Okay, so I got a divine idea this afternoon while talking to my roommates. We know that Jesus defined "love" for Him as something more than a sentiment, an emotion, or a feeling - He defined it as one firm, clear word that is frightening to our selfish, prideful, fallen human nature. In John 14:15, John 14:21, and John 14:23, Jesus said:
““If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
(John 14:15-23 NKJV)
I want to start out this series with a pretty intense statement that hopefully will ring true with your heart by the end of the series: The letters to the seven churches are perhaps some of the most “forgotten” passages in the entire book of Revelation.
In a day when even unbelievers are becoming more and more interested in what the Bible has to say about the future, discussion between various camps in studying the book of Revelation always tends to revolve around passages like Revelation 20 (the 1000-year reign of Jesus), Revelation 4:1 (“come up here”), Revelation 6:1 (the first seal), or Revelation 12 (the symbolism of the woman and the dragon). These passages and others are rightfully discussed and debated more than these letters to the seven churches, simply because of the various systems of eschatological thought that have developed in the last 2000 years since the book’s writing in 96AD.
In the limelight of these passages lies Revelation 2-3. Despite their lack of emphasis across the body of Christ today, there is much in the New Testament surrounding the issues Jesus raised in Revelation 2 and 3 – from fervency and wholeheartedness, reigning with Christ, and the first commandment to the toleration of immorality and a dull spirit.
For anyone like me dismayed and utterly disgusted with the political system, the elections, and the state of our nation because it does not line up with that of heaven's, I'd highly recommend reading this amazing blog by one of my favorite teachers here at IHOP, Stephen Venable. I couldn't agree more with what he said.
Here's a quote that sums it all up:
Biblically God’s winds of change do not blow from capitals and courtrooms, nor are they the least bit hindered by the resistance of wicked men. The greatest revival in history began in the city that crucified the Lord of Glory, and spread like wild-fire through an empire that worshiped their leader. My guess is that neither of the candidates in this election will soon seek to demand worship, but even if they surprised us all and did, America would not be disqualified. And regardless of who gets elected America will still be the recipient of God’s judgment, for no matter who the nation crowns on November 4th, men and women all across this land will lie down on their bed after turning off the news and give no heed to the glory of Christ and His infinite worth. My concern is not that men and women in the Church have voiced support for a particular candidate, but that in doing so they have demonstrated more commitment and more zeal than they do for the majesty and renown of Jesus. We are consumed with a host of things but not with Him, and it is this disease of Christ-less Christianity that threatens the future of our nation, not a movement to the left or the right of the political aisle. We must awake and return to our first love, curing the malady that now runs rampant under quaint country steeples and in the sprawling suburban campuses of mega-churches alike. - Stephen Venable
For some other great reading by another favorite of mine, John Piper, check this out.
The only possible option for our nation is God's mercy. Even though His mercy might not come in the way much of the church may expect it to, rest assured He will answer us as we ask for it. The “cry for change” might be louder than the “cry for mercy” in our day, but that does not negate the prayers we offer Him for it. God remembers and cherishes our prayers - and because they are prayed in agreement with His will (Micah 7:18), He will dispense mercy. This is where we must find our hope - not in a single candidate, even though they may seem like they have the "best plan" for America or even because they love what Jesus loves. Mercy and Justice is a Man named Jesus Christ. We will never experience the fullness of these things we are all longing for apart from Him.
For the past few weeks I've been studying Revelation 2-3 extensively, trying to wrap my head and my heart around each of the issues Jesus rebuked and affirmed in them and the promises to the overcomer given to each of the churches. In the past I have not spent much time in these chapters, but I've recently begun to see their importance and application towards us today. These two chapters are critical to understanding the rest of Revelation, and they're instrumental in motivating us to be an "overcomer".
John penned some hard-to-swallow yet encouraging messages that Jesus gave to the churches during the first century. Some scholars like to apply the spiritual principles set forth to each church to specific ages in the history of Christendom. It may indeed be a worthy way to apply Jesus' words, but I believe the most important application of each letter (after its primary purpose of speaking to real churches in the first century) is speaking to believers who will witness the events of Revelation 6-19 in their own lifetime. That could quite possibly be some of you reading this blog right now.
The main phrase that provoked me to study these chapters in more detail is actually repeated seven times in the 51 verses in Revelation 2-3. Each time Jesus finishes speaking to a church, he closes with the phrase: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Do you have an ear? Jesus is speaking about you and I - the readers and hearers of the words that He spoke. Have we taken heed to the words He's spoken? Does our heart begin to burn when we meditate on receiving a "white stone" (Revelation 2:17) from Jesus? Do we have any idea what it means to have the new name of Jesus written on us? (Revelation 3:12)
I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of the answers to those questions, and I figured a series on my blog would help me to understand them a bit better. So, you get to benefit from my study and my prayer. :) Hopefully it provokes you to go deeper in these things as well!
I'm still helping out with Dave Sliker's Biblical Foundations of Eschatology class at IHOPU for the next few weeks, but expect at least a 7-part (perhaps more) series on Revelation 2-3 in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!
Ok. Sparing all the details, this is just a phenomenal testimony of the Lord's goodness. Last year I bought this 2000 Mitsubishi Galant. It died on the highway back in early August:
I prayed and asked the Lord to give me reliable transportation - either the funds and knowledge to fix the dead car or another vehicle altogether. Through a series of ridiculous circumstances with provision and offerings from many people, some totally unexpected and others absolutely extravagant, the Lord gave me this new car:
He is committed to being a watchman on the wall just like I am here at IHOP for many years to come. The Lord has anointed him with dreams and desires to prophesy with his music, and he has set his heart to learn from the Holy Spirit as he grows as a musician. Plus he is one of the funniest guys you will ever meet. Send him your love, prayers, and support!
Dana Candler made this post on her blog a few days ago that you should check out. It's really caused me to think deeper about Jesus as the "Man of sorrows", as Isaiah 53 describes Him.
Isaiah didn't mean he was a "sad" Man walking around day by day depressed by the condition of humanity or by the pain of the cross He would have to endure, but rather a Man who felt the pain of being misunderstood, rejected, and despised to its fullest. Jesus did not use pride and self-exaltation as a "defense mechanism" against all of the accusations against Him. Dana puts it so well - she said:
Perhaps the most potent part of this deep rejection lies in the fact that this most discarded Man did nothing to shield Himself from such profuse rejection. He did nothing to protect His heart from the hate, nothing to guard His person from the rage. In His sinlessness—free from pride and arrogance—He lacked the “self-centered” means found in the proud heart that so readily protects itself. The nature of compassion, that quality most attributed to Jesus, stands in direct opposition to the nature of pride. Only arrogance can forge walls and instigate “safe distances” from fellow human hearts. Only pride knows how to offer indifference and coldness to another. But Love knows no such response. Love bears all things and embraces every person in its path. Love so cherishes the individual heart that it always hears every word spoken without covering its ears, always sees every deed done without uncaringly looking away and always opens to every response offered without closing its heart.
Knowing Jesus bore every emotional pain, hurt, and rejection to its fullest for the sake of love gives me courage to approach Him as my Brother in my worst moments. He truly showed us what His Father is like as One full of compassion. He is not so far off, but is closer to us than we can possibly imagine. God came so low and so near so as to bring me close to Himself!
This week I'm visiting my old home state of New Hampshire to see old friends, visit family, and meet new friends as I raise prayer and financial support to keep me set as a watchman on the wall in Kansas City. I usually come back here at least once per year to stay connected to what the Lord is doing in my old home church and what He's stirring among the young adults in the region.
Last night, I had the opportunity to speak in Rindge, NH at Monadnock Full Gospel Church for their evening Sunday service and prayer meeting. It was such an encouraging time for me and for the folks who attended. What the Lord is stirring in this hour related to prayer and worship all across the globe is unprecedented - apart from any organization or franchise, the Holy Spirit is stirring hearts to pray and worship like never before. I spoke on this topic and how it relates to the coming global exaltation of God, and how the earth will come to know that He alone is the living God through the open display of Jesus Christ to the nations.
About a week and a half ago, I was in Scottsdale, Arizona for a wedding. Weddings have taken on an entirely different meaning for me since moving to IHOP 5 years ago. They are such a dim but beautiful snapshot into the heart of the Father to prepare a bride for His Son. I was so honored to be a groomsman for such a good friend and brother in the Lord, Shawn Zajas. Shawn was married to Kellie Hubbell, his best friend for the past several years, on August 23, 2008 in the presence of God, family, and so many loving friends. It was truly a special moment!
During the ceremony as they were giving their vows to one another, it struck me once again that Jesus has wholly vowed Himself to us. As Shawn said “I promise to love you with all my heart”, the Holy Spirit was thundering in my heart, reminding me that Jesus, God in the flesh, loves me with all His heart. What does it look like for God to love us with all His heart? Every single emotion, affection, and desire is set upon me. What about all His mind? He created the whole universe – trillions of galaxies and trillions of stars, and holds them all in the palm of His Hand. His mind is so vast. Yet He loves me with His entire mind. I simply cannot fathom that. And we won’t even get to “strength”. Thinking about how God loves me with all His strength would just make my brain explode!
I'm back from Arizona and there's been a lot brewing on my heart. I'll give more on my trip and what's brewing in a few days because we're just about to jump into our normal monthly 3-day fast. But I just wanted to post this quickly...
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