Monday, April 4, 2011

Two Pictures of Marriage

Today I saw two beautiful word pictures of marriage, one in the Old Testament and one in the New.  It blessed me, so I thought I'd share them with you.

In the Old Testament, I saw a picture of the Bride and Groom at the moment of their wedding vows: "Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the LORD your God, just as He has spoken.” Deuteronomy 26: 16-19

We have an understanding that the Church is the Bride of Christ, but I don't think that takes away from Israel's special place in the Kingdom of God.  At this moment though, I'm seeing a prophetic picture of Christ and His Bride, which I believe will include all those Jews who receive Him as Lord and Savior.

There was something so majestic and sweet about this picture, so full of love and expectation~ the beginning of a new life together.  It shows Christ as the Head, honoring His Bride, and His Bride honoring Him as the Head.  This mutual commitment encompasses the Promised Land and all its blessings.

In the New Testament, I saw a more intimate look at the Bride and Groom.  This picture is applicable in the natural realm as well as in the spiritual realm.  It also reminds us that the Bride is not just one person, but a whole group of people set apart to Him to be His own.  I noticed two types of relating here: one so task oriented that intimacy is temporarily lost, and the other, so focused on intimacy that tasks at hand are temporarily forgotten.   These are issues often dealt with in earthly marriages, as well as in our relationship with the Lord.  Jesus didn't rebuke Martha for doing the tasks, just implied she'd be better off if she followed Mary's example and put intimacy first.  It's not only a female problem, of course, as men can often be too task oriented as well.  It is also more effective to pursue tasks when we have communed with the heart of God. 

In human relationships, some people more easily show love by "doing things" for their beloved, and this is often greatly appreciated, as it should be.  Jesus seemed to be more concerned about a fretful attitude, some resentment towards those not working, and maybe a feeling of not being appreciated. All these attitudes can accompany the service that people give to the Lord and to others.  Unfortunately, these attitudes detract from the service given and show some selfish motivations for the serving.   From this passage, and from my personal experience, it seems Jesus puts communication and intimacy above deeds of service.  The person with a "helps" gift is in just as much need of intimacy with the Lord, and is just as desired by the Lord, as a person with a "prophetic" gift.  It should be all about knowing Him and growing to be more like Him because we love Him.  Jesus certainly worked hard while He was on earth, but it all came from what He saw and heard from His Father.  And those of us who would rather just "be" with Him than do anything, will be empowered and motivated to work the works of God, His way, after soaking in His presence.

Men and women alike can, and must, learn to relate to Jesus according to His preferences.  When we do, we will be more able to set aside our natural preferences, so we do things in a manner and priority that please the Lord and greatly benefit our earthly spouse, as well as the Kingdom of God.  Not only will we grow in grace and gain preparation for the coming Marriage of the Lamb, we will be a blessing and a testimony of Christ in our earthly relationships.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Am I Faithless and Perverse?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said, when told about a boy with a demon, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?"  Luke 9:41  I used to think that He was rebuking His disciples for not being able to cast the unclean spirit out.  But He was addressing a whole generation of the nation of Israel, not just a few guys.  What do you think was bothering Him?  I got an insight on that today from our Old Testament passage in the OYB.

When I was pondering what to write today, the Holy Spirit said "Start with Jesus and go back."  So I did.  This is a good principle - I highly recommend it!

I'm quite certain that Jesus was disturbed because this was God's chosen people and they had become completely victimized by Satan.  If they had obeyed God's directions back when they were given the Promised Land, the ones we read today and have been reading, they would not have been in this predicament.  They were as bad off as the rest of the world, at least in the demonic oppression arena, when they should have been free from the evil one's torment.  But they did exactly what God had told them not to do: imitate the nations around them, especially when it came to spiritual practices.

“When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you."  Deuteronomy 18: 9-14

When I was in college (long, long ago "in a faraway land"), I got caught up in the occult.  I promise you, when you do this stuff, or even dabble in it, you open up doors to demonic influence.  My salvation included a lot of necessary deliverance from evil spirits.  Some people go way too far in condemning every little thing, and they become as tormenting as the demons they're afraid of!  I'm not talking about witch-hunting or "finding a demon under every rock".  I'm serious, though, about not grieving the Spirit and not giving place to the abominations that God clearly hates. 

Unfortunately, our culture is full of evil practices, idol worship, and occult fascination and involvement.  "Pagan" is big these days.  I run into it a lot in the artistic circles I associate in (this is my mission field).  The Lord reminds me often not to let it influence me.  We are so surrounded by it that I think we (the Church in general) are becoming callous to it.  Be open to the correction of the Holy Spirit, and also of those who watch over you spiritually, such as your pastor, when they warn you of these things.  I'm not one of these, I am just a messenger (but if you hear His voice through me, listen).  As such, I'll name a couple of things as examples of what I feel are infiltrating influences that I know for a fact that some Christians are allowing in: vampire stuff and Harry Potter.  Sorry to meddle, but these images and ideas are from the devil; they should not be fun to a believer because they grieve the Holy Spirit.  This stuff is contamination; I think at best it is lowering your spiritual immune system, but probably much worse.  Please consider dealing with it! 

When our spirit is no longer grieved by what grieves the Holy Spirit (or we continue to ignore the grief) we are in great spiritual danger.  This troubles me because we are to be overcomers, and this means "conquerors".  Should we be conquered by the evil that Jesus died and rose again to conquer?  He delivered us from evil; we even pray "deliver us from evil".  Why do we play with it then?  We call it "entertainment"!  Wouldn't Jesus call it "faithless and perverse?"  This hurts, I know, but it needs to be said.  Believe me, I've heard it from Him more than once myself.

It is prophetic types, like me, who are most attracted (when not yielding to the Holy Spirit) to darkness, evil practices and occult spiritual power.  Even though they are called to be especially tuned-in to God's communications and purposes and to help train others this way, it is this type of person that is most likely to be influenced by satanic and occult things.  [This is why God gave instructions as to how to know a prophetic word was from Him or not. Deut. 18: 21-22, and many others]  This may seem strange and unbelievable to many, but if you are this type of person, or you are near someone who is, you will easily be able to observe what I am talking about.  Sadly, I have known people who are amazingly gifted prophetically who have gotten far too interested in what the devil is doing, so much so that they ended up following him instead of Christ Jesus.  Don't you be one of these!  And if you are a parent, and you have a child who is generally drawn to these things, pay attention, because you probably have a prophetically motivated/gifted child, and you will need to understand these things and learn how to raise them up in the Lord according to their gifts.

I praise God because Jesus conquered!  He completely trampled down the devil.  Jesus is Lord!! It is up to each of us individually to allow Jesus to be Lord in our own life.  When He is, He will increase His kingdom in us, and through us where He gives us authority.  These are dark and perilous times, and deceptions are rampant.  Since we are the Children of  Light, let us all live in the Light and shine His Light into the world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30, 2011 The Poverty Paradox

I'm going to tell you what I saw today in the reading, and then you can go to the Word with it and hash it out with the Lord.  I'm not trying to establish your doctrine here, I'm just trying to challenge you to think about what you're reading, and to think about why you think what you think about it.

If you read the New King James, you may not notice this paradox.  This is what I read in my version: "But there will be no poor among you (for the LORD will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance to possess),  if only you will obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment which I command you this day. For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you." Deuteronomy 15:4-6 RSV

In the next verse, we get the paradox:  "If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,  but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be."  Deuteronomy 15:7-8  RSV

It goes on to show the attitude we should have, and talks more about the release year, the seventh year.

More of the paradox follows:  "For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land." Deuteronomy 15:11 RSV

It seems to me that some of the translators, including the NKJV, had a difficult time is accepting this paradox, so they wrote but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother,  except when there may be no poor among you; for the LORD will greatly bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance 15: 3-4 NKJV.  This "except" just doesn't make a lot of sense.  To me the opposites do make sense, because we see this kind of paradox all the time in Scripture.

God is saying that there will be no poor among you and that there will always be poor among you, at the same time, in the same chapter even.  Why is this?

Considering there is an "if only" clause in that promise, I can totally see why we not only always have some poor people among us, in our nation and in the Church, we have an amazing number of poor people.  Could it possibly be that we ignore clear directions given us by the Lord?

I remember how the Lord, years ago, cut loose our finances when we began to obey His commandment not to charge interest on loans (within the family~ and we take that spiritually too).  I'm not sure if we've come up to the seven year release date on any debts yet, and we may not have had that revelation at the time.  But I see it now, and will live up to it if it comes up [Usually, I just give expecting nothing in return].  This may be Old Testament stuff, but didn't Jesus come to fulfill the Law and not abolish it?  There are principles that we may walk in and begin to experience the kind of blessing that was promised.  He shows us His desires, what He loves and what He hates, and He shows us how to fulfill love and righteousness.  If we would start to study the Word to find out how to do that, I think we'd find out how to get rid of poverty.

In the Old Testament, we see promises about being free from poverty, sickness, oppression, etc.  In the New Testament, we are given everything we need in order to walk in these promises.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He demonstrated the same truth that was given in the Old Testament.  His principles go beyond the Old Testament, go deeper and higher, into the heart and into the unseen realm.  There is no reason why we should not walk in His promises, except that we don't know, we don't understand, or we don't believe.

As the Lord stated, everyone will not get a hold of His truth and promises, even though He desires that they do.  But that should not stop you from getting a hold of them.  If you believe God's Word and walk in it, and you demonstrate God's love to people the way Jesus did, not only will you see the effect of His promises in your life, you may also be able to help others get a hold of the promises for themselves who may not have otherwise.

Questions to Ponder:
How is debt affecting you?  How is it affecting this nation?
What was Jesus getting at when He taught us to pray: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Matthew 6:12  NKJV
Is there any possibility that poverty is related to unforgiveness?  Why or why not?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 28 & 29, 2011 Cultivating a Good Heart

I've been fascinated by the images of water in the Promised Land, and it's got me thinking a whole new way about it.  For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year."  Deuteronomy 11: 10-12

Now, take this thought and put it together with the Parable of the Sower, from the NT reading yesterday.  This is when Jesus explained it to the disciples, the seed being the Word of God:  "But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience." Luke 8: 11-15

Have you ever wondered how we come to have the Word of God grow in our heart to begin with?  Were some of us born with a "good heart" that could grow the Word?  Were all of us born with a hardened heart, like the roadway that was packed down hard and trampled on by feet all the time, unable to even receive a seed, much less sustain the growth of one?  I think that mankind in general is in the second category, and it takes a lot of work to get the ground tilled and prepared to receive the Word at all.  God is the Farmer, or the "Husbandman", who works on people's hearts in many ways.  I was able to be a co-worker with Him in the counseling room, where much of the time was spent digging up hard ground, dredging up rocks and other debris, and in planting the truth.  Some of the time I was allowed to help reap a harvest, but this was due to the work of others who had planted and watered.  It is always God who brings the increase. (I Cor. 3: 6-7)

I also think that some of us are blessed to have parents and other people who set to work preparing our hearts when we are very young children.  A godly parent is diligent to work with God to bring their child's heart to a place of receiving the Word;  and they are diligent to help the child maintain that garden until the Word begins to bear fruit.  I believe there is a generation of children being brought into the world now that have had their hearts prepared even from the womb - who will have the "noble and good heart" from the start.  Throughout the Bible, you can see examples of this type of person.  Think of a large number of Samuels and Marys coming into maturity at a time such as this!  It is all of our responsibility in the Church to help guard and nurture these little ones.

Imagine now, what happens when one who has had their heart prepared, a "noble and good heart" - the good ground - coming into the amazing Land of Promise where the rain of heaven waters it and God's eyes are always on it.  Revelation raining down, flowing in streams, watering the Word that's been planted.  This is a land of heavenly revelation and abundant spiritual fruitfulness like we've never experienced before!  This is the land of Life!  Can you see why here we must be all the more watchful and diligent to guard our hearts from deception and the idols of the world?  Anything and everything will grow with extreme rapidity and abundant fruitfulness.  We must beware of what we allow to be planted in the good ground in the land of Life, and stay on the alert.  We must guard our hearts with utmost diligence.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 27, 2011 The Rarest Asset on Earth

[I didn't have a chance to post this on Sunday, but I wanted to share what I got yesterday anyway].

And the costliest!  It took the Israelites 40 years in the wilderness to get it!  What is that asset?  Humility!  How rare is it?  Just look around you.  I look into my own heart and life, and I'm not even sure it's there.  But one thing I do know, I've been through the wilderness (seems like 40 years anyway!), and now that it's time to enter the Promised Land. I'm hoping the wilderness experience did it's job, and I will be able to walk humble and not stumble.

"And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." Deuteronomy 8:2

The blessings and requirements of the Promised Land demand the character of humility!  We won't be able to stand, much less bring glory to God, if we are in pride.  The Lord makes it clear that the temptations to pride will be great in our new territory.  Just think:  He has to remove seven mighty "nations" to make room for you!  He will be so big in you that He's going to have to take down a lot of the works of the devil that you encounter in your new land to make room for you and His work!  Seven - a completed number - He won't leave anything there to torment you if you will totally submit to Him and follow His directions!  This is good promise here!!  Grab it!  Hold on!

In Luke we get a great picture of Jesus honoring humility: Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Luke 7:44-48 NKJV

Worship Jesus in humility, and it's a sweet-smelling fragrance to Him and to others! 

One key to humility is remembering the works of God in your life - staying thankful for His grace, salvation and forgiveness.  One hindrance to humility is condemnation!  This might sound contradictory, but it's not.  Pharisees and other hypocrites join right in with the devil in seeing us in the sin of our present and past, and naming us with it.  This does not help us stay humble, it gets our eyes on our self and lies to us - so don't join it, rebuke it!  No matter what your past is, He's got a good plan for you.  When Jesus calls us "Forgiven" we are forgiven.  He called us that on the cross!  It's up to us to believe that, grab a hold of it, thank Him for it, and walk in the freedom from our sin that He bought for us. 

Humility in our heart will keep us in constant dependency on God, and impel us to remain current with our repentance.  We may be maturing in the Lord, but we still need forgiveness - and we still need our feet washed.  If Jesus could allow a woman with a "bad reputation" to wash His feet, we can certainly let Him wash ours!

Agreeing with God is the essence of true humility.  Agree with Him about His promises to make you great in the heavenly Kingdom.  Agree with Him about His lordship, your need for Him, and His "always rightness".

Walk humble, and you won't stumble.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 26, 2011 Fire on the Mountain

How often do we avoid the presence of God because of the glory?  I do too often.  We go to worship and He shows up as fire, His voice makes us tremble, and we're afraid for our lives.  So we back off instead of endure.

Moses was sharing the Commandments with the Israelites, and this is what he said to them. "The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire.  I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain." Deuteronomy 5: 4-5 NKJV

Isn't that what we want a lot of times, for someone else to hear from God for us?  We don't want friendship with God enough to endure the fire.

God didn't force the people to hang out with Him. Rather He expressed His desire that they truly would fear Him.  "Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But as for you, stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess.’ Deuteronomy 5: 29-31 NKJV

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!  Yes, we should definitely have a reverent fear of the Lord - enough to obey Him.  But I want to press through for love of God to be with Him and hear His voice on the mountaintop.  I want friendship with Him, and that means taking Him the way He is.

If we hang out with Jesus long enough, we might end up seeing Him do the things He likes to do!  'Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Luke 7: 11-35  Are we going to get offended with Him for demonstrating His power?  What if the people around us don't like it?

I have to ask myself:  which would I rather have, an intimate relationship with the Lord or being understood by the people around me?  And when I answer myself, I have to honestly say, "I choose the Lord!"

Even if it makes me squirm.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 3, 2010 The Mark of Groaning

Jesus, God's faithful High Priest, has been revealing to us the idols that grieve Him-- all leading up to the exposure of the "image that provokes to jealousy."  Although there may very well be an historical outworking of this in the world, with the beast, false prophet and the "abomination of desolation," I am, right now, simply responding to the Spirit who is revealing spiritual conditions of the human heart.  In my understanding, this image that provokes God to jealousy is the self, sitting on the throne of the heart.  By now, we should have a clear sense of God's opinion of this.  If that is what we see in ourselves, then we must allow Christ to deal with it once and for all.  True salvation includes deliverance from the rule and worship of self.

God has work for His saints to do.  We're not just waiting around for the end to come~ we are called to be kings and priests with Him as His Kingdom grows upon the earth.  He intercedes 24/7 in the heavenlies and we are to minister with Him  (we are in the heavenlies when we walk in the Spirit).  This requires purification of heart so that we may be at one with Him and His purposes.  Once our hearts are cleansed and in unity with the Spirit, we begin to see what He is doing on the earth and to be united with His purposes.

We must understand that God allows things to come to fruition~  He lets them develop until they are fully grown.  It is then that things are seen for what they are, and God's judgments are shown to be righteous.  Ezekiel writes: "The rod has blossomed, pride has budded. Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness." Ezekiel 7: 10b-11a NKJV  This is one reason we don't see God act on things when we think He ought to!  Yes, it is troublesome to have to put up with evil all around us, but the end is coming for all wickedness.

I'll never forget the first time I realized that I was supposed to be grieved over the evil in the world (before that, I sort of ignored it).  I had read a Scripture verse about Lot being troubled over the evil of his city (2 Peter 2:7 I suggest reading the different translations), and I realized that I wasn't all that bothered myself.  I began to pray for God's heart on it: wow, what a change that brought on!  Very uncomfortable, but how can we pray if we don't see things the way God does?

One of the reasons we don't want to see and feel God's way is that it makes us feel separated from humanity, and from the world we live in.  Most of us don't want to feel that way.  We have such an intense need to belong that we dull ourselves to the evil, or hide ourselves away in little pockets of Christian life.  No, of course we don't need to wallow in wickedness~  that's not what I'm getting it.  But you can hardly get away from it if you exist in the world.  It is how we respond to what we see that I'm talking about.  The sick feeling I get in my soul and spirit when I see the way the world is does not drive me to attack the world, rather it causes me to go before the throne of God for direction and grace.  I then receive His comfort, because He feels the same separation from the world, and so many of the people in it.  Christ came to bridge that separation, yet how many refuse to cross into the blessedness of God's light? And yet, His heart rejoices greatly in those who love Him, and His glorious plans for the future are real and sure.

Sharing God's hatred of evil and His love of the truth sets us apart from the world, and brings us into His realm of protection.  "And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side;  and the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” Ezekiel 9: 3-4 NKJV  (Of course, we know this includes women too).  Part of the Lord's Prayer is "deliver us from evil".  Are we serious about praying this, or are we too concerned about how it will affect our lifestyle?

God's "secret place" is not always a very comfortable one, but it is a spiritually safe one.

These visions of Ezekiel today are some of the most chilling in the Bible to me.  This picture strikes at the heart of what is going on in the world and in our nation, not just historically in the past or future temple in Jerusalem:
"Then he said to me, 'Mortal, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of images?  For they say 'The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.'" Ezekiel 8:12 NRSV

Satan has dark strategies that are working out in the governments of man.  But there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.  We might as well face it:  God sees everything.  He's dealing with what's inside His people's hearts until we can join in praying wholeheartedly "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. . .deliver us from evil."  We ask the Spirit of Truth and Revelation to expose the darkness, bring those who will repent into the Kingdom of Christ, and to glorify His name in the lives of the people of God. 

Don't be afraid to see what the Lord shows you about what is happening in the world.  Because Christ is victorious, and so are you!

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!