Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Never In Vain



"I am holding you, My prophets!
I am sustaining you through many battles
and heartbreaking revelations.

"My faithful servants, I'm proud of you!
I have given you messages
that you did not want to speak,
but you have trusted in My loving-kindness
and obeyed My commands.

"Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls into
the ground and dies, it remains alone;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
(John 12:24)


"I will bring forth much fruit
from the seeds you have buried in Me.
I will bring many to Myself
who would have otherwise left the foundation.
Your work in Me is never in vain."

*****

Art: "Forever My Child"

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rebellion In The Temple

Part 10 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
________________________

The testimony of Jesus is that He is the favored and chosen One, "the living Stone —rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him... a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame." (1 Pt.2:4,6)

The commandments of God are summed up in the single command "Love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law... And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here." (Rm.13:8,10-12)

Paul wrote in 2nd Thessalonians 2 that before Christ returned, in "God's temple" there would first be a "rebellion" (or, a "falling away" or "apostasy"). The 'temple' of the new covenant is not a physical building, but is the Body of Christ (Jn.2:19, 1 Cor.3:16-17, Eph.2:19-22, 1 Pet.2:4-5).

The rebellion removes the cornerstone and capstone—replacing the foundation of the testimony of Jesus laid by the apostles and prophets—and preaches another law (lawlessness) over Christ's command to love one another (even our enemies) as He loved us.

CHANGING THE TIMES

After Jesus had risen from the dead and met with His disciples, they asked Him, "Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He answered: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Act.1:6-8)

The mission and charter of the church is to witness to Christ—the Lamb who was slain because God loved the world so much, even while we were His enemies. The power that God has given us (the Holy Spirit) has been given for this purpose: to witness to Christ.

The disciples had asked, "Are You about to restore Israel's kingdom?" Jesus set that aside completely—"That's not your business; your job is only to testify to Me!" And likewise the purpose of the power He gives is also not to help "restore the kingdom", but rather to witness to Christ.

But like in the Garden of Eden, the mystery of sin desires to know what God knows and to stand in His place, proclaiming His secrets. In the same way, Babylon is built on the foundation of confusion ("Babel" means "confusion")—attempting to "reach God" by human effort.

The rebellion and its lawlessness began in seeking to know what God alone knows, by trying to unseal prophecy—something that only the Lamb has the right and ability to do (Rev.5:2-5,9).



SEEKING MYSTERY

Seeking to proclaim what was sealed, and to bring about Christ's return and the kingdom, the "falling away" began by trying to explain what God had not yet revealed. The mysteries of Daniel defied penetration, but nonetheless the rebellion against God's sovereign sealing pressed on and created a system to interpret them.

"You were wearied by all your ways,
but you would not say, 'It is hopeless.'
You found renewal of your strength,
and so you did not faint.
Whom have you so dreaded and feared
that you have been false to Me,
and have neither remembered Me
nor pondered this in your hearts?
Is it not because I have long been silent
that you do not fear Me?" (Isa.57:10-11)

The rebellion did not fear God enough to lay down the 'mystery' of Daniel in frustration and simply surrender to His timing. If the lust for the mystery could have been set aside, rest and fulfillment could have been found instead in the simple gospel of Jesus Christ—for Scripture declares that Christ Himself is "the mystery of God" and that we have all fullness in Him (Col.2:2,9-10).

But for Babylon, the testimony of Jesus and His commandment of agape love were not enough. The way to divine favor was sought through 'mystery'—the mystery of Daniel and end-times prophecy.

FALLING AWAY

To solve the mystery of Daniel and the end times, the wall of division was rebuilt between the circumcision and uncircumcision in God's temple (God's people). Standing in the place of God, the new system denied Christ's reconciliation (Eph.2:11-22) and declared that some are nearer than others regardless of Christ's blood.

"In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love... You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." (Gal.5:6,4)

Like Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the "falling away" created its own image and calls all people to acknowledge it, offering believers a 'pass' and guarantee that they will avoid the fire of tribulation in the end times. No longer was the way to stay in God's favor about His grace to us in Jesus Christ and loving one another as He loved us; because the foundation was not considered enough, the system gave a different way to guide God's people through the end times.

In accordance with the teaching of the rebellion, believers began taking actions in order to 'prepare the way' for His return. "Faith expressing itself through love" was no longer the only thing that counted; it was necessary to 'help' prophecy be fulfilled (according to the system's interpretations). The fruit that came of this has caused terrible conflict, but in cold love the rebellion continues exalting and strengthening the wall of division.

PREPARING WHOSE WAY?

"The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (Jas.3:17-18)

Christ Jesus is the manifestation of the agape love of God. It is because of Him that we know what 'love' is in God's definition (1 Jn.3:16,4:9-10). If we set aside God's law of agape love while seeking to help prophecy be fulfilled, are we truly preparing His way? If our "preparations" for His coming take priority over His wisdom and commands, then whose 'kingdom' are we really preparing the way for? Is the Bride called to make the world ready for His coming, or herself? (Rev.19:17) Has He called us to do anything besides simply living holy and godly lives as we await His coming? (2 Pet.3:11-12)

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Mat.7:15-20)

Babylon is a city of mixed wine; some drink from the wine of Christ while others drink from the intoxication of the rebellion's adultery. Many in the temple honestly believe they are preparing the way for Christ's return, and cannot see that they are preparing the way for the beast to receive power. For this reason God calls out, "Come out of her, My people!"

Could dividing His temple and "falling away" from His law of agape love be a rebellion that leads to desolation? (1 Cor.3:17, Dan.8:13)

"I will expose your righteousness and your works,
and they will not benefit you.
When you cry out for help,
let your collection of idols save you!
The wind will carry all of them off,
a mere breath will blow them away." (Isaiah.57:12-13)
________________________

Part 11: "The Fourth Seal"—A Powerful Delusion

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Way of the Lamb



"When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate;
when He suffered, He made no threats.
Instead, He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly...
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you,
leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps."
(1 Peter 2:23,21)


"My people, I am calling you to carry a cross during the end times.
I am not calling you to justify yourselves, nor to defend your image.
You cannot follow the Lamb and keep your pride at the same time,
for My steps lead to forgiving those who are crucifying you
and even laying down your life for them because I love them so much.
Will you take up My love for them and suffer for them if I call you to?
You cannot represent My name and My gospel if you shun the cross."

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat
falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone;
but if it dies, it produces much grain.
He who loves his life will lose it,
and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me;
and where I am, there My servant will be also."
(John 12:24-26)


*****

Art: "The Cross"

Unable To See



"Many of My people believe they know the signs of the end times
and the way that events are unfolding in the world today.
They believe they are watchmen called to warn people
that prophecies are about to be fulfilled.

"They climb higher and higher upon assumption after assumption,
trying to see further ahead to gain approval and validation.
Their 'watchtower' is man-made; it will be shaken and will fall
because it is not built on the foundation of the gospel of My Son.

"My people, I am calling you to pray and intercede
for your brothers and sisters who set themselves up to fall.
Show them that My Son is all My people need in the time of the end
by patiently loving them and giving grace to them.

"My Son is My fullness, and you have all fullness in Him.
I will carry you on eagles' wings through the time of the end
as you choose to rest in the knowledge of the gospel,
and as you trust in My sight instead of your own."

*****

Art: "Building To Fall"

"Stand In My Love"



"I am going to reveal to you the opened fourth seal,
but many things will not be as you have imagined.
Just as the suffering of My disciples began in synagogues,
in the same way you will be put out of churches in My name
because you hold to My testimony and to My commands.

"Judgments will be proclaimed in My name
and will appear to be fulfilled,
giving credibility to the false prophets
who proclaim that the way to the favor of God
is through favoring the ones whom He favors.

"Those who hold to My righteousness alone and My commands
will be rejected, spoken against and denounced.
But though My name is spoken, any authority and power
exercised apart from My love does not come from Me
but instead comes from the dragon.

"You will see that the power of Hades is working among them,
but they will believe their assemblies are being purified.
Your own family will think they are serving Me
when you are persecuted and put outside.
But I say to you: stand in My love for them.

"I am with you to the end."

*****

Art: "Night Wind"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The End



"Be at peace. I am the fulfillment of all things.
I am He in whom all things are finished—I am the End.
The end of all things is coming because I am coming.
When I come, all things will be finished.

"I am the mystery of God, in whom are hidden
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
When I come, the mystery of God will be complete,
for I will have returned.
That which is perfect shall have come,
and you will know as you are known.

"I am the Beginning and the End,
the One who is perfect,
the outshining of the Father.
I live in you, and you live in Me.
I am the mystery of God in you,
and you have all the fullness of God in Me.
You have been raised up and are seated in heaven in Me.

"Therefore I have told you to rest in Me,
for I am He who has overcome the world.
And you have overcome the world by faith in Me."

*****

Art: "Ask Me!"

"Out of the Sea"



"I am He who sees the beginning from the end.
I am He who announces things before they come to pass.
I foretold the return of the hearts of My people to Egypt;
I foretold the destruction of Jerusalem to Moses,
and it was I who sent Jeremiah when the time was near.

"I foretold to John that a nation which had
seemed fatally wounded would come from the sea
to arise again where it had once been.
Long ago I declared that the world would
be astonished when the nation returned.

"I declared that when the nation won victories,
people would say, 'Who is like it?
And 'Who can make war against it?'
I am He who declared that another nation
—which had seemed lamb-like—
would support the returned nation,
and desire its honor among the nations.

"I am He who foretold the rebellion in My temple
against My law—'love one another as I have loved you.'
I am He who declared the coming of a company of false prophets
that would proclaim a different 'Christ' in My name,
drawing believers away from My agape love for your enemies.

"I am He who is sending messengers
to the people who proclaim My name,
for the time is near when Babylon will fall
and I do not want any to be lost."

*****

Art: "Astonishing"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"The Third Seal"—Unfair Scales

Part 9 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
________________________

The center of the book of Revelation is the testimony of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, and His command to love one another as He loved us.

The testimony: "The faith we profess... We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb.4:14-16)

The command: "I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me... whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." (Mt.25:35-40)

THE CENTER OF ALL

Although there seem to be many topics in the book of Revelation, each part of the book has the testimony and command at its heart. One picture of this is the "four living creatures" which surround the throne:

"In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures... The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle." (Rev.4:6-7)

Each creature reflects something about Christ:

The Lion shows that He is the "Lion of Judah"—the King, the ruler, powerful and mighty, worthy of all praise and obedience, the only One to whom the scepter belongs (Gen.49:8-12).

The Ox (or Calf) shows that He is the Righteous One who has honored God's name perfectly, who alone was able to bear the yoke of perfect works that we could not (Jer.33:15-16, Act.15:10, Mt.11:28-30, Mal.4:2).

The Man shows that He is the "Man of Sorrows"—the only One who truly knows humanity, who is acquainted with our griefs, and who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Isa.53:3, Heb.4:15).

The Flying Eagle shows that He is the Prophet, the One who leads His people out of the wilderness, instructs them, protects and carries them (Dt.32:10-11); He builds, uproots, plants, tears down, exalts, declares, blesses and curses (Ezk.17, Rev.8:13).

Each of these reflects an important part of Christ. Yet just as a "creature" is something that is created, in the same way these four aspects of Christ are "created" things—they are positions He commands and fulfills as the Son of Man.

But in the center, in the very heart of the throne, He is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world because God loves the world so much. Jesus is the heart of God, the sacrificial agape love of God who came from the bosom of the Father (Jn.1:18).

"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures." (Rev.5:6)

More than any other aspect of who He is, the Lamb shows the divinity of Jesus—because God is love [agape]. The Lamb is the center of who He is, and is the heart which is behind each part of Him—His kingly might, His perfect righteousness and works, His humanity, and His prophetic guidance. Just as the imagery of Revelation shows the Lamb in the center of the throne and the four living creatures bowing to and serving the Lamb (Rev.5:8-14), in the same way each aspect of Christ serves and bows to the Lamb—the agape love of God—as Lord of all.

THE FOUR HORSEMEN

Revelation testifies to Christ and His love, and in turn Revelation also shows how we have departed from Christ and His love. We may grasp aspects of the truth of Christ, but when we remove the Lamb and His love from the center and use what we have taken "of Him", it brings much sorrow.

This is portrayed by the "four horsemen of the apocalypse." Each rider carries and wields four things apart from the agape love of the Lamb—a crown, a sword, a pair of scales, and authority. At four stages in history, the church believes that it receives these and that it has been given a divine call to use them.

But all are meant to point to the Lamb alone, and just as only He is able to unseal the prophecies of Revelation, these four things only bring life when they are in His hands. The Lamb is at the center of the throne surrounded by the four living creatures (the God who is love as the Lord of all His other facets). Only when the Lamb is at the center—only then do the other facets of Christ "speak", testifying to Him and His love. And they testify to our departure from Him and His love.

The First Creature, with a face like a lion, testifies that when the church received the crown, it began to change from the position of the persecuted to take the position of the persecutor, preparing to conquer to spread the kingdom of God as if it were a kingdom of the world.

The Second Creature, with a face like an ox, testifies that when the church strongly believed in its righteousness and that it alone honored God's name, it took up the sword to destroy what it believed were the works of the devil in the nations; it used the weapons of the world to fight against flesh and blood in the name of Christ.

THE SCALES OF CHRIST

"When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come!' I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand..." (Rev.6:5)

The Third Creature has the face of a man, telling us that Jesus is the Son of Man who sympathizes with our weaknesses, the One who truly understands us. And because He alone among men is righteous, the Son of Man is the One to whom the authority to judge man has been given (Jn.5:22,27). Only His judgment is righteous because He alone among men has not sought His own will, but the will of the Father (Jn.5:30).

"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
but a just stone is His delight." (Prov.11:1)

Christ is the "just stone", the only righteous one, the only one perfect in works and in judgment. And astoundingly, He judged that all sinners were worth dying for! Therefore He commanded that we love one another as He loved us—even our enemies—because He died for us all. He has weighed our worth in His heart, and decided that we are so valuable to Him that He wants to keep us for all eternity! He has valued us as treasures, worth the price of His own death on the Cross!

OUR SCALES AND VALUES

Christ prizes us above all things. But our scales are different:

"There before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius [a day’s wages], and three quarts of barley for a denarius [a day’s wages], and do not damage the oil and the wine!'" (Rev.6:5-6)

The Third Creature testifies that when the church believed it had the most "just" scales of economic judgment, it established a system that values hard work (a day's wages), profit and prosperity (oil and wine), but which devalues those it believes are undeserving.

When the church received the crown, it believed its earthly kingdom was God's kingdom. When the church believed it worked His righteousness, it took up the sword, taking away peace and lives. So also when the church rides forth to establish economy, believing it has God's "just" scales—His way, His economy—it only preaches the greedy values of the world in His name.

A CLASH OF VALUES

A voice seems to come from the center where the Lamb is, but the values that the voice speaks are not the values of the Lamb. Instead the voice sells a small amount of food to people in exchange for a whole day's wages, a 'denarius', while valuing and protecting products—its right and its means to make profit.

However, when Christ told a parable with a denarius in it, He illustrated the 'economy' of a kingdom based on very different values:

"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'" (Mt.20:8-12)

The true scales of God are generous, rejoicing in paying more than is deserved! The true scales of God are unfair in the eyes of the world. They are not based on our work, but are based Christ—the "just stone", the righteous One who took the weight of our sins on Himself and gave His righteousness to us as a free gift.

This offends us! When our sense of value and worth is based on our work, and when we value others based on how much and how well they work, God's grace seems unfair. We are especially offended when it is given to others whom we feel are undeserving. Our way seems more fair in its values and rewards, but the dark truth of it is that subtly we begin to value the work itself more than the person doing the work, just like the Third Horseman prizes the oil and wine more than the laborers whose wages can't buy them enough wheat and barley.

THE HEART OF THE CONFUSION

The system of the Third Horseman equates material prosperity with God's favor. The heart of the system is the belief that God has given us "His scales" so that if we follow His principles, we will be prosperous.

Those who follow the spirit of the Third Horseman strongly believe in the fairness of the "scales", and attribute its principles to God. Those who agree with the system and work hard in it are seen as deserving of His rewards (prosperity). But those who disagree with the system are disagreeing with God's ideals; they are undeserving and are simply against doing a day's work.

Subtly their attention is concentrated on work and economy as the measure of whether or not we are following God's ways. When believers speak the values of the landowner in Christ's parable (the heart of the Lamb), followers of the Third Horseman are offended. Saying that the kingdom of God is not of this world is viewed as a cop-out. Stressing the mercy of God is seen as irresponsible and impractical. Saying that there is something spiritually wrong with the values of these "scales" is heard as criticizing hard work and advocating laziness. Talking about the testimony of Christ Jesus is something just for the church pew. The main thing is "the here and the now", the practical, the material.

It is a confusion between the economy of the world and the economy of heaven. When Jesus was asked about paying taxes to Caesar, He used a denarius to show the difference between the two—"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Mt.22:15-22). But the scales of the Third Horseman are brought forth if they are God's system, essentially putting God's face and name on the coin instead of Caesar's.

This treats God like an idol, using Him as a way to earn profit just as the Ephesians used the goddess Artemis (Act.19:27) and just as Balaam used prophecy for profit (Jude 11). It takes advantage of people who do not know any better—honest people who just want to work hard and feed their families—and produces experts in greed who in turn continue the exploitation (2 Pet.2:14). And God is praised for giving prosperity.

THE WORKS HE REQUIRES

When Christ's landowner paid a denarius, it was more than most of the workers deserved. However, the scales of the Third Horseman, valuing profit and product, ultimately leave people hungry—not only physically, but more importantly they leave people hungry spiritually. The scales appear fair, promising life, liberty, and happiness as the most "Christian" system, but because they use Christ as a means to pursuing things, they leave people in spiritual famine.

In contrast, Christ promised us that we would have trouble but that we could have peace in Him through it (Jn.16:33). Our amount of prosperity or poverty does not reflect the amount of His love and favor for us. And while He does call us to work, He does not value us more or less because of how much work we do. The "work" He calls us to flows out of the heart of the Lamb.

Firstly Christ calls us to believe in Him, and secondly He calls us to love one another as He loves us. And so the commands of the apostles in the New Testament regarding hard work are tied to His love for others:

"He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." (Eph.4:28)

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" (Act.20:35)

Christ has commanded us to love with agape love, to give as He gave to us regardless of whether or not it seems deserved. It is unfair. But that is the economy He has commanded us to—a kingdom of sacrificial love and mercy, in which people are valued more than possessions.

DIFFERENT SCALES, DIFFERENT SPIRITS

God's "scales" are weighed by Christ, the "just stone" He gave for all of us while we were His enemies. We were undeserving, but He loved us and then called us to share the same love with those who seem undeserving to us: the weak, the poor, our enemies, and more.

The Lamb opens the third seal, revealing a time when believers established a system that appeared fair, but which ultimately was driven by greed underneath. A new era of valuing material things began, credited to Him and stamped with His name.

Among the followers of the system, the testimony of the godliness of the system gradually overtook the testimony of Christ, who Himself is the only "fair" and righteous judge. Before the nations hear the testimony of Jesus, they hear that "our economic system is the best because it's Christ's way; we trust in God and so we are prosperous."

The spirit at the root of the system is conditional love—you receive favor if you earn it and deserve it—and plain greed that values our prosperity more than we value one another. The spirit behind the system is so powerful that those who believe in its values live in constant fear of perceived threats to their prosperity, and fight to keep from losing it.

WHAT ARE WE DEFENDING?

What is our good news? Our justness or His? Is our testimony that Christ is just and fair, or is our testimony that our economic system is His way? Are we offended by the mercy of Christ? Does His command of agape love seem unfair?

Do we value the poor, the weak, the guilty and the undeserving just as He does? Or do we value only those who seem to earn their worth in our eyes? Have we "hoarded wealth in the last days"? (Jas.5:3)

Do we defend the weak, the poor, the guilty and the undeserving? Or do we only defend our own right to prosperity and those who seem worth defending?


________________________

Part 10: Rebellion In The Temple

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"My Heart For My People—Not a System"



"Many of you have tried to unseal prophecies before their appointed time,
and have created systems of interpretation founded on error.
None of your systems of interpreting the end times are correct,
for I have not called you to systems, but to relationship with Me.
If you have Me, then you do not need any 'system' of interpretation.

"Every effort to interpret sealed prophecies
has removed My Son from the center.
Every system has marginalized the Cross
and diverted your attention away
from My command of agape love.

"Therefore I am calling My people out
out of systems of end-time interpretation.
I am calling My people back to the testimony of My Son
and His command to love one another as He loved you.
I am calling you back to My heart!

"You believe you have understood the 'puzzle' of the end times,
and now you are waiting for things to unfold.
But things will not happen as you expect,
for Revelation is not about events or 'things happening'—
understanding Revelation is understanding My broken heart!

"My heart breaks for you because you have sold yourselves—
to what you believe will prepare you for 'the final conflict,'
to making sure you're on the 'right side' with the 'right people,'
and to 'moving things into place' according to your interpretations.
In so doing, you have left your first love, My people!

"You have separated yourselves as those who believe you know My plan,
and do not realize that you are sitting in darkness—in prostitution—
trying to buy favor that will keep you from being 'left behind.'
Yet though My people are confused and divided by your interpretations,
many will hear My heart and leave Babylon to follow the Lamb."

*****

Art: "Broken"

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Bittersweet Scroll

Part 8 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
________________________

The heart of Revelation is God's call to share in His heart—to know His Son, the Lamb, and to share His love as He commanded.

The testimony of Jesus: "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God." (1 Jn.4:14-15)

The commandments of God: "Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 Jn.4:11)

SHARING IN HIS HEART

"We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in them." (1 Jn 4:16)

God's commands are not 'orders' from the commander to be obeyed. Instead His commands ("believe in Christ" and "love as He did" - 1 Jn.3:23) are an invitation to step under the waterfall of His passion for us, and to let that same passion carry us where He wills to pour down like a torrent on others.

God is calling us to share in His heart of love, to be smitten by His love for us, and to allow ourselves to be smitten by His love for others. He gave and showed us His heart on the Cross, and calls us to simply believe in His love for us—for all humankind. Then, He calls us to abide in that love—the love of the Cross, loving humankind so much that He gave His all for them.

'HURRY UP AND COME, LORD!'

It's natural for us to want Him to come back, for us to want to see Him face to face. And part of us groans because of the pain and suffering that continue in life until He returns. And then, part of us wants to know what we can do to "hasten" His coming, forgetting why He waits:

"The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Pet.3:9)

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let the one who hears say, 'Come! Whoever is thirsty, let them come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.'" (Rev.22:17)

The "Come!" that the Spirit calls us to cry out is not to Jesus. He is not waiting for us to cry out more passionately for Him to return. Instead He is calling us to be filled with His love for people, to desire as He does that they know and accept His life-giving love. The "Come!" that He calls us to cry out is to them, not to Him.

The nations are His inheritance (Ps.2:8), and He wants us to share in His inheritance (Rom.8:17, Gal.4:7). Jesus wants to have our neighbors—and our enemies—as His beloved bride forever. And He wants us to want them, too, just like He wants them.

While He has called us to eagerly await His coming (2 Pet.3:12), if we try to look in Scripture and prophecy for the things we need to do to 'hasten' or help arrange things for His coming, subtly we begin to miss His heart for people and can even lose sight of who He really is:

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
(1 Jn 4:8)

PROPHECY THAT SEEMS SWEET

Before He returns, there are things that will happen, and His testimony must be spoken (His two witnesses) in the midst of these things to many peoples, nations, languages and kings.

"The voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: 'Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.' So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, 'Take it and eat it. It will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.' I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. Then I was told, 'You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.'" (Rev.10:8-11)

When we read Revelation, we see that He triumphs in the end and that He brings His beloved people safely through great tribulation, persecution, and earth-shaking calamities. We hear that He is the victorious Lion of Judah and we are His beloved bride. This is good news, and it is truly sweet to our taste!

Naturally we assume, then, that when He sends us to prophesy to 'the world', it's because they have grown more wicked, and He wants us to preach righteousness to convict them of their sins, and call them to repentance because judgment is at hand.

That sounds sweet to us through and through. But the scroll He gives us, though sweet in our mouths, will make our stomachs bitter and cause us to put on sackcloth—the garment of repentance—as we prophesy.

THE BITTER TRUTH

As He guides our eyes to the center of the throne, where we expect to see this Lion who has triumphed, instead we behold the Lamb who was slain—the center of who He is. He begins to show us that it is only the Lamb who unseals the scroll for us. We are eager to see Christ returning victoriously, but He calls us to look back to Him crucified in weakness. He reminds us that He calls us to walk in His steps, to carry our cross. He calls us to love our enemies just like He loved us. The scroll begins to become bitter in our stomachs.

By showing us Himself—dying, in love with His enemies—He shatters our simple "righteous vs. wicked" view of the end times. He stops our rejoicing in trying to figure out or point out who the "good guys" or "bad guys" are in the end times. He's calling us to intercession, not triumphalism. He is calling us to share His heart of agape love—His sacrificial love given even for His enemies—because He is agape love.

And He said that the nations would know us by His agape love in us (Jn.13:35). But in the last days, the agape love of most believers will turn cold (Mt.24:12). The 'rebellion' begins among those who had once submitted to Him; it happens 'in His temple'—and we are His temple (2 Thes.2:3-4, 1 Cor.3:16-17). 'Lawlessness' means forsaking Christ's law of agape love—to love one another as He loved us on the Cross while we were still His enemies.

We want to prophesy to the nations of 'the world' about their sin, but God tells us that judgment begins with us first instead (1 Pet.4:17).

And as we look, we behold grievous things among us:

We put our place and nation ahead of His law of agape love.
We profess His name but bend His word to support our righteousness.
We put our earthly kingdom first over the heavenly kingdom.
We seek power to keep our prosperity and gain even more.
We tell the world to seek God's favor through earthly alliances.
We prophesy in His name but turn away from His command.

He gives us more understanding than we bargained for. He shares His heart with us—not only His joy, but also His grief.



He shows us that we have taken the Lamb and His love out of the center of the throne in our hearts, and we have pursued His attributes in the four living creatures instead:

We have wanted to be "the lion", having the place of power.
We have wanted to be "the ox", performing His righteous works.
We have wanted to be the "face" of man, declaring worthiness.
We have wanted to be the "eagle", declaring His judgments.

And so He sends us out in sackcloth to repent for our prostitution. We have been Babylon, not the world! We have taught an "anti-Christ" made in our own image, supporting us and our ways, rather than following in His agape love for our neighbors and enemies. We have been the "False Prophet", declaring His favor for one nation above all others, and trying to persuade other nations to favor that nation, too.

PUTTING ON SACKCLOTH

Father, forgive us. We have taken Your words in Revelation and interpreted them in a way that makes us feel good about our righteousness and vindicated about the wickedness of the world. We have wanted Your Son to return, and we've wanted to enjoy Heaven, but we have wandered from Your heart, Father. We don't like the idea that You love our enemies just as much as You love us, and that You want us to love them. Somehow we think that we've earned Your favor, and they have to earn it, too.

Forgive us, Jesus, for trying to 'conquer' in Your name. You have already conquered on the Cross, calling all people through Your love. But we have tried to use law, politics and power to make people righteous and obedient to You. It didn't work for ancient Israel, but we have forgotten and returned to the ways of the old covenant anyway. We have tried to speed up Your coming, expecting a 'Messiah' just like the one Judea expected and the one that Jerusalem expects today. We have tried to move pieces into place for that 'Messiah' to come, preaching the values of that 'Messiah' and subverting Your command of agape love, Jesus. We have lost sight of the Cross, Jesus, and have tried to arrange for a kingdom that is not Yours. And just like ancient Israel, below the surface all kinds of desires steered our course. We have claimed Your name, Jesus, but have sought power and profit. We have served Mammon in Your name.

Forgive us, Holy Spirit, because we have testified to the righteousness of a nation as the way to the favor of God instead of testifying to Jesus as the only way. We have broken from Your testimony of Christ, Holy Spirit, and have welcomed among us the spirit of antichrist. We have rebelled against the spirit of prophecy, and we have rebelled against Your heart of agape love.

Lord, send us out in sackcloth—in repentance—to those we have wounded in Your name. Even to our enemies. In Jesus' name, amen.

________________________

Part 9: "The Third Seal"—Unfair Scales

"Come, Knock"



"I am showing you the heartbreaking truth,
and I am using your words to knock on the doors of hearts,
for many have shut themselves in with their own 'food.'

"Be attentive to My interruptions,
and I will lead you to springs of living water,
even as I lead you through the valley of the shadow of death.

"I will be an unexpected knock
on the doors of many hearts through you,
and I will call My people out of Babylon through you."

*****

Art: "Used to Knock"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"The Two Witnesses"
—Returning to the Foundation

Part 7 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
________________________

The way that God knows us is by two things:

1) We accept and love His Son
2) We love Him by loving one another

"The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God." (Jn.16:27)

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'" (Matt.25:40)

MEASURED BY CHRIST AND HIS LOVE

"I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, 'Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.'" (Rev.11:1)

Before God judges the world, He first measures His temple, which is His body, the church (1 Cor.3:16-17). Before He sets the plumb line to the world, He sets the plumb line to His people, counting those who worship Him in Spirit and truth (Jn.4:23-24)—

"It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God... it begins with us."
(1 Pet.4:17)

God does this because He loves us and wants us to be saved—

"When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor.11:32)

"The Lord disciplines those He loves... Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace." (Heb.12:6-11)

God's heart for us is not condemnation, but a plea for us to repent and turn to Him. He wants us to accept His Son's righteousness alone, the free gift of the water of life (Rev.22:17). And, He wants us to accept His love for our fellow people, our neighbors and our enemies—without His love, we don't know Him and those who see us can't see Him in us (1 Jn.4:8, Jas.2:14-17).

ABOVE ALL ELSE

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself." (Jn.12:32)

"By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." (Jn.13:35)

Jesus said that above all else, people would know Him by what He did on the Cross, and by His agape love in us. These two witnesses not only draw people to Christ, but they also make others hate Christ and His people:

"You will be hated by all nations because of Me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other... the love [agape] of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm [in agape love] to the end will be saved." (Mt.24:9-13)

His people testify that faith in His righteousness alone is the only way, and they stand firm to the end in His agape love. When many leave the faith to follow their own righteousness, and when the agape love of most who had professed Him grows cold, at that very time when so many let go of Him and His love, God sends His witnesses to testify to all nations.

A HEAVENLY KINGDOM, THEREFORE...

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations." (Mt.24:14)

When wars and wickedness increase in the world, when 'the beast' seems to have miraculously re-appeared with God's favor to possess its ancient inheritance, when 'the False Prophet' points to honoring the beast as the way to please God (instead of keeping His command of agape love), the two witnesses preach a testimony of a different character:

"Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." (Heb.13:14)

"Jerusalem...is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother." (Gal.4:25-26)

"Set your hearts on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." (Col.3:2-3)

The first witness testifies to Christ and the imperishable, eternal inheritance we have in Him (1 Pet.1:3-4). Our kingdom not on earth but is kept for us above. Therefore we do not fight as the world fights (2 Cor.10:3-4), for our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Eph.6:12), for as Jesus said:

"My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting so that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from the world." (Jn.18:36)

The gospel of the kingdom of Christ is in direct contrast to 'the beast' warring against nations striving to become what it once was, and it is also in direct contrast to the False Prophet's interpretation that honoring the beast's nation is the way to be favored by God (or cursed by Him if we do not honor the beast).



OVERCOMING THE DRAGON AND BEAST

The dragon (Satan) seeks to make war with those who hold to the gospel and to Christ's agape love (Rev.12:17) because it is faith in the Lamb which overcomes him, and obeying the Lamb's command of agape love overcomes evil:

"They overcame [the dragon] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Rev.12:11)

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil... Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,'says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom.12:17-21)

Likewise, 'the beast' and the 'False Prophet' hate the two witnesses because their testimony is blasphemy to their claim that God's chosen dwelling place is the beast's nation. The two witnesses testify to the gospel of the kingdom of heaven—that our inheritance and home is above instead of below; they put the Heavenly Jerusalem above the earthly. The beast and False Prophet see the two witnesses as siding against them with their enemies—they are seen as being the cause of the 'sword' (wars) that seemed to fatally wound to the beast in the past.

ALREADY REVEALED

In sight of the dragon, the beast and the False Prophet, Christ does not call His people to anything different than He has always called them: Just as the church began, so now His call is to rest in His righteousness and abide in His agape love—to patiently endure in Him and keep following His commands (Rev.12:17,13:10).

"If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.' When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Pet.2:20-25)

We were going astray, but Christ loved us and bore our sins on Himself so that we could live. In the same way, He is calling us to receive His heart for those who are going astray—even among those who may be hating us or persecuting us. He is calling us to refuse to retaliate against them but rather to suffer for the sake of their healing—so that they might see and turn to Him just as we who were going astray turned to Him.

We only need to rest in the Lamb and live in His love. This is why it is not necessary for all believers to understand the meaning of each part of Revelation. The book of prophecy points to the two witnesses—the testimony of the Lamb and His command of agape love—which have already been revealed. Understanding the meanings of the imagery in Revelation does not add to or require anything beyond Christ crucified and His commands. Those who simply believe in Him and love those who He loves—it is they who overcome the world:

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 Jn.5:1-5)

BITTER IN THE STOMACH

We often feel that we as Christians are persecuted simply because we tell the world of its sin, because we speak "the hard truth." Yet are we persecuted, as Peter said, because we are not retaliating? Are we filled with so much love for our 'enemies' that we pray for God to forgive them as Christ prayed for us on the Cross, and as Stephen did when he was being stoned? As we are wounded, are we praying for the healing of those who are hurting us?

When the two witnesses of Revelation 11 'prophesy' and give their testimony, they are "clothed in sackcloth" (11:3). As we hold onto faith in Him and stand firm in His agape love, and as we give our testimony of these two witnesses, God calls us to put on "sackcloth"—the garments of mourning and repentance—to intercede for those who hear us and stand with them in repenting to God:

"Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn;
wail, you who minister before the altar.
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
you who minister before my God...
'Even now,' declares the Lord,
'return to Me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.'
Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love."
(Joel 1:13, 2:12-13)

God is love; it is the foundation of who He is. We know this because He sent His Son—the Lamb—to die for those who did not yet love Him. Will we join Him in bearing His heart for those who are being led astray? Will we let Him pierce our hearts with His love for them? Will we step out in repentance ourselves to help others find the way to repentance?

When John first ate the scroll the angel gave him, it tasted sweet as honey. But when it went deeper—when he felt it in his gut—it became bitter. Prophesying to "many peoples, nations, languages and kings" is not God calling us to point our fingers at those who 'have it wrong'. Instead He is calling us to weep with Him out of His great love for them, and to be willing to suffer for the sake of those who are going astray—even for the sake of our enemies.
________________________

Part 8: The Bittersweet Scroll

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Abide in My Command"



"Wait on Me, My people!
I have accomplished the victory for you,
and I am faithful to bring about
everything I have promised in the perfect time.

"Do not try to bring about
what you believe are My objectives
by setting aside My commands of love—
love one another and wait on one another.
If you set aside My agape love,
you will aim for your own objectives,
and will not see My kingdom.

"My command is the law of My kingdom;
therefore if you abide in My agape love,
you abide in My kingdom."

*****

Art: "Wedding Eden"

"The False Prophet"
—Subverting the Foundation

Part 6 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
________________________

The spirit—the heart and essence—of prophecy is the testimony of Christ, the testimony God has given about His Son (Rev.19:10, 1 Jn.5:9-12). Father's will is that we believe on Christ (Jn.6:40), and the command His Son has given us is to love as He has loved (Jn.13:34,15:12).

More than any signs, wonders, or prophesying, God wants us to do His will: to know His heart and spirit—the gospel of His grace to us in His Son—and to give the same love to others that He gave us on the Cross (even to our enemies). Without the spirit of prophecy, prophesying or interpreting prophecy is nothing in God's sight.

"IN HIS NAME"

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt.7:21-23)

If a prophet or an interpretation of a prophecy is not in the spirit of true prophecy—resting on the foundation—then it is not from God because it does not know His heart. If the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of the a prophet's prophecy or an interpretation of prophecy is not the testimony God has given about His own Son, then it is leading people away from Him, and He does not know them.

Jesus said that in the days before His return, many false prophets would come, and that many would come "in His name" (24:5,11)—just as He said in Matthew 7 that many would prophesy and perform signs and wonders in His name yet be doing evil. Even in His name.

If a prophet or teacher speaks in the name of 'Jesus', yet teaches that their teaching is the way to God's favor, they are preaching a different gospel and a different 'Jesus Christ' (2 Cor.11:4, Gal.1:8). It is the same as saying "I am the Christ" when the message of our teaching is effectively, "You need to know and obey what I am telling you in order to receive God's favor."

RECOGNIZING THE REBELLION

Jesus also said that in the days before His return, when many false prophets would appear, many believers would leave the faith and the agape love of most of them would grow cold (Mt.24:10-12). Paul wrote that a "rebellion" would occur in God's temple—that is, in the Body of Christ, the New Covenant temple (1 Cor.3:16-17, Eph.2:21).

Just as Jesus said that His true disciples would be known by His agape love (Jn.13:35), this rebellion among His people is known by it's lawlessness—by its rejection or subjugation of Christ's law of agape love.

GIVING 'PROPHETIC' SUPPORT

The "False Prophet" in Revelation (also called the second beast or the beast from the land) is a kingdom or nation with strong religiosity that is an ally and supporter of the first beast. The False Prophet speaks and acts on the behalf of the first beast—which appeared to have been dealt a fatal blow from war, but returned from the sea to try to become what it once was in ancient times (before the days of John).

The False Prophet "prophesies" (teaches or interprets prophetically) about the beast, speaking in God's name. The False Prophet is not calling all people to be astonished at or give honor to itself; instead it is trying to tell the world to be astonished at and give honor to the beast.

The False Prophet points to the beast's resurrection and victories as evidence of how God favors it. The False Prophet points to the beast's great wounds in history, and interprets prophecy to tell the world that the beast has the right to do what it is doing now ('it is just')—that God supports it, and so should we.

If the beast wins back its ancient kingdom using means that do not harmonize with the law of Christ (agape love), the False Prophet says that it is evidence of God's favor on the beast, and that Christ's law comes afterwards. The False Prophet sets aside Christ's law as secondary to supporting the beast—the 'way' to obey God is to support the beast more than it is to keep Christ's commands. The False Prophet says that blessing and favor from God come not through simple faith in His Son (believing the gospel), but instead the more sure route is through honoring the nation God honors—the beast.



SUBJUGATING AND SUBVERTING THE FOUNDATION

The False Prophet comes from among believers, in His temple (the body of Christ), and is a rebellion against Christ being "the way" and against His law of agape love.

The False Prophet proclaims that supporting a nation is the way to the blessings of God (and that opposing the nation will result in curses and God's disfavor). The False Prophet preaches that God's command is to support the nation first, before applying Christ's law to the nation's actions or our own actions in support of the nation.

Are there any such "false prophets" among us today? Have any of us proclaimed a nation as of more practical importance than the foundation—Christ and His agape love?
________________________

Part 7: "The Two Witnesses"—Returning to the Foundation

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Drawing Out



"Come out, My people! Do not be afraid!
I am allowing you to lose power in your culture
in order to set you free in Me,
and in order to draw out your love!

"I am taking away the majority
and the favor you have had in America.
I am removing your ability to hold
onto both Me and political power.

"If you hold onto Me alone,
I will use you to bring grace
to hurt and broken people who
remain captive in your nation.

"But if you try to hold onto your power,
you will remain in spiritual prostitution,
confused and unable to understand those
whom I have set free from your prison."

"You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth
and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize
that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire,
so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear,
so you can cover your shameful nakedness;
and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.
So be earnest, and repent."
(Revelation 3:17-19)


*****

Art: "Flying Free!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Who Is My Neighbor?



"I am calling you to choose which 'way' you will walk in:
the way of the Good Samaritan,
or the way of the priest and the Levite.

"Your neighbors are homosexuals, secularists,
atheists, Muslims, Arabs, and many others
who do not vote according to your politics.

"Do you see them as something that will defile you,
or are you able to come closer to them
to love and care for them?
Do you care about their hearts?
Or do you want them to just go away
so that you can 'go to church'
without being bothered?"

*****

Art: "Church Neighbors"

The Crown or the Cross?



"To My besieged people in America:

"I know you are afraid that your faith is
being attacked and taken away from you.
Yes, you are besieged, but your enemies are not those
'outside' who want to make America more 'secular.'
Your enemies are in your heart, My people!

"I am allowing your nation to change its laws,
and I am allowing My people to lose political power
in order to draw you back to Me!
Your faith has been besieged by the law,
and your witness of My agape love
has been perishing within your walls.

"Because you can only think of how to
protect your political advantage and
how to keep yourselves from 'being defiled,'
many travelers are laying wounded and dying
on the roads outside of your churches.

"You cannot hold onto both your political advantages
and My agape love—the love of the Cross—forever.
Will you let your love grow cold to protect your power,
or will you take up the cross I have set before you
and follow Me, walking in My agape love?"

*****

Art: "Other Ways" (see "Turning Away")

Waiting To Be Loved



"I am He who died for sinners of all 'orientations.'
I am He who gives grace, and I am He
who does not despise captive people.

"Who will carry My heart for homosexuals?
Who will look past their sin to love them for who they are?
Who will see them as the precious, priceless treasures
that I died on the Cross to purchase?

"I am in the broken, in the outcast,
in the rejected, in the hurt and the depressed
—I am in the least of these—
waiting to be loved by My people."

*****

Art link: "Identity (Who You Are)"

Greater In You



"I am stronger than your hardness!
I am your root, and I am mighty to save.
I am He who overcame the world,
and I am He who lives within you.
I am He who overcomes the world
and who overcomes the evil one in you.
Because I overcame, you also will overcome.
I am He who began a good work in you,
and I am He who is faithful to finish it.
Trust in Me more than in your unchangeableness."

*****

Art: "You Also Will Live"

Needing Him Alone



"I will come and open My thoughts to you
when you cease from your works and make room for Me.
When you repent of your pride and your glorying
in what you believe is your righteousness,
I will pour out My heart to you.

"In that day you will not need signs,
wonders and prosperity to prove to yourselves
that I am with you and that I am pleased with you.
Instead you will hear My voice,
and you will know that I am inside you."

"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.
So be earnest and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me."
(Revelation 3:19-20)


*****

Art: "Entering the Scene"

Fire in the Cold



"I am with you in the fire and I am with you in tribulation.
I am He who keeps you in the shadow of My wings,
and I am He who preserves your life even when you die.

"A time is coming when those who follow the Lamb
will be called to worship the 'image' set up by 'Babylon'—
they will be pressured to give honor to the 'prophetic' teaching
about the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.

"Those who refuse will be accused as I was accused
and as My prophets have been accused in the past—
accused of speaking against God's people,
against the temple and Jerusalem,
and accused of being demon-possessed.

"Follow the Lamb, My people,
and do not turn to the left or the right.
Do not let your love grow cold—
love one another as I loved you, even your enemies.
I will be your refuge and your strength."

*****

Art: "In His Shadow"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"The Beast"—Seemingly Favored

Part 5 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
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God's testimony to us is Jesus Christ—that we have life in His Son (1 Jn.5:9-11, Jn.3:16, etc.). And His command is that we love one another just as He has loved us in His Son (Jn.13:34, 15:12, etc.).

Christ is the life—there is no other 'life' by any other way. He is the wonder and marvel of heaven, and He is the news in the hearts of His people—there is no other news so good as the gospel, no other news so important, relevant, or crucial to know. In Christ is the fullness of God, and we have all fullness in Him (Col.2:9-10) and lack nothing in Him (1 Cor.1:7). He is the One who astonishes us—because of what He has done for us on the Cross.

His command is that we follow Him by walking in His love (1 Pet.2:21-23, 1 Jn.2:6). There is no other way to 'follow Him' and there is nothing else that He asks of us beyond this (Rev.2:24-25). Because He has loved us while we were His enemies, He has commanded us to love each other just as unconditionally—even our enemies. God does not show favoritism (Act.10:34, Rm.2:11), and we are not to show favoritism either (Jas.2:1).

ASTONISHED BY ANOTHER

"And I saw a beast coming out of the sea... One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?'" (Rev.13:1-4)

"The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come." (Rev.17:8)

The world who does not know Christ is permanently astonished by the return of the beast—by the return of a kingdom that existed before John's time, but that didn't exist during John's lifetime because it had apparently disappeared because of war ("the sword"—Rev.13:14). The beast is successful in being re-established, particularly in its wars, to the point where it seems the beast cannot be moved. It seems there is a power behind it that gives the beast success and keeps it from being beaten in war. And so many people worship the supernatural power that favors the beast over other nations and peoples.

Instead of being astonished by Christ, the victory He won on the Cross and His resurrection, people are astonished by this kingdom's return—it's "resurrection"—and its victories in war. Instead of proclaiming the good news that Christ is the Favored One of God (who has favored all by giving His Son), the 'news' becomes how "God" favors this particular nation, this kingdom, above all others.

ANOTHER MANNER OF SPIRIT

The beast seems to have the favor of God because it is successful in the manner of the kingdoms of the world—unlike Christ whose servants didn't need to fight to prevent His arrest and death. This kingdom is a kingdom of the world and its servants fight to prevent its destruction, and they are successful. Its law is self-preservation, prospering itself and its own instead of living by the sacrificial love commanded by Christ: "Love one another as I have loved you," "Love your neighbor" and "Love your enemies."

In other words, the beast makes war and is victorious—but not according to the command or the ways of the kingdom of God. Only Christ makes war in righteousness and with justice. The spirit behind the beast is one that does not value what Christ values. The nations are Christ's inheritance, but this kingdom values itself (its kingdom) more than it values its neighbors and enemies. It wants to attain what it believes is its own, and its desires, more than it seeks to be a blessing to the nations.

THE 'GOD' BEHIND THE BEAST

Because of the success of the beast in re-establishing itself and winning victories, many people worship its spiritual "God". This "God" appeals to our natural, human desires for things in the world—prosperity, land, security, etc. And that's why many people follow after it.

In many ways, this kind of "God" is much more attractive than Jesus, who promises His inner peace in tribulation, and who told us to love our enemies and bless whose who curse us. This "God" gives victory over literal enemies, peace by securing borders, and declares that its enemies are cursed.

Essentially, this "God" promises things according to the terms of the Old Covenant: if you honor this "God" and it's favored earthly kingdom, then you will be blessed—with victory and prosperity in the world. But if you don't honor this "God" by honoring its earthly kingdom, then you will be cursed and defeated, and you will not prosper. But unlike the true God who made the Old Covenant, what this "God" teaches doesn't eventually lead to Christ, His sacrifice for all peoples, or His inheriting of the nations. Instead the end-goal of this "God" is the blessing of its favored kingdom.

THE HEART OF THE BEAST

In the same way as the "vision" of the beast is a rejection of the New Covenant in favor of the earthly blessings of the Old Covenant, the heart of the beast "that once was" is simply to become again on earth what "it once was" before it lost its kingdom because of war. This is why the number of the beast is "666"—

"The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents."
(1 Kg.10:14, 2 Chron.9:13)

The early kingship of Solomon was the high point of the peace, prosperity, stature and domain of ancient Israel. At his peak, Solomon received 666 talents-worth of weight in gold every year. In the same way, the beast longs for its former glory, for the peak of what it once was, but lost: its ancient domain, stature, prosperity and peace. It was "gold" in the past, and it wants its "gold" back again.



THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

What are we astonished at? Is Christ Jesus the 'news' we are proclaiming? Is He the Favored One of God in our message—the One in whom we have every blessing? Or is there a kingdom or nation we tell people they must honor because they are favored by God and we will be cursed if we don't support them?

What is the 'law' we are proclaiming? Is it that we must love as Christ loved us while we were His enemies? Or is it that He desires for us to fight to secure our own domain before we put His commands into practice?

What is the heart of the kingdom we seek? Is it to gain a place on earth—an earthly inheritance—and victory over enemies of flesh and blood? Or is the heart of the kingdom we seek an inheritance in heaven—a new Jerusalem—and inheriting with Christ our neighbors and enemies as brothers and sisters for eternity?
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Part 6: "The False Prophet"—Subverting the Foundation

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Babylon"—Mixing Kingdoms

Part 4 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
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The testimony of Jesus:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you..." (1 Pet.1:3-4)

The command of God:

"Now that you have purified your souls by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." (1 Pet.1:22)

The treasures of God are not the treasures of the earth: we value gold, silver and diamonds, and we often cheat and kill each other in order to possess them. But God says that we—the nations—are His inheritance! (Ps.2:8,82:8) We think perishable things are treasures, but to Him, we are His eternal treasures! Each one of us is a priceless treasure to Him—measurable only by the cost of giving His Son to purchase us! And so He calls us to love one another (even our enemies) just as much as He loves us, to find our treasures in each other just like He has.

OVERCOMING THE WORLD

The kingdom God has for us is an everlasting kingdom; He wants us to share His inheritance in eternity. Our inheritance is not the kingdoms or things of the world. And so no matter what happens here on earth, we have a firm hope that doesn't spoil or fade, because it is above and not here below:

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (Jn.16:33)

Because Jesus overcame for us, on our behalf, we can take heart and have peace during every tribulation. Our peace doesn't come from our situations or from attaining a secure 'kingdom' here, but our peace comes from believing in the victory He accomplished on our behalf:

"Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (1 Jn.5:4)

Our 'overcoming' or 'conquering' is by faith instead of by our works or our battles—He has already accomplished the necessary works for us, triumphing over the enemy at the Cross. (Col.2:15)

THE CHURCH CROWNED

The church began in faith, washed white by the blood of the Lamb, having overcome the world by faith alone because its Lord overcame and had already won the victory. Suffering intense persecution, the church withstood everything the gates of Hades threw at it (Matt.16:18), overcoming by faith—by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and not loving their lives so much as to shrink from death (Rev.12:11).

Then something changed:

"Then I saw when the Lamb opened the first of the the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, 'Come!' I looked, and there was a white horse. The horseman on it had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and in order to conquer." (Rev.6:1-2)

The church received a crown and became dominant. The church could now defend itself from persecution and protect its own. It could use its arms to keep enemies from attacking, and even to conquer enemies. The first motivation is to protect, and then expands to subdue enemies, eliminate threats pre-emptively, and to spread our law and order. Setting aside what Jesus said, the 'kingdom of God' was defended (and expanded) as a kingdom of the world:

"My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting so that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from the world." (Jn.18:36)

Since the church had the crown and the authority of the government to make and enforce law, the kingdom of God now seemed to be one with the country (or empire) as a place where 'Christian' virtue, morality, righteousness and ideals could be taught in freedom, encouraged, spread, rewarded and even enforced. Whereas before the crown, the word of their testimony was all the church could use to spread the kingdom of God, now the church had the authority of the government to make and enforce law as well. When the country was enlarged by conquest, the 'kingdom' seemed to be increased as well.

HE WHO JUDGES IN RIGHTEOUSNESS

"He sent messengers ahead of Him, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for Him; but the people there did not welcome Him, because He was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?' But He turned and rebuked them, and said, 'You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.' And they went on to another village." (Lk.9:52-56)

The crowned church forgot the heart and spirit of Christ among those who were not welcoming. It's very easy for us to believe in our righteousness (our 'right-ness'), that God is on our "side" and those who are against us are against Him, too. Sometimes we even take a 'prophetic' role by declaring that His judgment is against them—against those who disagree with our politics, our policies, our nation, our beliefs and our systems.

When the church began, it "overcame the world" by faith alone in Christ's victory; but when the church received the crown, it began to 'overcome' by defeating its enemies who resisted the 'kingdom' and its ways.



In contrast, there is another 'rider' on a white horse in Revelation:

"Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. And He who sat on it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many diadems. He had a name written on Him that no one knows except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God." (Rev.19:11-13)

Jesus rides forth not as a conqueror setting out to conquer, but rather as One who has already won the victory—on the Cross! He doesn't set out to gain more crowns from the kingdoms of the earth because He is already crowned with many crowns—all in heaven and earth already belongs to Him! He doesn't need to 'win' the kingdoms of the earth!

He is the One who judges in righteousness, because He is the One who loved all and died for all. He is the One who sees, knows and reads every heart. He is the Word of God who is "living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword," who "penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow." He is the One who judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, and nothing in all creation is hidden from His sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before His eyes. (Heb.4:12-13)

He is the One who rules the kingdom and who protects it. He is the only one who has the authority to take vengeance and pour out His wrath. He is the only one whose judgment and war is completely righteous. Our judgments, our wars, our politics and our nations are not righteous like He is righteous. Only He is completely "Faithful and True."

'BABYLON'

We may think we are rich in righteousness—in law, morality, right positions and right professions of faith—but we can't mix God's kingdom with the ways and means of the kingdoms of the world forever. We can't try to hold onto the flame of the fire in His eyes and expect Him to look away when we choose to let our agape love grow cold.

"You adulteresses! Don't you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

This is why 'Babylon' is pictured as a "great prostitute" in Revelation 17. She represents those who began betrothed to Christ, but who commit adultery with the kings and merchants of the earth—she professes her betrothal to Christ but in her heart and actions she seeks power, land, wealth and prosperity for herself and the beast whose fatal wound had been healed. Like the ancient empire of Babylon, she sets out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

She doesn't know that her lovers—the merchants and kings of the earth, and even the beast whose wound was healed—they do not truly love her, and they will hate her and leave her naked.

She chooses to believe in her own righteousness instead of His alone, and to pursue earthly treasures instead of God's treasures—people. She forsakes the testimony of Jesus and His command of agape love in order to gain a 'kingdom' that will not last; she sells her soul seeking 'her own life', but loses even that.

And so He calls us to come out of 'her'—to repent and take up the Cross instead: by pleading His testimony alone and obeying His law of agape love above all other laws.
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Part 5: "The Beast"—Seemingly Favored

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Antichrist Among Us

Part 3 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
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The testimony of Jesus and His commands are a threat to the kingdoms of the world—including to the religious establishment:

1) The testimony of Jesus—the gospel—insults our pride and our glorying in our righteousness (or 'right-ness'). To say that Christ is the only way challenges our boasting in our 'ways', in our lawfulness, in our nation and our chosenness, in our politics and policies, and in our works.

2) His agape command—love one another as He loved us—does not harmonize with our priorities; He prizes people (including our enemies) and prioritizes the eternal, but we prioritize power and profit.

This is why in the time of the end, the Scriptures speak of 'rebellion', 'lawlessness' and 'antichrist'.

REBELLION

We prefer to think of the rebelliousness of 'the world'—the rebelliousness of unbelievers because, well, they just don't listen to us and believe. But when Jesus talked about 'the world', He drew no lines between unbelievers and the religious establishment (see John 15:18-16:2). 'The world' included people inside and outside the establishment.

"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs..." (2 Thes.2:1-3)

The word 'rebellion' means "Organized opposition intended to change or overthrow existing authority: insurgence, insurgency, insurrection, mutiny, revolt, revolution, sedition, uprising."

In other words, people who were under an authority have risen up to overthrow it and cast it off. This means that the "rebellion" is not something that comes from outside. It is not the rebellion of the unbelieving 'world', but instead rebellion of those who had been under Christ's authority but have now cast it off. It comes from inside the religious establishment, not from outside.

LAWLESSNESS

2nd Thessalonians 2 also speaks of 'lawlessness', which we naturally think of as meaning violation of the morality of the Ten Commandments—forgetting that the Ten Commandments are the law of the old covenant, and that the 'law' the new covenant is the agape command of Christ, "Love one another as I have loved you."

"Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love [agape] of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt.24:10-13)

A rebellion occurs among those who have faith and who follow agape love; Christ's law is considered impractical in the face of increasing wickedness in the world. In His name, false prophets and teachers lead people away from His law and faith in His righteousness alone; they set aside 'love one another as I have loved you' and speak instead what people want to hear: our side is 'right' and God sanctions our fight against our enemies.

ANTI-'CHRIST'

"Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 Jn.2:18-19)

'Antichrist' is not something that comes from outside, but something that comes from among us, and draws us away from Him and His commands in favor of what we want to hear:

"They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them." (1 Jn.4:5)

Seeing the wisdom of the Cross is as foolishness, the spirit of the antichrist vindicates our ways, protecting our pride and our boasts, and keeps Christ's commands something safely 'spiritual' and not meant for use in 'the real world':

"Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." (1 Jn.4:2-3)

Often we would prefer that Jesus be simply "spiritual"—instead of being the Lord who came in the flesh and calls us to obey not only in our minds, but also with our bodies and every part of our lives. It's easier to keep "Jesus" as a matter of doctrinal and academic truth. We can boast in our profession of His name but keep Him safely compartmentalized, separated from interfering with our boasts, our pride and our ways. We can go on living without letting Him change our values to what He values—we can continue chasing power and profit, and thinking of our 'enemies' as people who keep us from getting them.

If we call Him, "Lord, Lord" and yet cast away His law of agape love in favor of profit and power, we're building our house on sand and turning away from loving Him in 'the least of these' (Mt.7:24-27,25:41-45). Our 'evangelism' becomes preaching His name with our ways instead of with His law—preaching a different "Christ" instead of the real Christ: an anti-'Christ', made in our own image, supporting, vindicating, and championing our ways.

IN CHRIST'S TIME

By the time Christ came to Judea, there had already been several candidates people had hoped would be the Messiah (Acts 5:36-37). The people of Judea looked for the Messiah to be a military leader who would come vindicate them and their politics, drive away their unbelieving enemies (the Romans), and restore the kingdom and the land of Israel to them. They looked for 'messiahs' like Barabbas and the other two rebels who were crucified on either side of Jesus—people who were fighting for Israel's freedom, independence, prosperity, and to bring back 'the kingdom'.

Jesus didn't fit their agenda. He wasn't the kind of 'Messiah' they wanted, and they became afraid that if people listened to Him, saw His power and believed the things He was teaching, they would all lose what they really valued:

"If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place [the temple] and our nation." (Jn.11:48)

The nation was first, and so was their religious establishment. The things Jesus taught were impractical to them—His grace, His commands, His forgiveness and His love. They thought that if they followed His ways, they would even lose their temple and ability to worship God. They believed that their spiritual freedom depended on their political freedom, and that they had to use the ways of the kingdoms of the world in order to establish the kingdom of God.

They believed that the 'enemies' of the Christ (the Messiah) were the Romans outside, but the truth is that the real 'anti-Christ' was inside of them.

TODAY

Are Christ's teachings considered impractical today? Do we value our nation more than following Him? Do we think that His teachings are just good as 'spiritual' truths and not as something meant to literally be put into practice? Do we say "Jesus, Jesus" but bend His teachings to make Him fit our image and vindicate our ways?

Where is the spirit of 'antichrist' today?


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Part 4: "Babylon"—Mixing Kingdoms