The vision? The vision is Jesus…
And so begins Pete Greig’s poetic dissertation on the the coming glorification of the body of Christ.
Those two lines have been running through my head ever since I first read it several months ago. We make so many other things “the vision.” We make peace the vision; we make justice the vision; we make healing the vision; we make freedom the vision; we make abundance and prosperity the vision; we make holiness the vision; we make service the vision; we make gifts and power the vision; we make truth the vision; we make knowledge the vision.
We run circles around Christ, claiming to have found him and to be living for him, but all the while we keep running circle after circle, never sitting down and talking to him. If we were to, he would surely rebuke us and say, “Those things are great but they’re not the point. I am.”
Yet, there seems to be this movement… this stirring among the body… this rising of men and women, young and old (though mostly young), this “waking the dead” of people who are starting to get it. People are shaking off the old-time religion and chasing down the Lord as if He’s a final frontier yet to be fully explored and understood. The engaged Bride is starting to realize it’s closer to the wedding day than she had thought… and a deep, stomach-knotting urgency is growing in her belly.
There’s much work to do.
My spiritual trajectory took (what’s turning out to be) a dramatic change last weekend in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t a sudden, on-the-spot shift, but it was one I sensed and have seen unravel within my life the last seven days.
It all started with a conversation I had with my cousin-once-removed Randy (my mom’s first cousin if I remember correct). Now, large family reunions—the ones where you recognize practically nobody—are notorious for shallow conversation. And I expected this one to fall in line. But for some reason (which, retrospectively, I’m convinced was the leading of the Holy Spirit), Randy sat down by me while I was eating dessert and started the small talk. Small talk about work (what else?) progressed to medium talk about church which was about to turn into large talk about the Kingdom when my mom inadvertently disturbed the conversation, wanting to introduce me to another unfamiliar face. It was slightly annoying, but entirely innocent on her part; she probably assumed we were having a typical, shallow, reunion conversation!
Well, mom fixed her blunder the next day by re-initiating my conversation with Randy. And once that got rolling, Randy essentially wielded a spiritual defibrillator with his passionate words concerning the pursuit of Christ. Thus, my altered spiritual trajectory.
What did he say, you may ask, that so rocked me? I don’t know that it was anything in particular; I think it was the anointing and impartation that came wrapped in the words. It was a spiritual conversation—more so in nature than in topic, which is saying a lot because the topic was entirely spiritual. I believe our spirits connected and edified each other—the whole iron sharpening iron thing.
One the surface, Randy passionately talked about Mike Bickle and IHOP. He talked about IHOP’s Omega series and what he’s learned about end-times prophecy. He talked about his desire to be a general in God’s army who trains up youth and young adults in the ways of God and prepares them to usher in the return of Christ. He talked about being a Caleb (who’s spirit I’ve asked God for myself), who even at 85 years still had the vigor to take his portion of the Promised Land and be a warrior for the Lord.
Joshua 14:11-12a: As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day.
More than words
So, yeah, I was stirred up by the passionate things Randy talked about. But a few other people faded in and out of the same conversation I had with Randy and come away thinking, “Oh, that’s cool. He got pretty passionate about that, didn’t he?” A few asked me later (not in these words, but essentially) “Are your ears okay, because he really talked to you a lot. And you couldn’t possibly have wanted to have such a long conversation with him.”
Obviously, it wasn’t just the words and the enthusiastic presentation that got me juiced. No, there was a Holy Spirit anointing to grab hold of if you were looking for it. There was an impartation of godly zeal and passion that went out that one could be stirred up with if not written off as trite emotionalism.
And I got it. I locked into the moment and took what God had for me in it. I allowed the flame that I could clearly see burning within Randy’s eyes ignite a fire within me.
It’s not a fire that exploded propane-tank style. It’s a fire that’s been started by a small-but-strong flame that was added to an Eagle Scout’s fire-pit. There’s adequate kindling and some dry, substantial logs to ensure a long, hot burn. The wood’s been positioned just right for the fire to breathe; there’s a gentle breeze along with occasional gusts to feed the heat and fuel the necessary third component: oxygen.
I’m burning, baby. Burning. That’s why I’m still up at 4 a.m., six hours after our three hour church service, still thinking about the Lord, listening to worship music and wishing I never had to sleep so I could consciously pursue Him 24-7.
An image was seared into my head a month or so back. Take the cover art of Matt Redman’s Facedown album and add some smoke and flames rising off the back of the worshiper. That’s me—in faith. That’s a image of who I aspire to be—a person who’s very body is consumed by the fire of God, smoke rising up as a sweet incense to the Father, a true living sacrifice.
“Fire, fall down,” Hillsong United sings. It’s become my anthem. I could join in it’s 10+ minute pursuit at a moment’s notice. “As we seek you, Lord. Fire, fall down”.
I’m longing; I ache: Fall down on me, Consuming Fire. Fall down and burn me up. You’re heat and air; I’m fuel. Set me on fire.
“Rain is on the way; I hear it coming.” (Elijah)
I want fire, yet Michigan needs rain—in the natural and the spiritual. For those of you in the state, and this south-central region in particular, you may recognize the spiritual dryness that is prevalent. It’s probably most noticeable when you leave and then return. It tries hard, and often succeeds, at sucking you into its ways.
But it’s time to break up the fallow ground, Michigan. Because as Elijah says after slaughtering the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, “Rain is on the way; I hear it coming.”
Elijah sent Ahab to scout rain clouds seven times. The first six times, Ahab didn’t see any. And even the seventh time, he saw a cloud “very small, no bigger than someone’s hand, rising out of the sea.” Elijah, though, had seen a torrential storm coming all along in faith.
Things happened fast. The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain.
He who has ears, let him hear. He who has eyes, let him see. This is prophetic. The storm of the Spirit is coming, to this world, to this nation and to this state. People of faith are seeing the storm before the rest. They’re hearing of it from the Lord, just as Elijah, and they’re on their knees, praying it in, facedown, on-fire, like Elijah.
Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bowed deeply in prayer, his face between his knees.
The original dreamer
Grieg’s “The Vision” ends as powerful as it begins.
And this vision will be. It will come to pass; it will come easily; it will come soon.
How do I know? Because this is the longing of creation itself, the groaning of the Spirit, the very dream of God. My tomorrow is his today. My distant hope is his 3D. And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great ‘Amen!’ from countless angels, from heroes of the faith, from Christ himself. And he is the original dreamer, the ultimate winner.
(You can watch a rich-media rendition of “The Vision”; I’d recommend a broadband connection).