Category Archives: 11. Listening To God

Listening To God (Tuesday) – Genesis 28:10-22

Genesis 28:10-22

A stone? What was Jacob thinking? Of course you will have odd dreams! Regardless of his pillow choice this was one whopper of a download to Jacob, 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, I would like to offer you a piece of 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 have physical places in the 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 upon those events as the sustaining force of their lives, they look forward to the 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 which 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 did not. While Jacob was a nomad living in fear of marauders, we are not. Instead we have been joined together in one body in Christ. At Bethel heaven was being accessed via ladder by God’s angelic servants. 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 “Bethel’s” 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 the conduit of heaven to earth!

I believe there is a day coming for Christ’s Body which has been made one with God, whose members have all been sovereignly joined together into existing networks around the earth, where 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 and its expansion has and always will rest on the mysterious revelation of Christ in us the hope of glory. That human beings, instead of a temple or places or events have become the habitation of God is the scandalous, mysterious truth we have yet to corporately embrace and experience. 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 really 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.

Let’s wrap up our cost-benefit analysis on the deals we have with God. Jacob was negotiating with God. “If you will do this, then I will call you my God. And, if these conditions are agreeable to you, then I will give you a 10th of all that I have.” The if/then spirit of this negotiation is alien to the new covenant which we have 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 their anticipation of blessings and prosperity to the faithfulness of their tithe are undermining the grace of God and the fulness of Christ as their all in all. How can Christ be our all in all when we feel we must always do more and more in the way of laying 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 which we have been given. The cost will seem as 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 nowness of our current deal with God our stories will consequently unfold reflecting the nowness of our Father’s kingdom intentions. When this happens something will shift in the battle which 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 unprecedented ways 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, who is our elder brother and our all-in-all. Help us grasp that in Christ, there is nothing that can be added to the fulness 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.” 

Listening to God (Monday) – John 10:1-18

John 10:1-18

…..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 (his sheep), but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

I don’t know if you picked up on the apparent contradiction in that passage.  Jesus just declared to his sheep that they would hear his voice yet they did not really 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 quite undestand it or when he is trying to speak to us through life’s circumstances and we are too dull or hardened to get it. He doesn’t abandon us to the wolves. Instead, as he did with the original little flock, he just patiently 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 men, 9 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 that was 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 4 – T‘s always 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 is moving among the two or three gathered together in his name.

From the light generated in our 2-or-more gatherings at least one common theme emmerged  – a hunger for intimacy with God. Along side that same hunger were also varying degrees of frustration that this coveted intimacy seemed out of reach (possibly awaiting 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 within us.

Because it is a common frustration I hear among my brothers, I addressed this letter to them.

Dear Friends,
As I am looking at this morning’s Blue Book scripture on the theme of Listening To God, I am 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 presenting feature of this symptom 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 unreceived….
                                         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, is 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? Its not important how we got here. Its 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.
Blessings,
Rob

 

Many who are freed from this condition report that their hearing improves dramatically and since the words expressed by his voice are what we must live by, greater levels of abundant life are regularly reported.

Father, May the full gail force your grace-winds sweep mightily through our hearts sweeping them finally clean of all the religious debris of the past. May our self doubt be exchanged for implicit trust in you creating the rest from our labors 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listening to God (Monday) – John 10:1-18

…..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 (his sheep), but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

I don’t know if you picked up on the apparent contradiction in that passage.  Jesus just declared to his sheep that they would hear his voice yet they did not really hear his voice. So what does that tell us? A lesson I come away with is that we must be able to 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 quite lay hold of it yet. Or, when he is trying to speak to us through life’s circumstances and we are yet too dull or hardened to get it he doesn’t abandon us to the wolves. Instead, as he did with the original little flock, he just patiently 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 men, 9 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 that was 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 4 – T‘s always 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 is moving among the two or three gather together in his name.

From the light generated in our 2-or-more gatherings a common theme emmerged  – a hunger for intimacy with God. Along side that same hunger were also varying degrees of frustration that the kingdom-birthright of intimacy seemed out of reach or just around the 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 within us. 

Because it is a common frustration I hear among my brothers, I addressed this letter to them.

Dear Friends,
 
As I am looking at this morning’s Blue Book scripture on the theme of Listening To God, I am 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 have red-haired-step-child-disease (RHSCD) if we feel like we are God’s afterthought instead of his dream. A symptom (speaking from experience) of RHSCD is a loss of hearing at certain frequencies. Those ranges of sound (even though they are being spoken) that contain radically good news about us are lost in transmission. Here is an example of the type of truth that often goes unreceived….
 
                                         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 the 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 RHSCD for three decades, I now stand boldly in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” (quote from a former sufferer of the RTD, RHSCD) 
 
My point? Its not important how we got here. Its 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. 
 
Blessings,
 
Rob

 

Many who are freed from this condition report that their hearing improves dramatically and since the words expressed by his voice are what we must live by, greater levels of abundant life are regularly reported.

Father, May the full gail force your grace-winds sweep mightily through our hearts sweeping them finally clean of all the religious debris of the past. May our self doubt be exchanged for implicit trust in you creating the rest from our labors 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Listening To God (Saturday) – 2 Chronicles 7:11-22

 
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 7:11-22 –
___________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
After seeing the if’s and the then’s 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 if’s and then’s which they had been conditioned with under the old covenant, 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 portrayed to the Jews in the Old Testament was the same God of the new. However, in the OT, for reasons of his own choosing, he did not show his full hand. So, what cards were face up? What were the assumptions operating in the mind of an OT 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. By inviting children to come sit upon his  lap (and a thousand other things), he works to undo any misconceptions his chosen people might have 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.
 
 When I read the if’s and the then’s 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 hole card; His ace-in-the-hole. With Christ, all God’s cards were on the table. And with Jesus the surprise and the mystery just gets 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, that would be the hope of glory. 
 
So instead of our story being one of desolation, it is turning out as God’s 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, adopting them and has poured out all this favor upon them.” Because of God, being who God is in us…..
 
We will work the works of Him who sent us (just as He sent Jesus) as long as it is day……While He is in the world (in us), we are the Light of the world.” 
 
My Story (this AM)
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 of Mr. Gothard, who had a big influence on my life 35 years ago, did not drift back into an if-and-then – paradigm where mystery is lean and grace is consequently in shorter supply.
 
I have found my quiet secluded hiding place in the lobby where I am doing my RWP (Reading / Writing / Praying thing; yet 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. If I am hearing Gods voice this morning, this is what I am hearing…..
 
Children, since you are a co-heir 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.
 
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 completed. 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 any remaining misconceptions of who you really are.
 
 
                                                               This Is My Father’s World
 
 
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![
 
 
 
 
 
 

Listening To God (Friday) – Luke 10:38-42

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]! Amplified

Would the pastor of the typical local church prefer that their congregations be filled with Martha’s or Mary’s? If they were Martha’s no slot for a volunteer would ever go unfilled! With our 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. Amplified

I was still attending church while the Mary in me was growing and I began to say “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 any gold stickers 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). Church culture permits you to ask these questions to yourself but you are out of bounds if you ask them publicly. Note; If you persist, you will be escorted to a nearby cliff. 

When I found myself being censored, I knew it was best for all if I left so that I did not succeed any further in my ministry of “stirring things up”. Most of the members of local churches (at least the well-behaved ones) have been conditioned to be more sensitive to the culture and back up when they near that boundary I had crossed. Some have learned to thrive on the status quo and some even earn their living in that context. These dare not say or do any stirring. Note; At the end of this post I will add a footnote that expands on the point of this paragraph.

The gulf between myself and the traditional models of church continued to grow as I tried to reconcile what I had just observed and experienced in the previous 20 years with the New Testament. It shocked me at how little resemblance there was in either structure or outcome. My research and study was like Watergate. As the Deepthroats continued to feed me incriminating information on the current administration, I was slowly realizing this cover up goes 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 Deepthoat 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 other ones if you are so inclined.

Oh yes, regardless of whether you are a “gold sticker” christian or persona non grata with the local church, by all means, read He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobson. It has 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 on Monday’s offering. You can access that at middlewithmystery.com. Past posts are all archived there.

I also will have to award a gold sticker to Jim Branch for creating the Blue Book.  It has been a powerful encouragement to the Mary’s in many of us – that thing that wants to and was destined to know Christ intimately and contribute to the expansion of his Kingdom. If this has captured your attention I can hook you up with a Blue Book. Email me at cummins@enid.com.

Father, Help us to put on the breaks and ask ourselves those few and simple honest questions that we have managed to evade. Help us to slow down and be caught up into the slip-stream of your Spirit where we have ceased to labor; where we are simply enjoying you and bearing more fruit than we even knew possible. May you assemble your army form 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 7 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. Its 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 an want more.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Listening To God (Thursday) – Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

 
I would like to contrast Solomon’s words of wisdom with words of life from the new testament on the same subject from Hebrews…
 
Guard your steps as you go to the house of God”  Solomon 
                                                                            -vs-
“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
 
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.”   Solomon
                                                                             -vs-
“….casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”  Peter
                                                                           -and-
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
 
If I am really listening, when I read the scriptures, I hear a different spirit in the old verses the new testament. For example, when I read this passage, I hear truth but it is a more rigid unbending truth. It sounds like the spirit of those words I grew up with which my ear eventually grew dull to. 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 a master to a servant as opposed to a father to a 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 make an application of truth and fail in the application….if I second guess myself….”Oh no, I have 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 nought. I should have feared God!” This is the inner dialogue of a spirit in bondage. This voice
and its many strains produces religion. We absolutely must 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, are seeking an equilibrium where they feel more comfortable in their incomplete identities with an angry God (who they think sees them as they see themselves – fallen and unworthy) than they are with a God who simply loves them as they 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 with this kind of thinking. 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 have read of 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 was a prisoner in the cell of performance for decades and have recently gone free, I go after this religious spirit that robs, kills and destroys our birthright as God’s children. I do it 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 the Life within.
 
Satan is a master liar. Master liars make a living on partial 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!” (How’s this been working for us?)
 
To believe that we are just sinners is a distortion of who we truly are in Christ. I would love to invite those who believe that they are mostly just inclined to stray to reread the new testament and lay claim to the new hearts and new natures that our 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 he is ready to pour.
 
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 inspire the illusion that any kind of righteousness, blessing or favor with God can be secured by our labors.  Our LIfe is gift in Christ. Attempts at compliance (done consciously or not) undermine grace and inevitably stunt Life. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Listening To God (Tuesday) – Genesis 28:10-22

 
We should begin by first giving God credit for this prophetic-allegorical dream instead of just writing it off to Jacob’s poor choice of pillows. A stone? What was he thinking?  
 
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? I would like to serve as a spiritual investment advisor and offer a side-by-side comparison to the deal Jacob had with God and the deal we have with him.
 
I confess, it is tempting to want to see angels in my dreams and hear words in my sleep and to have physical places in the earth where I can point and say, “That place is sacred because God met me there”; so I can 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 point back to those events in time as the sustaining force of their lives.
 
While we look in awe at Jacob and the old testament bible characters, I think they look down upon us as that great cloud of witnesses and would like to suggest that we take a bit closer and more appreciative look at the covenant that 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…
 
“Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “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 a little demeaning to his forefathers? It might seem so unless, like Jesus, you knew that you yourself were the fulfillment of any and every worthy dream they or any man had ever dreamed. 
 
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 did not. While Jacob was a nomad living in fear of marauders, we are not. Instead we have been joined together in one body in Christ. At Bethel heaven was being accessed via ladder by God’s angelic servants. Granted, most of us lack this kind of real estate. However, while Jacob had an isolated visitation from God, we have become the temple of God. Our hearts have in a real sense become Bethel’s in their own right, where heaven has once again been reconnected to earth right in our human hearts. Of all places! We are now the conduit of heaven to earth! 
 
I believe there is a day coming for Christ’s Body that has been made one with God, whose members have all been sovereignly joined together into existing networks around the earth, where our vastly superior identity and covenant will dawn upon us and we will jointly say….
 
                                  “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it!”
 
God’s kingdom has come and is coming and its expansion has and always will rest on the mysterious revelation of Christ in us the hope of glory. That human beings, instead of a temple or place or events have become the habitation of God is the scandalous mysterious truth we have yet to corporately embrace and experience. Yet it is Christ alone on who the Kingdom will be built. 
 
Every haughty human idea that 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. Can we really 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 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.”
 
Let’s wrap up the cost-benefit evaluation we are doing on the deals we make with God. Jacob was negotiating with God. “If you will do this, then I will call you my God. And, if these conditions are agreeable to you, then I will give you a 10th of all that I have.” The if/then spirit of this negotiation is alien to the new covenant that we have 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 totally available to use around-the-clock and around-the-calendar in Christ. Those who tie their anticipation of blessings and prosperity to the faithfulness of their tithe are undermining the grace of God and the fulness of Christ as their all in all. How can Christ be our all in all when we feel we must always do more an more in the way of compliance? 
 
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 we have been given. The cost will seem as 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 nowness of our current deal with God our stories will consequently reflect the nowness of our Father’s kingdom intentions. When this happens something will shift in the battle that 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 (my heart), and I did not know it.”
 
the winds of warfare will shift and the kingdom of God will expand in unprecedented ways as it was forecast to so long ago.
 
Father, While it is surely going on, help us to see that there is still something immensely 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, our elder brother and all-in-all. Help us grasp that in Christ, there is nothing that can be added to the fulness of what we have right now in this very moment. May our weary hearts breathe those long and overdue deep sighs of relief and say with great joy, “Surely the Lord has been in this place, and we did not know it!”