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Wounds

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 “The wounds from a lover are worth it; kisses from an enemy do you in.”  Proverbs 27:6

A famous Christian lady, contemplating the beauty of Christ, once asked the Lord to grant her the grace of three wounds:

  1. True contrition
  2. Natural compassion
  3. Unshakeable longing for God

When we are looking for a prayer we often say:

“Come Holy Spirit.”

Do we know what we are asking for? What are you expecting to happen when you pray that prayer? Are you looking for an instant anointing or a submissive relationship? Have you ever considered that one aspect of this prayer may be leading you towards a greater wounding?

Surely an encounter with God’s holiness will lead us to repentance. In the Catholic mass, in memory of the story concerning the Pharisee and the tax collector, they have an act of contrition when they will symbolically “beat their breast” in memory of the justified one who cried out:

“Have mercy on me a sinner!”

Amazingly, the holy apostle Paul carried this wound throughout his life saying to his disciple Timothy:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”

Far from paralysing him in unhealthy condemnation, this wound released him into a growing revelation of grace.

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”

English: Gian Lorenzo Bernini - Dove of the Ho...

Christ bore the wounds of compassion well before they took physical form on the cross. The Holy dove who revealed the loving Father was the same that put deep within him an inner wrenching of his being as he stood before the lost and loveless of this world. He wept at Lazarus’ tomb, tenderly grasped the hand of Jairus’ dead daughter and felt his heart crushed by the crowds of the unreached.

 

“…When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.”What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”        Matthew 9:36-38

 Sometimes, because of the fear of this wound, we become “Christian Buddhists”, detaching ourselves from the reality of suffering to enter our own comfort zone of non commitment, dwelling in our own personal “nirvana” of Christian friends, materialism, text messages and e mails. This detachment, like the sugary kisses from an enemy, does us in!

The only way to find release from the wound of compassion is to get on your knees and then get your hands dirty by crossing over into real interaction with the “huge harvest.”

All brides should be lovesick! If we are not lovesick, we make Christ sick!

Can you imagine Christ saying to his boring, scared, safe, middle of the road, nice, passionless church….

“You make me spew!” (Revelation 3:16)

And you thought you were the only one who got nauseous on Sunday! Morning sickness can also be one of the first signs of a new beginning!

I was once involved in a meeting of missionary leaders. I felt something was wrong with the time and one night I woke up with a picture of an immense pair of long woolly knickers…No, it wasn’t one of those dreams! I then felt the Lord, in a humorous way, give me the following words.

“These are passion killers! They are like your meetings!”

The bride in “Revelation 21:2″ is making herself ready; she is:

“prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her  husband.”

God is looking for the beauty of holiness, the sacrificial seeking of him in the dawn of each day, the  desire to obey and the pure faithfulness of love.

“Kiss me–full on the mouth! Yes! For your love is better than wine, headier than your aromatic oils. The syllables of your name murmur like a meadow brook. No wonder everyone loves to say your name! Take me away with you! Let’s run off together! An elopement with my King-Lover! We’ll celebrate, we’ll sing, we’ll make great music. Yes! For your love is better than vintage wine. Everyone loves you–of course! And why not?”     Song of Solomon 1:2-4

 

And why not love the Lord with holy abandonment?

“Crown Him the Lord of love; see from his hands and side,                                                                                             

 Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.       

 No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,                                                                                                                                                                                       

 But downward bears his burning eye, at mysteries so bright.”

 The Spirit and the bride say “Come!”

Come Holy Spirit!

taken from the devotional book,  “A Fruit in Season”

 

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What is that in your hand?

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Successful ministry depends upon inner spiritual authority and depth. It is more about character than charisma. God constantly uses the events of our lives to disciple us into a deeper sense of his inner strength residing in our hearts through grace.

Authority comes through revelation not manipulation.

Moses

Moses (Photo credit: jimforest)

Exodus chapters 3 and 4 are such Biblical revelations taking us into the heart of God’s dealings with Moses in order to make him a true man of God. It all begins for Moses with a burning revelation of who God is. However the “burning wood” of the bush needs to become practical authority in the “staff” of Moses hand. Let’s look at the beginning of Exodus 4:1-9 which gives us some insight into Moses personal journey towards spiritual authority. It may well help us on our own personal trek with the Lord.

 “What if they do not believe me or listen to me…?”

 Moses begins like many of us with the fear of sharing his revelation. Many missionaries are in shut down mode because of a basic unbelief and fear that people will not respond to their message. We may do more training, conferences, set up prayer houses, and a host of other worthwhile activities, but we risk remaining on the periphery of genuine contact with our target culture. However, we will at some point have to confront the reality of speaking God’s word to other people.

 “What is that in your hand?”

Begin by accepting what is in your hand. Own your own character and history….Don’t fantasise about what you don’t have or can’t do.

 “Throw it down.”

There are seasons of abandon, of letting go and laying down our dreams and ministries before the Lord. Times of throwing down the masks and letting him take the initiative again.

 “It became a snake…”

What he feared happened! All hell sometimes breaks out! Our very “ministry” can become “hell”! Believe me this does happen. It is such a critical time. Perhaps we come face to face with our own sin and weakness, or get a revelation of the evil and danger around us. How will I react?

 “He ran from it…” 

Moses was human. He just wanted out. His knee jerk reaction was to run. When you want to run you can be sure that the Lord may have another option.

 “Reach out…and take it by the tail.” 

Moses' Rod Turned into a Serpent, illustration...

Moses’ Rod Turned into a Serpent, illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Face your fears head on. Grasp the nettle of your life. Confront the issues the problems and the people. Some folks keep running from their fears forever and make a ministry of it! At some time you have to stop running and reach out in faith to conquer your fears.

Are you a runner or a “reacher out”?

 “It turned back into a staff in his hand.” 

From fear to faith. Moses overcame his fear and reached out in faith. The very fear he ran from became the authority that would open a sea! The ministry that walks by faith through hell gains the authority to speak faith into other’s hell and makes a way for many to walk into freedom.

After learning the principle of faith overcoming fear, Moses gets a lesson on grace.

The revelation of grace and personal forgiveness is a key to spiritual authority.

 “Put your hand inside your cloak.” 

Moses takes an inward journey to his heart (Mark 7:21) and finds it sinful.

“It was leprous like snow.”

The great apostle Paul came to the conclusion that he was the worst of sinners, and when we truly begin to assess the motivations of our own heart we too will be discouraged by our shortcomings. So do we remain in leprous introspection and condemnation? Or do we respond anew to the call to repentance and grace?

 “Put it back into your cloak.”

Respond to grace and plunge your hand back into humble repentance as Naaman plunged into the healing waters of the Jordan. The crimson streams of Christ’s Calvary blood can indeed make the foulest clean.

 “It was restored.”

He breaks the power of cancelled sin! The sin is washed clean but the very Satanic, condemning power behind the sin is also put out of action. (“katargeo” – Romans 6:6)

One of Jesus’ first miracles was to change water into wine.  The last lesson Moses learns here is the principle of water into blood.

 “The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.

 Jesus’ blood soaked the ground of Jerusalem and manifested the spirit of sacrifice. The “water” of a superficial Christianity is called to become the victorious “blood” of a life laid down in sacrifice. Does our church have water or blood in its veins?

 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;

They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”     Revelation 12:11

 So here we have three principles for growing in spiritual authority.

Overcome fear through faith.

Overcome sin through repentance and grace.

Overcome the devil through sacrifice.

Moses still had his battles. He had his own personal “Passover” in verse 25 when, before a nation could avoid destruction by putting blood on the doorposts, he had to avoid personal extermination by having blood put on his feet. When we walk in God’s purposes we need to be rigorous in personal holiness keeping faith with the covenant of grace.

May your staff be true.

From Apathy to Sympathy

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Icon of Jesus Christ

 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses…” Hebrews 5:15

 The ancient Greeks highly valued the quality of being beyond the reach of pain. “Patheo”, suffering, was a too earthly ignoble thing. They worshipped a God beyond “patheo”, an apathetic God.

It is often said that we are what we worship. A God with no “passion”, no vulnerability produces a people immune to genuine human experience. On the one hand we see hard faced hordes addicted to busyness and decadence in order to escape the glance into the abyss, and on the other, prostrate practitioners bereft of feeling, willing to cause untold misery in the name of religion.

Some argue that without an “apathetic” God we have no sense of Sovereignty. God, indeed does not change, no-one can force God to suffer or impose suffering upon Him from outside of His own being.

However it may be worth considering two other possibilities.

  1.  God is free to change Himself.
  2. He is free to allow Himself to be changed by others and to allow them to make Him suffer.

God’s suffering is not suffering imposed on Him from the outside because of some weakness in Himself, but the suffering of love, an active, chosen, dynamic suffering.

Jesus’ words in John 10:18 hint at this principle of the sovereign choice of suffering.

 “No one takes it from me, but I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

 In Revelation 5:6, expecting to see the triumphant Lion of Judah, we see instead a “Lamb looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne.”

 At the very heart of God’s sovereign rule we find vulnerability and chosen suffering.

Even the very foundations of creation and history are imbued with the overflow of God’s intentional love and suffering in the Agnus Dei, “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:8

 The early Rabbis translated Psalm 18:35 (NIV – “you stoop down to make me great.”)

“You show to me your greatness through your self-humiliation.”

 God’s true greatness lies in His chosen self humiliation in Christ.

Rabbi Hershel saw in the Old Testament prophets a theology of “Pathos”. He saw their cries reflecting the wounded heart of God for His people. His wrath, a fiery curative expression of His own passion. Wrath and apathy never mix. So, far from being distantly apathetic, God is passionately caught up in human existence. He sympathises with us. He shares our very sufferings.

In the Trinity we see a sacrificing Father, an abandoned Son in the power of holy sacrifice called Spirit. This event explodes into the world bringing healing, hope, reconciliation and resurrection.

As the “apathy” of  ordinary Western life calls us away from the true “sympathy” of the Christ life  event when God stepped down into the world as a tender babe, let us turn away from our tearless idols, let our hearts be softened and let us sympathise with our fellow-men.

Handel’s Messiah begins with the description from Isaiah 40:11 of a shepherd God, gently leading His people.

 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

 Let the Lord carry you close to His heart this day.

Being close to God’s heart is the very opposite of apathy. It may well lead us into suffering, echoing the Lord’s words to the “chosen instrument” Paul in Acts 9:16.

 “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

 The theologian Jurgen Moltmann liberates us from a purely negative, fearful view of suffering.

“How is this to be understood? The person who suffers does not only protest against his fate. Indeed, he suffers because he lives, and he is full of life because he has an interest in life and because he loves. He who no longer loves becomes apathetic and no longer even suffers. Life and death are for him a matter of indifference. The more one loves, however, the more vulnerable one becomes. The more one becomes capable of suffering, the more one becomes capable of happiness. The reverse is also true. The more one is capable of joy, the greater one’s capacity for sorrow. This could be called the dialectic of human life. Love gives vitality to living, but it also makes man mortal. The vitality of life and the deadliness of death are experienced at one and the same time through that interest in life we call love.”

May you indeed  know that “interest in life” we call love.

That love that shone out from the face of Jesus – Godhead veiled in humble flesh. Pure Sovereignty stooping down into the mess of this world to make us great…but more indeed to show His greatness.

 

Moravian Seal, or Agnus Dei, stained glass win...