Jesus came to earth not to just save us and get us to heaven. He came to establish his kingdom, a concept that dwarfs our discounted notions of God’s intent. How does he plan to accomplish this? Much like a farmer, If we are to listen to Jesus. The Father casts Jesus into the earth as the Seed of a new race of men. In this Seed is God’s Life. Where it takes root, the Life of God is birthed, men are transformed into his likeness and the kingdom grows, returning to God a harvest, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.
Our passage is disturbing though because the Seed is clearly at risk. The exposure is from within and without. The exposure from without comes from Satan, the enemy of God’s Life.
The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. Mark 4:14-15 NAS
There is but one place the Seed will grow – that is the human heart. Our hearts are the soil types in this story. This is where God’s Seed is exposed from within. Jesus tells us that some have no firm root in themselves. This soil type will even produce some initial joy, being in proximity to God’s Life, but affliction and persecution (related to it) prevents germination from happening fully. There is a sprout but it dries up and blows away. There is another heart-soil where the Seed cannot germinate. These hearts…
have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:18-20
Is there a greater mystery than a seed, a tiny little thing, as small as a mustard seed, which in the right conditions, grows and produces a potential return of three up to ten thousand percent? The kingdom of God is a great mystery.
It is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows-how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. Mark 4:27-29 NAS
And what is our part in this mystery? Does the Farmer just stab these seeds down into the soil where it grows by sheer force of his will? No. Amazingly, his sovereignty somehow involves men.
And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Mark 4:24-25 NAS
Traditional, miniaturized versions of God’s intentions, cast the laborers of the harvest as special called-ones who become evangelists or pastors, paid to labor for the harvest. They are often credentialed and then sent off somewhere. I don’t believe this is invalid, only radically incomplete. And, in its incompleteness, it is devastating to the harvest. Every believer in Christ has God’s Seed in Him. It is all about that Seed. It is when this Seed grows, geographically, right where it is planted, that the Light of the World is most relevant. God intends for his life to grow and bear fruit wherever we happen to be living. The idea that there are Christian elites who are educated and exported is simply bad farming. Too much soil is going to waste.
Doing our part begins by recognizing that the kingdom involves every human heart, ours and those around us. Our part is to tend our hearts and those of others by taking care of what enters our minds because it will ultimately shape and fuel our ambition. We each have standards of what we listen to. It seems clear that the harvest is connected to the standard of what we are hearing and then working out in our lives.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
Father, teach us how to cooperate with your Life within. Teach us to hear Life’s voice so the Seed can reproduce as you intend. Teach its to build protective hedges around our hearts with the things we listen to. May your harvest be full in us. So be it.
Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s palace, and successfully completed all that he had planned on doing in the house of the Lord and in his palace.
Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne as I covenanted with your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel.’ “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.’” 2 Chronicles &;11-22
After seeing the ifs and the thens in our passage (which the disciples were no doubt familiar with), I am not surprised by their questions (from John 9:2) to Jesus when they saw:
…a man blind from birth. They asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”
In light of the their if and then old covenant conditioning, their question seems reasonable. But:
Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
The God revealed to the Jews in the Old Testament was the same God of the New Testament. However, in the Old, for reasons of his own choosing, God did not show his full hand. So, what cards were face up? What were the assumptions operating in the mind of the ancient Jew? Well…God showed up infrequently; He seemed to have favorites; He made conditional promises; His standards were very high; He had a temper; and it took a lot of blood to appease him. And, one thing for sure, if they were unfaithful then…
I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
Yet, this same God shows up on earth in the most humble and vulnerable way, inviting children to come sit upon his lap, working to undo any misconceptions his chosen people might have had about him. By just being himself, he communicates who I AM actually was and is and always will be. And perhaps, the hardest thing for the Jews to grasp was that God did not show up in anger to exact justice for their failure to comply with the if aspect of their covenant. Yet, what is the story of the chosen people?
As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.’ 1 Kings 9:9 NAS
When I read the ifs and thens of the OT, I am increasingly grateful of the new covenant we enjoy.
…..if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.
Jesus, the Lord, was God’s ace-in-the-hole. With Christ, all God’s cards were on the table. And with Jesus, the surprise and the mystery just get deeper. While…
The Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place (a temple made of wood and stone) for Myself as a house of sacrifice…
But to us Jesus says, “It is expedient that I go away so that the Helper will come.” And, instead of electing to dwell in a man-made structure, God elects to dwell (as the Holy Spirit) in man himself. Paul’s ministry was in large part an attempt to convey that those who believe become the temples of God, that it was now Christ in us— animating our lives from within rather than God dwelling in some inanimate structure—would be the hope of glory.
So instead of our story being one of desolation, it is turning out as God intended it: as for his house (My Church and My Bride), she will be exalted. Everyone who passes by her will one day be astonished and say, “How has the Lord done this?” And they will say, “Because they believed in Jesus Christ, who bought them out of bondage, he has adopted them and has poured out all this favor upon them.” Because of God, being who He is in us, we will work the works of Him who sent us as long as it is day; while He is in the world, we are the Light of the world. (from John 4:9 & 8:12)
God is so good it astonishes me. I am writing from the Character Inn in OKC, a facility owned by the Gothard Institute. Unfortunately Bill Gothard’s story is currently not playing out well. I wonder if Mr. Gothard, who had a big influence on my life 35 years ago, drifted back into an if-then paradigm where mystery is lean and grace is (consequently) in shorter supply.
I have found my secluded hiding place in the lobby where I am doing my RWP (reading-writing-praying) thing—but my spot is next to a piano. A young man has sat down and is playing a tune that is hauntingly beautiful, strange and yet familiar to my ear. It turns out it was his own composition; a combination of “The Fellowship Theme” (form The Lord of the Rings) and This Is My Father’s World, which is my favorite hymn. This is what my listening ear is hearing and my heart is resting in;
Children, since you are a co-heirs with Jesus, this is now our world. If you will listen, you will not only hear my assurance of your eternal life, you will be eternal life. You will hear nature and everything around you declare wonders and mystery. When injustice seems so overwhelming, do not let your heart be sad. Since I am King in-residence, let your heart be glad and let your voice, along with creation, declare the good news of my kingdom. (Note: This is not scripture. Its scripture that has passed through my ears and my heart.)
Father, thank you that you have chosen us and equipped us to complete all that you have planned. Thank you that you have become our sacrifice and that we have become your house. Thank you that our ongoing story is the establishing of your royal throne in our hearts. Thank you that you are perpetually attentive to our prayers because in you every if of the old covenant has been fulfilled. Now, Father, let us complete the then of loving you with all that we are. As we show up, just being ourselves, help us to be a refuge of safety for the downtrodden. From your own Life within, may your works be displayed in us, further undoing remaining misconceptions of who you really are.
This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world,
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world,
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
But Martha [overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me [to lend a hand and do her part along with me]! Luke 10:40 AMP
Would the pastor of the typical local church prefer that their congregations be filled with Marthas or Marys? If they were filled with Martha’s no volunteer slot would ever go unfilled. However, with the Martha’s, there might be a bit of quibbling here and there (and everywhere?), but at least the show could go on. When I read Jesus’ response to Martha’s complaint, it caused me to tremble a bit for her and the things built upon her labors.
Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; there is need of only one (or but a few) things. Mary has chosen the good portion [that which is to her advantage], which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41-42 AMP
I was still “attending” church while the Mary in me was growing and I began saying no to various responsibilities. While I still kind of wanted one, I can promise you that just sitting around at the feet of Jesus and listening did not earn a gold sticker from my local 501(c)(3)(church).
A confession is necessary here. I know Martha because I have been Martha. There may still be some Martha in me, but I am choosing the better part (Christ over performance) more frequently. As I watched my local 501(c)(3) using and often wearing out good people, I started asking myself questions, the largest one was, “Is this really church?” That led to another, “What is church?” I didn’t know it initially, but with that question I had become an alien and a stranger (even a threatening enemy) to my local 501(c)(3). Institutional church culture permits you to ask yourself these questions but insists that you do not ask them publicly. Note: if you do, prepare to be unfriended.
When I found myself being censored, I knew my decision to leave the institutional church was being made for me. Most members of local churches have been conditioned to be more respectful of religious cultural strictures and to back up before they get near the boundary I’d inadvertently crossed. Some have learned to thrive (even make a living wage) in the context of traditional Christianity. And some are dying in this same context. Are those dying in the local church rebels, or are they Martha’s God is rescuing from guilt-driven, performance-based religion?
The gulf between the obedient traditionalists and myself continued to grow as I tried to reconcile my experience inside the traditional model of church with the New Testament. It shocked me at how little resemblance there was in either—both in structure and outcome. My research and study was like Watergate. As the Deep Throats continued to feed me incriminating information on the current administration, I was slowly realizing that the cover up went all the way to the top.
If you are happy and believe that you see the congruency of what you are experiencing in your local church with the New Testament, by all means, do not read any of the following Deep Throat Documents; Revolution by George Barna, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church and Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, The Pastor Has No Clothes by Jon Zens and Neil Cole, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobson, An Army of Ordinary People by Felicity Dale. On the other hand, if you feel stifled, censored, hungry or thirsty, these informants might save your life. I can also refer you to dozens of others if you are so inclined.
Oh yes, regardless of whether you are a gold sticker Christian or are persona non grata with the local church, by all means, read He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobson. This book reveals the cure for MS (Martha Syndrome), another RTD (Religiously Transmitted Disease). (Note: a brief mention of another RTD, RHSCD, which like MS, impairs hearing, was exposed in Monday’s MwM offering. You can access that at middlewithmystery.com. Past posts are all archived there.)
Once again, a big “thank you” to JLB for the Blue Book. It has been a powerful encouragement to the Marys in many of us—that thing that desired to, and was destined to, know Christ intimately and contribute to the expansion of his Kingdom. (Unfortunately, the Blue Book is out of print. However, its author tells me it may be published later this year. May it be so.)
Father, help us to put on the breaks and ask ourselves those few, simple questions we’ve managed to evade. Help us to slow down and be caught up into the slip-stream of your Spirit where we may cease to labor, where we may simply enjoy you and bearing more fruit than we even thought possible. May you assemble your army from those who have chosen the better part and have armed themselves with the superior advantage of knowing you intimately. May we see your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Mansions of the Heart by R. Thomas Ashbrook explores seven stages (or mansions as he call them) of spiritual growth. Here is a related excerpt from Chapter 6:
“By the time we come to make our home in the third mansion, we have developed a relatively balanced life of discipleship. Regular church attendance and ministry, consistent prayer, a concerted effort to live the Christian life and a genuine desire to please and honor God are all present, evidencing spiritual growth…It is worth observing that the third of the seven mansions is about as far as most churches go in their teaching about spiritual life. It’s an important phase of our growth, and many of us get stuck here. But we will see that there is more, much more… You may feel stuck there now. You may even feel that your church has locked you within its walls, even if you’re its pastor. But the truth is that Jesus, in His love for you, has allowed you to taste more and want more.”
Father, may you convert the lost to believers and the believers into children. Let it be.
There is value in seeing the difference in a believer’s approach to God in the Old Testament and the New. Let’s contrast words of wisdom from the Old with words of life from the New:
“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:1NAS
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NAS
Hear a difference? Let’s continue our comparison between the spirit of the old and the new covenant.
“…And draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 NAS
“…Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NAS
“There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him…bothering him, wearing him out.” From the Parable of the Importunate Widow – Matthew 18:1-8 NAS
If I’m really listening when I read the scriptures, I hear a different spirit in the Old than I do in the New Testament. For example, when I read this passage, I hear truth, but it is a more rigid truth. It resembles the spirit of those authoritative words I grew up with, to which my ear eventually grew dull. I ultimately questioned that voice’s true interest in me and I grew increasingly certain I would never measure up to it’s standards.
The spirit of this passage seems like that of master to servant as opposed to father to son. The words ring true, but cold at the same time. They feel restrictive and formulaic. I have lived the Christian life with this voice in my head and it made me feel as though I were walking a religious tight rope: If I say too much too quickly, if I apply the truth and fail, if I second guess myself… “Oh no, I’ve angered God”…Whack! “You fool, you didn’t pay your vow! You’ve blown it again.” I’m thinking, “Oh no! All I have done is for naught. I should have feared God!” This is the inner dialogue of a spirit in bondage. This tone of voice produces religion. I believe the Lord continually invites us to break free.
Why is it that we gravitate toward a God who is so quick with the rod of reproof? I hear it all the time, “I deserve that rod. I know what a wretch I am. But, I am so grateful. After all, I am just a sinner saved by grace.” When I hear this spirit, the shame typically outweighs the gratitude. It did for me. Being saved and tolerated may be a truth, but it is a debilitating one in its incompleteness.
Is it possible that our consciences, which are not fully converted, seek equilibrium, in which they feel more comfortable in their insecurity with an angry God (who we think sees us as we see ourselves—fallen and unworthy) than we do with a God who simply loves us as we are? (We need to keep in mind that he died for us while we were yet sinners.) While it is a scandal, it is nonetheless, the higher and essential truth that we must make our own if we are to go free.
I made a pretty good religious showing for years in my devotion to brokenness; “Oh Lord, my sins are ever before me!” Few people were as passionate as I was. If I could only repent a bit deeper, if I could only grasp a fuller sense of my depravity, then perhaps I would finally be honest with God and myself, and I would finally discover the abundant life I’ve heard about but rarely tasted. This is the tightrope I mentioned.
Religion prods from behind, saying, “Get back up on that tight rope and try harder! If you would just do what I say, you wouldn’t spend all your time on the ground licking your wounds!” Jesus, on the other hand, invites us, face to face, to come follow him along the narrow path. Yes we will fall but the process of falling and getting up is essential if we are to walk with Christ.
Because I’ve recently emerged from a decades-long prison sentence of performance, I am more diligent to keep my heart swept of this religious spirit, which robs, kills and destroys our birthright as God’s children. I do it frequently by simply telling my story—giving an account of this specific hope that is within me, pointing to the scriptures and prophetic words that have awakened and animated his Life within me.
Satan is a master liar. Master liars major on minor truths. The biggest one the Church has swallowed is that we are just poor, depraved sinners destined, mostly to withstand the onslaught of evil until Jesus comes back. Consequently our battle cry is: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
To believe that we are just sinners is a distortion of who we truly are in Christ. I believe the Father continually invites those of us who believe we are, by virtue of our sinful natures, destined to stray, to reread the New Testament and lay claim to the new hearts and new natures that are ours in Christ now—not just in the sweet by and by.
Being saved is a thousand times bigger than just being forgiven and some day going to heaven. This line of thinking leaves out everything from Jesus’ advent to his ascension. He lived a life between those points in time. He was demonstrating the kingdom that he came to initiate. I believe he is waiting for us to dive back into the middle of the Gospels and discover our kingdom birthrights as sons and friends and shed our old servant wineskins. He has new wine, and he’s ready to pour it.
Father, crush performance-religion beneath your foot. Cut off all of our familiar pathways back into religious bondage. Help us to become more interested in the work of your hands than that of ours. Convert us from our stuffy elder brother hearts to hearts of innocent children who are weaned from works; who have responded to the invitation onto your lap. Thank you Lord that we are your inheritance. We love you.
Note: I have not thrown out the entirety of the Old Testament as irrelevant or uninspired. I am only wary where the spirit of the Old Testament’s words inspires the illusion that any kind of righteousness, blessing, or favor with God can be secured by our labors. Our Life is purely a gift in Christ. Attempts at compliance (done consciously or not) undermine grace and inevitably stunt Life.
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.