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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Willy Wonka and the gospel

I am almost finished with the book I am writing on walking with God. It's been a very exhausting but enlightening process.

The second half of the book focuses on entering into and dwelling more and more in the spirit realm. This morning I was reflecting on loneliness and living the gospel, and how it relates to dwelling in the spirit realm. My thoughts actually led to Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory.

Willy Wonka dwelled with his fellows in this fallen world, but one day decided that he wanted to make this world a better place. He could make and distribute chocolate that was superior to what was available on this earth. In order to do so, he spent great effort to design and construct a factory that was sealed off from the world. To make something better than what the world had, he had to create a system that was better than the world had. In exerting the focus required of such a task, he became quite a hermit to the world. In a sense, he was quite alone. His only companions were the curious humanoids that co-habited his factory. But was he lonely? The truth was that the world was much lonelier than he was, they just didn't know it.

When we choose to follow God, we choose loneliness. Rather, we choose to recognize the loneliness ever present in this fallen world. Other people ignore it. No one has anyone they can rely on. No one has anyone they can trust in. Humans are not worthy of reliance or trust. Only God is. They plaster over it with temporary relationships, fleeting pleasures, vain pastimes, and carnal addictions.

When we turn to God, God will be our only companion, along with angels. As we draw closer to him, we begin to comprehend just how fallen this world is. As we draw toward him, we leave Babylon. The treasures we once coveted are no longer attractive. The pleasures it offers turn bitter.

Abraham was an incredibly lonely man. He was a source of strength to everyone that came across his path, yet he had no human he could turn to for the same support he universally provided to others. He was a stranger in a strange land. His walk with God in the spirit required an alienated existence in the flesh. Even his wife routinely let him down and sometimes actively attacked him. "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." (Matthew 10:36)

When we find ourselves saddled with the weight of the world, we turn to and lean on God. Though our awareness of his involvement in our lives may at first be limited, it will expand as we turn to him. Even in our limited understanding, the company of God and his angels is so far superior to what this world offers. Everything he does is out of love for us. Though he may hide his face for a moment, it is for our benefit. Eventually, as we cry to him, we will see the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 49:14-16. He will come to us, show us his palms, and say, "I will never let you down. I will never forget you. I bound myself to you forever when I gave myself for you. Trust in me." The burden of sin becomes plain to our sight, and in comparison, the Lord's yoke seems much lighter and his load much easier. Our burden is replaced with an overflowing praise for an incomprehensibly loving God.

Glory and praise be to his name forever and ever. The condescension of God is beyond description.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

By his stripes, we are healed

The Lord can appear to us without glory (as he did on the road to Emmaus), with much glory (as he had to Moses, which was in appearance like a bush on fire--a continuously burning orb), or something in between. He cannot, however, appear to men in all of his glory while we remain in a telestial body.

Though he spoke with God face to face, Moses hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and was not satisfied by this experience. Once, emboldened by the Spirit, Moses asked the Lord Jesus to show him his glory:

18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
21 And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:
23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. (Exodus 33)
The Lord could not show Moses all of his glory. But, he used Moses' righteous desire as a way of bringing him to a singular experience. He wanted to show Moses all his goodness. Moses could not bear all of the Lord's glory, but he could see--for a moment--all of his goodness. He was going to show him how and why he is gracious and merciful. He was going to show him what gives him that right. To see this, Moses was not going to view the Lord's face, but his back parts.

The Lord put Moses in such a place that he was covered for all but a very brief moment. In that flash of a moment, he was able to see through faith the scourging wounds the Lord would receive at the hands of the Romans.

One historian (Eusebius of Caesarea) describes Roman scourging this way: “For they say that the bystanders were struck with amazement when they saw them lacerated with scourges even to the innermost veins and arteries, so that the hidden inward parts of the body, both their bowels and their members, were exposed to view” (Ecclesiastical History, Book 4, chap. 15).

This morning, as I was praising God, he opened the eyes of my understanding and I saw a brief glimpse of his scourging. I only saw the scene for enough time to see one stroke land across his back. I saw the flesh of his back split open as the whip landed. I had never imagined it the way I saw it. Just as the flesh burst open, my heart burst open, and I praised his condescension, patience, mercy, and goodness through my tears.

The brutality of the Lord's scourging, let alone of his crucifixion, as terrible as they were, are only a part of what he bore for us. These physical tokens (the lashes on his back, the wounds in his hands and feet, the wound in his side) witness to the price he paid for us. With his condescending to mortal life, and through what he did while here, and what he endured while here, he has purchased the right to forgive us. Truly by his stripes, we are healed. Truly, he loved us while we were yet sinners. What greater reason could we have to repent than his unfathomable love for us?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Stop outsourcing your relationship with God

Before Noah's flood, the gospel was known by all people on the earth despite the fact that, from the beginning, the majority would not live it.

Adam knew all of his children. Adam was personally acquainted with God and his gospel, and he taught it to his children. From that point until the flood, every man born on this earth had access to a living eye witness of God. Someone who had not only talked to God, but who had seen him face to face.

After the flood, the population of mankind dispersed and increased enough that this was no longer the case. Still, the records that were written by the eye witnesses were sufficient to demonstrate to the misguided that there were greater blessings available to those who were willing to let go of their traditions and seek God directly.

Abraham is the quintessential example of this pattern. Abraham was raised in a religion consisting of the commandments of God mixed with the inventions of men. Having lived what was offered from his fathers, he gained access to and read the accounts from the fathers. He noticed that there was a stark difference between their experiences and his experiences, and he concluded there was something better out there. He turned away from his family, his religion, and his hometown, and turned towards the God of Adam, Seth, Enoch, and Noah.

Today, hundreds of millions of Christians are mired down by a religion that is incapable of bringing them the experiences they read about in scripture. Though the Bible contains everything one needs to come to God, its literal interpretation has been prevented by the thick traditions of men, blinding genuine believers from seeing the path God has provided to encounter his fullness.

For a reason I do not understand, almost every Christian I know subscribes to organized religion. They pay some man or men to teach them religion that is supposedly Christianity. Without fail, these preachers fail to obtain in their congregations the fullness of miracles and power of God as described in scripture. Yet, the Lord Jesus said that "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12) Without fail, these preachers have failed to obtain the miracles and power themselves. They are the blind leading the blind (see Matthew 15:14). When is the last time your pastor/prophet/priest responded to a prayer request by instantly healing the individual? When was the last time your pastor/prophet/priest raised the dead? Have they done anything greater than that? Have you?

This watered down drivel offered as "Christianity" is not only insufficient to connect believers with God, but it is a key reason that so few non-believers find the gospel attractive. As Paul said, "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (Romans 2:24, NIV) In other words, our unconverted lives both fail to give non-believers a reason to believe and give them plenty of reasons not to believe. It is time to grow up and start living what we proclaim.

If there is any need for true teachers of God, it is to guide us to God's word in spite of the clouds of darkness provided by the false traditions of men. How should we identify such teachers? Only a fool would take as his teacher someone who has not yet mastered the material. Joseph of Egypt was chosen as Pharaoh's confidant because of his demonstration of achievement with God. "And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?" (Genesis 41:38) Why are we taking for ourselves religious teachers who have not yet had the experiences we seek, as if they will somehow be able to teach us a process that they themselves have not figured out? It is utter foolishness.

We live in the last days. What stands between us and our destiny is a) total repentance to the portion of God's word that we know of, b) seeking more of God's word and living it, and c) by doing so, attaining a daily hearing/seeing relationship with God.

Here is how to start that journey:
1. Humble yourself to the dust before God.
2. Recognize that you know nothing.
3. Ask him in all humble sincerity to show you the way to him.
4. Be willing to do whatever he asks you to do, and to let go of everything you think you know.
5. Stop wasting your time and money on pastors/prophets/priests who promise you eternal life, but don't yet have it themselves. Go to God directly. Find him in prayer. Find him in scripture.

The day is fast approaching when "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14) God has set his hand to do exactly this. He is clearing the record by 1) destroying churches that lead men astray, and 2) flooding the earth with light through the few true believers who humbly seek him. In a day soon to come, we will see the fulfillment of Isaiah 52:8: "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion." (Isaiah 52:8) This process will take time and there will be a great falling away first, but it will happen.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Destiny

Destiny

Who are you, where did you come from, and why are you here? Every one of us has a deep sense of destiny buried deep within us. This destiny has to be awakened and sought after in each of us. If you are not walking towards your destiny, there will be a sense of unrest and confusion in your life.
People today suffer from a profound lack of purpose. They think their lives are meaningless, but in reality their suffering stems from unknowingly deviating from God’s purpose for them. The manifestations of this deviation include depression, anxiety, restlessness, and hedonism.
No one alive today is meant to just live a normal life. That is not why we are here. Every one of us has been sent to this earth with a calling, a purpose, and a destiny in God. In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul says that God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
You were given a purpose before you even came to this earth. You were given both a destiny and everything to fulfill that destiny. Both your purpose and every situation and resource you would require to fulfill it was set aside for you.
There are many examples in the Bible of individuals who God knew and who were given an assignment before they were born.
Christ. The Lord Jesus’ birth was designated for a specific time from the beginning. Before the creation of the world, his divine mission was appointed. Prophets were told of his sacrifice in vision long before he was ever born. He came and did exactly what was foretold, fulfilling the many prophecies recorded in scripture to the letter. These details included where he would be born, how he would conduct his ministry, what he would do, how he would die, and how he would be resurrected.
Jeremiah. God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) Long before he was born, God knew Jeremiah. He knew exactly what he would do in this life, and Jeremiah knew it as well. He was born at exactly the right time and place to accomplish his mission.
Cyrus. Cyrus is a very interesting example because he was not a believer. Yet God arranged all his circumstances so that he could fulfill his divine purpose as a deliverer of Israel. God said this about him: “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” (Isaiah 45:4) Isaiah wrote this at least 300 years before this man was born! Similarly, God described the reign and exploits of Alexander the Great hundreds of years before he was born (Daniel 8), and told Abraham what would happen to Israel over the next 300 years (Genesis 15). God truly knows all things from the beginning!
These people are not exceptional. God knew all of his children before they were born on this earth. The sons of God existed before this earth was created (Job 38:4-7). You were known before you were born. You existed before you were born. God knew you, and you knew of God. You came here with a purpose—with an assignment, and with a destiny.
Like these individuals, we all have a purpose here. Our task, like theirs, is to discover what it is. This is necessary because we do not remember our existence before our birth here on earth. God discusses this mystery with Job in Job chapter 38. He asks Job where he was when the earth and heavens were created, and what he remembers of how it was done. He says that the sons of God were well aware of these things (v. 7), and suggests that Job was there (v. 21). This was a humbling experience for Job, who had to admit that he knew nothing of it, and therefore should trust that God in his appointed—albeit difficult—life.
If you believe God has a specific mission for you in this life, how will you find out what it is? There are two parts to each person’s destiny. The first part is our overarching purpose in life. Everyone has a shared general purpose in life, which is to be be “conformed to the image of [God’s] son.” (Romans 8:29) This mission is well described in the scriptures. Each of us has the responsibility and privilege to learn of the Lord Jesus and become like him. Additionally, this generation has a shared special destiny to prepare for the Lord’s second coming by sharing the gospel and faithfully living through the tribulations of the end times. It is a great honor to be chosen to live in this generation. God worked it so that you would be alive in this last generation. Many great men saw this day, and many of them wanted to be here. King David, Isaiah, Joel, Jeremiah, and many others were shown and wrote about our day. This generation is a special generation of destiny because it is the last generation before the Lord returns.
The second part of our mission is this life are the specifics that God wants us to accomplish—the part of our mission that is just for us. This is the calling that “was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Timothy 1:9) How do you find out what that is?
Sometimes, God can tell us of our calling out of the blue, as we are doing our normal work. This happened to James and John:

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. (Matthew 4:21)

This also happened to Paul:

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. (Acts 9)
Many times, God slowly reveals our mission in waves. He draws us to him, reminding us of what we promised to do before we were born. The Lord told Jeremiah that he had been drawn to him for a long time. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with a lovingkindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3) God loved Jeremiah before he was born, and prepared him for his mission. He draws us to him through the Holy Ghost. To increase the strength of his call, so that we can hear him and do what he calls us to do, we must surrender our lives to him. This opens the door to his voice to tell us what to do.
We see this in the life of Moses. As a little baby, he was saved from death. He grew up in Pharaoh’s palace:

And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. (Exodus 2:11)

The palace of Pharaoh was all Moses knew from a baby. But something stirred within him. One day, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his brethren. While he was watching this scene, something happened on the inside. Something moved inside him. God placed a desire on his heart. He wanted to do something about the situation of his brethren. Initially, he got it wrong. He killed the Egyptian. But this moved him with compassion. It was how the Lord awakened the pre-appointed mission in Moses heart.

22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons. (Acts 7)

What makes you come alive in this life? Where is God’s pull on your life? What is it that moves you? What is it that makes you cry? Something deep within you stirs during those times. That is God’s pull upon your life.
There is another way we can learn of God’s mission for us. How was Isaiah called to fulfill his earthly mission? “Also, I heard the voice of the Lord saying, who will I send and who will go for me? Then he said, here am I Lord, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah heard God saying, “Who will go for me?” Isaiah heard and felt the heartbeat of God. He felt what was on God’s heart. He said, “Lord, I will go.” He just volunteered. God looked at Isaiah, and said, “Ok, you can go.” He heard what God was after, and what was upon his heart. He was moved on the inside. He said, “I will go for you.” We need to continually offer ourselves to God. If Isaiah hadn’t surrendered to God, he would not be interested in volunteering to fulfill his desires. We need to continually come before God and say, “Lord I will fulfill my destiny. Show me what it is.”
Another way we can be called is through another servant of God. This is how David received his earthly mission.

And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither. (1 Samuel 16:11)

David was sovereignly chosen by God. That came through a prophetic word to him through Samuel. Sometimes it happens that way. It can be through a word of prophecy over your life.
Another way God can call you is through a dream. Joseph’s call came this way.
One thing we need to understand. Between the call of God and the commissioning of God into that call, there is a period of preparation. The call of God is one thing. Then there has to be preparation to fulfill that call. When we’ve gone through that preparation time, there will come another time when God commissions you into the call. Moses’ mission did not begin the moment he felt the call. He spent forty years in the wilderness before he was ready to fulfill that calling. He had to be prepared.
Many times, our prior life experiences, which sometimes seem a matter of chance, end up being a crucial part of the preparation, either in terms of skill and knowledge or circumstance. Paul said that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28) Joseph’s story was a good example of this. Joseph’s story is a wonderful example of this. He was almost killed by his brothers, sold as a slave into Egypt, and falsely imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Yet, after being promoted to the second most powerful man in Egypt, and working a mighty miracle that saved countless people, he recognized God’s hand in setting up the circumstances where he could accomplish his mission. He told his brothers: “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” In chapter 45:7 he said: “And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”


(This essay is based on two sermons on the topic of destiny by Rev. Neville Johnson)