Category Archives: 55. Joy and Celebration

Joy and Celebration – Isaiah 55:6-12

Imagine that day when we will awaken in the new body-phase of eternity. Our first morning thought will not be a fuzzy, “Ugh, another day.” No. It will be more like, “Whoa, something is up! This is going to be an amazingly wonderful day!” Perhaps the next thing we will hear will be a rap on our door by Jesus himself. After a long warm embrace, he wipes away our tears; he looks us in the eye and says, “You are right, something is up and it is certifiably wonderful, but you are also wrong, there are no more days and nights. There is no more darkness.” And then he adds, with a wink, “My voice is familiar isn’t it?”

Being a journal junky I have imagined my diary entry following this first day (although I’m not quite sure if it is a day that has passed or a thousand years).

Date: ? / Time: ? / Place: Heaven (I presume)

I went out today with joy and was led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills broke into shouts of joy before me, and all the trees of the field clapped their hands. It was awesome!

It was so true that the Shepherd’s thoughts were not my thoughts, nor were his ways my ways. And this newness of life! This is “newness” of a caliber far far beyond my expectations!

For as the rain and the snow came down from heaven, and did not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so was his Word which God spoke. It did not return to him empty, without accomplishing what he desired, or without succeeding in the matter for which he sent it.

Oh how glad I am that I sought the Lord while he could still be found; that I called upon him while he was near. I am so extremely grateful that he enabled me to forsake those thoughts and ways of mine that were so errant! How can I ever say thank you sufficiently to the Shepherd for drawing me back to himself, showing me his compassion and offering me such an abundant pardon? I don’t know but it appears I will have the time. (I hope Isaiah does not mind my plagiarizing.) 

Well, that is then; this is now. Until that day, we must keep in mind that Jesus himself was the Word God spoke and that he did not return to his Father empty handed. He accomplished the matter for which he was sent. He led captive a host of captives. While heaven is appealing, we are already inside eternity where the kingdom has been birthed. Right now, Jesus is the new creation. In him is Life. He was and is the Life. There is no newness of Life outside of him. These are now-realities. The kingdom has both come and is coming.

Our kingdom beginnings start when we are born again. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born anew.” Must! Must! Must! Are you born again? If you cannot answer this question with an emphatic “Yes”, the command remains for you; “You must be born anew!” Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to the Lord and seek him while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Forsake all thoughts that you might be a child of God because you have participated in some ceremony or given mental assent to some creed. Forsake the notion your morality or deeds are relatively good and have surely earned you God’s favor. Forsake this self-righteous idea and the Lord will have compassion on you and he will abundantly pardon you.

Christ came as the Word Incarnate – the only Seed that can grow into kingdom newness. Truly Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If you cannot identify newness of life in yourself and you profess to be a Christian, this MwM post may be disturbing. I hope so. Keep in mind, God’s thoughts are not your thoughts. His ways are not your ways. Being disturbed is an excellent sign the Seed may be trying to germinate. Take heed! The Lord is near; this is that opportune moment to find him. Today is the day of salvation. Humble yourself. Invite the Seed into your heart.

Tell him you want him to grow there and take precedence in all matters and that you are willing to forsake your rights to nurture your old previous life. You too will find that his Word was not sent in vain, that it indeed accomplishes the mission for which it is sent – the rebirth and transformation of your life. As his life takes root, and you are a good steward, you will find that very soon you too will …

Go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Father, may the gospel of your Son be spoken anew into all the traditions and institutions of this earth with kingdom authority. May the true prophets and teachers be heard. May your saints declare this clarion message from their own housetops. May their razor sharpened words distinguish between sentiment, ceremony, human goodness, sound creeds and Life himself.

Heavenly Father, Your name is holy and sacred beyond human knowing. May Your kingdom flourish! May your Word succeed in every way for which It was sent! We confess to you our sins. Forgive us Father and we shall certainly forgive those who have sinned against us. Deliver us from the evils of anti-Christ messages, offering ways into the kingdom other than Jesus. May your emerging Life testify of the power, and the glory of Your kingdom forever and ever. Amen.

Joy and Celebration (Saturday)—Revelation 19:6-9

 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” … Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. (Revelation 19:4, 6)

In Middle With Mystery we often wade off from the shoreline into deeper waters, but with Revelation, one step, and we are in over our heads. What are we to do with the Book of Revelation? There is not much practical application here unless it is to make sure our wardrobes are predominantly white—with curious frequency, people wear white in this book.

I’m writing at a friend’s desk, who happens to be named John, who happens to be an apostle within a network of intercessory warriors. Being big on divine-coincidence, I look around for anything else that might just be happening. On the bookshelf right in front of me, I see it. It is Storm Warning by Billy Graham, who also wrote Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

In his books, he exposes the great harlot of Babylon who seduces men into affairs with this world. However, while they are drunk with greed, the saints are forming a vision of their Father’s kingdom. John’s book is high protein revelation to the faith-infected souls absorbed in the “more” of God. Revelation even adds particulars to mysteries such as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb:

 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9)

The apostle Paul knew how to dress himself for this occasion. He knew better than to dress himself with his flawless résumé and his Jewish pedigree. Paul saw everything he was or might have been, as buried in Christ. He also saw himself as being raised up, perfectly clothed in ChristChrist alone constituted Paul’s wardrobe. He was convinced Jesus was due considerable honor, which he had not yet received on earth. With all the saints, Paul longs for this banquet where Jesus will be honored and worshipped in a manner worthy of his stature.

 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:8)

It was no longer Paul who lived but Christ lived in him and through him. As it is with all saints, Paul had to learn how to labor in the yoke of Christ, how to carry the burden so that it was light. The life of a saint is a simple and yet mysterious experience. Jesus himself must ultimately show us how to make ourselves ready and cloth ourselves in fine linen, bright and clean. 

Father, may we hear afresh your invitation to draw near. May we stir afresh the gift of Christ that we may live out of your limitless life, escaping the restrictions of our time bound and diluted thoughts. Through you and by you and for you, Lord, may our hearts be made ready with praise. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to you. May our voices blend and add to the sounds of many waters saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” Amen.

 

 

Joy and Celebration (Friday)—Exodus 15:1-21

 

“They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in,” says Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. “So, he chased after them with all the horses and chariots…his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea.”

Pharaoh is certain he’s about to demonstrate his might and return these slaves back to their yokes. Sadly, to God’s chosen people, slavery is a preferred option to an inevitable wilderness funeral.

The odds makers would not have given Israel a one in a 1,000 shot at prevailing in this situation. Back to bondage would be the slam-dunk outcome.  While this was the apparent reality, Jehovah’s perspective was radically different. He said, “I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” In reality, the Lord had lured Pharaoh into his trap. God had his enemy precisely where he wanted him.

 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

The evening news is a troubling reminder the human race (God’s people included) is still, very much, wandering in the wilderness, hemmed in between evil hordes and apparently impossible circumstances. Most people (especially God’s) are anticipating the chaos this inevitable squeeze is going to cause. It is not just a matter of if, it’s now a matter of when and how much.

In light of the instruction of Romans 15:4, is this not a fair question: “Is it possible that in our times, God is maneuvering his enemies into the same trap into which he lured Pharaoh?” Could our faith be aroused to imagine God has his enemy (even in the squeeze of our impossible circumstances) right where he wants him?

 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

The actual rulers of this world (i.e. principalities and powers), under command of Satan are not armed with AK-47’s and nerve gas. They are armed with sophisticated and strategically organized lies. Scripture calls these empty deceptions, traditions of men, philosophies, elementary principles, fortresses, speculations and lofty things, all raised up against the knowledge of God. It can be a troubling reality to grasp that our primary residence is not America the Beautiful, the Land of the Free—it’s a high stakes battlefield.

We have much in common with Israel. Our battle appears to be lost. Like the surrounded Israelites, we look around us. In front, we see an increasingly unstable world ready to be grabbed up by any one of a growing number of opportunistic and well-armed despots. We look behind us and see a formidable array of ill-intentioned forces, prepared to escort us back into slavery.

Our enemy’s tools are well placed lies, intended to deceive and to enslave. Our primary obstacle is our vision. Our shackles are not on our legs and arms. We are shackled-in-heart in every place we are agreeing with one or many of the enemy’s lies, and they are Legion. If we say, “This does not apply to me; I am American! I am free to choose,” we only demonstrate our bondage. While we’re declaring our independence, the enemy laughs, and we robotically feast upon the half-truths and blatant lies which have become our reality—the enslaving codes and traditions we use to get by. Nevertheless, Jehovah has a plan up the sleeve of his mighty right arm. He has actually revealed it already.

The apostle Paul would say, “You are bound in heart because “you are looking at things as they are outwardly” (II Corinthians 10:3-7). He would go on: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (II Corinthians 10:3-5)

Paul’s circumstances were every bit as dire as those we face. I believe Paul clearly saw the battle. He even saw us fighting and he envisioned a day when the tide of warfare has turned and the prophets words have come true: “One day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

This knowledge will not be God-facts gleaned and stored away in our brains. This knowledge will be lived Truth, discovered by God’s people, who found themselves just about where Israel was. This people will be the disciplined repentant children of God who discovered where this world’s empty deceptions had woven their way into their beliefs and values. Their minds have been renewed. Their hearts have been renovated.

Living Truth will one day be manifest when God’s people realize they are the temples of God. The revelation of God’s address on earth will transform the battle field. In an earth with men filled with the experiential knowledge of God, the enemy’s days will be numbered. The testimonies of transformed men will overcome the prince of the power of the air.

This day will be established by a people who have discovered that Christ’s presence in them constitutes the now dimension of God’s kingdom. In Christ, the kingdom of God has come and, at the same time, it is coming, and it shall know no decrease. It grows as one lie after another is exposed and displaced by living Truth.

In Christ, a new Exodus began. Father invites us to face our enemies. They are no match for him. However, the battle is so close (as close as our own hearts) we rarely see it. While the enemy may have done an exceptional job at hemming us in, the Lord has him right in his cross hairs. Jesus shall prevail!

Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. (Proverbs 4:23 The Message)

Father, raise up fresh divisions of the kingdom family-army who have surrendered to your rule. May we arise with militant hearts to discover that it was for such a time as this we were born. Amen.

 

 

Joy and Celebration (Wednesday)—Philippians 4:4-9

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-9)

 Oh Lord, Thy word is a light unto my path

After it has been a knife unto my heart.

Actually that was not a Bible verse, but most saints will understand it. I am recalling one of those knife-in-heart seasons when the idea of rejoicing in the Lord sounded like doing the hokey pokey and turning thyself about. My gentle spirit was being devoured by my inner wolverine, and the Lord felt light years away. I was rating my peace in anti-shalom increments.

In this season my local church was entertaining the idea of being a presence based church (like the book by that name by Ponder and Teykl). I can still hear the mantra: “A moment in God’s presence is worth years of counseling or preaching [or whatever].” I had had a few powerful encounters with God’s presence. This sounded good! Our loosely formed strategy was to send people out to Holy Spirit hot spots. They would acquire the fire (like the youth rally by that name), come back and get others ignited. There was one problem. It didn’t work. In fact, it was devastating for those of us who believed our greatest need was a fresh blast of Holy Spirit. This was bad news for someone like myself with no wind left in his sail.

But a seed had been sown: it was The Blue Book by Jim Branch, which was given to me by a spiritual friend. It sat unopened for months because I knew what it was. Like another devotional book with its structured formulaic approach to God would revive me? No, no, no. What I needed was a blast from the Holy Spirit. However, being the book-browsing addict I am, I cracked open the Blue Book and it began working its magic on me. I was quickly seduced by the mysterious voices of grace—strange, yet familiar voices were speaking a language my heart understood. In The Blue Book I heard the Father’s invitation, “Come. Rest. Drink. Eat.” I’ve jotted down a few notes…

Coming. Resting. Drinking. Eating.

  1. “Coming” simply means, showing up. If we show up, we may discover the banquet which is perpetually set before us (even in the presence of our enemies, including those from within).
  1. The Blue Book has helped my table manners. It has taught me meals are meant to take time. The meal is mostly about the growing communication with those seated around the table—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  1. Resting requires chewing a bit slower, drawing the most nourishment from each bite. Meditating (mulling over) words and phrases, asking questions, inviting the Others at the table to ask their questions and make their comments. These habits all make the family dining experience more enjoyable.
  1. Writing down our impressions, insights, and answers will serve to build depth and continuity to the dialogue and, ultimately, to the relationship, which is the point.
  1. Learning to pause, meditate, and write has been like letting a bucket deep down into a well. Drawing that bucket up and finding living, personalized water has been a game changer.
  1. The process is incomplete until it becomes pausing, meditating, writing, and prayer. Graham Cooke talks about crafted-prayers—ones birthed from our gut, informed by the Word, the Spirit.

God is with us. Our greatest enemy to this reality is our five senses and our minds. Only our hearts can grasp this essential reality. Our hearts must be encouraged. We must watch over our hearts (and the hearts of others) with all diligence, for from them flow all the issues of life.

Father, I pray that your scalpel might do its work cutting away all that is not true in me. Forgive me for the struggle I put up in this process. Teach us to come, rest, drink, and eat. So be it.

 

 

Joy and Celebration (Tuesday)—Nehemiah 8:1-10

The contrast between our times and Ezra’s is startling. A remnant of the Jewish nation has just returned from 70 years of captivity. They have gathered in a unified spirit of hunger and contrition, keenly aware their captivity was a result of ignoring Yahweh. They asked that the Word of God be read to them. They stood to honor the Word. They wept as its truth pierced their hearts. The officials encouraged them not to mourn and weep, but rather “to celebrate, compose their heart in joy, for the joy of the Lord is their strength.

The United States is not unified. Our nation is split and Washington D.C., our governing mind, is the bi-polar consequence. The nations of the world wait in four-year cycles to see which personality they will be dealing with. On the surface of things, it appears public life is shaped by debates, elections and legislation. However, beneath the never-ending and futile political rancor our divide is a spiritual one that involves the Word of God. (On this theme – “The Book That Made Your World” by Vishal Mangalwadi is a must read!)

At a foundational level, there is a collective attitude within a nation that either honors the authority of scripture or it doesn’t. Instead of asking that the scriptures be honored and read, our nation has decided the Bible and its Author are infringing on our personal rights. How ironic that a nation with freedoms such as ours would cast off the scriptures – the very origin of those freedoms. The courts of our land regularly take sides against God, claiming he interferes with the affairs of our nation.

We are not a nation just returning from captivity. More accurately, we are a nation on its way into captivity. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” We are a people and a nation drunk on credit. In our foggy state of denial, we have permitted our bi-polar Father, in Washington DC, to leverage the future of our nation for our current comfort. Could the American people elect someone who openly acknowledged our addiction? It’s very unpopular to tell someone in denial they are an addict and then to ask them for their vote. I think most of us see where this is going.

Whether we will admit it or not, our elected officials are a reflection of us. Most Americans, even though we think of ourselves as Christian, do not consider the scriptures as authoritative. The truth of God’s Word is not piercing the heart of our nation because it has not pierced the heart of the Church. What can we do if politics and government will not, or cannot, save us?

Check out “What Leading With Vision Really Means” by Erika Andersen. From that article:

 People want leaders who look beyond today. They want to have the sense there is a master plan to carry them through whatever short-term trials and tribulations arise… They look to the leader to articulate, in a compelling way, a clear and positive future state [more than four years] toward which they can direct their efforts. When leaders focus only on the current crisis or this quarter’s numbers, [or on making promises to get elected] it seems to us that they’re more interested in maintaining the status quo or protecting themselves than sustaining a culture of liberty. They are not seen as leaders. [Parentheticals mine] (www.fastcompany.com/3003293/what-leading-vision-really-means)

Today’s post may seem like a departure from my normal practice of writing about the heart, claiming it as the root of all fruit, good and bad. I’m not. I’m saying our nation’s heart is the sum of our individual hearts and it is our individual hearts that will ultimately determine our personal and corporate destiny.

While it is tempting to wring our hands in despair, concerned the pilot on this flight is drunk and is most certainly going to crash the plane, we will be better off to not storm the cockpit. Instead we must shift our dependency and focus to God—the One with whom we have to do. We seem to forget that as big and impressive as our Father in Washington is, he is not ultimately in charge. You might be asking, “So, as a Christian, what can I do to make a difference?” Those were almost precisely the words Jeremiah Lamphier, a mere layman and businessman asked, sparking an awakening in 1857 (Check out The Fulton Street Revival.) Reviewing historical events such as this can awaken our faith that all things are possible with God.

To this nation, who once declared her independence from England and has more recently declared her independence from God, the Spirit would say, “Compose your hearts in contrition that you may once again find God’s favor. The Lord will then restore your land. Then you shall celebrate.” Where shall we find our hope? On our knees. There, we shall compose our hearts before the One with whom we will individually and corporately answer to.

Father, please save America in behalf of a righteous remnant. Awaken hearts that will camp in your thrown room, asking for this nation’s soul. Awaken the hearts of the Ezras and Nehemiahs. May your Word pierce the veil of darkness which has blinded our nation to your love and goodness. Have mercy upon us Lord. For Jesus’s name’s sake. Amen.

Joy and Celebration (Friday) – Exodus 15:1-21

Joy and Celebration – Exodus 15:1-21

Pharaoh has said of God’s people …

“They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.” So, he chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea. 

Pharaoh is certain that he is about to demonstrate his might and return these slaves back to their yokes. Sadly, to God’s chosen people, slavery is a preferred option to an inevitable wilderness funeral. 

The oddsmakers would not have given Israel a 1 in a 1000 shot at prevailing in this situation. Back to bondage would be the slam dunk outcome.  While this was the apparent reality, Jehovah’s perspective was radically different. He said, “I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” In reality, the Lord had lured Pharaoh into his trap. God had his enemy precisely where he wanted him. 

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:5

The evening news is a troubling reminder the human race (God’s people included) is still, very much, wandering in the wilderness, hemmed in between the evil hordes and apparent impossible circumstances. Most people (especially God’s) are anticipating the chaos this inevitable squeeze is going to cause. It is not just a matter of if, its now a matter of when and how much.

In light of the instruction of Romans 15:4 is this not a fair question; “Is it possible that in our times, God is maneuvering his enemies into the same trap he lured Pharaoh?” Could our faith be aroused to imagine God has his enemy (even in the squeeze of our impossible circumstances) right where he wants him?

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

The actual rulers of this world (aka; principalities and powers), under command of Satan are not armed with AK-47’s and nerve gas. They are armed with sophisticated and strategically organized lies. Scripture calls these empty deceptions, traditions of men, philosophies, elementary principles, fortresses, speculations and lofty things, all raised up against the knowledge of God. It can be a troubling reality to grasp that our primary residence is not America the Beautiful – the Land of the Free – it’s a high stakes battle field.

We have much in common with Israel. Our battle appears to be lost. Like the surrounded Israelites, we look around us. In front, we see an increasingly unstable world ready to be grabbed up by any one of a growing number of opportunistic and well-armed despots. We look behind us and see a formidable array of ill-intentioned forces, prepared to escort us back into slavery.

Our enemy’s tools are well placed lies, intended to deceive and to enslave. Our primary obstacle is our vision. Our shackles are not on our legs and arms. We are shackled-in-heart in every place we are agreeing with one or many of the enemies lies, and they are Legion. If we are saying, “This does not apply to me; I an American! I am free to choose”, we are only demonstrating our bondage. While we are declaring our independence, the enemy laughs as we robotically feast upon the half-truths and blatant lies which have become our reality – the enslaving codes and traditions we use to get by. Nevertheless, Jehovah has a plan up the sleeve of his mighty right arm. He has actually revealed it already.

The apostle Paul would say, “You are bound in heart because …

you are looking at things as they are outwardly. 2 Corinthians 10:3-7

He would go on …

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Paul’s circumstances were every bit as dire as those we face. I believe Paul clearly saw the battle. He even saw us fighting and he envisioned a day when the tide of warfare has turned and the prophets words have come true …

One day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lordas the waters cover the sea. (Habakuk 2:14)

This knowledge will not be God-facts gleaned and stored by academics. This knowledge will be  lived Truth, discovered by God’s people, who found themselves just about where Israel was. This people will be the disciplined repentant children of God who discovered where this world’s empty deceptions had woven their way into their beliefs and values. Their minds have been renewed. Their hearts have been renovated.

Living Truth will one day be manifest when God’s people realize they are the temples of God. The revelation of God’s address on earth will transform the battle filed. In an earth with men filled with this experiential knowledge of God, the enemy’s days will be numbered. The testimonies of transformed men will overcome the prince of the power of the air.

This day will be established by a people who have discovered that Christ’s presence in them constitutes the now dimension of God’s kingdom. In Christ, the kingdom of God has come and, at the same time, it is coming and it shall know no decrease. It grows as one lie after another is exposed and displaced by living Truth.

In Christ, a new Exodus began. Father invites us to face our enemies. They are no match for him. However, the battle is so close (as close as our own hearts) we rarely see it. While the enemy may have done an exceptional job at hemming us in, the Lord has him right in his cross hairs. Jesus shall prevail!

                              Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.

Father, raise up fresh divisions of the kingdom family-army who will surrender to your rights of rulership. May we arise with militant hearts to discover it was for such a time as this we were born. Amen.

 

 

Joy and Celebration (Saturday) – Revelation 19:6-9

Joy and Celebration – Revelation 19:6-9

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” … Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.

In Middle With Mystery we often wade off from the shoreline into deeper waters but with Revelation, one step, and we are in over our heads. What are we to do with the Book of Revelation? There is not much practical application here unless it is to make sure our wardrobes are predominantly white. There are lot of people dressed in white in this book!

I’m writing at a friend’s desk who happens to be named John who happens to be an apostle within a network of intercessory warriors. Being big on divine-coincidence, I look around for anything else that might just be happening. On the book shelf right in front of me I see it. It is Storm Warning by Billy Graham, who also wrote Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

In his books, he exposes the great harlot of Babylon who seduces men into affairs with this world. However, while they are drunk with greed, the saints are forming a vision of their Father’s kingdom. John’s book is high protein revelation to the faith-infected souls absorbed in the “more” of God. Revelation even adds particulars to mysteries such as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb …

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”

The apostle Paul knew how to dress himself for this occasion. He knew better than to dress himself with his flawless resumé and his Jewish pedigree. Paul saw everything he was or might have been, as buried in Christ. He also saw himself as being raised up, perfectly clothed in Christ. Christ alone constituted Paul’s wardrobe. He was convinced Jesus was due considerable honor which he had not yet received on earth. With all the saints, Paul longs for this banquet where Jesus will be honored and worshipped in a manner worthy of his stature.

It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

 

It was no longer Paul who lived but Christ lived in him and through him. As it is with all saints, Paul had to learn how to labor in the yoke of Christ, how to carry the burden so that it was light. The life of a saint is a simple and yet mysterious experience. Jesus himself must ultimately show us how to make ourselves ready and cloth ourselves in fine linen, bright and clean. 

Father, may we hear afresh your invitation to draw near. May we stir afresh the gift of Christ that we may live out of your limitless life, escaping the restrictions of our time bound and diluted thoughts. Through you and by you and for you Lord; may our hearts be made ready with praise. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to you. May our voices blend and add to the sounds of many waters saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” Amen.

 

 

Joy and Celebration (Sunday) – Isaiah 55:6-12

Joy and Celebration – Isaiah 55:6-12

Imagine that day when we will awaken in that new body-phase of eternity. I doubt our first morning thought will be a fuzzy, “Ugh, another day.” No. It will be more like, “Whoa, something is up! This is going to be an amazingly wonderful day!” The next thing we hear is a rap on the door; its Jesus himself. After a long warm embrace, he wipes away our tears, he looks us in the eye and says, “You are right, something is up and it is certifiably wonderful, but you are also wrong, there are no more days and nights. There is no more darkness.” And then Jesus adds, with a wink, “My voice is familiar isn’t it?”

Being a journal junky (one addicted to reflection and writing) I have imagined a journal entry in heaven reading something like this …

Date / Time / Place  – Hmm / Hmm / Heaven (I assume)

I went out today with joy and was led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills broke into shouts of joy before me, and all the trees of the field clapped their hands. It was awesome!!!

It was so true that the Shepherd’s thoughts were not my thoughts, nor were his ways my ways. None of this newness was even on my radar! I thought he was going to destroy this place but I see it now …

For as the rain and the snow came down from heaven, and did not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so was his Word which God spoke. It did not return to him empty, without accomplishing what he desired, or without succeeding in the matter for which he sent it.

Oh how glad I am that I sought the Lord while he could still be found; that I called upon him while he was near. I am so extremely grateful for those thoughts of mine and those ways of mine he enabled me to forsake! How can I ever say thank you sufficiently to the Shepherd for drawing me back to himself, showing me his compassion and offering me such an abundant pardon? I don’t know but it appears I will have the time. (I hope Isaiah does not mind me plagiarizing.) 

Until that day, we must keep in mind that Jesus himself was the Word God spoke and that Jesus did not return to his Father empty handed. He accomplished the matter for which he was sent. He led captive a host of captives. While heaven is appealing, we are already inside eternity where the kingdom has been birthed. Right now, Jesus is the new creation. In him is Life. He was and is the Life. There is no newness of Life outside of him. These are now realities. The kingdom has both come and is coming.

Our kingdom beginnings start when we are born again. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born anew.” Must! Must!! Must!! Are you born again? If you cannot answer this question with an emphatic “Yes”, the command remains for you; “You must be born anew!” Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to the Lord and seek him while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Forsake all thoughts that you might be a child of God because you have participated in a ceremony or given mental assent to a creed. Forsake the notion your morality or deeds have earned God’s favor. Forsake this self-righteous idea and the Lord will have compassion on you and he will abundantly pardon you.

Christ came as the Word Incarnate – the only Seed that can grow into kingdom newness. Truly Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If you cannot identify newness of life in yourself and you profess to be a Christian, this MwM post may be disturbing. Keep in mind, God’s thoughts are not your thoughts. His ways are not your ways. Being disturbed is an excellent sign the Seed may be trying to germinate. Take heed; the Lord is near; this is that opportune moment to find him. Today is the day of salvation. Humble yourself. Invite the Seed into your heart.

Tell him you want him to grow there and take precedence in all matters and that your are willing to forsake your rights to nurture your old previous life. You too will find that his Word was not sent in vain, that it indeed accomplished the mission for which it was sent – the rebirth of your life. As his life takes root, and you are a good steward, you will find that very soon you too will …

Go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Father, may the gospel of your Son be spoken anew into all the traditions and institutions of this earth with kingdom authority. May the true prophets and teachers be heard. May your saints declare the clarion born again message from their own housetops. May their razor sharpened words distinguish between sentiment, ceremony, human goodness, correct doctrine and Life himself.

Heavenly Father, Your name is holy and sacred beyond human knowing. May Your kingdom flourish! May your Word succeed in every way for which It was sent. We confess to you our sins. Forgive us Father and we shall certainly forgive those who have sinned against us. Deliver us from the evils of anti-Christ messages, offering ways into the kingdom other than Jesus. May your emerging Life testify of the power, and the glory of Your kingdom forever and ever. Amen.

 

Joy and Celebration (Wednesday) – Philippians 4:4-9

Joy and Celebration – Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-9

        Oh Lord, Thy word is a light unto my path after it has been a knife unto my heart.

Actually that was not a Bible verse but most saints will understand it. I am recalling one of those knife-in-heart seasons when the idea of rejoicing in the Lord sounded like doing the hokey pokey and turning thyself about. My gentle spirit was being devoured by my inner wolverine and the Lord felt light years away. I was rating my peace in anti-shalom increments.

In this season my local church was entertaining the idea of being a presence based church (like the book by that name by Ponder and Teykl). I can still hear the mantra; A moment in God’s presence is worth years of counseling or preaching (or whatever). I had had a few powerful encounters with God’s presence. This sounded good! Our loosely formed strategy was to send people out to Holy Spirit hot spots. They would acquire the fire (like the youth rally by that name), come back and get others ignited. There was problem. It didn’t work. In fact it was devastating for those of us who believed our greatest need was a fresh blast of Holy Spirit. This was bad news for someone like myself with no wind left in his sail.

But a seed had been sown; it was The Blue Book by Jim Branch which was given to me by a spiritual friend. It sat unopened for months because I knew what it was. Like another devotional book with its structured formulaic approach to God would revive me? No, no, no. What I needed was a blast from the Holy Spirit. However, being the book browsing addict I am, I cracked open the Blue Book and it began working its magic on me. I was quickly seduced by the mysterious voices of grace – strange, yet familiar voices were speaking a language my heart understood. In the Blue Book I heard the Father’s invitation, “Come. Rest. Drink. Eat.” I’ve jotted down a few notes …

Coming. Resting. Drinking. Eating.

1. “Coming” simply means, showing up. If we show up we may discover the banquet which is perpetually set before us (even in the presence of our enemies).

2. The Blue Book has helped my table manners. It has taught me meals are meant to take time. The meal is mostly about the growing communication with those seated around the table – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

3. Resting requires chewing a bit slower, drawing the most nourishment from each bite. Meditating (mulling over) words and phrases, asking questions, inviting the Others at the table to ask their questions and make their comments. These habits all make the family dining experience more enjoyable.

4. Writing down our impressions, insights and answers will serve to build depth and continuity to the dialogue and ultimately to the relationship, which is the point.

5. Learning to pause, meditate and write (pmp) has been like letting a bucket deep down into a well. Drawing that bucket up and finding living – personalized water, has been a game changer.

6. The process is incomplete until it becomes pmw & p (p= prayer). Graham Cooke talks about crafted-prayers – ones birthed from our gut, informed by the Word, the Spirit.

God is with us. Our greatest enemy to this reality is our five senses and our minds. Only our hearts can grasp this essential reality. Our hearts must be encouraged. We must watch over our hearts (and the hearts of others) with all diligence, for from them flow all the issues of life.

Father, I pray that your scalpel might do its work cutting away all that is not true in me. Forgive me for the struggle I put up in this process. Teach us to come, rest drink and eat. So be it.

 

 

Joy and Celebration (Tuesday) – Nehemiah 8:1-10

Joy and Celebration – Nehemiah 8:1-10

The contrast between our times and Ezra’s is startling. A remnant of the Jewish nation has just returned from 70 years of captivity. They have gathered in a unified spirit of hunger and contrition, keenly aware their captivity was a result of ignoring Yahweh. They asked that the Word of God be read to them. They stood to honor the Word. They wept as its truth pierced their hearts. The officials encouraged them not to mourn and weep rather…..

              to celebrate, compose their heart in joy, for the joy of the Lord is their strength.

The United states are not unified. Our nation is split and Washington DC, our governing mind, is the bi-polar consequence. The nations of the world wait in four year cycles to see which personality they will be dealing with. On the surface of things, it appears public life is shaped by debates, elections and legislation. However, beneath the never-ending and futile political rancor our divide is a spiritual one that involves the Word of God.

At a foundational level, there is a collective attitude within a nation that either honors the authority of scripture or it doesn’t. Instead of asking that the scriptures be honored and read, our nation has decided the Bible and its Author are infringing on our personal rights. How ironic that a nation such as ours, with Christian roots, would wilt in its regard for the Bible. The courts of our land regularly take sides against God, claiming he interferers with the affairs of our nation.

We are not a nation just returning from captivity. More accurately, we are a nation on its way into captivity. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” We are a people and a nation drunk on credit. In our foggy state of denial, we have permitted our bi-polar Father, in Washington DC, to leverage the future of our nation for our current comfort. Could the American people elect someone who openly acknowledged our addiction? Its very unpopular to tell someone in denial they are an addict and then ask them for their vote. I think most of us see where this is going.

Whether we will admit it or not, our elected officials are a reflection of us. Most Americans, even though we think of ourselves as Christian, do not consider the scriptures as authoritative. The truth of God’s Word is not piercing the heart of our nation because it has not pierced the heart of the Church. What can we do if politics and government will not, or cannot, save us?

Check out: What Leading With Vision Really Means by Erika Andersen.
(www.fastcompany.com/3003293/what-leading-vision-really-means) From that article …

People want leaders who look beyond today. They want to have the sense there is a master plan to carry them through whatever short-term trials and tribulations arise….They look to the leader to articulate, in a compelling way, a clear and positive future state (more than 4 years) toward which they can direct their efforts. When leaders focus only on the current crisis or this quarter’s numbers, (or on making promises to get elected) it seems to us that they’re more interested in maintaining the status quo or protecting themselves than in creating a successful future. They are not seen as leaders. (parentheses mine) From; Welcome to America – The Former Land of the Free)

Today’s post may seem like a departure from my normal practice of writing about the heart, claiming it as the root of all fruit, good and bad. I’m not. I’m saying our nation’s heart is the sum of our individual hearts and it is our individual hearts which will ultimately determine our personal and corporate destiny.

While it is tempting to wring our hands in despair, concerned the pilot on this flight is drunk and is most certainly going to crash the plane, we will be better off to not storm the cockpit. Instead we must shift our dependency and focus to God – the One with whom we have to do. We seem to forget that as big and impressive as our Father in Washington is, he is not ultimately in charge. You might be asking, “So, as a Christian what can I do to make a difference?” Those were almost precisely the words Jeremiah Lamphier, a mere layman and businessman asked, sparking an awakening in 1857. (Check out The Fulton Street Revival.) Reviewing historical events such as this can awaken our faith that all things are possible with God.

To this nation, who once declared her independence from England and has more recently declared her independence from God, the Spirit would say, “Compose your hearts in contrition that you may once again find God’s favor. The Lord will then restore your land. Then you shall celebrate.” Where shall we find our hope? On our knees. There, we shall compose our hearts before the One with whom we will individually and corporately answer to.

Father, please save America in behalf of a righteous remnant. Awaken hearts who will camp in your thrown room, asking for this nation’s soul. Awaken the hearts of the Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s. May your Word pierce the veil of darkness which has blinded our nation to your love and goodness. Have mercy upon us Lord. For Jesus’ name sake. Amen.