Race Weekend in Bristol and a week of moving bedrooms around in our house (read: CHAOS!), and then a Lampstand meeting! Circumstances may not always seem ideal, but it is always a blessing to make time in our lives to stop and seek the Lord.
Even before we began to worship, we jumped right into a prayer time for God's people in this region to be a house of prayer. We were meeting and worshiping that night at almost the same time as the Bristol Nascar race. There was an encouraging story from years ago about a young girl who had a vision of a racetrack and a small house of prayer in the same area and that God heard the sound from the tiny house of prayer as being louder than the sound of the racetrack. This is an encouragement to us that even though we may be small, God sees and hears from heaven. We were praying that God would awaken ALL of His church in this region to be a praying people who would cry out to Him!
Ian, for those of you who don't know him, is an excellent worship leader (and a husband to Abbi and father of 2 cutie little girls). He has written some songs that are among my favorites. On this Saturday night, he was focusing in on Jesus. We were really lifting Him up during worship and looking at Him and His work on the cross and His mercy and goodness. It was so powerful. There was truly a grace that was given to us to see Jesus, to behold Him, as we lifted Him high together.
Matthew said that during worship he felt like the Lord was saying He would establish a "helpline" through our praise. He read from Psalm 28 and said that as we lift up Jesus and make much of Him (praise), then we will see Him work on our behalf.
Linda said she felt during worship like there was a portal open and the Bride was standing ready with voices filled with praise.
We sometimes hear a message that so encourages us we know we couldn't say it any better so we share that with the folks who come to the Lampstand meeting. This was one of those times. We listened to a message from Times Square Church in NYC by Gary Ham entitled "Behold the Man." He was looking at the passage in John 19 when Pilate brings Jesus before the people in the crown of thorns and purple robe, all beaten and abused, and says, "Behold the Man!"
This message went so much along with what Matthew has shared at the last two Lampstand meetings and what the Lord has continued to highlight to us that it was a powerful challenge to us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Especially in the midst of challenges that we face, we must fix our eyes on Jesus. We must answer the invitation of the Spirit to BEHOLD this Man. This One who has created the heavens and earth, and performed so many miracles, who claimed to be God, who then took the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross. This One who lives now to make intercession for us and who IS coming again to rule and reign on the earth.
Here is the link to the teaching...it is worth it to listen! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afWjdJCwBiM
Before we moved into a response, Skip Cone shared a thought comparing Zechariah 6:9-13 with the John 19 passage. Hundreds of years before Jesus came, Zechariah prophesied this invitation to behold by putting a crown on a man with the same Hebrew name as Jesus (Joshua, which means "salvation"). That Joshua received the word that God was sending forth, His servant "the Branch". It is amazing that word "Nazarene" means branch. Jesus had the title of “the Branch” declared over Him on the cross when he was crucified. The sign said, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews” (John 19:19). Amazing to see God's word declare Jesus from cover to cover! The work of the Holy Spirit is truly to lift Jesus up and to draw attention to Him!
After the message, we broke up into groups to pray for one another and to share together anything that specifically impacted us or that we felt we needed to respond to.
Let us all live our lives beholding Jesus and considering who He is, what He did, and what He is doing now and what He will do... Let us be fascinated by Him all of our days!
To the saints who are in Ephesus and the faithful who are in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 1:1
Identity is such a catch phrase these days. Everyone is talking about knowing who we are and knowing our identity. There is also so much confusion about identity. Wouldn't it be helpful to know, to really know, who we are? Especially as Believers? Who am I? And, how do I find out?
Well, maybe the answer is somewhere we wouldn't expect.
To the saints who are in Ephesus and the faithful who are in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 1:1
These simple words at the beginning of Ephesians that you can read in chapter 1 verse 1 that are so easily skimmed over actually contain some important answers to the above questions. If you are diving into a reading of this letter from Paul to the Ephesian believers, we usually skip over most of the words to see who is Paul addressing: Ephesians. Okay, now on to the meat of the letter.
But, if we are going to zoom in a little closer and carefully consider each word as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is encouraging us to do in his sermon series on Ephesians, then we must stop and see that there is something much bigger here than what is visible in a quick glance.
We are seeing something profound here: a statement of who we are as believers! These few, brief introductory words highlight some keys about who we are at the very core before the Lord. Let's take a look at each piece of this picture Paul is painting.
Paul is addressing this letter not to every single person in Ephesus, but to the SAINTS in Ephesus.
What is a saint? What does that word mean? Who are saints? Many people back up right then and think they can't be a saint because they feel average in their struggle to live for God. Surely, a saint is a "special" Christian of some kind.
But, let's look a little more carefully at the word. Saint means "holy," which means “set apart." So, a saint is someone who is set apart from the world, but also set apart FOR something: for a specific purpose and for a specific relationship.
Would that apply only to a select group of Believers? No. Every Believer, every person who calls on the name of Jesus for salvation is set apart for God. Which means every believer is holy, a saint. Even the new, struggling believer. Even the weary, doubting believer. Each one who persists in following Christ, is a saint.
2. The faithful
Paul doesn't just call the Believers "saints" but also refers to them as "the faithful."
The faithful. This has layers of meaning. Literally "faith" and "full"... we are those who are full of faith. We are full of faith in Christ, believing in Him. ALSO, we are faithful in the sense of committed, loyal, or unswervingly devoted.
3. In Christ Jesus
We are those who are "In Christ Jesus."
We are faithful in Christ, but we are also simply “in Christ;" we are those who are found abiding in and trusting in and leaning on Him. Our lives as Believers, our very identity comes from knowing that we are in Christ. Our identity is wrapped up in Him. We now belong to Him. We truly are not our own. We have been "redeemed," bought back from the bondage of slavery to sin and we are now "owned" by Christ, our Redeemer.
Stopping to consider and tear apart each of these phrases fills my soul with strength. Paul and the Holy Spirit who inspired his writing intended this letter to be for all Believers everywhere.
So, put yourself in these terms. I am a saint. I am set apart for relationship with God and for His purposes. I am faithful. I am full of the gift of faith that only the Spirit can give. I am true and loyal to Jesus and by His grace I will endure in my faith until I see Him. I am in Christ Jesus. I belong to Him. I am hidden in Him. I am abiding in Him (John 15).
This changes the way I think about myself and makes me confident in my identity in Him. I don't have to be confused about who I am. I am a saint; I am faithful; and I am in Christ Jesus.
What a beautiful time of fueling as we gathered on July 29! Ginny Wall graciously led us in a time of worship together. Ginny, if you don’t know her, is a soft-spoken person who loves Jesus deeply and has a beautiful folksy style voice. She knows many Scripture songs and whenever she sings, it brings a peaceful atmosphere of God’s presence. She was singing at this particular meeting about the Lord being a consuming fire and asking Him to ignite our hearts. Through the songs she had chosen as well as her spontaneous singing to the Lord, we were singing about surrendering to the Lord and inviting Him to have His way in our lives.
I love these worship times and the opportunity to lift Jesus up together with others as well as the opportunity to be still and listen for what the Lord is speaking. It’s awesome the way He will highlight something to different individuals during worship that He will weave together throughout our time together that confirms what He is speaking to each of us.
I had this experience as I knew the Lord was speaking to me personally about learning to really listen for His voice. After worship, Matthew shared a passage from Kings about Elijah hearing the voice of the Lord not in an earthquake or a fire or a great wind, but in a still small voice. This confirmed what I was sensing from the Lord that I need to learn to be STILL and just BE with Jesus and learn to discern His whisper.
Matthew reviewed what we talked about in June: Beholding the Lord! There is a door standing open in heaven (Revelation 4) and that indicates an invitation to COME UP and see the One seated on the Throne. He said that all we talked about last week was worth repeating because God has continued highlighting this message even since our gathering in June.
Since that Lampstand gathering, Matthew shared the same message again at a church in Mooresville. He and I also both had dreams in the same week about beholding the Lord. In his dream, he was speaking at a conference and knew he needed to talk about Psalm 27:4 and beholding the Lord. In my dream, I was also speaking to a gathering of people on a VERY high platform (about 50 feet or more up in the air) about seeking the Lord (the high platform would indicate that He is elevating this message in a pronounced way!). Then more recently, he had another dream about a blue sheet we use at prayer containing “Hymns of Revelation” which are songs and pictures in the book of Revelation about Jesus, broken down into phrases so they can be prayed. In the dream, he was praying from these prayer sheets and the words were being projected onto a dry erase board l and the letters were becoming BOLD and then the words were growing in size!
Through these various encounters, the Lord is highlighting to us that it is truly critical to “behold Jesus.” To fix our gazes on Him and be transformed because gazing on Him in love changes us.
He felt like all of this, particularly the latter dream, was a challenge to go deeper in the word of God and to enter into a prayer journey with the Lord. He quoted Skip Cone’s prayer from TRIHOP the previous night, “Open the natural mind of man and interpret the Scripture for us!”
We listened to a brief exhortation from Julie Meyer who has been with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City for many years and is a lovely worship leader, mother in the Lord, and prophetic singer. In her message she was exhorting people to sing the word! Singing the Scriptures over our own hearts transforms us and gets the word written deep within us as it becomes a tool to encourage others!
Our response time was worship, and in this time Ginny shared a song she had written from an experience she had when she lived through a hurricane in Florida. She also led us in a Scripture song from Revelation, “The Spirit and the Bride say come!” This was a powerful time of agreement with the Lord and asking Him to encounter us in His word. Also, asking Him to prepare and fuel our hearts for the “storms” we may be facing either on a large scale as a nation or in our individual lives.
Last month I shared about the Lord highlighting the theme of “Beholding the Lord” to both Julie and me. For some of that story, read Beholding the Lord for a little background to this blog.
It is clear to me the Lord is directing us to “Behold Him,” yet I struggle with practically how “beholding Him” would be fleshed out in my life. Is there some specific aspect of Him or His word that the Lord is wanting me to focus on? It can seem a little overwhelming what to concentrate on. I am already in a couple other studies, and I want the time I have available to spend to count. Since I wrote the last blog, I had another dream with more Scripture in it regarding the subject of “Beholding Him” that answered some of these questions about specifics.
In the dream I was looking at some blue paper with specific passages from the book of Revelation on it. I knew immediately that it was a sheet titled “Hymns of Revelation” that are often available as a resource for people on our Friday night meetings with the Tri-Cities House of Prayer. This is a collection of verses that either describe the character of God or are a proclamation of praise and worship. In the dream, I was looking at those blue sheets and then the verses would appear on a large dry erase board. Certain words would be highlighted (either appearing in bold print or becoming enlarged). For example, the word “throne” would appear larger and bolder. When I awoke, I knew that it was an invitation to me to study these passages, even searching out meaning of phrases and words. But it was an invitation not to just study but to talk to the Lord and worship Him while I study.
Recently, at one of our Tuesday prayer meetings, I prayed through one of these passages on the microphone. Taking the description of God the Father and Jesus from Rev. 1:4-8 and asking for the Bride of the Tri-Ciites to have a greater revelation of who God is, I experienced the unction of the Holy Spirit! As I prayed, I was receiving faith to believe for what I was praying, and there was greater boldness on my words. Oh, how God likes to breath on His word!
Then yesterday, I listened to a message by a man named Gary Ham from Times Square Church in New York City, entitled “Behold the Man.” Because of what the Lord had already been highlighting about “Beholding Him” I was interested in listening and I was greatly impacted, even weeping over the simple message about fixing our gaze on Jesus. To listen to that teaching (I strongly recommend it!), CLICK HERE.
As I share all this I want to encourage you with three specific things:
1) There is a journey that God wants to take each of us on that leads to greater and greater encounter with Himself.
2) He wants to strengthen us in His word and breathe life on His word so it becomes LIFE to us!
3) He is inviting us to BEHOLD HIM and experience life transformation and fascination. WOO HOO!
With the solar eclipse coming Monday, August 21, 2017, people are talking a lot about this historic event. Some people are mostly interested in getting their glasses to view the spectacle, but we have also seen some interesting conjecture about the end of the world or other cataclysmic events because of the eclipse. It also seems to stir up a lot of questions about the times we live in and there seems to even be anxiety about what this can mean.
We believe this is not only a historic event, but a prophetic one that we should pay attention to. At our recent TRIHOP meeting, our director Skip Cone shared a very helpful explanation of this event. He described two extremes of responses to the total eclipse that will soon be crossing our nation: we can look at it as simply a natural phenomenon and ignore what God may be saying with it OR we can move into prophetic mania.
Skip’s words regarding the eclipse: “At best, it is an opportunity for us to consider our ways and cry out for our nation to return to the Lord. At worst, this could be a final warning for us to repent before God severely chastens our nation.”
You can read his thoughts in their entirety in a document about the eclipse that I thought was helpful. Check it out.
I think more than anything we need to turn to the Lord. He is always interested in getting our attention and leading people into deeper relationship with Himself. He wants us to ask questions of Him and to seek Him in His word. We need to lift up our eyes, not just to see the sun eclipsed by the moon, but to see the Son of God on the throne and to bring our own hearts into agreement with His word.
We should guard against turning to prophetic meanings without turning to the One who is actually speaking. Sometimes, we get more fascinated by the message and we miss the point which is to behold the One with the message.
The fact that we can see something like this in the heavens at all is reason to lift our eyes and consider the One who created these things and it should cause us to heed what God may be communicating to His church through this sign in the heavens. It is worth it to ask if this is a prophetic indicator of what He is already speaking? If You are speaking, Lord, what is our response to be?
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
Recently, I was praying from 2 Peter that God would deliver His church from damaging doctrines and false teachers and one verse jumped out at me.
2 Peter 2:14 “having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.”
This verse is specifically speaking of false teachers but what jumped out at me is that “unstable souls” were the ones being enticed. What exactly makes one’s soul unstable?
I think a great answer is looking at what the Scripture says stability IS. “Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is His treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6) If we want stability in our lives, it is directly linked to the wisdom and knowledge of God. This is not a wisdom or knowledge that is human philosophy but rooted in the truth of the Lord and the revelation of Him in Scripture.
We have a famine of biblical knowledge in the Scripture in our culture and even in the church. In an article, “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches” by Ed Stetzer in Christianity Today, he sites some of this lack of biblical knowledge:
“But it's more than simply not knowing stories from Scripture. Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.”
To read the entire article, click here.
So if there is such a problem in the nation and the church we are sure to be the “unstable souls” that would be enticed by false preachers. It is time to take a serious evaluation of our own lives in the word. Are we growing in knowledge and stability?
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
Matthew or Julie Wine