“I Have Seen the Lord!”

Coeur d Alene Sunrise – Photo by Michael Clark

Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. (Ps 138:6, NIV)

In chapter twenty of John’s gospel we read about Jesus making first contact with a human after He rose again from the dead on the third day. We might expect that He would have chosen to manifest Himself to one of the more prominent disciples like Peter or even John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. He did not choose either of them, although they were among the three followers that came to the His tomb the morning of the third day. No, Jesus chose to make Himself known to Mary Magdalene.

Mary was a woman that had been possessed by seven demons and had been ravaged by many men in her lifetime and suffered much rejection as a result. But Jesus saw something to be treasured in Mary. He delivered her and healed her of everything  Satan had done to her. She was looked down upon by her own people and rejected, but Jesus chose this weak woman to confound Simon the Pharisee and His very own disciples in their self-righteousness as they judged her and Him (See Luke 7:36-50 and Matthew 26:6-13). Mary loved Jesus very much because she had been forgiven much. I know hundreds of Christians who, in their own minds, are not all that bad compared to people in this world. I have found that their love is very thin as a result. I once thought I was pretty good as well (and judgmental) until I was prompted to ask God how HE saw me instead of how I thought He saw me. What He showed me was a self-righteous hypocrite. It didn’t take me long to cry out to Him to change me. The purging of my heart is what has taken so much time.

So it was Mary who had been a harlot that Jesus chose to appear to first and to spread the good news that He had risen. There is a very touching scene that John captured in his gospel about their miraculous meeting.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:1-2, ESV2011)

She rose up early while it was still dark so that she could be with Jesus, though she knew He was dead. Finding the tomb empty, she was distraught. She got Peter and John to go back with her and these two went inside and saw that the tomb was empty except for the grave clothes that Jesus had been wrapped in. Then these two men did something strange… they went home! John records, “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Not to be so easily deterred, Mary stayed, hoping to find out what happened to His body so she could take care of it herself.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18, ESV2011)

Through her tears Mary spoke with angels and with her risen Lord, but still did not understand it was Him until He called her by her name, “Mary.” When I go to a restaurant, I always look for a name tag on the server so I can call them by name. There is something about being called by our name that makes us feel closer to someone when we meet them. This intimate touch of hearing Him speak her name once more was all that was needed to awaken Mary to who He was. She answered in her native tongue, “Rabboni.” At this moment, she must have rushed to Him and hugged Him with overflowing love, because He warned her that He had not ascended to the Father, yet. He then said to her, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” This story is no cold liturgy that was carefully scripted by the intellects of religious men. This was an outpouring of love between Christ and a lowly woman who counted for nothing in human society. He told her that His God was her God, and His Father was also her Father. Jesus came to restore all men and women to His Father that we can know Him as OUR Father, too. What joy can also be ours if we will only give up our dead religious routines as well as our sin and seek intimacy with Him

All through the Bible God chose the lowly to manifest Himself to and many of them were women. Jesus’ very blood line came down through numerous rejected, barren women God did a miracle for and gave them hope. His own mother, Mary, was lowly in a no account town named Nazareth, but the angel that appeared to her told her that she was highly esteemed in the mind of God saying, “Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.” She was to become the mother of the Messiah.  We may think of ourselves as nothing in the eyes of God and men, but God chooses the lives of the lowly and the abased to fulfill His will.

For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. (Jer 29:11-12, NET)

Dear Father, give us hearts like that of Mary, hearts that will not give up until we are one with you and your Son. Amen.

Freedom from Fear as We Abide IN Christ — Let US Go On!

 

Doe & twins 2013-web

Newborn twin fawns and their caring mother – Photo by Michael Clark

Jesus foretold the end of the world saying,

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26, ESV2011)

If we watch the news these days we see destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, hurricanes, pestilence, starvation and such in the natural sphere. Then there is the fear of what mankind is doing,–mass shootings, terrorism, wars, rumors of wars (the fear of war) and all sorts of evil and inhumanity being done to the men, women and children of this planet. Lately we even hear that North Korea’s leader has nuclear launch button sitting on his desk to be used at his whim to fire off a barrage of nuclear missiles that can reach anywhere in America. There is no end to the perplexity and feelings of helplessness that distresses the nations. Wherever people are found who have not put their total trust in Jesus Christ there is fear.

Later in this same chapter Jesus says this:

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be weighed down with carousing, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. (Luke 21:34, KJ2000)

He warns against carousing and getting drunk and then includes with these actions being weighed down with the cares of this life. Those of you who have never tried “hiding in a bottle” might wonder how these three things could be related. I have taken to the bottle to sedate my mind enough in the past and know that once I sobered up my fears and depression were only made worse! My worried mind might have been numbed for a few hours, but my troubles always came crashing down on me afterwards like the bursting of a dam.

When we let the cares of our lives and this world become our focus we are showing that we have more faith in their power over us than we have in our loving Father in heaven. Jesus said to the disciples,  “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, RSV). We are more than overcomers as we abide in Jesus.

Peter wrote,

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1Pet 5:6-7, ESV2011)

God is mighty, but to be under His care we need to humble ourselves under His hand. All too often we go charging off into the fray in the self-assurance of our own wills, either by focusing on our own strength or on our own weakness in which we are unable to do anything about it. Whether we focus on our supposed might or on our feelings of inadequacy, we still are not humbling ourselves under the covering of our Father’s loving hands. Satan’s greatest ploy with us is to get us to look away from Jesus who loves us and is in constant intercession for us before the Father and focus on our problems as if we had to face them alone. He loves to do this to us that we become totally isolated from God in our fears. Paul wrote:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice… The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7, ESV2011)

The Lord is always at hand! We who place our trust in Him are never alone. Anxiety is a tool of the devil. But when we turn our thoughts to our loving Father with prayer, seeking His solution in these matters, we will finally get our break through. It is in seeing how much He cares for us that we finally well up with rejoicing in our hearts, knowing that He cares for us more even than we do, the enemy is foiled and God’s peace once again comes flowing into our hearts and minds. T. Austin-Sparks wrote about another facet of the obstacle of self-focus causing us weakness in this battle.

The readiness of Paul was constituted by his having settled, once for all, his own personal, spiritual problems. You never find Paul tied up in the knots of personal spiritual problems, going round, and round, and round, and never getting anywhere because his own spiritual problems are all the while bothering him. Paul had that matter settled at the beginning. He got over that fence, and went away into Arabia, and when Paul said he was ready, it meant that he was at leisure from himself spiritually. No man is ready, in this sense, who is not free from himself spiritually. We do not mean that every question that can ever come to us has been answered, and every problem has been solved, but that we are so utterly abandoned to Christ that we know quite well that, if we go on with the Lord, sooner or later all those things will solve themselves. Our business is to GO ON, and get free from ourselves spiritually. Those who are self-occupied in a spiritual way are the unready, the unprepared. Why not relegate your ‘locking-up’ problem to a place where you trust the Lord to deal with it when He pleases, and get on with the business of the Lord and with His interests? Recognize the desperate need that there is spiritually in this world, and give yourself to it? I venture to say you will come back to your pigeon holes and find your problems all solved. You will come back and find that that thing which was laid on the table for the time being has looked after itself and is no longer a problem to you. While you sit there with it all, the Lord’s interests are being suspended, and you, in the meantime, are getting nowhere at all. Abandonment to the Lord in this way in faith is the first essential, the Lord’s interests becoming the predominant thing, the passion of your heart. There is nothing like that abandonment to the Lord for solving personal problems. Christ becomes the Emancipator when we abandon ourselves to Him. That is [spiritual] readiness.

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002213.html

 

In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us. (1John 4:17-19, RSV)

Father draw us with your love and free our hearts from all fear. Open our eyes to see that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Amen.

Seeing with the Eyes of Our Hearts

Emmaus-2

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” (Eph 1:17-19, ESV2011)

Have you ever read this passage and wondered what the eyes of your heart being enlightened might be? Paul saw that this was really needed by those who are Christ’s so we may know what is the hope He has called us to and might experience the greatness of His power toward us.

For one thing, we know that if our heart’s eyes have been enlightened, we receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in a personal relationship, the intimate knowing of Jesus Christ. We are called to be His bride and as such, friends He shares everything with (see John 15:15). There is a mind knowing of something and then there is an intimate knowing of what is known. There is a knowing of a woman that a casual visitor to her home might have, and then there is a knowing of her that her husband has. Intimacy is not found in the mind or by mere observation, but in the heart. We can understand all mysteries and have all knowledge, but without love it is nothing in the economy of God’s kingdom. This is why mere intellectual knowledge of the Bible is not enough. We must have its depth of meaning revealed to us in our hearts, or we will miss the revelation it was written in. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were blind until Jesus opened the eyes of their hearts. They said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (see Luke 24:31-32). God has always dealt with hearts and looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He is not so much interested in our intellectual abilities as He is longing for us to have an intimate relationship with Him as His bride and our hearts burning for Him. Isaiah wrote, “For your Maker is your husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer…” (Isa 54:5, KJ2000). David was a man after God’s own heart, he longed for closeness with Him, and from that intimacy he often wrote prophetically about Jesus.

So what are the eyes of our hearts? Isn’t it having eyes that see beyond this three dimensional world into the spirit realm? Jesus has appeared in a very personal way to many of His devout followers over the centuries and it has changed their lives forever. Revelation of Him in our hearts puts us on a quest to know Him more intimately than any human on earth. T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

 Christ passed through this world unrecognized, unloved, making the positive affirmation that ”no one knoweth the Son save the Father” (Matt. 11:27). There is a mystery here. He is manifested as God in Christ, but in such a hidden way that it demands an act of God in specific revelation to see Jesus Christ. You cannot see Who Jesus Christ is truly unless God acts sovereignly and opens the eyes of your heart. That has been demonstrated by His whole life here on this earth. When one apostle was able in a moment of revelation to say, ”Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the rejoinder was: ”Blessed art thou, Simon BarJonah; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father” (Matt. 16:17).

And what is true of Christ is true of the Church. It is heavenly; it is unrecognized, unknown, unless God reveals it. I want you really to grasp this. I know in what a realm of helplessness it places us on the one side, and rightly so, it is as well that it is so; and therefore what it makes necessary on the other side: God must have a Church which exists on the basis of His own sovereign act of revelation. The purity of it demands that. If everybody could see and understand and comprehend, and the Church could be brought right down to the limited compass of human apprehension, what sort of Church would it be? The Church, in its heavenly character taken from Christ, is something that can only be entered by revelation, because it can only be known by revelation. ”No one knoweth…..” We can only state these facts. No teaching can accomplish it; we are powerless in the matter. All that is given to us is to state Divine facts; it is for God to reveal. But, thanks be unto God, He has revealed and He does reveal; and some of us can say He has shined into our hearts in this matter, and the revelation of Christ and of the Church has made an immense difference in every way.

God cannot be really known by the things which He says, however many they may be. There is such a difference between mental, intellectual apprehension and conception of God, and living, heart-transforming apprehension. God must come to us Himself in a living, personal way if we are to know Him livingly, actually. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000429.html)

Jesus asked His disciples one day, “Who do men say that I am?” They began to answer Him with  their minds and repeated things that they had only heard from others, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matt 16:14, ESV2011). Until we know Jesus not only as our Redeemer, the Christ, but also as the One who sits at the right hand of God, personally making intercession for us, we still do not know Him. When He reveals things to us in our hearts, no one can talk us out of it. When we see Jesus as our ever present friend and lover, our lives are totally changed and there is no denying Him. We know that we know that we know.

Jesus went on to tell Peter that this revelation of who He is (The Rock of God’s revelation – see 2 Sam. 22:47) is foundational to the ecclesia of God and the very gates of hell will not prevail against it. In the Bible gates represent the places where the elders of the city sat as a council, made decisions and ruled. They had the power of leadership over that city. God needed to establish the ecclesia of Christ, His called-out ones, so that they would not cave into the councils of hell or false teachers and false prophets and be ruled by the cunning of Satan. He elected to do this by sending us His Holy Spirit as our Teacher so that we have no need that any man should teach us (see John 16:13-15 and 1 John 2:26-27). The Holy Spirit teaches us by revelation into our hearts directly from God so that we not only know in our hearts that Jesus the Christ IS God’s Son, but that He is the First Born of many other sons and daughters of God (see Romans 8:29). We who are His sons and daughters hear His voice and see with the eyes of our hearts as Christ’s devoted Bride, lovingly following and obeying Him. He is the one who must open them and He will.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1John 3:2, ESV2011)

I AM the Resurrection and the Life

Coeur 'd Alene Sunset

Coeur ‘d Alene Sunset – photo taken by Michael Clark

For many of us our thoughts are preoccupied with worries  about our current situation, fearing nothing will ever change or we are worried about what is to come. But there is no need to change anything in the here and now  or try to change our future if we are IN Christ. It does not get better than being in Christ because everything in Christ is already perfect! In fact, everything good is already ours IN Christ. Paul put it this way,

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1Cor 3:21-23, ESV2011)

Christ is in the Father and you who believe are in Christ, therefore all things are yours in Christ in the Father. Paul was chastising them for being carnal, for claiming to be a follower of this teacher or that, as if these men could give them what they were looking for. Paul wanted them to realize that all things were already theirs, if they could only see that they were in the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (See Colossians 2:3).

Not only are all wisdom and knowledge in Christ, but the keys to life and death, all things present, and the future are in Him as well. Why do we fear death or anything this life on earth can deal to us? Jesus has all these things under His control.

Matthew Henry wrote about 1 Cor 3, verse 22:

“Life is yours, that you may have a season and opportunity to prepare for the life of heaven; and death is yours, that you may go to the possession of it. It is the kind messenger to take you from sin and sorrow, and to guide you to your Father’s house.” – (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_corinthians/3-22.htm)

Jesus said,

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:25-26, ESV2011)

Note that He said, “Where I am, there will my servant be also.” He did not say, “where I am going.” Jesus in the Father is the I Am. If we are in Christ we are in the I Am. We cannot love our earthly lives and be where Jesus is. We can only find the abundant life we seek in heavenly places in Christ. Death to our carnal man and its life is the messenger that takes us from our life of sin and sorrow into the presence of our Father. Death, as much as we hate it in our natural man, is our friend so that we may lose our life and find the real eternal life that is outside of time and space (distance) that is ours in Christ. T. Austin-Sparks wrote,

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (Luke 18:27)

All hangs upon this one thing (as simple as it may seem) that if Christ is present (which means nothing else than that God is present) anything is possible at any moment. Are you waiting for some day when things will be better? It is not a matter of time at all, it is a matter of Him. He says, “I am time and eternity all in a moment, and you need not accept anything in the matter of time; you accept Me, and you may be well-nigh dead in the morning and be very much alive before the day is over. ‘I am the resurrection and the life.‘” Mary said, “I know that He will rise again in the last day.” For her resurrection was a matter of time. Oh no. Resurrection was right there….

As long as it takes to break a loaf you have gone from seed-time to harvest. “‘Do you not say, There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?‘ (John 4:35). I am here, and there can be harvest at any moment when I am here.” It is not a matter of time, of circumstance. We are dealing with God, and He is not bound by anything that is known to our human life at all. Eternity dwells in any moment when He is present. All things are bound up with any moment when He is present. The centurion said, “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” “You need not come. Distance does not matter, time does not matter, just speak the word and it will be done.” The Lord said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.” The word was uttered, and when the enquiry was made as to when it happened it was found to synchronize with the moment when He spoke. He takes everything into His hands, and says “My hour…” and when that comes, there is no postponement. Oh, that we should lay hold of that more, live on that, never surrender to conditions, never surrender to the inevitable from the standpoint of the human, but say, “We have Him; He is our future, He is our circumstance.” Anything can be at any moment with the Lord present. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003125.html)

Yes, Jesus is our Life in the here and now and our future as well. In the Spirit there is no separation by distance. We sense Him and the hearts of those who are His as if they are right next to us because we are all in Him. He is our circumstance, not the world and what it dishes out or its limitations. All things are ours in Christ. He is our Resurrection and Life. To live in Christ is to live in faith. He is our All in all. He who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find all things in Him.

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for the fellowship in Christ that inspired this article)