Radical Sermons for a Radical Generation [My new book]

WHAT WAS GOD THINKING?

December 9, 2016

 

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

 

These words have been heard in dozens, if not hundreds, of sermons throughout the past 30-40 years. I have received much comfort from these words when I found myself in trouble spiritually or just spending a stint in the wilderness. I’m sure you have quoted these words over your own life or even others who seem to be having a real tough time in life.   These words speak the very heart of God to us and we receive His love and comfort through them. We love it when God affirms us and it propels us towards seeking His face. Even though we love these words from God, they are usually taken out of context.   I will endeavor to explain in the next two examples below.

 

The first example will be Jeremiah 29:11-13; put in the context of the rest of the story that surrounds these words in chapter 29.   The second example will be the same, only from what has been my perspective; because of all the sermons I had heard over the years on this subject and never having studied it myself.   I will quote the verses in italics, but add the reality of both perspectives in my own words.

 

GOD’S PERPSECTIVE

 

Scripture God’s Perspective
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord . . .” My thoughts are to send you into Babylon because you have consistently disobeyed My voice and have pursued other things. I warned you of this through Moses in Deuteronomy 28:47-57 when I spoke of a nation of fierce countenance coming against you because you refused to obey My voice. Through this hardship I will tenderize your heart and once again capture your attention so that I will be first place in your life.

 

” . . . thoughts of peace and not of evil . . .” I spoke to you, and My thoughts were for you to seek the peace of Babylon, the evil nation that carried you away to your new home. That you should pray for peace to be upon Babylon so that you also could live in peace. Because in Babylon’s peace you will have peace. (Jeremiah 29:7)

 

” . . . to give you a future and a hope.” You will find this hope as you live in Babylon and endure the hardship that I have sent you into.     As you take wives and have children in Babylon you will increase and not decrease. This is your future when I bring you back from Babylon. I have not determined evil against you, but have disciplined you as a son. No son is without discipline otherwise you are a illegitimate son. (Jeremiah 29:6)
“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” When you find yourselves living in Babylon, then you will pray and call on My name because you will find yourselves in a foreign land next door to neighbors who live and do things that you are not accustomed to. You will be a stranger in a very strange land with people observing you with scrutiny and criticism, yet it will cause you to cry out to Me and seek Me with all of your heart! Don’t be discouraged! I will listen to you!

(Jeremiah 29:11-15)

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Don’t be like your brethren who disobeyed Me and didn’t go to Babylon with you. They stayed in Jerusalem because they thought I would deliver them from Babylon, yet I sent the sword, famine, pestilence, and a curse upon them because they did not heed My words. You are different because you heeded My words and set your heart to seek Me. As you seek Me with all your heart you will find Me as you live in Babylon!

(Jeremiah 29:16-20)

 

 

 

MY PERSPECTIVE

 

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord . . .” This is how I always heard it preached: God has big plans for me. I will be used by God to perform miracles and healings and bring glory to His name.     Yes, God has big plans! They might start out small, but be faithful and He will make them big.

 

Can you relate to this?

 

 

 

“ . . . thoughts of peace and not of evil . . .” Again, this is how I heard it preached: “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” God will cause me to prosper no matter what I put my hand to.     He is all about prospering His children. No child of God should be down or depressed, sad or bummed out (old hippy term). God is not out to harm us and He is always for us so we won’t have to be bummed out! God is going to give me the wealth of the nations, so get ready! God is always on my side and anything He does will make me walk with a smile and be joyful! If anything bad comes upon me it’s the Devil and he must be rebuked from my life; otherwise, the bad thing that came upon me is because of my own sin.

 

NOTE: The translation I always heard preached used the word “prosper” instead of “peace”. Since they were to seek the peace of Babylon, using the word prosperity would mean something altogether different. God was not concerned about prospering Babylon, but He was concerned that they would have peace, because He had sent His people their to be re-adjusted in their lives and thinking. Peace in Babylon was very significant at that point in time because it meant peace for His people.

 

” . . . to give you a future and a hope.” If God’s thoughts towards me are for peace and to give me a future, then I should go out and celebrate this fact. So why not buy a bag of donuts or snickers bars and celebrate! After all, how can it get any better than to have peace and a future! The hope that I was seeing had to do with my success as a Christian. Everyone I would meet or share the gospel with should be instantly saved and miraculously changed so I could be affirmed as a dynamic and fruitful believer. If this didn’t happen my future looked very bleak!
“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Simply put: If God has plans to prosper me and I believe it, then when I pray in faith He will always hear me and answer my prayers.     Saints, it doesn’t get any better than this! Jesus said whatever I ask in His name He will give it. If my prayers are not being answered, then there is something wrong in my life!     Beloved, this was not what Israel was thinking at the time!

 

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” If God’s thoughts are for me to prosper because of His great plans for me; then if I seek Him, I will always find Him. It was never told me that God sometimes hides Himself! So once again I’m introspecting because I think I’ve ticked Him off somehow and He is ignoring me. “Hey God! You have big plans for me! Why are You not showing up so I can see them come to pass?” I’ve learned since then that “God loves the struggle!” He hides so we will search through thorns and thickets (if we have to) in order to find Him. This deepens our relationship with Him when it’s a struggle to find Him.

 

I’m sure everyone that has heard these verses preached has a different interpretation of what they mean. The main thing that I wanted to point out was that they are usually taken out of context and used for personal uplifting. If we were to talk with an Israelite from that era, they would interpret it much differently then we do. It was very personal to them because everything about their life changed instantly.   Their house was gone! Their income was gone! Their livestock was gone! Their freedom was gone! Their way of life in Israel was gone! God wanted their attention! He wanted them to be hearing and obeying. Jesus’ words to us today are no different!

 

“He who loves Me, obeys My commandments!”

THE WORLD IS SUFFERING AN INVASION

Words, words, words!   The world is filled with words!   Words cover the face of the earth and words fill every valley and rest on every mountaintop. Words are in the ocean depths and extend to the outer most limits of the universe. Words fill our homes, schools, markets, workplaces, streets, cities, and nations.   Words, words, words! There are words of business and an abundance of words in advertisements. There are words between friends, lovers, and even haters. We have words for our pets and special words for when we smash our thumb using a hammer! In all these trillions upon trillions of words spoken, what about the voice — the still, small voice. The small voice that said in the beginning, “Let there be light!” The small voice that still speaks that same thing today.   He has not raised the decibel level of His voice. His words are still as powerful today as they were in the beginning. The problem that we face is how to sort out His words from all the rest. In this day of who can have the loudest voice, we find screamers and yellers, complainers and skeptics, those that speak very loving words to their pets, yet curse, swear and excoriate scathingly their very own children. The advertisements we hear tell us what we want, what we need, and how to get it. They also tell us, in detail, about our sickness or disease and what we can purchase to fix it. They say that when we obtain their product we will feel so much better — it’s as if God Himself has touched us! Yes they don’t say those words, but they insinuate by their words this very message.   Don’t get me started on the process of electing a president. One man cannot save our country!

 

One man can save the world and His voice has been heard from the beginning! He has spoken and we have heard Him, yet His voice is drowned out by screamers and yellers.   He has spoken but we have been to busy listening to other voices that we don’t hear Him anymore. I cannot emphasis enough that the voice of the Lord has spoken to everyone that lives on this planet. He has spoken to Hitler,            ,              ,                , (you fill in the blank) and many other men and women that most would label to be evil and wicked people. You might ask how has He spoken to them? Listen to the words of Jesus in John 6:44-45. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him . . . It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (emphasis mine) Didn’t Jesus just say that God taught all? He also said that everyone who listened and learned from God would eventually come to Him.   All of us hear Him speak, but we all do not listen and learn. What was our heart response to His voice throughout our childhood and into our adult years? Even in our darkest most sinful moments He is speaking to us. We will either listen to Him or listen to all the other voices — strangers, friends, our own, or even the voice of the evil one. Who are you listening to? His voice always leads us to Jesus and repentance. We can’t have Jesus without repentance.

 

How do we know when it’s His voice speaking and not our own? We won’t unless we have a standard to measure by. A standard that is permanently fixed as an anchor that is solidly placed and will not be moved. This anchor is the Bible!   I see many that rejoice in the fact that they have the Holy Spirit in their lives and they trust Him to give them words of encouragement, words of prophetic utterance, or even words to direct their very own lives. The Holy Spirit does lead us into all truth and is our teacher, but we still must have an anchor holding us to the foundation. What is the foundation? Have you read through the book of Jeremiah lately? Ninety-five percent of the book of Jeremiah is God’s voice speaking. He is speaking very clearly to all who would hear Him. I point this out because Jesus also knew this as He walked this earth.   As a boy He learned to hear the voice of God through listening to the writings of men like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Moses. These books were read in the synagogues and Joseph and Mary took Him there regularly. While in the synagogue, Jesus would hear words like the following taken from Isaiah 42:14-17: “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself.   Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once. I will lay waste the mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will make the rivers coastlands, and I will dry up the pools. I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.   They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, who trust in carved images, who say to the molded images, ‘You are our gods.’ ” These words express the very heart of God towards His people. Jesus heard these words also and received them deep into His very being because He knew He was to be the fulfillment of them. On that silent night in Bethlehem it wasn’t just Mary crying out in labor; God, the Father, was doing the same!

 

God has heart responses in the same way that we have heart responses, of which we call emotions. His responses come from a heart that has no evil intent or selfish desires. His desire is for us and for our good, and Jesus Himself has expressed this desire: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?   Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?(emphasis mine) As God was expressing Himself through Isaiah in the above paragraph, He was proclaiming to His people the same message as He did through Jesus. My paraphrasing goes like this: “You are more valuable to Me than birds and I will come upon you so very strongly that all the mountains and hills in your life will be wasted to nothing! You who are blind I will lead you through darkness and crooked places. I will open your eyes with blinding light so that you will be ashamed of what you have given yourself to. This thing I will do for you!”

 

Hosea 11:8-10 also speaks expressly concerning the Father’s heart for His children. “My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of My anger. . . For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror. They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling.” They will come trembling not in terror but with great respect. They tremble because they hear His voice! When someone truly hears His voice they can’t help but tremble. If we don’t tremble then we haven’t heard.   I know some of you will take up issue with that statement saying that He is our Daddy and not just our Lord. I must ask you, didn’t you tremble in your earthly dads presence when you knew he wasn’t happy with your actions or responses?   Even our earthly dads knew what was best for us. Remember, our dads were not like our heavenly Father; they had wicked, sinful, evil hearts; yet even in their weakness, they knew we could do better.   When we tremble at God’s word it shows that we have a healthy fear of the Lord. Did you know that Scripture says the opposite of the fear of the Lord is to be a fool? Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is the very key to hearing His words/voice. His voice brings wisdom for living, and His words bring instruction to be able to walk out His wisdom in the fear of the Lord.   We will notice, in the Bible, that there is a pattern of response from those who hear the voice of the Lord.   All these listed below fell on their faces after having an encounter with God. If we have never fallen on our face or even shed one tear after we read the Bible, we must ask ourselves if we even have a relationship with Him.

 

Abraham (Genesis 17:3)

Moses (Exodus 3:6, Numbers 16:4, 20:6)

Joshua (5:14)

David (2 Samuel 12:16)

Ezekiel (1:28, 3:23)

Daniel (10:8-11)

Peter (Luke 5:8)

Mary (John 11:32)

Paul (Acts 9:4)

John (Revelation 1:17)

Ananias (Acts 5:5) He didn’t fall down as dead, he was dead!

The 24 elders (Revelation 4:10, 5:8,14)

The angels and the four living creatures (Revelation 7:11)

 

It isn’t just the faithful that hear His voice and fall down. The willfully unfaithful and the wicked will hear and also bow as Philippians 2:10 says: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” If we love Jesus we will obey Him. Obedience is the determining factor between those who are faithful and those who are unfaithful.

THE HOT BUTTON

Imagine if Jesus was walking the earth today and He invited you into His home for dinner. Upon your arrival He invites you in, you sit down, and He asks you what you would like to drink. He gives you several options — beer, margarita, bloody Mary or just wine?   Making this observation you would have to infer that Jesus had a wet bar in His house. To some this would not be a surprise, because they also have a wet bar in their house. Yes, they invite other believers over for fellowship and maybe even a Bible study and don’t even think twice about trying to justify their bar. It is acceptable to them and to God — He doesn’t care.   Even Jesus drank wine would be the quick response of those who imbibed in intoxicating drink. I must ask, when Jesus made wine at the wedding in Cana and those who tasted it said they had kept the best wine till last, was this wine fermented? Did Jesus take care to add the fermentation process to the water He had just turned into wine? You can argue this, but knowing Jesus’ desire to have a holy people we must conclude that it was sweet wine — not fermented.

 

This topic is a very hot button for believers in this day. They would rather fight than switch, to use an old commercial quip. They are completely convinced that drinking is an acceptable social decision, no matter where they are or who they are around. They would also be adamant to tell you that it is not really addressed in the Bible except in Ephesians 5:18 where it says, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation.” Most interpret this to say that someone should not over indulge; know your limits. The word dissipation does mean an act of self-indulgence, but if you look at the word dissipate it means to use up wastefully; gradually vanish. So if you drink and do get drunk, you dissipate.   Does this mean you use up the wine wastefully so that it gradually vanishes, or does it mean you waste and use up gradually the desire for God, holiness, and purity for which He has poured out His Spirit upon you. In the Amplified Bible the word debauchery is used instead of dissipation. The word debauchery means extreme indulgence, orgies, seduction from virtue. The very term “seduction from virtue” should make us run from any kind of intoxicating drink. I know that I have not convinced some of you on this subject so I must share some Scriptures and let you decide if they are relevant for you or not.

 

In 1 Peter 2:5 it says “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (emphasis mine) Plainly stated, we are a holy priesthood! A priest stands before God and offers up sacrifices to God on behalf of himself and others. Another Scripture that mentions us as priests is in Revelation 1:5-6 which states “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.” (emphasis mine) Plainly stated again, we have been made priests of God. We are no different than the priests of the Old Testament except for our sacrifices. We go into the Holy of Holies just like the OT high priest, but what we offer to God is our spiritual sacrifices through praise, prayer, and worship on behalf of ourselves and others. We will be doing this forever. In light of these Scriptures mentioned, we must take seriously what God has called us to be. That being said, we must look at priests in the OT and capture God’s heart as He speaks to them about holiness.

 

The first encounter between priest and God is in Leviticus 10:1-11. We see Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu which were priests along side their father.   To set the stage for this story we must look at Leviticus 9:22-24. Moses and Aaron had just offered the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offering. They went into the tabernacle and came out to bless the people. When they had come out God’s glory fell and the people saw it and fire preceded from the Lord consuming the sacrifice. All the people who saw it fell on their faces. Then it says that Nadab and Abihu took their censers with fire in them and put incense on them and offered this fire to God. God had not commanded them to do this thing so the fire that came out from the Lord devoured them. Was this simply an act of disobedience or was there another factor involved? Moses told Aaron what the Lord had spoken to him saying: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.” (Leviticus 10:3) It was at this point that the Lord spoke to Aaron saying, Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” (10:8-10   – emphasis mine) This seems to be very clear that this command was given directly after the incident with Nadab and Abihu. It could be concluded that they had been drinking and were not able to properly discern the mind of the Lord, thus they were killed. This must be taken seriously if we are to distinguish between the holy and the unholy. Drinking alters our perspective. God also speaks this same thing through Ezekiel in chapter 44:21, ” No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court.” To the wise saint this should be enough to make us reconsider our drinking habits. But I must also reveal what God said through Isaiah in chapter 28:7, “They also have erred through wine, and through intoxicating drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, they are swallowed up by wine, they are out of the way through intoxicating drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.” (emphasis mine) This is a picture of some believers that I know personally. They are swallowed up by wine! There is no discernment in their lives. They have no idea the day and the hour that we live in! Their judgment is twisted and they cannot distinguish between what is holy and what is profane. This is a very sad state to be in. I pray their eyes will be opened before it’s to late.

 

You who desire to follow the Lord with your whole heart, you must take these next Scriptures seriously. God wants us to be completely separated for His purposes and for His glory. God spoke to Moses about any man or woman who desired to consecrate themself. It was in regard to taking a Nazirite vow in order to separate himself to the Lord. He would abstain from drinking wine and similar drink. He goes on to describe abstinence not just from fermented wine or drink, but also from grape juice (sweet wine). God loves the Nazarite! This love is also portrayed in the book of Daniel. I can’t prove that Daniel was a Nazarite, but he did abstain from wine. “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.” (Daniel 1:8) We know that Daniel had the ability to interpret dreams and was praised for his insights. He was taken captive to Babylon and had his manhood removed from him, but he still determined not to defile himself. God’s response to Daniel is recorded in 10:11and 19, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved.” God expressed His love for Daniel and placed him in a position of authority in order for Him to speak to kings. God looks for someone who’s heart is completely sold out to His purposes. Anyone who loves the world is an enemy of God. This world is filled with wineries and brewery’s that continue to spew out their venom to all who desire drink. To all who desire the buzz. We look at the wineries as if they have some kind of magical allurement to a better life.   House after house filled with wine racks ready to serve. In God’s reality, the vineyard is for fellowship that He might partake of its sweet fruit. Jesus talked much about the vineyard in the context of His desire to partake of the sweet wine of fellowship.   We know that Jesus only did what pleased the Father. If God changed His attitude towards wine and strong drink when Jesus came then He is very wishy-washy and His word can’t be trusted no matter what He says.

Where have all the Jesus People gone?

I’m a painter by trade and have my own business. I have no PHD or formal training in Eschatology. I have been a believer since 1971 and spent the first 20 years of my Christian walk living in a community with other “Jesus People”.   My first experiences with sharing my faith happened in the summer of 1972 after accepting Jesus as my Lord.   A group of “Jesus People” from Spokane, Washington, came to Des Moines, Iowa. I went out on the downtown streets with them and experienced the most radical style of evangelism. We would walk with businessmen for blocks sharing Jesus with them because they were too busy to stop and talk to us. The streets of downtown Des Moines were never the same from that day on!

 

These years were spent in evangelism of every kind: from preaching outside of Jehovah’s Witness’ conventions to being spit on and having tracts burnt in front of our face at Kiss concerts; from visiting prisoners in prison to preaching Jesus on Bourbon Street during the Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday. Which, by the way, is the most insane place I have ever been in my life–although this year (2014) I had flashbacks when we went to the LGBTQ festival and parade to share Jesus. Definitely shades of Mardi Gras insanity to be seen by all! We did outreach from open air skits at Pella (home of Iowa’s tulip festival), to being threatened by carnies at county fairs as they tried to run us out of town. I must point out that God is faithful when we put our trust in Him as we preach the gospel. At one point of our ministry, we went into triple xxx porn shops to talk to the employees or even the owners. Keeping your eyes on the person you are talking to is of utmost importance in these situations. If you are not talking to someone at the moment all you can do is stair at the floor.   We also did a lot a bar witnessing every weekend. In these situations you have to scream over the music in order to talk to someone.   God was faithful to us in our outreaches; in fact, I would have never met, Sandy, my wife, if we hadn’t been in the bar sharing Jesus. So from door to door and from town to town, in winter and in summer (20 degrees below zero to 110 above), we did this for 20 years and learned very much about people, their lifestyles, and belief systems. Yes, I was considered “one of those” crazy Jesus followers that would always greet you on the street corner with the words “God loves you very much” and then always leave you with the words “Jesus is coming soon!” You would be greeted with God’s love and then encountered by His soon coming in order to invoke the fear of the Lord; that you might repent.

 

In the community which I lived, we had teaching on deliverance, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and what it means to be a disciple. We had Old Testament and New Testament survey classes, leadership training courses, classes on counseling and church growth. There was training on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how to walk in them. Everyone was required to take a course on Watchman Nee’s book entitled Spiritual Authority, which did give insight and understanding on what submission to authority looked like in an age of rebellion. There were seminars on inner and physical healing, worship symposiums, evangelism explosion courses and how to make goals and see them fulfilled. We were well equipped for every good work. These were all very good, yet we didn’t have much teaching on Eschatology. We just knew that Jesus could come back at any given moment and you didn’t want to be in the midst of doing something stupid when He did.

 

I’ve come to the realization in the past five years that from Genesis to Revelation, there is a consistent theme and direction progressively moving towards an intentional end result which has been revealed in the book of Revelation.   There are no isolated incidents in Scripture. They all point to God’s intended results in the end; the consummation of the ages leading to the eradication of evil and the reign of Christ Jesus forevermore!

 

Six years ago, while living in Minnesota, my wife and I had an awakening in our lives. We had been faithful to God, but did not have much intimacy with Him. We went to a “Onething” Regional Conference sponsored by IHOP-KC (International House of Prayer) which is based in Kansas City, Missouri. We have never been the same since. You could say that God wrecked our lives from that moment on! The 2008 presidential elections had recently finished and what I saw as a result of it caused me to wonder if we were living close to Jesus’ return. Mike Bickle (leader of IHOP-KC) was going to teach on the Book of Revelation during the Onething Conference that year being held in Kansas City, so I decided to read this book again. I haven’t stopped reading it since. I’ve also discovered that the entire Bible is confirmed by this prophetic word from Jesus.

 

As a result, I have spent the last six years saturating in the Word, rising between 4 and 5 a.m. to study every morning for several hours. I’m not trying to lift myself up or brag; I’m just sharing what the Lord impressed on me to do. I wanted to be faithful to what He was saying. At first I felt like a fool, studying this book over and over. Satan would speak words of discouragement to me and tell me, “No one will listen to you! You will look like a fool!” But I wanted to obey God more than save face, so I pressed on.   Some days, when I didn’t have work in my painting business, I would study about 4-5 hours completely awed by God and His mysteries. Then I would share what I learned with my wife, trying to hold back the tears because of God’s mysteries being opened up to me. I didn’t want to read or hear about other people’s teachings on the book of Revelation simply because I wanted God to speak to me and reveal His mysteries without the influence of others. I knew in the future I would begin to listen to others and their understanding of the book, which would either confirm or disapprove what I had received.

 

After 4 years of this intense study, I began to listen to other teachings on the book of Revelation and the last days. I remained open and receptive and some confirmed what I had received. These confirmations were not sought out, but I would hear someone teaching on this subject and their word would bring confirmation. Doesn’t the Spirit of God work this way? I’ve found that God loves to speak and reveal Himself to His people. He’s not trying to hide Himself.   He does hide Himself from the rebellious and the lawless, unless they allow opening to His conviction. He will then at that time reveal Himself most gloriously. I have grown to love the Word of God and realize increasingly that Jesus means what He says in Mark 4:24, “Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you–and more [besides] will be given to you who hear” (Amp).

 

If someone has good soil he will hear His voice and bear fruit. God will continue to speak in the secret place as long as we keep our soil free from offense, greed, and lust. We must fix our gaze upon Him and refuse to be distracted! He loves for us to see Him as He is: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants . . . ” (emphasis mine). This is God’s intent for all His servants to know this Revelation of His Son.

HE’S LOOKING FOR FRUIT

“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

 

For many years I have struggled to understand this saying of Jesus. It has put me through many agonizing days of wondering if I had fruit in my life. I didn’t see much fruit in my life according to Galatians 5:22. I did see love, but not much joy or peace and my longsuffering was more like waiting for the person to fall so they wouldn’t be a thorn anymore.   Self-control was out the window and I took great pride in my faithfulness – when I was. I was not a gentle person, so no fruit in that area.   I found myself in a real dilemma!   Then for a period of time in my life I thought winning souls was to be my fruit. It works when your winning souls, but not so much if you’re not.   You start to wonder if you are really connected with the Vine. From this point I found myself in a desperate situation so I began saying yes to every event and ministry that the church had to offer; evangelism, music, discipleship, prison work, drama, artwork, leadership, service, etc., etc., etc.   Oh yah, I’m going to bring forth some fruit now I thought. I found myself exhausted and burnt out. Learning to say no is a very important part of bearing fruit.

 

In the book of Isaiah it is brought out that God is looking for good fruit. “Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill . . . He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes . . . What more could have been done to My vineyard?” (Isaiah 5:1-4) We see in Isaiah the emphasis on the vineyard, but there is also emphasis on the fruit of it. Everything was perfect in the vineyard except for having good grapes.   God is looking for the sweet fruit that it might be enjoyed. He’s not looking to make a profit off of the grapes; He’s looking for sweet fruit.   Jesus makes this point in two parables that are addressed to the religious leaders; both being in Matthew 21:28-41:   There was a man who had two sons and he asked them to work in the vineyard. One said that he wouldn’t, but then did anyway. The other son said that he would, but then went his own way.   After Jesus spoke the parable, He asked the religious leaders which one had done the will of his father? They answered the first son. Jesus’ response is most revealing: “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” In other words they are willing to work in the vineyard to bring forth the sweet fruit (the kingdom of God). The other parable: A landowner created a vineyard with all the necessary ingredients to bring forth sweet fruit. At vintage time he sent servants to receive the sweet fruit but the (religious) vinedressers beat, stoned, and killed them. Then he sent his son, and they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Jesus’ response: “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the (sweet) fruits in their seasons.” Again, God is looking for sweet fruit! He is not looking for our works or what we can do for Him in building His kingdom.   Nor is He looking for perfect character or obedience (although very important). There is a factor that seems to get overlooked many times in our search to bring forth fruit. It’s called relationship! Notice back in John 15:2; Jesus says that every branch that doesn’t bear fruit He takes away or cuts it off. The branches that bear fruit will receive His very personal care by cutting off (pruning back) everything that doesn’t have anything to do with Him baring fruit.   He’s looking for more sweet fruit.   The more He can get, the more blessed He is. The key word in this is “abide.” Abiding is an intimate, relational word. When you abide with someone, you have desire to be constantly with them.   This is brought out in Jesus’ response to His disciples at the last supper. He took the cup giving thanks and gave it to them saying to drink from it, because it was His blood shed for forgiveness of sins. Then He makes this statement: “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29) Was Jesus talking about the cup that they had just shared or something else? In seeing God’s desire for a fruitful vineyard in which He has sweet fellowship with those who love Him, we cannot help but see that Jesus is just like His Father. He looks forward to and longs greatly for the intimate fellowship with His disciples. He has already told them that He was going away after His death and resurrection.   But the desire of His heart is to experience forever the sweet fruit of their fellowship. John 15 speaks of abiding and bringing forth this sweet fruit.   John 16 speaks of the Holy Spirit guarding, protecting, comforting, and revealing Jesus to them while He’s gone.   Also, John 17 speaks of His prayer for them while He is gone. He prays in verse 15 for them to be kept from the evil one. Then He reveals His very heart again in verse 24 as He prays, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory.” His strong desire is for us to be with Him in sweet fellowship! This vineyard is again described in detail in Revelation 21 and 22; only the description of it is very different.

WILL YOU RECOGNIZE HIM?

“THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST WHICH

GOD GAVE HIM TO SHOW HIS SERVANTS . . .”

Revelation 1:1

 

We all want to believe that we are His servant, because we have been born again. Some will actually walk and talk as if having first class access to the throne room, but in reality are only seeing in a mirror dimly. John the Apostle walked with Jesus very closely for three years.   Jesus invited John, James, and Peter to go with Him in situations where the others were left out. John knew Jesus and could recognize Him in a crowd.   Jesus loved and trusted John and even entrusted His own mother into John’s care. They knew each other very well. The Father also trusted John and put in his care the proclamation of the revelation of Jesus Christ as Revelation 1:1-11 indicates. If John knew Jesus so very well, why does he say in verses 12 and 13, “I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw . . . One like the Son of Man!” (emphasis mine) It sounds as if John did not completely recognize Him. Then John, in terror, proclaims in verse 17,   “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” Why would John respond this way to a man he had walked with for three years, was entrusted with His mother, and knew how much he was loved by Him?

 

I have heard it said from many a saint that when they see Jesus in Eternity they will run up to Him and give Him a big hug or dance with Him hand in hand. Do they know something that John didn’t know? Do they know Jesus better than John did? If John fell down as though dead . . . !?

 

Mary also knew Jesus and was outside the tomb after His death. Was Jesus’ response to Mary indicating to her that she should not remember Him as He was because He had not yet ascended to His Father (John 20:16-17)? He had told her not to cling to Him. If John didn’t quite recognize Him, neither would Mary.

 

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus after His resurrection. Jesus walked with them and ended up staying with them and wasn’t recognized by them until He broke bread and gave them some. Then their eyes were opened and they realized their hearts had been burning all the while He spoke to them. They immediately returned to Jerusalem and told the others what had happened. As they spoke to them, Jesus simply appeared in their midst. It says they were terrified! They did not recognize Jesus! In fact, He had to eat a piece of fish in order to show them He wasn’t a ghost.

 

In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus endeavors to reveal Himself in His eternal state to the seven churches. He addresses each church with the eternal aspect of His very description:

 

“These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire.”   (Revelation 2:18)

 

“These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.” (Revelation 3:1)

 

“These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” (Revelation 3:14)

 

He wanted each of His servants to realize that He was not just a man. He was the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end; the One who is and who was and who is to come; the Almighty (Revelation 1:8). If we truly have a revelation and understanding of who Jesus is, our response will be like the response of the twenty-four elders:

 

. . . the twenty-four elders fall down before Him . . . (Revelation 4:10)

 

. . . the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb . . . (Revelation 5:8)

. . . the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. (Revelation 5:14)

 

. . . All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces . . . (Revelations 7:10-11)

 

Whenever they encountered the “Lamb” they didn’t cheer, clap, shout or jump up and down.   They fell! Within the book of Revelation, God endeavors to reveal Jesus the way that He saw Him; A Lamb!

 

A SCROLL, A SEALED BOOK IN HIS HAND

(Revelation 5:1)

 

            A voice like a trumpet spoke with John saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” John was caught up to heaven and saw revelations of the One who sat on the throne.   His description, as John attempted to describe, is far beyond our imagination of what the Father actually looks like. We could be forever caught up in the wonder of that scene alone! John points out something that we might have missed as we gazed at this One on the throne. He says, “I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1) The Father holding this scroll indicates that the content of it is of utmost importance. I must point out a Scripture that coincides with the scroll being written on both sides.   “And Moses turned and went down the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in His hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets” (Exodus 32:15-16 emphasis mine). From the very beginning God has desired to make known His mysteries. You will notice that these tablets were not called “Law” but “Testimony,” even though the law was given at that time. They were the work of God expressing His very heart upon them. He is giving Moses instruction on the tabernacle set up for the purpose of dwelling with them. His desire is to dwell with us! You will notice in Genesis 24:12 and 31:18 something worth noting. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written.” “And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”   (emphasis mine) These tablets, written on both sides, were given by God to Moses. These tablets were given at the same time that God gave instructions to Moses on the tabernacle to make it just like the one in heaven.   Coincidence? I’m sure John was aware of these passages in Genesis.   John not only sees the scroll in the right hand of Him who sits on the throne, but he also sees that the scroll has not just three or four seals, but seven seals on it. The intent of pointing this out is not to analyze the number seven and if it has some significant meaning. This observation by John is to point out that the scroll was “sealed shut” and could not be opened.

 

What Did John See — Lion or Lamb?

 

At this point, a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice (emphasis on loud for the soft spoken), “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” Or as Amplified writes, “Who is worthy . . . to break its seals?” (I will talk more about the breaking of the seals in the next chapter.) John observes that no one stepped forward or was indicated to open the scroll, or to look at it. John could have considered himself as a possibility. He had walked with Jesus and had become a close friend and comrade, yet was coming to the conclusion very quickly that he and no one else was worthy. All of heaven and earth and those under the earth couldn’t even look at it! John was overcome with weeping; much weeping!   He knew the importance of breaking these seals in order to reveal what the Father had written on it. If what is written on the scroll is the same as what was written on the tablets, then it also refers to the Testimony and the Law of God. The Testimony is God testifying about Himself; who He is and what He is like, and His Law which refers to quality of life in His kingdom. John had heard Jesus testify concerning all the wonderful things about the Father and His kingdom. He had seen the Father in Jesus as He walked among the people.   Some of the things that could of went through John’s mind at this time could be taken from his gospel. He had written about many things that he had seen Jesus do: the miraculous healings, multitudes fed because of compassion, the wonder of walking on the sea, extreme wickedness forgiven as with the woman caught in adultery, and those who had never seen the light of day instantly receiving sight. He had even seen the tremendous sorrow of close friends who had lost their brother to death and then had seen death defeated because of resurrection. John knew of God’s tremendous goodness, mercy, and love; and yet it looked as though all hope was lost in ever seeing the fullness of it. But right at that moment one of the twenty-four elders speaks to John, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and (to break) its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5 –   AMP) At this point, you expect to see someone come riding in as described in Revelation 19:11; “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.” But that is not what John saw. He says, “I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain(Revelation 5:6 – emphasis mine). He was seeing a young sheep slain, yet standing! Wow! He not only saw this Lamb, but he saw that it had seven horns and seven eyes!   What a strange sight that must have been. Yet, John, not being moved by this sight goes on to explain the seven eyes and what the Lamb proceeded to do. The Lamb walked right up to the One who sat on the throne and took the scroll out of His right hand.   I must emphasize something at this point. Revelation 1:1 says, “The revelation of Jesus Christ . . . to show His servants!” Many would say right here, “Dah, The Lamb is Jesus Christ!” Yes He is, but John knew this as well. From the time of John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), John knew that Jesus was this Lamb.   Most fathers would display their son for all to see in greatness and in the finest clothing and apparel. God chose to display His Son as a Lamb, slaughtered by others. And thus, throughout the book of Revelation, the word Lamb is mentioned twenty-five times. God chose to reveal His Son in this way. Just a note: for those of us who have this concept of marrying Jesus as His bride and sitting at table with Him at the wedding supper; it must be known that Revelation 19:7 and 9 says, “The marriage of the Lamb has come” and “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” Yes Jesus is the Lamb, but God describes this event as the Lamb being joined in marriage to His bride. The Lamb slain and standing with seven horns and seven eyes. This is the Lamb that we are to marry. The angel in Revelation 21:9 speaks to John and says, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Why didn’t he say, “Come, I will show you the bride, Jesus Christ’s wife?” We, who are Gentiles, fail to understand the importance of the slaughtered lamb for sin.   It dates all the way back to Abraham.   God provided a lamb in Isaac’s place.   Isaac was redeemed by a lamb.   All of Israel was redeemed from the death angel in Egypt by a lamb (Exodus 12). “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year . . . kill it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are.   And when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:5-7 and 13).   Every first born son that was born was redeemed by a lamb. (Exodus 13:13) When God promised to dwell among the children of Israel and be their God, a sacrifice of two lambs per day was to be offered at the tabernacle of meeting. One was offered in the morning and the other was offered at twilight. (Exodus 29:38-46) God’s very presence dwelt within the tabernacle of meeting. This was protocol for entering into God’s presence from the beginning.

 

 

 

The Lamb Slaughtered Standing

 

I must point out other very important Scriptures in regard to the Lamb. Revelation 14:1 says, “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (emphasis mine) This which is written on their forehead is in direct contrast to what was previously described in chapter 13:16-17 which says, “He (the beast) causes all . . . to receive a mark on their right hand or forehead.” (emphasis mine)  There will come more of a divide between light and darkness; between the holy and the unholy. In these last days it will become more evident who belongs to God and who doesn’t. The evidence will be most obvious on their faces; even the faces of disobedient, lawless believers! When a teenager disobeys his parents, becomes rebellious against them, and then lies to them that he has been obedient; the obvious is on the face of the teenager that he is not speaking the truth. Attached to the rebellion and lies is a face that is undeniably full of shame. So it is with the disobedient and lawless. It goes on to say in chapter 14:9-10 that if anyone worships the beast, he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. Chapter 15:1-3 describes those who are standing on the sea of glass mingled with fire as those who have victory over the beast. They are singing a song. The song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. We know the song of Moses because it’s recorded in Deuteronomy 32, but who can sing to me the song of the Lamb? This song can only be sung by those who completely belong to Him! Again in Revelation 17:14 which states concerning the ten horns on the beast, “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them.”   The Lamb will overcome the ten horns or kings that are joined with the beast (Revelation 17:12). (The beast and the horns are expounded on in my first book, The Counterfeit Woman.) We can see in these Scriptures the importance of being rightly connected with the Lamb. There is no ability to overcome or have victory in the last of days unless we are completely and rightly connected with the Lamb of God who takes away our sin.   Jesus proclaims to those in Matthew 7:21-23, who prophesy and do wonders in His name, that He never knew them because they practice lawlessness. They did not discern God’s provision for sin and they were not rightly connected with the Lamb! It must be noticed that the word Lamb is used throughout the book of Revelation. His name, Jesus Christ, could have been used in all of these references, but God is drawing attention to relationship with the Lamb and He’s doing it very intentionally. We must take notice!

 

Revelation 21 and 22 speaks of the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. Revelation 21:22-23 says, “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” Remember the Lamb described here is the Lamb described in Revelation 5:6. We must be rightly related to God’s provision! Revelation 21:27 and 22:15 (AMP) warn us of how important this is! “Nothing that defiles or profanes or is unwashed shall ever enter it, nor anyone who commits abominations (unclean, detestable, morally repugnant things) or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” “Outside (the city) are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” Beloved, what is described in these verses is forever! We could quote the greatest commandment this way: “You shall love the Lamb with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5 – emphasis mine).

 

In Revelation 7:9, John sees a great multitude which no one could number. They are standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They are clothed in white and have palm branches in their hands. Verse 14 goes on to describe these as those who come out of the great tribulation. They are before the throne and serving God because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!   They will not hunger or thirst anymore.   The sun will not strike them, nor any heat, for the Lamb (described in Revelation 5:6) will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. They live in God forever because they have “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:13) No stains or spots on their garments. They took great care to make sure their robes were clean when they anticipated standing before the throne of the King!   We, in this day and age are very careless in keeping our robes clean! We must take the sacrifice of the lamb/Lamb seriously.   “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works . . . exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully (lawlessly) after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.” (Hebrews 10:24-29) We will trample the Son of God underfoot and count the blood of the covenant . . . a common thing and insult the Spirit of grace. When Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11), He presented Himself before the Father as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. I love what TD Jakes said in one of his sermons, “There is forever wet blood on the golden altar which is in heaven!” It forever speaks and cries out forgiveness and mercy towards us!   What we do with it is our own choice.   I will end this chapter with Isaiah 53:6-7: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him (the Lamb) the iniquity (lawlessness) of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”

 

            Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to take the scroll, and to break open the seals!

The Stupid Room

The Stupid Room

Cory Russell, who is a leader and teacher at IHOP-KC, gave a message at a Onething Conference directed at the young people gathered.   He commended them for their desire for God and for seeking God with all of their hearts, but then mentioned the tendency for young people to stay up very late into the night. He indicated that this staying up late usually caused most teenagers to enter the “stupid room.” He was meaning that they do things that are completely against desiring and seeking God during those late night hours. The night then ends with shame and numbness that makes it a tremendous struggle to get back to the place of intimacy with Jesus. He was exhorting thousands of young people to stay out of the “stupid room!”

 

Unfortunately it’s not just young people that enter the “stupid room.”   And, there are many other ways than staying up late that can bring one into this room. I was in my 30’s and still went into this room very often. I will explain. Living in a Christian community was a tremendous blessing.   Over the course of the 20 years that I was in that community, I had grown in the Lord and became a changed man, but there were still areas that showed tremendous weakness. I was somewhat of a jokester and loved to do things that would irritate my brothers and sisters. Sometimes things would be funny and other times it would backfire — real bad! All this said, I would find myself in the stupid room just because I tried to make people laugh. I would do things like grab someone’s socks and stretch them a bit and then tie them together so they couldn’t walk.   Some people would roll with this and others would be real upset. Wrestling was a favorite pass time among the brothers and yet would often end up with someone getting hurt. I could have spent time seeking the Lord, but instead would enter the stupid room.   There are so many other things that could be shared (some very personal), but I think you get the point.   Below I have compiled a list of what I think are legitimate situations that describe entering the “Stupid Room!” This list is not exhaustive so please feel free to add to it. Hope you like them.

 

If you consider yourself a believer in Jesus, then you’ll find yourself in the stupid room if you:

 

  • Choose to watch TV for 4 hours and then have no time to spend with God in prayer.
  • Very seldom read your Bible.
  • Listen to Rock and Roll or any secular music artist and drink from that well continuously.
  • Speak one way around believers, but cuss and swear around non-believers.
  • Play video games into the wee hours of the morning.
  • Play video games over and over in order to beat the game no matter how long it takes.
  • Decide that wine is the alternative for water at every meal.
  • Drink wine or beer to get a buzz.
  • Have a “brew and bible study” in the local pub.
  • Watch football or basketball from Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening every weekend.
  • Sit in Church and worry that the service will go to long so that you will miss part of the game.
  • Are a pastor of a church and participate in one of the above.
  • Are at a family gathering and on your cell phone just like everyone else.
  • Stay up all night doing “dumb things” and then sleep all day.
  • Go on shopping binges just to get the latest fashions.
  • Smoke cigarettes, E-cigs, or cigars.
  • Find someone’s wallet full of money with their name and address in it, but decide to take the money.
  • Click on that questionable website just out of curiosity.
  • Have to win every argument with your spouse.
  • Side with an issue knowing that it is an abomination in the sight of God.
  • Pursue someone of the opposite sex while married to your spouse.
  • Think your kids are not watching you when you do what you do.
  • Go on uncontrollable eating binges.
  • Act and dress like you’re a teenager thinking it is cool.