155. Binding bonds in your brain.

The world around us is made up of contracts. Formal and informal agreements rule our daily life.  Even friendship is an informal contract.  One does not go to a lawyer to draw up the terms of friendship, but certain silent conditions apply to the relationship we call friendship. Loyalty, love, support in difficult times, general back up and a friendly ear for joyous and sad happenings are but a few of the basic assumptions of friendship.

More formal contracts are prenuptial contracts; house and motorcar contracts, insurance, bank accounts, credit cards and many more that make a modern life possible.  All these are the foundation for living although we do not think of every detail of every contract when we pull out a credit card to pay at the supermarket.  Maybe it is only when things go wrong that we realize, often in shock, what we had agreed to.

Certain conditions have to be met before a contract is established.  One of the most important is mutual agreement.  Often this agreement is tacit and can be surmised by the actions of both parties involved.  By using the credit card, the bank can infer that I have agreed to all the conditions of the fine print sent to me with the card.  By acting that way we can say that we both “willed” a contract to be  established – thus a legally binding agreement.

If we apply this principle in the spiritual world, things work exactly the same.  We have often discussed the powerful consequences of a simple, rational decision.  It is exactly how rebirth takes place.  Rebirth is the result of an act of your will to submit your life to God. The decision has a life-changing effect.  The day you buy your car brings drastic changes to your life, time management and planning. You have full control over your coming and going and are independent of public transport schedules.  Your decision to immigrate to the Kingdom of God is a contract that changes your life on every level.  Your decisions and behaviour are now governed by Kingdom principles that radically distinguish you from the world around you.

It is actually possible to make agreements with the brokenness of the world around us, even as we live as citizens of the invisible Kingdom of God.  Such agreements or contracts are often forced upon us by the cruelty of shattered dreams and relationships that leaves us wounded.  We “agree” with the heartache and hopelessness, bitterness and doubt in God’s goodness and a whole series of other heart-wrenching and mostly unintended soul activities.

Caught in the destruction of our own agreements with sorrow and despair, we become prey to our mean and vicious enemy smelling blood.  Years ago, when I learnt that the devil exploits our woundedness and grief and take the utmost advantage of our weakness, I was shocked and afraid.  He will send in his demons like a pack of wild dogs to brutally amplify our anguish and augment our misery.  My already bleeding heart will be ripped apart.

There are many ways in which people try to cope with grief and loss.  There is only one person who can truly…

bind up and heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1,AMPC)

The key to healing is agreements with God and his Word.  Your soul admits and submits to God’s character and Kingdom principles to receive the healing and deliverance that can only take place in the Kingdom of God.

The moment you seek healing in the Word of God, a contract is created.  You enter into an agreement with the Holy Spirit to heal your heart.

You align your will with heaven – how wonderful is that!

The process starts in your mind.  That is where decisions are made and thoughts take shape.  Paul directs us in this process with these powerful words in Romans 12:2:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV)

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think.This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. (TPT)

Healing by thinking – a transformation!  This pungent decision is the commencement of a miracle in our inner being that can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit in full surrender to him. Greater effort to think differently will not have any long-term effect.  The working of a miracle is God’s domain.  He does not expect from us to do the miracle or to be a miracle.  We need to surrender, invite him in and submit to his love.  We will, however, enjoy the full and lasting benefit of this heavenly intervention.  It is the creation of a contract with God.  Just like in the case of any other contract it is good to know the elements of the contract.  God gave us his Word – it is all in there, guaranteed by the Cross of Jesus and confirmed by the working of the Holy Spirit in us.

…but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], (AMPC)

I like the reference in the Amplified to new ideals and a new attitude.   Newness is indicative of change.  God promises new like never before and nothing else.  The new will be unique!

[New could mean: neos – more of the same depicting quantity as in a new pencil but many others already exist or:  kainos – unique, has never been, depicting quality as in one of a kind.]

Surrender will enable you to live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

God’s will is your healing, deliverance and salvation – to live a full life. He is the only source of life. His mind-set towards you is fully revealed in the work of Jesus on the cross.  Nobody can ever doubt his approach to mankind.

God is calling you today:

“O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,


It is time to hear his voice and surrender your heart to him.  He will do the miracle

Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires. (Isaiah 54:11)

 

 

 

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95. A royal encounter.

Our world is so aware of status, titles and ranks. We have our rules and regulations how to deal with royalty, celebrities and fame. Mostly we feel we should be well prepared, on our best behavior and in our carefully considered outfit in the presence of celebrated members of society. In many countries where royals still matter, people are honored to meet the revered inhabitants of the palaces, often just once in a lifetime. The ordinary citizens might camp out on the street amongst thousands of others, just for a glimpse of the familiar faces paraded on the litter of modern media.

How then, did one honorary leader of Jewish Jerusalem, meet the Prince of Heaven? It was a royal encounter, no doubt, like so many others in the dust and heat of old Judea. This one was different though. It took place under cover of darkness and in secret, most probably informal around a few eats on the floor of a room somewhere in old Jerusalem.

The retelling of the nightly visit we find in John 3.

Nicodemus must have been a wealthy man. When Jesus died, Nicodemus brought myrrh and aloes – a hundred pounds of it. It must have been very expensive (John 19:39). He was a Pharisee. There were never more than 6000, known as the brotherhood. They took a pledge in front of witnesses to spend their life in studying every detail of the Law.

The Law was the most sacred thing in all the world. It was to be found in the first five books of the Old Testament. The Law of God contained everything for good living, and it had to be studied and explained continuously. The Law ruled every possible moment of life. It was developed into many by-laws and regulations for every conceivable situation.

An example of this, was the rules on the Sabbath, when no work was to be done by man or servants or animals. The definition of work was developed over generations. The Mishnah is the codified scribal law and it contained 24 chapters on the Sabbath alone. The Talmud is the explanation (commentary) of the Mishnah. On the subject of the Sabbath the Talmud runs 64 columns of fine print. In the Babylonian Talmud it runs 156 double pages. One rabbi spent more than two years to study one chapter of the 24 of the Mishnah on the Sabbath.

Just a quick example: To tie a rope knot was sin, to tie a woman’s petticoat was legal. If you needed to let the bucket down in the well for water on the Sabbath, you couldn’t tie a rope, but you could tie it to a woman’s underwear – fully legal and pleasing to God in their opinion!!

The Scribes worked out the details; the Pharisees dedicated their lives to live by it. Even in the deception of following the law so strictly, it must have been a special kind of man to dedicate his life to pleasing God. The word Pharisee meant: the separated one and so they lived: separated and away from ordinary life to keep every detail of the Law.

They were usually very certain and very convinced of their chosen life and still Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus.

Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews and a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was a council of seventy leaders (Moses appointed 70 judges to help him rule on the advice of his father in law – Exodus 18) that formed the supreme court of the Jews.

Nicodemus was from a distinguished family; probably part of the family who represented the Jews diplomatically in Rome and from whom came the ambassador to Pompeii.

It is amazing that he would want to talk to Jesus.

He came by night, which could mean that he was cautious to see for himself who Jesus is by talking face to face. It was also customary for the Rabbi’s to study in the night, not to be disturbed. Jesus was surrounded by people during the day. Nicodemus wanted quiet time with him, in private.

He overcame his whole way of living, his prejudices, his upbringing to talk with a man that his circle would see as un upstart trouble-maker. His encounter with Jesus is a miracle of grace.

He was obviously puzzled by Jesus and the hearsay of His preaching. Investigation is good. Do not believe the lies about Jesus and the church without investigating and finding the truth. Jesus will never condemn good research and a questioning mind. Ask the questions in the night and the Holy Spirit will teach you and remind you of Jesus’ words. (John 14:26) His own answer, an encounter in the night, is the one we are still looking for today.

Jesus follows a structure of conversation. He says something to be misunderstood. By this He evokes puzzling questions. Anyone could turn away and say it is nonsense. It is when you stay for the deeper meaning, the explanation, when the light breaks through.

Nicodemus is very impressed by the signs and wonders.

Jesus states that it is not signs and wonders that are important but the changing of a man’s life: rebirth.

Nicodemus cannot imagine a spiritual birth and says it is not possible to be born again physically.

Jesus uses the word:

anothen, which means from the beginning, totally, radically,

again, the second time,

from above.

It is difficult to explain all three these meanings in one English word except born anew. It is such a radical change – a whole new start. It is not a human achievement; it is possible only through the grace and power of God.

Nicodemus understood it literally. He decides this is impossible. Will I ever get an answer to my longing?

Does the word that comes to you in discussion with Jesus make sense? If it doesn’t, there is hindrance. We have need of sitting down and continuing the discussion. Nicodemus wanted change and he knew it is impossible all by himself.

The concept of new birth was embraced by the writers of the New Testament: 1 Peter 1:3,22-23. James 1:18, Titus 3:5, Romans 6:1-11,1 Corinthians 3:1-2, 5:17, Galatians 6:15, Ephesians 4:22-24, Hebrews 5:12-14.

The idea of rebirth was not foreign to the Jews. Becoming a proselyte (a non-Jew converting to the Jewish faith) was something like a new birth. All connections with the past were destroyed.

The mystery religion of the Greeks was based on the suffering, dying and rising of a god. This was played out in a passion play with music and drama in an emotional ritual with incense. It was meant that the worshipper in the drama would become one with his god and suffer with him to be rising with him. To be truly united was to be twice-born, implying complete regeneration. This came through voluntary death, which took place at midnight, when the day dies and is reborn. The first food after the ritual was milk to symbolize a new-born.

The ancient world longed for rebirth and searched for it. Some bathed in ox-blood (taurobolium), to come out of it as reborn. The message of rebirth was exactly what the world was looking for.

Rebirth involves four things: being made new, the kingdom of heaven, to become a child of God and eternal life.

The Kingdom of heaven is the invisible kingdom of God on earth. It is a decision that brings the process about. (Matthew 3:2; 4:17;18:3)

Become like children. Become a citizen.

 

And the conversation continues…

90. How about you?

Have you ever wondered about yourself in history? Where would you have been in the village life of the Middle Ages, a noblewoman in a castle, a knight fighting for the duke, maybe the duke himself? It is difficult to think with too much ambition about women in history. I am no Joan of Arc. My ideal women in history go a bit further back to Deborah in the Book of Judges, or Huldah in 2 Kings 22. Go ahead and read about them.

Let us take an imaginary trip and place us around the shores of Galilee at the time when everybody talked about a man able to heal miraculously, arguing with the Pharisees and Scribes and reaching out to the poor. Can you imagine the talk around the squares and wells of the villages in rural Judea? Maybe you could have been a hard working businessman in the fish industry, preserving Galilee’s riches in salt; maybe an importer of delicacies from the rest of the vast Roman Empire supplying the Roman contingent in Caesarea or Herod’s palace in Jerusalem.

This past Easter I sat in church listening to a sermon on the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. When I looked at the beautiful picture they had on the screen, I looked at the crowds around Jesus and suddenly wondered where I would have been. I have to admit I have a vivid imagination, but I have had many instances where the Holy Spirit showed me faith pictures in my mind, where I could not have come up with anything remotely so wonderful. One of my most powerful experiences of being healed of a nagging fear, was experiencing the Holy Spirit taking control of my imagination to show me how God is providing for me.

While staring at the picture on the screen in church, I was at once heartbroken. I did not see myself at the forefront, waiving the palm branches and shouting Hosanna. Succumbing to my naturally suspicious and cautious nature, I saw myself at the edges of the crowd, staying close, as I imagined myself very much fascinated by this man, but reserving judgment for later. In prayer I almost wanted to apologize to the Lord about this. I admired Mary Magdalene and John who followed the trial and so courageously found them at the foot of the cross in spite of extreme personal danger, being seen as a friend of the “criminal”.

In that moment the Holy Spirit convicted me to the complete opposite of what I was thinking. He said I would have been exactly where I was now. I was made aware of the miracle of faith, the miracle of salvation and the miracle of spiritual insight into the deep mysteries of God and His Word. Coming to Jesus is a cold rational decision, followed by a miraculous personal rebirth, experiencing the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the deepest inner being of a person. I was overjoyed by this realization that Jesus was revealed to every person who asked God for spiritual insight into His life on earth. It happened then as it happens now.

For me, it was a moment of great rejoicing. I felt my spirit leap up and shout Hosanna. I know deep in my heart just how much I love Jesus and how I treasure God’s word above everything in this world. Throughout the sermon I was enjoying my own triumphant entry into Jerusalem right there by Jesus’ side.

How then did the people know this is the Messiah? In the first chapter of John, exactly this matter is the theme. He states the case for Jesus like a heavenly advocate in a court of law, calling the witnesses to testify to the authenticity of Jesus’ Messianic title.

1:32-34

And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

The baptism of Jesus removed all doubt in John the Baptist’s mind that Jesus was the Son of God. There by the waters of the Jordan God reveals himself as the Trinity, speaking from heaven and letting the Holy Spirit descend in the symbol of the dove. It was something, which only the eye of the mind and soul could see.

The baptism (Greek=baptizein – to dip or to submerge) of Jesus was a decisive event.

In Palestine the dove was a sacred bird. It was not hunted and it was not eaten. The picture of the dove was one, which the Jews knew and loved. The dove brought the olive branch, the symbol of provision to Noah in the Ark. (Matthew 3:16)

It was at his baptism that the Spirit came down upon Jesus with power in a way that was convincing to John the Baptist.

The Hebrew word for Spirit is ruach and it means wind. The Spirit of God brings us three things:

  • Power: in Acts 2 it is described as a mighty rushing wind.
  • Life: the very existence of man is by the breath of God.
  • God: it is the way by which we live beyond mere human achievement.

The Spirit controlled the prophets. (Micah 3:8,Isaiah 59:21,Isaiah 61:1, Ezekiel 36:26-7)

The Spirit: brings the truth of God, gives men the power to recognize that truth when they saw it and gives them the ability and the courage to preach that truth to men. The Jews knew the Spirit and knew it was God coming into a man’s life.

John goes out of his way to point out that the Spirit remained on Jesus. It is not just a temporary inspiration; it is a permanent abiding. John states the descending of the dove as a Holy Spirit baptism, which implies that He was saturated and flooded with the Spirit of God.

In a Holy Spirit life we are illuminated to understand the Word, strengthened to do the Word and purified by the baptism of fire, burning away the worldly baggage. Spirit prayer is a cry of the heart with no thought of theology and liturgy.

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2)

That was the Messianic promise from the mouth of Isaiah. It stands as the promise to us who invites the Holy Spirit to saturate our inner beings.

1:35-39:

 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”

39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).

John the Baptist points to Jesus as the greater teacher, full knowing that his own disciples will leave him and follow Jesus. He had no jealousy towards Jesus. He was looking for the vision to be fulfilled.

The character of the true disciple determines that his eye remains on the vision.

What is your God-inspired vision for your life?

Take a moment to write it down. Ask the Holy Spirit to quicken your mind to see God’s heart for you with no attachment to your fellow men or this world. (Habakkuk 2:15)

Jesus turned to speak to the disciples who followed Him. He is always willing to meet us halfway, making things easier for us to get to Him. He is a door opener. (Isaiah 45:1, Revelation 3:8)

Jesus turning to talk to the disciples is symbolic of the divine initiative. God always takes the first step. The human mind seeks and the heart longs. God meets you on the way just like the beautiful image of the father in the story of the prodigal son, waiting for the first signs of his son and running out to meet him. That is a good heart picture to treasure whenever we think of our heavenly father.

We seek God when He has already found us – Augustine.

The fundamental question is: What are you looking for? Your desire needs to be expressed. They could have been legalists looking for an argument. They could have followed Him to enlarge their influence with the leadership. They could have been nationalists looking for political shortcuts. Or were they humble men looking for their Messiah? They could have been puzzled, bewildered and sinful, looking for light and not even sure how deep the need in their inner being might be. This is the perfect approach – dark lives looking for the Light of the World to change them forever.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

Are you looking for safety and security, wealth and superficial satisfaction for your needs? It is not wrong to look for these things; it is only a very low aim. There is no security in the changes and chances of life. Some people are searching for personal ambition, having their own goals already shaped, believing God is the instrument to get there. Beware of the detour called life!

Here in John 1 the disciples answered with a question: Where is Jesus staying?

They called Him rabbi, which literally means: my great One. It was a title of respect given by students of wise men. John writes to the Greeks and uses the word for teacher.

What does their question mean?

They didn’t want a short answer. They wanted to sit down, share a meal, talk much. They were not satisfying a curiosity or a superficial need. They wanted to truly know Him.

Jesus answers: Come and see. Those words were a well-known answer to any question of a student of a Jewish rabbi. Jesus’ words imply: we’ll think about this together. If you are in for the long haul, I am more than willing.

John was probably one of these disciples. He notes the time. Almost like in a diary. He is thinking back many years and experiencing that moment, more or less 4pm one afternoon in Galilee that his own life changed forever.

 

 

 

 

65. Old words, new meaning.

All of us know the emotions of change. There is always a double-sided feeling of a divided soul. Even when the change is good, flowing from our good decisions, some elements of the old haunt us and might even come to bite our heels. Soul changes are the hardest, getting rid of bad habits, old wounds, roots of bitterness fed by the hurt and offence we suffer because of other people’s sin. With all life’s challenges and strife our heart might look like an overgrown, untamed garden with some beautiful flowers and shrubs (caring and loving nature) struggling to grow beneath the thorn bushes and briers of resentment and anger.

I truly rejoice in the promise of the new in the Word of God. Not now and then – daily! God does new things, forgives continually and bring us up to the new heaven and the new earth whenever we ask and set our life focus on His realm. The invitation stands for all eternity.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord.

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;

Though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.

If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the best of the land;  (Isaiah 1:18,19)

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentation 3:22,23)

Chapter 21 of Revelation leads us into the ultimate “new” that God has for us as much as we could grasp with the description in earthly words and concepts.

Doom of the wicked is described in contrast to the “bliss of the blessed.” It is the dream of true new beginnings, so beautifully sung by Isaiah (65:17). When God creates new, the former things are not even remembered.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Let us rejoice in the caption of this chapter – All Things Made New.

Looking around us in our world today, we need some serious new.

Just think of the wonderful elements of the new. Sorrow is to be forgotten; sin is to be vanquished; darkness is to be at an end; the temporariness of time is to turn into the everlastingness of eternity.

The promise of no more sea was a welcome relief to the ancient world. Their attitude towards the sea was well established from mythological roots. The sea was the enemy, the dwelling place of chaos. Sea faring was dangerous and clothed in mystery. In the earliest times of sea travel they hugged the coast with no compass. Sea storms were fierce and scary, especially when darkness blotted out the stars and made navigation impossible. (Acts 28)

The New Jerusalem (21:2) has its roots in Greek philosophy.

One of the great contributions to the world’s philosophical thought was Plato’s doctrine of ideas or forms. He taught that in the invisible world there existed the perfect form or idea of everything upon earth, and that all things on earth were imperfect copies of the heavenly realities. If that were so, there is a heavenly Jerusalem of which the earthly Jerusalem is an imperfect copy. That is what Paul is thinking of when he speaks of the Jerusalem that is above (Galatians 4:26), and also what is in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews when he speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22).

This conception of preexisting forms may seem strange, but at the back of it is the great truth that the ideal actually exists. It further means that God is the source of all ideals. The ideal is a challenge, which, even if it is not worked out in this world, can still be worked out in the world to come.

The New Jerusalem in the era after Christ is the church. Jewish thought provided full restoration, supremacy and rule for the Jewish people. This was echoed in the prophets and always held as the physical restoration of Jerusalem.

For us, the church is the only possible interpretation. The true church is the perfect “city” providing for its inhabitants. The bride is prepared for Jesus. (21:2). The souls of men are the precious stones (Malachi 3). The streets of gold are the gifts of the Holy Spirit guiding our walk on earth in Jesus. We walk upon the royal paths when we are saved. Everything precious in our lifetime is to be found in Jesus. God provides the light; there is no need of the sun. Everything we know to be natural is replaced by the perfection of God’s realm.

We enjoy unbroken fellowship with God as He wipes away the tears (21:3,4). His presence resolves the sorrow. (Ezekiel 40:1-48:35)

John used all the visions of the perfect city to invoke the picture of the realization of all dreams ever. In the light of the recent destruction of the earthly Jerusalem (70AD) he speaks in faith to revive and encourage.

The New Jerusalem, the church, is eternal and precious. It can never be destroyed. Destruction is of the earthly. We lift up your eyes and see the perfect. Our eyes should be anointed to “see” clearly and truly into the unseen, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is our challenge today and every day. To truly see Him in faith on His throne within the pain and strife of this life, is kingdom living.

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. (Exodus 14:13)

Moses challenges the people to see the opposite of their fear. Just like them we face “our” Egyptians every day. We have to live in the evil plans of God’s adversary, Satan and face all the problems, crisis, and panic that come with his territory. The only solution is our fellowship with God (21:3-4).

A loud voice, as we have seen, a voice with the authority of the presence of God, announces the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God amongst men. The word used is skene, which means tent. The

Tabernacle in the desert was a movable structure, tent-like. It is a temporary dwelling and a foretaste of the glory to come. God made his dwelling with people.

Here on earth, we experience heaven in the constant awareness of the Presence.

The Greek word skene and the Hebrew word schecinah became closely related in early Christian thought because of the connection in sound. Skene came to mean dwell with God and schecinah came to mean God dwelling with men. Shechinah was associated with a luminous cloud, which came and went. In Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:10-11) the shechinah glory filled the house.

[This concept resonated through the Old Testament: Leviticus 26:11-12, Jeremiah 31:33 and 32:39 – 41, Ezekiel 37:27, Song of Songs 6:3]

All the benefits of heaven reverberate through Isaiah (25:8, 35:10, 65:19). There will be no weeping, no sorrow, and all the tears wiped away. The promise is repeated and confirmed in Matthew 5:4 and Philippians 3:10.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

In Christ all things are new (21:5-6). A child of God is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). New things are promised in Isaiah 43:18-19.

“Do not remember the former things,

Nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.

John is commanded to write it down. It reminds us of a contract, true and trustworthy. We can go back to check and hold the parties responsible to fulfill the articles of the agreement. These are faithful words, so scarce these days.

All is complete within Christ. There is no other God. (Isaiah 44:6)

He is the Beginning, arche meaning the source of all things and the

end, telos meaning more than the end, the goal of all things.

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)

…one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:6)

Is there anything more to say about God? His promise stands: I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. (21:6) We have free access to all the splendour and glory. Is there better to be desired in this life?

Glory and shame (21:7-8)

The greatest promise of all (21:7): I will be his God and he will be my son. He said it to:

  • Abraham – Genesis 17:7
  • David about Solomon – 2 Samuel 7:14
  • Psalms 89:27 – “I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth“.
  • Us the same as to Abraham, to David and to Jesus.

There is no higher reward possible.

The condemned is named: fearful, cowards, unbelieving, sorcery (drugs), idolaters, fornicators (immorality), liars. We can never be arrogant and look down on these sins and sinners. They all have spiritual application as well. Immorality rules in worldly lifestyles, lying prevails for our own comfort, drugs are widely used to ease emotional and physical pain. It can easily get out of control and become idolatry.

These condemn us all except that we find our righteousness in Christ.

Our inheritance is the city of God (21:9-27). This is our dwelling place. We dwell with God, in Christ.

The bride is shown by a surprise messenger – the bringer of the bowls of the plagues. The same angel, who acts as the bringer of the judgment of Babylon, now shows the Bride. The angel speaks what God commands and the messages vary.

John is carried to a high mountain, just like in Ezekiel’s vision (40:2). The outlook from higher ground changes the perspective. We have to elevate ourselves above the circumstances. We are still earth-bound. We do not fly into the universe. We have to be removed from the ordinary in order to hear and see deeper and fuller. There is an actual mountain outside Jerusalem.

Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth,

Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.  (Psalm 48:1,2)

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains,

and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.  (Isaiah 2:2)

The light of God is like the radiance of jasper. God’s glory reflects in the precious stones. The precious stones are the saints – Philippians 2:15.

The city is walled, strong enough to protect against all evil.

 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

“We have a strong city;

God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. (Isaiah 26:1).

He promises an insurmountable bulwark, built by faith to guard the church. Zechariah 2:5 talks about the wall of fire and His glory inside.

The twelve gates represent the tribes, through which all gained entrance. The Messiah was born from the tribe of Judah as promised to give access for all. The word for gate is pulon (normally it would be pule.) Pulon could indicate two things. It could either be a large house built around a courtyard with big gate in the outer wall or the gate-tower of a walled city.

There is more than one entrance through the revelation of Jesus within the tribes. There are three gates in each direction. (Ezekiel 48:30-35)

East, where the sun rises depicts the morning of life when we find Christ young.

North is symbolic of cold for those who find Christ through intellect and cold rationalization.

South is symbolic of warmth. There is the gentle and soft way to find Christ through love and kindness.

West is symbolic of the setting sun and the dying. Even in the evening of their days, they will find Christ. We hear of so many deathbed conversions.

The twelve foundations depict the apostles who built the church. The tribes and the apostles incorporate the old and the new.

The measurements (21:15-17) remind us of the measuring rod of Ezekiel (40:3).

The shape of the city is a square. It is the perfect cube, a symbol of perfection in the Greek philosophy. The Jews were familiar with the shape of the altar of burnt offering, the altar of incense and the High Priest’s breastplate. (Exodus 27:1,30:2,28:16) In Ezekiel’s temple and Solomon’s Temple the Holy of Holies was a perfect cube. (1 Kings 6:20) which indicates sufficiency, enough space for everyone. The dwelling place of God has no exclusion. So must the church be also.

The height of the wall is very low. It was not for defense purposes. It was only to show the city limits and not meant for exclusion. A wall is not important, but only to show the differentiation between the city and the rest.

The gold of the city looks white in the sun, as if it is clear glass. The foundations were adorned with precious stones. Jasper is a translucent green, sapphire is mentioned in Exodus 24:10 on which God stood, sky-blue flecked with gold more like lapis lazuli, chalcedony looked like silicate of copper, sort of green as a dove’s neck or a peacock’s tail. Emerald is well known, the greenest of all green stones. Sardonyx looked like onyx with layers of red and brown and used for cameos. Sardius originated from Sardis and was blood-red. Chrysolite is of uncertain origin and was shiny like gold according to Pliny. Beryl was sea-blue or sea-green in colour and topaz was a transparent greenish-gold (Job 28:19). Jacinth was a deep violet-colour, bluish-purple and the amethyst was purple. Eight of theses stoned mentioned were in the breastplate of the High Priest (Exodus 28:17).

The splendour of the city was much more than the known stones. Originally, the city of the Greek gods was built according to the signs of the Zodiac and every sign had its stone. They were exactly these twelve stones. No other city with precious stones existed. John replaced the city of the gods to wipe out all confusion. With this description he included all the beliefs about all precious stones to show one God over all.

John gives the signs of the Zodiac in reverse order, to submit them all under the authority of God. It is staggering to imaging each gate is one big pearl. Pearls were especially valuable. They were taken from the sea at great peril. The parable confirmed this when Jesus talked about the pearl of great price, worth everything you possessed in Matthew 13:46. Gates of pearl depict unimaginable and inaccessible wealth.

God is present in this great city. (21:22-23). It is a city with no temple. It is surprising. To the Jews, the Temple was everything. Now there is no need for the temple. God everywhere. The city is in its entirety the Holy of Holies.

God will be your everlasting light says Isaiah 60:19-20. In Your light we see light (Psalm 36:9) In the light of God we truly see.

But… in this city there is no night. In the light of God there is no darkness possible. The ancient people were afraid of the dark. God’s light drives out fear.

Space for all nations is a theme throughout the writings of the prophets. [Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:12, 45:22, 49:6, 51:5, 55:5, 56:6-8, 66:19. Jeremiah 3:17, 16:19-21. Daniel 7:14. Zephaniah 2:11, 3:9. Zechariah 2:13, 8:20-23, 14:9. Also in Joel 2.]

In the Jewish writings between our two Testaments, the theme of the Messiah gathering all nations was prominent. John paints the picture of divine hope for the Jews as well as the Gentiles.

The nations will bring gifts. The Greeks will bring their philosophy in which they were constantly seeking God. The Romans bring administration, law and organization and the Hebrews brought the true God and the Messiah. We bring our gifts and talents to the church.

Only those who are given access by the Lamb’s Book of Life can enter. Abominations and lies are caused by the rejection of Jesus. God is insulted when Jesus is rejected.

Jesus is His gift, His best to us.

 

 

37. C.h.u.r.C.h.

It is unavoidable that the word church is received with a whole bunch of emotions and reactions. For some the negativity comes unrestrained, fuelled by hurt and disappointment over many years. The pain permeates into the conversation about church and leads to sharp rejection of people and organization in the hearts of individuals.

I am truly thankful that I was privileged to enjoy a loving and welcoming church community as a teenager. I cannot clearly remember all the teaching and sermons, but I remember the friendliness of the leaders, the organization to have fun together and my fellow youth very well. For my two eldest sons however, church was not the comfortable home that we so desired for them.

It is intentional that the heading for this Pebble is written like an acronym. We have to establish a new and positive concept within the principle of CHURCH. There might be a lot of possibilities but for now let us define church as a:

Congregation of Hope Unified and Redeemed by the Cross of Healing.

The Cross is the crux – always and everywhere. In every situation, every crisis, every feast, every life-event it is the Cross of Jesus that gives meaning and healing.

With this principle firmly in place as priority, we can look back to the exiles returning with Ezra to restore the temple in Jerusalem. God stirs the heart of this learned man to lead the way and guide the people. He comes equipped with the approval and support of the dominant Emperor of the ancient world at that time. Even within these very beneficial circumstances Ezra writes about God’s hand on his endeavour.

Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord, which is in Jerusalem, and has extended mercy to me before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty princes.

So I was encouraged, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me. (Ezra 7:27,28,NKJV)

Church organization starts on the journey. Ezra makes a meticulous record of the families accompanying him and finds no Levites. Traditionally the Levites were responsible for temple ministry. When Joshua divided the Promised Land, the Levites received no land to free them in order to serve the people full time with regards to their service to God.

Ezra organizes 220 temple servants from the tribe of Levi to come to Jerusalem with them. (Ezra 8:15-20) He appoints twelve leaders to the priests and entrusts all the valuables of the temple to them. On arrival they secured the treasure of silver and gold and prepared the sacrifices.

Personal worship is restored, but reveals the sin in the community. Ezra becomes deeply aware of it and intercedes for the people to plead forgiveness. He tears his clothes and pluck out his hair and beard – an extreme display of deep emotional distress. He prayed so powerfully and sincere that the people gathered around him in tears, realizing and repenting their sin.

The occasion is marked by prayer, repentance and reverence to the Word of God. It is significant that Ezra’s reaction to the sinfulness and imperfection of the situation is a heartfelt, earnest prayer emphasizing the sovereignty and might of God. He prays and repents on behalf of his people. He did not go amongst them with judgment and blame for the sad situation and reproach for the lack of enthusiasm in the restoration project.

Before the restoration could begin the people had to divorce their pagan wives and send them and the children away. (Ezra 10:44)

For our modern ears this is radical and drastic. The Old Testament is our symbolic guide to spiritual purification. Secular attitudes so comfortably embedded in the church like a “wife” corrodes the church from inside and render it powerless. We all know that the church is often victim to gossip, offence, pride, lovelessness, selfishness, self-importance and haughtiness, unforgivness – oh, the list is shockingly long and nasty.

In the Gospel of John we read about the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem to be judged and executed by the “church”. Read the story in John 8:1-11.

The Scribes and the Pharisees actively devoted their lives to ministry. They were the leaders responsible for the spiritual well being of their people who were distinct in their worship of their one God Yahweh. His commandments were the foundation of the community. Their lives were lived wholly dedicated to faithful service. Their passion often smothered compassion when the zealous application of the letter of the law brought harsh and ruthless verdicts. In case of doubt about the application of the law and sentencing, it was quite normal to bring the matter to the rabbi.

Although they did not fully accept Jesus as part of their exclusive theological community, the respect from the people, which He spontaneously received, caused them to try and trap Him into an argument that would discredit His teaching.

Any Jew would know that adultery, murder and idolatry were punishable by death. Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 22 prescribed the death sentence for both parties to adultery. Interestingly, the man in this case was not a co-accused.

Death by stoning was the obvious conclusion in this case. The Law of Moses was clear. An added bonus was a theological ambush for Jesus. In the words of William Barclay: …and here they thought they had impaled him inescapably on the horns of a dilemma. [New Daily Study Bible]

If He supports the execution, his message of love and grace would be discredited and He will not be called the friend of sinners anymore. He would at the same time be in trouble with the Roman authorities, since the Jews were not allowed any execution rights, even within the limits of their own people and religion. Rome was the ultimate authority and held life and death in their power. Maybe Jesus would not realize that this would bring Him into trouble and then Rome could get rid of him.

On the other hand, if He chooses to forgive her, He will be in conflict with the Law of Moses and would indirectly condone the sin of adultery.

Jesus bowed down and started writing in the sand. On this matter the commentaries name countless possibilities and the mystery that clouds the content of his sand secrets, has been the subject of many sermons and discussions. Rightly so, there is room for interpretation on multiple levels. Let us consider only two. Maybe he could not face the hate and condemnation in the eyes of the spectators and church leaders and knelt down to pray for guidance and wisdom. Maybe His godly insight in the lives of the executioners gave Him the opportunity to write their sins and transgressions to expose them as hypocrites. The Greek word for write is graphein. In this case the word katagraphein is used, which means to write something on the record against somebody.

Could it be that Jesus went on record against these sadistic stone throwers?

Nevertheless the church leaders insisted on an answer. An answer they received:

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7 NKJV)

The loud accusers disappeared quietly. They left the woman, but they also left the key to their own forgiveness and renewed lives. They left the scene where the Source of forgiveness and reconciliation with God remained standing.

When Jesus and the woman were alone he asked: “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (V10)

Jesus never denied her sin and the condemnation following it. How could He free her so unconditionally? Adultery is serious. According to His own teaching a ground for divorce. (Matthew 5 – the Sermon on the Mount.)

Jesus knew He was on his way to the cross to die for her sin. He lived in the awareness of His ultimate purpose. He spoke liberty over her just because of who He was.

His words of farewell are significant, but sound almost casual.

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (V11)

Jesus did not send her to the synagogue for training in the Law of Moses, or to the rabbi for spiritual guidance and teaching. He neither gave her a long lecture on a pure life and new thinking. He sent her away with words of grace in the full knowledge of who His father is and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead her into a future of victory over sin.

Grace is the unmerited favour of God. God’s grace cannot be earned and He gives it freely without reproach for our benefit because He is a good, good Father.

Mercy is defined as follows:

Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

According to Merriam-Webster: mercy implies compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it.

Mercy is the withholding of punishment from somebody in a position of authority over you. God defines Himself to Moses as a God of mercy. (Exodus 34)

Not only does He withhold the punishment. He took our punishment on Him!

The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV)

This was real church in the streets of Jerusalem. Not a place of condemnation and execution. It was a place of liberty and bold entrance to a future of victory over sin and shame.

Jesus knew that His words of freedom would ensure her to His father and the Holy Spirit. She will be safe and secure. The Holy Spirit will convict of sin, righteousness and judgment. (John 15)

It is not for the church to shout the sin and judgment. The church is the place of love and mercy to enable the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of men. Without love there is no constructive confession of sin.

The Holy Spirit prepares the people for the Presence. In the Presence, in the holy light of His countenance, sin is realized, confessed and replaced with restoration and victory. This is church at the foot of the Cross.

35. The altar of the all.

The principle of that ancient act of setting an altar on the bases of a ruined temple building is forever written in my heart.

Worship at the altar was the unanimous act of protection in the face of fear and uncertainty.

It could not have been easy to leave their assorted lots and half-done tasks of restoration to answer the call of the priests to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Ezra 3:1:

And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem

The Feast of the Tabernacles [Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16] is celebrated around September of our calendar year, the fifteenth day of the seventh month on the calendar of Moses in the desert. It was the most joyous feast of the year. It was a time of thanksgiving and joyful reminders of the time the former slaves of Egypt spent in the desert, God’s provision in the desert and the miraculous outcome He so graciously bestowed upon them. They had to build booths of branches and leaves to remind them of the desert journey and include their family, servants, foreign guests as well as the widows and orphans around them in a happy, hospitable festivity recalling the goodness of God.

First things first. Relationship with the most high God, Who brought them back to the promised land, began with a feast, unhindered by pagan surroundings, which they had to endure through the years in exile. They must have delighted in the new freedom where worship to Yahweh was the number one priority and could be enjoyed within the nation without the constraints of secrecy or unsympathetic onlookers.

Worship was the first step, the foundation for everything that followed. After the altar had been set up, the people rallied to…

…give money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia. [Ezra 3:7]

The feast at the altar laid the foundation for the majestic task of rebuilding the house of God.

It is super important to establish the priority of worship as the groundwork for the work of God. The feast was celebrated as it is written. The offerings were burnt as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. This was the guideline, the certainty they could rely on: the commandments of the faithful God who brought them back to worship at the appointed place. As it is written gave the direction and protection for the restoration that established them into their own.

Jesus spoke the first words of His ministry to set our altar on its base.

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 4:17]

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [Matthew 9:13]

Our immigration into the kingdom of heaven, the invisible kingdom that Jesus confirmed with His ministry, is the first step in altar worship. We take that step with a simple decision to put our all, our entire existence, on the altar of repentance. This decision births a brand new life in us, a Spirit-guided life.

John 3:3:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The explanation of this statement in the language of The Message – verses 5 and 6:

Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

This is the all-encompassing altar experience: a brand new life born of the wind that hovered over the waters at creation. It is Spirit-life breathed into us to new birth just as God breathed into Adam and gave him life.

We come to the altar as an exile out of Babylon, which is the symbol of sin in the Old Testament, with hope of a new life in the promised land. When we set the altar on its base and make the decision, we enter into the invisible Kingdom of God here on earth, sitting with Christ in heavenly places and walking with heaven in our step, to resist evil and stand against the enemy in victory, just as the letter to the Ephesians explains. [Pebbles 26,27 and 28.] A new person takes shape within us as we grow spiritually according to Kingdom principles.

What happens as we enter? We are invited to a party – a feast to celebrate our entry into provision and protection. God is a good God – He is the God of the Feast. No less than seven feasts marked the Jewish calendar to be enjoyed with abundance and cheerfulness. Seven times in one year they ceased their routine to participate joyfully in God’s supply over their lives.

Deuteronomy 16:13-15:

Observe the Feast-of-Booths for seven days when you gather the harvest from your threshing-floor and your wine-vat. Rejoice at your festival: you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, the Levite, the foreigner, and the orphans and widows who live in your neighborhood. Celebrate the Feast to God, your God, for seven days at the place God designates. God, your God, has been blessing you in your harvest and in all your work, so make a day of it—really celebrate!

This is a commandment – be glad, be joyful. Thank Him for the blessing and celebrate – don’t stop – at least seven days.

Pebble pal, restore celebration to your life. It does not matter where you are and what life has brought you to wear you down. Make a celebration and thank God for His goodness. Make more of the Christian feasts like Easter, Pentecost and Christmas, but also – mark your own annual feasts to the Lord.

Remember: Adam’s first day was the Sabbath – a day of rest and rejoicing in God and His creation. God’s creation is good. You are His creation. You are good. Go on celebrate!

Think on blessings and miracles in your past and mark a date to celebrate the most significant of them. Journal extensively on special insights in the Word.

You might be so wrought with doubt and fear that you do not feel like merrymaking at all. Set the altar in its place. God’s response is guaranteed. He will draw near to you [James 4:8]. He is a rewarder of those who seek Him [Hebrews 11:6]. He will forgive your sins [Isaiah 1:18]. He promises multiplication:

2 Corinthians 9:10:

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,

 Hebrews 6:13,14:

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,…saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”

This is written since the days of Abraham. We can set the altar in its place because it is written.

For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. [Psalm 138:2]

We are the seed of Abraham in Christ, therefore the promise is to us.

Galatians 3:16:

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.

The word of the altar is true today to everyone committed to worship in spirit and truth. It will always be the entrance to the tabernacle of worship to enter into the Presence of the Most High. In the next chapter of John Jesus talks about true worship. He explained to Nicodemus entry into the kingdom of God on earth and then established the foundation of worship. True worship is not dependent on a building, a church community, a ritual or liturgy. It is a personal commitment to seeking the Garden-relationship with our Father, restoring communication after Babylon. In the words of Jesus:

John 4:23:

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

The nature of the offering on the altar is important. In Ezra 3 we read: of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering to the Lord.

It is the decision of a lifetime. It must be a freewill offering. This is the offering that will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

It is a continual burnt offering. This is the daily morning and evening sacrifice, called “the continual burnt offering” described in Exodus 29:42:  This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet you to speak with you. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.

This is a reason for a feast. This is the desire of our hearts – to hear His voice. There where we bring our daily freewill offering, God will speak to us. We will be sanctified by His glory.

Let us celebrate the altar, freely offer our all on it and be rewarded with the most glorious conversation of all ages!

 

20. New and newer – a complete makeover.

In the northern hemisphere spring is in the air. It seems like a fresh green mist covers the trees and bulging bulbs promise beauty and colour in expectation of the warmer days to come. Renewal is clear in the seasonal change. The season blooms in assurance of the promise of Genesis 8:22:

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.

I live in Canada and we have the privilege to live close to a natural forest. Late summer last year, in September, we had an unexpected snowstorm. Within a few hours everything was white and the trees heavy with quite a few inches of snow. Some branches bent and some broke. One branch, high up in a tree behind the house, snapped but stayed attached to the tree. The leaves turned brown but did not fall off. A whole long Canadian winter later, the brown leaves are still hanging on that snapped branch.

IMG_2142It is only a living branch that rids itself of its dead leaves and prepare for the renewal of spring. The brown leaves on the branch are proof of its lifelessness, although it might look as if it still belongs to the tree.

Could we be part of the church of Christ, clothed in dead works that contrasts sharply with the powerful renewal of life in the promises of the Word? It is only with a full understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit that we will be renewed and our minds transformed.

We are remembering the exciting days of expectation after the resurrection. So often Jesus prepared His disciples for the dark days of His death, but they could never fully understand the true meaning of His words until they saw Him face to face. It is still true today. A powerful encounter with the risen Christ rids us of our dead works and fruitless mindset. The words of the Word are living in us to give us a complete makeover.

But, the moment of departure came. The words spoken in those last hours are super important. Jesus knew that He would never see them in the same circumstances again and the leave-taking would have been so shattering, was it not for His amazing farewell gift.

Listen closely to His words in Luke 24.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Quite a few outstanding moments mark this short description of a remarkable occasion – probably the most memorable of that little group’s entire lives.

Jesus addresses their fear. He knows His glorified appearance is a supernatural and daunting experience. He emphasizes His words of before the crucifixion and brings them under the authority of the Scriptures. In His own words: This is what is written… You are witnesses of these things.

He does a miracle in their minds. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He performs the miracle because it is necessary for an intervention of Jesus Himself to understand the Word of God. He would not have done it if it were not necessary. Jesus only performs miracles in great need. A miracle is never unnecessary. To be a witness of these things they needed a touch of glory, an anointment, and special insight. He unlocks the power of Himself in them to understand, to interpret and to speak.

But it not all. Is this not enough, you might ask? If Jesus says it is not finished, who are we to disagree. His words:

…but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

These are the very last recorded words of Jesus. Sit up and pay attention. His Father promised Him the Holy Spirit so that He could dwell in His friends. God in them would empower them for the task that lay ahead to host His presence among the people. Why?

Jesus is not a paperdol-dress that we use as a front cover. We cannot cover our nakedness and shame, blindness and poverty with one-dimensional religious activities. He is the Source of all truth and goodness and only His presence can rid us of dead works. Legalism and prejudice will expose our shame and guilt like last season’s dead leaves, even if it appears attached to church. You are just like a snapped branch and have to be repropogated into the true Vine.

Romans 8:25-27:

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Henry Matthew Concise Commentary:

The Holy Spirit is the spring of all desires toward God, which are often more than words can utter. The Spirit who searches the hearts, can perceive the mind and will of the spirit, the renewed mind, and advocates his cause. The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not

This explanation of the work of the Holy Spirit is the key to understanding transformation and a new mindset to welcome the full blessing of Pentecost. The disciples were frightened of Jesus in His glorified body and Peter was humiliated and full of shame. After Pentecost that same Peter preached 3000 people into the Kingdom convincing them to think anew, without circumcision, without Jewish ethnical requirements, without the blood of animals.

Peter’s words in Acts 2:37,38 and 41:

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

I have never attended a service where 3000 people were baptized. What a powerful ministry moment!

In the next chapter of Acts Peter speaks godly power-words to the lame man. Acts 3:1-10:

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Pebble pal, you belong to an Almighty God for Whom nothing is impossible. Sing the song of Moses in Exodus 15:11:

Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

Where are you at this moment? Are you comfortable in the knowledge of a miracle-working Father or hesitant and full of doubt, overwhelmed with need?

Pay close attention to Acts 2:39:

The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

It is you! Rejoice! The power that enabled Peter that day and all the days after, is available through the Holy Spirit to you and can change your life. Grab hold of this promise, free yourself of your prejudice and doctrines of man and incline your ear to the Word of God to truly hear. Ask for the full blessing with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12. It is for everybody. Jesus promises that we will do greater works. [John 14:12]

I am certain everybody will agree that we need the full blessing of a wonderworking God in this day and age.

Be greatly blessed.