Friday, April 6, 2018

April 6th

I never know quite what I will be blogging about now, so I was praying about this a few weeks ago. "People want to see You," I said to Jesus, because it seemed to me that was the best part of anything I've ever written- the things which illuminate Him. So He showed me these two images, which I have written down. 

Here is Jesus in a narrow, shadowed corridor. It's of stone and the stone is whitewashed and rough under it.I know that this is a passage either between separate rooms or separate houses, but I don't know whose house. Jesus is walking down steep, irregular steps with His head bent down and His hand brushing against the wall. This is not because He is unfamiliar with the passage, but because He is lost in thought. His feet find the steps instinctively. The air is damp and cool, full of a musty smell, but Jesus is warmly alive, sun tanned, wearing layers of robes that are homemade and hardy, well kept. He looks healthy and far away from me in place and time. This does not make Him a stranger to me, it just makes it clear that Jesus is a distinct Person.

I see that He is walking toward a closed door. Light is breaking out around the door, making a white, glowing rectangle in the dark. There is a lock to the door, which Jesus opens, and I know that He knows how to make and install such locks, as well as door frames and the doors themselves, as part of His craft. He probably made several locks like it.

He opens the door into blinding sunlight and heat. Directly across from Him is another wall. Everything appears to be orange or yellow or brown and the smells are overpowering- of sheep and dung, dust and things drying in the sun. The road is mud, dried rock hard and dusty. I don't see anyone else, but I can hear the sounds of other people.

Nothing about this startles Jesus. He throws a woven shawl over His head to shield His eyes. The blue thread that has been woven into the hem of it is faded by several years of sun. Jesus walks down the street with a quick step. I don't know where He is going or what He is planning to do.

That's all that I see of that, but then I see Jesus again, in a different place.

Here is Jesus seated in a low room, large enough so that, being all alone, He seems to be in a spacious place, although, if there were others with Him, it would appear close. There is a low wooden table and Jesus is seated on a cushion at the corner of the table. There is a flat sheet on the table and a styla in His hand, but He is not writing. I do not see an inkwell.

Jesus is resting at the center of an outworking of truth. In resting there, He is not thinking in any one human language, because He grasps with perfect knowledge the full understanding of truth. He is understanding this with His whole being. Having without limit the infallible Holy Spirit who authored those words, and being Himself the revelation of those prophesies, He understands the Scriptures from the depths of His Father's heart to their fulfillment, but He reads them as collections of poetry within scrolls.

In this style of poetry, the important aspect of the message was placed in the center of the poems, enhanced by outward layers of parallel context. Jesus composes His poetry in this same way, and He is thinking of one as He sits. He composes it entirely in His thoughts before He writes it. Jesus frames His thoughts in Aramaic and Hebrew words, and it gives Him pleasure to consider the meaning of each, the unique way in which each one presents the truth with particular phrases and tones of meaning. These words and phrases are drawn from the Scriptures, all of which Jesus has memorized and call recall easily and swiftly.

The room where He sits is on the ground floor and communicates through an open door into an inner courtyard. Midmorning sunlight slants into this courtyard and is reflected into the room where Jesus is, so that He does not need a lamp.

In the courtyard is a stone oven, as well as a few women and some very young children. The women are kneeling close to the oven, the children ranging slightly abroad in play. They talk in low, comfortable tones. Some are grinding grain for tomorrow and some are baking bread for today. They toss the loaves into the mouth of the hot oven with expert flicks of the wrist.

The companionable peace of the courtyard is broken when a voice is heard calling through the outside door. It is the voice of a stranger calling for Jesus. The women look toward the room where He has lifted His head. They intend to rise and open the door, but before they can, Jesus has already entered the courtyard. With kind authority, He motions for them to remain where they are, though by rights, He should have waited and let the person be brought to Him. They settle back obediently, on their faces a mix of concern, curiosity and anticipation.

As Jesus is walking across the courtyard, I realize that Peter is also home. I see him sitting up in haste, still half asleep, in another room on the second floor, the voice of the stranger having woken him up. I realize he had been sleeping because he had been fishing the night before. I realize this is because Jesus and His disciples are not on one of their mission trips around Galilee, but are home for a period of time.

When Jesus opens the door, a man speaks to Him. The man is under an urgent strain that comes from bearing up under a distress that he is trying to hide. When he speaks to Jesus, he tries to keep his voice low, but the desperation breaks through it. Behind him is another figure that is pulling away and hiding their head. I know this person has an unclean spirit.

This person is trying to avoid Jesus. I cannot see the face clearly, but I see that Jesus does not wait even to bring the two into the courtyard, but simply speaks to the cringing person in a tone of voice that is quiet and absolute. There is no fuss or frills to Jesus' voice, no doubt and no hesitation. The result is immediate, but I can't see it clearly. I'm beginning to see nothing very well, except that I see that Jesus is bringing the pair into the house with warm welcome.

*

This is something else which I have been seeing of Jesus. I see it when I listen to a particular song. I see Jesus coming down out of the sky, which is all white behind Him. Jesus' arms are open and everything has changed immediately upon His appearance. He is robed in white and gold light. His feet touch the earth, and His authority is absolute, immediately recognized and responded to. Darkness is rolling away from Him in billows. In the darkness is violence, oppression, agony, sorrow, despair, blight.

As it rolls off the ground and away in all directions away from Jesus, Christians who were oppressed and suffering under this spring up, their faces turned toward the light of Jesus, tears of joy and relief pouring down their faces. These are Christians who are alive now, but also they are rising up out of the earth itself, generations of them.

Their joy is not just in seeing Jesus, though that is so great as to be inexpressible, but also because the whole family of God is coming together, and no one is missing. They are realizing that all their agony which they were suffering because of His name, is going to be forgotten in the joy of seeing their Savior face to face and being forever in the family of God, their brothers and sisters who love with pure, open hearts.

I usually end of crying myself, because of the intensity of this relief, as well as knowing that all suffering is completely at an end, even the suffering of the earth itself. I end up praying that the Lord encourage His people and help them to stand strong in His name, knowing the hope of their redemption, the fullness of their salvation, that we know how the story ends and the end is not far off now.

The last time I saw this, it was the beginning of this week. At that time, as I was listening to this song, I was caught up in some great agony of grief, a very human agony. It was of mothers, older women who were crushed in spirit because of the suffering of their children. Because of the intensity of their grief, and because of the length and extent of their suffering and their children's suffering, their faith was sinking further and further down and they were ashamed. They felt that they were failing Jesus and that He was ashamed of them and that they could no longer turn to Him, because they had lost all strength under the weight of the burden that was crushing them.

I was feeling all this and at the same time, I was caught up in something like a great force of wind, except that I knew it was from Jesus, and it was His own Spirit, and it carried all His great, unbroken love and compassion toward these crushed ones and I knew absolutely that Jesus was not ashamed of them, but that He fiercely treasured them and that there was some great spiritual vitality that was coming from Him toward them as a result of the suffering and weakness, and that they did not need even to try and pick themselves up off the floor, but in their weakness, Jesus' strength was being perfected in them, in a spiritual way which makes no sense to us.

I also see a line of other people trying to stand up obediently in response to what they know Jesus is asking them to do. These people have been battered and broken and they have suffered a lot through their own mistakes and they have no confidence in themselves at all, in fact, they are outright frightened. I can see them trembling, and some have trouble getting up from their knees in order to stand upright, because they know, in their own strength, they will fall.

But they are trying to stand because they love Jesus so much, and they long to be obedient and so they are willing to face incredible amounts of fear in order to rise up and stand. I know something about them that they don't- I know that Jesus will take ground for His Kingdom through them in great spiritual power. They may never realize this themselves, because they will not be able to take their eyes off Jesus even to look around them. I end up praying a great deal for these people, often in tears, praying that the Holy Spirit help lift them out of the oppression that has held them down, and to give them strength to obey Jesus' voice.

Here is a lesson I have been learning, which is along the same lines- that obedience is necessary above everything, even good intentions. I have been unable to wake up every morning at five in order to have devotions, and when I am unable to do so, I struggle with guilt most of the day, because I think I should have sacrificed my sleep in order to meet with Him, even though He told me to sleep. It has sometimes taken me almost the whole day to be grateful for the gift.

Sometimes Jesus has been waking me in the middle of the night. I wake up peacefully, wide awake, and unable to go back to sleep. I'm beginning to realize that's when Jesus wants to spend time with me, and when I do my devotions at that time, Jesus meets me in heady ways. His presence is enveloping, there is hardly any distraction and I don't fall back asleep, which happens a lot if I try and force myself up at the same time each morning to be with Him.

There are times when Jesus calls us into a disciplined routine in order to grow us in that, but right now, Jesus has been teaching me to be peacefully obedient, and not to rely on a schedule, which is quite hard for me to do.

Lastly, Jesus has been impressing on me the power and truth of the Gospel. He has been highlighting this in particular against the back ground of the society in which I live, which is, among other things, post modern, Western and humanistic. I had absorbed more of these attitudes and philosophies than I had realized, and they had become a mostly unconscious part of my worldview. They have needed to come off in order for me to understand what it means to repent and believe the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Here are some of the things that Jesus had made quite real to me, in terms of the Gospel-

We did not create ourselves. We cannot save ourselves. We are not our own lords. The future is not in our hands. Things are not getting better because of our efforts. There is a God. There is one, particular, true God. He is not found in all religions. There is only one name by which we might be saved, and that is through Jesus Christ.

No other religion or beliefs will take one to God. It is not kind to say so, because it is not true. Because we did not create ourselves, we do not create the rules by which we live. We live in an order created by the God who created us. We can live opposed to Him, or we can live in harmony with Him, but we cannot recreate ourselves or the world.

If we say there is no God, it does not make it true, and it puts us on a collision course with Reality, which we will meet face to face at the end of our lives, when there will be no more time to pretend.

We do not want to meet with God at the end of a lifetime of denying Him out of pride or fear or rebellion. Every excuse and justification which was told to us, or that we told ourselves, that kept us away from God, that kept us from bowing before Him in sorrowful and humble acknowledgement of the things we did that were wrong, none of those philosophies or thoughts or beliefs will hold any weight in the light of the presence of God. We will look into the eyes of Jesus and those things will melt away like mist.

There will be unbearable regret, grief and sorrow to realize those things when one's whole life has already passed by, and everything meaningful that could have been done for God and with God is no longer a possibility.

There is no need for this to happen- that is what it means to repent and believe the good news. The good news is that God is offering us forgiveness and release from sins, and that He has reconciled Himself to us and He is holding out His hand, wanting us to reconcile with Him.

Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
-Matthew 7:13-14

It's not easy to hear these things, but it's not kindness and it's not compassion to refrain from speaking the truth for fear of hurting someone's feelings. Life is too short and fleeting.

There is not a broad road that leads to Life. That is a lie, and it is a lie that leads to spiritual death. The way to life is through Jesus Christ alone. He accepts any who come to Him. He will not turn aside any.

He knows you by name. He knows your whole life. He has felt with you all your sufferings and every single terrible thought, word and deed that you have ever done towards Himself and towards others and towards yourself. He knows all this, because He took it upon Himself on the cross, and paid the price of those things, in order to offer you freely forgiveness and fellowship with Him. This is a free gift. He did this out of love, because He created you. He knew you in His thoughts before He created the world. You are irreplaceable to Him.

To repent is to lay down the pride that prevents us from acknowledging pride, rebellion, selfishness and all the wrongs that would haunt us otherwise- to repent is to let go of trying to justify or hide or to deny, but instead, to acknowledge these things in the sight of God, with the natural upwelling of grief that comes as a result of this vulnerability and honesty of soul.

To believe the Good News is to put your whole trust in Jesus to forgive you and to give you new and lasting life, an eternal life in the presence of God, which is the relationship with us that He longed for when He first brought this world into existence. Jesus has, can and will save you because He is Himself God, because saving us is His deepest desire and His joy, because He accomplished all that was needed for our coming to life and coming to God and become new again through His death on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead. We trust Him completely because He has become our Lord, and we belong to Him. To do this is to become like a little child, which feels awkward or embarrassing or risky.

However, it is possible for pride- intellectual pride, pride of accomplishments, pride of place in this world, to become a spiritual burial shroud, if it is not cast off. Cast off anything that would keep you from Jesus. Cast them off now, because they will dissolve away in a moment at the end of this life when there is no more time.

I don't know who I am writing this for, because I would guess that whoever is reading my blog already has a deep and enduring relationship with Jesus Christ. However, this is the last thing I was shown to include in this post, so I have written it out as best I can.

But for whomever I am writing, please do not turn aside from this to whatever is already pulling you away. Don't turn away into the broad and pleasing path that seems to offend no one, have no consequences and that promises fulfillment and goodness and freedom. None of those things are truly and lastingly possible except through Jesus. If we choose to go with the flow of this world and all it says and all it thinks right, we will end up far from God, lonely and bewildered.

Right now, all over the world, people who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior, are choosing to suffer and die rather than disown Him. They cry out His name before being beheaded on beaches. They are killed one by one on the steps of a bus, as each refuses to deny Him. They are blown to pieces in churches where they have gone to worship Him. They are mown down by machine guns, by blades and beaten to death. They are imprisoned without hope of release. They die of starvation and exposure. They are raped and forced into arranged marriages or sold as sex slaves. They are hated and abandoned by their own family members. Instead of retaliating, they ask Jesus to help them forgive their enemies. Instead of the number of Christians shrinking, the number is growing. More and more people are following Him. They come to Him through dreams, through reading the Bible, through the Gospel given to them at great risk. This is happening in India, Nigeria, Syria, Iran, China, North Korea, and many other places. This is happening right now, in our lifetime.

If they were to deny Him, if they were to take up another religion, this suffering would end. But they don't.

Why?

There is a God. You may know Him and come to Him through Jesus Christ, who is a real Person, living and active, who is guiding history to a time where all this suffering will come to an end and even the memory of it will be taken away. God has not left us alone.

Repent and believe the Good News.