September 1996, Mzuzu, Africa
A brother’s early morning thoughts shared with the saints during a time together in Africa.
After I opened my eyes this morning, I opened my Bible also. The first passage my eyes saw had the words about the shadow of death, the same as Psalm 23. I probably wouldn’t have thought to express this to you, except some of those words were the same, and those very first words my eyes saw this morning brought me much joy.
Living Where the Shadows Can’t Touch Us
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who have been in distress.” God will remove all of our heartache and trouble. He will wash away our despair. That is His promise. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a great light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:1-2)
This passage goes on to speak of how God will enlarge our hearts. He will increase our joy. He will make us rejoice like a people rejoicing at the harvest. He will shatter the burdens that are upon us. He will remove the humiliation of our defeat. And here is how He will do it: “For to us a Child is born. A Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He will establish and uphold justice, with mercy and compassion in His heart. The strength and the power of Almighty God will accomplish this.” (Is 9: 6-7)
His name is Jesus: Immanuel, God with us. Jesus will bring us great joy. He will wash away distress and the light will dawn in our hearts. The heart and the mind and the power of Almighty God will accomplish this. The people walking in darkness (that’s us) will see a great light: The Wonderful Counselor. He will help us in all of our trials. As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we understand that a shadow cannot hurt us. It is only a shadow of death. Do you know what chases away shadows? A great light will chase away every shadow. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will chase away all the shadows of death in our life. Sometimes we try to figure everything out in our head, when what we really need to do is just turn our face toward Jesus. He will hear our heartcry and will increase our joy, bringing a great light to our hearts. To us a child is born, a Son is given. He is a Wonderful Counselor, an Everlasting Father. He loves us and will help us if we turn our face to Him.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God, for that is what we are! And now dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears, we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (1John 3:1, 2:28) In the Greek language, it says, “Look at that and wonder what wonderful love God has for us.” It is an expression of “open your eyes and look at how big His love is.”
There is a song we sometimes sing. It speaks of how we are more than conquerors.
We are the people of God, called by His name.
Called from the dark and delivered from shame.
One Holy Race—saints every one
Because of the Blood of Christ, Jesus the Son.
With our lips let us sing one confession.
With our hearts hold to one truth alone.
For He has erased our transgressions (our sins),
Claimed us and called us His own,
His very own.
Hear us, O spirits of darkness,
So you will know where we stand.
We are His people, purchased with scars
Bought by the Blood of the Lamb,
The Blood of the Lamb.
This is why there is such tremendous hope for all of us. This is why satan will lose, and this is why we are more than conquerors: We are bought by the Blood of the Lamb! So with our hearts we sing this one confession. We hold to this one truth alone. Because our Jesus has conquered sin and conquered death, satan is like a dog with no teeth. Jesus has loved us and made us His own, His very own...
Sometimes we must remind ourselves of these truths. It’s hard to have a bad day when we remember these things. We are more than conquerors through the Son of the Father of Love.
What is “Goo-Goo Spirituality”?
There is a way to follow Jesus that is based only on feelings. When our feelings are good, we love Jesus, we are happy, and we sing. But when we don’t feel so good, we don’t sing and worship Him. I think most people mean well. They have good intentions. But there is a way to follow Jesus that is very strong and that does not have to pretend to be spiritual. There is also a way that is not so stable. Again, I don’t mean anything bad. I just think that sometimes we don’t understand the rock-solid way to follow Jesus. The rock-solid way does not depend so much on how we feel. When we speak of goo-goo spirituality, we don’t really mean that someone has bad motives or bad intentions. Perhaps they’ve not yet seen Jesus’ face in the strong way that they some day will.
The Job Life
We’ve read that Job was the most righteous man in all the earth. Out of many thousands and even millions of people, Job loved God more than any of them. Job obeyed God more than all the people on earth, and yet there was a deep way that he did not know God yet. There were many bad things that happened to Job. He had much heartache and much pain. His health was totally gone. His precious children were killed. All of his possessions were taken away. His wife told him to curse God and die. She gave up. And so Job’s heart was broken. He had three friends who came to visit him, and I believe those men truly did love Job. They left their families and sat with Job for seven days in total silence. I believe that they loved Job and they meant well. But they did not know God very well either. They said many wonderful, spiritual things to Job about how a good person always gets good things and a bad person always gets bad things. Job knew that couldn’t be right. He had seen bad things happen to good people and he’d seen good things happen to bad people. So he couldn’t accept the things his friends were saying to him.
In one way Job was goo-goo spiritual because he had not let God do a deep work in his heart yet. He was too happy about how much he knew God. He considered himself too good a person. Because he was closer to God than every other human being, he thought he was close to God. He did not realize that a blade of grass is closer to the sun than an ant. A tree is closer to the sun than a blade of grass. But a tree is still very, very far away from the sun. A tree is taller than a blade of grass, but still very, very small. Job did not understand this lesson. He knew that he was close to God compared to some other people perhaps. Job had no idea how very far away from God he still was. His heart wasn’t broken about how far away from God he was. It took all of this great pain and all of this loss for Job, the most righteous man of everyone on the earth, to understand these things.. After he went through that much pain, he said, “My ears have heard of You, but now at last I can see who You really are.” (Job 42:5) Job, in some ways, was goo-goo spiritual. Job meant well and he was a good man. He wasn’t faking or pretending, but he was very far from who God really is.
If Job was goo-goo spiritual, I would say that all of us are also. Of course, there are some people who just fake Christianity. They just pretend. They make their faces look very spiritual. They want to impress people around them with how much they love God. They want people to see them loving God. But don’t we, in our foolishness and insecurity and pride and immaturity, sometimes fall into those same things? This is goo-goo spirituality. But there is a real way to love Jesus that comes out of great humility, and it doesn’t matter if anyone is looking or not. It comes from the heart. Real spirituality comes from being broken before God. It comes from falling in love with a God who forgives our sins. Perhaps the real thing will have some facial expressions too! But it comes from brokenness, not from showing off. The best way to get rid of goo-goo spirituality from our hearts is to humble ourselves before God and ask Him to teach us. Ask Him to refine us by fire, so that we can cry out like Job, “Though You slay me, I will trust You!”
The problem with goo-goo spirituality is not necessarily that we’re pretending, but that we have not yet had God work deeply in our hearts, as He wants to. It’s important that we not judge one another, but rather that we help each other to know the true God. We put ourselves before the true God to let Him burn us with His fire in the same way that Job was. There will be a day of rejoicing if we put ourselves before God and let Him burn us. There will yet come a day of rejoicing and strength. It will be real from deep inside—not to impress anyone else or to make ourselves feel good, but because we’ve seen God’s face with our spirit.
The Church is a group of people who walk hand in hand with each other through the victories and the heartaches to help each other become more real. None of us are very real yet. Of course, the tree is closer to the sun than a blade of grass, but we have so, so far to go. God said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Where were you when I told the oceans how far they could come? Where were you when I commanded the rising and setting of the sun? Where were you when I gave every star in the sky a name? And you think you know how to worship Me? And you think you know how to obey Me? Be silent; I will teach you.” If we have a heart that will submit to God’s fire, He will teach us beyond how to just be religious. Jesus is much better than religion! He will teach us to know Him in His heart. This comes with pain, but it is very, very good. Will everyone take this journey with us?
So, what do you do when there is a situation in front of you in which you see something that you know should be a certain way, but everything inside of you is welling up, “It’s not that way!” How do you change your heart and your mind to line up with what you know? Your heart and your emotions are one way, but you know that this isn’t the right way to think. How do you then whip it around, with faith, to change?
Has anyone ever experienced this war inside? Paul said to the Galatians that the spirit and the flesh wage war with one another. We must expect that there will be wars in our hearts and minds. The day will never come when there are not wars in our hearts and minds. But God has given us supernatural weapons to tear down these strongholds. God does not make the enemies go away. The enemies in our hearts and minds are part of the promised land. When God brought His people out of Egypt through the wilderness to the promised land, there were great giants with weapons in that land. Does that sound like a promised land?! Does that sound like a wonderful place to live ... with great angry giants? But this is a very special thing that God does. He brings us into a land that flows with milk and honey that also has great angry giants. The more wonderful the land God wants to give us, the bigger and uglier the giants. God does this on purpose. He does this to make us stronger. Because He has special things to give us, He also gives us great big giants to oppose us.
In James 1, it says God Himself gives us trials so that we can grow in endurance or strength. If we grow in strength, then we grow to maturity or completion.
James 1:2-8: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
In verse 2 it says, “Count it pure joy when you have trials.” This is a secret to great power in the Spirit. If you want to experience the power of God in your life, you must decide to have great joy when difficulties come. You have a choice when a giant comes at you with a big sword. You can, like the ten spies, say, “I hate giants and I’m afraid.” Or, like Joshua and Caleb, you can say, “Thank you for the giants.”
Our God will deliver us from the giants. When they come to your life and oppose you, you can have a negative attitude and be afraid or angry, or, you can take out the sword of the Spirit, thank God for this giant that opposes you, and cut off his head. When trials come, and they will come, count it pure joy. And, if you will count it pure joy, you will grow in perseverance and endurance. As the giants oppose you, if you have great joy, faith, and courage in facing them, making yourself believe God in your heart that you will win the victory in Jesus’ name, then you will grow in endurance and faith. It is a command to count it pure joy when a giant comes. If you grow in endurance, you will grow in maturity. You will grow in friendship with God and in power in the Spirit. If you want to grow in love and in power of the Spirit, then you must accept these battles.
Run to the Battle!
God brings these battles so that we can have a relationship with Him. There are always giants in the promised land. The more special the land, the bigger the giants. Brothers, take up your swords. Sisters, take up your swords and count it pure joy. Decide, like David’s mighty men, that if you see a hole in the ground with a lion in it you will jump in the hole and kill the lion. That is the heart of a mighty man of God—to see the enemy and run to the battle. David ran toward the giant Goliath. Joshua, Caleb, Moses, David, Jesus, and every mighty man of God runs to the battle. They jump into the hole and kill the lion. The Kingdom is entered forcefully. Jesus said that the violent take the Kingdom by force. God puts giants in the promised land for us. It’s okay if they are there to oppose us. Be happy to have giants that want to kill us, because we will win. The giants make us very strong and mature; they make us like Jesus.
David had to oppose a lion and a bear in order to save a lamb. Then, when he faced Goliath, he had courage. Because David had a small battle with a lion and a bear, he was not afraid of the giant Goliath and was able to kill him. David could set God’s people free, because now he had courage. This is why James can say to count it pure joy when you face the battles in your heart and mind. When relationships are sometimes very hard, when temptations are difficult, when our stomachs are hungry, when people hate us or slander us, when we lose a job, or when a child dies, all of these things are battles like the lion and the bear.
When those battles come in our hearts and minds (and they will come), when God puts giants in the promised land for us, count it pure joy. Be happy about the giants. Those giants will help you have endurance and perseverance. Those giants will bring you to fullness in Jesus. If we will take up our battle positions against that enemy and not run away and hide, God will use these things to make us free and strong. We are not free and strong because God takes away problems. We are free and strong because God makes us bigger than the problems. You must know this. This is the story of Jesus inside of you. We don’t want the giants to go away. We want to jump in the hole and cut off the giant’s head. We don’t want Goliath to walk away; we want him to run toward us so we can kill him. We are not trying to avoid the battle. We are going to win the battle because we want to be like Jesus—free inside, with strong hearts and deep love.
You can make mistakes with corporate prayer, but if your hearts are excited toward Jesus for the battle, you’ll be okay.
A Look at Paul’s Life
We were speaking earlier this morning about Paul’s life. Paul had some very special experiences with God, and God had opened his eyes to see many great revelations. Jesus had appeared to him and had showed him paradise. Jesus had told Paul teachings that no man had ever heard before. So, that means that Paul would have a wonderful life, right? Do you realize, Paul had been an apostle for twenty years before he came to understand the lesson in 2 Cor. 12:8. He begged God three times to make his pain go away. God said something to him that is hard for us to believe. Like Job’s three friends, we want to believe bad things don’t happen to good people. But God is God. And Paul said, “Remove this pain from me. I’m being punched and punched by a messenger from satan.” But God said to His servant Paul, “Because I have given you many wonderful things, I also have to let you hurt inside so that you won’t become proud or conceited about the many things that I have told you.”
Paul was amazed at these things God said to him because he thought he should be able to pray and the pain would go away. God the Father said to Paul, “Don’t you remember? Even My Son was crucified in weakness.” Jesus was able to have the power to forgive all the sins of the world. This was because He was crucified in weakness. Not because He was so powerful, but because He was so weak. Not because Jesus never hurt, but because Jesus hurt so much. The more God desires to use us for His glory, the more He wants us to carry around death in our own bodies so that we can bring life to others around us. When God gives us great revelation to see, when God gives us wonderful gifts to serve Him with, He must also give us some kinds of pain in the heart so that we won’t become proud or conceited. So that we will always remember that all good things come from Him.
We are not owners of His good gifts. The wisdom and revelation does not come from us because we are so good. Just as God did with Job and Paul, just as He did with His own beloved Son Jesus in Isaiah 53, He cuts our legs out from under us. The Father knocks our legs out from under us, that we would fall before Him in worship. He does that so we can be used by Him without becoming proud. Here’s a very special part in 2 Cor. 12: “Paul said, ‘Because I know all these things are for Jesus’ good and make Him happy, then I will be glad with my pain. I will even be glad with my weakness. I will not be happy with sin, but pain is okay.” Because we want to do God’s will from the heart, we must choose to be content even in pain. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. If we will accept the pain and worship Him anyway, His supernatural power can work through us in many, many wonderful ways. So we lift our hands open before God and we say like Paul said, “We long to share in the fellowship of His sufferings that we might also share in the power of resurrection life.” This is a mystery of the gospel. It is not for selfish people. It’s for people who will humble themselves before God. This is true Christianity and not goo-goo spirituality.
Jesus is going to come and take us home. And on that day what joy shall fill our hearts! But for now we have a job to do preparing the Bride. It’s our job to love each other and help each other, that together as a Church we will be ready for Jesus’ coming. Then our personality would be so much like Jesus that when He comes for His Church, it will be an equal yoke. It will be a Bride that looks like Jesus. A Bride that is wise and very strong like Jesus. A Bride that has as much love and compassion as Him, is not easily offended, and keeps her eyes on the Father, just as Jesus does. If we keep our eyes straight ahead on Jesus, we will be a part of the wedding supper of the Lamb. And what joy shall fill our hearts!
Lives Joined and Knit Together
We should mention that there are saints in many cities who have prayed very much for the Kingdom of God to be Fully Manifested on this planet. And they have sacrificed very much to live for Jesus wholeheartedly seeking FIRST the Kingdom. As you might remember to pray for us, also pray for all those who have not “bowed their knee to baal.” Pray for them because we are part of them also.
Maybe it’s important to understand that if there is anything we are able to serve you with, it’s the product or the outworking of all of their lives together with our lives every day. The things that Jesus shows all of us—here and everywhere—are the products of putting our arms around each other and helping each other. The times when sin is challenged in our lives, the times when our weak arms are lifted up by those around us, those times are what make us who we are. If there is anything we could ever offer, it only comes because others have tried to help us. So, as you read through these “journals” of our lives, keep in mind that you are seeing not a few hundred or a few thousand people, but many thousands who have all contributed mutually to one another’s lives, and ours! May we all TOGETHER continue to change our lives, to the praise of God’s glory. Jesus gets ALL the glory and thanksgiving!
The Priesthood of Believers
In the body of Christ, there are many parts and some parts are more visible than other parts. But we should never mistake the power of a gift that perhaps is not so visible. In the church in the city where you are, you will have those among you who speak perhaps more than others do. But don’t ever underestimate or undervalue the gift that is inside of you, even if you don’t speak as much. The impact or the value that you have on the lives of those who may speak more often helps to make them who they are. Your effect on them makes their gifts stronger and stronger and stronger. Who you are makes them who they are. Perhaps not all of you will be as visible as others may be. But your gifts are just as important; make sure that you use them.
A brother or sister sitting here may not say very much in a gathering, but personally, there are those here whose gifts have had more effect on building me into who I need to become, and challenging things in my life that must change, than I could ever tell you in 10,000 words. If I will ever be able to help anyone in my whole life to know Jesus better, I will have to say many, many, many, many thank-you’s to Jesus for providing many specific people around me to help me become who I am. I say that because no matter who you are, you can participate in changing the world for Jesus. You should not think you are someone special if you speak the most in a gathering. Others may not speak as much, but in many ways they can be bigger heroes because of the impact they have in our daily lives, for which we will always be indebted to God forever for.
I want you to understand how each of you can help change the world by how you live for God and for each other, helping each other become more like Jesus. God doesn’t want superstars or heroes. He wants people who will submit to Him and to one another; God wants people who are willing to be used by Him.
A question was asked recently—
“concerning these things of which we have spoken—the Priesthood of Believers, how to be closer to Jesus, and what a church really is—are we far behind other places? Do people in other countries already know these things and walk in them?”
I want you to know your great responsibility because it seems obvious from the fruit worldwide that there are very few people in any country that understand and walk in these truths of God and Commands from the Bible. God has commissioned you to go forth with His Word also. To all places that are near you, go and spread the news of God’s Holy Kingdom. God has chosen all who would hear and obey His Truths, whatever they may be, to be His “ambassadors.” He has entrusted all of His true-hearted disciples with His special message about His Son, and His Church that lives in His Spirit and Life—the Quality of daily Life described in 1Cor.12 and Acts 2:42-47. Against His Love and Together-Life, He said the gates of Hell could not prevail. Very few people in India or Poland or anywhere else on earth know very many of these things that are on God’s heart, and have always been in His Bible, because men who want money and power have tried to hide or twist these truths about a Priesthood of Believers so that they could stay in control, rather than Jesus. “God’s Intent, now through the church” (Eph.3:10) is not new Truth. It is Truth as ancient as the heart of God and the Scriptures. It is as in Josiah’s day when Truth had been buried in the rubble of man’s religion. These are Truths that have been forgotten, or ignored, or just rebelled against. Not new truths, but new to most who have had them hidden from them, though they have always been in the Bible. God whispered these things in your ear about His Church so that you can live these things and spread these things. Will you accept this commission to go forth? “The gospel of God’s Kingdom must go into every nation. And then the end will come!” You, too, have a job to do preparing the Bride. I hope you will have great courage and great faith to do this, as must all of those who love Him and His Word, no matter where they may live.