Home (Thursday)—Luke 23:32-43

Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:32-43)

In approaching our passage, I find myself praying, “Lord, please do not let me just read this and move on to my toast and orange juice. This content cannot remain just an idea or a historical fact to me. My hope and the hope of all men hinge upon this scene. Open my heart. Breathe into me its inspiration, its instruction, its rebuke.”

My mind, as it often does, connects with other passages of scripture or, more often than not, with an experience from scripture, which I have to look up. I am thinking of Paul, who was absent from both the Colossians and the Corinthians, yet claimed to be there with them in spirit. Had Paul’s understanding about time and space been altered in Christ? In asking this, I feel as innocent as a child with his imagination intact. I sense God’s approval.

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

I am rejecting the idea that Paul had time-travel powers that I don’t. I am also rejecting the idea that in the spirit means something like: in a particular attitude. No, I believe Paul was with the believers in those two cities in an actual yet mysterious way. He knew the Body of Christ was an eternal living thing with many parts. What is time to eternity anyway? I believe Paul’s revelations had loosened the bonds of materialistic logic on his reasoning. He had grasped the spiritual nature of his being and ours. This is why I am free to ask, “Where am I in this Crucifixion scene?”

Am I the criminal on the left or the one on the right? Am I the soldier with the hammer and pin? The one casting lots? Am I an onlooker, come for the show? Did I yell, “Crucify him?” I am recalling the teaching of scripture: men are either in Adam or in Christ. I can claim my innocence based upon my absence but, in Adam, I was possessed by every evil motive playing out at Golgotha. So, I acknowledge:

“Lord, I would like to think that, with Peter, I would have been prepared to die with you, but I know better. I am made of the same stuff as him. I denied you too. I was also the thief, in pain, insanely hurling abuse at you: “Are you not God? Will you not do something!” (In my own whitewashed way, I have done this even recently.) I was also there casting lots—hoping to gain a little something out of this Christianity thing. I was also there looking on, at a safe distance so as not be confused as one of your disciples. And, in my heart I have both mocked you and sneered at you. I, as much as any human monster, need you.”

The mystery gets even deeper…

I was also the thief on the cross, whose insanity was overtaken by grace, enabling him to acknowledge divine justice, to see Jesus’ righteousness and his divinity. I was there, hearing myself take ownership of my sin and, having no one else who can save me, asking, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!

Jesus, heard my cry and not only promised to remember me in Paradise, but he folded me into himself—the redemptive Mystery of the ages. He transferred me into the kingdom of his beloved Son. He gave me the right to become his child. He grafted me into the Vine, who is Jesus, and promised me that nothing will ever, ever, ever, separate me from his love. Death (in its truest spiritual sense) has been abolished. When did he do this? He did it before time. He’s doing it now and will be doing it forevermore. Truly, “It is finished!” I was in Adam; I am now in Christ.

Father, how can it be that such wonderful providence has overtaken me? I have been caught up (with you) into the middle of a blessed Mystery. Amen.

 

 

Home (Wednesday) – Zephaniah 3:14-20

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (Zephaniah 3:17)

The New Covenant is a better covenant. It has been enacted on better promises. (Heb 8:6) This verse reminds me why the glory of the new exceeds that of the old. Its the promise of a new heart …

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. (Ezekiel 11:19)

Here is how God fulfilled it…

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Christ living in us changes everything or, at least it should. We could modify our old testament promise in light of the new …

The Lord your God is in you, a victorious warrior. He exults within you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice within you with shouts of joy. (My paraphrase)

However, because we inflate the value of our feelings, we think, “OK. Christ is in me – the Bible tells me sobut I’m not feeling it. So we try (and fail) to hear his voice in the clamor of our fickle emotions and busy lives. I can testify, this road has many unnecessary ups and downs and some very un-scenic turnouts.

Perhaps we have not known his presence within simply because we were not taught that we could or we were not taught how. Perhaps the full import of having a new heart has not been realized because we have not learned to be quiet long enough to encounter him. Perhaps the place of our tryst frightens us because of its unfamiliar stillness and quiet. Yet, we are told, that is where we shall come to know him …

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Perhaps if we made peace with the quiet, we would experience the promise …

Indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord. (from Zephaniah 3:20)

The Blue Book has served thousands of Christians by inviting them to slow down and discover their God who lives within them. Those who develop this habit ultimately find it was Christ himself they longed for and that he resides within them. The process of coming to know our God is an experiential mystery, a blessed one, which awaits all persevering saints. Our simple calling is to …

Watch over our hearts with all diligence for from them flow all the issues of our lives. (from Proverbs 3:24)

May God succeed in his ambushes and may we succeed in our perserverance. Amen.

 

Home (Tuesday)—John 13:31-14:4

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times. (John 13:36-38)

When Jesus tells him he was going somewhere and that he could not go with him, Peter is thrown for a loop. He’s not on track with this at all. He’s been Jesus’ shadow for three years! Peter protests, Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.

Jesus’ response: Really?

In the years following his denial, Peter must have looked back and said, “I sincerely believed I was the type of man who would lay his life down for Jesus. Wow, was that ever an essential lesson for me. Following a risen but unseen Savior—walking by the Spirit—is another thing altogether.” And he no doubt mused: “Had the Spirit not taken up residence in me, if Christ were not in me, I would still be thinking absurd thoughts about myself and believing everything is supposed to happen right now.”

The Father disciplines each child he receives. Peter’s lesson is essential for us as well. None of us are the people we believe ourselves to be, at least initially. We are all driven by our false selves. (“I am this or that sort of person.”) And Jesus says: “Really?” We each grow up, figuring out a way to make life work with the least pain. We all learn to protect, at all costs, our fragile spirits born into a dog eat dog world. When we’re children, our spirits protect themselves as instinctively as a falling cat landing upon its feet. As teens and young adults, the soul’s habits of survival became more deliberate. As grown ups (what a misnomer), our personalities have become conditioned to see themselves in a particular way. Ergo, falsity is embedded in our identities.

This is a problem when the self-made person (and we all are) is nothing like the person God created it to be. When we erect walls around our hearts to protect ourselves, we construct barricades between ourselves and love, which was (and is) to be our chief vocation: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

These instinctive and deliberate acts of self-protection also create a barricade between reality and us. Our walls wreck our capacity to see and hear things without distortion. We all have specific blind-spots. We would be fated as the last to know if it were not for God’s discipline. However, since God is making all things new, we do not have to remain in the dark. That which has been lost or stolen in the way of our personhood can be restored. That is what Paul is getting at when he says:

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)

 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)

We foreknown ones are invited to share the sufferings of Christ (in minuscule ways) through various trials and tests so that we might experience the full kingdom gospel—the gospel that not only saves souls from hell, but also transforms them along the way. When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are inviting God to transform us into the image of his Son and to teach us to live as Jesus did. Jesus was not just our Savior. He is our Life! The Spirit’s mission is to see that the children ultimately resemble their Father.

If we are to press on as disciples, we can anticipate God exposing our false selves. The old things have passed away, behold new things have come! Like Peter, we will discover that we were not who we thought we were. If we will persevere, we will discover that we are in fact something far different, far greater. In Christ we will eventually find that our old false selves were but a sad parody of the self that God is making anew. And, we will learn with Peter that things don’t often happen right now. God is big on process. It is in the ebb and the flow, in the living and the dying of everyday life, that we come to truly know Jesus as our all in all.

A contemporary of Jesus’, a man who became known as Pliny the Elder, is credited for saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Not too shabby for a pagan, but Jesus is credited for saying:

 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” (John 14:1-14)

Our home is where Christ is, and he is in us. Our hearts are Christ’s home. In truth, we are inseparably intertwined in him. Together, we foreknown ones comprise Christ’s Body on earth. We individually and collectively have become, in our new and better covenant in Christ, what the Temple was in the Old Covenant—the dwelling place of God. It was expedient that Jesus ascend to our Father so that we could become the temples of the Holy Spirit—a community of souls destined to become expressions of resurrection life, the light of the world, revealing the Way.

Blessed King, my heart extolls your beauty and your wisdom. That I am your son is my chief delight. May my vision be forever restored that I might behold you with even greater clarity. In the midst of whatever unfolds, may you continually be the chief treasure of my heart. I love you Father, Thank you so so much.

 

 

Home (Monday)—Revelation 21:1-7

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (Revelation 21:5-7)

Overcoming is a recurring theme in Revelation. Who comes to mind when you think of overcoming? How does one go about overcoming? What is it specifically we are to overcome? When I served as an elder in a local church, these questions and a hundred more, haunted me. As one entrusted with the spiritual health of others, finding the answers to these questions seemed important. However, I eventually discovered the limited relevance of question-askers inside the local church.

Admittedly, some questions have a dark side, masking unbelief and evading truth, questions such as: “Who is my neighbor?” or “How shall I know that these things shall be?” But there are also honest questions, which come from thirsty souls. Some are on a heart-quest for reality and truth, which requires them to peer beneath things. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Chuck Swindoll’s encouragement to those challenging the sacrosanct and the status quo in Insight for Today. (Use his search tool and look up; “The Problem With Progress,” Parts 1 & 2.) You will appreciate this if you are one inclined to turn over stones.

Our local church was shrinking along with most churches in America. Why? “Why” is a pry bar word, and I suspect the absence of those anticipated harvests with their 30-60-90 fold returns may be related to our aversion to it. Jesus is the most captivating personality in the universe, yet church in its traditional form is repelling people. What if leaders were to get out the pry bar and look beneath the definitions, the traditions, the doctrines, and the experiences and see if Jesus somehow got left out?

 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. (Revelation 21:3)

We are now the tabernacle of God. Christ is in us. Christ is now our very life. This is the greatest mystery of all. This was the big stone the prophets were trying to pry up in the Old Testament: Christ in us—the hope of glory. Living with Christ as Lord in our hearts inevitably plays out as an intimate relationship between God and man. When Jesus eventually trumps religion, a bright light, previously unseen, will shine from the Church. In Christ, we hold this bright day in trust.

Because I have seen God pry things up in my own life, unearthing the spring, I project he could do this on a larger scale. After all, I’m made of the same stuff as my brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps I am in error, but I am assuming that it his intention that the well within each of us be unearthed. I write to assist other thirsty hearts. I pray my story would encourage others to make sure Jesus is not being lost in the serious business of a religious life. I’m evidence it can happen. We will know when the well is open and running because, flowing from our innermost beings will be a river of life that washes our consciences clean of guilt and shame. This is overcoming. This life of freedom flows from “the spring of the water of life,” which is Jesus, “without cost,” affirming our identities as His daughters and Sons.

Father, let us not fail to see that it is in you and you alone that all things become new. Even if your prying exposes us where we are false, strengthen us to persevere, knowing the sorrow of discipline is but for a moment. May our hearts be liberated from any old things preventing the Spring of Life from overflowing our vessels. May our hearts see they are the created objects of your affection and that you will conclude the matters which you have begun. Make all things new Lord, especially us! Amen.

 

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 (Monday)—John 15:9-17

 

Here’s the deal. We cannot give or receive love, the essence of God’s greatest command, while we have walls around our hearts. Our walls exist because we have erected them over time to protect ourselves from the pain of life. The problem is that they insulate us from God and each other. I was a master builder. You may be too. I discovered that with my walls in place, my life was more about religion than life. It certainly wasn’t about joy and celebration—this week’s theme. This post is about wall-demolition and, like all things, it’s all about Jesus.

The most scandalous and extravagant gift ever given was Jesus Christ. It was scandalous because the intended recipients were indifferent and even hostile toward the Gift. It was extravagant because of the lengths the Giver went to give it. Prior to Jesus, the distance between God and man was a chasm beyond measurement.

Once upon a time, God’s realm and ours overlapped in Eden, a place where the first man and woman walked in relational intimacy with God. However, they disobeyed and the realms of God and man separated—leaving both the earth and man’s heart subject to futility and death.

Only a being that shared both man’s nature and God’s could restore the union between these realms. Driven by love, God satisfied the overarching laws of eternal justice by coming himself as the Son of Man. Regardless the distance, he himself has become the bridge between the realms.

 For there is one God, and one mediator (or bridge) between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all… (from) I Timothy 2:5-6

This act of reconciliation was motivated by the driving force of the cosmos—love. Love will one day be vindicated as the primary and unrivaled power of all realms. Some may ask, “How can you talk about a loving God in the presence of so much evil, which a sovereign God could prevent? All I can say is that this question will one day seem ludicrous. One day we will see that the Man of Sorrows has not only saved the tears of the hurting, he has cried them as well.

Abiding in Christ, the True Vine, is the theme of today’s passage. The Mediator himself is restating love’s intention that we abide in him. Abiding means we consciously live in Christ who is our life. In Christ, the realms once again overlap, in our hearts. The unity of heaven and earth has been restored in those who have received the Gift. Abiding connects us with new realities. Many believe and become sinners saved by grace. Others abide and live as saints—God’s sons and friends.

 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love… These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full… This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you… No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from the Father I have made known to you… I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He may give to you. (from John 15:9-16)

 This I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:17)

Where I have spoken in his name without love, I have been, at best, religious. Religion is that self-absorbed pursuit of God where there is conviction without compassion, form without substance, and obedience without abiding. This is the one thing that lit Jesus’ fuse. Think I am exagerrating? Take a moment and consider the moneychangers and millstones of Matthew 18:6 and 21:12.

Abiding in Christ makes truth our own and equips us to do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. Servants who are transformed into sons reflect light. Our stories are updated as our identities are upgraded from servants to sons. We become the light of the world—the compelling message joyfully validating the gospel.

 We are a letter (or story)… known and read by all men, not written in ink, but rather by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. (II Corinthians 3:3)

Abiding in Christ has meant that I simply watch over my heart by receiving the Gift. By the same power with which he entered my life in 1976, he shot down the walls of my heart in 2012, making room for himself in a new way. MwM is all God’s aim. Being the target of his love is not always pleasant, but there is no other way if he is to be Lord. MwM tells some of my story as a prodigal. That event was fairly straightforward. However, my posts are largely the account of Father’s ways of getting an elder brother to join the party. I wanted my family to know the particulars of this story. I wanted them to know that God expands his kingdom one heart at a time and that our hearts are the battlefront of the last great battle.

Father, may we fully receive the gift of your Son. May your Spirit prevail within our hearts until every last barrier to your love is demolished. Overcome every lie regarding Jesus—your gift to us. May we live joyfully and boldly out of our new natures in Christ, bearing the fruit of your love, amending the damage we have done in your name. May love, joy, peace and celebration prevail in Jesus Name. Amen.