Showing posts with label visitation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label visitation. Show all posts

Thursday

Prophetic Exercise: The Chair by the Fireplace

Here’s an exercise, if you’re willing.

Imagine a comfortable room, a quiet room. There’s a big fireplace in the room, with a roaring fire, and next to the fireplace is a big chair. A Papa chair.

Father is sitting in that chair, relaxed. His eye, with a sparkle in it, is on you. He reaches a hand out toward you.


You can curl up on his lap, if you like, and rest your head on his mighty shoulder. Or you can curl up at his feet if you prefer. But this is a good time to be quiet and to rest with him, however that works best for you.

In the silence, you can hear his heart beating gently, peacefully, strong. His hand is on the back of your head, fingers in your hair, caressing gently.

You can feel the stuff of your day drain out of you, like dirty bath water vanishing down the drain: gone, never to be seen or heard from again, and in its place, you feel the presence of peace on you, like the warmth of the crackling fire.

Be still. Shhh…. Maybe you drift off to sleep for a bit. The quiet is all around you.

After a long time, you realize it’s not quite absolutely silent; you can hear his soft, deep voice whispering your name, over and over. Do you hear him?

Then he speaks to you, quietly, his words like a warm blanket over you. That feels nice.

What do you hear him saying to you?


It’s Christmas Eve


It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.

My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.

But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.

Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!

For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.

God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.

But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!

And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!

The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!

The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!

And tonight is the night that it all began.

Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!

Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!

This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 


Terrorism: Father's Grief

The most famous verse in the Bible declares that “For God so loved the world, that he gave…” God loves the world, the whole world.

Father brought that one back to me recently, as I was praying for his Spirit to move among the ISIS terrorists. “Son,” he said, “Christians are all worked up because the terrorists are killing Christians.”

I listened. “I love the Christians. But I love the terrorists just as much.”

That startled me a bit. And it brought back to my mind a conversation we’d had years ago about martyrs. “Do I not have the right to spend the lives of my servants in the way that I know is best?” I could hear tears in his voice as he said it.

And I realized something. While it’s an ugly thing that terrorists are killing Christians, while it’s a heinous act to crucify or behead women or children for any reason, there’s a reality behind it that is yet even worse.

When the Christians are brutally murdered, they go to run and jump and shout and play with Jesus. They go to a place full of light and love and wholeness and acceptance. The route there was evil, but the destination is glorious.

But for the terrorists, when they brutally murder a Christian, the demons that control him wrap their claws tighter around his soul. And when someone blows up a terrorist camp with a cruise missile, it is not to glory that the dead are destined, and it is most definitely not a flock of eager virgins that they will meet when they arrive.

Here’s what I learned today. I already knew that Father wept over his children’s murders, but I was reminded that their blood would, as it always has, be the seed of yet more revival on the earth. Every time a Christian’s blood is spilled, the grace of God is unleashed to bring even more people into the Kingdom.

Their murderers think they are doing evil, but they are sending individuals to glory and empowering revival upon the earth!

But I learned that my Father weeps more over the murderers than over the murdered. Because these do not know hope, because of what their sin does to their soul and how it enslaves them all the more, because when they are killed, their destiny is far away from Him who died that they could know Him. Father grieves because the terribly costly sacrifice of his Son has not yielded in them the benefit for which he paid that terrible price.

Father weeps more over the terrorists than the Christians they murder.


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The Wordless Prayer of Faith

It happened during a gathering in our home. We’d had dinner some time ago, finished the dishes together, and now we were gathered in the living room, with mugs of hot tea, and the warm glow of good friendship.

It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to pray for individuals, for healing. We were all good friends, so there was much laughing and interaction while we prayed. That’s just who we were, and we didn’t feel the need to be different when we were with God.

We’d just finished praying for one person, and they got up from the “hot seat” (really a “hot hassock”: a place for them to sit in the middle of the group, so we could all see and all lay hands on if called for).

One of the women kind of hobbled to the center of the room and sat gently down on the hassock as soon as it was vacant. She announced that she’d hurt her back lifting something incorrectly, and needed it healed, please. We turned our attention to her, and asked God for his prayers for her; if Jesus only said what he heard Father saying, we figured that was a good model for us, so we waited for those prayers.

And we waited.

The silence went on for a while, and it became kind of awkward. The fact that it was silence was unusual: there wasn’t laughing or joking going on; people were listening for God’s prayers for our sister’s back.

And we waited. I asked a couple of the more prophetic people if they had anything, but they didn’t. This was unusual. So we waited.

Then, quietly, a teenager in the back of the room giggled. Yeah, I thought, this is rather odd: all these adult believers can’t even pray for one woman’s back. I can see why she’d laugh.

And her laughter continued. She tried, for a moment, to stifle it, but that never works, and it didn’t work this time. OK, so she’s laughing. What is God saying, for how to pray for this back?

But the laughing teenager was herself funny, and a couple more people glanced at her and chuckled. And they fought it, and they, too, were unsuccessful. And the laughter spread. And nobody knew why.

And soon, nobody was even trying to pray for the woman’s strained back; we were just laughing, loudly, uproariously. We didn’t know why we were laughing, but it was clearly not something we had the capacity to stop!

And after four or five minutes of unrestrained hilarity, the laughter slowly faded back out, ending as it began, with the happy teenager in the corner. Maybe five or ten minutes had passed.

And the woman who had sat down with the hurt back now stood up and stretched. “Aaaah.” she announced. “That’s much better. No more pain. Thanks guys.” And she walked, confidently, completely upright, out to the kitchen for a fresh cup of tea.

We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, chuckled again, and decided that we like hanging out with a sneaky God.



God's Heart, In Golf Jokes and Flashmobs

There’s an old joke:

Jesus, Moses and an old man were teeing off on the 16th hole on heaven's golf course.

The 16th hole is a short par 3 over a lake. Moses is the first to tee off; he steps up and swings, and the ball dives right for the water.

He quickly spreads his arms, the water parts, and the ball rolls across the bottom of the lake and up on to the green.

The others complement him on his shot, and Jesus steps up for his turn.

Like Moses, Jesus' ball heads straight for the water, but when it gets there, it bounces and then rolls across the surface of the lake, until it, too, rolls up onto the green.

After showering him with complements, the old man steps up to take his shot. His ball also dives for the lake, but it bounces off the back of a turtle in the lake, and onto the far shore. There, a squirrel picks up the ball and quickly heads for the woods.

As the others begin to laugh, a hawk swoops down and picks up the squirrel. The hawk flies over the green, the squirrel struggles and the ball falls out of the squirrels mouth, bounces once on the green, and then drops neatly into the cup. 

Jesus turns to the old man with a smile and says, "Nice shot Dad!"

That’s actually one of my favorite jokes ever, largely because it is a good illustration of how God works: spectacular detail, looking for all the world like happenstance, coincidence. Yet all the time, he’s working behind the scenes, holding all things together by the power of his Word.

OK. Hold that in your mind.

Now reflect for a moment on one of the current trends in marriage proposals: The flashmob proposal. I’m afraid that I think they’re rather cheesy, but these guys didn’t consult me before they did the deed, so I suppose my opinion doesn’t count much. Here’s one example:




It has made me think. Like the golf joke, these proposals demonstrate something of the way the God does things: careful attention to a lot of details in order to spectacularly demonstrate love, to draw the beloved’s attention to the guy on his knee, and to invite that beloved lady into a lifetime love relationship. They’re maybe a little more direct than God is, after all, they need to be able to edit it down for an effective YouTube post; God has a lifetime to work out his proposal.

Sure, taking a lifetime to woo us is more complicated, but being omniscient, he can handle that; he’s pretty big, you know. What’s more challenging is the issue of free will. He’s committed to honoring free will: yours, certainly; but in addition, he works out his lifetime flashmob proposal to you in an environment of raging free wills, without abrogating a single person’s free will. (He doesn’t even – yet – hinder demonic free will, a fact which is highly inconvenient, actually.)

So the circumstances of our lives are arranged for the purpose of demonstrating – of spectacularly demonstrating – his love for us, of drawing our attention to the guy on his knee (his amazing Son), and of inviting us, his beloved, into a lifetime – an eternity-time of love relationship.

So for me, amazing golf shots aside, I think I’m learning to recognize his fingerprints in the circumstances of my life, displaying his love, drawing my attention to his son, and inviting me into an eternity of love relationship with an amazing lover.

And I guess I’m probably going to be reminded of God’s amazing courtship every time I see another cheesy flashmob proposal video. God is, fortunately, not so cheesy, but every bit as much the romantic.

[Editor's note: If you can't see the video, click on the title of the post ("God's Heart, In Golf Jokes and Flashmobs") and view it on the webpage. Thanks!]

Friday

The Library

I’d been visiting the Library for years before I figured out what it was. It’s easier to tell you what it’s not than what it is: I guess most significantly, it’s not a place, at least not in any sense of location.

The Library is a place in my imagination where God and I meet. But oddly, it doesn’t seem to be an imaginary place; it’s just that the imagination is the way to get there. Some folks describe these kind of things as “a visit to the third heavens.” OK. Whatever. I suspect we’re both talking about the same thing, and I suspect that neither of us is completely familiar with the best vocabulary to describe a non-locational location.

The library is a large room; it belongs in a very big, very old, stately mansion. Its thousands of books are neatly aligned on dark shelves, and between dark paneling (is it walnut?), both of which stretch from the thick, crimson rug over the dark oak flooring, to the sculpted ceiling far above. It’s the kind of room where you’d expect to find a couple of ladders on wheels to reach the top half of the bookshelves, but I’ve never seen a ladder in there. In fact, I haven’t yet taken a book off of the shelf.

The quiet in the room is tangible, nearly physical. I’m not sure I could work up a good worry in that place, but why would I try? The peace could be cut with a knife, but why would you cut it? There is no hurry there, no pressure there, either to do or to be something that I’m not already doing and being.

I generally see the room from somewhere near the center, and until recently, my attention has always been drawn to the middle of the long wall in front of me. There’s a fireplace there, and it’s a big one, and I’ve never seen it without a bright and cheery fire crackling in it, giving light and warmth – more than merely physical warmth – to the whole room.

There is no grate, no grille, no glass doors to separate us from the fire, but the floor in front of the fireplace is stone tile, not hardwood, and it’s been laid well. There is a round, emerald green rug over the stone floor and its presence infers the union between the two chairs there. Tall, remarkably stately, dark leather wingback chairs, face the fireplace, the chairs are clearly for conversation, and serious conversation at that. It’s evident that those who converse in these chairs are working together towards a goal, never – not ever! – working to change someone’s opinion or position. The unity between even the chairs is remarkable, but then this is a remarkable room.

Often, I’ll take the seat on the left, and as I sit, I’m embraced by the welcome of the warm fire, and simultaneously, I’m strengthened and focused for the work to be done between us. I’m beginning to become familiar with these conversations. For a long time, they startled me, even shocked me. The first time I sat down and saw Jesus across from me, next to me, I was undone! We’ve met many times now, and while it may never be “old hat” between us (I don’t actually aspire to that), I’ve grown comfortable in our time together.

And what a time it is together. We visit like close brothers, for that’s what we are. Not separate from the visiting and family talk, but in its midst, more troubling topics arise. I’ll often bring up something that has been hard to understand or difficult to carry, and that’s where I first began to understand “the counsel of the Lord.” He listens, asks insightful questions (I’ve never asked why my omniscient elder brother needs to ask questions, but it comforts me when he does), and we share the matter together. In that place, while we’re visiting, next the blazing fire, I begin to understand the matter from Heaven’s perspective, from the perspective that my ever-loving brother sees the matter, and I am strengthened. The matter is not less – in fact, it’s often greater, once I’ve understood it from his viewpoint – but the burden is better, like a comfortable load that I can carry for long distances, instead of the crushing weight it had been earlier.

There have been times when Jesus brings a matter of his own concern into our conversation. I expected that it would be an issue that I need to change in my own life, and occasionally it is, though there is never any of the condemnation that I used to expect there. Occasionally, he brings to my attention a matter relating to someone dear to me – my family, my close friends – and he gives me insight, which brings with it a power that changes the troubling matter into a place of peace strength, though I’ve learned it may be a long transition.

From time to time, and this is not an every-day affair, he will bring up an issue that is not well known to me and is not even within my power to influence. We’ll discuss it, as before, and it’s clear that while he never asks me to do anything with these, yet he is asking my opinion, my counsel, on the subject. I’ve stopped asking myself questions about why the Only Begotten Son would seek my counsel; it has confused me, but I’m growing to understand how seriously he takes the matter of my participation in the kingdom he and I are inheriting.

Occasionally, it’s Father who’s in the other chair, and in those times, very often my chair is empty, because I’ve crawled up into his mighty lap, rested my head on his bushy beard, and for a good long time, I just breathe deep of his fragrance: campfires and a good cigar, fresh cedar and fertile soil, rich leather and bright wildflowers: the fragrances of life and depth and truth. I love his smell. Often, my free hand finds its way between the buttons of his wool shirt and rests in the midst of his wooly chest. I listen to his strong heartbeat; I feel his beard and my hair stir in his warm breath as we rest together.

We have the same conversations, really, as Jesus and I do, though we may not bother with actual words. We visit, we tell stories, we boast about people we both know, and dream about the future together. I share my burdens, and come away with strength, he brings up matters about my growth, about the circle of his children that I influence, and occasionally, other matters, and we … well, we counsel together about them all. In all matters, I know I’m heard, I know I’m trusted, and I know that the matter – whatever it is – is less important than the love we share together.

Some years ago, Jesus caught me before I sat down, and he took me to a new corner of the room. It was in the right-hand corner, behind where I usually view the room from, and there was something there that I hadn’t expected: it was a tall, oak, judge’s bench. He took me around the far side of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, he sat me in the great chair behind the bench, and when I sat, I was wearing black robes, I think I had a white wig on, and I had a wooden gavel in my right hand.

I’ve learned – well, more honestly, I’m learning – to trust him in that place, and so I didn’t resist him, though my sitting in that chair was more of a novelty that first time than it was about actually judging anything. Since then, I’ve begun to learn some things about judgment, how important it is, how powerful it is, and especially how good it is.

It seems that the really big judgments, he’s kept for himself; I’m new at this after all. I’ve been charged with judging my brothers and sisters, but judging from Heaven’s perspective, from the perspective of a king who’s madly in love with them, who’s unreasonably proud of them, who’s amazed and overjoyed with their every step of faith. So the judgments that I’ve been invited to pronounce are about God’s favor on his children; I’ve been charged with finding them guilty of pleasing their father, and sentencing them to be loved and adored for all their natural lives, and beyond, if they’re willing! It’s better work than I first feared it would be; I’ve actually come to love that bench.

But some of the judicial work has been darker than that. One day, I was praying intensely for a dear sister against whom hell was having a measure of success. Jesus interrupted my sober work and brought me around to the stairs and up to the bench. I could see more clearly from up there, and with his help, I saw the cloud of miserable, filthy, little spirits that were harassing my sister. “Judge them,” he said, and as he spoke, I began to understand. I began to recognize their crimes, their trespasses, their rebellion against their rightful king and his rightful representatives.

As I identified them – the spirits and their crimes – I spoke the name, and as I named each spirit, it was as if the gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty as charged” to each charge; with each tap, a beastie was bound. Soon, I got into it, reaching into my spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime. The gavel would bang and the demon was bound. This was more judgment I could get excited about.

I needed to be careful, in my exuberance, to still judge accurately, according to what was true, not merely because I felt bad for my sister’s misery: this was a matter of justice, not pity, and it was a mighty justice that was handed down that day, and other days like it. I’ve developed the opinion that the judge’s bench is an excellent place for intercession.

I still visit the room often enough. We sit next to the fire and share the business of the Kingdom. Not infrequently, I’ll climb up to the bench to pronounce one judgment or another. I cannot say I’m used to this – how does mortal man get used to partnership with the immortal? – but it’s become familiar, comfortable like the well-worn stock of a favored and trusted hunting rifle. We do good work together.

There was one day, though, that I still shake my head about. It happened some years back, and I’m only now beginning to understand what may have actually gone on.

The visit started rather like any other: I was in the middle of the room, looking at the leather backs of the empty fireside chairs, and I was startled: Father somberly walked up to me, and he was looking very serious: he was garbed in a rich black judge’s robe, and his eyes were as intense and alive with fire as I’ve ever seen them. With his eyes fixed on mine, he slowly opened his robe. I was surprised to see a red plaid shirt underneath, but before I had opportunity to react in surprise, he pulled a shotgun from the depths of his open robe, and handed it to me. Startled, I took it from him and glanced at it. Yep, that’s a shotgun, all right.

I looked up again, and now the robe was gone, and with it, the stern look from his face. Instead, he sported a red hunter’s cap and a huge grin, and he held up a shotgun of his own. Movement caught my eye, and I saw Jesus, similarly attired with plaid shirt, red hat, grin and shotgun. Father asked, “You ready, Son?” but before I could answer, the air above our heads was suddenly filled with demons, their leathery wings flapping franticly as they zigged and zagged about the room.

Father laughed mightily, hoisted his shotgun and fired; a demon exploded into a black cloud. Jesus cheered and blasted another one. Soon all three of us were shouting and hollering and laughing uproariously. And blasting demons to tiny black dust. Shotgun blasts were interspersed with shouts of encouragement, great fits of laughter and the soft splatter of the demons shards. They had met their maker, and it had not gone well for them. He is a very good shot, actually.

I had enjoyed this experience so much that I hadn’t stopped to ask what it meant until recently; the answer wasn’t particularly surprising; something about “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” But the experience was, frankly, a great deal of fun. “Spiritual warfare” and “fun”: two concepts I had never expected to put together.

That hunting party only happened the one time. I think it was more about teaching me a lesson than a regular part of our business in that place. He’s a good teacher, by the way: I’ve never forgotten that experience, though I’ve been slower to learn its lesson.

The intimacy of counsel by the fireplace, though: that’s a part of our regular work together, governing this kingdom that we’re inheriting, as is the judgment from the bench.

Tuesday

A Vision Of The Heavenlies

I was in the Spirit and I heard a voice that rang like thunder: “Come.” Then I looked, and, oh my!—a door was open into Heaven. Another voice, a voice like a trumpet, like the sound of birds after the rain, called out, "Come up and enter. I'll show you what happens next. Come with me." The barest glimpse of the sparkle in an eye – no more – and she had drawn me in.

I was caught up at once in deep worship and, oh!—the throne set in heaven with One seated on the throne, lit in gem hues of amber and flame, and a rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled His throne. Twenty-four thrones circled His, with twenty-four elders seated, white-robed, gold-crowned. Lightning flash and thunder crash pulsed from the throne. Before the throne, the dais was like a crystal sea, clear as glass.

I felt like an intruder, witnessing amazing things that, as far as I knew, no living man’s eyes had ever seen. I was drawn across the threshold into this overwhelming scene, stepping gently lest I distract someone, lest I draw attention to myself, away from the amazing One on the throne. The sparkling eye drew me on.

I tore my gaze away from that throne. Prowling around the throne were four amazing creatures, covered in eyes. Eyes to look ahead, eyes to look behind. The first creature like a lion, the second like an ox, the third with a human face, the fourth like an eagle in flight. The four creatures were winged, each with six wings. And the eyes! They were all eyes, seeing around, between, within. And they chanted night and day, never taking a breath, but never hurrying:

Holy, holy, holy is God our Master: Sovereign, Strong – The Was, The Is, The Coming.

It’s impossible to describe it: I tell you what I saw, but how do I tell of the glory there? The creatures were terrifying, overwhelming, and yet there was a gentleness about them; I knew that they would never touch one of the King’s children, and so I knew I was safe. But every time they chanted, “Holy,” there was this intense vibration in the air, this wave of significance, of power, of intimacy that swept over the room and beyond, and for all I know, it swept on into eternity.

I inched closer, drawn; each wave nearly crushing me – nearly but not quite knocking me to the ground, crushing me to jelly, and yet every wave brought with it such an overwhelming joy, a belonging. I could not turn back, even should it cost my life to go on. Finally, I knew what death I would choose if the choice were given to me: I choose this.

Every time one of the creatures gave glory and honor and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the twenty-four elders fell flat on their face before the one seated on the throne. Again and again, they threw themselves down, with wave after wave of glory that came from the creatures’ worship. The elders, too, worshiped the age-beyond-age living one. They threw their crowns at the foot of the Throne, chanting,

Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all; it was created because you chose it.

I wanted to fall on my face and throw my crown at His feet in worship, but I was powerfully aware that I had no crown yet! Mine was still being forged, gems were still being set; I was not of this place yet. And the anticipation in the sparkling one drew me, past the elders and their thrones, past the creatures, up onto the crystal dais itself. The thunder struck again: “Welcome, son! Welcome home!” I looked up. The sparkling eye winked at me, and stepped aside.

As the thunder echoed, reverberated, I saw beside the great throne, another throne, at the great King’s right hand. Getting up from that throne was a young man. Frankly, he was rather a homely fellow, but he carried the same gentleness and the awesomeness of the One on the big throne. He had seen me, and before I could hide, he had my hand. “Come here. Sit with me.” His voice was gentle, and I saw the scar on his wrist as he drew me; my face burned as I remembered what I had cost him, but he dismissed my shame and drew me to his own throne.

He stepped up, and sat on the throne, and then he scooched to one side, making room for me next to him. “Sit here!” His voice held a chuckle, as he drew me up next to him.

Since I had first seen him, something had been rising in me, and with this, it crashed over me: “I can’t sit there, Lord! I’m not… it’s not… I… I….!” for the truth was, I was suddenly overcome with shame. Like one who had been in a place like this earlier; my heart screamed:

“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” I glanced again, in my shame, at the great throne. The wounded man took my chin, turned my face to his. “I’ve taken all that away. Come. Sit with me.” His gentleness melted my shame. He pulled me up next to him and I sat down. His arm was around my shoulders. “We’re so glad you’re here!” I felt the thunder rumble gently in agreement, and the sparkling eye appeared for a second and winked at me.

“Welcome home!” the voice had thundered. That's what this was! I was home! This is my home! This is where I belong!

Saturday

Whose Spy Are You?


Now [the 12 spies] departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of
Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.
Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”


Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”


But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”


-- Numbers 13

Twelve spies were sent to spy out the inheritance God had provided for them. Two returned with good news, ten feared the worst. I see this kind of division in our day.

It’s apparent: God is on the move; Aslan is on the prowl. He’s saying to his people something very like he said to Abram in the beginning: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 1:21)

God is clearly calling his people into action, and he’s saying very little so far about what he’s bringing us into. He’s clearly following the principle of Romans 14:23: “whatever is not from faith is sin.” If he were to tell us too much, we could not respond in faith. So he says, “Come to the land that I will show you. Eventually.”

One of the key principles for the day is that we must follow what he is saying now, not what he has already said. By way of illustration, we look at Abraham again: God gives him a son, then some time later he commands, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22) Had Mo held onto that word, a true word that God truly had spoken, Zack would have been a corpse on top of the mountain; but because Mo did listen, he saw the ram, the provision from God, and sacrificed the animal instead. Zack’s life depended on Moses listening for the “now word” of God.

Likewise, if we follow what God has said rather than what he is saying now, we will miss what he is doing now, and we will suffer great loss. Therefore one of the day’s key lessons is to learn to follow his still, small voice. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) It’s time for us to live up to those words.

It goes without saying that we listen to his voice; any other will lead us badly astray.

A second opportunity for growth comes this way: many believers are reporting that the season in which we live is an intense season; the pressure is heavy and is increasing, the pace is fast and picking up. The pressure is a temporary phenomenon, but the completion of the lesson is different than what many of us have experienced or hoped for. I believe that the season will end, not with the lifting of the pressure upon us, but with our growing to the point where the pressure is no longer a hindrance to us. It is we who will change, not our circumstances.

So our second lesson is about responding to difficulties. The lesson is about how we respond to pressure: do we respond with growth or with complaining? Do we notice what God is up to? Do we celebrate where we see his hand, where we hear his voice? Or do we notice the difficulties first? Do we fix our eyes on the obstacles in front of us? Do we notice the growing darkness more than we see the growing light?

If we recognize the darkness first, then whether we mean to or not, we are aligning ourselves with the ten spies that spoke out against what God was doing, who led the people in the rebellion that cost every last life in the community except Josh and Caleb.

Those ten had no expectation that they were condemning an entire people to death with their words; they believed that they were simply reporting the truth as they was it. But the truth that they saw, the spirit that empowered their words, brought three million people who believed them to an early grave.

The question is about what we speak about, what we meditate about; it’s about the words we use with each other. Jesus said, “… those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” (Matthew 15:18) If our words are about darkness, then our lives will be defiled by the darkness about which we speak.

Does that mean we should bury our head in the sand and pretend that there is no evil? Come on, you’re smarter than that: of course not. We don’t pretend the evil is not present; we simply don’t give it our primary attention; we don’t talk about it, we don’t empower it.

When we measure the darkness, we fail the great test of our day. When we celebrate the Kingdom and it’s King, we pass the test, we overcome the darkness, we fulfill Jesus’ prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

So what are you reporting about?

Revival: Future or Present?

For as long as I can remember – and that’s a long time – I’ve been looking forward to revival. I’ve heard the same stories that you have: a great outpouring in the last days, a great pouring out of God’s Spirit that draws people to Him by the millions and changes the face of the church and the world in a year or a month or a day.
We read about the Book of Acts, where 5000 people came to faith in a day, 3000 the next chapter, where signs and wonders seem to permeate the air and where the church met house-to-house. That’s what we’re longing for in our generation.
More than longing, many of us believe that such a revival – or greater – is coming to the Church before this is all over. There have been prophetic words from credible voices that God’s going to bring a harvest of a billion souls in a generation, that He’s going to “change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one.” Pretty heady stuff.
All that is well and good. We long for revival. We believe revival is coming. I have two problems with that. Both of them come from looking at revival as this great big thing that God does as a sovereign act of amazing power.
The first problem with our picture of revival is that we define revival as so big and so massive that we see it – consciously or subconsciously – as something that God does when He’s good and ready, and we stop taking personal responsibility for it.
I certainly can’t bring a million people to faith in a day, so we step back and most of us confine ourselves to wishing that He’d do His thing in our day.
(If we really believed that God was going to pour out that kind of harvest, wouldn’t we do something to help? Wouldn’t we do something to prepare? Sometimes I wonder if we expect God to do it so we don’t have to. )
At no point did God say, “You know that ‘Go ye into all the world’ thing? Nah… don’t bother. I’ll do it for you.” But we act often enough as though He did.
No, if God is going to bring a massive revival that turns the world upside down again, (and I believe He is), He’s going to do it mostly through His church. Us. You and me. He’s going to use us.
When Jesus walked the earth, He walked as a man, not as fully-powered-up God in a human disguise: as a man in right relationship with God. That’s what the incarnation is all about. And His walking the earth certainly changed things: people’s lives were turned upside down, the lame walked, the blind saw, the dead lived, thousands were fed, thousands more followed Him to hear Him talk about the Kingdom.
He did all of that as a man: flesh and blood like you and me. He taught. He healed. He resurrected people. At no point did he wake up in the morning to sudden success: thousands of adoring followers where none existed the night before. Father God did step in with the odd sovereign act, but that was exclusively limited to speaking: “This is my Son whom I love! Listen to Him!” (See Mark 1:11 & 9:7)
Jesus did the work. He did it empowered and directed by His Father, just as we need to do the work of revival empowered and directed by our Father. But it it’s our work to do; we must not just wait for God to do it for us, hoping that we wake up one day and suddenly there are the tens of thousands of people wanting to fill up our churches. Yeah, He could do that. No, that’s not how He does things.
The second problem with our picture of revival is that we limit it to only the great and spectacular, only the front-page news; worse, we limit it only to front-page news in America.
A wise man once told me: “If you want to see revival, go home. Close your door. Draw a circle on the floor and sit inside the circle. Then pray for revival to start in the circle. When you are revived, then revival has started.”
I am firmly committed that revival has already started. But because it doesn’t conform to our expectations, we say to ourselves, “That can’t be revival!”
First, if you and I are revived, then revival has begun. It’s already here! Now, I happen to believe it’s quite a bit bigger than that, but it’s true: we don’t have people pouring out into the streets asking how to meet God.
We have testimonies of God doing signs and wonders again. In America! We haven’t had that for generations! Other parts of the world are seeing millions won to Christ in a generation. Some African nations are now 80% or even 90% Christian, where the gospel was virtually unknown a century ago. South Korea is experiencing similar amazing growth.
I will agree, this is not enough. We want more. Jesus deserves more! The Moravian prayer has not yet been answered: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”
What we have is not enough, but it is revival. Our prayer needs to change from, “O Lord, please bring revival”, to “Please increase our revival!” Shepherding a revival is a different process than hoping and praying for one to start.
My goal of this article is this: we need to re-define ourselves. We are not waiting for revival; we are caretakers of revival. We have something of revival now, and it is our responsibility to nurture it, to shepherd it to carry it out. We must be empowered and directed by God, yes, but it’s our revival. What are we going to do with it?