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Friday, December 1, 2017

Then the King Will Say...

“Since Jesus knew what was going on, he said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me’” (Matt. 26:10, GWT).

As I read this passage a few days ago, Holy Spirit was bringing me into the story. I could feel Jesus’ inner being full of emotion as He received this woman’s ministry. He was only days away from His death. His awareness of its rapid approach is evident in the numerous remarks that kept flowing from His heart about the subject. Just eight verses earlier in the text, He had again announced to His disciples: “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” (v. 2, NKJV).

Jesus was human. Humans have emotions. His soul could already perceive the weight of what He was about to endure. The bitterly cruel taste of the cup He was “about to drink” (Matt. 20:22) was already present on his tongue. His razor-sharp prophetic awareness allowed Him to keenly feel the nearness of His pending torturous death.


Under these conditions, He watches this earnest, beautiful sister come in. She is clutching in her hands her most valuable physical possession, an alabaster jar full of costly perfume. Easily worth a year’s wages, this vessel in many ways represents all her life’s dreams and longings. Having resolved to give Him the very most precious gift she could procure, she has already broken the seal. Her eyes fixed on His face, love spills from her countenance as she gently approaches Him. She is holding nothing back. She is steadfastly determined to pour out on Him the most generous expression of her love, that which will cost her everything.

He sees the passionate adoration burning in her eyes. The aroma of the perfume matches the beauty of her fragrant love; both fill and saturate the atmosphere, surrounding Him with the revelation of His belovedness. Her love, reaching out, is making intimate contact with His soul. She is meeting Him in the midst of the pain He is already beginning to bear. This palpable demonstration of her unbridled devotion is alleviating the heaviness of the weight pressing on His emotions. Her worship enters into the core of Him and brings Him intensely profound comfort. She is ministering to the very depths of Him.

Overwhelmed by her expression, He cannot hold back His gratitude. He exclaims, “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial!” (v. 12, ESV). She has not only prepared His body; she has also helped prepare His soul. Her love has imparted tangible relief and strength to Him. He continues, “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her!” (v. 13). So important, so essential, so vital is her role in this week leading up to His death, that the stunning beauty of what she did for Him must be announced all over the entire world!

*************************

Just two subheadings earlier in the book of Matthew, we find a flabbergasting revelation. You and I can likewise minister powerfully to Jesus, reaching His heart with the same degree of overwhelming intimacy, as this woman did.

How?

“I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes; naked and you clothed me; sick and in prison, and you visited me… When you did it to these my brothers you were doing it to me!” (Matt. 25:35-36, 40, TLB).

Days before His death, Jesus gazed into the future and saw this scene. He saw Himself seated on His throne in all of His majesty. And in the midst of all His glory, He saw Himself thanking us. He saw Himself pouring out His inexpressibly profound gratitude to us. He saw Himself expressing the depths of His heart about how we personally alleviated His pain.

Can you imagine the King of Kings on the throne as John the Revelator saw Him? “His eyes like a flame of fire… He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength” (Rev. 1:14b, 16, NKJV). Jesus, revealed in the fullness of His infinite might, shining like the sun in all of its brilliance, looking at you in the eyes and expressing… vulnerability? “I was hungry, thirsty, naked. I was sick and alone, languishing in prison. I desperately needed someone to come.”

How is this possible?

In this expression of His heart we find the answer: “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite’” (Isa. 57:15, RSV, bold emphasis mine).

Jesus both inhabits the high and lofty position of His unspeakably magnificent throne… and dwells amidst the squalor of the most forsaken squatter populations of the earth. Both. He is magnified and lifted up, exalted with the Name that is above every other name… and He is in prison. He fills all of eternity with His measureless, omnipotent glory… and He is here with us, struggling in our pain.

There is affliction all around us. Our existence intersects with the lives of broken people, hurting from the consequences of the fall of man. No doubt, you yourself reading this post, have your own share of heartache that you have either walked through in the past or are currently enduring.

Jesus is in all of it. When His physical body ascended into heaven, His Spirit came to inhabit earth. The Holy Spirit is both His own distinct Person, and He is Jesus. He is the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus really meant it when He said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age. To be with us, He has to be here. He is here.

Jesus is fully, intimately present with us. His emotions are wrapped up in our human experience. As a result, He is hungry. He is thirsty. He is wandering around impoverished barrios in soiled rags. There are open sores on His skin and His stomach is bloated. Flies buzz unceasingly around His unhealed rash. He is sleeping on cardboard on the sidewalk, huddled in a foul-smelling blanket. He is incarcerated, longing for someone to care.


The woman with the alabaster jar touched Jesus’ very core with her love. So can you. For you see, wherever someone is suffering, He is there. When you look into their eyes, if you pay close attention, you will see Him looking back at you. He is right there next to you in line at the grocery store. He is standing behind that cash register. He is bringing you your food at the restaurant. He is walking down the sidewalk in front of your house. He is living next door.

He doesn’t expect you to save the world. But He is asking if you will reach out and relieve His pain? When you show that one kindness, you are alleviating His aching. When you bless that one with a warm touch and a genuine smile, tangible comfort reaches into His very soul. When you sacrifice your comfort and give of what is most precious to you, in order to enter into the world of “the least of these,” He is inexpressibly grateful. These are His “brothers.” These are the precious ones that He loves more than His life.

We began this conversation describing the worshiping woman with a jar of expensive perfume in Matthew 26. Her identity remains undisclosed. In spite of Jesus’ determination to make her breathtaking act of love known throughout the entire world, He does not tell us her name. I believe this is because He is inviting us to be her. To fill in our own name in the blank. Today, He is beckoning to you. He is earnestly asking you to personally minister to the very depths of His heart.

How will you respond?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Unstoppable and Unafraid

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” (Matt. 24:6, AMP).

When you hear news reports suggesting the possibility of North Korea setting off nuclear destruction, what is your inner response? In Matthew 24, Jesus prophesies the violent turbulence of the end times. We have already arrived in the period He is describing; we cannot ignore the signs that practically flash this message to us in neon lights. However, in the midst of all the turmoil, He explicitly commands us, “See to it that you are not afraid.”

There are two very distinct ways to live life in this current chapter of God’s unfolding story. The default option is to glue ourselves to the glowing television screen and allow it to interpret reality for us. In doing so, we can make the choice to daily devour the servings of fear, suspicion, and dread that the mainstream media constantly serves up. In essence, we can spend our days in anxiety and unrelenting nervous apprehension of the world as we know it unraveling before our eyes.

Alternately, we can embrace God’s perspective and live out each moment as if this were the most exhilarating human era to be alive in all of history! Because it IS!!

The further we advance along the developing timeline, the more God is going to ask of us that we choose the latter. In this critical time, as His calendar is put on display, He is calling us to rise up and live above fear.

Are We Making Any Progress?


A few years ago, I was grappling with a question that had been troubling me at the edges of my mind for some time. Musings on the need to re-dig spiritual wells that had become obstructed circled through my thoughts. I brooded over the task of taking our cities for Jesus, when oftentimes they had already seemingly been taken for Him before. What about cases like the church in LA crying out for revival? I wondered. Just over a century ago, the fires of Azusa were burning brilliantly in that very geographical location! Do they need to now retake the same territory? Was all that progress lost?

So I asked God about it. “Lord, are we just re-doing, in every generation, what’s been done before? Or are we actually advancing, making some headway, achieving some forward movement?”

He answered me by reminding me of a dream that He gave to a pagan king thousands of years ago. For whatever mysterious reason, He decided that He would give revelation of the end times to a ruler who worshipped demon gods. As the prophet Daniel explained to him, “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” (Dan. 2:28, NKJV).

In short, Nebuchadnezzar saw a colossal, majestic statue that represented the kingdoms of the earth. Then a mysterious stone, hewn by invisible hands, struck the enormous structure and shattered it into absolute dust. A wind came and blew away all traces of it. What happened next is the key for our purposes today: “But the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth” (v. 35, NLT).



If this is a picture of “the latter days,” what do you imagine that mountain represents? What unbounded joy is ours, when we come to understand that this mountain is a symbol of the Kingdom of God taking over the entire earth!

God is taking over this planet, and there is absolutely nothing the devil can do about it. Now that, my dear friend, is the correct perspective with which to view everything that is happening in the world today.

The Unstoppable Stone


Jesus is that stone from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He is the “stone that the builders rejected” (Acts 4:11). Through His birth, death, and resurrection, He knocked down and entirely obliterated the existing power structures on earth. The devil was disarmed, defeated, and humiliated. At that point, Jesus began to reign, establishing His rule here on earth. For this reason, His main message to the multitudes was, “The Kingdom of God has come! It is now in your midst!”

Jesus the Stone also issued this prophetic announcement about Himself, “On this Rock, I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). When He ascended into heaven, the early church was born. The rock began to grow. From that time until now, it has continually increased in size and stature. What began as an embryo in Mary’s womb has gradually become a mountain of staggering proportions spreading out over the entire globe!

This was God’s answer to my question. “No, dear child, My faithful laborers on the earth today are not simply reinventing the wheel. With every generation that I bring forth, this mountain is towering higher and higher, getting ready to subjugate the entire creation.”

Isaiah, too, saw this far ahead of time and proclaimed through prophetic vision, “For unto us a Child is born… of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isa. 9:6a, 7a, NKJV). When was this ever-enlarging government slated to begin, according to his prophecy? “From that time forward, even forever” (v. 7g). 

From the time this Child was given unto to us, the stone has been growing. It has ever since been expanding relentlessly in every direction. It has been aggressively acquiring massive dimensions. And according to this prophecy, there will be no end to its increase! There will be no point, ever, where the growth of His Kingdom dwindles, falters, halts, or even briefly pauses. He is taking over, and who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Terrified Opponents


As the mountain of God’s Kingdom grows upward and outward exponentially, it occupies more and more territory. As a result, His enemies have less and less space in which to operate. They are agonizingly aware that their domain is constantly shrinking. Agitated and frantic, they know how short their time is. They are miserable spirits, existing as defeated, humiliated failures. Their wretchedness is made even worse by their awareness that their eternal torment in the lake of fire is swiftly approaching.



Every day that passes, they can see the sands of time falling through the hour glass. The increase of wickedness that you see on the earth today is simply the manifestation of their desperation. The wars, the rumors of wars, the hatred, the spitefulness, the perversion, the violence, the evil running rampant – all of this is their terrorized, panicked last attempt to delay their horrendously inevitable eternal destiny. They are clawing at the edge of the cliff even as they already feeling themselves falling into the abyss.

Should we, then, be intimidated by them? Intimidated by beings that know to their deepest core that their place is under our feet? Fearful of thwarted, vanquished creatures that tremble, grovel, cringe, and flee away before the glorious presence of the Lord of all creation? By no means, dear child, by no means! Far be it from us!

Jesus was speaking in earnest when He said, “See to it that you are not afraid.” He meant it. Those words He chose, “See to it,” put the responsibility on our shoulders to cultivate a lifestyle that is both valiant and free of fear.

The choice lies before us. Will we feed our spirits daily with only fear and vitriol, pathetically hypnotized by the allure of the screen? Or will we choose to run after God with unrestrained passion, pursuing Him as the all-consuming object of our appetites? Will we crave Him? Will we make Him our one thing?

The days are coming when this choice will mean life, or death. Let’s choose Him now, being filled up to overflowing with all the fullness of His mighty strength, channels of His majesty in the most glorious epoch of history ever to be alive!

The Lion of Judah is roaring – do you hear Him?

“Arise, my people! Let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the Lord is streaming from you. Darkness as black as night shall cover all the peoples of the earth, but the glory of the Lord will shine from you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see the glory of the Lord upon you!” (Isa. 60:1-3, TLB).


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Friday, November 3, 2017

Airlifted Out: You Don't Have to Stay Down There!

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” (Ps. 144:1, NKJV)

Whether we realize it or not, we are living out our lives in the middle of a fierce combat zone. Many of us have not yet learned to discern the spiritual origins of much of the turbulence that comes into our lives. However, the spiritual battle that rages around us is incredibly real. “Our fight is not against people on earth but against… the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world” (Eph. 6:12, NCV).

When the Scripture refers to us as soldiers, Holy Spirit is not merely speaking metaphorically. We truly, legitimately ARE operating on a violent battle field. The sound of clashing armies resounds all around us.

Awareness of the war zone we are in will not cause fear to arise in our hearts if our gaze is fixed on the One who is invisible! He is God Almighty, and the demons tremble at the mere mention of His name on the lips of one who walks closely with Him. With a mere blast of breath from His nostrils, He could slay every last one of His enemies in the blink of any eye.

He is calling us up higher. He is inviting us to fixate on Him in all of His glory and splendor. As we do so, filled with the confidence of Who He is inside of us, we will find ourselves beginning to rise above the demonic activity happening around us.

So much of our Christian life is a training ground for growing in effectiveness as warriors. In this post, I would like to explore one of the most vital aspects of this training: learning to ascend. In order to operate from the place of victory that Jesus purchased for us with His blood, it’s absolutely essential that we learn to go up higher in the heavenly realms.



A Dream and a Vision: Airlifted Out


Holy Spirit graciously and generously provided an amazing visual illustration of this principle, through my dear friend Hannah Mattner. With her blessing, I want to share with you a life changing encounter she had with Jesus. These are her words describing a dream that she had, which was fraught with spiritual warfare:

“I started to literally see the spiritual realm, so clearly, and I was seeing demonic faces… I felt fear, because what I was experiencing was incredibly overwhelming. There was SO MUCH happening that I suddenly was seeing, feeling, hearing, and understanding. It was scary, intimidating… The demons were attacking me. I screamed at the top of my lungs, shaking violently. A demon came out of nowhere right up to my face…”

At that point, Hannah woke up, affected throughout her whole being by the impact of the dream. She then describes:

“It was 1:26 am and I was sweating. I remembered the whole dream and the demon’s face was embedded in my mind. I put my worship on...”

This is where her Holy Spirit combat training kicked in. As she was now awake, He transitioned her from the intense dream into a vivid vision. Through it, He showed her how to move up out of the fray and into victory:

“Then I had this vision of me being in the room from the dream (where it ended) and He plucked me up with His hand, airlifting me out of there – it felt like I was floating. He brought me up so high in the sky, above the clouds, where it was quiet, tranquil, peaceful, beautiful and bright. I was so calm and at ease, and I could feel His presence all around me. His light shining so warm and bright, He illuminated everything.

“He told me to look down, and when I did I saw a layer of clouds. Below them it was dark. I could see all of those demons, the enemy’s whole operation, running rampant, doing their work. Holy Spirit told me, ‘They can’t come up here. They’re powerless to you when you operate from here. You have the power and authority to be here, which is where I want you to be. This is where you fight from.’

“And with that I felt so much at rest. I realized just how small satan and his demons were from being up so high. The enemy had no power unless you fought at his level.”


Seated With Jesus Far Above Every Demon


God couldn’t have made His message more clear. Hannah shared this experience with me nearly two years ago, and over and over, it has come back to my mind. I am convinced that her vision illustrates one of the most crucial revelatory points that we need for victorious living. God wants us occupying the higher place!



Spiritually speaking, we have already obtained the higher position. God has already placed us there. “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6-7, NLT).

This is actually rather mind-blowing if you think about it. We are seated with Christ. To understand what this means, we need to know where His seat is. Wherever He is seated, that is where we are too. Just nine verses earlier, Holy Spirit reveals the answer: “[The Father] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…” (Eph. 1:20b-21a, ESV).

Jesus has won the position far, far above every demonic power! And the Father has resurrected you from spiritual death and positioned you right there with Him. You, too, are seated high, high above every spiritual enemy that has ever hated you! That is astounding!

Even as astonishing as this good news is, though, I still found myself with a question in my heart. I asked the Lord, if I am seated far above every demon, why does it often still feel like I’m right in the midst of the fray? Even this same book of Ephesians, a few chapters later, is coaching us on the vital importance of spiritual armor. Why would I need armor if I weren’t in the fray?

Simultaneously Above and Beneath


This is one of those biblical mysteries that we can only understand through the Holy Spirit’s communication to our spirit. It’s a both/and principle. We are both seated high above, and we are still in the fray, fighting the good fight of faith. We are both already high above, and we need to ascend. We find the concept of moving up to a higher place in spirit frequently throughout Scripture. Here are a few examples to meditate on:
  • “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob…” (Isa. 2:3, NKJV).
  • “And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here’” (Rev. 4:1, NKJV).
  • “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?” (Ps. 24:3, NKJV).
  • “Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God” (Jer. 31:6, NKJV).
  • “And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here’” (Rev. 11:12, NKJV).
  • “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says…” (Hab. 2:1, NLT).
Ascending means locking our focus on the Lord of Angel Armies. As we connect into the reality of His matchless, glorious, untouchable rule over everything that exists, we will find ourselves immersed in the atmosphere of heaven.

God is simultaneously present in both the heavenly and the earthly realms. So are we. Our bodies are on the earth while our spirits are one with Jesus, seated with Him. The more we learn to focus on “the things that are above” (Col. 3:2), the more we will learn to operate increasingly from our superior spiritual position. More and more, we will fight from the place of victory rather than trying to meet the devil at his lower, defeated level.



Just as the Israelites had to move into and occupy the land that God said was already theirs, so we too are learning to occupy the heavenly position He has purchased for us. He has already made it ours. However, we are still learning to walk in the fulness of what is our own.

This is why we need the Holy Spirit’s constant tutelage. “We have received… the Spirit Who is from God, [given to us] that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts bestowed on us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12, AMP) It’s His job to teach us all things. He is our combat trainer. He is training our hands for war and our fingers for battle. He is teaching us to ascend. He is teaching us to fight from higher ground, from the place of victory.

About a year ago, I was in the midst of some exceptionally intense warfare. It was one of those seasons where nearly every day was a painful struggle. In the middle of everything that was going on, Holy Spirit spoke gently to my heart. “You don’t have to stay down there,” He said. “Come up here with Me.”

The battle is real. We are in it. Yet, in Him, we are exceedingly elevated above the skirmish even as our bodies are in it. Even as our boots are on the ground, our spirits are united with Christ high above any demonic name that can be named on the earth.

Today, ask Holy Spirit to open your eyes to your breathtaking position seated with Jesus. When you learn to operate from the place of victory that is yours, it will make all the difference in the world.

He’s ready to airlift you out!



If you would like to better understand how to go up higher, you can find more on that here.
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Hannah is also a delightfully gifted photographer and videographer! You can follow her on Instagram (@hannahmattner) and subscribe to her YouTube channel, YouTube.com/hannahmattner.



Saturday, October 14, 2017

Jesus' Little Ones: Come into the Story with Me!

Jesus’ keen, bright eyes enthusiastically scanned the waiting crowd. He was searching for the perfect visual illustration of the message burning in His heart for these treasured ones gathered around Him. Holy Spirit pointed to a beautiful two-year-old boy playing contentedly next to his mother in the grass. “His name is Eli,” the Spirit breathed the words into His heart.

Jesus squatted down to the child’s level. “Eli! Come here, little guy.” Eli looked up from his stack of pebbles, curious. Who besides his mama and sisters here knew his name? The most kind, gentle face he had ever seen was looking at him, the Man’s hands outstretched. Without hesitation, he straightened up and trotted over to Jesus. The Teacher grinned into Eli’s eyes and fondly caressed his soft black curls. Eli’s face lit up with a beam of innocent delight, returning Jesus’ gaze. He could tell this Man liked him.

Jesus exchanged a smile and a glance with Eli’s mother, wordlessly securing her blessing to keep her boy with Him a little longer. She nodded her permission shyly, pleased. Her energetic toddler rarely remained still for more than a few seconds. She was surprised at how contented he now was to stand quietly leaning back into Jesus, blinking at the masses of people gathered around. The Teacher stood again, His hand resting on Eli’s head, and the child glowed with peace.

Jesus paused and took time to look into the individual faces assembled around Him. His tone vibrant with loving authority, He began to convey what was on His heart. “The truth is,” He explained, continuing to look around, “You must change your thinking and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter God’s kingdom. The greatest person in God’s kingdom is the one who makes himself humble like this child” ¹.

Jesus’ Invitation


Everything about Jesus’ bearing emanated affection for Eli. A warm atmosphere of love surrounded Him, enveloping the little boy and everyone listening. Eager ears leaned in, concentrating on His teaching. Thirsty spirits had even now begun to respond to His truth. He was communicating to them not only through His words, but also through His voice, through His piercing gaze, and through His powerfully welcoming demeanor. Even in just hearing His introductory statement, they could already discern how momentous His message was: Jesus was appealing to their deep hearts, beckoning them all to become His Father’s little ones. He was inviting every hungry soul to belong.


Jesus then lifted Eli up in His arms. He kissed the child’s rosy cheek and continued, “And whoever welcomes a child like this in My name welcomes Me” ². His eyes gave away His overwhelming love for the boy.

His voice grew fiercely protective. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea!” ³. He held Eli even closer as He spoke these words.

Fathers and mothers in the crowd observed closely. They could tangibly perceive Jesus’ protectiveness of the child in His arms. The way Jesus was holding him brought to mind their own daughters and sons. How the instinct to guard and shelter rises up aggressively within, at any threat of hurt to our little ones!, they thought. Watching Jesus, they could perceive that He would go to any length to shield the little boy in His embrace from any harm.

They leaned in, wanting to capture every nuance of what Jesus was imparting. Their hearts too were beginning to burn. Somehow, they were also identifying with Eli. Hadn’t Jesus explained to them how good, how loving, how caring, how attentive the Father is? Ripples of revelation spread out through the crowd. Hearts’ eyes were opening to see the image of Daddy God in Jesus. How tenderly He held Eli!

Holy Spirit was breathing the meaning of the Teacher’s assertions deep into their core. Jesus was longing for them, too, to be held and cherished as God’s little ones, just like He was holding and cherishing the small boy. They thought about His words. “…One of these little ones who believes in Me…” He had said. Their spirits came alive with His implication – He was referring to every one of them whose newfound faith was springing forth as they listened to His captivating words! Each of the hungry hearts knew: they were His little ones!


Passionately Love-charged Admonitions


A few moments later, His tone shifted to that of a stern but compassionate fatherly warning. With intensity He urged, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire” ⁴. Even in these serious words, the sons and daughters listening could sense the profound love in His voice. His overwhelming concern for the destiny of their souls was unmistakable.

Jesus looked back at Eli with deep tenderness. As He softly rubbed his back, Eli leaned his little head on Jesus’ shoulder. Jesus then made a sweeping motion with His hand, indicating His loyal followers that sat nearby. He expressed His next thought. “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” ⁵. His hand then returned to Eli’s back, which He continued to stroke gently. The day had been long, and Eli was getting sleepy. His head remained nestled into the crook of Jesus’ neck.

Receiving their Master’s affirmation, His disciples’ hearts warmed with pleasure. How they relished being called God’s little ones! At first, Jesus’ habit of referring to them that way had seemed strange. How could grown men be the little ones of a Man in His early thirties? But they had grown to cherish His loving tones when speaking of them that way. How they admired this Teacher whom they had left everything to follow! How He had captured their hearts!

They continued to voraciously absorb every moment of His illustrated sermon, watching how He ministered to Eli even as He continued to teach. Jesus’ rich affection for people had become a familiar sight to them, one they never tired of. He regularly lavished affection on them too. Although He did not hesitate to correct them when they needed it, they always knew how fiercely He loved them. That sense of living, tangible love never ceased flowing from His person towards them.

They also drank in His words about their angels. Looking at each other, their faces reflected wonder. Not even just one angel. Angels, plural. Multiple angels, no less, assigned to their care! Angels with direct, uninterrupted access to the Father’s presence. Angels constantly in communication with the General Manager of the Universe, receiving His immaculately attentive instructions on how to surround, protect, and uphold them moment by moment. How cherished they were! It was hard to take it all in, but every day with Jesus, the revelation of Father’s love for them sunk deeper into their hearts.

A Living Parable


They looked up as Jesus went on. Without letting go of Eli, He was telling a story now. What a masterful storyteller He was! The entire audience was captivated inside His words as He told of a shepherd with a hundred sheep who had lost one of them. All His listeners felt like they could almost see the devoted man searching high and low, hacking through treacherous forests, crossing dangerous currents of water, tirelessly pushing through the night to find His lost sheep. Jesus described for them the shepherd’s ecstatic joy when he finally found the little creature trapped under a fallen tree branch, bleating out his plea for help. Elated tears ran down his weathered cheeks as he untangled his treasure and carried him home!


Riding on the compelling energy generated by His story, Jesus then brought the mesmerized listeners to His conclusion. Locking eyes with them, He uttered with passion, “In just the same way, your Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost!” ⁶.

When He spoke that last phrase, “these little ones,” His gaze fell on little Eli again. The boy was asleep, cradled in Jesus’ arms. He had become a living parable. Jesus gently kissed his forehead. The entire space was silent as every person there drank deeply of what He had just imparted to them. Then softly, one by one, all of Daddy’s little ones dispersed and walked back to their homes.

_________________________________

¹ Matt. 18:3-4, ERV
² Matt. 18:5, GWT
³ Matt. 18:6, NET
⁴ Matt. 18:8, NET
⁵ Matt. 18:10, NIV
⁶ Matt. 18:14, TEV


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

If You Are Enjoying This Blog, Check Out My Brand New One!

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Daddy's Seven Billion Limited Edition Masterpieces

I pause for a moment, watching my three-year-old play. My soul is delighting in her, my eyes feasting on her preciousness. Ferocious love for her brims up from my deepest core and lavishly spills out all over the place. Lily Belle. My youngest. My baby. She enhances my every day, extravagantly. Holy Spirit is right there with me, drinking her in too. “She is a limited edition,” He whispers to me.

With those words, He drops into my spirit another glimpse into His nature. Another glimpse into His unbounded affection for every unique, individual soul He has created.

“Limited edition.” Usually we think of this phrase as referring to just a few highly desirable collector’s items with very restricted availability.

Exactly! And that’s what you are. Limited edition. Prized. Highly desired. Sought after. Treasured.


Yes, there are seven billion people on the planet, plus who knows how many billion more that have already lived and died since God gave birth to the human race. To us finite beings, it sure seems easy to be lost in such a massive crowd. But nope, you’re not. Quite the contrary, in fact. Remember, He has a universe-sized space in His heart, just for you!! He’s got one for each of those other seven billion folks too. He’s intimately fascinated by and involved with the tiniest details of every one of our daily lives. He has also long yearned for communion with each of us individually. For this to be possible, we came with a flabbergasting price tag: every last drop of His life’s blood. The unspeakably precious blood of the eternal covenant – this is the inexpressibly expensive payment that serves as a measurement of how much each one of us is worth to Him.

Limited edition. Let’s search with our hearts’ eyes for His infinite perspective. Since a thousand years is truly like a day to the Lord – and He’s already existed for an eternity past – to Him, the entire span of human history feels like the mere passing of a week. It’s a blink. In that split second, in that blip stuck in between eternity past and eternity future, He has the briefest of interims to create all the beings that are going to rapturously enjoy Him forever. To Him, seven billion plus is actually a very small number. Once that blink is over, that will be it! Limited edition.

Fervent Aficionados


Think about the zealous enthusiasts that will camp out overnight in line outside a business to be among the first purchasers of a feverishly anticipated special collector’s piece. Think of the waves of excited energy that crash through the crowd when the store finally opens. Think of the customer, who has waited all night with euphoric expectancy for the ecstasy of ownership. Think of the moment that he finally holds that long-awaited treasure in hand. His adrenalin makes his fingers tremble and his heart race. Now take that elation, that exhilaration, that thrill, and multiply it by infinity… to get at least a tiny peek at Daddy’s emotions towards you. This is a small picture of the kind of bliss He experiences over having you as His very own. You, simply put, are His eternity-long dream come true. You are His masterpiece. You are the magnum opus of His heart.

And so is your neighbor. And so is that child with Down Syndrome that you recently saw while grocery shopping. And so is the Starbucks cashier who sold you your usual coffee at the outset of your morning. And so is the baby in the womb of the glowing pregnant mom that you waved to the other day. And so is the little boy crying in the school yard right now because the class bully wounded him deeply with words. And, actually, so is the careless driver who cut you off in rush hour traffic. (Ask the Holy Spirit to show you. Maybe she just got screamed at by her husband. Maybe she’s living through hell right now. Maybe she’s struggling with suicidal thoughts. Pray for her.)

Limited edition. Every individual soul that you come into contact with today is God’s limited edition creation. Each one is exceedingly precious to Him. Do you see them? He does. Ask Him to share His heart for them with you. He will, if you ask.

A few weeks ago, I was lying in my tent at our Pastors’ School, getting ready to sleep for the night. To unwind, I began to read a few news articles. One of them was about a little toddler. She was clinging to her mother as they were both swept away from their vehicle in the raging waters poured out by Hurricane Harvey. Mercifully, some rescue workers were able to pull them out before the water sucked them under a trestle and out of reach. The small child was still alive. Tragically, though, her mama was already dead. When I read that, I burst into tears in the darkness of my tent. My shoulders heaved with the intense weeping that overtook me. Daddy God was crying for that little girl. He was letting me cry with Him. I don’t know her. But He does. She’s his limited edition treasure. He cares so very deeply for her. Her pain tears Him up inside.

The Father’s Mathematics 


Sometimes we are tempted to think that the impact we are making on this earth is terribly narrow in scope. Pathetically inadequate. “I’m not like that evangelist who is traveling the world winning multitudes to Jesus,” comes the uneasy thought. “My little piece just doesn’t seem very important.”

Wrong.

If just one soul has infinite worth to Jesus… if that one individual has a universe-sized space in His heart… if His love for that little one goes so deep that He deemed her worthy of purchase with His own blood… then if you reach out and touch that one, the difference you are making actually has infinite value. The significance of the impact you are having is absolutely immeasurable.

(photo via Kris Arnold)

Take a look at the math. I read an estimate that Billy Graham has preached to 200 million people in his lifetime. So let’s say, for the sake of this illustration, that there’s a stay-at-home-mom named Stephanie. Stephanie is caring for and nurturing her household with tender loveliness and strength. However, she feels less than useful to God because “all” she is able to do, beyond her ministry to her family, is to love on an attention-starved neighbor child named Tony whose parents are never around. Here’s the corresponding calculation that Holy Spirit put up on my inner screen:

200,000,000 souls x infinity = infinity 

1 soul x infinity = infinity

Large or small, any number times infinity still equals infinity. There is no infinity that is greater or smaller than the next infinity. Comparisons really are irrelevant. King Jesus values that one priceless broken person just as much as He values the 200 million that Billy’s life intersected with. Tony is His limited edition image bearer. He has a universe of space in His heart just for him. He is INEXPRESSIBLY EXCITED to spend endless ages walking around Heaven with His arm wrapped around this cherished boy!

“Then the King will say, ‘I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was Me — you did it to Me’” (Matt. 25:40, MSG).

Jesus wants you to understand this. When you smile at that Starbucks cashier, you are reaching His heart. When you lovingly squeeze that neighbor child’s shoulder, you are squeezing His. When you take a moment to share a moment of kindness with the lonely granny on the corner, His eyes leak with the beauty of it. Let’s make our lives about passionately caring for the “least of these.” These are His limited edition, inestimably costly masterpieces. There is colossal, immeasurable, infinite value in every moment we thus spend ministering to His heart.

Each and every one.



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Friday, September 8, 2017

A Universe-Sized Love Space in God's Heart... Just for You

Craning my neck back, I looked up into the night sky. The stunning view of the stars and the Milky Way caused my spirit to leap. Awe welled up inside of me and spilled out through my emotions. I was an hour outside the city on campus at our Pastors’ School. Away in the virgin rain forest, the lack of light pollution allows for a spectacular feast for the eyes and for the soul.

I lingered, gazing upwards, far beyond the point when my neck began to protest. The majesty above was too breathtaking to quickly brush past the moment. Then, unexpectedly, it happened. In an instant, my mind registered how immense the universe is.

I had been trying, for years and years, to tell my brain that each of the stars are suns. That each minute point of light is, in reality, an orb gargantuan in size. That the tiny twinkle barely visible speaks to the nearly immeasurable, unquantifiable distance in between here and there. But my brain could never truly grasp this before that moment. Somehow, that night, it did. I’m pretty sure Holy Spirit finally opened up my understanding to be able to perceive the immensity before me. I suddenly experienced what it is to gaze into the depths of infinity. I was overwhelmed with wonder.


This was just a few weeks ago. Hand in hand with that experience, Daddy has been speaking to my heart about His infinite nature. I believe He wants me to convey to you today some of the thoughts He has been sharing with me about this.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
Day after day they pour forth speech
night after night they display knowledge. 
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.”
(Ps. 19:1-3, NIV)

What is the message that the heavens are declaring? What are the words of this speech so mighty that it reaches to the ends of the earth? The skies are proclaiming to us the heart of the Father. They are pouring forth expression of His unbounded, limitless, everlasting love.

This is what He is saying. He wants us to learn to relate to Him as an infinite being, rather than as a finite one. When you encounter His vast boundlessness, you come to discover that there are no limits. There is no end. He whispered recently to me that He has a universe of space in His heart – just for me. Likewise, there’s a whole other universe-sized space inside of Him, dedicated exclusively to you. (In fact, He has one for every single individual human being on the planet.)

What does this mean in practical terms? It means that for you, specifically for and about and toward you, He has an immeasurable amount of love capacity and thinking space. This overflows ceaselessly with thoughts and plans for good. Consider how these two verses go together:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11, NKJV).

and

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” (Ps. 139:17-18, NLT).

Daddy is wordlessly taken with you! In that universe of space in Him with your name on it, you are the center of His attention. He is ceaselessly thinking incalculable quantities of thoughts, all about you, and each one spilling over with peace and hope. In other words, since He is an infinite God, He has an infinite amount of time to sit around and dream about, specifically… you!!! Meanwhile, as He has limitless space and capacity in His heart, He is also taking immaculate care of the rest of the universe. Because that’s how big He is.

Get this. He’s also already been doing this ever since, ever since, well, forever. This exciting verse voices that truth. “It is he who… chose us… not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began-to show his love and kindness to us…” (2 Tim. 1:9, TLB).

Look at this one too! “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Ps. 139:16, NLT). Dear one, this is not just poetic speak. This is a very real book that exists in heaven and has since before creation. This book is inexpressibly close Daddy’s heart. He has put an endless amount of forethought, care, and perfect love into the crafting of every single minute of your existence.

So, beloved child, can you see the wisdom in leaving aside all comparisons with other people? So often the enemy suggests to us that someone else has been dished out a more generous serving of blessing than we have received. This becomes laughable when we delve into Daddy’s immeasurable love for us. Comparisons become irrelevant when you realize that the capacity for your own joy in Him is infinite. The closest I can get to describing is this. It’s like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet and fixating on someone else’s plate, anxious that maybe they’re getting fed better. What a tragic waste of time and energy. Instead we could be using that heart space to banquet on His endless supply of lavish love and extravagant side dishes of contentment! No wonder He tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:12 that measuring ourselves by each other is not wise.


Don’t miss this pertinent verse either: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…” (Eph. 1:4, NIV). Which is closely followed by: “This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Eph. 1:5, NLT, bold emphasis mine).

Did you hear that? Like really hear it? It gave Him immense pleasure to make you His! That is why our uncreated God has already been thinking and daydreaming about you for an entire eternity past. Those thoughts cause Him to experience pleasure. He likes pleasure... and He really likes thinking about you. Just a glimpse of you causes His soul to brim over with delight. With joy. I’ve been looking up different versions of these verses. As I’ve been drinking in each one, my head has been swimming with His giddiness. He is SO EXCITED that you are His!

Daddy has spent hours and hours, days and days, years and years, millennia even!... thinking about the way you laugh. Thinking about how your eyes sparkle with the enjoyment of what you love. Meditating on how He will weave together every detail of your experiences here on earth for your wellbeing. Delighting in the anticipation of seeing your unique set of giftings grow into beauty and maturity; of seeing you discover the thrill of finding out who you are, the breathtaking masterpiece He created you to be. Bursting with excitement to see the unfolding of your adventure. Watching over and over in His mind as you get to the end of the story and find out just how astonishingly good He has been to you. And most especially, waiting with baited breath for those moments when you would lose yourself in worship, in intimacy with Him. When you would let Him envelope you completely in His love. Yes. He really does. He has a whole universe in his heart, just for you. Today He caresses your face and says to you in the most tender and gentle of tones, you dear, you are His favorite.

Dive in and eat, dear one. Forget about anyone else’s plate. An infinite buffet is before you, and Jesus is the feast!

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