Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

On Psalm 91:2

Psalm 91: 2 (AMPC) “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!”

Refuge & Fortress.png

It is helpful to picture this dwelling place – as revealed in verse 1 – as a refuge or a fortress. Think about the pictures you have seen of ancient castles, hewn from the very mountain in which they are set. These to be sure can be called strongholds! Often on one side is a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet straight into the ocean. The sea crashes against this “wall” in all its great force and fury relentlessly, but in futility, for it cannot penetrate what is on the other side of that wall. Nor can any invading force arriving by ship even hope to enter and overtake. Those who arrive to attack will likely not survive their own efforts.

Huge walls surround this fortress on its other sides, which themselves are surrounded by craggy mountains and beast filled forests that threaten anyone who might be so audacious as to attempt to storm such a refuge.

A drawbridge is its front door – the only way in. Only those with the King’s permission can enter, coming and going, doing his bidding. Only one path leads to this entrance, a circuitous and narrow way. It is well protected by heavily armed and well trained guards, vigilant day and night as they patrol this path and surveil from its towers. One look at them would make anyone approaching think twice about his reasons for doing so! Unless of course his intention is to surrender himself in full to the King, to once and for all throw himself down before the mercies of the throne.

Spiritually speaking, King and Fortress and Refuge are one for such souls. The WAY to the fortress is through Jesus Christ alone, for any in need of God’s mercy, protection, and healing. Everything necessary is inside, for those who have greatly realized their need, having been assaulted by thieves and robbers (false teachers, the devil, the world system, and the flesh, and more – all adversaries of this fortress and those who seek refuge in Him).

Those who seek asylum in this refuge will never be turned away, for here we have Jesus’ own promise to such souls: “All whom the Father has given (entrusted) to Me will come to Me; and him who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out – I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me.” (John 6:37 AMPC)

Life may not seem like such a dwelling place. Even our churches – because of the culture which has assaulted and penetrated all too many of them – may no longer seem like places where it is conducive to finding a spiritual refuge, a place of quiet and reverence, where there is any sort of genuine sense of being “en-fortressed” by the Almighty.

Paradoxically this may have its purpose. Might it be in order for us to better redirect our orientation and intention toward a more prayerful and personal experience of our Lord God as refuge and fortress, in preparation for a time when the outer structures may not be as easily accessible?  Or so that we may be as Mary of Bethany who sat at Jesus’ feet to learn of Him, to comprehend and apprehend Him as refuge and fortress – as the Holy Spirit, through His written Word, makes us increasingly aware that, through Christ alone by grace through faith, we now indwell Him and He indwells us? Could it be so that we become intimately acquainted with the Omnipotent yet personal One Who is not bound by walls made by man?

This is He Who “richly and daily supplies me with everything I need to support this body and life. He shields me from all danger, and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does out of pure fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” (Luther’s Small Catechism)

Can it get any better than this?

So we can pray this verse in praise of Him in Whom we live, move, and have our being, You are my refuge! You are my fortress, my God in Whom I trust! All thanks and praise be to You alone for this magnificent reality given to me because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ Who purchased and won me to be Your own! Let me live continually, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, in the awareness of Your life transforming love for me. Amen.

Posted in Christianity, Uncategorized

A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

“The days of the Church’s greatest spiritual power and impact were days when ecclesiastical forms, architecture and ritual were nil, and the Lord Himself was everything…. To get away from the lesser things we need a mighty visitation of the Spirit of God; this, and this only, will do it.”

 Quotation from T. Austin Sparks – The Release of the Lord – Chapter 7 
http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002113.html

I heard a message the other day where a salt shaker was used as the illustration that, if we are the salt of the earth, we cannot stay in the “salt shaker” – the container of organized religion or “church”. We must get out and do some good. But do we have the will in ourself to do that?

It occurred to me that 2 things may have to happen to get the salt out where it is useful. The shaker has to be 1) turned upside down and then 2) it has to be shaken. Perhaps that’s what the “mighty vision of the Spirit of God” will have to look like. It worked that way with the earliest disciples. First there was the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), followed by much persecution by the established religion of the time, to disperse the new believers out into the rest of the world. Something comes to shake things up.

Seldom has it happened otherwise because the path of least resistance is the natural tendency and way of the flesh to rest on its laurels of flesh investment in real estate, ecclesiastical forms, and the pride of tradition.

“… At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, Once more I will shake not only the earth, but heaven as well. The words, Once more, signify the removal of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that the unshakable may remain.” Hebrews 12:26,27.

 

It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to see the direction things are taking in this world where “religion” is concerned. Perhaps, as the shameful revelations come out of what goes on behind closed doors and in the basement of organized religion, “the faithful” will begin to question, “Where’s Jesus in all this? Certainly the Living One will not be found among the dead.” They hopefully will wonder what exactly they have been faithful to. Anyone with their ear to the ground knows that the great church of the west is not the only place where gross abomination and corruption have set in. It will show itself everywhere in religion as time to let go of the salt shaker.

This is going to be a time of testing, and maybe being shaken out of the salt shaker. The very hand of God may have to accomplish this, since the will to do so seems to be largely absent. It’s so easy to make idols out of forms, real estate, and tradition- and rest comfortably in them, missing the greater blessing of knowing Jesus without the interfaces.

That message came across pretty clearly in 70 A.D., when religion had so fully supplanted a relationship with God that religion’s leaders refused to recognize the Messiah when He arrived.

So maybe not only the believers will be shaken out, but also all the shakeable “things” in which many are so heavily invested, so that the unshakeable will remain.

Will it happen again, this time on a massive global scale?

Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Prayer Request

May we all who are so inclined give thanks, pray, and agree together that God’s hand will keep in check the severe winter storms headed for our Great Lakes region and other areas of the USA. May He Who has power over wind and wave protect especially the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, the frail and elderly living alone, who have little or nothing, those who are ill, and also all lost or abandoned animals, or any in danger of losing their life due to exposure to the elements such as farm animals and wildlife. If He wishes to provide for any need through us during this time, may it be so. May the Almighty One also protect the utilities, power lines, and all infrastructures which we so often take for granted to keep our homes and places of business warm, well lit, and safe. And let’s give thanks for His lovingkindness always. Amen.

Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

His Workmanship

Cross : His Workmanship.png

 

Father God, Who is Love – let us never forget Whose we are, by virtue of Your creation and re-creation of us in our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belongs all authority in heaven and on earth. Please pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us, so that we may always think, speak, and act according to Your nature and will in Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us, to rescue us from this present evil age. Amen.

Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Let The Son Shine In Me!

Saturday night ponderings…

Cross 24 Art.png

Maybe instead of calling it Bible Study or Sunday School, we might consider calling our Berean-like activity “S.T.E.P.”: the Sonship Transformation Exploration Project, or even the Satanic Termination and Eviction Process. Both go hand in hand – one of them very empowering, the other very freeing, and both absolutely necessary.

John 1:12 and13 jump out at us with a very amazing idea. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.” It’s an amazing thought. Not one of those things you can take lightly once it impacts your awareness and opens your eyes. It also challenges the expectation of seeing ourselves as “believers”. We “believe” on His name. But what does that mean? And where does it go from there?

There’s so much more! We may feel a sentimental rush when we sing that little chorus, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus, all I ask, to be like Him…” Yet do we consider that this is not only within the realm of possibility, but actually one of the big reasons for being a Christian? To actually be like Jesus!

And didn’t Jesus also promise, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father”? (John 14:12)

The first time I encountered these verses (or maybe they were encountering me) I had to wonder, Am I missing something here? There seems to be so much more in the way of powerful, transformative experience that goes with being a “believer”!

The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, it turns out, took on some really dynamic implications in light of our becoming sons of God. His finished work means the way is open for being restored to sonship, which was lost through the sin of our first parents. He gives us His teaching, and the Holy Spirit’s input in the process of salvation –  which leads us along as we are formed into sons of the Most High.

Romans 8:19 reveals that “the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” It appears that the creation itself is anxiously awaiting the revealing of not only the Firstborn Son Jesus, the Second Adam, but the rest of the His “younger siblings” we might say – to whom He gives the authority to become as He was in this world. This is in order for all of creation to be set free from slavery to corruption “into the freedom of the glory of the children of God”! This is a much bigger picture than we’re usually used to considering. 

Jesus, now – through the Holy Spirit – is still always about our Heavenly Father’s business, freeing and restoring God’s children in order for us to participate likewise in an entirely new way of being. And there’s more! It’s with a view to the glorious freedom of the entire creation. That’s a tall order!

This is a spectacular bit of news! In fact much of the entire chapter of Romans 8 has to do with our becoming “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ!” It is also pointed out that this process does not come about through being some sort of spiritual couch potato, but through mortification of the deeds of the body, and through suffering. This is where the evil one experiences eviction!

This isn’t a real popular idea these days. Mortification has to do with the mind set on the spirit, not on the “flesh” and its agendas for “happiness”. To “mortify” means tosubdue – to put to death – the desires rooted in the sin nature – not only through self-denial and self discipline, but by realizing that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us. God is doing a work in us through suffering that leads us into glory! 

It’s an attitude that begins in the mind “set on” and motivated by the Holy Spirit, who testifies with our spirit that we are children of God – as we see God at work transforming us into sons through the difficult aspects of our lives. Nothing separates us from our Father’s Love! Even the threats of our times – two millennia after the Bible events of Jesus’ life and the early church and the Apostles’ writings – take on a different meaning in light of all this!

This understanding that’s gotten lost in a worldly-minded Christianity focused on its mini empire building, or what feels good as being exclusively “God’s will” for us… Strange. If Jesus had embraced that idea, there would have been no Cross and no redemption. Have we considered that in this light before? “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)

Could we dare to go as far as to look upon the “negative” events in our life as a kind of experiential co-crucifixion, cleansing us and preparing for an infilling of the Holy Spirit, the likes of which we have never seen, in preparation for becoming sons of God? Something to consider, to pray for, and to ponder.

Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Seeing Or Perceiving?

Cross 24.png

 

I was just thinking about the story of “the two” on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35. It’s amazing to me how every time I read Scripture, I notice something a little different, or something I did not comprehend before in some passage I’ve read dozens of times before. Or it raises another question. Such is the case here.

This account seems to point to the idea that it takes the Lord to open one’s eyes to some things, and that will happen when we are ready to see it. It happened to “the two”. It happens to me often when reading a passage I’ve read dozens of times before. There is always more to see, sometimes more than meets the eye! Does that happen to you as well?

Two men were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It was about seven miles. Only one of these men is named – Cleopas. Who the other was the story does not say directly. That’s the first thing I noticed with this reflection on the Word – that only one of them was named.

They are joined by a third man. It is the risen Jesus Christ, but they do not recognize Him. They lament to Him of the events of the past week, how all their hopes were dashed because their Lord had been crucified. What puzzled them further was that some of the women who were followers of His had come to them and had spoken of having a vision of angels who said He was alive! Then some of them also went to the tomb to discover that He was not there, but they did not specifically see Him alive.

So Jesus begins to open the Scriptures to them from Moses to the Prophets, as to how it all revealed Him, But still they did not recognize Him Who was walking with them. Since it was growing late, they extended hospitality and asked Him to stay with them.

During supper “… He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Now you see Me; now you don’t!)

How much this sounded to me like that last time He and the twelve had dined together, when He blessed the bread and the wine, and said, “This is My body; this is My blood.”

They were so thrilled at having had this encounter with their risen Lord, that they returned immediately to Jerusalem to find the eleven and those who were with them, to testify that the Lord was indeed alive.

For some reason I had always been under the impression that “the two” were of the number of the original twelve disciples. Since they were finding the eleven (minus Judas) (soon to be Apostles), it stands to reason that “the two” were followers of Jesus but not among the original twelve, which is also something different that I noticed with this reading.

The last verse, after they walked all the way back to Jerusalem, after Jesus vanished physically, reads, “Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when He broke the bread.”

Somehow this reminds me of a line from an old hymn, “O blest communion, fellowship divine…”

Holy Spirit, Please open the eyes of our hearts and our understanding, that we – also, always, and only – may be believers, perceivers, and receivers of such comprehension as enjoyed by “the two”, and may know true fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whose precious name we ask this. Amen.