Monday, October 19, 2009

How He speaks.

"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." Joel  2:28

Prophecy sounds like an intimidating, ancient and somewhat distant word. Many in the church today believe that the days of prophecy are over. Others believe that you have to be deeply Spiritual and in touch with God for Him to speak through you to others. 

Deeply Spiritual... like a donkey? (Numbers 22:28)

In some of the hardest times in my walk with God it has been the most unlikely of people and of environmental or circumstantial means that the Spirit of God has spoken to me by. How is this possible? In Old Testament time it was very specific chosen people, named Prophets, who God spoke through.

However this verse in Joel, explains a lot about why God speaks through such diverse ways today. We are no longer living in Old Covenant time, but under a New covenant of abundant mercy and through Jesus as Saviour a deep intimacy and closeness with God the Father.
Under the Old Covenant God was willing to bend the rules and speak through a donkey, now, under the New Covenant God's Spirit becomes poured out on all men. 

Looking at the last 2000 years its remarkable at how much technology, science, healthcare, education and general knowledge has advanced. The reason - God's Spirit of knowledge and creativity has been poured out on "all people". As such God's spirit can speak through all people and through all things.  

(NB: Certainly I am not discounting that God speaks through His own children. I would even say there is a special kind of anointing on God's children when they prophesy, though often they too don't realise that they are speaking into someone's life on behalf on God. Prophecy from another child of God if often more accurate and timely because many of His children are in tune with the Spirit and are exercised in actively listening to Him.)

But does God only speak and reveal himself through His children and through the Holy Scriptures? I would say, no. A recent sermon on remarked that some people look at beautiful buildings designed by atheist architects and say it was inspired by Satan. Really? Satan may be able to mimic an angel of light but when it comes to creative power he fails out. He is a mimicker and manipulator, not a creator. These architects can create beautiful work because they are created in God's image because His spirit is upon them. Does this mean they are saved? What about going to heaven? Not unless they repent, turn to God and walk with Jesus as Lord, but God has generously poured His Spirit out upon all people so that we could know Him. 

Recently I was going through a hard time spiritually, feeling far away from God's love and it was prophesied over me that I should watch the movie Pinocchio. Random right? What sort of prophesy is that? What good was watching a movie about a wooden toy going to do. However, one of the greatest parts of being in a season of feeling "poor in Spirit" is that you get to "see God" in a much more abundant way. In this kind of season your soul is so desperately crying out for Him and your ears are tuned in to His voice as you need comforted.

So despite my cynicism, I watched the movie and wept as God brought healing in my little orphan heart. It birthed a deeper revelation of His love and as He reaffirmed that I am His and that He loved me enough to die for me and adopt me into His royal family. Who knew that the gospel story, a story of extreme love and costly redemption could be concealed in so much of Pop Culture today. How foolish we are to disregard even the thought of God speaking through anything but the Holy Bible. Please don't think for a moment, that I am devaluing the Holy Book or placing the environmental or circumstantial on power with it's authority. However it does illustrate God promise in Joel to pour out His Spirit on all men (note it doesn't specify only God's children), the inspiration of His creative Spirit and God's one truth in Jesus is proclaimed everywhere, whether the messengers are aware or not. 

The story of Pinocchio makes the Prodical Son story accessible to a modern generation. 
I could relate in many ways to little Pinocchio. At the beginning of the story he is created with such care by his loving Father, but Pinocchio while a sweet likable character has no heart, he is not fully whole/real. He has a little cricket that goes everywhere with him seeking to guide and counsel him much like we have the Holy Spirit, and often while Pinocchio agrees with the cricket's wisdom, he goes ahead and does whatever he wants. 

He naively runs after all the wrong people and in a parallel to the Prodical son story, he ends up far away from home and his Father. He is liked by the crowd and enjoys the praise of men, but finds out too late that his "friends" see him as little more than an instrument of personal gain. He resolves to return to the Father only to get misled again, getting involved in worse things this time, that sadly leave a lasting scar (donkey ears and tail in his case). He escapes with the help of the cricket but sadly the many others that were with him were not so lucky. Next we discover that the Father got so worried when Pinocchio was missing that he went out looking for him. While he was out trying to find little Pinocchio the Father was swallowed by a whale. Pinocchio hears of this and decides that he must be with his Father at any cost. He ties a rock to his little donkey tail and jumps into the ocean. The part that got my heart strings the most was when they were reunited - the Father looks at Pinocchio's tail and ears and asks him what happened. Pinocchio drops his head in shame and begins to stutter a reply, but again like the Prodical son story the Father sweeps him into his arms and says that it doesn't matter all that matters now is that they are together, that he is alive and that the can celebrate that. 

They escape the whale, and Pinocchio learns the lesson of selfless love as he tries to help his Father at the cost of his own life. This raised the question "Am I willing to totally surrender my life to the Father this way?" As little Pinocchio lies dead on the bed the Father kneels beside him and because of his deep selfless love for the Father, Pincocchio's wish to be a real boy with a real heart is granted. He once was half alive (as a wooden toy) then he died to himself and was resurrected with a whole heart and reborn into realness. He is reunited with his Father and the whole household rejoices, dances and celebrates. The relationship between Pinocchio and His Father is not stagnant and stifled it is free, real, accepting and loving. The Father delights in His child and Pinocchio delights in his Father. 

The impact of seeing tangibly before my eyes this story, reaffirmed to me what I already knew about my God, His fatherly care, His tenderness, His relentless love. This story is a parable of a Heavenly Father's heart, but like with Jesus' parables a lot of people miss the point (I did previous times watching it). 

We too are born into this life (and even "new life") with an incomplete heart that cries out for the Father's restoration. Often even after coming to the Lord we make bad choices and sin. We too left our home and ran after the wrong crowd, whether that be in the form of people or if that be following satan's advice over God's. This sinfulness leaves a scar on us, on our hearts and soul, leaving us feeling worthless, wounded and invaluable. We too returned to Him and to get to Him have to jump into the ocean of His grace. He too will teach us that its the selfless act of dying to ourselves daily, by which we can be reborn. Not just reborn but reborn with the Spirit of God fully in us, reborn with Jesus in our hearts, reborn to life with the Father. 

Jesus promised life more abundant, His desire is for complete Sozo healing - healing that results in a whole heart without the chains and scars of the past, something that is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. A heart returned to an innocent, blameless, spotless state; the heart of a Child of God. A heart freed of the hurts accumulated while growing up and the wounds of "doing life". In the end after trial and tribulation, and after loving and repenting, Pinocchio got his Sozo healing and entered into a deeper realm of relationship with the Father, having become real and so more like Him. 

"if your heart is in your dreams.. no request is too extreme ... "
"Is anything too hard for me says the Lord" Jeremiah 32:26

Many Christians need healing too - to walk in freedom and joy requires going so much further than just becoming a Christian and accepting Jesus as Lord, He wants to be our healer and our friend too. So, whether you are a Christian already or not, bring to Him your brokenness, jump into the Ocean of Grace and ask Jesus to heal the innermost parts of your heart. I'm not going to pretend that this will be comfortable or quick, but to walk like in the fullness He promised in the freedom of Christ in worth it. Ask Him to reveal the memories you have repressed, the hurts from your past that navigate and control your emotions and reactions today, once you find the root, release it to Him and let Him take it gently out. Repent, forgive and release these things to Him - nothing is too hard for Him and the liberty that results is worth the discomfort of having your wounds cleaned.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Mercy vs Grace

I heard a wonderful, simple parable today about the difference between grace and mercy.

"You are driving at 100 mph through a 30 mph zone. The cops catch you and they pull you over. They ask you why, but you can't give them a reason that would justify putting others in danger.
Mercy is that they let go without a ticket. You deserved punishment but they didn't punish you.
Grace is that they give you a $1million reward."

God shows us both grace and mercy.
We are sinful, and because of His justice He should punish us, but because of His character His love is greater than His justice.. He is perfect in His nature.
His justice demands that we are punished because we are unmerciful, unloving, unforgiving - even the best of us are sinful, even as children we demonstrate our fallenness.
Despite it all He can't bear to destroy us. His love is too great. He wants a relationship with us just as much as He did before the fall in Eden.

Therefore because of His mercy He does not punish us (when we accept Jesus as our reprieve).
But because of His grace He doesn't just begrudgingly forgive us... no instead He offers us a crown and adopts us into His Royal family, when we choose relationship with Him, when we choose to become His children.
Instead of punishing many He asks His son to take the punishment "once for all".
When we cry out for justice and punishment for those who have offended us- we are crying out for Him to destroy us, as with us He showed us love over Justice.

Lord teach us to love like you, to cover a multitude of sins and to not demand justice for the sin that are committed against us. Help us to understand and have deep revelation of Your love, Your mercy and Your grace. We have been forgiven a great debt, lets not be like the unmerciful servant who will not forgive a debt owed to Him, but to love as You love. We cannot do it by ourselves Lord, it is not in our nature, so Holy Spirit come and renew our minds and our hearts, make us like Jesus. In His name we ask Lord, Amen

Check out Kris Valliton's message "healing the whole man" - for more teaching on this parable.