Dear Papa,

waiting on the Lord

Introduction:

This post is from my heart. Most of my readers know that I fill my offerings with Scripture and base all of my teachings on the inerrancy of the Bible. This post is based in biblical truth, but rather like a tea bag infuses water to become tea, so will this post be infused with Scripture. I have had an epiphany. I won’t bother with Scriptural backing. If you need said proof, just ask in the “comments” section.

The Preface:

Today, as I sat and thought about my life and my relationship with God, I realized something very profound. God the Father has totally been ripped off!

What do I mean?

What I mean is that we are so dull of hearing, so hardened in our hearts, and so totally devoid of holy vision that we miss the whole point.

Most of us, and me included, point to Christ; we worship, dedicate our lives to, and bend to a Savior. This is not bad. This is necessary! Christ is our Savior. Christ is the first-born from the grave. He is our cornerstone. Jesus paid our price that we could not pay. His Name is above all names, His glory above all glories, His righteousness is our free gift through faith, and His atonement is the FINAL price for sin. But…

But…

But…

But what?!

The “but” is that it isn’t about Christ’s glory or our glory. It is about the Father’s glory! If you don’t believe me, then you haven’t truly grasped what the Bible has recorded. In the end, Jesus hands the whole of what He has bought to the Father! Just as we cast our crowns at Christ’s feet, so He hands over the entirety of redeemed creation back to the Father.

So we celebrate Christ, as we should; so we celebrate His sacrifice, as we should. But do you realize that Jesus Himself told His disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer? In that prayer, it says, “Our Father”; it speaks of “Thy kingdom”, it finishes with the most incredible words in the Bible: “For Thine (the Father!) is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.” It is the Father’s kingdom! It is the Father’s glory! It is the Father’s power! Forever and ever!

Even Jesus Himself speaks many times that He does not speak His own words, but only what the Father speaks, that He does only what the Father says to do, and that the “Father is greater than I.”

Take a breath my friend. Theology will choke you if you let it. Why must I make a distinction between the Father and the Son? And, as you all well know, I am a teacher of the Holy Spirit. So why make a distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Why?

Answer: BECAUSE THE BIBLE DOES!!!

So, if just for a moment, let us focus on Father.

The Revelation:

There is recorded in Genesis an account that points to a great and life-changing picture of a father. His name is Abraham.

Let your mind and heart open to this reality. Abraham always wanted a child, always pined away at the thought of a son. Yahweh promised Abraham a son and promised him that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham so badly wanted this promised son that his wife acquiesced to his desire and actually took things into her own hands by letting Abraham sleep with their servant Hagar. Hagar birthed Ismael, and the rest is history. But this was not God’s plan.

God told Abraham that Sarah, his wife, would birth a son. The problem was that Abraham was very old and Sarah was very old as well. Biologically speaking, Sarah had passed her child-bearing years. But the fact of the matter is that Abraham believed God, against all odds and against the reality of Sarah being way past the time of conceiving, Abraham believed God! In the book of Romans, Paul tells us that because Abraham believed God and believed that God was powerful enough to “make good” on His promise, that it “was accounted to him as righteousness”. God at one point told Abraham to look up into the sky and observe all the myriad of stars; God told Abraham that he would be the father of so many people, that the number would match the number of stars. Can you imagine what was going through Abraham’s mind at that time?

So incredibly, miraculously, and against all odds, Sarah conceived and gave birth to Isaac. The Bible tells us that Isaac was the apple of his dad’s eye. Abraham’s love for Isaac was deep; Isaac was the most important thing in Abraham’s life. The promise of God, the fruition of all that Abraham was about, and the consummation of a covenant that is as sweet as honey to the tongue, was all fulfilled with the birth of Isaac.

So we can all just wonder in amazement, as surely Abraham did, as Yahweh asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Huh? Wha? Did you just ask me to…to…to put a knife to Isaac’s throat and bleed him out on Mount Moriah? Really?

God’s answer: yes.

That night must have been just awful. I can picture Abraham praying and struggling with his decision as Sarah and Isaac slept completely unaware of the carnage and pain about to transpire. I’m sure Abraham was weeping and pleading and seeking a solution from the Lord that would not require that Isaac be sacrificed. The worst part was that Abraham himself would be the one wielding the knife!

As Isaac and his father journeyed to Mount Moriah with some servants helping them along the way, I’m sure Abraham was just dying on the inside. At some point, Abraham told the servants to stay back; the boy and he would finish the journey up the summit alone. As they were carrying all of the necessary ingredients for a sacrifice, Isaac looks up at his father and asks, “Where is the sacrifice”? Abraham answered in a most profound manner; he said, “Jehovah Jirah”, meaning, “God will provide”. Basically Abraham told his son that Jehovah would provide His own sacrifice. Isaac had no clue that he was to be the one offered on the altar. I wonder if Abraham understood the profundity of the now most wondrous name of God, Jehovah Jirah?

Isaac must have been absolutely horrified as his own father bound him to the wood of the altar. Isaac must have been weeping and begging and pleading for his life. I’m sure Abraham was weeping as well and shaking his head in horror. Which is worse, knowing you are going to die at the hands of your father or a father about to slit his own son’s throat?! The pain and agony of the whole situation is unthinkable, untenable, and impossible to empathize. All that Abraham was, all that he would ever be, and all that he lived for was about to be removed from his life by his own hand. Every heartbeat, every breath, and every hope was bound up in the child that God Himself had promised to Abraham.

With tears clouding his eyes, with horror coursing through his veins, and with trembling hands, Abraham lifts the knife into the air, takes a deep breath of resolution, and commits to the treachery because of his immense love and devotion to Yahweh. Just as the knife hovered in the air, an angel stops Abraham and tells him that God has provided His own sacrifice. In the thicket, on the ridge behind them was a ram, and this would be the sacrifice…or would it?

Many centuries later, in the same exact spot, God DID provide His own sacrifice, the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

The haunting I have been dealing with lately revolves around the Father. When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ. Do we even fathom how the Father felt about His one and only Son leaving the heavens? The angels declare “good tidings and great joy to all people”; but the Father didn’t find it to be good tidings and great joy! Dad just let go of His boy.

As Christ stood before Pilate, He told Pilate that He was volunteering His life, that no man can take My life, and that His kingdom is not of the earth. Paul tells us that it was for the “joy laid before Him” that Christ laid His life down. Jesus could see the full plan of redemption, He could see the future glory of God and man finally ensconced in an eternal embrace of love and communion.

John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son”. That is some serious love folks! Just as Abraham was horrified by the thought of putting his own son to death, so the Father was horrified by the thought of putting His own Son to death. Not only did the Father have to send His Son to die, but the Father also had to take out the punishment of all mankind on His own Son! And even after taking the brunt of all judgment out on His Son, the Father had to turn His back on His Son in His worst moment as Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?!” I’m sure that shout echoed throughout heaven and completely and totally broke the Father’s heart. The pain of crucifixion and abandonment on one side; the pain of forsaking your own Son on the other. Which is more painful?

The Conclusion:

We can never understand how close the Father and Son actually are. In pure truth we must understand that they are literally ONE. Just as the Bible tells us that a husband and a wife “become one flesh”, so is the relationship between the Father and Son, but even deeper than that! All we can compare their relationship to is what we have modeled here on earth: the relationship between a man and a woman in love, the relationship between a child and a parent, or even the relationship of dearest friends that would easily lay their life down for the other. But the Bible tells us that all of these relationships pale in comparison and do not capture the intimacy between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are literally ONE!

So how badly did it break the Father’s heart? How painful was it for the Father to “provide His own sacrifice”? We will never know. But, this has been haunting me and God is allowing me to get at least a glimpse of this unbelievable truth. It makes me weep uncontrollably, it makes me sad for my Papa, and it makes me understand His great love for me…and for you. I fall on my face in undressed shame that God would do such a thing for me. I am undone and wrecked by His unbelievable suffering for my sake. We are so unworthy! But the fact remains, Papa did the unthinkable.

So as we celebrate our King and Savior, remember that it is joyous for us but painful for daddy. Always remember the message of the cross. The cross is awful, bloody, unthinkably painful, and a symbol of a love that surpasses even the best words to describe. The good news of Christ was not good news for dad. It cost Him everything. Get it? IT COST HIM EVERYTHING! He laid His own precious Son down to buy you back. What Abraham didn’t have to do…God did…

Dear Papa, I love you so much. Thanks Dad for buying me back. Thank you Father for not turning your back on this unappreciative mess of a human. Jesus, my brother, my King, and my Savior, thank you for obeying Papa. Holy Spirit, my counselor and guide and comforter, thank you for sharing this truth with me and pouring Papa’s love deep into my heart.

Oh my God!!!! I am so undone.

tears

Heaven at Pickett Lake

Today the sky is a sapphire.

I wish words could not imprison meaning…

Because to even describe the blue today,

would be an injustice to what I see.

Pickett Lake hides far from the careless wanderer,

and I know why: it is a protected place.

a sacred place for those who know by whispers…

Truly, I have never seen such placid and calm water:

The shallows are crystal clear,

and the depths are emerald green…

Water such as this is only seen in peaceful dreams

I have no clue as to why or how it has this mystical color…

But today I will savor it…like I live here.

I often speculate what heaven will be like…

however, wonder has turned to a divine glimpse.

If I could loose the bonds of flesh,

surely I would soar above the trees…

twisting

turning

plunging

darting,

through the blades of grass,

between the dogwoods,

into the emerald reflection,

hover one inch above the water

and slink upon its surface,

sometimes looking ahead at the glass before me,

and sometimes flipping on my back,

looking up into an eternal sky…

and letting the cool lake stroke my back.

I would stand with arms outstretched,

and fall confidently off the bluff,

and just before impacting the water…

I would pull up and do a loop

then dive head first into the depths.

Then I would sit at the bottom of the lake,

not needing to come up for air.

Yes, I would lie on my back underwater,

put my hands behind my head and recline on a bed of pond grass

and gaze at the ripples I created above me.

Then I would streak through the lake at the speed of light,

right into the soil of the bank,

enter the roots of a spruce

and spray out of the twigs through every needle…

I would take a ride on the wind–

swirling and flowing around and between

all of God’s creation.

Cooling in the shade, then warming in the sun.

All this I could do,

and here at Pickett Lake I could stay for a while.

Then I hear the voice of my King say,

“Oh, sweet man of mine!

there is an eternity

and an infinity

of places like this, yet gloriously different…

And when you have explored a million,

there will be a million more!

And then we will create new things,

new trees, new lakes, new creatures, new pleasures,

new friends, new flowers, new sunsets…

Here!  Paint this sunrise…

use as many hues as you like,

and we can create new colors!”

In all this, we give praise to the Almighty…

Sing His praises…yes, with new songs!

For all things have passed away and…

Behold! All things have become new.

But Pickett Lake will always dance in my soul’s memory and that’s where it will eternally live.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sometimes I just marvel at the blindness, often I chuckle at the televangelist, and more often than not my heart becomes heavy with burden and sadness.  What causes this condition?  As I look around, I see people struggling; I see people looking for answers, thirsting for relief, searching for the magic bullet of what will bring them happiness.  As Christians, we shuffle around floating from doctrine to doctrine trying to figure out which of these doctrines will cure what ails us.  Or we get locked into a framework of doctrine that leaves us empty.  You have the holiness doctrine, the doctrine of healing, the prosperity gospel, the name it and claim it gospel, the end times gospel, and on and on it goes!  The real kicker here is that the answer is staring us right in the face, hidden in plain sight, and yet our eyes our blind.  The true message is speaking to us, but we do not have ears to hear.

Before I offer the Scriptural message to you, ponder this little fact:  we all have limits.  Think about it.  In human terms, most of us are just average Joe’s (no offense to all the Joes out there!).  We are limited by our abilities, limited by our resources, limited by our place of origin, and especially limited by our years living on this earth.  Even if we completely “sell-out” and work our butt off, we can only go so far!  So most of us just settle-in comfortably to “average”, cozy up to the notion that we are destined to just get by, and raise the white flag of “I did the best I could”.  Some people just have a burning inside of them that either condemns them or drives them or both.  That burning is the desire to be better, to be successful, to make their life count, to leave us average Joes in the dust cloud of sheer will power.  That is what makes successful people successful!  But even that super motivated, workaholic runs out of steam at some point.  So what’s the point here?  You might reply, “Are you trying to cheer us up?  If you are, then you’re doing a real horrid job of it!”  But wait, there’s more…

Now let’s look at it from a Christian perspective.  We have literally 100’s of verses in the Bible that tell us that “we can do all things”, that “the Lord blesses us”, that “eye has not seen nor ear heard or even entered into the heart what God has for us”, that Christ promises us “life more abundantly”, and there are many more.  The problem here is one of unbelief.  Oh, we recite these verses and we hear preachers trying to motivate us by chanting them to our deaf ears…but the fact remains…most of us don’t really believe what God says.  If we did, then the results would be obvious to us and obvious to everyone around us!  People lay in hospital beds and others sit next to the hospital beds claiming “by His stripes, we are healed”; and sadly, the number of folk who walk out of the hospital healed are very few.  I know, I know, I’m being harsh.  But bear with me as I prepare your heart for my message.

We really don’t believe the Bible.  We are taught the key by Christ Himself when He says, “If you only believe…”  If the Lord says we only need faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains, then we are in deep doo-doo!  What is going on here?  Now many of you are already spinning your mind around this, you are already putting up your doctrinal defense, and you have your own answers you want to throw at the screen!  I know it’s true and so do you.  Do yourself a huge favor:  shhhh…calm your mind and heart; I love you.  If you will let me, I am going to try to help us crack the box that we have crafted for our Lord.  I can’t destroy our man-made temple that we have built for God if we can’t quiet our spirit.  Now, let us open our hearts to God’s love, let us allow the Spirit to renew our minds, and let us really allow the Spirit to do some major renovations right here and right now.

Ask yourself a question:  What is the most important thing in my life?  Now, before you answer let’s get real here…be honest with yourself.  With your spirit and God as your witness, think about where your time is spent, think about where your resources are spent, and think about what is on your mind most of the time.  If I knew you and spent time with you and a reporter wanted to interview me and ask me the question, “What is the most important thing in so-and-so’s life; what drives them, and what makes him/her ‘tick’?”  What would my objective answer be?  Would it be “The most important thing in his life is his family”, or “The most important thing in his life is his successful business”, or “He is totally a man on fire for God”?  Try to remove you from you, and try to be on the outside looking in.  Which assessment of a person is more accurate:  their assessment of themselves or the aggregate assessment of all the people who know them?  I am brutal, aren’t I?  Please bear with me!  I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I am not trying to make you feel guilty; I am setting up a bold and brave invitation…not an indictment. Just take a moment and imagine what the assessment would reveal. What would your best friend say if they knew it would be confidential?  What would the reporter learn about you from all that know you?  Let your defenses down for just a glimpse at the real “you” according to those that know you.

Let’s pretend that you are a poor person, that you are desperate for financial relief.  If I told you that in a particular field, at the edge of the woods that there was a chest full of money and the answer to all your financial woes, would you believe me?  If I were a person that you trusted and knew me to be a straight-up guy, would you believe me?  Let’s say that at first you don’t believe, but after a while you come to me and ask me if I’m serious.  I tell you that I am sincere and wouldn’t do you like that.  Your next question should be, “Well, do I have permission to go dig it up?”  I reply, “Yes, it is if you are willing to go and dig it up.”  The next logical question would be, “Where is this chest of money?”  At this, I simply hand you a map with very specific directions, ensuring that you wouldn’t get lost.  You are elated and begin to imagine life without all the worries of financial burdens, you would begin to plan your trip, and you would be excited beyond words.  “Finally!  The answer to my troubles”, you murmur to yourself.

A month passes, and I see you at the grocery store checking-out with your wife at the register.  I notice you have more coupons than cash!  You look up at me sheepishly and know already what I will ask.  If I asked you why you haven’t gone and retrieved the treasure, what would your response be?  Oh, you could make up all kinds of reasons, but the fact of the matter is…you don’t believe me!  You must have thought that it is too good to be true…right?  Because there could be no other explanation:  excuses like not enough time, couldn’t afford to take time off from work, my wife wouldn’t let me, or even the worst of all that “I don’t deserve it” just couldn’t explain away the fact that you just darn well don’t believe me.  How ridiculous is that! You are vainly struggling with a problem when the solution has already been given.  Is that insanity?

The fact of the matter is this:  if you really believed me, then you would have done everything in your power to get to that chest as soon as possible; nothing could have stopped you!  We have seen what people will do for money and any person on the planet would have run, not walked, to the place on the map.  So you see, it is all about believing!

Now hear me and believe me when I tell you that what is being offered to you is far greater than a chest of money!  Riches beyond your wildest dreams, joy that cannot be contained, no guilt or shame involved, and a secure future to look forward to is all on the table…if…if you could only believe!  There is a map, there is a way, and there’s even a Guide!  I’m sure you are getting the picture here but I’ll ask this question for you, “What is the offer that I can’t refuse?”

The offer is a new life; the offer is what is called a spiritual life.  The pure gospel of grace!  This gospel was Christ’s mission; Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God and announcing its arrival…not in the past, not in the future, but rather right here and right now.  Christ boldly promises that if we only believe that through Him we have complete and total forgiveness for our sins, for all our shortcomings, for all our fleshly desires, then we may enter this new kingdom. This kingdom invites us into a new way of living, a new way of loving, a new way to see the world in full color…that is what is on the table.  Christ promises us that we can be born again, that we can walk through life as different creatures, that we can be the blessed friend of God!  Is that not good news?!  Oh, sorry…there is one catch…you have to believe that a spiritual life is possible and that GOD IS LOVE. You have to believe that Christ paid the FULL PRICE OF ADMISSION for you.   All the baggage of religion, preconceived notions of what the meaning of life is, all the world telling you it is not possible, and your own flesh saying to you, “It isn’t possible and even if it is…I could never live a holy enough life to have audience with God anyway” or “It is just too good to be true”.  I testify to you as someone who loves you that you don’t have to be good enough, you can “come as you are”, and that I tell you the truth!  Remember at the beginning when we discussed how limited our lives are?  What if I told you that your life could be limitless?  I am straight-up telling you that your life can be limitless…I don’t care how “average” you think you are!  So what’s the catch?

The only price of admission is reading the map in the Book of John, and placing your life on God’s altar as a sweet sacrifice.  When we give our lives totally and completely to God, He takes what once was weak and makes it strong, He takes lack and turns it into plenty, He takes sadness and turns it into joy, and above all else…GOD KEEPS HIS WORD.  This is not religion; this is Jesus and an authentic relationship with His Holy Spirit.  This is not a new “laundry list” of rules to live by…this is abiding in His love.  This is not natural; this is supernatural.  You can’t do it alone; you will be given the greatest power on the planet we call the Earth:  The Holy Spirit, the Guide, the Teacher, your personal Advocate.  When you offer up what you can’t keep anyway, He makes an exchange with you and gives you what can never be taken away!  That is the pure Gospel; that is the “good news”.  You offer up temporal things and He gives you eternal things in this life and in the life to come.  Don’t be fooled my friend, a life given to God is unimaginable; the life committed to a spiritual walk with God is far from boring.  Everything in life screams that it is not possible!  The enemy is hard at work keeping you unaware of a powerful calling in your heart…the enemy is no fool.  Wake up Christians!  Come walk in the Spirit and find the life and the unimaginable love of God that has evaded you so very long…there is more…so much more…but do you believe?  God wants to make a transaction with you:  trade your belief for His faith, trade your doubts for His grace!

DO…………….YOU……………BELIEVE?

…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for JOY over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found ONE pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it…  Matthew 13:44-45

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE?”  John 3:6-9

In the Name of God, I pray that you will take my word and view the map in His Word,

Gideon

If Just For A Moment

 

If just for a moment

I can glimpse the man who could be…

If just for a moment

I could grasp the weight of eternity…

In that moment I would seize all that is fleeting

And find an anchor where all hearts are beating

If just for a moment

When I stand gazing up at the stars

Could I find a place in the Creator’s arms?

I would give all that can be given

To be His choice and to be forgiven

If just for a moment

As I stand at the edge of the world

With waves breaking all that can be broken

And singing the lullaby of life now repeating

Does my Lord hear my heartbeat amongst all the beating

and pain

and fires to be stoked

and I wish He would send me a whisper of His love

If just for a moment

I remember the ones I have lost

My heart strains at the memory of love’s forsaken

Why do they go and where have they gone

To a heart that is weeping and spent

I want to believe my sweet memories

Live and have life

If just for a moment

But I know a moment is priceless

It lives on in the hearts that receive it

I want to kiss the wind that brings it

And wrap my arms around the phantom of memory

If just for a moment

As I reach out to God

He reaches back to me

All that is and will be is captured by His gaze

And I can rest in His love

If just for a moment…

Purified by Hope

images (26)

WARNING: This will change your life. If you take the time and comprehend what the Scripture is saying, you will be transformed! Enter at own risk…

Did you know that hope can purify you? The Christian walk is steeped in hope. Not by hope in general, but rather by a specific hope. I think most of us as Christians have many hopes: eternal life in heaven, meeting our loved ones in heaven, the hope that someone in our life who is lost will come to Christ, and the list can go on. But the Bible, more accurately, the New Testament, has a golden thread of a specific hope that is woven into the writings of our forefathers. It is almost like a hidden truth that must be excavated, like uncovering a hidden treasure. The reason for this is beyond my knowledge; although, conjecture leads me to propose that maybe some spiritual truths absolutely must be “mined out” by spending time in the Word, that maybe the Spirit has left clues throughout His inspired words for the faithful to discover, or maybe it is hidden on purpose so we have to work at it! All that is conjecture. However, I want to share with you an amazing Truth that the Spirit showed me while studying 1 John, chapter 3. Enjoy…

1 John 3:2-4 says,

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

The astounding statement here is two-fold. Number one, that one day we will “be like Him”; and number two, this hope purifies us. Or rather, when we see Him we will be like Him. Sounds simple enough, but it is not that simple. That sounds incredible for when that day comes, but what about today? We can’t see Him physically now. If that is the case, then how do we become more like Him? You see, there is a truth here that is simply magnificent. The truth is that we can ONLY be transformed by “seeking His face”, by beholding Him, and by straining our spiritual eyes to see Him. For to not see Him, is to not know Him, and that leaves us unchanged. Sanctification (or purification) necessarily requires the Spirit to give us the eyes to see Him. But don’t take my word for it; let’s look at some scriptures that make my point for me!

2 Corinthians 3:18 says,

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

And 1 Corinthians 13:12 says,

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

Notice in the verses cited above that it requires an action on our part, mainly to “see” or to “behold”. Also notice that the process of sanctification is described as “being transformed…glory to glory”. So the Bible is telling us something practical and supernatural here. But I wonder sometimes just how many of us take this seriously. Furthermore, don’t we sometimes think this some type of romantic notion, a philosophical and poetic suggestion, or even something we file away as “too deep to understand”? Honestly, what does it mean to see and behold Christ? If we can’t answer this question definitively then we are missing out on the glory and beauty that Christ purchased for us. Let’s look at few more verses and see if we can’t get to the heart of the matter.

Ephesians 2:4-7 says,

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

freedom from bondage

Please notice that the scripture above when it says “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, is in the past tense! That means it is already done, we don’t have to wait until we pass from this life to be seated with Him, and that the reason for this is so God can show the “surpassing riches of His grace”. We might be tempted to get confused here but bear with me; I will stitch this all together in a minute. One more passage of scripture and I will be off and running.

Romans 8:28-30 says,

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Notice the phrase “conformed to the image of His Son”. That is God’s definition of things working together for good. Good, in God’s eyes, is not to give you a comfortable life, health and wealth, or a fat checking account. Although God can and does bless us in these ways, His ultimate plan and goal, predetermined for you and me, is to be transformed into the image of His Son! How many times do we quote Romans 8:28 when times are tough? We forget that sometimes those tough patches are meant to refine us and cause us to lean more on God in faith and consequently, bring us closer and closer to the image of His Son.

You have no idea who you are. That’s right, I said it. I will repeat; you have no clue as to who you really are. How can I say that? I can say that honestly because our true identity is hidden in Christ. Part of our quest in this life is to find ourselves in Christ. If you really want to know who you were created to be, then the only way to begin to truly see yourself is to seek Jesus! The monumental and mind-blowing truth is two-fold: number one, to seek Christ is to seek your true identity; and number two, to NOT seek Christ is to deny who you are.

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How many times do we search our own hearts, try to figure things out by going inward, or rely on our own mind or will to correct what we perceive as a flaw in ourselves or a situation we need to address? We all do this from time to time, and some know no other way. The truth is that looking inward IS the solution; but where are we looking? We have to understand that our heart (same as our soul, biblically speaking) is not the place to look; that is the battleground. The true inward reflection is found in the spirit. The Bible is very clear on this fact: there is a difference between your soul and spirit. Your soul or your heart is where your mind, will, and emotions reside. If you rely on your emotions to steer you, then you will be tossed on the storm of emotions that all humans come equipped with; if you rely on your mind, then you are relying on a limited understanding (some more limited than others!); if you rely on your will, then inevitably you will fail. Even Paul in the book of Romans laments that even he is powerless to do the right thing (Romans 7:16-18), and actually delivers an awful verdict to himself. That verdict is found in verse 18 where he says, “I know that nothing good dwells in me”!

I know I promised “one last scripture”, but I have to bring into play one more (but don’t hold me to it). Now this passage is going to be the pivot-point of our understanding, so read it carefully at least once, if not twice. The context of this verse is Paul telling the Ephesians why and how he is praying for them. Paul is basically showing us a model prayer, and who prays a prayer (especially an apostle) that can’t be answered?

Ephesians 3:14-19 says,

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Did you catch that? Notice that we receive power in the “inner man”, and that it comes by agency of the Holy Spirit. For what reason? So that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. Simply put, Christ cannot live in our heart until the Spirit makes it possible. So if we want to see or behold Christ in our heart, then we have to be empowered to do so by the Spirit! You can’t do it, a preacher can’t do it, and believe it or not, Jesus can’t do it either. I speak to born again believers here. Jesus just won’t show up one day unannounced or uninvited; the Spirit must be invited and He will announce Jesus to us! This, by the way, is not a one-time shot; this is a day to day endeavor on our part. It requires a daily invitation for the Spirit to “strengthen us with power in the inner man”. So the connection is clear and undeniable. If we want to “behold” Jesus or “see” Jesus, we must do this spiritually. And that spiritual vision is a gift from God that comes from His Holy Spirit. Then and only then will we be able to be transformed “glory to glory” by beholding our magnificent Savior. So we absolutely must get this: the Spirit ministers to our spirit/inner man in a very intimate way; this is not the same as ministering to our soul/heart. Our spirit is deeper than our soul, but the ministering of the Spirit in our spirit radiates outward and changes our souls! Think of it like the spirit being the light bulb and the soul as the lampshade; the spirit “light bulb” warms and gives light to the soul “lampshade”. Another way to think of it is like a circle within a circle within a circle: the inner circle is the spirit, the next circle is the soul, and the last circle is the physical body. True transformation happens from the inside-out; true change radiates from the deepest part of us and affects the soul and the body as well!

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The common thread is love. It is all about love. In 1 Corinthians 13 (The Love Chapter), notice I pulled out only one verse, verse 12, but the context of the entire chapter is love. In Ephesians 4, we notice that this process “roots and grounds us in love” and that we will “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge”. Now I DO have to apologize for one last verse (I told you I might and don’t be surprised if I toss one more in for good measure!).

Notice that Romans 5:5 says, “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” There it is! Hope purifies us because hope doesn’t disappoint. But why? Because the love of God is poured into us by the Holy Spirit.

Now I am going to pull it all together. Ready? The hope that purifies us is that one day we will be like Jesus. The reason this hope purifies us is that it makes us want to be more like Jesus now! If you truly allow the Spirit to minister to you, you will come to know that your destiny is to be like Jesus…your hero! The idea that one day, when we meet Him physically, we will see Him face-to-face, and at that moment we will clearly understand who we are and who we will be for eternity. This is such an awesome hope that God expects us to taste it right now. We behold Him now in the spirit, but we must have eyes to see. The Holy Spirit gives you these eyes…if you ask for them. We are purified by this hope. And this hope is more than a thought or a notion; it is a tangible and very real thing. When the Spirit pours the love of God into you, it becomes more real than anything in the physical world. This is the reality and the hope that Christ purchased for us. The Bible tells us that the Spirit is our “down-payment” for an eventual, full ownership. So we see through a glass dimly, so we only see in part, so we only get a glimpse; but what an incredible gift!

I invite you today to take Jesus up on His offer to walk in the kingdom NOW. It is true. You can walk now in the kingdom by seeking Holy Spirit’s help and counsel and love and knowledge. But how do we do this? The answer literally yells out from the Gospel of Luke. Luke records an amazing statement right from Jesus’ mouth:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:9-13 (NASB)

Paul prayed for his Church to walk in the Spirit’s power, Jesus tells us to ask for the Spirit’s power, and the Father knows how to give good gifts! Once you taste that the Lord is good and His love is poured into you by the Spirit, you will have that hope. Maybe you forgot what that is like, maybe the memory of when you were first saved has faded, but God wants to invite us back…every day! This hope makes God and His love very real to you. This hope is that one day you will stand before Christ and finally know who you are, who you have always been destined to be, and who you will always be. The race that we run is toward divine and pure love. Our destiny is to be like Jesus, conformed to His image, forever wrapped in heaven’s embrace and God’s love for His children.

One last scripture found in this photo (see, I snuck another one in on you!)

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Be full of hope my brothers and sisters!

Gideon