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!!!

Whom Shall I Fear?

I shared this meme on facebook today:


Here is the fuller Christian context of that quote:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." ~John 14:12
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"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit." ~Romans 8:1-4
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"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:38-39
Or, in the English Standard Version: 
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:37-39
Danny Lee Silk wasn't saying we'd never feel anything from the atmosphere around us. Look at the words he used: because of our victory in Christ Jesus, we don't have to be affected, or infected, by what we experience around us. None of it has to change our course, impinge upon our faith, or inspire fear or despair. We don't ever have to lay blame, or responsibility, upon anyone else for what we do, or what we believe. Jesus has offered us all that He has . . . and as we seek Him, we can become more and more the way Danny described. Take Elijah, for example:
"Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind.

Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” ~1 Kings 18:25-27, NLT
Then there's Enoch:
 And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him. ~Moses 7:13
Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the mighty and powerful King of Heaven's Armies of the Old Testament. He is the tender and careful Good Shepherd of the New Testament. He is the Risen Lord, who will wipe away our tears, and He is the Glorified Messiah who sits at the right hand of the Father, an advocate for us with Him. He didn't go through all He went through just so we could be limited here. If one child of God was able to receive power from heaven to part the seas, or to raise the dead, or to set at defiance the armies of nations, or shut the mouths of lions, then it is within reach of us ALL to do incredible things, for our God is no respecter of persons.

So . . . what are we waiting for? What does your heart long to do, in the name of the Lord, to bless His children? Is it to sing praise? To heal? To hear and understand such that you can comfort those who mourn? To preach the Gospel of the Risen Lord, so all mankind can come unto Him and be saved? Look deep inside your heart, and see what God has placed there . . . because whatever He has planted in your heart, He has also provisioned for you, and He will show you the way to realize the dreams and longings you cherish.

Now, let's go forward in faith, and obtain the word of the Lord, as Enoch did, so, once we have obtained His word, and our faith grows ever stronger, we might do His will, and be conduits for His power in the earth. 

For signs follow them that believe.

 

Out of Babylon

And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her. (Revelation 18:4-8 NKJV)

Babylon has reaped the reward of her avarice. She took unto herself that which The Lord bestows upon them that love Him with all their hearts. She ignored the marriage covenant, committing all manner of sin with other nations. She amassed wealth and substance to the exclusion of others. She broke the bonds of Divine Love that set us free, and stands in her own power, and under heavy condemnation of the Most High. 

I want good things in my life. Comfort. Satisfying food. Health. Safety. Love. Fulfillment. I can rise up to wrest these things from the earth through my own intelligence and strength, or I can arise to them through utter devotion and love for my God. 

Babylon stole all that she gained--wealth, favor, power, the counterfeit of love--and as a result, she reaps the precise and utter opposite as recompense of her selfishness. Those who repent and follow Christ do the exact opposite of Babylon as they give and submit and serve and follow, and as a result the justice and equity of God fills them with all good things as a result. What "all good things" looks like might differ for each one....but God keeps His promises. He is faithful.

Most High Father, I praise You for the Goodness of Your Ways, for the justice and equity I can rest securely in, and I will praise Your Holy Name forever! In Jesus' glorious name, Amen. :-)

Eyes to See

Scripture: Revelation 19:19-20

"Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army.  And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur."

I wonder what this will actually seem like, to those in its throes. The one sitting on the horse will be readily recognizable to those with eyes to see, as will the beast and false prophet. But it seems that they will, to those who aren't seeing with spiritual eyes, look as though their roles were reversed.

Lately, and yesterday especially, I have been presented with ideas and topics upon which salvation could, (and really should), hang. Over and over, the pattern of dichotomy establishes itself: "This way to God!", pitted against "Watch out, you'll end up in hell that way!" Of course, the arguments are far more subtle than that, obfuscatory synecdoches scattered throughout. And I find myself pondering on and untangling the meaning of various the ones presented to me, wondering which side I'll choose, which points and ideas are actually on the upward route.

Father, I thank You for all You have provided for Your children's education and guidance. For scripture, for Your Son, and Your Spirit. I'm so glad I know to trust in You, to follow Your Word in the Spirit, and for Your patience and forgiveness as I fumble around. Please, give me eyes to see truth from error.  Show me clearly what I need to see to do Your work in a way pleasing to You, and lead me always in Your ways. I'm so glad for You, and for Jesus, and for the Holy Spirit, for the love that is the primary channel of communication from You, for Your followers who bring that love to me like a flood, and for the paths in which it has led me. Bring light to Your people, God, light and life and love eternal, and to those who seek to be Yours. In Jesus' name, amen.


Nearsighted, much?

Scripture: Matthew 23:11-13, 16-24, 34-35

The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either. “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,  but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! “Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar.

Observation: The Pharisees occupied themselves with and focused so tightly on minutiae, their spiritual and intellectual eyes grown so nearsighted, that they could no longer comprehend the full context of God's work and will because they had lost His Spirit.  They knew the religious law and they lived the religious law so others could see . . . but paid little or no attention to what was inside. They wholly missed the point.  It's very much like the three blind men asked to described an elephant, which they describe in terms of the tiny bit of the creature that they can feel, the first bit they each ran into, whether it was the ear, foot, or trunk.  And none of them knew what an elephant was truly like, because they did not take the time really find out. Comfortable in their blindness and in their portion of discovery, they each had their own answer to the character and attributes of an elephant, and each knew himself to be right, because he had firsthand experience. And they were all horribly, grotesquely wrong.

Application: How do I do this? How diligently do I search the scriptures, not to find single verses or phrases to support what I already believe, but to find further insight into the Truth that lives and breathes and loves me? How well do I stay aware of the overarching meaning and importance of God's law and will, as well as the principles taught in scripture? Is my heart open enough to His voice to be able to hear and obey completely what He tells me to do, even if it doesn't mesh with my own understanding, or those phrases and single verses whose context have been ignored, their meaning wrested and broken beyond recognition?

Prayer: Lord God of Heaven, open my mind.  Help me see Your will and Your work as fully as possible, to understand the context and full intent of your Word. Show me things the way You see them--give me that sanity that is founded on Jesus, and none other. I so want to be done forging my own path, following my own will.  Show me how to submit more fully, to follow without hesitation, to act without fear. Of anyone.  Let me trust You completely, and know for myself that You are on my right hand and on my left, my advance guard and rearward.  Thank You for showing me the way . . . for blazing the trail, if I would only just get on it already. ;o)  I love you, God of mine. Just, . . . thanks. So much. In Jesus' name, amen.