his fellow inmates (the cupbearer and the baker), he said to Pharaoh, “Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh TWICE [emphasis mine], it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about” (Genesis 41:32 NASB). “Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him TWICE [emphasis mine], and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded” (1 Kings 11:9-10 NASB). “Once God has spoken; TWICE [emphasis mine] I have heard this: that power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).  A severe reprimand came to Peter in this two-fold form, “Before a rooster crows TWICE [emphasis mine], you will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:72).

In another example, “Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.  But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.  A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’  Again a voice came to him A SECOND TIME [emphasis mine], ‘What God has cleansed no longer consider unholy.’ This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky” (Acts 10:9-16 NASB).

EXACTLY TWO YEARS AGO today (on 3/17/2014)...this just happened without any scheme or orchestration on my part, I wrote the following article:
 
Face to Face

“There is much talk in Christendom in our times about God speaking to us in dreams, and it is undeniably scriptural and something I have occasionally experienced myself.  But I cannot help but be less enamored with that mode of communication than it seems many are concerning it.  And maybe because it seems too ethereal to me, or that I have little experience in it, but I’d rather talk with God while I’m awake at my study, or in my quiet time before Him in prayer, and in the full cognizance of my mind and heart, physically alert.

“Now I am aware that He seals His instructions to me while I sleep, and that if I am obtuse, He will come to me in a dream.  “Why do you complain against Him that He does not give an account of all His doings?  Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it.  In a dream, a vision of the night, when sound sleep falls on men, while they slumber in their beds, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction,
that He may turn man aside from his conduct, and keep man from pride; He keeps back his soul from the pit, and his life from passing over into Sheol” (Job 33:13-18 NASB).

“And it has also occurred to me that the first time the word dream is mentioned in holy writ is in context with death, not life.  “God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, ‘Behold, YOU ARE A DEAD MAN” (Genesis 20:3 NASB).  I have come to accept what theologians call “the rule of first mention.”  When a word is first used in scripture, it is often (if not always) the seedbed of every subsequent usage of that word; thus its first usage sets the tone and context in which to understand it from God’s perspective.  So, in that vein of thought, dreams are warnings, not warm and friendly conversations per se. 

“Please don’t misunderstand me, a warning is a kindness from God, not an open rebuke (YET).  I hope God gives me as many dreams needed to keep me back from the pit of hell, but I more hope that I would live in such a manner as to not need them at all.  I want to know God face to face, in open, awake, and straight modes of communication.  And I have learned that in deep humility, in utter poverty of person, He comes to me face to face; the pure in heart see God, and I would suggest, face to face. 

“When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent.  Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses FACE TO FACE, JUST AS A MAN SPEAKS TO HIS FRIEND [emphasis mine]” (Exodus 33:10-11).  Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth...If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make myself known to him in a vision.  I SHALL SPEAK WITH HIM IN A DREAM.  NOT SO, WITH MY SERVANT MOSES, HE IS FAITHFUL IN ALL MY HOUSEHOLD [emphasis mine]; with him I speak mouth to mouth (obviously also face to face), even openly, and NOT IN DARK SAYINGS, and HE BEHOLDS THE FORM OF THE LORD” (Exodus 12:3, 6-8 NASB).
 
“Therefore...we...are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away (the old covenant) ... But we all (Christians, part of the new covenant based on better promises), with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:12-13, 18 NASB).

“In the final analysis, dreams are at the fringes of relationship, necessary as they may be in any one of us, me included.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be at the fringes or the hems of the outer garments of healing virtue, as great as that is when I wander and need it.  No, I want to know God, and face to face!  If Moses could, and did, and seemingly because he was the humblest man on the face of the earth, and via a less glorious covenantal relationship, how come we don’t know Him better, even face to face?  I don’t know about you, but if I am to fight for anything amongst flesh and blood, let me scrap to be the humblest man on the face of the earth if that is what it takes to know Him face to face.  Dreams are for sleepers and accomplished in the dark; reality is for those that are awake and accomplished in the light.  Help us Lord to see your form in clear relief and to know you as our friend, not in dark sayings and dreams of the night, but in open daylight face to face.”

---End of “Face to Face” Article---

It is clear that a hierarchy developed amongst those who followed Jesus.  In concentric circles from inner and smaller and more intimate relationships with Jesus to outer and larger and less intimate relationships with Jesus occurred.  There was the three, the twelve, the seventy, the one-hundred and twenty, and the masses, and to each group He related differently.  On either extreme, His expression was group specific: before the three He transfigured; before the masses He spoke parabolically.

At one end, the Lord is face to face; at the other end, He merely speaks in dark sayings.  Dreams, as a means of communication, are nearer the end of the spectrum of dark sayings, whereas face to face communication is nearer friendship and communion.  Jude, after writing about those “ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” and equated the depths of their depravity to those “who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” said, “In the very same way, ON THE STRENGTH OF THEIR DREAMS [emphasis mine] these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings.  But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’  Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them” (Jude 8-10 NIV).

“Then He said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream’” (Numbers 12:6 NKJV).  “Now, as for us, we all, with uncovered face, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are having our outward expressions changed into the same image from one degree of glory to another according as this change of expression proceeds from the Lord, the Spirit, this outward expression coming from and being truly representative of our Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18, Wuest).  Now I would suggest that this mirror mentioned in the preceding verse is the Logos, the Scriptures, as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.  Prophets moved by the Holy Spirit can certainly edify, exhort and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3), but they also, AND PRIMARILY (in the OFFICE of the prophet, not those merely exercising the GIFT of prophesy), teach, rebuke and correct (2 Timothy 3:16) within the boundaries of the very broad Logos interpreted by the Holy Spirit.
 
I see too many today enamored by THE STRENGTH OF THEIR DREAMS rather than by the beauty of the Lord.  I am not suggesting that we jettison dreaming altogether, but I am suggesting that we press into the Lord more fully until we are close enough to communicate with Him face to face.  In the whole of Scripture, dreams are warnings, corrections and rebukes.  In the first usage of the word “dream” in Genesis 20:3—“You are a dead man!” is its tone and theme; in its last usage, in Jude 1:8—“defiling the flesh” is its stamp.  Look at the tone in a large sampling of its usage: 
    
“I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name.  They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’  How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? ... Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully.  For what has straw to do with grain? ... ‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’” (Jeremiah 23:25-29 NIV).  “His watchmen are blind, all of them know nothing.  All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, DREAMERS lying down, who love to slumber” (Isaiah 56:10 NASB).  “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.  For they prophesy falsely to you in my name; I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 27:8-9 NASB).  “The household gods talk nonsense, the diviners have seen a lie; their dreams convey delusions, and the comfort they offer is in vain.  Therefore they go their way like sheep in distress from lack of a shepherd” (Zechariah 10:2 CJB).

“For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness.  Rather, fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7 NASB).