Today’s post is actually born of Matthew 14:22-33, Peter’s walk on water. Peter provokes me to think about being “between” from the vantage point of a “Father-oriented” heart.
It’s tempting to think Peter’s brief experience of walking on water was just a fluky thing born of a brash and compulsive nature. I don’t think so. I believe for a brief period of time Peter’s life was defying natural laws because in that space between the boat and the Lord, he was exercising a childlike take-Jesus-at-His word kind of faith, which innocently presumes all things are truly possible with Him. I want that. Don’t you?
Wouldn’t it be a shock to discover some day, that from heaven’s perspective, there for a brief moment on that lake, we were being given a glimpse of “normal” faith in action; instead, we write it off as an isolated, one-off miracle which really has no bearing on us today. I don’t want that shock. I would guess you don’t either.
After having found some lies hiding in it, I have come to think of my heart as a filter—a “Father filter.” To care for my heart as I must, keeping it clear for the Spirit to move in, it is essential that God remains in clear focus as my Father. I am not talking about a firm religious conviction that God is like a Father. I am talking about relating continually and presumptuously toward Him as my Father. I have discovered that if I can live in this state—in which His tone of voice is encouraging, not condemning, and I see His smile, not His frown—I am more likely to hear His invitation to get out of the boat. And–in that posture–I will be more inclined to respond positively.
Our perception of God is the most important thing about us. It determines, more than anything, how the issues of our lives play out (Proverbs 4:23). It also determines what we see ourselves between. If we see Him as harsh, frustrated, or angry, we will likely see ourselves sinking down, overwhelmed by our circumstances—always between a rock and a hard place. If we see Him smiling, saying, “Come now, little one, you can do this,” we will see ourselves between opportunities to know Him more intimately, and we will find ourselves being transformed from glory to glory.
Father, clean out the filters of our hearts so that nothing will prohibit Your Spirit from conveying to us your kind expression and tone. May we, like Peter, join you in whatever the new “normal” might look like. When You bid us, “Come,” sustain us with that childlike faith which Peter knew as He walked on water. Amen.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.
This psalm is a meditation on indulgence in and deliverance from envy. Asaph, the writer, gives us a first-hand account of his battle with this formidable foe. Prior to his liberation, his wits had devolved to the level of a beast. He made a wise move though: he carried his troubles to God. There, as he worshipped in the sanctuary, he found his footing, and everything came into focus. In the place of worship he learned the objects of his coveting were illusory. Most importantly, though, God himself was enlarged in his perception, becoming more than sufficient compensation for grievous circumstances.
Are battles with envy a familiar battleground to you? They have been to me. In the midst of the battle, however, I was not at all honest about them. In my first major skirmish with this enemy I think I too had devolved to the level of bestial perception.
When I was 37, I was on the outside of my family circle, watching my (now ex) brother-in-law take his place as the son my father never had. Adding to the drama: while my personal vision of a simple life, working with my hands within a Christian community was imploding, my brother-in-law was about to realize his dream of becoming a somebody in this world as the heir-apparent to the business enterprises owned by my Dad. My father needed a succession plan and my brother-in-law was it-by-default since I had vowed to never work for my Dad. I was descending; my brother in law was ascending. I was jealous.
But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
My steps had almost slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Like an ignorant beast, I failed to appreciate how this vow of avoidance had been driving my life. This vow (of self preservation) had even infiltrated and found a home inside my spiritual vision. I did not perceive my true motives until, like Asaph in my bitterness I was pierced (as he put it).
When my heart was embittered
And I was pierced within,
Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
Those who have glimpsed my heart wonder why I seem to camp around the theme of suffering. It is because, without the pressure God permitted (or created, I don’t know) through suffering, I would still be living in deception as to why I charted the course I had for my life. Without the pressure arising (from the financial vacuum created by my vocational path, the strain of immediate and extended family relationships, a failing business, body, and vision) I do not believe I would have experienced the goodness of God to the degree I have.
Most painful to me was the notion that my Father in heaven was somehow underwriting my demise. God’s passive (yet intimate) involvement in my debacle tortured me: “Why God? Oh why!” I know that God, as the causal agent (where suffering is concerned), is theologically incorrect in many circles. This is uncomfortable since many of my friends live within these circles. Yet, I cannot side step the fact that I was in a very dark place, which my Father in heaven had either orchestrated or permitted. Neither can I sidestep the fact that pressure, in its various forms, appears regularly in the stories of those who have known God intimately. My conclusion, though out of step with many, is that suffering is integral to child rearing. Even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered (see Hebrews 5:8).
In that season my sanity was stretched as I tried to envision my package of troubles evolving into any kind of Romans 8:28 good outcome. Sadly, envy and bitterness were having a heyday in my heart. In my body, soul and spirit, I was hanging by a thread while my brother-in-law was feasting off of the fatted calf. Regarding this and a litany of other matters, my soul was screaming, “WHY GOD!” The silence was deafening. I was actually developing a morbid curiosity, thinking, “Okay, this is going to hurt, but I will at least have a front row seat for the spectacular crash that is surely forthcoming.”
Shame too was dog piling. I had had enough dealings with God by this time to know Him as incredibly loving and faithful. My thinking was disastrous and I knew it. I was deeply ashamed. With this backdrop, given my stinking attitude, my simple prayer was, “Please, please, do not let this season pass without showing me what it is you’re after.” My confession was, “Surely, Lord, I am a dumb beast.” My request was, “Please lead me out of this valley. And—if possible—please soften the landing of my impending crash.”
God’s word of deliverance to me was not at all what I expected. While I chaffed at the injustice of my circumstances, wanting relief, wanting vindication from those whom (I perceived) had marginalized and abused me, a scripture passage stuck in my mind. It was Romans 12:18:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Immediately, the Spirit highlighted the fact I had serious ought in my heart toward a few people. I was indignant at the abuse I believed I had suffered at the hand of these vermin. I perceived reconciliation happening if and when these scoundrels returned to me with adequate sorrow for their crimes. My hurdles were: a) I also knew reconciliation was priority #1 with the Lord b) that it was possible and c) that it did depend on me (not them). I knew exactly what I was being asked to do and it was the most unfair, unjust, impossible directive conceivable! What I feared had befallen me: I was to take up my cross and follow Him.
This is an example of just how unlike my ways are to God’s. The Lord made it very clear: restitution for any crimes (real or imagined) against me, by them, was between God and them—not me. That situation (if it even existed) was off-limits to me! I was to deal with one thing and one thing only—my own deceived heart, which was ensnared in unforgiveness, envy and bitterness. (Note. Sadly, like a Pharisee, my heart was totally convinced of its righteousness and innocence. Foolishly, I wanted a trial where justice would be served: I knew a jury of my peers would exonerate me on all counts.)
Again, like a beast that had forgotten that it was God with whom I had to do, I was either unwilling or unable to see these things until I obeyed the mandate to make peace with all men (well… two of them to start with, anyway). It is not the time to tell the account of those reconciliations, but suffice to say they happened within weeks of receiving the Romans 12:18 mandate.
It was an astonishing watershed affair to experience God pouring his grace and mercy into one circumstance after another, especially into my parched soul. So, what launched this turnabout? I believe it was because the Lord had never taken his hand off my life (even in my extreme mess), and that as I reached up for his help, He was waiting and ready to deal with the root issues which were driving so many of the hurtful ways in my life. When I determined to obey, something alive immediately began growing in my heart. I could then acknowledge, with Asaph (with great confidence):
Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me into glory.
Though I despise the misery brought on by tests and trials, I cannot edit them from my story—or from my theology. Without suffering’s assistance in coming to the end of my rope (body, soul and spirit), I would never have known God’s presence in my descent or at the crash site. Really, what could I possibly exchange for the value of coming to personally know God’s love and faithfulness, even when it was expressed by way of the severe mercies He dealt me? Without these chapters in my story, how would I even have a story? How would I have come to sing with Asaph?
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Was my suffering just the reaping of what I’d sown? Was it a customized cross, designed to crucify certain aspects of my personality which were, in their own way, killing me? I confess: I do not know the precise answers to these questions. I strongly suspect, in a mysterious way, both are true. I believe at all times and in all ways (especially in the darkest messiest times) the Lord is faithful to His Word and that truly all things can work toward our good if we are willing to obey. My claim is: the messy chapters of my spirituality have culminated in an ability and willingness to say (often in the presence of contrary perceptions and feelings):
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all His works.
Obedience in this circumstance required that I let go (die to) my right to justice on my terms. It also required I let go (die to) my vision for my life. Whether my interpretations mesh theologically with others or not, I cannot control (therefore also becoming something I must relinquish). Regardless of its popularity, this type of dying (or relinquishing) is what I perceive Jesus calls us to do when He commands we take up our crosses, deny ourselves, and follow Him.
Lessons learned? As far as it concerns us, God wants us to take responsibility for our own hearts. We are to watch over our own motives, dreams and ambitions with all diligence. We aren’t called to do this for others. God will make far more headway with them anyway when we let Him be Lord by letting go of our judgments against them. This will do, both their hearts and ours, worlds of good.
By the evening of the day when I made restitution with the second party, God met my wife and I in a supernatural way that involved prophecy—something I had seen sorely abused. Imperfect as prophecy is, I heard the Lord say some things through people that could have only come from the One who searches men’s hearts.
That evening I was given a prophetic word that God was going to return to me the borrowed axe head which had been dropped into the river, which when recovered would be mine exclusively (from 2 Kings 6:1-7). The person offering this word reported that this passage had just dropped into his mind (much like the Romans passage had in mine), that he had no earthly clue what it meant, that he was just the messenger. Like Mary, I held that word in my heart, wondering what it might mean.
Although I had no ambition to reclaim my rightful place of inheritance as a first-born son, it was accomplished in spite of me. Allow me to explain. The extreme pressure of this season revealed my so-called “righteous” motives were co-mingled with motives of self-preservation, which protected me from feelings of rejection—which my Dad provoked. My vow to never work for him, when honestly restated was: “Over my dead body, will I ever, by God, let my Dad (or any other person) hurt me with their rejection. No way! No how!”
I was in relationship with God, but if I was going to go on with Him as a disciple, I had to break this vow, return to my earthly father, and see how life would play out in a place and in relationships I had been fleeing in fear—my whole life. If Jesus was to be Lord, things beneath the surface, like inner vows and roots of bitterness could not be allowed to drive my life as the father of lies would have wanted.
Without it being at the forefront of my ambition, God arranged it such that I would take my place as a first-born son in the family business and in our extended family. I have served as its president for the better part of the last two decades. God prospered the business and our family in this interval. Favor has relentlessly followed me in this unlikely, unanticipated chapter of my life. More importantly, love prevailed.
In that same space of time an estranged son and his father reconciled much of their turbulent (really non-existent) relationship. My father accepted Christ just before he died of cancer in 2002. The borrowed axe head indeed became mine. Even greater applications of this prophecy are accruing to my heart as I am living in greater harmony with my own identity-in-Christ. Indeed, He has done (and is dong) exceedingly abundantly and beyond my wildest expectations.
This is why I reject doctrines that excuse believers from suffering, trials, tests and discipline. While they admittedly provoke some fear and trembling, none of these words, understandably, have negative connotation to me.
Father, you would have us hear Your counterintuitive words of deliverance. Oh Lord, permit our trials to break our darkened hearts such that Your redemptive power and light pour in, setting us free from all the things that would blunt our understanding of your loving ways. Liberate us from the delusions of our own righteousness. Break us down such that our only foundation is You. Proceed, Lord, creating in us clean hearts that give You Your rightful place as Lord in every facet of our lives. All for the sake of Your beautiful, glorious name and Your unending kingdom. Amen.
A stone? What was Jacob thinking? Of course he would have odd dreams! Regardless of his pillow choice, this was one whopper of a download, compliments of the Sandman.
Would you like to have an encounter with God like this, something that would establish and confirm you, a promise-laden word that would direct and motivate you? If you are prepared to jump at this offer, here’s some spiritual-investment advice; “Hold steady.” In today’s MwM post, I will offer a complimentary side-by-side comparison of our deal with God and Jacob’s, which will explain my counsel.
I confess, it is tempting to want to see angels in my dreams and hear words in my sleep and to find physical places on earth where I could point and say, “That place is sacred because God met me there” so that I can then say, “I will always remember that day!” There is nothing wrong with these things. I know people who have had encounters with God at least as dramatic as Jacob’s. However, those who have and who go on to walk with the Lord do not look back on those events as the sustaining forces of their lives, they look forward to ongoing encounters with him.
While we look in awe at Jacob and the Old Testament Bible characters, I think they look down upon us, that great cloud of witnesses, and look forward to the day when we take a closer and more appreciative look at the covenant we have now with God. In truth, the great men of old knew they were only getting a foretaste of something that was to come. Jesus once confided to his intimates:
Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them. (Luke 10:24)
Why would Jesus say this? Wasn’t this demeaning to his forefathers? It might seem so unless, like Jesus, you knew that you yourself were the fulfillment of all God’s previously spoken words however they were expressed, be they dreams, visions, fire or wind.
We have so much Jacob would have loved to possess. We have new hearts that have been cleansed, rendering the need for animal sacrifices unnecessary. He didn’t. While Jacob was a nomad living in fear of marauders, we are not. Instead we’ve been joined together in one body in Christ. At Bethel, a ladder bridged heaven and earth for angelic travelers. Real estate equipped with heavenly portals is admittedly rare, but we should not mourn. While Jacob had an isolated visitation from God, we have become the temples of God. Our hearts have in a real sense become Bethels in their own right, where the overlap between heaven and earth happens to be our very own (significantly overlooked) hearts. Of all places! We are now conduits between heaven and earth.
I believe there is a day coming for Christ’s Body, whose members have all been sovereignly joined into existing networks, when our vastly superior identity and covenant will dawn upon us and we will jointly say: Surely the Lord is in this place, and we did not know it!
God’s kingdom has come and is coming; its expansion will always rest on the mysterious revelation of Christ in us, the hope of glory. That human beings—instead of temples, places, or events—have become the habitation of God is the scandalous, mysterious truth we have yet to corporately embrace. Someday in our future it will come into full view that it is Christ alone on whom the Kingdom is being built.
Every haughty human idea, which discounts Christ alone, which has exalted itself above the knowledge of God, is destined to bow its knee to Jesus Christ. We are not incorrect in saying that these vain, godless philosophies make up the spirit of this age. One thing between our current status and a kingdom growth spurt is the darkness that still blinds the Bride of Christ. We will have to humble ourselves and acknowledge that many of these haughty ideas are lodged in our own hearts where we have insisted on putting our temporal spin on eternal things so that we can manage and control them. Seriously, can we harness the wind?
Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)
To Peter (and, I believe, us) Jesus said:
“When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” John 21:18
Let’s wrap up our cost-benefit analysis on the deals we have with God. Jacob was negotiating. “If you’ll do this, then I’ll call you my God. And, if these conditions are agreeable to you, then I’ll give you a tenth of all that I have.” The if-then spirit of this negotiation is alien to the new covenant we’ve been offered by God in Christ.
God does not promise us earthly treasure if we do this or that. He does not bless us because we adhere to Old Testament calendars and precepts. The old covenant, with its Law and traditions, were all completed in Christ. Everything that was promised in those old agreements is now available to us around-the-clock and around-the-calendar in Christ. Those who tie anticipation of blessings and prosperity to the faithfulness of their tithe are undermining the grace of God and the fullness of Christ as all in all. How can Christ be our all in all when we feel we must always do more and more to lay hold of his blessings?
While Jacob’s deal has been negotiated for 10%, Christ will require 100% of us to receive and live out the free gift of grace he’s given us. The cost will seem like nothing one day. He offers us an eternal inheritance that includes a new identity in Christ. That is much more than his promise to Jacob! On the merits of Christ alone (without a single if), he still says:
I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.
I believe that when our hearts grasp the now-ness of our current deal, our stories will consequently reflect the now-ness of our Father’s kingdom intentions. When this happens, something will shift in the battle God is waging through us for this earth. When we hear the Body of Christ say with increasing unity, “Surely the Lord is in this place (our hearts), and I did not know it,” the winds of warfare will shift and the kingdom of God will expand in an unprecedented way—as it was forecast to so long ago.
Father, While it is surely ongoing, help us to see that there is something far better than the comings and goings of angels as we realize the import of the Holy Spirit’s immediate presence in our lives. Help us to look in awe at our own hearts and to realize our eyes are truly blessed to see Christ, the mystery of the ages. Help us to see that in Christ, we have been established and affirmed, motivated and directed to see that we are co-heirs with Christ, is our elder brother and our all in all. Help us grasp that in Christ, there is nothing that can be added to the fullness of what we have right now, in this very moment. May our weary hearts breathe those long and overdue sighs of relief and say with great joy, “Surely the Lord has been in this place.”
…The sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
Did you catch the apparent contradiction in that passage? Jesus just declared to his sheep that they would hear his voice—and then his audience didn’t hear his voice. So what does that tell us? One observation: we can recognize his voice, not understand it, and still be his sheep. He doesn’t give up on us when we read the Bible and don’t get it—when he tries to speak through life’s circumstances, and we’re too dull to get it. He doesn’t abandon us to the wolves. Instead, as he did with the original little flock, he tries again:
So…Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
A little flock of us my friends, nine men strong, took 12 months to take a close look at what it means to abide in Christ. We shared an intimate dialogue with each other provoked by The Journey, a course created by Rocky Fleming’s Influencers organization. While the curriculum was useful, there was another underlying component of our times together. There were always four T’s at work, building the foundations of our little community. They were: being together, truth, time and transparency. As we took the time to be together we became transparent and the truth found its way into our hearts—as it is apt to do when the Holy Spirit moves among two or three gathered in his name.
From the light generated in our two-or-more gatherings, at least one common theme emerged—a hunger for intimacy with God. Alongside that same hunger were also varying degrees of frustration that this coveted intimacy seemed out of reach (possibly waiting around the next corner?). Maybe you can relate to this.
I believe this sense of separation from God is a primary symptom of Religiously Transmitted Diseases (RTD’s)—something that Adam and all of us Eden-evicted decedents carry.
Because it is a common frustration I hear among my brothers, I addressed this letter to them.
As I look at this morning’s Blue Book scripture on the theme of Listening To God, I’m thinking about one of our recent discussions.
I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. (Jesus speaking in John 10:15-16)
…you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became a partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree…..you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree…a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Paul from Romans 11)
I think we are suffering from an RTD-symptom if we feel like we are God’s afterthought instead of his dream. A key symptom of this dis-ease is a loss of hearing at certain frequencies. Those ranges of sound that contain radically good news about us are lost in transmission. Here is an example of the type of truth that often goes un-received…
The Lord your God is in your midst (more precisely—in our hearts as…)
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy…
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
The scriptures, particularly the NT, are a prescribed remedy for this malady. What the scriptures say may be counterintuitive to our feelings or beliefs, but we must ultimately side with God against ourselves (also know as repentance) and agree with his scandalously high opinion of us. Today, having lived with an RTD for three decades, I now stand boldly in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.”
My point? It’s not important how we got here; it’s only important that we are here (by sovereign decree), living in the care of the good shepherd, whose love and care for us is beyond the dimension of our best finite, linear reasoning.
Many who are freed from this condition report that their hearing improves dramatically, and, because his words are the words of life, they regularly report greater levels of abundant life.
Father, may the full gale force your grace rush mightily through our hearts, finally sweeping them clean of all the religious debris. Exchange our self-doubt and strife for implicit trust and rest, which is our destiny. May our identities become so firmly grounded in you that we no longer remain the easy targets of Satan’s fiery missiles of condemnation. Help us to strengthen and hold fast to our profession as the children and friends of the King of Glory. Amen.
A Christian’s one-and-only hope is Christ, who may permit him to bare, in his heart (and sometimes in his body), a modicum of His sufferings. Those things, which His death and Resurrection will one day eradicate, may still plague him for a time. A great mystery of the new covenant is its efficiency. In Christ, nothing is lost, especially suffering. Even when a cause of suffering is not removed, it can be redeemed for eternity.
In the swirling winds of man’s existence, he is bruised and slammed by a hundred assailants from within and without. The particular danger of western culture is that we have 99 firewalls between our legions of perceived threats and ourselves. We can easily retreat into any one of them and insulate ourselves from the heat. But is this wisdom? Perhaps we should pause and ask, “Are these sling and arrows our friends or our enemies—or both?” When in doubt, consult an apostle:
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)
The soul conditioned in western culture recoils, “What are you saying Paul? You must be insane. I cannot rejoice in everything—because everything includes evil. Look around, you fool. Do you not see evil robbing and killing and destroying us on every front? Evil is crouching at our doorstep, just waiting to devour us.” Paul replies, “You are mistaken. Let me tell you how to redeem your mourning.” Let’s back up and capture the larger framework of Paul’s rejoice-always council:
We don’t really know when Jesus is coming back do we? All we can say for sure is that it will be without warning. Very much like a woman in travail, a few contractions and the child will be crying in her arms! However, as children of a new dawn, it should be quite different for you. The sun of a new kingdom has already arisen in your hearts. You have been awakened. Remain so. Protect your heart with the realty of Christ’s presence in you. Faith and love will flow from you as you do. God’s anger is off the table for you. Whether you are present in body or not, a banquet has been prepared at your table. Christ, your abundant Life, is the main course. Continue to encourage each other with these realities, born of your new dawn. (My paraphrase of I Thessalonians 5:1-11)
Let’s explore the balance of our passage in the same light:
Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. I Thessalonians 5:19-24 (NASB)
Most evangelical Christian’s eyes cross and blood pressures rise if you use the phrase prophetic utterances. Most of their teachers have told them that prophecy was one of the childish gifts entrusted to primitive Christians before scholarly officials could gather and place their imprimatur on a canon of ancient literature. Even though I understand this, I’m not buying it.
I have seen a person deliver a prophetic utterance while it appeared they had been hooked up to a 440 volt current. (I would call this ecstatic.) I have seen variations of this all the way down to 9 volts. (I think of this frequency as tremolo.) Most of the prophetic voices I know seem to have no current beyond the Holy Spirit stimulating the substance of their words. (I call this normative and wise.) Anyway, I try and dismiss the current and hold on to the content. My evangelical friends and family are certain this sort of thing is at best fleshly and likely demonic. I’m not sure what they would say if it they saw real tongues of fire. I suspect they would defer to McArthur on that.
Can we not agree together that it was expedient that the Spirit was left on the earth to do more than just say, “Amen” to us when the Bible is read? Can we not all agree that heavenly truth is beyond the grasp of our natural minds? After all, heaven is at least a mile or two above the plane of our human thought. Is it really all that crazy to imagine that it might be despised when it is heard, alien as it were, to our world-conditioned ears. The Holy Spirit remains the ladder between that eternal realm and our temporal one. We should listen to those who know they sit with Christ in heavenly places and are walking in the Spirit, moving in overlapping realms. The words that have formed in their hearts are unavoidably prophetic utterances.
My council is to observe the vessel. Do their lives bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit? What is going on in their families? Do their utterances align with scripture? Did their words offend a fleshly agenda or worldly viewpoint? Did their words have the impact of a question mark—an exclamation point? How about a highlighter? These are not childish words then. Hold on to what they say; these are words to be held in the heart as Mary held Gabriel’s. Prophetic utterances are compliments to the inner workings of God’s Word and Spirit in our hearts. Paul wished we would be inundated with them:
Desire…especially that you may prophesy… One who prophesies edifies the church… I wish that all would prophesy that the church may receive edification… Seek (that prophecy might) abound for the edification of the church. In the church I desire to speak five words (prophetically) with my mind so that I may instruct others… (A condensing of I Corinthians 14:1-9 in the NASB, less Paul’s instructions on tongues)
Here’s the deal according to Paul (and I concur):
Hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
So be it, Lord!