Sometimes you know you’re on the right track because of the opposition that comes. This Lampstand meeting certainly presented some interesting challenges in the week leading up to the meeting. I don’t know if we were wise enough to realize that much of what we were facing was a tactic of the enemy to get us off track, but thankfully God gave us grace to persevere, we faced the meeting, and God worked in it!
Bethany Oakes led us in a beautiful time of worship, ministering unto the Lord and focusing our attention on Him. It was so good to set aside all the things that had been pulling at us and trying to distract us and to simply fix our eyes on the Lord. We are so grateful for Bethany pressing in to touch the heart of the Lord and leading us into that place of encountering Him.
At our last meeting, we announced that we would be taking a deeper look at some themes in Scripture that will fuel our hearts. At this meeting, we began that deeper look with a topic that Matthew and I both love so dearly: the “Beauty Realm”. This is the term we use to describe the places in Scripture that describe visions of God, His throne, the heavens, and His beauty.
Revelation 4 is one of those amazing passages, a “theophanies” or picture of God in the Scripture. It begins with John seeing a door standing open in heaven. Matthew shared from this passage and talked about how Jesus is the door (John 10). He wants to open up revelation of His excellence and beauty to us.
He also talked about “Beholding the Lord”. We want to have a gaze that is fixed on the Lord. He shared from an article by the late David Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge and pastor of Time Square Church in NYC. The article was entitled, “The Ministry of Beholding His Face.” This article references 2 Corinthians 3 and describes the ministry of every believer as the ministry of beholding the Lord. Beholding is a strong expression that means fixing our gaze. Matthew shared it this way, “I won’t move from my position. Before I do anything else, before I try to accomplish a single thing, I must be in God’s presence.”
Beholding is like looking intently, trying to see something more clearly and to understand it deeply. We want to behold Jesus! We want to look intently at Him and try to know and understand Him in a personal and intimate way.
An amazing thing happens when we gaze at Jesus: we are transformed. We become like what we worship, what we gaze at! When we spend time studying Jesus in the Scripture and talking to Him and worshipping Him, we are changed. We become more like Him.
RESPONSE: We value these times to respond to whatever the Lord is highlighting in worship and in the message. We don’t always pray for each individual, but on this particular night, we felt that was the right response. So, we gathered around each person and spent time asking the Lord to open up more understanding of who Jesus is. Each one responded to the message and asked for greater revelation of the Lord and His beauty. What a precious time to pray together. I love the way the Holy Spirit will move among us as we lift each other up to Him. It is one of the most refreshing and encouraging things to feel other believers gather around you and agree with the Lord’s heart for you. I love the way He will stir His spirit in each person and release encouragement through words, prayers, and scriptures.
For the past year I have pondered the issue of slavery in our nation’s history. This is partly from reflecting on two outings our family was able to take. One was a tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home near Charlottesville, VA and the other was a trip to Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky. Both trips significantly impacted me.
I cannot get out of my head one of the tour guide’s comments from the slavery tour at Monticello. We were standing on Mulberry Row, which was, in Jefferson’s time, a literal row of slave quarters and shops. Now they have recreated some of those buildings. From that row, you can easily see Jefferson’s home. We were standing on the lot where the original “nailery” would have been. The guide suggested a possible story of a day in the life of a young slave boy who would have had to make so many buckets of nails or face being whipped or being moved to work in the hot fields. As he worked to make the nails, maybe he would look up at Mr. Jefferson’s house, where the author of the Declaration of Independence lived, in which he wrote, “All men are created equal.” What would that young boy think as he faced a life of slavery, never to leave its grasp? Ugh, that thought weighed heavily on me that day as it has many other days in this past year.
It has been recently revived in my thoughts from the news that I heard of archeologists finding the room that they believe was designated for Sally Hemmings. Sally Hemmings was a slave with whom Jefferson probably had 6 children. The fact is, no matter how many stories would like to romanticize the relationship between the two, and whether there was an element of romance with Mr. Jefferson or not, Sally Hemmings was his property, not allowed to leave his estate.
At Mammoth Cave National Park we took the historic tour which was absolutely fascinating yet disturbing, again because of the issue of slavery. Using slave labor rented from a neighboring county, saltpeter was mined in the caves.
“During the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, much of the large quantity of saltpeter needed to fight the war was mined at Mammoth Cave. The cave owners relied on a work force of approximately 70 African American slaves to mine this valuable mineral.” (https://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/35mammoth/35facts2.htm)
I love to learn about American History. But honestly, the slavery we had in this nation sickens me. It’s a blight on our nation that continues to leave its effects. This injustice, with the cruelty that was expressed to human beings, is a major part of the sins of this nation before God. What do you do when you see such an atrocity?
The solution is not found in trying to cover over the atrocity, somehow whitewashing our nation’s history, our forefathers, or even our own actions and attitudes. The solution is not found in having certain people do penance or get punished for what their former relatives may have done. The Scripture gives a clear prescription of what a nation is to do when they have sinned against God and turned their back on Him. I find it encouraging and comforting knowing we lean into the mercies of a God who can forgive and heal.
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
This Scripture is in the context of God giving instruction to the nation of Israel when they would turn from God and then experience resulting crisis.
As we face the atrocity in our nation’s past we must not try to whitewash what has been an offense toward God. We don’t deny it happened. But we do as Daniel did with his nation; he identified with the sin and prayed to God for mercy (Daniel 9). We turn to God, ask for forgiveness, and offer forgiveness to others in that same vein. Without it the atrocities and injustice will continue in ignorance, vengeance, and retaliation.
God, we repent of our past sin. The atrocities that our nation has committed, the darkness we have embraced. We are sorry for slavery which infected our nation’s past and we are sorry for the racial wars, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination that continues today. God, help us to humble ourselves. To bow low and kiss the Son (Psalm 2) and say we were and are wrong. Help us to seek your face and know you, to know how you feel about all this, and to know what our current actions should be. Help us to forsake any wicked thoughts, motives, and actions. We ask that you would hear us and respond with the extension of your forgiveness and healing.
I feel like the Lord is highlighting a message of great importance in this time: the message is BEHOLDING HIM.
I have for many years resonated with this call to behold the Lord. In my college years (1995-1999), the Lord showed me part of my calling in Him was to be a watchman. The word “Watching” in the Scriptures, means to stay awake, be alert and aware, be closely observant, and vigilant. A watchman can be described as one who keeps awake and aware to warn people of coming danger. Although, I wholeheartedly agree that this is part of the watchman’s role in the body of Christ, I believe the primary occupation of a watchman in the body of Christ should be seeking the Lord, gazing on Him, looking for Him. We should be desiring to know what He looks like. We should be asking what He is doing.
I read an article years ago by David Wilkerson that articulated this desire in my heart: https://worldchallenge.org/newsletter/ministry-beholding-his-face
(Here is a sermon with the same title, also by David Wilkerson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91XRVnc0RMY )
Speaking of 2 Corinthians 3, Wilkerson talks about being transformed as we behold Jesus.
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The truth of this transformation is impacting as we consider that we actually become like that which we behold (or worship). If we behold and worship Jesus we become more Christ-like. If we spend our days with our primary affections on the idols of money, people, or self, we will become greedy, lustful, covetous, and self-centered.
Beholding the Lord is not looking at a physical picture of Jesus for hours. It’s actually gazing at who He is through the truth of the Scripture. Seeking His face is learning more about Him, studying His character, seeking His desires, wanting to do what He wants you to do. David Wilkerson’s article defines the ministry of beholding His face as “focused, devoted worship.” He defines gazing on Him as: “we ‘fix our eyes’ this way, determined to see God's glory in the face of Christ. We're to shut ourselves in the holy of holies, with but one obsession: to gaze so intently, and to commune with such devotion, that we're changed.”
At our last Lampstand meeting in June, I talked about the Ministry of Beholding Him, referring to this David Wilkerson article. I also referenced Revelation 4 and the open door we have that gives us access to the Lord.
Later, on June 25th, I shared at Rio de Vida, a Hispanic congregation in Mooresville, NC where our good friend, Luis Sosa, pastors. I spoke again about beholding the Lord and being transformed.
One night since that time I had a dream I was about to speak at a conference on “Beholding the Lord.” In the dream the Lord directed me to share Psalm 27:4 first and how David was one who beheld the Lord.
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
Around the same time, Julie also had a dream in which she was standing on a very high platform and was speaking about “seeking the Lord” and it was connected to living holy and set apart.
Then this past Sunday, our associate pastor, Bill Hauck shared a word about “beholding the Lord” being our occupation. He also shared out of Psalm 27:4.
So, what is the Lord saying in all of this? Although this is a ministry for every believer (2 Corinthians 4:1), I know he is highlighting “BEHOLDING HIM” specifically to us in this season. And, it’s brilliant. With all we are facing as a family—the activities, the challenges and pressures and decisions—IT IS WISDOM TO TAKE TIME AND LOOK AT HIM. With all the events that are occurring so rapidly in our region and nation, IT IS WISDOM TO TAKE TIME TO GAZE ON HIM. With all of the news that comes from around the world with reports that grieve and trouble us—IT IS WISDOM TO TAKE TIME TO BEHOLD JESUS.
It is exhilarating to know He is speaking to us, that He cares about us, and that He has a strategy that is not overwhelming. It’s simple, yet so difficult to actually place this ministry of seeking the Lord as a priority. But, it is so worth it!
As the Lord is directing us, know He wants to direct you too. Maybe He is using this to encourage you to SEEK HIS FACE!
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Recently, a good friend and I were talking about emotions and how they affect our lives. He shared some thoughts from St. Ignatius of Loyola.
“Saint Ignatius of Loyola 1491-1556 was a Spanish Basque priest and theologian, who founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).” He spoke about thoughts and emotions in His third person autobiography “From experience he knew that some thoughts left him sad while others made him happy, and little by little he came to perceive the different spirits that were moving him; one coming from the devil, the other coming from God.”
This discovery has been described by different people in different ways. One source I found very helpful was an article discussing Ignatius’s thoughts: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/making-good-decisions/discernment-of-spirits/introduction-to-discernment-of-spirits
“The feelings stirred up by good and evil spirits are called “consolation” and “desolation” in the language of Ignatian spirituality.
Spiritual consolation is an experience of being so on fire with God’s love that we feel impelled to praise, love, and serve God and help others as best as we can. Spiritual consolation encourages and facilitates a deep sense of gratitude for God’s faithfulness, mercy, and companionship in our life. In consolation, we feel more alive and connected to others.
Spiritual desolation, in contrast, is an experience of the soul in heavy darkness or turmoil. We are assaulted by all sorts of doubts, bombarded by temptations, and mired in self-preoccupations. We are excessively restless and anxious and feel cut off from others. Such feelings, in Ignatius’s words, “move one toward lack of faith and leave one without hope and without love.”
As I have pondered this, I have found this description of desolation and consolation very helpful for my own processing of feelings. I have often described to people when I am struggling in different circumstances and situations that the greater struggle is with the emotions and feelings I am having rather than my actual thoughts (although the thoughts are always attached to emotions I have).
I will admit that I have more of a melancholy personality. I don’t see that as all negative. There is often a battle to not be led by, overly influenced by, or controlled by EMOTIONS. Yet, I find that I am able to overcome obstacles to obedience by strong feelings of love for the Lord and for people.
I see the difference of feelings and thoughts of desolation. Hopelessness, anxiety, abandonment, rejection, fear, etc. are all feelings/thoughts that make sick our souls and lead to spiritual death. Sometimes, I can attribute these negative feelings to evil spirits. It is certainly the enemy who wants to accuse us and make us believe his lies. At other times I believe it is just our unenlightened human thoughts that are not renewed by God’s truth.
In contrast I have seen the Holy Spirit, the only true Spirit of Consolation, bring enlightenment of the truth and encouragement to my soul. He ministers to us that we are not without hope of salvation in Jesus. He highlights that Jesus is a loving Shepherd to guide and direct us, and give us hope for a future in Him. We need not fear or be anxious about anything because He cares for our needs, guides us into all truth, and comforts us. We are not abandoned or rejected because for those who know Him, we have been accepted into His presence, adopted as sons, and prepared to be a bride for the King of all kings.
These are my conclusions as I have been meditating on desolation and consolation. I want to reject the feelings of desolation that the enemy would use to lie to me and cause me to miss the mark.
I also want to embrace the Holy Spirit, the spirit of consolation; I want to be more committed to the word which will ground me in the truth about who God is and how He sees me. I want to stand ever more firmly against the lies of the enemy and believe the truth, having my mind and subsequently my emotions transformed. I look forward to the consolation that God will bring to my soul and the hope in the midst of any darkness I face.
I pray for all those reading this that you would have the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your lives, drawing strength and truth from His majesty and presence.
Romans 12:2 NKJV
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
John 16:13 NKJV
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
John 14:16-18 NKJV
16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 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. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
Romans 15: 15-17 NKJV
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Have you ever seen a Georgia O’Keefe piece of art? I can’t vouch for all of it, but some of her most famous works are very large paintings of flowers. The unique thing is that she paints in “zoom.” She takes one small square of an entire flower and “enlarges” it so that it’s like you have zoomed in very close to a flower and you are looking at in minute detail.
The kids and I did an art project for school this year using Georgia O’Keefe’s technique of making flowers very big. We took a picture of a flower or plant and laid a one inch by one inch square “view finder” over the part we wanted to enlarge. We created some fun watercolor paintings by drawing the small piece to scale in a much larger square.
I feel like this exercise is a lot like what Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones does in his sermon series on the book of Ephesians. He takes verse one and preaches two 45 minute sermons. He preaches three sermons on verse 3!
In these sermons he keeps saying things like the following:
“It is always good to pay attention to what an author at the outset deems to be necessary and important.”
“I digress for a moment to point out that when we read our Bibles nothing is more important than that we should look at every word, and question it as to its meaning.”
“We must learn how to read the Scriptures; and there is no one thing that is more important when we do so than just this, to ask questions of it.”
Clearly, if this man could extract enough meat to preach 3 substantial sermons on one verse, I should take note and consider that there is so much more to gain from reading Scripture than a nice feeling that I completed my checklist of Scripture reading for the day! There is much in there to chew on!
Like Georgia O’Keefe desired to make her paintings of flowers BIG so that people would have to stop and look, Dr. Lloyd-Jones is zooming in on each word of the book of Ephesians and making the Word of God BIG and BEAUTIFUL so that people will STOP and really look and really consider what the Lord is speaking through His word and how that affects you and me personally.
I began this Ephesians study recently at the invitation of Skip Cone, our friend, mentor, and director of TRIHOP. He spoke so highly of it and I have not been disappointed! The teachings are excellent, giving me fresh insights and things to ponder. But, the real life of these messages has come as I have meditated on the Words of the Scripture and particularly in times with my kids.
The kids and I have been “zooming in” on each verse by doing three things:
1. ASK – Ask questions of the Scripture. Sometimes our first question is simply, “What questions should I ask?” Who? What does this word mean? How does this apply to me?
2. THINK – Think about the possible answers to these questions, using the Scripture itself to help find those answers.
3. PONDER – Consider the implications of the questions, the answers, the words. Let these thoughts penetrate and awaken love for Jesus in your heart!
This looks different each day. Sometimes we just talk together about the verse. Sometimes we each meditate on the verse by ourselves while we listen to music. Someone may write (or draw) in a journal on their own or we might do that together. Someone else may just think about the questions without writing them down.
No matter what we are doing, there has been amazing encouragement as we take the “view finder” and sit it down word by word to enlarge the details of what God is speaking to us through His word.
May we all feel challenged whether we are new in Bible study or seasoned students to think deeply about the word and let it transform us!
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Matthew or Julie Wine