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God’s current massive creative work

March 30, 2011 Comments off

Dear friends,

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.[1]

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.

Be blessed,
Paul

[1] 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…

Seeking peace

January 23, 2011 Comments off

The Guardian has an interesting article on the downside to social networking. But it doesn’t focus on the more blatant dangers we hear about, such as stalkers, immorality or the loss of privacy. It’s focus is on the subtle but profound effect of life on the Net to how we think.

Information comes so quick these days that it is possible to become addicted to its flow. We used to use the term news junkie rather lightheartedly, but these days the pace of headlines is so great that I am certain that following it actually can become a physical addiction affecting the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

I’ve traditionally been a prolific commenter to news articles, and I had my Facebook/Twitter period. But lately, I find myself being much choosier about when I add my thoughts. I often step back and watch the counterpoint, and I realize that precious few are really communicating with one another.

And why should that surprise, when all one has to do is turn on cable news and find the same dynamic among our politicians and pundits? The whole nation is divided, with both sides talking past each other.

It’s necessary that we speak out, but we have to be careful not to fall into the mire of a fallen and degenerate culture. Nothing good will come from doing the world’s business the world’s way. We have a higher and more effective calling.

James tells us that the seeds of righteousness are sown in peace. And lately, I’ve been craving – I mean, really craving – peace in my heart. I want to have an intimate relationship with the Lord, and that cannot happen if I fill all my time with the mad rush of social networking and current events that is constantly changing its face and yet underlyingly always the unfruitful same.

Peace is stressed repeatedly in the Bible. Jesus gave His disciples a peace that, because it was not dependent on circumstances, could not be taken away. The great theologian, Paul, shows how we have peace with God through Christ, and then exhorts us to let that peace reign in our hearts. When he says we should “seek peace and pursue it”, that’s not mere parallelism. Paul is saying to first look for the ways of peace, and then upon finding them, to follow after them with everything we’ve got.

The repetitive emphasis on finding and pursuing peace screams to us one essential implication: though the peace of Christ cannot be taken from us by the world, we ourselves can yield it up if we do not attend to it. It is our responsibility to place God first and to guard what He has given.

In fact, James tells us that there is only one thing more important than peace – truth. We should never do violence to truth in order to win peace. That would make us appeasers, fearing man and looking out for ourselves. There is a world of difference between peacekeepers and peacemakers.

If you find yourself caught up in anything that is not bringing you peace, it may be time to evaluate and inquire whether the Lord is in it with you.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

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Out of the comfort zone, and on to victory

October 28, 2010 Comments off

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.

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Jesus Insists On Full Salvation

July 19, 2010 4 comments

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?

Jewish law

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God’s motivation was love (video added)

June 30, 2010 4 comments

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.

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There is great gain in contentment!

April 26, 2010 Comments off

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.

Posted via email from paul1149’s mini-blog †

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Conditions are right! -by Jeremy Caris

April 25, 2010 Comments off

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

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