Venerating Jesus

     I’ve touched on in the past how I believe there is a massive reformation movement taking place right now within the Body of Christ. By God’s grace we are correcting a ton of theological and practical errors we have been making for a very long time, learning to better and more consistently express the true heart of the Gospel. God’s House is being reconstructed and it is starting to look drastically different than it did just a few decades ago.

     As the reformers of our generation continue this work of reconstruction, we need to avoid developing our own set of structural errors to replace the previous ones. One such erroneous approach that I have found some leaders to be taking is to undermine the unique glory and honor that is due to Jesus Christ. The logic goes something like this;

     Jesus was a great prototype for what all people are called to be. He set a wonderful standard. He became a role model. Yet we must not venerate him too much — for in doing so we hold him to an unattainable position above us. We elevate him to a higher level than ourselves and lose our drive to actually emulate him and continue his work.

     Jesus meant to show us what it is like to be human though, and we all are filled with the Christ-nature that he embodied so well. We can all carry on his fight against the powers that be.

     There is a lot of truth to this line of thought, in that we are all empowered to carry on Christ’s legacy of impacting the world. We are filled with His Spirit and taught to follow in His ways. He is our Elder Brother. It is of utmost importance however to note that He is also the Second Person of the Triune Godhead. He is the complete expression of who God is in bodily form. He is not God’s only child, but He is the only begotten Son — the one in whom and from whom the rest of us get our identity in the first place. Further, He is the one who dreamed us up and loved us from eternity past.

     If there is anyone deserving of being “idolized,” it is Jesus. We are Jesus’ creation, Jesus’ brethren, and Jesus’ desired Bride. Also, we are redeemed by His blood… not just by His example.

     If there is anyone deserving of being “idolized,” it is Jesus. 

     There are two primary reasons that come to my mind as to why it is important to clarify all of this. First of all, if Jesus is merely our example of how to be humane, then we are all still basically under the Old Covenant Law. We are all still bound in the system of trying to perform and prove ourselves in order to feel like we are good enough people. We still live under the burden to try to improve or fix ourselves, to be the solution to our world’s systematic problems, to master following the right teachings — and to do it all in our own limited abilities. This is humanism, moralism and legalism. It does not give us the beautiful message of transformative Grace that Christ’s atoning work on the Cross did. It leaves us having to become our own saviors in some form or fashion.

     That is actually an unrealistic pressure that Jesus came to deliver us from.

     The second problem is that without venerating Jesus, we actually undermine our own ability to follow Him. If Jesus is just our template to follow, then we can always compare ourselves to Him and end up feeling like failures. If He is the object of our devotion however, He Himself actually becomes our fuel and our inspiration for carrying on His mission in our own lives.

     Paul wrote that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” In other words, as we lovingly adore Jesus, as our hearts gaze upon His beauty and we esteem Him above all else, we are shaped by His Spirit to look increasingly like Him in our present state. Those of us in Christ discover and manifest our truest selves in worshiping His glorious God-self. This is key to how He nurtures and develops Christ-likeness within us.

Those of us in Christ discover and manifest our truest selves in worshiping His glorious God-self. This is key to how He nurtures and develops Christ-likeness within us.

     Simply put, wherever you give your attention is where you end up heading. If we set our sights on all the problems we need to fix, the problems just get bigger in our eyes. We look for who is at fault and we get more introspective or more critical of others. We then become contributors to the problem ourselves.

     If like the Bible says though, we set our focus “on things above, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand,” it is inevitable that we will grow in His character, see from His perspective and be beautified. We will more naturally channel the authority being released in His Throne Room here to the earth and actually become His hands, feet and mouthpieces. We are utterly dependent upon the effectiveness of this process, of this relationship, of this communion that we have access to in the Presence of the King of Kings.

     Be reminded, if you really want to emulate Jesus, He “Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Then, when the opportunity presented itself, when the need arose, or when He was interrupted, He would rise to the occasion and glorify His Father.

     Likewise, if we give ourselves to a lifestyle of worship, contemplation, and fellowship with the exalted One who is “the way, the truth and the life,” we will more consistently ourselves walk as “little christs” multiplying across the earth to His credit. We will be more effective change agents and we will be anchored in the hope that only He provides.

     Best of all, Jesus will have the hearts of those whose love He died to win. Let us give Him that reward freely.

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The Deficient Theology of the Hungry

     If there’s anywhere I think we Charismatics have consistently gone wrong in our theology it is in the area of “hunger preaching.” People are constantly talking about “being hungry for more of God” as if that is a requirement for healthy spirituality. We must always be desperate, always be thirsting, always be “pressing in deeper.” Why? Because supposedly what we already have is just a teaser of God’s Presence in our lives.

     The Bible verse referenced most often for this kind of teaching is Matthew 5:6, which reads, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” The way this verse is interpreted, it is assumed that none of us are sufficiently righteous already. We are still lacking in fullness, lacking in sanctification, lacking in union with God. We need more of the fire to cleanse us, more of the anointing to make us feel connected to God, more of the glory to at last fill us up with what we’ve been missing out on. This is supposedly evident by the fact that we don’t see all the hospitals around us getting cleared out by healing evangelists, all the stadiums being filled with spontaneous revival meetings, and all the riverbanks and shorelines filled with new converts constantly being baptized. If we really had it together with God, He would open the heavens for us and we’d actually start to walk in His power (finally).

     The problem with this line of thought is it starts from a place of lack rather than a place of fullness. It tells us we are super deficient, rather than complete in Christ like the apostle Paul taught us. It sets us up to live a very driven, need-focused lifestyle — often overextending ourselves in fasting, prayer, and event-attending-hype in order to pursue the next level of impartation and breakthrough. It undermines any sound teaching on the virtues of contentment, restfulness, or self-care. Meanwhile it underscores the lie of the enemy that says “you will never have enough and never be enough.”

     I am someone who is legitimately all for the wildness of the Holy Spirit. I love the crazy, intense manifestations. I love to challenge people to receive good gifts more freely from God, to expose themselves to different ways He is moving on the earth, and to ever grow more familiar with His Presence. I understand that all of this often takes risk, patience, endurance, and intentionality. The life of a revivalist is an adventure and a constant learning experience.

     One thing we do not need though while we are on this adventure is to live hungry and thirsty. Orphans live hungry. Orphans do not get fed enough to have a full belly. But we are children of the King. We have bellies so full they are overflowing with springs of living water! We are the temple of the Living God! And we are already as righteous as it gets, because we have received Christ’s righteousness as our own.

     Nothing could be more satisfying.

     It is perfectly possible to live a thriving spiritual life — growing in the knowledge of God, becoming increasingly activated in His gifts, expecting Him to move in new and surprising ways — and still be 100% satisfied. In fact, I would like to suggest that dissatisfaction can be more of an indicator of spiritual immaturity than of readiness for what God wants to do next. Dissatisfaction often gets our eyes off the finished work of the Cross and onto ourselves. It calls us to look at where we might be failing and to constantly wish we were more resolved to really be radical for God now. That only leads to a broken cycle that always ends in disappointment.

     Worse yet, our constant hunger keeps us from fully appreciating the beauty of how present and active God is in the here and now. The spiritual and emotional highs He gives us can’t be properly enjoyed for what they are, merely because they don’t often lead to instant and immediate transformation in all the areas we have been contending for. If an encounter did meet a significant need, we know there is still an endless sea of more needs yet to be contended for… It’s an exhausting schema.

     My advice; give up entirely on trying to get more hungry for God. Don’t stop making healthy changes in your life where you need to. Don’t stop engaging in spiritual warfare. Don’t stop indulging yourself in enjoying God’s Presence and revelations. Don’t stop getting out of your comfort zone to be used of Him in a manner that stretches your faith. Do great exploits to demonstrate His love and spread His fame. Just do all that stuff completely, entirely satisfied in the love of God.

You are enough.

Christ in You is enough.

Holy Spirit indwelling you is MORE than enough.

     Let your confidence in those truths redefine all of what you are reaching for. Then, join with the Psalmist and declare, “I shall not be in want.”

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worship = life

     God is doing so many beautiful things in the Body of Christ in our generation. To name just a few,

He is expanding our understanding of the Kingdom and giving us a deep passion for justice on the earth.

He is teaching us to live more missional, befriending and reaching the lost as a lifestyle rather than an activity.

He is calling us all deeper into community and intimate relationships, beyond the rugged individualism that we once equated with normalcy.

He is enlightening our minds and giving us the privilege to be more thoroughly educated in the area of theology than possibly any previous generation.

He is exploding a movement of intercessory prayer throughout the nations, through which He is calling all people groups into the Harvest.

He is returning us to our roots, giving us a restored value for the great and wide Tradition that the mothers and fathers of our Faith have passed down to us. 

And He is releasing waves of wild creativity that get us out of our comfortable boxes — both in the form of supernatural gifts and in artistic expression.

     There is just so much forward movement happening right now.

     Something that I think is most especially characteristic of what God is doing in our generation though is simply returning His Bride to her first LoveAnother way this could be said is that God is making worship the fabric of all that we do.

     John Piper said in a sermon in 1981, “Worship should never be pursued as a means to achieving something other than worship. Worship is never a step on our way up to any other experience. It is not a door through which we pass to get anywhere. It is the end point, the goal.”

     You see, we were made to be known and enjoyed. We were created because the Trinity wanted to share Their divine romance with another (John 17:24). For this purpose the Lamb of God was slain — that the world might be reconciled to its Maker and that the relationship we were designed for would be fully accessed. The only proper course of action for those who realize all of this is to respond in kind with voluntary, happy love.

     When we are truly caught up in this love affair, worship fuels, colors, and leaks from everything we do. It is not a stretch for the believer to say to live is to worship. There is nothing more priority and nothing more definitive of our calling than this.

     If we were to describe the order of our plans, it would be simple. We are first grounded in a lifestyle of worship that readies us for the assignments we are given. Then, all that we accomplish is sustained through a heart given to worship and is recognized itself to be an act of worship. Finally, seeing the worship level on the earth increase is ultimately where this is all headed.

Habakkuk 2:14, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

     Worship is our preparation, our means and our end. Anything that falls outside of the scope of “worship in spirit and truth” falls outside the bounds of what our Beloved longs for from us (John 4:23).

     Worship is our preparation, our means and our end. 

     We have failed to have a grand new reformation if personal and corporate worship does not become the center of everything for our spiritual communities. We have come short in seeing radical revival if we do not see our cities increasingly swept away in lovesick worship. And we have not truly succeeded in fulfilling our part of Lord’s Great Commission if we do not see our disciples lost in addiction to “the one thing that is needful.”

     Our greatest hopes point in only one direction; Christ deserves the adoration of all humanity. We will fight for Him to have this inheritance. 

     For this reason ministries like Divulge exist.

     The Presence of God is our everything.

     Jesus is too good not to worship.

     Christ is so worth all the fame we can possibly bring Him.

     The beautiful One is jealous for our attention.

     Let’s unite with every heart that loves to worship Him, and encourage them in making first things first. And let our cup overflow with crazy worship spilling into the public square.

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Repost: A Prophecy

The following is a repost from a previous blog I published online at a different address:

Do you ever feel an unhealthy lack of fulfillment in your relationship with God, like you need more of His Spirit but sense a great distance between your heart and His? Like you know He loves you in your head, but part of you still feels unconvinced?

While in a time of contemplation back when I worked at a house of prayer in my city, I felt led to prophesy against that sense of spiritual dryness. God gave me a word to share with brothers in the Faith who are in such a discouraged state. It is a word all about His Son(s). This is how that message came to my heart as I began writing it:

“Sons, sons, sons. You are all in Christ My beloved Son, so you are all My sons. You are mighty ones, all of you children of the Most High (Psalm 82:6). You are seated with Christ in heavenly places, for you have died and your life is hidden with Him in Me (Ephesians 2:6, Colossians 3:3). You have received of His fullness as My Word says, ‘grace upon grace’ (John 1:16). Here at My right hand you have been made to sit – in the epicenter of joy where there are pleasures evermore (Ephesians 2:6, Psalm 16:11). You couldn’t attain to any better position. You can’t get any more favor than this (Psalm 5:12). So I say to each of you, ‘Son, you have always been with Me, and all that is Mine is yours.’ (Luke 15:31)

“I ask you, have you ever seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread? (Psalm 37:25) Even the Syrophoenician woman looking for crumbs to fall from the table was fed (Matthew 15:21-28) – and she was not consciously walking in divine sonship like you are. I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst (John 6:35). I have not left you as starving and neglected orphans, but I have prepared a table before you in the presence of your enemies (John 14:18, Psalm 23:5). Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good. Delight yourselves in abundance (Isaiah 55:2). I have provided for you every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Take and eat My flesh (Matthew 26:26). Drink of My cup that overflows (Psalm 23:5). Find your contentment in My presence, as you have been given access by faith (Romans 5:2, Ephesians 2:18). Taste and see that I am good! (Psalm 34:8)

“I tell you, out of your belly will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38)! You’re not just looking for rain from above, for behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst (Luke 17:21). I live within you. Your hope does not disappoint, because My love has been poured out within your hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to you (Romans 5:5). My divine power has granted to you everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Draw from those deep inner wells and rejoice in the intimacy you have with Me (Isaiah 12:3). You are one with Me forever (1 Corinthians 6:17). Do not let the joy of knowing that be taken from you. And don’t be misled into thinking I am reserving some of My goodness from you. I withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).

“Did I not say, ‘Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied?’ (Matthew 5:6) You have hungered, and I answered by not just giving you My righteousness. You became the very righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). So receive your sense of satisfaction! Enter into a greater appreciation of your own transformation that took place by My offering. Jesus became poor that you might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He sacrificed His own sense of connection with Me so that you could experience the wealth of that love. He cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) so that you could host the Spirit of adoption by which you cry out “Daddy, Father!” (Romans 8:15) You are not in lack! The whole earth groans for you to realize that and to live out of the relationship that you have with Me (Romans 8:19).

“My sons, jump into the river of my delights (Psalm 36:8)! I am with you and I will never leave you (Deuteronomy 31:6). My nearness is Your refuge. It is a strong tower (Psalm 144:2). Nothing can separate you from My love (Romans 8:38-39). Rest your hearts there and receive your peace. Just look at Jesus and experience Me. For in Him, I already pursued you. And I won! Now you are sealed with My Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) – even unto the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

“Be thankful therefore in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is your inheritance. This is your life. You are going from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) and you have nothing less to look forward to. You worship Immanuel – the ever present God. And I will never change…”

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Let’s Notice

     As a Charismatic Christian I have spent a lot of time “seeking” the presence of God. I’ve put it in many hours reaching for His heart, beckoning for Him to come, and even sacrificing money and energy to go places to “get in His Glory.” Often, I have felt frustrated with the lack of fruit that has come from such attempts to attain a deeper connection with the Lord.

     One of the most popular worship songs of our time has a line in it that I’ve really grown to like. It says, “Let us become more aware of Your Presence.” I like that because it indicates a reformational truth about the nature of God.

     God is here. He is not just “out there” somewhere. 

     The incarnation of Jesus revealed to us that our Maker is not inclined to maintain a separation from humanity in any sense. He is committed to be with us, manifestly.

     This is not even just something He does. It’s who He is….

     He’s Immanuel – which literally means “God is with us.”

     He’s Yahweh Shammah – “The Lord is here.”

     He is the promised Spirit of Christ, “with us even until the end of the age…”

     Most of all He is love — and when seeking to overcome relational distance, “love never fails.”

     Instead of asking for more of God’s presence, my prayer life these days consists primarily of finding ways to acknowledge and appreciate His nearness. I actually make lists of “encounters” I have with Him, to help bring them to my attention more. For instance, I’ve made note that…

  • I wanted to spend alone time in prayer and reflection, but instead I felt God when I took time to encourage a friend who interrupted me wanting to talk about their problems. God showed up through me, rather than to me.
  • I had a dream at night that really caught my attention, and upon taking time to consider its deeper meaning, I realized there was divine counsel hidden in its imagery that added guidance to my current situation in life.
  • The number 11:11 caught my eye repetitively this week. I can’t help but think God is winking at me every time I see it, encouraging me that my life has an orchestrated symmetry to it just like the four linear ones standing side-by-side each other.
  • I was thinking about my own personal weaknesses and failures, right when Katy Perry’s song came on the radio saying “I will love you, unconditionally…”
  • I was thinking about someone I missed, and then five minutes later I ran into them for the first time in years at a grocery store.
  • At church I was let down because I was getting caught up in worship right when the pastor cut off the music. He immediately started preaching a message though that turned out to be exactly what my soul needed to hear that day.
  • I wake up dreading a long work day ahead of me, but suddenly the dread turns to optimism and I end up having a full, fun day. (I often find out later that someone just happened to be praying for me that morning!)

If I don’t take time to stop and savor these moments in life, I can become blinded to just how active and intimately involved the Lord is in my seemingly mundane routine. Even the more spectacular divine encounters – such as when an angel physically touched my head – can seem incredibly normal at times. The most dramatic signs from Heaven have a way of becoming easy to forget if we do not make an intentional effort to rehearse what happened and praise God for it.

Whatever it takes, I encourage you to practice looking for and listening for the presence of God in your life. Contrary to religious tradition, He isn’t one to simply “intervene” on special, awe-inspiring occasions. Rather, He is creatively weaving Himself in our daily lives already. He is loyal to keep working for our benefit whether we notice or not.

Let’s notice though. ? 

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