75. He is good, good, good – always.

What do you “see” when you think of God the Father? Do you have a picture of Him? Do you see Jesus or is He sort of separate? What is this Trinity-doctrine with which the theologians shape our God-concept?

Stay with me in these chapters of Exodus; in this most dramatic scene that will shape future generations in prayer.

Moses is in conversation with God. God has just told him that He would not go with them into the promised land with an uncharacteristic reproach: (33:1,3)

 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt…

 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

 Now suddenly they are Moses’ people. How could this happen? God knows what Moses can take? He is God’s good friend remember?

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (Exodus 33:11)

He is also all-knowing and stands outside of time. He knows what His reproach will stir in Moses and knows the plea that is about to put Moses’ life on the line.

Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” (Exodus 32:31,32)

Moses stands as a true and strong prophet. He puts himself literally between God and the people.

What a miserable mess is this consequence of their sin? God looks fierce and vindictive. He is angry and blaming.

Moses reacts without fear towards this almighty, punishing God. He pleads for the people with full knowledge of God’s holiness and anger. He even reminds God that they are not his people, but God’s people.

He pitches his tent outside the camp – a separation from sin and evil. The people have the opportunity to separate themselves from their deeds and go outside to Moses. Whenever Moses goes into the Tabernacle, the pillar of cloud, the symbol of God’s presence, descends over the door. He prays:

Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.(Exodus 33:13)

Even in the midst of great evil and sin, in God’s disappointment, His presence does not leave the camp. He is where His people are.

 He is, where one heart seeks His favour and grace.

MOMENT of prayer: Show me Your way, that I may know You and find grace in Your sight.

 PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: Moses brings the people the image of the Father.

They have experienced God’s disappointment and consequences of their sin. The gold they had to drink is symbolic of the deadly effects of our sinful deeds in life.

God knows what they need to see, when He shows Himself to Moses.

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you… (Exodus 33:19)

God will reveal His goodness to you in the fullness of the moment.

His character is the answer to every prayer.

In the midst of failure and disappointment, He showed His people His goodness.

When God revealed himself to Moses, He said of Himself:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in [unfailing] love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6 Also translated: goodness and truth [KJV & other translations]

These words can be summarized in the Hebrew word – hessed. which includes every possible aspect of covenant loyalty. When the people asked Moses, what God looks like, he said He looks hessed. Moses saw His character! God will do all that He is and said He would do. He is the Source of goodness and truth.

Whatever He does cannot be anything else than goodness and truth.

In prayer in the Presence, God will reveal Himself to you. In Him are all the answers, all the power, all the strength you will ever need. Get to God Himself. He is truth. He cannot lie. Where He is, every promise of the Word is real.

How can we pray to enter into the Presence of the Most High and sit in the secret place of the Almighty?

MOMENT of prayer: The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18

Contrite means feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming; ashamed, remorseful, hangdog, guilt-ridden. Remorse means a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: This is a once off – not a continuous life of guilt; quite the opposite. Confess and carry on to victory. Confession is a step forward, not wallowing in the cauldron of poisonous culpability.

Prepare to see God in His glory so that His goodness can pass before you. You can never doubt your life lived under the full impact of His glorious love for you.

The image of the Father? “See” the father of the prodigal son waiting for you to come home and running out to meet you with outstretched arms…

 

74. Delivered, baptized and … uh-oh, the desert?

Do you know the story? The drama of dreams, kidnapping, lies, slavery, prison, more dreams and then the palace of ancient Egypt at the climax of its civilization – gosh, no wonder Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote an extremely successful musical about it. God delivers Jacob’s family from famine in the story of Joseph, when he becomes the ruler of all Egypt under the Pharaoh.

The family lives in prosperity and over a period of 400 years   become a great nation. Many Pharaohs come and go and Joseph, the king of dreams, is forgotten. His descendants become a threat to Egypt and they are oppressed into slavery under an architectural ambitious Pharaoh. Their cry to God over many years is answered in the calling of Moses, a deliverer, to stand up to the Pharaoh with whom he grew up in the Egyptian palace. Disaster and death hit hard in Egypt and the Israelites are led in triumph through the Red Sea miracle into the desert.

There they are led by God’s presence in the cloud by day and the fire column by night for 40 years, a generation in Biblical terms. They have to learn to trust God in many ways. They are separated from the many idols of Egypt, who worshipped their cattle gods. After many, many years of desert dwelling – almost 40 – Moses leaves them in the care of his brother Aaron, to meet with God on Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments, to shape the moral fiber of God’s people.

At the foot of the mountain a very disturbing scene plays out. They have been schooled in following God’s way of doing things, but Moses stays away so long, that they think he might be dead. Under Aaron’s leadership they decide to worship God in their own way. With all their valuables they shape a golden calf (looking very much like the gods of Egypt they were supposed to leave behind). Exodus 32.

And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

Aaron declares:

This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

(Exodus 32:4)

God tells Moses on the mountain that he needs to get down there. The party is wild, loud and fleshly as it always is with idol worship. God speaks his own anger to Moses and promise to abandon the stiff-necked people to go into the promised land on their own.

God never withdraws His promise – no matter what wickedness prevails. (Romans 11:29)

You know the story – Moses reacts in anger with such fury that he breaks the tablets on which God’s law is written and says to Aaron:

“What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”

Aaron’s answer is almost comical, and one could even have smiled, were it not for the utmost life-threatening danger of God’s wrath involved here.

 So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

Moses makes the people grind the golden calf into powder and mix it with water to drink. They are miserable and sick. They stand accused and stunned by the wrath their “good intentions” has evoked.

The point of our story is in Moses’ plea to God for the people.

He knew that they could never dream of entering into the promised land, without the Presence of God. To this day, this is what defines true Christianity. The communication of our heart in submission to His directive, our chat to God to hear His heartbeat in His Presence in prayer, is our trademark.ham48

How will we function as powerful, effective, victorious Christians?

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” (Exodus 33:15,16)

MOMENT of prayer: “Please, show me Your glory.” (Exodus 33:18)

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence:  So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.     (Exodus 33:17,21,22)

 Our journey often feels like a desert wandering. We know God and desire to serve Him, but we think we can do it our way. Learn from this story. God’s yoke is easy and His burden light.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

In our desert, we want relief, more than learning and staying close to Him. We are so rushed, scurrying for the promised land with our own agenda and feeble thoughts of how our prayers should be answered. God has a master plan, better and bigger than you can ever imagine.

Do you know how to live in the cleft of the rock, under the cover of His hand?

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

Walk the desert, wait for the promise.

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.

(1 Corinthians 2:9, The Message)

73. One day to another – no greater contrast ever.

I grew up with Good Friday. I cannot remember all of them well, but I know they were there. For a period of at least twenty five years, Easter weekend was engulfed in a church tradition called camp meeting time – a period of ten days every year when going to church and socializing with people from church were the main activities. We drove a few kilometers outside Johannesburg, South Africa to a huge piece of land where people from all over the country came to pitch a tent or park a caravan. There were also huts and wooden structures erected specially for this time of year.

Later during high school years and university, I studied through many Easter weekends, but even then I would not miss the “big” services – Good Friday morning and the celebration of the resurrection on the Sunday after. Camp meeting services were conducted in a rough and cold brick building with a corrugated iron roof. This structure could seat quite a few thousand people with a platform for an extensive band and the church leadership. The singing was heavenly and after camp meeting time, everybody went home with new songs on their lips, but more important, in their hearts.

Many testimonies of miracles were associated with this building. For most of the services the people were invited to write their prayer requests on pieces of paper. These little papers were then assembled in front and prayed over with the church leaders stretching out their hands over them. My mother once “saw” in the Spirit how one of the corrugated iron sections of the roof “opened” and the prayer requests were “flying” out as if a gushing wind were gathering them up to heaven. She knew they were all safely in the Hands of our loving heavenly Father.

My two elder boys still experienced camp meeting time. No one ever missed the last Sunday night “goodbye” service. April was usually rainy and cooler. We carried two heavy quilts into the service for them to sleep if the three hours got a bit long for them. Yes… three hours! We would sing for at least an hour, worshipping until the heavens opened in every heart and the intercessory prayer could start for a long line of needs.

My brother had a wooden structure put up, where we could meet after services and on camping chairs and picnic tables eat the most wonderful moveable feasts, carried in baskets and cooler bags from home kitchens. My boys called it: the Ark. On the last Sunday evening, we would choose one of the many church stalls baking “crepes”, which we called pancakes, but were more like the French crepes; the size of a dinner plate and wafer thin with cinnamon sugar and rolled. That would be the farewell-food, enjoyed while people came to say goodbye and sit a while for a testimony or two.

I will never forget the talk. People talked about God, all the time – freely, passionately and wholeheartedly. All ages, especially the veterans were walking worshipping testimonials to the goodness and provision of God.

Then there were the kids, joyfully bundled together in their own hall; the radiant Corner of Sunshine as it was called. A cousin of my dad was the leader and preacher and between him and his family they did the singing and the teaching. His messages were illustrated and fun; always making sure the children under 12 were learning about their good heavenly Dad, looking out for them faithfully. The farewell song of the Sunshine kids on the last Sunday night of the camp meeting, I sing to this day – the last verse of Psalm 23:

Surely goodness and mercy

Shall follow me

All the days, all the days of my life

And I shall dwell in the house of my Lord forever

And I shall sit at the table prepared for me

Surely goodness and mercy…

This past weekend was Easter and I am a million miles away in time and space from those years. Why do I remember?

I know why.

Many years later in adult life, I once attended a United Church Easter service in a town on the south coast of South Africa, called Hermanus. The reverent there was a well-known radio preacher, Martin Holt. I have always had a deep appreciation for Latin, which I learnt at school as well as university, partly since studying Law required knowledge of Latin. His sermon’s title was Vivit – the Latin for He Lives! He was so thrilled to bring this news to his congregation that his anointing rubbed off in this word that burnt itself into my mind.

I know why I remember that Easters of my past. No Easter, no church, no testimony, no prayer would be possible without the shout of the women that first Easter morning: Vivit – He lives!

This one fact changes everything. It is the contrast from a Saturday of darkness in death to the Sunday of light in life.

This week, is the week after the celebration of that day when Jesus said to Mary in the garden:

But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (Mark 16:7)

Where are you these days after Easter? Are you caught in death and the darkness of the Saturday, just like Peter, feeling the failure of personal defeat and crushed dreams?

Jesus says to you, just as specially as he mentioned Peter, to go to the meeting place where you met Him the first time – your Galilee. He knew how utterly broken Peter was, after his betrayal and after the cruel crucifixion killing. He knew what effect His appearance will have on Peter.

He knows what you need, right now. He is waiting for you… He knows that your life will be changed when you see Him.

Go and shout it out – Vivit! – He lives … because He has risen from the dead.

72. Words of blood for my future.

Oh, the uncertainty, the dread, the misty outlook, the hesitant gaze upon a path covered in the fog of the time span called the future. To us it is not revealed; to God it is known. Like death, the future is a mystery belonging to God.

 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Here we are encouraged to do the words of the law. God’s word is revealed to us and is our refuge regarding the future. He is perfect in His planning. He will never hold back what we need. Our guarantee for provision and protection in the future is the promises of God in the Word of God.

Just like Noah. God invited Noah into the Ark. (Genesis 7) He was called righteous, just like us. We are the righteous of God in Christ. It is not our own goodness, sinlessness or effort towards worthiness that make us righteous. It is the Cross of Jesus and His blood cleansing us from our sin that make us righteous. Any thought of unworthiness to approach God, is a thought planted from the pit of hell. I cannot say it enough and will continue proclaiming it as a core value of salvation.

 God was on the inside. In His Presence there is everything you need – safety, provision, care and protection for as long as you need it until you are safely directed to your next step in life. You have to make the decision to step inside. The ark speaks of a radical life change. The decision to step inside is a complete break with ordinary living and doing. It is kingdom living, in the presence of our loving Dad, settling down in His plan for our lives.

I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;  (Jeremiah 29:14)

God is present and present. We distinguish between manifest presence and omni-presence. Omni-presence is a fact. It is what the Bible tells us. Our Creator-God is everywhere.

Manifest presence is what we experience when we seek His face in prayer and recognize the change deep within us and in the atmosphere around us.

When I came to Canada the realtor told me the walls of the house were all wood. To me it looked like the walls I know – brick and mortar walls. They are plastered and painted. The wood is concealed behind the facade of paint.

I immediately walked to a wall and knocked. I heard something. My knocking experience was very different from anything I know of knocking on walls. I HEARD the wood. Nobody needed to tell me it is wood.

I was very close to the wall, so close that I could reach out and touch the wall. That is how I knew.

Do you hear the song of the Universe? Just listen to the song of creation, when you walk in nature?

My youngest song loved the old Imperials song by the Gaither Vocal Band. Some of the lyrics go like this:

I listen to the trumpet of Jesus, while the others hear a different sound,

I listen to the drumbeat of God Almighty, while the others just wonder around,

I hear the voice of a supernatural singer that only those who know Him can.

Practice your hearing skills, listen to your inner convictions and submit your mind and thinking to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Read your Bible prayerfully to experience the promise that leaps from the page.

 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7)

When I pray, when I seek His face – I experience His manifest Presence. I do not need somebody to tell me He is present. I am clearly and keenly aware of Him and my mind and senses respond to the obvious fullness of the atmosphere. In that atmosphere spontaneous tears flow and the Hoy Spirit ministers amazing restoration and exhortation.

The dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, will show you life and how to make a living. He will bring you the branch of provision.

 Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth. (Genesis 8:11)

In the conversation with Him – prayer – you submit your next step to His guidance and plan. He has a plan for you, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) In His presence His provision is clear.

MOMENT of prayer: Lord, I submit my future to you. I confess all my dread and alarm about the future. I know you are Jehovah Jirah – my provider. Your Word promises that You will never fail me. I now raise my expectation towards to the Holy Spirit and expect a future, exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond I can ever think of or ask in my wildest dreams. (Ephesians 3)

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: The content of my future is the promises of God – not world politics, my own circumstances, horoscope predictions or fear.

The way we conceive the future sculpts the present. It gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. If our sense of future is weak we live listlessly.

Hope is a response to the future, which has its foundations in the promises of God. It looks at the future as time for the completion of God’s promise. It refuses to extrapolate either desire or anxiety into the future, but instead believes that God’s promise gives the proper content to it.

But hope is not a doctrine about the future: it is a grace cultivated in the present; it is a stance in the present, which deals with the future. As such it is misunderstood if it is valued only for the comfort it brings; as if it should say, everything is going to be all right in the future because God is in control of it, therefore relax and be comforted.

Hope operates differently. Christian hope alerts us to the possibilities of the future as a field of action, and as a consequence fills the present with energy.

 Eugene Peterson: Living the Message.

71. Come out – where are you?

Are you with me? Way, way back when the story of the Bible began, let us walk with Adam and Eve into the well-known disaster describing the birth of all destruction and devastation. Twisting the magnificence and glory in God’s promise of bounty and beauty, Satan sows doubt in Eve’s thinking and make her think she might be missing out on something. She eats of the fruit that would turn her into her own god and becomes the proud deity of her own destiny.

Eve gave Adam to eat; they saw their own nakedness and hid from God – as if it is possible to hide from the omni-present, all-knowing Father. That same day, not letting the sun go down on their devastation, God came and called in the wind: Adam where are you?

Do you really think He needed information about Adam’s whereabouts? Do you think the all-knowing, everywhere God did not know exactly where Adam and Eve were and precisely what happened in the garden that day? He knew off course! Still He came…. and called.

Sin did no end the conversation. No sin can ever end the conversation.

Today, this day, as through all the ages, His invitation rings true:

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” This is God’s Message:

“If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white.

If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, The Message)

What an amazing word! This is the answer to sin. Get it out of the way. Come back into His Presence. No detours, no guilt, no hiding from God. Come back, call out – forgiveness is guaranteed.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Confess whatever you are hiding from God. If nothing comes to mind – ask the Holy Spirit to show you.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence? 

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (Psalm 139:7,8)

If God said it, it is life-giving and life-changing, powerful, miracle-working words. His words of forgiveness will lift you up and out of failure and hopelessness.

Why did God ask questions? Not to get information, but to get the exchange going. Adam had to talk it out, tell God why they are hiding, confess, explain and in spilling the secret, be healed and forgiven. Sin is so often a secret, unspeakable and shameful – so much that it holds you captive just by the sheer shame of it. Talking about it is rendering it powerless.

God has an answer, a miracle, for the biggest scandals you can think of. He will not allow satan to defeat you and your potential in this world. His plans are steadfast and sure.

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. (Proverbs 19:21, The Message)

Often, but not always, His first point of communication is our circumstances. He does not orchestrate it, but He uses the evil coming out of our wrong decisions for good. All the disaster in our world today is the consequences of sin and man’s wrong decisions. God judges sin continually in order to bring people to repentance. In any crisis of choosing right above wrong, discipline above easy, effort above letting slip, know that God is good, always, and will ALWAYS work our mess for our benefit.

What happens in the garden? God prevails – until His voice calls them out of hiding. He gets them to talk. The whole story is blurted out with blame and accusations. As always God’s judgment comes sound and clear, not to man – who will off course carry the consequence of sin, always with God by his side, but to satan, who will bear the ultimate defeat at the cross, when his head will be crushed.

God told the serpent:

“Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals,

Cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life.

I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers.

He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

 After this declaration of judgment, God did a very important thing.

He covered their nakedness His way. He killed an animal – I believe it was a lamb, but the Bible does not say – and clothed them with the symbolism of innocent blood flowing for the cleansing and covering of their sin. Their own efforts with fig leaves did not spare them the shame of their failure. Only God could cover them to live on the cursed earth, the brokenness that we still live in today.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: we are covered by the blood of THE Lamb.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Thank God for instant restoration and forgiveness to defeat sin and walk in victory.

By His blood the Garden is restored and we can walk with God in His Presence, entering into conversation with our Father as of old, before sin. Where He is, is peace and rest.

From this moment on, everything is focused on the conversation. Satan wants to break it off and God loves and forgives to restore it.

 

 

70. Only rumours …or firsthand?

There is another principle to prayer that we often overlook.

 God initiates prayer. Not us. He speaks to get the exchange going.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Every time the words “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” occur in the New Testament, Jesus is the one who is speaking. This is no casual expression. It is the divine Son of God saying, “Don’t ever close your ears or your heart to your need to be taught.

How we listen will determine our prayer life.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Let us start at the beginning.

The story of the Garden in the Book of Genesis is all about words. It is recorded in words and it tells about words. The first words ever created – big time – bigger than ever or anything we might know.

Words brought the world into existence, words flung the stars into space; words spoke the light into being and set the oceans their boundaries. Then God formed man from the dust, the woman from the man and spoke a blessing over them to give them authority over all things.

The ancient Hebrews believed words are a unit a unit of energy that goes out and accomplish something. Therefore the blessing spoken could not be retracted. Once Isaac spoke the blessing of the firstborn over Jacob, it could not be undone and Esau had to accept a lesser blessing.

God’s first words to man was spoken in His Presence in that beautiful perfect garden.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: God speaks. If He asks us to pray without ceasing, He will talk to us without ceasing!

Therefore My people shall know My name;

Therefore they shall know in that day

That I am He who speaks:

‘Behold, it is I.’” (Isaiah 52:6)

You cannot live on rumors of God – hearsay. Like Job (42:5) we declare: (The Message)

I admit I once lived by rumors of you;

    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!

There in the Garden He sets the scene for constant communication. He never ceased to speak. Not even sin could thwart the voice of God.

I am not sure what you think of prayer. Just the word might bring bad associations – forced prayer, awkward moments, heartless prayers, judgmental prayers, long windedness, religious rituals and so forth. Just think for a moment what is your intellectual and emotional response to the mentioning of prayer. Are you excited by the thought, or do you feel guilty? Are you hesitant or expectant? Do you feel indifferent; having decided long ago it doesn’t work or can you testify enthusiastically about recent answer to prayer?

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Express the desire to hear God’s voice.

Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden as royalty to reign over the magnificence of creation. They dwelt in perfect communication and entered into the rest God planned for them. Remember, their first day on earth was the Sabbath. One can never reign effectively and victoriously without entering into the rest of the Sabbath with God, relaxing and finding fellowship with Him.

That was the first, fabulous consequence of communication – rest and peace. Adam was a scientist. He worked every day and met God in the stillness of the evening. He named creation. It is science. Talk to anyone in the natural sciences and they will tell you they are still naming creation.

Then in the darkness that followed the decision to listen to that challenging half-truth of satan, came the distancing of shame and failure, fleeing from the Presence and conversation.

Satan questioned God’s words, and Eve added some of her own understanding when she said: we are not to eat or touch the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. God never said not to touch, only not to eat. Sin comes to us in various ways, but it is the participation and immersion in it, that corrupts and destroys. It exposes our nakedness without the covering of God’s Presence.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence:  Prayer is a conversation – initiated by God.

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:39,41,42)

Pray with me:

Lord, open my ears to hear what the Spirit says to he church, so that may I know Your plans and purposes on this earth.

 

Pray without ceasing.

69. Because He said so.

Prayer is a wonderful, ongoing learning experience. I would like to learn until that moment I know I am in His presence. In the meantime I want to live life in His kingdom IN His manifest presence so that I can be used to the life IN Him.

From the very first moment, I would like to pray that your imagination, your mind’s eye would be freed to receive the full impact of the Word. Let your mind pictures, your vision into the unseen, be loosed by the Holy Spirit to partake and enter into the mystery of God’s word and work.

And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you. Declare to the house of Israel everything you see.” Ezekiel 40:4

In this moment – take your thoughts captive and submit them to the Word of God. bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

You were brought here to see and hear.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Full surrender, express your desire to be obedient and to learn, invite the Holy Spirit to teach. Confess and get rid of the “cares of this world”. Matthew 13:22.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: listen for the Voice in the voice. We can frantically take comprehensive notes on everything that is said, but I would prefer that you listen carefully to the Holy Spirit and hear what you are supposed to hear NOW. You do not need to learn everything there is on prayer. You need to learn the next vital step to boost you prayer life to another level of victorious communication with God.

In the first place – congratulations. You are exactly where you should be. This is a good thought. Think about it for a minute. You do not have to be uncertain of your priorities for this time you spend on studying the Word of God.

It is not because I am writing this that I can say it. I am only a willing servant enabled by the Holy Spirit. Even my willingness is the work of the Holy Spirit. He works in me to will (Philippians 2:13)

You are at the right place because God says it. You know the code:

God says it; I believe it; period.

MOMENT OF PRAYER: If God says it, it is true and important above all things.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9-10)

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: To know what is important.

The Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit have priority in this session. To know what is important is a basic life skill for which we have to trust God. Switch off the TV in the middle of the programme to listen to the child. Leave the housework when emotions run high and give full attention. Stop and pray to halt the enemy attack when a pattern of evil is identified. Chase the devil out when you see his handiwork. Stretch the minutes on praise and thanksgiving when the Holy Spirit ministers to your heart and mind.

Clean you mind and hear the Word of God:

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,

And the Lord listened and heard them;

So a book of remembrance was written before Him

For those who fear the Lord

And who meditate on His name. 

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts,

“On the day that I make them My jewels.

And I will spare them

As a man spares his own son who serves him.”

Then you shall again discern

Between the righteous and the wicked,

Between one who serves God

And one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:16-18)

MOMENT OF PRAYER: – your name is being written continuously before God (remember He is outside of time) by the great Scribe of heaven. Imagine the Throne room, with a larger than life desk and the most beautiful celestial being with a golden quill in his hand – writing your name.

PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: to be recognized as a godly woman, discernable from the wicked, the evil and the ordinary.

My prayer for you is that: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:18)

 To be discernable from the wicked is to meditate on His name and discuss His ways amongst each other. Is this not exactly what we are doing this moment?

The only way to discern the godly from the wicked is a life in the Presence of our Father in intimate communication with Him. This one thing is what separates us from the world and organized religion.

Organized religion is not the church. We are the church of Jesus.

We who speak on His name, we who seek His face, we who meditate on His wonders, we are His jewels, precious and honoured in His sight.

Rejoice, dear pebble pals. This is you. You are His jewels.

 

68. Words that change the world.

Welcome to a short series on prayer. It is such a privilege to share some thoughts on the subject of prayer. I would like to emphasize that what is written here could never be comprehensive or complete. Prayer is the golden thread that brings every good thing and every true promise into our grasp. Let us leap up in the joy of anticipation for the word in season that the Holy Spirit brings.

Pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with daily life and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

From The Weight of Glory: CS Lewis.

From the very first moment, I would like to pray that your imagination and mind would be freed to receive the full impact of the Word. Let your mind pictures be loosed by the Holy Spirit to partake and enter into the mystery of God’s word and work.

In this moment – take your thoughts captive and submit them to the Word of God. bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

MOMENT OF PRAYER: Full surrender, express your desire to be obedient and to learn, invite the Holy Spirit to teach.

 PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: listen for the Voice in the voice. We can frantically take comprehensive notes on everything that is said, but I would prefer that you listen carefully to the Holy Spirit and hear what you are supposed to hear NOW. You do not need to learn everything there is on prayer. You need to learn the next vital step to boost you prayer life to another level of victorious communication with God.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9-10)

The Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit have priority in your prayer life. To know what is important is a basic life skill for which we have to trust God. Switch off the TV in the middle of the programme to listen to the child. Leave the housework when emotions run high and give full attention. Stop and pray to halt the enemy attack when a pattern of evil is identified. Chase the devil out when you see his handiwork. Stretch the minutes on praise and thanksgiving when the Holy Spirit ministers to your heart and mind.

PRAYER is a conversation.

Conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people. Typically, it occurs in spoken communication, written exchanges are not usually called conversation, but these days email and messaging in so many possible ways, also boils down to conversation.

Have you heard people say: I’ve tried prayer – it doesn’t work. From the shelf of magic wands, amongst the horoscope, the cards and the crystals, they pull out prayer. What could be the words to accompany the magic spell – oh yes – our father which art in heaven…

And the conclusion – it doesn’t work.

Or you may have heard – I don’t think God answers prayer, He doesn’t listen to me. I have prayed for years, prayed my knees raw and nothing happened.

Let us, here in this sacred gathering of believers, whose names are written in the Book of Remembrance by the great Scribe of heaven, know forever more – there is no such thing as unanswered prayer.

 PRINCIPLE for a life of excellence: there is no such thing as unanswered prayer.

 MOMENT OF PRAYER: Write it on your palm, tattoo it in your mind, burn it in your heart. The adjective – unanswered – can never be used with the noun – prayer.

God is not a liar that we should doubt Him ever.

Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)

God hears all prayer. Let us note Revelation 5:8 and never forget this verse.

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Meditate on these few thoughts. Ask the Holy Spirit to quicken the Word of God to your mind. Pray the Word of God right back to God and you will be established in all your ways.

As I am writing this, my supscription to Jack Hayford Ministries comes into my inbox. Our God is faithful to confirm His word. I share it with you:

February 28 – Pray Now

Men always ought to pray and not lose heart.

Luke 18:1

 
   
   
   
   
   
       Why do we get so busy at everything other than prayer? Why do we say so often, “Well, I’ve prayed, but what can I do?”

Answer:

Begin to pray and praise immediately when challenging situations arise. Start now.

       Speak to Jesus about each matter that begins to trouble you. Don’t wait.

       Cease from the exhausting toil of carrying worries and cares on your shoulders. Release them.

       Seize every opportunity to pray with and for people.

Get alone with the Savior—in the Word and in prayer.

 
   
   
   
   

http://www.jackhayford.org

You can subscribe to his short messages via daily email. It comes highly recommended.

67. It is finished.

Over the past months we have studied the book of Revelation, chapter by chapter. Just last week we rejoiced in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in the last chapter. It brings this study to an end.

I would like to repeat a few salient points.

The study runs from Pebbles 42 to 66. The goal was to unlock the mystery and symbolism of a first glance at the metaphor and images of the seemingly complicated, apocalyptic literature of the vision.

There is a special blessing on the reader and listener. It is the exciting pursuit of this blessing that we dive deep to understand the “hidden” message. Out Father’s promise is clear:

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

In the words of Jesus:

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. (Matthew 11:25)

Revelation was written so that we could make sense of the chaos of recent centuries. The knowledge of God’s love enables us to rejoice in His power and provision to encourage the world and step into the void to conquer evil and destruction.

As was stated in Pebbles 42:

Revelation is not a chronological chain of events. It is a summary of the entire history of mankind with a climatic end for those who choose to accept the salvation of grace and love. This study is not an effort to summarize all the possible interpretations of the vision. The content is far too rich and comprehensive. It is also not a dispensational interpretation to serve as an itinerary for events associated with the second coming of Christ.

 It should serve only as a first step for some information on the symbolism and references in order to decipher the “code” or Bible-speak if I may call it that.

It is us, the true church of Jesus Christ, the people from all walks of life, all cultures, language and denominations of Christianity, who carry the love of Jesus in our hearts, who bring the good news to the world.

How beautiful and delightful on the mountains

Are the feet of him who brings good news,

Who announces peace,

Who brings good news of good things,

Who announces salvation,

Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7, Ampl)

Rejoice Pebble pal! You are a chosen generation, the noble rulers of the invisible kingdom of God. We know the Truth, the Life and the Way to God in the person of Jesus. His redemption death on the Cross is the ONLY solution to the chaos around us. There is NO alternative.

Revelation is very clear on God’s enemy. He is conquered. He knows his future of condemnation and we plunder his realm with our message of salvation and power. For that, he hates us and will use his sharpest, most painful strategies against us.

Our response is to study the Word of God, so that we know who we are, what we have, the power to our disposal and the victory over evil to celebrate our salvation – daily.

Remember – the new Jerusalem is the presence of God, the Holy of Holies of the Temple, where the table of feasting is to be experienced, now, within the destructive rule of evil. It is our secret place, our shadow-seat under the wings of the Almighty God (Psalm 91). It is the still waters and green pastures, the table of provision and protection in the valley of the shadow of death, where His goodness and mercy are our constant companions (Psalm 23).

Open the door when He knocks (Revelation 3:20) and sit with Him to enjoy a long and relaxing evening meal of love and provision.

Please allow me to stimulate your imagination to illustrate and inspire with another metaphor.

 

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

 

From: The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis: The Silver Chair.

(My emphasis)

 

66. A city, I’ve been told.

Oh Pebble pals, we have talked about the heavenly host. Just think of the most sought after invitation you have ever had or yearn for, to the feast that would put all other celebrations in second place by far. The ultimate gala that you could dream up in your Holy Spirit inspired imagination and so much more awaits you in the city of your Father revealed to us in this last chapter of Revelation.

We are moving from the outside of the city inside. Remember, the city is the presence of God; the Holy of Holies accommodating all that belongs to God. It is the ultimate Godly realm, where He reigns in all His splendour and glory.

The River of the water of Life is a very familiar Old Testament image. In the Garden of Eden is a river (Genesis 2:10,18-16). Ezekiel’s temple’s has a river (Ezekiel 47:1-7). In Psalms 46:4 the psalmist praises the river whose streams make glad the city of God. The Fountain from the house of God is part of the beautiful picture that the coming of the Messiah will bring, as is echoed by many prophets.

And in that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine and the hills will flow with milk; and all the brooks and riverbeds of Judah will flow with water, and a fountain will go out from the house of the Lord to water the [desert] Valley of Shittim. (Joel 3:18)

The living water from Jerusalem is mentioned by Zechariah (14:8). The symbolism of water is life giving. It is exactly what God planned His church to be. The church, the New Jerusalem, is the life and hope of the world, bringing the good news of salvation to the people of the earth.

For us the promise rings true through all the ages. We can rest in the fountain of God, the river of life. In the desert Moses struck the rock for the water to gush. The water never stopped flowing. The rock is a type of Jesus, Who has been struck by the Cross and the life giving River of Life has never stopped flowing. In disobedience Moses struck the rock a second time. God’s command was to talk to the rock in the desert for the water to flow. The Cross is once and for all. Jesus has died and lives for evermore. He will never be struck again.

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of waters. (Psalm 114:7,8)

Wisdom is often related to good water as we see in Proverbs 10:11, 13:14,14:27,16:22. God is the source of all wisdom and the fountain of life (Psalm 35:9).

In the words of Jesus, it is the abundant life that God offers to his people for the taking.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38-39)

The Tree of Life is mentioned in Genesis 2:8,9 and 3:6 and stood in the Garden of Eden. The river and the tree in the magnificent description of Ezekiel are nature in God’s hands providing all we need.

 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. (Ezekiel 47:12)

For us, the church, there is the fruit of the Spirit as discussed in Galatians 5:22. In Jesus, the Tree of Life, we provide the shade to the world and bear the fruit for everyone, every situation and every age for the “healing of the nations”. He is the Source of all goodness.

The beauty of holiness is God in the midst of everything (22:3-5).

There is no more evil to pollute the Christian life. In His presence we shall see God’s face. It is one of the beatitudes spoken over the church of God by Jesus Himself in Matthew 5:8 – a blessing to see God. It comes to the pure of heart.

To Moses God said nobody can see God and live. (Exodus 33:20,23) Only in Christ can man look upon God’s face. To look God in the face is to:

– worship truly – a life of obedience.

– live holy – marked by God on their foreheads showing that they belong to Him exclusively.

Again there is no need for light. God’s presence is the light. Those who belong to God, His servants, will reign with God forever and ever. The fullness of time is emphasized by repetition.

Final words are spoken in (22:6-9). The remainder of the chapter is repetition of some things gone before and some disjointed themes. We have three speakers:

Angels as the interpreters of the divine things, which John have seen. They confirm the truth of everything written. God inspires the prophets therefore the message to John is received in the same manner as the prophets of old.

Jesus himself announces His return and pronounces His blessing on everyone who hears and obeys.

John identifies himself as the author of the book and warns against angel worship exactly as in 19:10. Repeated this way the warning is important. Worship is to be to God alone.

It was the custom to seal scripts in those days. It is no surprise when the command to seal and preserve is given, to preserve the vision as an encouragement to the reader.

And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future. (Daniel 8:26.)

And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. (Daniel 12:10. See also Ezekiel 3:27)

Christ is speaking to repeat Who He is and His coming to reward the faithful. His titles (the First and the Last) are given as recognition of the truth. He is the beginning and the end to emphasize completeness, eternity and authority. His power always was and will be in His hands.

The repetition of the entrance requirement – the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ – underlines the utmost importance of admission into the church. Those debarred are mentioned in 21:8 to remove all doubt about what the church should be and the needs of the sinners it must meet.

Dogs were always a symbol of savageness and uncleanness. The Jews regarded the gentiles as dogs. Stray dogs are usually hungry and will fight for anything to eat, picking up the garbage from the street in desperation for nourishment. They have no shame; they are mostly cruel and selfish. The price of a dog was an abomination to the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:18). The male prostitutes in the ancient temples were called dogs. In this text it could mean a thoroughly immoral person.

 No man who practises deceit shall dwell in my house; no man who utters lies shall continue in my presence” (Psalms 101:7)

The vision came from Jesus (22:16) and his titles are confirmed.

Isaiah 11:1, Numbers 24:17. He is the morning star, He heralds the day and chases away the darkness. He is the light of the world. (John 8:12) [Isaiah 11:1, Numbers 24:17]

The great invitation (22:17) that rings clear and true over all the centuries and all the earth is repeated as part of the last words. The last words of a dying man is revered and remembered. Here the last words shout the invitation again and again.

The Spirit and the Bride invite the world to come. To all those who hear and those who thirst, the ultimate sought after invitation for all ages is given, over and over again. Just like the ending of the letters to the churches, the command is to hear and obey. (Isaiah 55:1 and John 6:35)

Then comes the great warning (22:18-19). It is a serious warning against the distortion of the truth.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

We can see the golden thread of the true gospel throughout Scripture. The wording here at the end is a common ending well known in ancient texts. We see similar warnings in Deuteronomy 4:2:

You shall not add to the word, which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you.

…and Proverbs 30:5,6:

Every word of God is pure;

He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.

Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.

The role of the scribe in ancient times was a triumph in precision and perfection.

In these very last verses the refrain of Christ to His church sounds once more (22:20-21).

We hear the glory and compassion, encouragement to and expectation from the church. Amidst all the terrible persecution we can lift up our eyes and look God in the face through Jesus and the Cross.

The very last word of the entire Bible is the GRACE of Jesus.