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Jacob or Israel

It seems fairly evident from scripture that there isn’t a particular rhyme or reason concerning which name Jacob/Israel goes by after his official name-change. God says to Jacob in Gen. 35:10: “’Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel.” Yet, as soon as God and Israel part ways, verse 14 starts out with “So Jacob…” and verse 15 repeats “And Jacob…” It seems God wasn’t following His own protocol.

Regardless, I was struck when reviewing Gen. 45 recently, where we find Jacob’s sons returning to him with news that Joseph is still alive and quite well, residing as governor over all the land of Egypt. Verses 25-26 state, “So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. And they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them.”

What I felt God highlighting to me in this case was that Jacob, the old man version of this new creation, had a hard time receiving the message of hope.

He’s Digging a New Well

Around a year ago the Lord told me He was digging a new well in my life. Or, I suppose more accurately, He showed me this is what He was doing. The encouraging picture came to me at the tail end of a session of ministry I was receiving from a couple that moves powerfully in deliverance. It was an important revelation for me, because the ministry time ended with me more in frustration than freedom. Nothing at all against the couple, because I know they are servants of the Lord and are heavily anointed to set captives free. But things just didn’t work out the way I envisioned and I think issues arose from my overbearing expectations.

So, this idea of a new well being dug in my inner man has been an anchor I’ve clung to on more than one occasion this past year when I’ve found myself longing for a new level of inner freedom. The Lord has cultivated great fruit in my life these past six or seven years; ask many of my college friends how different I am and they will tell you the transformation has been significant. But I know my inheritance in Christ is an even fuller freedom. And I desire it.

Warning Shot

America:

“If you had known personally, even at least in this your day, the things that make for peace (for freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin and upon which your peace–your security, safety, prosperity, and happiness–depends)! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

“For a time is coming upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank about you and surround you and shut you in on every side. And they will dash you down to the ground… [all] because you did not come progressively to recognize and know and understand [from observation and experience] the time of your visitation [that is, when God was visiting you, the time in which God showed Himself gracious toward you and offered you salvation through Christ].

“For it is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a cave of robbers.'”

— Luke 19:42-46 AMP, edited a bit by me

Days of Noah

A while ago I was reading the story of the crucifixion and I was struck by the words spoken by Christ as He made his way towards Golgotha (Luke 23:27-31). The multitude was following Him and as He heard some of the women mourning and lamenting, He asked them to divert their tears and sorrows to a future generation who would have it far worse off than they.

For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’

He then spoke the words that really gripped me: “For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”

Or in other words, if man crucifies the very Son of God when it is actually quite hard to do so (ever try starting a fire with green wood?), what evil will man be capable of when it is quite easy to be so (ever try starting a fire with dry wood? It’s simple!).

Rizzo’s “Found Faithful”

I’m being so blessed by Justin Rizzo’s Found Faithful album right now. It ministers the Word of God so powerfully and with such density. Nearly every word sung is scripture; the presence of God is just all over it.

In a major diversion from my comfort zone of writing very methodically and deliberately, I’m just going to blog my stream of consciousness as I listen to the album, much like someone would blog a political debate with on-the-fly commentary. Only this will be much more edifying.

So, hopefully you’ll be blessed by what the Spirit stirs in me as we fellowship.

“The Lord reigns; He is clothed in majesty… He’s mightier than the thunder, mightier than the waters of the sea. The Lord on high is mighty.” (Ps. 93)

If anyone has witnessed the sheer power of a stormy sea, or even water in general (check out the Grand Canyon!), this is quite the comparison. I was able to see some of Katrina’s damage first hand and it was quite sobering. Isn’t it comforting to know that if He is for us, nothing can be against us?!

“Your glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea…” (Hab. 2:14)

This is our hope. This is what we hang our hat on. Christ is returning and with Him a wave of glory will crash upon the earth like the world has never before witnessed. The early believers were constantly exhorted to not lose hope because of this promise: Jesus is returning and will set everything in order.

“This is reality: You’re coming to reign on the earth. And the increase of your government will know no end.”

I love these lines. We need to constantly remind ourselves of what is true reality. It’s not our faltering economy; it’s not the AIDS epidemic; it’s not poverty and hunger. Yes, these are real problems that require real resources and real attention. But they aren’t our most core reality. What is unseen is more real than what is seen. And reality is that the kingdom of God, which will manifest fully when Christ returns, is already within us and the hope and blessing of His kingdom can be released here and now. Our reality as sons and daughters of the King can override present, temporary circumstances we encounter.

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” (Rev. 19:6)

I’m so stirred with hope when I read passages like these from the book of Revelation. My love and passion for Revelation continues to grow as I realize what a story of overcoming it is. Jesus reigns! He’s the victor and we are His people! We will not be overcome but we will triumph and join in the celebration of the ages as we the Bride are betrothed to the Lamb. The reality of this still feels distant and a little out of my reach at this point, but the excitement and anticipation of it is there nonetheless.

“I want to be unmovable and unshakeable. So let my roots go down deep. And I will be like a tree planted by streams of living water.” (Ps. 1:3)

I remember New Year’s Day several years ago reading Psalm 1 and being transformed by it as 2 & 3 became my verses for the year. It became probably the most meaningful declaration over my life as I entered a whole new season of growth with the Lord. He’s been so faithful to do His part and birth the reality of these verses in my life as I’ve sought to honor Him and His Word

“As I see the height from which you reign and the depth to which you came. And as I see the height to which you brought me and the depth to which you save. I will praise you. I will love You with all of my heart. And I will thank you forever and ever.”

Profound. If I had just a thread more revelation about what Christ gave up to become the suffering servant and our savior, I’d never live the same.

“I want to be found faithful. I want to be found steady. I want to be found faithful to the end. I want to live before your eyes. I want to stay before your gaze. Just keep me steady.”

My heart’s cry. My longing. I’ve shared with a few people recently that the greatest fear I hold in life is not reaching my full potential in the Lord. In many ways this fear is rooted in pride, because I have the wrong perspective and think it’s mostly on me to walk this out. Thankfully it’s not all on me. It’s all about having our focus set upon Jesus.

“Indwelling spirit; I’m not alone. Indwelling spirit; I’m not my own… You have not left me here alone. But what you’ve done is given me the ability to choose you.”

I simply love this song. It’s wrecking me and is the reason I’ve gotten so hooked on this album.

“Come and strengthen us in righteousness. Come strengthen us with Christ within. Come, conform me, come transform me to the image of You.”

Christ in us, the hope of glory. We’re lost and hopeless without Him. We need him so bad. My heart just breaks for those who struggle to make it each day without Christ and His Holy Spirit at work in their lives. Break me more, Lord! Work in me the ability to will and do according to your purpose. Make me a living testimony of your faithfulness and goodness. Awaken in me more fully that I’ve found the pearl of great price and that you’re worth selling all for!

“If I try and save my life I will lose it but if I lose my life for Your sake I’ll find it in the end. (This is true life.)”

The day of our wedding, I gave Heather a custom engagement photo book that I made. On the cover, I had titled the book “I will waste my life.” Some found the title curious, because it could imply that I thought I was surrendering to a lesser life by marrying her. Though that book wasn’t inspired by this song (it was inspired by a similar Misty Edwards song), I’m finding Rizzo’s “This is True Life” relevant as well. When we willfully give up and lose (or waste) our lives for sake of Christ… that’s when we really experience the good life. Marrying Heather cost me a little (the freedom and autonomy of bachelorhood) but it was a very small surrender for all the goodness I get to experience doing life with her. And so too are the surrenders Christ asks of us. There really are no “sacrifices” when it comes to the Kingdom because it is impossible to out-give God.

“Eternally I’ve been bought with blood. There will never be another sacrifice.”

A good reality to meditate on. Sometimes, we try in vain to add to Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice by beating ourselves up over sins, feeling like we should suffer and wallow in our fallenness. But that attitude implies that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t enough and that he hasn’t truly suffered enough for our sins—that we need to add a little more. And that’s wrong.

“I will not despise the sowing of seeds. For I know in due time, I will see the fruit of my labors for all eternity…  Nothing in this life will every truly satisfy the desires of your heart… See the weight, see the glory of what you’re doing. It is affecting you forever.”

That last stanza has really been going through my head these last few days. Like I said last week, we really, truly will sow what we reap, good and bad. We need to live soberly. As Maximus tells his soldiers in Gladiator: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

“I set my eyes on what I can not see. I set my eyes on the eternal. You are my great reward. Forever I will be with You. This momentary light affliction is working me an eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4)

My late friend Brian embraced these verses from 2 Cor. as he was dying of cancer. As his body was being ravaged by that fierce evil, he embraced eternity. He looked into his hopeful future and saw white shores Gandalf recalls in The Return of the King. Brian looked upon death and saw the victory that Christ had secured over it. Life would go one. He was just passing into a new dimension.

As Maximus says in Gladiator: “Death smiles upon us all. All a man can do is smile back.” It HAS NO VICTORY OVER US! IT HAS NO STING! We need to grow in revelation about death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pissed Brian, as well as two other friends (Tim and Randy) were taken from us very prematurely. That’s wrong and it was completely from the devil. But still… we don’t have to carry prolonged sorrow over someone passing into the presence of the Lord. My friend Scott told me of a funeral he attended where his wife’s Godmother rebuked people for crying when they should be celebrating someone going to heaven. That might be a little strong, but it makes the point that we all lack revelation on what life is all about. Our life is but a vapor or a mist that disappears in a moment. Eternity is what we need to be living for. God, please work in me this truth! You hold the words of eternal life!

Sowing and reaping

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.
You have plowed wickedness;
You have reaped iniquity.
You have eaten the fruit of lies,
Because you trusted in your own way,
In the multitude of your mighty men.

— Hosea 10:12-13

Let’s clear the air about something: sowing and reaping is a major principle of God’s Word and one we must still recognize and live by. Just as Hosea warned Israel in the passage above, if we sow wickedness with our thoughts and actions, we’re going to reap iniquity—or the willful injustice of oppressors, as the Amplified Bible puts it. We won’t just reap an icky feeling of having lived wrongly; we’ll actually attract injustice and oppression from others.

Conversely, if we sow righteousness—or uprightness and right standing with God, as the Amplified translates—we’ll reap mercy and loving-kindness. When we break up our fallow ground, we are able to receive the soaking rain of God’s blessings. God can rain down righteousness all He wants, but if our hearts are hard, His rain will splash off us like flash floods upon Utah slickrock and not bring lasting change.

In this season where the love and affections of the Father are being reintroduced to the Church in new and powerful ways, it’s easy to lean too heavily upon God’s mercy and forget that our wrong actions still carry heavy consequences.

Paul warned the Galatians (6:7-8):

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

It’s a stern warning: Do not be deceived! Paul would only say that if there were legitimate reason to be concerned about deception. How are we living our lives? Do our actions reflect that we take this spiritual truth seriously? It’s a question I need to ask myself more often. For if I truly lived like this was absolute reality, I’d certainly live differently. And when we don’t live this way, we’re falling into the very deception that Paul warns against. And we’re (yikes!) mocking God—the pure opposite of living in the fear of the Lord. That is not where we want to be.

The Amplified paints a more complete picture of what this ugly, dismissive attitude look like to God:

Do not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside.)

We probably tell ourselves, “Lord, I would never scorn, disdain or mock you!” just as Peter told Jesus he would never betray Him. Yet, days, if not hours later, when we live as though we won’t reap what we sow, we’re doing it. God sees it as mockery.

When were stingy with our tithes and offerings and wonder why the budget never works out, we’re mocking God. When we consider God’s commandments to be trivial and wonder why things just don’t seem to be going our way, we’re mocking God. When we’re rare with complements and words of encouragement and wonder why people seldom notice or praise us, we’re mocking God. When we’re tight with tips at the restaurant or salon and wonder why people aren’t more generous with us, we’re mocking God. I could go on forever.

What it comes down to is this: Yes, God loves us all more than we can imagine. Yes, God is quick to show mercy and extend forgiveness. Yes, God works together all things for our good. But, yes, you will still reap what you sow. If you want the blessings of God to flow through your life like a mighty river, you have to commit to sowing into that stream of blessing with your thoughts, meditations, words and actions. God will not be mocked.

Running with God vs. Running from God

I’ve recently heard separate commentaries on two Biblical stories that have the common element of ships enduring violent storms: Rick Joyner referenced the story of Jonah in a recent word and Paul’s adventurous trip to Rome at the end of Acts was taught on by Lance Wallnau. In both teachings, the United States, battered by extreme circumstances, is prophetically represented by the ship and the church, full of truth and destiny, is represented by God’s messenger aboard.

Your Kingdom Come

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

— Isaiah 53:10-12

I sometimes forget that this thing is a done deal. Complete. Over. Not a matter of outcome, but only a matter of time. Christ has seen all that has been accomplished by His anguish and He is satisfied. It isn’t lacking in any way. Not a thread of regret over missed opportunities exists in Jesus’ mind, for “It is finished.”

And because of that, in the words of Pastor Garner, “We fight from victory, not for victory.” Sure, there’s an enormous amount of work to be done and there are still many battles to fight. But this story’s final chapter has already been written and shipped to the publisher. No edits, appendices or epilogues are being accepted.

147 years ago to this day, the Battle of Gettysburg broke out in Gettysburg, Penn. Many historians consider it the turning point of the Civil War. Leading up to July, the South was on a roll and marching north, hoping to take the war into enemy territory. When the Union and Confederate forces collided in Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863, the Union would turn the tide of the war and send the Rebels back to Virginia no longer feeling invincible under General Lee.

A similar battle was won for us on Calvary some 2,000 years ago with an even more decisive victory. Our enemy was not just pushed back feeling vulnerable and unsure of victory, but Jesus “disarmed principalities and powers, [and] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15). He then rose again and “ascended on high, leading a host of captives in [His] train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there” (Psalm 68:18).

Probably the most effective strategy the enemy engages against me is to take my eyes off these truths laid out above: that because of the work of Jesus, everything has changed. We’ve won. And Satan’s head has been crushed.

An Age for the Ages

The age in which we’re living is the one foreseen by the prophets of old and is even a wonder to the angels themselves. This isn’t just “church”. This isn’t some religion.  This isn’t a feel-good, bedtime story. This is the very mystery of God that was sealed up for ages and has been released in our time to be made known to not just man, but to even rulers and authorities in heavenly places (Eph. 3:7-10).

Peter tells us (1 Peter 1:10-12):

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Isaiah, one of the most gifted prophets ever, with the most revelatory insight into the Messiah, gazed upon those wonders for YOU and I. And those heroes of the Hall of Faith, who “were stoned… sawn in two… killed with the sword… of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:37-38)? Though they are “commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:39-40).

WE ARE PART OF SOMETHING HUGE… THE GREATEST STORY OF ALL TIME! There are literally millions of saints, Jews and Gentiles alike, who are tuning in to our very lives on a day-to-day basis to see this thing brought to a close. Able. Enoch. Noah. Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. Moses. Joshua. Samuel. David. Daniel. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Esther. John. Paul. Peter. All of them. The inheritance for which they all labored was purchased by Jesus and is being secured by us. We’re part of it. We have roles to play. Their faith is in a sense incomplete until it bears the fruit of the Bride of Christ.

That’s why the author of Hebrews follows up chapter 11 by saying: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” They’re banking on us to seal the victory and bring home the trophy. It’s a relay race and we’ve been handed the baton with the lead for the final leg of the race. We can’t get tripped up!

All of the created order—heaven and earth, angels and demons, animals and plants, ocean and desert—it all has a reverence and awe for mankind. While we rightly have our own reverence and awe for creation and its power, wonder and beauty, it’s actually designed to be the other way around. Creation is eagerly longing and groaning for us to fully realize who we are and secure our inheritance—creation itself! For when we do fill the earth and subdue it as God intended from the beginning, creation “will be set free form its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

What does that even mean? Mankind is wasteful, greedy and destructive, right? What freedom can we actually offer creation? And what glory do we have that this world desires?

Those questions aren’t going to be addressed in this post, but they’re important to consider. For millennium, people have pondered the question, “What is the meaning of life?” And this is part of the answer. We were ultimately made to glorify God. And we glorify God as we fulfill the original intent for our existence, seen in God’s first directive to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” Gen. 1:28). Our purpose is to co-labor with Christ as God’s adopted sons and daughters, ruling the Earth as God rules creation.

His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.