I’ve been silent for a while, but I wanted to pass these two pieces from openheaven on to you.
God is doing something massive in these last days. The spiritual warfare has been intense, but the tide is turning, and through it the Lord is raising up a people who will be fit to share His very throne with Him, to partake in the Divine nature itself, and to rule and reign with His delegated authority.
Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, we have been warned, and we are seeing this before our very eyes, virtually on a daily basis. Day by day the greatest country the world has ever seen is being brought lower and lower by the weight of its own corruption. Natural disasters worldwide are on the dramatic increase. There currently is a ray of hope in the Arab nations, but this can, and probably will, turn toward the dark side in an instant, setting up a true end-times scenario with respect to Jerusalem. The nations, it is abundantly clear by now, have absolutely no answers. They can only offer photo-ops and smooth oratory. But satan does not care how white their teeth are, and he does not bow before polished oratory.
Jesus told us that when we see the signs of last-days anguish, we are not to despair, but rather to look up to our soon-coming redemption. Even though we are going through a crucifixion now, the eye of faith not only can see the victory coming, it can see the Bride being prepared by the very fiery trial besetting us.
And so I’m going to pass on these two articles from openheaven.com, which I think speak powerfully of the creative work the Lord is doing in the church at this very moment. Openheaven has an email list that sends out roughly weekly, containing such articles and also a useful summary of Christian-related news.
 For more on the incredibly powerful theme of our being outfitted for glory, and the power inherent in our prayers, see my review here of Billheimer’s book, Destined For the Throne.
1. Kingdom Impact
By Ron McGatlin
Trading Our Limitations for His Supernatural Life
Becoming One Spirit with Christ Jesus is no small matter. It is beyond our imagination – far greater than we could ask or think. It has not entered into the hearts or minds of natural man’s understanding. However, in this new season of emerging kingdom, God is revealing it to us by His Spirit.
In a moment of time we can be transformed by the Holy Spirit – changed in the twinkling of an eye by the powerful impact of the in breaking kingdom of God in the Holy Spirit. This is new, and we have not come this way before. Christ, by His Spirit, indwelling our spirit-being is transforming our weak spirit into His powerful Spirit that is HOLY HOLY HOLY.
No more mixture and no more falling back. What we could not do, Christ in us will do as we truly become one with Him. We no longer live but He lives His pure, holy life of love, power and wisdom where we once lived.
Yes, there may have been many years of “here a little and there a little” – years of three steps forward and two steps back – years of tearing down our foolish self-focused pride filled lives – years of our erecting our own castles in our own kingdoms – deceiving ourselves with religious platitudes from a god of our own making. We built precept upon precept and line upon line to be snared in our own works only to fall backward and be broken.
Isa 28:13: But the word of the LORD was to them, “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little,” That they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught.
In the passing church emphasis age we, for the most part, did not experience the kingdom impacting us, changing us in the twinkling of an eye. In this new kingdom emphasis age things are not as they were.
Judgment is coming swiftly to chasten and turn believers toward the now visible kingdom and away from our self-sufficient, do-it-ourselves lifestyle. Judgment of God is always for cleansing. Falling upon our faces in true repentance and crying out to God are often brought about through the severe disappointments of the devastating failure of a crumbling life under cleansing judgment of God. If everything kept on working well for us in our less-than-holy living, we would not be searching for change. Read more…
Out of weakness were made strong – Heb 11.34
Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle –Ps144.1
The story of Gideon gives us a vivid biblical illustration of how the Lord can raise up a fearful, powerless person to be an overcomer. Gideon, you may know, was treading his wheat secretly in a secluded winepress when God spoke to him. The Israelites were outnumbered and out-armed by the Midianites, and had been “brought low” and were being badly abused. (Judges 6)
Gideon was hiding away, quite understandably full of fear, yet God chose him to defeat the Midianites, a task far bigger than he alone was capable of. The story of how God raised up Gideon to complete this task tells us a lot about how God works in His chosen vessels even today.
God’s first message to Gideon was that He was with him. And note that God addressed this fearful person as a “mighty man of valor”. In the midst of repression and reproach, God was speaking his affirming vision over Gideon. And Gideon’s first response was the classic, “if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” Isn’t that always our biggest hurdle? To believe the good promises of God in the face of the daunting circumstances life can throw at us?
To overcome Gideon’s lack of faith, God began to give Gideon encouraging signs. First He miraculously consumed a sacrifice with fire. This terrifying event made fearful Gideon even more afraid – but it served to focus the fear where it belonged – on God. When we fear God we no longer have to fear man. Sometimes God needs to give us a jolt in order to awaken us to a new work.
Gideon now was encouraged enough to face the first challenge Lord asked of him. He was to pull down the town’s idols and replace them with an altar to the Lord. Gideon needed every bit of his newfound courage to do this (and indeed he did it under cover of darkness), because pulling down the town’s idols of choice was not a terribly effective way to make friends and increase one’s life expectancy. Predictably, the neighbors were up in arms afterward and aiming to kill him for offending their religious sentiments (remember, this was Israel, so you can see how far the people had fallen spiritually). It was only Gideon’s father’s intervention that saved him. His father essentially told the townspeople that they would have to go through him to get to Gideon, and then he had the wisdom to challenge them to let their gods punish Gideon if those gods really were so powerful (v. 31).
Gideon’s father’s courage and wisdom saved the day, at a point when Gideon was just starting out in his walk of faith and he was very vulnerable. If we see our brothers striking out against the idols of today and in a vulnerable position, we ought to do the same for them.
Gideon was strengthened by his success, and now the Lord was ready to call him to fight the Midianites. For this new task Gideon would need an extra dose of encouragement. He prayerfully put out a fleece one night, and the next day it was drenched with dew while everything else was dry. But to be absolutely sure that he wasn’t imagining the whole God thing, he repeated the experiment. This time the fleece was dry but everything else was wet. At the mouth of two or three witnesses every thing shall be established.
The Lord was raising Gideon up, and He was doing it by mixing affirmations with challenges. First He would show Gideon His mighty power, and then He would challenge Gideon to do some risky faith-stretching exploit. If God had given Gideon support with no challenges, Gideon would have grown complacent and would never would have grown up spiritually. And if He had given challenges with no support, Gideon would have been spiritually paralyzed and also would not have grown up spiritually.
Father knows how to balance our spiritual “nutrition and exercise” in just the right way in order to work what is best for us. While we are going through the discipline, at times it doesn’t seem balanced to us at all. It seems hard. But that’s inherent in the definition of testing faith. By nature we crave the familiar status quo, and God sometimes has to make us uncomfortable in order to get us to move forward.
It behooves us to get into agreement with God early. The more in harmony with God we are, the less disruptive and painful our spiritual growth will be.
Now the battle with the Midianites loomed. This was big. Gideon must have felt relieved when some thirty-two thousand men showed up, forming a significant army. But God had a problem with that – the job had to be done with fewer men, so that the glory clearly would be His. So He had Gideon thin the ranks. Those who were afraid were allowed to leave, and twenty-two thousand did so.
That left an army of ten thousand brave men, but that was still too many. At the Lord’s direction, Gideon separated out three hundred more men. That wasn’t such a lot of soldiers to lose, Gideon may have thought. But if he was thinking that way, he was much mistaken – it wasn’t the three hundred that were to be sent home, it was the 9700! God was going to send Gideon into battle with a mere 300 men! Clearly, God was VERY intent on receiving the glory Himself!
This was a challenge, indeed. Do you see the dynamic here? When God chooses one to be a vessel of His glory, He begins a process of stripping him of his natural strength. This forces him to rely on God alone – not man, not his own abilities, but God alone.
At this point, Gideon understandably began to question and fear again. And so the Lord shifted back to Affirmation Mode. He sent Gideon sneaking into the enemy camp, where he “just happened“ to overhear two soldiers discussing an unlikely dream whose interpretation confirmed that an impending victory awaited Gideon.
This would be the last bit of encouragement that Gideon would need. His assurance was complete, and he went on to execute his bold battle plan magnificently. The fearful man initially alone and hiding from his enemies had been transformed into a military leader whose breathtaking boldness shocked, confused and terrified the enemy into self-destruction.
Very often when God raises up a person out of strongholds such as fear, depression and despair, He will use a process similar to the one He used with Gideon. He will demonstrate His protection and power, but at the same time He will lead His wavering warrior into challenges previously undreamed of, where new levels of overcoming faith are required.
To walk with God requires courage, but to seed that courage He goes out of His way to reassure us of His faithful providence. As with Gideon, often our fear is not completely taken away initially. There may be a period in which both fear and courage are present together, working against each other, and godly character develops as courage dynamically overcomes the fear.
It’s a growing process, and as our faith grows our heart becomes more healthy. God knows exactly what we need. If we give Him our willingness, He will work in us to bring about godly change, even dramatic change. And it’s a win-win all the way around. God builds His character into us and sets us free from our strongholds, and at the same time we become useful to Him in setting others free and in building up His Kingdom.
The story of Gideon is a fascinating, vivid study in how God can work in even the most fearful person to overcome extremely daunting odds. The good news is that the story is not about Gideon alone, because what is written of him was written for our instruction, as an example to us. Whatever obstacles you face, what God did for Gideon he will do for you, if you will believe the promises and rise to the challenges He allows in your life.
There’s a well known story in the Bible, about a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years. She came to Jesus from behind, secretly touched the hem of His garment, and was healed. It seems like a simple story, but there’s much going on beneath the surface that you might not be aware of. When we examine the story, we find that both Jesus’ and the woman’s behaviors seem strange, until we understand the religious and cultural context of Israel back then. And in finding that key, we will come to see what is really the most important part of the story. First let’s take a look at what actually happened.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.
She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”
And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” – Mark 5:24-34
The scene is one of near chaos, as crowds throng around the Savior. Just previous to our excerpt, a Jewish synagogue leader named Jairus had come up to Jesus and fallen at His feat, pleading with Him to come and heal his young daughter who was dying. The girl was fading fast, and Jairus was uptight and in a hurry, so Jesus tells him “fear is useless; only believe”, and they start off to the girl. But then this woman with a chronic bleeding problem comes up from behind, touches Jesus’ cloak and is healed. Jesus senses that power has gone out of himself, and, despite Jairus’ desperation, stops and makes an issue of it. The disciples are incredulous – with all the people thronging around, many of them must have been touching Jesus. So what’s the big deal? But Jesus is intent on finding the person who was healed. Finally, the woman comes in great fear and falls to the ground trembling before Jesus, telling all. Jesus blesses her and continues on His way with Jairus.
There are some interesting questions here. Why did the woman come up to Jesus from behind? If she wanted a healing, why did she even from the outset intend on only touching Jesus’ garments rather than His person? Why did Jesus make an issue of this healing, when almost certainly many people in this vast crowd must have similarly been coming up, touching Him and being healed? And lastly, why did the woman finally come forward in fear and trembling, rather than with joy and exaltation at being healed of her long-standing disease? Indeed, the Gospel of Luke expands on why the woman even come forward at all:
And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. -Luke 8:47
According to Luke, the woman was not merely lost in the crowd, she was actually hiding in that crowd! What then was this woman so afraid of?
I always tended to be an intellectual type. And though my parents sacrificially provided everything we kids needed – it wasn’t always easy, I know, and I will bless them forever for that – there really wasn’t much sense of affection, belongingness or guidance as I grew up. As humans, we tend to project our earthly experiences onto God, especially family of origin issues, and because of that, I’ve often had a hard time trying to relate to God’s love. I saw that love written in the Bible, I heard it preached, and I’ve certainly even had wonderful times of communion in prayer and worship, but generally I’ve not understood or even had a functional belief in God’s love for me.
Instead, the motivation I could relate to for God saving us was the one I had seen in my parents – a commitment to high principles and ideals, to doing what was right. God was going to see through what He had started. It was His duty, as the one whose idea Creation was, to put an end to the evil and chaos that had spoiled it. And after all, He had His reputation to restore. He had been slandered in the Garden, when the devil charged Him with withholding good from humans and ruling over them for His own selfish pleasure. That had to be set right.
So the most I could relate to was that God saved us in order to do the right thing, but in my heart’s thinking, love and intimate interrelatedness had no place in it. He remained aloof from us.
But I hadn’t followed through the ramifications of one foundational point far enough. God knew everything that was going to happen before it occurred. He so easily could have avoided placing Himself in the position of having to do the right thing, and having to preserve His reputation, all at such a high cost, merely by not creating in the first place.
But create He did. Now God, the Self-Existent One, is perfect is every way and has no needs, so why did He do so? It boggles my mind, but He whose joy is already perfect takes joy in being a “cheerful giver”, in giving us life and happiness. He did not have to do it. But in order to give us a life of unending bliss, He committed to a path that would lead to Jesus dying a horrible death on the Cross. He esteemed it all to be worth it, so that He could share his glorious nature and have communion with us
Not duty, not vindication, but Love – love is why He made us, and love is why He paid the price to redeem us.
The distinction between love, as against principle, being God’s motivation toward us is beyond enormous. It is the difference between a personal and impersonal God. It is the difference between having an arrangement and having a relationship. It is the difference between being alone in a crowd, and really belonging. In short, it is the difference between just existing and being gloriously alive.
Over in 2 Corinthians, Paul gives us a compelling graphic image:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. - 2Cor 3:18
The right person could probably write a book on this one verse, but basically it tells us that as we gaze upon Christ’s glory, that glory fills us and transforms us into the very image of Christ that we are beholding. And it tells us that there is no end to it. As we keep beholding the glory, we keep being filled with more glory.
We can do that because we are “with unveiled face”. Anyone who has entered into covenant relationship with God through Christ the Lord has given Him the right to apply Christ’s holy blood as payment of our sin-debt. Just as the veil of the Jewish temple was torn in two when Jesus accomplished His vicarious, sacrificial death, when we trust Jesus for salvation the veil that separated us personally from God is torn away. We now have the right to behold our glorious God and Father in all His holiness, not through the keeping of law, not through external religion, not through any works of our own, but through the merits of His Son, our mediator.
Jesus the “only-begotten” Son of God has through His resurrection become the “first-born of many brothers”. We are adopted into the family of God, not as servants, being mere cogs on the wheel, but as brothers and friends. It is not a cold business arrangement we are called to, it’s a loving family unit. Mere principle is not the glue that holds it all together, and neither is vindication of God’s name. Rather, God’s unfathomable perfect love, lavishly poured out on us, is the very substance of our shared union.
Oh, how glorious heaven is going to be! That is why Paul could speak of all the woes and sorrows of this fallen world as a relative “momentary, light affliction”! It’s hard to see that sometimes, when troubles and sorrows come roaring in, but we need to keep reminding ourselves of it, because the beatific vision of God is where His “zoe” life is found.
Scripture warns us that God’s people perish for lack of prophetic vision. I’ve found that when I lack vision and can’t find my way through a situation, I need to repair back to the one central vision that drives the whole life in God. And that is the vision of who He is, what He has done and is going to do, and what ultimately drives His wonderful plan for us.
And the reason for that plan, and for the great and precious promises He has given us, and for the amazing introduction to grace that we already enjoy, is that He loves us eternally, with a limitless love beyond our ability to understand.
Praise be His glorious Name, forever.
Drivers on the road this morning – a damp, cold Monday – were rough, jagged, unpredictable, selfish, dangerous. I immediately adopted an attitude of meekness rather than fighting back. I decided I was not going to participate in the craziness. I took it easy and made my way sure.
What occurred on the road was symbolic of a reality operating in the spirit. The word that came to me was to be content. Paul has this to say about contentment:
1Cor 11:16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
2Cor 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Phil 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
1Tim 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment,
1Tim 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
Heb 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Being content in this world of discontent is a protection for our souls. It keeps us from making desperate choices that lead to disaster. And choosing contentment brings sweetness to a soul in turmoil.
Notice, contentment is a choice. We can make up our mind not to let discontent with our present circumstances upset our poise, not to let fear of the future or lust for gain distort our priorities, not to give anyone in a rage the power to control our emotional landscape. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is staid on You, because he trusts in You.” (-Is 26.3)
The ironic thing is that, often, being content also brings physical blessings on us – the very kind for which the world discontentedly strives. People who are content tend to draw friends easily, think clearly and have good priorities, do well at their jobs, handle responsibility well, avoid traps, and get promoted.
Nothing – nothing – is worth losing the peace Christ has brought to us. When the world loses its composure before your very eyes, don’t sign on to it. Regard it as an opportunity: keep your peace, and you will come out on the other side with spiritual promotion.
This comes by way of the Elijah List. I think it’s a timely and very-well-stated encouragement to deal with our situation as it NOW is rather than waiting for the breakthrough. Not that the breakthrough isn’t coming, but in one parable after another, the Lord taught us to be faithful during the dark seasons as we await the Light.
Conditions are right!Jeremy Caris
One of the key things that I see God doing right now is re-positioning many Believers who will cooperate with Him, making adjustments that will allow for advancement. If you are in Christ, your conditions are already right. You simply need to allow Him to position you in a way that will enable you to take advantage of the existing opportunities that surround you. I see the grace of Jesus being released to re-position many right now. The details of your particular circumstances may be daunting facts, but God will turn the current circumstances of your life to your advantage. Better than that, He is ready to use your circumstances to His advantage.
It’s tempting to think that perhaps one day in the future the conditions will finally be perfect and then you will be able to settle into God’s ways and His design, but I hear God saying that today is the day. Now is the time to trust God with your future and thereby enter the rest of God. ”So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:9-10, ESV).
How to Let Outside Forces and Circumstances Become Your Staircase to Ascend into God’s Purposes
Paul Keith Davis recently related this anecdote about the great Smith Wigglesworth, apostle of faith.
In 1922 Wigglesworth journeyed to New Zealand for a series of healing campaigns. At the time, he was unknown to New Zealand’s leadership, but with great confidence various pastors rented the Wellington Town Hall to host the meetings. To everyone’s delight, the Lord was wonderfully present in power, bringing healing and salvation to scores. The services were so successful that additional meetings were arranged and each was filled to capacity with God healing the most difficult cases of sickness and disease.
At the conclusion of the campaign one of the host pastors, while walking along the seashore with Wigglesworth, asked what his secret was to walking in demonstrations of God’s power. Wigglesworth responded, “I am sorry you asked me that question, but I will answer it. I am a brokenhearted man. My wife who meant everything to me, died 11 years ago. After the funeral I went back and lay on her grave. I wanted to die there. But God spoke to me and told me to rise up and come away. I told Him if He would give me a double portion of the Spirit—my wife’s and my own—I would go and preach the Gospel. God was gracious to me and answered my request. But I sail the high seas alone. I am a lonely man, and many a time all I can do is to weep and weep.”
A broken and contrite heart was the secret to Wigglesworth’s success with God. It is written in Psalm 51:17, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
As the two men continued walking along New Zealand’s seashore, Wigglesworth emphasized what he carried in God was not to be envied, but instead he envied what the last generation will see. Wigglesworth explained that he had experienced three open visions with the Lord. Two of them were already fulfilled at the time of these meetings in 1922. However, he expressed the third would take place after his death. Wigglesworth explained, “Oh it was amazing! Amazing! I cannot tell God’s secrets, but you will remember what I say—this revival we have had is nothing to what God is yet going to do.”
I find it interesting that such a powerful man in the Spirit would be, at his core, so broken. Smith was extremely direct and plainspoken, and brooked no nonsense. He would send people off the prayer line when he knew they had already received prayer for their healing. Once he actually punched a man several times in order to shake off a tumor. The onlookers were aghast and ready to revolt, but on the third punch the tumor literally dropped to the floor, with the man healed.
Another time Smith was attending a Christmas recital of Handel’s Messiah in a large hall in London. When the choir was done extolling the Hallelujah Chorus, Smith himself exclaimed HALLELUJAH! in a voice that so filled the hall that it made mention in a newspaper music review the next day. This former house plumber was an imposing man in every way.
And yet inside, he was broken. Hosea implores us, ““Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. (Hos 6:1) Sometimes the Lord must allow a great shaking to get our attention. In our brokenness He can minister sanctification of our souls, consecration to Him, and compassion for others, to a depth that can be achieved no other way.
I don’t know the full story of Smith Wigglesworth’s inner life, but his overcoming a broken heart and going on to be so powerful in the Lord gives me encouragement. If he can do it, I can do it, and you can do it too. We have the same Lord, the same Spirit, and a like faith, and the Lord has promised not to give us more than we can bear. Even a broken heart is no match for the imperishable seed that God has implanted in our spirit.
WordPressers and Facebookers, I can only hope this post will make it through intact. I’m posting remotely. Be blessed.
I was talking with a friend recently who told me of a chance she missed to avoid a whole lot of woe that has since befallen her. She felt that if she had only been stronger or wiser back then, her life would have taken a different and better course. There was a grim sense of having missed God, that now she was on her own, left to her own meager devices to solve her escalating problems and make something of her life.
I’m no stranger to feeling that way myself. Somewhere deep in the bowels of this blog I have shared how my first church rapidly went from being “on fire for God” to being just plain “on fire”, due to leadership failure. The devastation to the church was immense, but even worse was my own personal loss. I lost faith in man, in church, in myself, and ultimately even in God. I did transfer to another church, and was a very active contributor there, but my heart was no longer fully sold out for God. When serious difficulties arose in the new church, I stopped attending there as well. I had become a spiritual dropout. 1
Satan uses our mistakes, failures and missed opportunities as weapons against us, in an attempt to destroy our faith and effectiveness. For this reason, it is essential that we understand God’s perspective on these things, because His perspective is much better than ours.
We need to understand that nothing takes God by surprise. God exists outside of space and time. He is all-powerful and He knows everything – even the end before the beginning. Our trials, our failures, our falls, do not cause Him any worry. He knew they would happen, and He knows how they will end. And he also knows how to use them for our good, if we will let Him.
David Wilkerson points out that when the disciples encountered a brutal storm on the Sea of Galilee one night, it actually was Jesus who had caused their plight. Jesus had sent the disciples ahead in the boat, and then He had gone up to a mountain to pray in solitude. Surely in prayer the Son of God knew exactly what was going on on the sea below, and was in complete control of the situation even from his mountain overlook. But he let them go into the storm, and then at the right moment He showed up and calmed the sea.
As I get better perspective on my own life, I’m beginning to see that God does indeed work all things for good for those who love Him – and that He allows things to befall us in order to accomplish deep things that would not occur were we to live our lives on a smooth “business-as-usual” basis. our failings are not inherently good things, but God can and will use them for His purposes if we will turn to Him in faith.
In my case, because of the call to leadership on me, and my monumental ill-preparedness for it, I needed to experience the failing of the church. I needed to learn not to trust pastors, religious fads, man’s approval, or my own abilities. I needed a major lesson in trusting the Lord when things go wrong.
Jeremiah explains why: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Make no mistake, trials would not be trials if they simply were little intellectual exercises. They are designed to hit us where we live, and to cause us to give ourselves to the Lord in a very real way. That church trial nearly killed me, but I found it to be true in the Lord that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
That storm brought up a treasure trove of self-righteousness, unforgiveness and bitterness issues that were beneath the surface when the waters were calmer. But when the water got choppy, the issues became visible indeed. Thus the Lord used deep offense and betrayal to lead me to the crucifixion of my flesh, the only way the negative attitudes that were killing me could be removed. As the skilled master craftsman that He is, He creatively used evil to work good.
Oh, how painful it was to go through this process, and how long it took! But if I have one regret, it is not that the evil befell me, or that I had to go through the pain to be purged – the freedom and power that resulted is too precious for me ever to give them up. No, my one regret is that it took me so long to place TOTAL, UNCONDITIONAL TRUST in the Lord in the darkest hours of the trial, when nothing made sense. The Divine fellowship and spiritual growth that I missed! It is in the dark hours that our greatest opportunity for advancement is presented, and they are to be cherished.
The Lord has dealt with me exactly as was needed, including exercising infinite patience while I found my way back to Him, in order to bless me with His maximum blessing. He has used my weaknesses, my flaws, my lack, to guide me into situations where turning to Him was the only possible way out. And that is exactly what had to happen, for at the time I was not capable of doing better. Despite ourselves, He is going to perfect that which concerns us, and He uses our weaknesses to do it.
If you are racked by regret or remorse regarding past decisions, now is the time to put them to rest for good. Paul told the men of Athens: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). He explained to Timothy, regarding his own violent past: “Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” ( 1Tim 1:13). And peppered throughout the New Testament (and even the Old) there is plenty of support for Paul’s assertion that ignorance mitigates culpability:
Sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. -Rom 5:13
These verses and others teach that God is categorically unconcerned with the failings of our past, except as He can use them to help build us and others up now. It is absolutely crucial that we stand on the Word in this matter, because satan wants to devour us.
We do not confess our sins in the manner of pagans who scourge their backs – as if they could even begin to pay for their own sins or prove their worthiness of God’s forgiveness. It took the holy Blood of the Son of God to redeem Creation. We could never earn our own salvation. We confess in simple childlike faith that He will forgive and cleanse, just as according to 1Jn 1.9.
The time is short, and opportunities are precious. God wants each one of us free and empowered to fully represent His Kingdom of grace, truth and love. Let’s get all our issues behind us, and in faith let’s press forward into the glorious destiny the Lord still has for us – for all of us.
1. John Bevere deals with this “cruise-a-matic” phenomenon, which he calls “spiritual vagabonds”, in his book The Bait of satan. While that book is a powerful warning about letting offense keep you from God’s purposes, it is seriously flawed in placing responsibility on the person offended to reconcile with an unrepentant authority figure).
Update, 7/8/10: I’m adding a link to a powerful video about a modern-day Mary Magdalene from The Stranger series. Here is Part One; you can cycle to the other two parts from there.
It’s critical to Christian growth that we weed out whatever we can that is negative toward God’s will for our lives. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We must allow nothing to defile that temple or obstruct God’s workings within us.
When God tells us we are forgiven, set free, and uniquely commissioned to do our part in performing His glorious will on earth, our task is to believe and to abide in His purifying and empowering grace, through obedience allowing ourselves to be conformed to the Word. If we allow distractions, if we allow others to come and talk down our calling, these are like weeds choking the seed of the Word, making it of no effect. We soon will lose confidence that we heard God correctly in the first place, or if we still believe, that we can fulfill that to which we are called. We will be diverted and we will make no progress. Valuable time and opportunity will be lost.
When God cut His covenant with Abraham, birds of prey attempted to take away the sacrifice before it could be consumed by God’s holy fire. Abraham rose up and drove the birds away. Abraham was powerless to consummate the covenant himself – God would walk alone through the sacrifice to do that, signifying that He was taking to Himself sole responsibility for bringing about the covenantal promises – but Abraham did have a responsibility to present the sacrifice properly and to protect it from being stolen away.
So too with us. While God alone can bring about the wonderful promises He has given in Christ -promises of peace, eternal life, fruitfulness, and fullness of joy – it is our responsibility to present ourselves with the correct attitude, as a living sacrifice, and to prevent that attitude from being stolen away. If we jealously guard the anointing within us, God will be free to perfect that which concerns us, cause us to triumph, and bring us to higher pastures.
Lately, I’ve been spending time landscaping where I’m living. And I’m doing it the old-fashioned way – with shovel, steel rake, johnson bar and wheelbarrow. There I am, with post-grad credits, having owned and managed a corporation for many years, and I’m grading, trenching, digging out rocks, and clearing brush. And you know what? I am absolutely loving it, every moment (except for the torturous mayflies).
And the reason is God’s sweet presence, and the absence of negativity. The only negativity is that which I allow, and I’m working on that. I’m definitely learning to stand my ground against the devil.
You can have all the power, position, fame and fortune that this world offers. I would rather work a steel rake – if that’s what God has for me to do – than have all of it, if it meant losing God.
As Rees Howells would often say, guard your position of abiding. Nothing is more important to seeing success in God. Do not allow any negative influences to spoil that precious attitude where faith works through love. Where we abandon dead works and instead adopt a willingness that allows God’s power to flow into us.
Sometimes it’s expensive to divest ourselves of negative influences. Relationships may have to be altered or even broken, and codependent relationships are often protected by barriers of fear – fear of confronting and fear of losing the comfort of the relationship.
But it’s worth it. Put God first, and He’ll see to it that all things are added to you. And they’ll be added the right way. They’ll be permanent, and they’ll give peace and joy.
Difficult times are coming. There is no time to lose. Each one of us must be fully reconciled to God if we are walk in joy and be effective. We need to parse our lives carefully, and weed out anything we can that conflicts with God’s design for us.
An excellent message received via the ElijahList, dealing with different ways we can be hurt, and how to find the power to overcome and turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
In Betrayal – “I Love You”
While He was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”—Luke 22:47-48
“Beloved one, I am Love that will not let you go. To those of you who have walked in the pain of betrayal from dear ones you have trusted and loved, I release the grace to overcome such pain and crushing disappointment. My Love is more than you will ever need to forgive betrayal. Reach deep inside of Me and find a place of forgiveness from which to draw upon. Rest your souls in Me. Let Me cover the scars of betrayal with the healing power of My love. Be not battle weary, but allow Me to kiss away the effects of the lies, the greed and the fear from others that led to your betrayal.
“You have shared in My cup of suffering, so that you might also share in My cup of Joy. My heart overflows with love for you. My love is freedom, My love is unchanging and all-powerful in the pulling down of strongholds that would keep you from flowing fully in My grace. My love is your storehouse in times of great need. Child of My heart, I love you; betrayal is overcome by the Cross.”
In Denial – “I Love You”
It is good for the heart to be established by grace –Heb 13.9
It’s been a while since I posted, so I thought I’d try to catch up. This has been the most amazing growth season for me since I was first Saved back in 1980.
In a nutshell, what’s going on is brokenness turning over fallow ground, necessity sowing seeds of change, and tears supplying the rain. With the passage of time, “someone warming them from below”, and my reintroduction to the Gospel of Grace, which I once knew but had somehow lost sight of, those seeds have been bearing a rich crop.
I’m finding that issues that have dogged me for many years are gently dissolving away. Challenges arise, then I watch them get knocked down in real time. And like the dead soldiers floating in the Red Sea after Moses and the Israelites crossed over safely, I don’t think I’ll be seeing them again.
I’m learning so much that I don’t know where to start, so I’ll only give a brief synopsis. One thing I’m learning is not to defend myself. In the past, when the voice of the accuser came on me, I’d have my familiar script to read back to him. It was all very logical and sound. The problem is that it originated in the soulical realm, the mind. Consider the wonderful verse in Isaiah:
No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants – I will vindicate them,” says the LORD. – Isa 54:17
Notice that last part: “I” will vindicate them. I realized that I was doing an elaborate and unending kabuki with the accuser. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the script to him, but he always comes back. The Holy Spirit has been increasingly showing me lately that I need to silence myself and let Him handle the defenses.
So I’ve stood down. I’m resting in the Lord, holding my peace. Remember that old, great song, “If I hold my peace, and let the Lord fight my battles – victory, victory shall be mine”. That’s what’s happening here. I want the resolution to come from deep within my being, from the workings of the Spirit, so that when this is done, it will be done permanently. I want the past to be passed, once and for all. This is it.
Grace is so beautiful. To think that my sins are not imputed to me! It’s been so long since I felt the reality of that, and a great weight is off me. When I mess up, I don’t have to deny or avoid the facts. Do you know how great that is for mental and emotional health? It’s the very basis of it. I can relax. I feel genuine gratitude for Jesus setting me free, and gratitude is wonderful for the soul. I’m more conscious of His love, and my love reflecting back has increased. Simply put, I’m being set free and empowered.
I spent much of today doing yard work. There are some water issues here – pooling on the lawn, washing out the gravel drive – so out came the shovels and the steel rake, and I went about grading and trenching. The Spirit was so sweet I would have been happy if I could do this the rest of my life. I don’t need advancement, I don’t need popularity, I don’t need much more in the material realm than food and covering. As long as I have the Spirit of God, I felt today that I had virtually no other needs.
As I worked I had a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne, His glory radiating from His face. The light of His glory hit me and went through me. I saw that this was the heavenly hope we all must have, to strengthen us for the ardors of the journey. And I saw that by granting me the vision, the Lord was gracing me with that strength. Realizing that, just being able to love Him turned that yard into heaven for me.
Because of my sin, that glory also carried a purging heat with it. It wasn’t exactly comfortable. This is my concept of purgatory, if you will – as scripture says, we are translated in the twinkling of an eye, but to the degree that we have built on wood, hay and stubble, we are saved as through fire. It’s not punishment, it’s purification, and it takes place in the heavenly context of God’s love and glory. We don’t have to pay for our sins – for 30 days, or 15000 years, or whatever period of time that struck the religious hierarchy’s fancy that day. We can’t pay for our sins, and to say we can is contrary to scripture (see parable of unforgiving servant, Mt. 18), bondage to us, and frankly, an offense to the Blood of the Son of God. If we could pay for our sins then why did Christ die?
The Lord also showed me today that the next mountain I will possess is Peace. He has shown me three areas in my life that need clarity and resolution. And I have not the slightest doubt that His leading me to see the need and to pray about it is a sure harbinger that He fully intends on setting me to it, bringing me through it, and giving me the victory.
The three areas have a commonality centered around what I consider perhaps the most important concept in Kingdom living today – human authority and its limits. We need to know how to deal lovingly, forgivingly, and rightfully, with parents, church and secular authority, not only for the sake of resolving past issues, but because new trials are coming.
All this is essential, because resolution of issues leads to righteousness, which is the foundation of peace. And peace in turns leads to joy, which leads to power (see Rom 14.17 and Neh 8.10). And power is what we need in order to live victoriously.
I’ve been thinking about Caleb lately. Someone pointed out that when the Israelites finally made it into the Promised Land, after their forty year detour for unbelief, Caleb, now eighty-five years of age, requested the area with the very mountains in which those giants that had intimidated Israel resided. He said, ~God may be kind to me and give me victory.~ Caleb was unpresumptuous, but behind it was a faith of forged iron and the courage of a lion. What an extraordinary spirit. Caleb went on to defeat those giants and possess the land for himself and his descendants.
So I’m excited about what’s been shaking, though the challenges are great. I want to emulate Caleb. As the Lord opens doors, I want to say with humility, the Lord may help me, but I know beyond doubt that if I am willing He will glory Himself in me. He is looking for people just like that, to prove Himself strong on their behalf (2Chr 16.9). I want to be one of those people.
I hope you are being blessed. May His glory fill His church to overflowing.