My reading this morning was Matthew 23-24, and I had a really hard time choosing a passage to journal about, because I love these chapters SO much, and could talk about nearly every verse at length. I might just have to study these for several days, and see what Yeshua has waiting for me in them.
Then Jesus said to the multitudes and to His disciples, The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat [of authority]. So observe and practice all they tell you; but do not do what they do, for they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy loads, hard to bear, and place them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger to help bear them. They do all their works to be seen of men; for they make wide their phylacteries (small cases enclosing certain Scripture passages, worn during prayer on the left arm and forehead) and make long their fringes [worn by all male Israelites, according to the command]. And they take pleasure in and [thus] love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, And to be greeted with honor in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:1-11 AMP) 
Jesus gave these instructions, not out of dislike or disdain for the Pharisees, but out of love for those who would follow Him. He set out the guidelines necessary for keeping men’s hearts soft, for allowing all an equal privilege to grow and serve and gain a connection to heaven, and to warn against the all-too attractive pattern of elevating mortals one above another.

When I read this passage this morning, my very fleshly first response was to think of those who followed this same pattern the Pharisees did, who took pride in their office, who usurped power God never gave them, by virtue of it. But then, Holy Spirit (thank God!) whispered to my heart that they are all just people . . . people with earnest intentions and weaknesses of the flesh common to man, who wanted to do what was right, but due to their flesh or the traditions of their fathers or ignorance of the Word or all of the above, fell prey to the very things Yeshua warns against. And I thought how unfair it is to leaders to elevate them in this way, no matter the arena, whether church or government or community or business. To idolize someone is destructive not only to the one doing the idolizing, but to the one idolized. Idolizing puts tremendous pressure on its object . . . they have no room to make mistakes, no opportunity to confess, are denied the flexibility of repentance and growth that comes from walking as the Word says a Christian should walk. That’s so, so unfair. So unjust!

Father, show me, in my heart, where I might harbor idolization for people or things or ideas. Shed Your Spirit upon Your people in abundance, that they can know You better, and love one another without reserve. Teach the Body better how to walk as equals together, esteeming all as brothers and sisters, honoring and loving one another without reserve because we are YOURS, not because one is called “elder”, “pastor”, "pope", or whatever. Let us love and care for one another as if we are ALL pastors—let us all have that same dedication to the Word, to prayer, to worship, to carry that same weight of love for one another. We are one, in You, Lord. Let us open our hearts more and more to You, let us pray more and more to You, and Father God open our eyes to the prophetic, seeing things as You see them, and opening our mouths to speak that perspective into life in our circumstance.

Father, Your people have so much potential! I feel it all around me when the Body gathers. It IS a force to be reckoned with . . . but we don’t quite know how, or we don’t quite trust ourselves enough, to step out into the unknown and let You have Your way. Father God, speak to our hearts the solid assurance, the sweet assurance, that You are ever with us. It is our eyes and hearts and ears that need to learn better to detect Your presence. Our city NEEDS this potential that is brewing amongst us. Our families NEED this joy that is about to be unleashed. This land NEEDS the refreshing in the Holy Spirit that is coming. I keep seeing floodwaters—a flood of the Holy Spirit that rushes in and overwhelms everything in its path. But instead of a destructive force, it gives LIFE, it gives LIBERTY, it gives CLEANSING and RENEWAL. Lord, quiet our hearts, remind us to cast fear out from among us, so we can welcome this flood with open arms and know that if You send waters to cover the earth, You will give us gills. You will equip us with whatever we need—indeed, You already HAVE—to not just survive, but to THRIVE in the circumstances ahead. I don’t know how to describe the weight of glory, the promise of joy, the brilliant shining of what You have planned . . . but I can hardly wait. (If I wasn’t so exquisitely aware of my own weaknesses and failings, I wouldn’t have any patience at all! lol)

Father, show Your people Your heart, yet again. Show us Your patience, Your plans. Open the hearts and minds of those that love you, and draw them to You, God, and let them see. Let all of us see! Let us feel. Let us KNOW You, better and better every moment. Unleash the beauty in each one of us, and let us flood the earth with YOU. In Jesus’ name, so be it! Amen!!!

Above all else, know God

Scripture: Nehemiah 6:10, 12, 13 NKJV

Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.” Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

Observation: Nehemiah knew God's voice. He followed God's will to go support the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall--and here, God gave him discernment.  The same kind of discernment Jesus showed in Mark 2 when He perceived the thoughts of the Pharisees' hearts.  That discernment protected Nehemiah because, knowing God, nothing dark could deceive him.

Application: If I know God, I cannot be deceived. Not even by what seems to be an angel. Knowing the goodness and brilliance of God, I will be able to understand and see the difference between true and false prophecy, true and false prompting. This passage couldn't have come at a better time.

It's time to wake the sleepers!

Scripture: 1 John 1:10-13 NLT

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.  They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

Observation: 

Not everyone will "get it" . . . even (and maybe especially) those who have long proclaimed themselves as chosen & favored of God.  And yet, this passage states plainly that ALL who believe and accept Christ WILL be reborn.  The rebirth seems like the litmus test for the believer.  Not yet having experienced it doesn't mean you're doomed--just that you have something awesome and amazing out in front of you as you continue to humble yourself and seek the Christ.

Application: 

We who profess the Son of God have to be earnest about it.  Serious. Joyful. Excited. Unrestrainable!  We can't call Him our Lord, and then live like the world.  Or even like most of Christianity.  There are a multitude of variations on "worldly" living . . . but underneath, they're all just new spins on the same old theme: they place in our hearts, in the very most holy and sacred temples of God on the earth, idols that moth and dust can--and will--corrupt.  We have been charged to seek God, and His holiness.  To pursue Him, to press in, to praise and worship Him not only at church but in our lives, in our every step every day.

"And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?  Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? . . . And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?"

--Alma 5:14-15, 26

God took my faith, took my belief in Him, and stripped away everything I had built up around it . . . all of my trust in the arm of flesh. And in doing it, He revealed Himself--and suddenly, my sure belief in Him went from a comfortable, Son-warmed rock on which to rest quietly, to a massive mountain, upon which I stand, praising and proclaiming the Love and GOOD News of Jesus. The difference isn't just night and day . . . it's fire and ice . . . a raindrop and the most tempestuously powerful ocean.

Don't give up, church. Don't give into the weariness that comes on all of us from time to time. (I'm on a high right now . . . and I'm riding it for all it's worth!) Hold on to one another. Love one another. (Oh, how I could write and write on that one little three word sentence!) Worship. Pray. Spend real time in the Word. Follow the Holy Spirit. And be glad!!! :o) And do this not only for your own salvation, but for the salvation of those around you. And for the times that WILL come, in my life, when you're the one on the high, and I need your strength and the power of your joyous faith.

Prayer:

Lord of Hosts, I know that You know me. Little, mortal, imperfect, me. I know that You are the Judge . . . and the day of judgement is not yet. (Oh, hallelujah!!!) There is time yet to find You, to preach You, to shout Your praises and the gloriously Good News from the mountaintops of our faith. Help me to know how to proclaim You to everyone I see. Give me the words, the actions, the thoughts & feelings it'll take to wake up your sleepwalking followers who, wander in a broad and open plain. And my heart aches for those I know who now stand far from you, walking in dead works. Let me help, Lord. Please. In Jesus' all-gracious name, amen!

Life Underwater: Isaiah's Vision

Translation from The Literary Message of Isaiah, by Avraham Gileadi. (I highly recommend this version.  Read side-by-side with the NLT, it's a great reference, as Gileadi has gone through an immersive Judaic education, and has as close to an understanding of Isaiah's context & education as I think possible.)

I had so many beautiful insights this morning as I read, I didn't make it past Isaiah 9 before my time was gone; but I can't wait to spend extra time tomorrow morning reading the rest. :o)

Hopefully you'll remember my Life Underwater post.  If you don't, go read it real quick.  It'll come in handy in a few minutes; and if you don't, you won't get one of the coolest parts of my study this morning.

Isaiah 8:6-8, 12-17

Because these people have rejected
   the waters of Shiloah, which flow gently,
   and rejoice in Rezin and the son of Remaliah,
therefore will my Lord
   cause to come up over them
the great and mighty waters of the River--
   the king of Assyria in all his glory.
He will rise up over all his channels
   and overflow all his banks.
He will sweep into Judea like a flood
   and, passing through, reach the very neck;
his outspread wings will span
   the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.
(8:6-8)

Do not call a conspiracy all that these people
   call a conspiracy;
be not afraid or awed
   by the thing they fear.
But sanctify the Lord of Hosts,
   making him your fear, him your awe.
And to you he will be a sanctuary,
   but to the two houses of Israel
a stumbling block or obstructing rock,
   and a snare, catching unawares
   the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Many will stumble into them,
   and when they fall shall be broken,
and when they become ensnared
   shall be taken captive.
(8:12-17)

Observation: God tells Isaiah that Assyria is going to invade Jerusalem like a flood . . . and we can all picture the incredible destruction of flooding. (Remember video clips from Hurricane Katrina? Yeah. Like that.) And flooding goes everywhere. And yet, Isaiah is told not to be afraid. Not to worry about the things that everyone around him is having a total freak-out session over. He is to worship and love God and trust Him . . . God will be his sanctuary from the destruction. But the rest of Israel will be dashed in pieces, as they're swept along by the flood, upon the very rock that shelters Isaiah.

Application: And here's the coolest part to me . . . not only does all of this apply to us, spiritually today, as we live in a world that seems permeated to the very core with darkness, but what God taught me about submission in Life Underwater comes powerfully into play here, too. As Isaiah lives in faith, he doesn't strive along with everyone else against the overwhelming rush of the coming flood, but is sheltered and saved from it, breathing underwater as it were, as it sweeps around him and his family. He will have life, underwater, when nearly all around him follow the fleshly wisdom of fighting it out in their own strength . . . and discover it was God's strength they needed when their own fails utterly and almost immediately.

Prayer: Dearest Father, I feel so fed this morning, as you taught me these things. I revel in "connecting the dots" between things You've already taught me and things I'm learning. And I glorify You that something You already taught me, in my own vernacular and understanding, fits so beautifully with Isaiah's vision. You ARE the same yesterday, today and forever. And Your personalized teaching to me confirms that. :o) Thank You! Thank You so, so much. And Lord, please help me remember. Remind me, often and often, to rest in Jesus. To submit, to dive unreservedly into Your wisdom and Your will for me, which looks like completely idiotic stupidity to the rest of the world. I praise You for astounding, dumbfounding freedom in Christ, and never, ever want to lose it again. In Jesus' name, so be it!!! Amen!

Look! A prophet!

Look! A prophet!

Scripture: 2 Kings 3:11-12 NLT

But King Jehoshaphat of Judah asked, "Is there no prophet of the LORD with us? If there is, we can ask the LORD what to do through him."  One of King Joram's officers replied, "Elisha son of Shaphat is here.  He used to be Elijah's personal assitant." Jehoshaphat said, "Yes, the LORD speaks through him," So the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom went to consult with Elisha.

Observation:

It's so attractive to seek out a prophet and to hear from my God through her or him.  Human nature wants something tangible--but even more, it wants something easy, and guaranteed.  Let the prophet pour him- or herself into the worship and devotion and the word.  Human nature just wants to drink from the fountain of life that flows from that kind of worship.

Application:

Prophets are a gift from God to His people, just as prophecy is a gift from God to specific people. I treasure prophetic words spoken to me, and the support and guidance of those with that gift in power.  That said, I have always felt an assurance that God is just as eager to speak directly to me.

Prayer:

Lord of Heaven and Earth, show me how to better listen for Your voice; how to live so You can speak to me in power!  I will hear and heed Your word through others (and I praise You for speaking to me in ANY way), but I hunger and thirst for You, personally, in my life.  And I rejoice that you turn none away that seek you! In Jesus' name, so be it . . . and amen.