Minggu, 30 Agustus 2009

The 21 Laws of Relationship

The 21 Laws of Relationship
by Junior deSouza www.juniordesouza.com

In society, if we break certain laws we go to prison. In relationships also, if we break certain laws we end up in a prison--a prison of loneliness, isolation, and frustration. I call this Relationship Prison. I've been incarcerated there too many times! Weren't you my cellmate?
Most of the time we go on our own. We do not understand concrete laws that govern relationships, and therefore, we break them unknowingly and repeatedly--landing us in prison time and time again. We don't have to go or stay in Relationship Prison!
Happy relationships follow laws, unhappy ones are, more or less, lawless. God strengthen us.

Relationship Pre-Laws
The twenty-one laws to follow pertain to relationships already in progress. These three pre-laws, however, are simply guides for the selection process, before relationships happen.
Pre-law #1: Relationships are abundant, not scarce --- Being in Relationship Prison too long or too often makes one feel that relationships are rare, that there is simply not enough love to go around. Consequently, we cling to whatever mediocre or malicious person that floats into our orbit. Why settle? There's plenty of good relationships to go around, if you know and follow relationship laws (Ps 34:9,10, 84:11).
Pre-law #2: Know what you're looking for --- Where there is no vision people perish (Pr 29:18 KJV). Know the type of relationship you want. Many wander from person to person hoping to be saved from themselves, their past, and their sense of nothingness and emptiness. Consequently, they become a string puppet in someone else's theater. Understand yourself and enjoy your own company, and from this knowledge establish clear values for what you want in a relationship. You can only love a neighbor as you love yourself (Mk 12:31).
Pre-law #3: Break the pattern --- Don't keep drifting to subpar people! This repetition compulsion is a subconscious phenomenon whereby we keep repeating disappointing relationships until we "fix it" and "make it right". Make a conscious effort by the Holy Spirit to engage different, more wholesome, people. Be choosy. Intentionally go against the pattern and break it. Proverbs 12:26 (NKJV): The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Relationships flourish when comprehensively founded on the person, principles, and presence of Jesus Christ.
Any relationship's outcome will depend on its deepest foundation, its truest center, its strongest motivation for existence and continuance. No other foundation exists other than Jesus Christ (1Co 3:11). Anything built upon Him and His Word is sturdy, steady, and secure, while any other foundation will prove disillusioning when visited by life's ferocious realities (Lk 6:46-49).
For a relationship to fully flourish under God's pleasure, each person must contribute a personal spirituality founded on the Lord Jesus Christ. This means a daily, vibrant, growing relationship with Him and His kingdom. The deceptive counterfeit is when a person has a mere intellectual agreement with Christianity. This is NOT being founded on the Lord, but simply a person smart enough to recognize truth. A person founded on Christ is a born-again organism that is perpetually breathing, feeding, growing, and reproducing in Him in obvious ways.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the inner wellbeing of each person.
Whole individuals make happy relationships, while broken individuals make unhappy ones. The more emotionally sound the individuals are, the more relaxed and enjoyable the relationship. The stronger the individuals' sense of personal worth and identity, the stronger the relationship. The equation is pretty common sense.
It is a fool's game expecting someone else to be responsible for our happiness. Relationships often go belly-up because one person is unwhole and unhappy internally, yet blames their partner. Your life is your own stewardship! Become emotionally whole and filled with a sense of identity in Christ (Isa 61:1-3, Lk 4:18 NKJV). Then, and only then, will you be able to pull your weight toward a great relationship.
Relationships flourish in proportion to personality understanding and empathy.
We all were divinely designed in uniqueness and difference (Ps 33:15, 139:13-16, Eph 2:10). This means each individual contains a distinct set of passions, values, opinions, and behaviors stemming from their personal nature. Relationships crumble when individuals compromise their basic personality, or when it is not understood, appreciated, and encouraged. On the other hand, relationships soar when individuality and empathy abound.
The Bible gives us enlightening truths about human personality, which is ultimately traced back to divine personality. Some people are naturally powerful and strong-willed, like Paul the intense leader (Ac 23:2,3, Gal 2:11,14). Some are naturally peaceable and submissive, like Abraham, the compliant partner (Gen 16:1,2,6, 23:16). Some are naturally playful and sanguine, like Elijah, the sarcastic provocateur (1Ki 18:27). Some are naturally pensive and serious, like Jeremiah, the brutally realistic and weepy prophet (Jer 20: 14-18, 15:10, Lam 1:16,20,21, 2:11, 3:48).
Understand yourself and be yourself. Though a part of you will form a new identity with this individual(s), your basic person must remain intact. Some need to discover (or rediscover) themselves before they seek to discover another. In discovering another, celebrate what you find, though it differ from you.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the functional biblical knowledge of each person.
Functional knowledge is "knowledge that is performing." It is acting on what we know. It is the application of information. In God's kingdom, it is putting biblical knowledge to work. Functional biblical knowledge goes beyond hearing, reading, and learning Scripture, into doing, practicing, and experiencing it (Jas 1:22-25). God told Joshua his success in conquering the Promised Land depended on his functional knowledge of the Scriptures (Jsh 1:7,8). The psalmist said whoever lives by the Law of Lord will be like a fruitful tree planted by rivers of living water, prospering in anything and everything (Ps 1:2,3). God's Word! Relationships depend on it as a light and lamp to illuminate the best way (119:105). Biblical ignorance and inaction have left many promising relationships withering and wandering in a hot, dry desert.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the role integrity and faithfulness of each person.
Role refers to the specific "job" each person performs in the relationship to make it succeed. Therefore, role integrity refers to faithfully practicing and fulfilling that particular job.
For example, in a biblical marriage, the husband is appointed the role of leader, the wife the role of helper (Gen 2: 18, Eph 5:22-24). If they are faithful and efficient in these roles and their implications, the relationship can succeed. If not, role confusion and role reversal will give way to disorder, conflict, even termination.
Also consider friendships. Some friendships are vertical; one person is clearly the leader, mentor, and teacher, while the other is clearly the follower, learner, and protégé. If this is truly the best scenario for both persons, then the relationship can flourish only if they are both faithfully fulfilling their roles. This does not mean the relationship cannot graduate into a horizontal friendship (walking side by side as "equals", with no distinct leader or follower), it simply means that in each particular season both persons must discern and fulfill their roles for the welfare of the relationship.
For example, Jesus had a vertical relationship with the disciples for most of His ministry. He had the clear role of rabbi and they the role of students. Then, at the end of His life, He declared them no longer servants, but friends, upgrading the relationship to a side-by-side friendship and partnership (Jn 15:15).
All relationships come with roles, even professional ones. Each person must assess the nature and intent of the relationship, and, what role they must fulfill to ensure the relationship's wellbeing and success.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the commitment of each person.
The modern proverb is true, It takes two to tango! A relationship flourishes when all individuals involved are equally committed and contributive. Different types of ongoing investments will be required for different types of relationships (spiritual, emotional, intellectual, financial/material, marital, etc.). The nature and intent of the relationship will determine what investments are appropriate and relevant. Are all persons willing to invest and give, and do so ongoingly? If so, there can be success. If not, the relationship deadlocks and becomes a one-sided project. Ecclesiastes 9:10: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the trust and security level present.
Trust and security, like many of these laws, grow progressively over time with positive experiences. Everyone needs the assurance they are relating with someone dependable, faithful, loyal, and reliable. Within such a safe relationship, persons feel liberal with honesty and vulnerability, resulting in a high level of intimacy and fulfillment. Relating persons must take extreme measures and exert meticulous efforts to perfect trust and security. Without it, suspicions, accusations, and paranoia threaten to swallow the relationship whole, making us hear what is not said and imagine what is not real.
Proverbs 20:6 (NKJV): ...but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 25:19 (NIV): Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble. Luke 16:10-12: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?
Relationships flourish in proportion to love deficit and provision.
Love deficit refers to the specific type of love each person feels they need most. These "love languages" are well summarized in The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, though each language has subtle "dialects" (variations) from person to person. Love provision refers to the other person's cognizance and willingness to regularly provide that specific type of love.
For example, David had a tremendous love deficit from the ongoing shame and rejection from his brothers (1Sam 17:28,29). God sent Jonathan as a brother-type to provide the very type of love he needed to balance his emotional debt (ch20). Instead of shaming David, Jonathan admired and affirmed him. Instead of rejecting him, he embraced and loved him as himself.
All people, to differing degrees, pursue decisions and relationships by their love deficit, with the hopes of finding the corresponding love provision and rebalancing their heart. Emotional relationships (family, romances, close friendships) are the most susceptible to the power of love deficit, yet possess an equal capability to provide for, heal, and bring balance to those very debts. When people's love deficits are overlooked and not provided for, anger, depression, conflict, retaliation, manipulation, and chaos loom. Relationships are a place where God pays off our emotional debts. Be sensitive to this and discern what role you are to play, healer or being healed or both.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the change-inclination of each person.
Change-inclination refers to a person's level of desire and willingness to change attitudes and behaviors detrimental to intimacy, or, certain benign habits that simply hinder or retard greater intimacy. This translates into flexibility, adjustment, and sacrifice in any and every way necessary to ensure mutual fulfillment.
Besides other purposes, relationships were intended to change us (Pr 27:17, Ro 15:14). A stubborn goat unwilling to change will never enjoy relational happiness. They will forever remain in Relationship Prison wondering what's wrong with everyone else. Don't you be that goat!
Relationship is the merging of two (or more) worlds and the creation of a new one. Some of the elements of these worlds are beautifully compatible, some can be made compatible with patience and wisdom, and some must be sacrificed totally. A wise person who enjoys Eden-type relationships understands change-inclination very well. They are ever ready to change themselves, willing to adapt, adjust, bend, compromise, submit, and sacrifice to walk in Eden with others. Not weak-willed, but soft-willed.
We cannot change others. You know that right? Many become obsessed with rearranging or fixing others, and fail to see this is codependence at best, manipulation at worst. Personal transformation is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit and the person's freewill alone. Certainly we can apply the power of example, humility, love, truth-speaking, confrontation, and other provocative agents to motivate change, but our efforts have limits, limits we must respect and accept. When each person in a relationship has a high change-inclination, their bond will never stop ascending into greater and greater intimacy and joy.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the peace-orientation of each person.
Peace-orientation refers to a person's level of zeal to achieve and maintain unity and harmony in a relationship. I am not referring to a false peace or an avoidant peace-faking, whereby one person indulges or enables another person's evils. Peace-orientation is a bentness for true, interpersonal peace that inspires one to be solution-oriented, negotiable, and most of all, loving and humble. This quality is determined largely by the spiritual and emotional maturity of the person.
Scripture has a mouthful to say about peace-orientation. Paul said to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3, emp added). In the verse before he tells us to be completely humble, gentle, patient, and loving. He also said, "If it possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Ro 12:18). Jesus said, "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other" (Mk 9:50). Salt preserves...preserve peace. God's Word is commanding us to have a high peace-orientation.
Those with a low peace-orientation are constant perpetrators of chaos, drama, and conflict. Scripture frowns on them. Proverbs 29:8,9: Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger. If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace. Psalm 120:5-7: Woe to me that I dwell in Meshach, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.
Relationships flourish in proportion to how each person wields their blueprint.
A blueprint is a preconceived model. Architects use blueprints to guide their construction of buildings. The imagination conceives it, the paper records it, and the workers build it.
Similarly, each person has a relational blueprint, a mental model of what they envision the relationship to be. This blueprint guides their attitudes, behaviors, and words, in minor and major ways. Most people refer to this simply as "expectations". It is, though, a blueprint. Their blueprint.
Relational blueprints are not wrong in and of themselves, but how people use them often is. First of all, we need to downgrade our blueprint from an expectation to simply a request. Venerating our blueprint too highly makes us selfish and self-absorbed, preoccupied with my wants and my needs. Intimacy, though, is always give first and receive last. We all have wants and needs, most of them legitimate and fair. But if we become experts at satisfying the other person's blueprint first, our faithful God will take up our case Himself and do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine to satisfy our blueprint.
Philippians 2:3,4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Relationships flourish in proportion to a positive atmosphere.
Every relationship has a felt atmosphere, and this atmosphere imposes moods and compulsions on the individuals involved. An atmosphere of tension and nervousness typically provokes angry outbursts. An atmosphere of depression and hopelessness typically provokes secretive scheming. On the other hand, a sunshine atmosphere of hope, optimism, laughter, and friendliness provokes reactions of life, enthusiasm, friendship, and want-to-change.
Whatever we focus on in others we bring out in them. If we focus on their negative points, immaturities, and shortcomings--and constantly let them know about it--you can be sure that mess will increase. Bad attention is always better than no attention to the nonmature. When we focus on the good we want to draw out of people, the better they feel about themselves, us, and the relationship. The less they need to act out to be attended to. Proverbs 18:20,21, life and death is in your verbal focus!
If a sunny atmosphere prevails long enough, some negativities will dissipate on their own. Soften your face (Ecc 8:1), smile more (Pr 15:30 NIV), and keep laughing (Pr 15:15)! Someone will have to dig deep, rise up, and set a new mood in the relationship.
Relationships flourish in proportion to how the individuals fight, disagree, and conflict.
Some cannot conflict without personalizing the matter. They bypass the issue at hand and digress into personal insults, cheap shots, and disrespect. They attack the person, not the problem. This leaves broken feelings and broken trust in its wake. Few people are mature and resilient enough to walk on this kind of water repeatedly.
Others talk agreeably in disputes, yet resort to behind-the-scenes scheming and manipulation for revenge. These are the "guerilla fighters" of relationships. They do not conflict directly, usually because they hate conflict, yet find their payback in secret. This happens often in marriages where one spouse cheats secretly to "get back" at their partner, yet still comes home and plays the Cleavers. Many husbands justify pornography in this way, seeing it simply as payback for wrongs inflicted.
The above examples are war crimes, inhumane and illegitimate battle tactics. They destroy relationships faster than you can say, "That's not fair!" Here are a few tips for conflicting respectfully:
Discern the conflict's nature: emotional vs intellectual Some conflicts center on feelings--then talk emotionally, honestly, and vulnerably. Some center on differing opinions--then debate facts. Talk on the same level. Crisscrossing brings confusion and misunderstanding. If the conflict contains elements of both, then talk emotionally first (validating feelings), intellectually second (discussing facts and solutions).
Always give a fair trial Everyone has a right to explain themselves. Let them. Don't assign motives. Never assume. Delay verdicts until all the evidence is in. Listen to Solomon, Proverbs 25:7,8: ...What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?
Stay on topic Don't bounce around from issue to issue (women especially). Address the most pressing issue thoroughly until mutual satisfaction is reached. Yahweh dismantled Egypt one god at a time, not all at once.
Be solution-oriented; negotiate You can obsess over being right or you can choose to have a happy relationship. Seek solutions, not self-justification. Do you want to be right or alone? Let gray areas be gray areas, and let disputable matters remain disputable (Ro 14:1).
Open-endedness Some conflicts do not have an immediate resolution. Recognize this and be content to let time and the Lord unfold the best outcome (Ps 37:7,34).
Reassure Relational battles can make us question whether we are truly loved or not. Ignore ego and always reaffirm your love and commitment. Sometimes this is really at the root of it all--a simple need for loving reassurance (Ro 13:8, 2Co 2:7,8).
Relationships flourish in proportion to the forgiveness aptitude of each person.
Matthew 18:32-35: Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant," he said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.
The above scripture makes me tremble.Forgiveness is a spiritual aptitude developed through prayer, time, and practice. I will not say much here because I have written a thorough teaching on the subject posted on my website (Forgiveness..can I truly forgive? http://www.juniordesouza.com/teachingsi.htm ).
I will say, holding grudges, harboring offenses, keeping a record of wrongs, silently stewing and brewing, and planning counterattacks is sin, sin, sin. It will destroy the relationship, and according to Jesus in Matthew 18:34,35, God will "turn us over to the jailers to be tortured" if we refuse to forgive from the heart and let go forever. Hard words from a very forgiving Savior.
Relationships flourish in proportion to communication quality.
This is probably the most well-known fact, but least-practiced act. All relationships crumble or soar by communication, even non-emotional ones, since the tongue is every ship's rudder (Jms 3:3-5).
Communication is the act of conveying information. Everything living depends on incoming and outgoing information to survive and thrive--animals, plants, humans, nations, organizations, armies, businesses. Conveying information in its various forms (intellectual, emotional, spiritual, financial, sexual, etc...) is the nervous system of relationship. How many relationships are paralyzed and handicapped because of a malfunctional nervous system?
Soul dialects Being a great relational communicator, first and foremost, means understanding that each individual communicates for different reasons and with different vocabulary. In other words, everyone has their own unique "soul dialect". Soul dialects can be discerned by listening with genuine interest and thoughtfulness. Conversely, when conveying information, good relational communicators use the soul dialect of the listener (as much as possible), increasing their understanding and receptivity.
Jesus often used agricultural terminology to connect with a very agricultural Jewish mind. The typical Jew had a soul dialect filled with such imagery and vocabulary. When Jesus recruited Peter and Andrew, he spoke their soul's dialect also, paralleling their fishing experience with their evangelistic calling (Mt 4:18-20). Even in the Lazarus incident did Jesus speak Martha's language, helping her grasp the greater reality of spiritual life versus spiritual death through the death of her brother (Jn 11:17-27). Just as God speaks our inner language to reach us, so also good communicators are multilingual, able to discern and dialogue with the inner language of their loved ones.
Soul dialects are the foundation of all relational communication. Upon this though, there are other communicational building blocks.
Approach Everyone communicates relationally in one of three ways: parent-to-child (talking down; directing, instructing, counseling), child-to-parent (talking up; revering, complying, deferring), or adult-to-adult (talking across; dialoguing, negotiating, co-creating). If the relationship is a mentorship, communicating parent-to-child/child-to-parent is appropriate and fitting. If it is a friendship or romance, communicating adult-to-adult is crucial. Relationships should be prayerfully pondered as to which approach is healthiest and ideal for all involved.
Meaningfulness Communication should go beyond clichés and facts (men especially). It should be meaningful, revealing honest feelings, reactions, and needs (especially in friendships and romance).
Much more could be said about communication's intricacies. However, soul dialects, approach, and meaningfulness are the central pieces upon which the rest is built.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the process-mentality of each person.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Oak trees mature in 10-15 years. Little by little Israel took the promised land (Ex 23:29,30). Some things are developed only through time, like a healthy body, a successful company, or an amazing relationship. The more of a process-mentality each individual has, the more steadily the relationship grows, the faster it will reach a seasoned, fulfilling zenith.
Relational development is seasonal. This means each season has certain challenges and pleasures. The relationship only grows as it successfully assimilates these seasonal elements. If it does not, the relationship will come to a standstill, a stagnancy, a redundancy, remaining in that very season until it successfully assimilates the elements. Like Israel wandering in the desert, the relationship will wander in its present season until it does so.
Therefore, relational development is also sequential. As the relationship successfully assimilates its seasonal elements, it graduates into a new season and evolves. The relationship deepens, expands, and matures that much more. Intimacy and fulfillment increases that much more.
A process-mentality welcomes the fact that the relationship does not have to be "There" overnight. It does not have to be ideal or amazing right now. It does understand, however, that the assimilation and accumulation of seasons will lead there. The marathon perspective of a process-mentality silences I-want-it-now demands and calms us with the fruit of patience.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the teamwork approach of each person.
In relationships we do not lose individuality, but we must lose individualism. Individuality is our personal uniqueness, while individualism is a bent to hyperindependent behavior. Many in Relationship Prison have not understood or embraced this fine distinction.
A relationship is a team in every way imaginable, and the goal is for the team to win. When the team wins, each team member wins. Everything--literally everything--that is felt, thought, said, or done must be in consideration of our teammate. This is often a struggle for alpha males in marriage, whose tendency is toward a detached lifestyle and individualistic decision-making. However, through repentance, truth, and Spirit-powered rehabituation, he can become the interdependent team-player God commands him to be. Philippians 2:2-4: Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the fairness and efficiency of task distribution.
Every relationship has a "housekeeping" side. Certain tasks and responsibilities need to be assigned fairly and carried out efficiently. Who will pay what bills? Who will buy the food? Who will clean, and when? Who will pay for gas? Who will pick up the kids? Emotional intimacy is euphoric, but it will quickly dissipate under the frustrations of unfair or inefficient task distribution. Little foxes ruin the vineyard (SS 2:15). Make and keep good practical arrangements satisfying to all.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the overall life experience of each person.
Life experience is not necessarily a sign of spiritual maturity. Practically, though, it is incredibly beneficial to a relationship's rhythm and flow. For example, managing personal resources, dealing well with different types of people, navigating change, social confidence, cultural literacy, physical health and excellence, understanding basic economics, and other life practicalities all affect the daily rhythm and flow between people. Most of Proverbs is devoted to this.
Many spiritual Christians continue having relational frustrations simply because they are inexperienced at life in general. They can pray for hours but can't balance a checkbook. They can quote Scripture but can't conversate gracefully or intelligently. They can name every ringleader in their spiritual movement but they can't count calories. I've been there.
All this translates into life experience, or wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but have you ever wondered about the middle and end of wisdom? The beginning of all wisdom is indeed spiritual, a reverent relationship with God yielding godly attitudes and behaviors (Jas 3:13-18). From there, however, it expands to every area of our life, even the most mundane. The outer reaches of wisdom deal with informed and insightful daily living. The longer we live on this earth, if we are open to new information, the wiser we become in life's intricate nooks and crannies. This Proverbs-type wisdom makes relationships flow a million times smoother. One less conflict about anything means one more opportunity for joy...apply that to several areas of life and you have a relationship sidestepping many difficult days.
Relationships flourish in proportion to the social involvement of each person.
Everyone requires relational and social connections beyond the immediate relationship--friends, loved ones, and quality acquaintances. Perhaps the most prominent trait of a religious cult is that it seeks to isolate members from outside relationships. Though most of us have never been so steeped in a cult, we have all known people highly possessive, controlling, and cult-like in their relationships. This type of suffocation is very dangerous. Not only does it snuff out the sparkle and joy from relationships, but any abuse happening can go undetected and unreported for years until something tragic blows the cover.
Several years ago I counseled a lady in her mid-30s who had been abused in every way by her husband. They attended church every week. She was not allowed to speak in Sunday School unless spoken to. She was not allowed any outside connections, not even family, until finally one day she called her father from a motel room. Her husband had threatened to grind her up in farming equipment, leaving no trace of her whatsoever.
Here's the lesson: he did not begin the relationship that way. From the beginning he gave abusive clues, speaking negatively of her friends and family, planting seeds to disconnect. Little by little he closed off her social involvements until she was totally isolated and terrified of resisting or running. Never ignore abusive clues. Anything accommodated grows.
Relationships are living organisms, they must breathe in and breathe out fresh air to be healthy and growing. Good social involvement with others keeps fresh winds blowing in and blowing out. Proverbs 27:10: Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you-better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Hebrews 10:25: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...
Relationships are subject to distance or termination when the immediate or longterm safety and wellbeing of a person is at risk.
The Creator intended relationships to be life-giving, not death-causing. When the immediate or longterm safety and wellbeing of a person is at risk, relational distance or termination becomes a legitimate consideration.
Some have a faulty understanding of unconditional love, forgiveness, and patience. They think God would applaud their relational martyrdom if they let themselves be beaten to a pulp day after day, physically or verbally or whatever way. Essentially, they are licensing a destructive person to destroy them little by little, if not all at once. This is not admirable or biblical; this is fear of being alone, codependence, and struggling self-worth. Even Jesus would not tolerate certain treatment (Jn 2:23-25, Lk 4:28-30).
Harmful vs Hard We need to contrast harmful relationships with simply hard ones. A harmful relationship is one that will cause immediate or eventual damage to our wellbeing. The enemy is often, if not always, directly manifested in such relationships. Psalm 101 and Proverbs 13:20 address such.
Hard relationships are just that--hard--but not ultimately harmful. They carry the fingerprints of the Sanctifier, who organizes such uphill relationships to develop our spirituality and personality. At times we'd like to swear such relationships are "harmful", giving us excuse to cut n run, but deep down we know the Spirit is using that person like sandpaper to smooth our rough edges. We instinctively know that in the end it will produce new, life-giving relational patterns in us. Paul had a hard time with John Mark (Ac 15:37-40), but they both grew and eventually got it right (2Ti 4:11).

Selasa, 25 Agustus 2009


-Naked Capitalism +WSJ. -Aug 11.

As the economy limps along, with jobs still falling (despite keen
efforts to call a turn, and with the figures a bit more dodgy if you
look under the hood), more and more overindebted and under-
employed citizens are out on the street.

Reports of tent encampments or parking lots with cars that serve
as shelter have been an occasional and sad sighting for more than
a year. What is new is that some cities, with their shelters at their
limits, have decided it is better to provide limited services to these
colonies than try to send the occupants away.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Last summer, police responding to complaints about campfires
under a highway overpass found dozens of homeless people living
on public land along the Cumberland River.

Eviction notices went up -- and then were suspended by Nashville
Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat, who said housing for the homeless
should be found first.

A year later, little has been found -- and Nashville, with help from
local nonprofits, is now servicing a tent city, arranging for portable
toilets, trash pickup, a mobile medical van and visits from social
workers. Volunteers bring in firewood for the camp's 60 or so dwellers.

Nashville is one of several U.S. cities that these days are accom-
modating the homeless and their encampments, instead of
dispersing them...

In Florida, Hillsborough County plans to consider a proposal
Tuesday by Catholic Charities to run an emergency tent city in
Tampa for more than 200 people. Dave Rogoff, the county health
and services director, said he preferred to see a "hard roof over
people's heads." But that takes real money, he said: "We're trying
to cut $110 million out of next year's budget."

Ontario, a city of 175,000 residents about 40 miles east of Los
Angeles, provides guards and basic city services for a tent city on
public land.

A church in Lacey, Wash., near the state capital of Olympia,
recently started a homeless camp in its parking lot after the city
changed local ordinances to permit it. The City Council in Ventura,
Calif., last month revised its laws to permit sleeping in cars over-
night in some areas. City Manager Rick Cole said most of the car
campers are temporarily unemployed, "and in this economy,
temporary can go on a long time."...

In Nashville, Mr. Harris, director of the city's homeless commission,
said tent cities have existed for years, but he has seen the numbers
surge. He now knows of 30 encampments. While some people are
chronically homeless, he said, foreclosures have forced others into
the streets, as has Tennessee's 10.8% unemployment rate, the
highest in 25 years...

The city and local nonprofits have found permanent housing for
about 25 people from the tent city.

Many haven't been so lucky. David Olson, 47 years old, said last
week he and his wife wound up under the Nashville overpass after
he lost a job making cement pipes in Iowa four months ago. The
couple came to Nashville for a remodeling job that turned out to
be a scam. "I've got five years' experience in carpentry and 10
years' roofing and I can't find a job," he said.

Mr. Olson, his arms and shirt caked with dirt, said life is hard in
the swampy woods. The couple woke up to mud after a night of
rain. His wife said she is frightened by the dogs that roam around
the encampment.

As mosquitoes buzzed, they tried to set up camp on higher ground.
They struggled to secure a tarpaulin over their tent to keep out the
rain. Mr. Olson's wife, holding onto a pole to prop up the tarp,
cried. "I'm not used to living like this."

-From NAKED CAPITALISM - source-

Original WSJ Article-

Selasa, 18 Agustus 2009

Unfinished Zeal

Unfinished Zeal

By Dudley Hall www.sclm.org

Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me: Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times." John 13:36-38 (ESV)
Peter is a committed disciple. He wants desperately to be wherever Jesus is. He is not some half-hearted semi-believer. Not many could stand the comparison with him in his level of loyalty shown towards Jesus. He was willing to fight the Roman soldiers who came to get Jesus in the garden. He was always willing to put his opinion on the table even if others shot it down. The problem is that following Jesus takes more than any man or woman can produce.

In short, Peter wanted what was not available and couldn't do what he was committed to do. This could lead to some frustrated living if not addressed.

There are some aspects of God's character that are not transferable, and there are some things Jesus did that we aren't allowed to do. It seems that we grieve over these limitations and fail to embrace the privileges that are given by grace. For instance, we want to know what God knows. We can know like he knows and we can know some things he knows, but we are not God and we cannot know all that he knows. That offends the mind that wants to answer to no one except self. God is all knowing and we aren't. We seem to think that we have a right to have an answer to every question, and that if God doesn't grant our wish, he is to be doubted. He gives as a privilege enough understanding to be obedient. We have no rights except to expect him to be faithful to his promise. He has been and is.

There are so many aspects of God's character that are transferable. If we would just give up our insistence on knowing everything and being in control of everything, and concentrate of embracing the merciful, slow to anger, faithful, forgiving, nature that God has provided through faith in Jesus Christ, we would find a level of joy beyond imagination.

Peter was not yet aware that human zeal -- no matter how passionate -- couldn't keep its promises to God. That had to be exposed in him before he was broken enough to trust the grace of God.

It seems that we continue to proclaim a gospel that implies that committed people can actually live the Christian life. We must and will learn that the gospel is not about a bigger commitment on our part, but a bigger grace on God's part. It is more about him and his willingness to work in us than it is about our ramping up more commitment to be faithful to him. The more we are aware of how faithful he is, the more our faith grows.

Peter was later to discover that God's commitment to him was so overwhelming that trust in God was the only viable option. He would later be martyred for Christ because God was faithful to him and enabled him to stand fast beyond human capacity.

Don't settle for human zeal that will ultimately fail when you can have a faithful God who never fails.

Minggu, 16 Agustus 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Church!

A Funny Thing Happened on
My Way to Church!

Dr. Kluane Spake
htttp://kluane.org spake@mindspring.com

Laughing Toward a Happy, Abundant, and Meaningful Life

In the beginning was the Word (logos, Jn. 1:1). Logos can be understood to mean "the word, speech, or conversation" such as when God SAID, "let there BE."

Another long lost implied Greek definition of "logos" in this context is that it means telling a joke! Well-- that idea makes me happy just to think about. It forces me to look at life from a different vantage. It causes me to consider how much the Lord God wants us to be happy. Even within this idea contains a hint of how life should be.
From original creation, God's cosmic laughter still resounds. Can you hear it?

 Laughing from the beginning shows that God unconditionally accepted us right off the bat. In spite of our mistakes and pratfalls. We were created for HIS pleasure (Rev. 4:11). Yes! God actually created us to freely be joyful -- that makes Him happy too! The reason we get confused about the meaning of our lives is because we forgot that God gave us a choice to be joyful WITH Him. The spiritual  flash point of creation seems to be pleasure and joy (both for God and for us).

Augustine, John Chrysostom,  and Gregory of Nyssa (early church fathers) spoke of how God played a surprise joke on the devil when He raised Jesus from the grave. Since earliest times, Protestant Easter sermons started with a joke. The Greek Orthodox Church sets aside 24 hours of continuous joking and humor because of the joke of Resurrection.

The Greek Orthodox Church named Easter laughter "Risus Paschalis" (Segal 2001, 24). Dante's most famous work was called the "Divine Comedy." Dante told about how the nearer we get to heaven the wider the smile, and the greater the laughter.

Those who followed St. Francis of Assisi were so outlandishly happy about their salvation they were compared to jesters, street comics, circus performers and were known as "le Jongleur de Dieu" or the tumblers of God.

Laughter is the first thing that babies learn to do. The quality of our abundant life depends upon being able to laugh and find joy. Learning to laugh again is a major factor of greater internal enlightenment and vitality.

Most believers take life too seriously, they have the stoic part figured out - they think they need to be aesthetes to walk in God's favor. There's kids, careers, deadlines, pressures, degrees, disappointments, relationships, and endless demands. Do you view life as abundant or a prison sentence? Many of us may need a "Laugh track" to accompany our  life -- just to recognize what is joyful.

As the saying goes, "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Frown and they think you're a Christian!"
"We spend the first twelve months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk - and the next 12 years telling them to sit down and shut up." Phyllis Diller

The first mention of  laughter in the Bible is when God told Abraham that he would be a father and Sarah, his 90 year old wife, overheard the conversation and laughed. Perhaps we know the story to well to see something else? What if the name Issac (Laughter) was chosen because Sarah's laughter was from the astonishment of the promise? What if Laughter became his name to remember that moment of discovery? Surely her gladness was unimaginable. Her conception was a miracle.

This response caused a spiritual portal of release and acceptance of the impossible promise! Then, they named their son "Isaac," and his name meant "laughter." And Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me" (Gen. 21:6).

I like to think about the conversation in that family. "If I told you once, Laughter, I've told you a thousand times., quit the rowdy laughter, Laughter. Sit down and stop laughing - be still." "Laughter, be serious."

Now, imagine taking Laughter (the child of promise and hope) to the mountain to sacrifice him. Genesis 22:5  "I and the lad (Laughter) will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you." Did he laugh all the way there?  Here, offering up Isaac (Laughter) by pulling a knife up to slay him according to God's command is called "worship."

The average Believer thinks of the Sunday morning "Worship Service" as singing music with your eyes closed and both hands in the air. But, the worship Abraham was talking about is "Shachah " which means to yield and prostrate oneself in reverence.        

It's giving everything in joy, trust,  and expectation!

All the all the fancy music, all the processional banners, all the graceful dancers, and all the preaching in the world cannot make worship happen. But willing sacrifice with laughter IS worship. There was no promise of reward, no recompense - just do it. No wonder there was a ram in the thicket! It epitomizes the response to authentic worship!

Ask the Lord to show you how to worship in the dimension of joy and laughter -  allow His Love to spill out all over you. After all, God sits on His throne and laughs (Ps. 2:4). We're sitting next to him on His right side.
Why would our latest revivals contain so much Holy Laughter? Because laughter heals us. Laughter spontaneously connects us one with another. People rarely laugh alone. it gives us a shared sense of understanding the world - the essence of the awareness of life.

I had a pastor friend who made me laugh. Sometimes I would fly long distances to minister for him - and he always was outlandishly funny. Laughing with that church made that place one of my favorite places to go. Laughter is a healthy response that provides us with a mini-vacation from stress and difficult emotional situations.
"The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter." Mark Twain

Laughter is the great communicator. It is a witness of our faith, even in hard times. You can't be unhappy and laugh at the same time. Laughter is a joy INSIDE - it is both a physical and an emotional experience. It is a magnet that draws others to us. It creates relationship bonding. It is contagious and often uncontrollable.
Great friendships are only as memorable as the history of laughs together!

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones."

HEALTH - Countless advantages of laughter are said to help health issues. The August issue of Ode Magazine also tells us of some of the extraordinary health benefits of laughter:
People who laugh seem to have longer attention spans.
Immune cells become more activated. It helps us fight disease.
Laughter cleanses the body of cortisol. (Cortisol is the stress hormone that deposits fat in the abdominal region of the body.) Laughter eases anxiety.
It reduces chronic pain and these are as follows:
Laughing increases blood circulation. It pushes blood and oxygen though the coronary  arteries - reducing strokes and heart attacks.
Laughing is calming. It releases an endorphin rush that produce pleasure sensations. Endorphins reduce damage to the increases pain tolerance.
It adds higher levels of melatonin to breast milk of mothers and reduces fetal eczema.
It reduces inflammation thought to be linked to heart attacks, allergies, and arthritis.
It is an escape from stress and emotional situations.
It causes better respiration function.
It invigorates hormones called "catecholamines" that raise an alertness of our present moment in tim
It keeps us from becoming bogged down with the circumstances of life. Plus it burns more calories than worry. Laughter helps control stress.
Many cancer centers use laughter (old movies, etc.) as a coping and curing mechanism. 
Gastronomical troubles are thought to be related to uncontrolled anxiety.
Stress is related to damaged endothelium (inner lining of blood vessels - arterial stiffening) that leads to heart attacks. Athens Medical School published results that confirmed the beneficial effects of laughter on arterial stiffness.
Japanese research shows that laughter helps stabilize blood sugar in diabetics.
Peter said in Acts 2:25-28:  "I saw the Lord always before me.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad (leaps for joy) and my tongue rejoices. --You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." 

So try these experiences just for fun. Make the sounds.
EXISTENTAIL laugher: Subdued wary laugh in seemingly uncertain or inappropriate times.

GIGGLES: Contagious response.

CACKLE: Cartoon villains, comic scoundrels, and evil entities.

CONTEMPTUOUS: Scoffing ridicule at those in authority or power. Contemptuous, bullied, or scornful response to idea or person who is deemed worthless.

NERVOUS laugh: Awkward moments, nervousness.

SOCIAL laughter: General invitation to collectively relate socially.

CHUCKLE: Briefly acknowledge comprehension of joke, pun, or event

BELLY laughs: Involuntary explosive response. Guffaw, chortle, or snort.

We are told in Scripture to not be filled with foolish talk or crude joking (Eph. 5:4). While inappropriate  humor seems to be rampant these days, we want to laugh WITH God. We are told to not overly jest or mock, but it is wonderful to be happy, amused, celebrant, rejoicing, and smiling. God even laughs at the enemies of Israel (Ps. 59:8). Israel praised God for the gift of laughter (Ps. 126).

My friend, laugh joyfully at appropriate times and put your trust in the Lord  and His Word -- nd you will have abiding  joy and a leaping up of the Holy Spirit in your heart. There is certain victory in Christ that is accompanied with eternal rejoicing and laughter.

Heb. 12:2 says, " Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross." Jesus could endure with joy because God's people have the last laugh that never ends.
 Selah --
The number one problem in the Church today is that believers don't fully know our identity. Can we learn to laugh and be joyful over who God has made us to be.
My friend, the Lord says, I have called and chosen you to live in these Strategic times. The weariness is lifting off your expectations as the door of understanding opens your eyes. It's time for expansion within. It is a time of uploading and activating all that you have learned. Broader vistas await. There is a positional shifting everywhere you go, get ready to receive the true JOY of your salvation!

Great and unexpected truths of extraordinary magnitude unveil as your identity in the Lord is more firmly established. From today, your life and ministry are energized. You are released to reap the provisional harvest.

Selasa, 11 Agustus 2009

"The Road Less Traveled: A Spiritual Exhortation"

"The Road Less Traveled: A Spiritual Exhortation"
By John Wallace John's Website

On a recent morning as I was talking with the Lord, I heard Him say, "Read 'The Road Less Traveled.' It is a spiritual exhortation for this hour." It's interesting (and part of what the Lord wanted me to get) that He called the poem "The Road Less Traveled." Although that is the name by which it is commonly known (due to the phrase used in the next to last line of the poem), this is not the poem's real name. Robert Frost wrote this poem in 1919 and entitled it "The Road Not Taken."
"The Road Not Taken" has been a source of inspiration for people all over the world because of its seeming ode to individualism and free choice. A very literal interpretation of the poem would say that the poet came to a choice, one path to follow or the other, took one, and it has made all the difference in the world. That, however, is not the complete story. In fact, Frost himself once said of this poem, "You have to be careful of that one; it's a tricky poem—very tricky."
Frost wrote the poem after returning from a stay in England. While there he became good friends with another poet, Edward Thomas. Thomas would take Frost on long walks into the countryside to show him various plants, trees, etc. More often than not, when arriving back home, Thomas would sigh and regret that he didn't take Frost another way and show him something else. When Frost returned to America, he wrote this poem as an ironic jest toward Thomas and toward those who were always regretting the decisions they made in the past.
Don't Look Back—Face Forward
The point the Lord is making, I believe, is found in His own words in Luke 9:62: "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God." The context is the challenge Jesus offers to one who wants to follow Him but first wants to say goodbye to home, family and friends. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom isn't for "looking backers." The Kingdom is for those moving ahead.
This being "a spiritual exhortation for the hour" is the Lord's way of telling us to look ahead, not backward. I know people, perhaps you do too, who live their lives in the past. They live in regret, often sighing (as the one in Frost's poem) about choices they made. "What would life have been like if I had chosen the other path?" They live in long-finished successes or failures, past relationships now broken or gone, finances lost or squandered. They long for "the good old days."
The Lord is encouraging us to face forward, not backward. We have been given "plows" (divine purposes, plans and designs) for our lives. If we try to plow looking over our shoulders we will, at best, plow a crooked row. At worst we will be stopped in our tracks. I have a set of grandtwins who have just learned how to walk. Rather, they went from crawling to running. They have a habit of running forward while looking backward. They usually hurt themselves bumping into furniture, tripping over things on the floor. Looking backward hurts.
One gentle warning from a prophetic person—it's also dangerous to live in the future all the time. I know. I've been doing it for years. Because the Lord has given me the gracious gift of "seeing" things He desires, it's very easy for me to believe and then live like those things are already taking place. What I've missed out on is the present: present relationships, present acts of the Lord, present reminders of His presence and power NOW.
But, as I wrote in my last article, The Kingdom of God is advancing. And advancing with it, I need to face forward. Perhaps I need to quickly acknowledge the past—God's goodness, mistakes I can learn from—but move on. I think that's the big emphasis coming from the Lord's voice: MOVE ON.
People are waiting down the path we have taken. Healing is waiting down that path. Deliverance and forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration is waiting down that path. The Kingdom is waiting down that path.
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
John's Bio: Currently, John and Suzanne are Community Leaders of Blood n Fire Dallas, a community with a vision "to reach, raise up and release the younger generations to advance the Kingdom of God among the poor of the earth." John Wallace was born and raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma. After graduating from Shawnee High School, he attended and received a B.B.A. from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, John and his future bride, Suzanne Martin, met. John then graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, TX. After graduation John served as a dentist in the U.S. Army for two years. John and Suzanne moved back to Dallas for almost 10 years of private dental practice. From 1981 to 1986 John attended Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating with a Master of Theology degree. He has, subsequently, pastored local churches for the last 24 years. John and Suzanne have 6 children: Jason (wife Alison), Brennan (wife Lisa), and Lindsey (husband Chris), and two grandchildren, Austin Wyatt Wallace and Caleb Sage Wallace.

Minggu, 09 Agustus 2009

The Jedidiah Identity

The Jedidiah Identity
By Richard Speight www.comerest.org

Then David comforted Bathsheba, his wife, and slept with her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved the child and sent word through Nathan the prophet that they should name him Jedidiah (which means "beloved of the Lord") as the Lord had commanded. (2 Samuel 12:24-25)
What defines you? Is it what you do? Some find their meaning in life by "making a difference." But what happens when you don’t? Fear of failure can become your god when you find your identity through making a difference.
What defines you? Is it who you are? Some think they have found enlightenment in the saying, "It’s not what you do but who you are that matters." Unfortunately, that thinking sets us up for a self-centered life---"I"dolatry. Fortunately, there is another way.
The Bible tells the famous story of David and Bathsheba. King David, a man who loved God with all his heart, made horrible choices in arranging the death of Bathsheba’s husband (Uriah, his loyal friend and soldier) so he could take Bathsheba as his own. God confronted him through the prophet Nathan, and David repented. (Sometime read David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51. If you ever blow it, pray that prayer with all your heart and watch what happens.)
Though God forgave him, David experienced the painful consequences of his choices.
After the death of the child conceived in his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, David took her in as one of his wives. They named their next child Solomon, which means "peaceable." They were declaring, "We’ve been through a lot, but maybe we can have some peace now." They were like many people in our day, hoping for mere survival and maybe a little peace. It’s the best the world hopes for, and the best the world can offer.
But Jesus offers so much more.
Notice that "they named him Solomon," but the Lord named him Jedidiah---"beloved of the Lord."
As long as Solomon found his identity in being loved by the Lord, he became the wise king. But when he found his identity in being the wise king, he was given over to idolatry. Each one who is saved in Christ is His "Jedidiah." This identity is the Lord’s desire for every person. When you find your identity in what you do, your security depends upon your performance; but when you find your identity in being loved by the Lord, your security depends upon His performance.
We often make statements like, "I am a pastor… I am a teacher… I am a mother… I am a consultant… I am a student… I am an athlete"---often statements of identity. The truth is not that I am a pastor, but that I am a beloved child of the Lord who is doing the work of pastor.
If my happiness depends on what happens, the evil one can steal my happiness away. But if I rest in being the Lord’s beloved, then real life begins to well up inside me to overflowing.
Letting Jesus Love You
Jesus says, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10, NKJV).
When my daughter Emily was editor of her college newspaper, she wrote an opinion column entitled, "Avoid identity theft, just be a schmuck!" Nice satire! Who wants to steal your identity if it’s not worth anything? However, the Bible says you were made in God’s image; you are of ultimate value to Him.
"This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins" (1 John 4:10). Out of his real love for you, God sent His Son to rescue you by dying on the cross for you. The Lord invites you to come to Him and find real rest, real love, and the real identity He has won for you---the Jedidiah identity.
What’s in a name? As a Jedidiah, you would let more and more of Jesus’ loving presence rest upon you, and as you let Him be enough for you, He will transform your life.
Make no mistake, there is an enemy who wants not only to steal your identity but to kill and utterly destroy you. However, the One who made you loves you. This wonderful rescuer, Jesus, died on a cross for all of us schmucks! He wants to rescue and fill you with life overflowing. Let Him. He wants to reveal to you the secret of true contentment: let it be enough to just be loved by Him.
LET’S PRAY! Lord, You know how driven I can be. I’m so tired of proving my own worth. It’s lonely being so dependent on myself. I need more than just a little peace. I’m tired of finding my identity in what I do. I want to enjoy life as Your beloved child. I sometimes act as if You are not there and don’t care about me. Please forgive me. Help me feel secure in Your love. I choose to let You love me. Please show me how much You love me. Teach me to let Your love be enough. Shine Your light on the dark stuff in me. I give my hurts, fears, and angers to You. Clean me out! Fill me up with Your love.
I am putting my life truly in Your hands. My security now depends upon Your performance, not mine. I am Your Jedidiah. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Senin, 03 Agustus 2009

To Him that Overcomes

To Him Thhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifat Overcomes
by Chip Brogden
“And they overcame [the dragon] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their Testimony, and they loved not their own lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
Whenever I speak or write on the subject of the Overcomers I always preface my remarks by saying that overcoming is the normal Christian life. God has not created an elite group of super-spiritual people within the Church who have some special “anointing” or power. I am well aware that some people teach and believe that the Overcomers are a special class of people that will rise up and exercise great authority over the earthly kingdoms of this world - even over their spiritually immature brothers and sisters. We reject that on the basis that every believer, whether they know it or not, is already complete and is already blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Colossians 2:10; Ephesians 1:3).
I pray God will open our eyes to see that God’s purpose for the Overcomers is not to establish an earthly kingdom, but to enlarge and increase a spiritual kingdom that is not seen outwardly, but is hidden within each believer (Luke 17:20,21). This is no earthly kingdom, for it is “not of this world” (John 18:36). When Jesus perceived that the people were going to take Him by force and make Him an earthly king, He left them and went up into a mountain, alone (John 6:15). When Peter drew his sword, Jesus told him to put it away. From these examples it should be obvious that overcoming is a heavenly reality, not an earthly achievement or accomplishment.
God’s purpose is for Christ to fill all things, beginning with each disciple, and then with the Church as the synthesis of all disciples. Only then will He be able to restore the nations of this world and the whole of Creation. We spend too much time trying to change things outwardly for others before we have truly appreciated what God has done inwardly for us. Every child of God should be a living demonstration of how God will sum up everything beneath the Headship of Christ. The world, the principalities and powers, and creation itself should be able to see in the Church a foreshadowing of what life will be like when Christ is “All in All” (see Ephesians 3:8-11).
Of course, we know that what we have today is an aberration from God’s purpose. Even though He has put “all things in subjection under [Christ]“, it remains that “we do not yet see all things put under Him” (cf. Hebrews 2:8). That is, looking around outwardly at the Church, the world, and the creation, we do not see the preeminence of Christ. We hardly see it when we examine our own lives. Is Jesus really Lord? Is God truly sovereign? Indeed. He is working “all things after the counsel of His own Will” (Ephesians 1:11b). Obviously this is a progressive thing. He does not suddenly take over the universe, no more than He suddenly takes over each disciple. Children of God are not born fully grown, and Jesus is not building His Church in one day. Instead, He works slowly, almost imperceptibly, increasing and enlarging, gently leading, gradually revealing Himself in a thousand small ways.
So who is an Overcomer? If the Overcomers are not earthly conquerors or crusaders, what are they? Overcomers are simply Christians who live the normal Christian life. That is, the normal Christian life, as God intends, is a life that overcomes. It is not a life that is defeated. So what is the “normal” Christian life? It is a life which demonstrates the preeminence of Jesus Christ over all things.
How do we measure victory or defeat? What characterizes one Christian as an Overcomer, and another Christian as defeated? In Revelation 12:11 we see exactly what an Overcomer is - someone who defeats the dragon. Obviously the dragon symbolizes the devil. We see three arenas of conflict in which Overcomers are made. There is the blood of the Lamb, the word of their Testimony, and “loving not” their lives.
In our article, “THREE ENEMIES” we identified these three areas of conflict as sin, self, and satan. We do not wish to repeat ourselves again here, except to say that the blood of the Lamb overcomes sin, the word of their Testimony overcomes satan, and “loving not” their lives overcomes self. Whatever rises up to challenge us comes from one of these three enemies. They do not present themselves in any particular order, but they come continually. Of these three, I used to believe satan was the most formidable. I now understand that the most formidable enemy is not satan at all, but self, for satan’s only strength is self’s belief in satan’s lie. I know people who are occupied with fighting satan day and night but they have never died to self, so all their fighting is for nothing. Their enemy is within.
Do you believe that Jesus is more powerful than sin? Do you believe that Jesus is more powerful than satan? Do you believe that Jesus is more powerful than self? Certainly Jesus is Lord over all these things. We know He lived a sinless life. We know He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil - indeed, He was revealed in order to destroy the devil and his works (Hebrews 2:14; I John 3:8). We know that He did nothing for self, but always did His Father’s will. So we can clearly see Christ has the preeminence over sin, self, and satan. Yet there are “realities” in this present universe which seem to suggest that Jesus is NOT Lord over sin, self, and satan. Now this brings us to the heart of what it means to be an Overcomer. The one that overcomes is the one that continually defeats the dragon by DEMONSTRATING the preeminence of Christ over sin, self, and satan. You see, this has nothing to do with electing Christians into the highest places of earthly government. That is a comparatively easy task. Here we are speaking of a spiritual conflict of cosmic proportions.
Allow me to illustrate this conflict. What if I were to tell you that Jesus is not really Lord? What if I wrote an article which suggested that the Blood could not cleanse us from sin? Or what if I preached a message and proclaimed that satan is actually stronger than Jesus? Or suppose I sent you a letter in which I confided that the Cross has no power? Would you be upset? Hopefully you would label me as a heretic and would reject me and this teaching forever. You would categorically deny such a teaching in the strongest possible terms, and I would never teach such things anyway.
Yet the way most of us live our lives teaches the universe that Jesus is not really Lord. We do not have to actually SAY with our mouths, “Satan is more powerful than Jesus; sin is more powerful than the Blood; self is more powerful than the Cross.” We say it with our lives - every time we willfully sin, every time we give satan an advantage over us, and every time we put self before Christ. Confessing or proclaiming the Truth means nothing by itself. When we do not DEMONSTRATE the Truth we claim with our mouths then we are actually teaching the opposite thing with our actions.
We are full of these contradictions. Let me take a very common and seemingly innocent example such as worry. Most of us, from time to time or nearly all of the time, worry about something - our health, our finances, our loved ones, and so on. Yet the Scriptures say take no thought for your lives and be anxious for nothing. Why is worry a sin? I know we consider it “only human”, but worry really implies a lack of trust in God. It is believing a lie. Identify the lie and you can quickly discover the Truth. What is the lie? That God is somehow less than sufficient, that perhaps He will not come through for us. So you see, the enemy gets us to believe a lie, and then gets us to think that we are just being “human”. So then we accept something less than the normal Christian life - overcoming - and think that is just the way it is. Remember: satan has no power apart from our belief in his lie.
Overcomers are learning to bridge the gap between what they SAY they believe and how they really LIVE. Now we are not criticizing or judging people for having anxious thoughts, for we have our share of them. We have not overcome in this area. We simply say this is one thing to be overcome, one of many lies which oppose the Truth. The one that overcomes is constantly challenging the lie of the enemy and demonstrating the preeminence of Christ over all things. When every lie is destroyed then the dragon is defeated, for it cannot control what it cannot deceive. Most of what we see and hear is an illusion. It is not the Truth, but a lie, a distortion. Our eyes and our ears cannot be trusted. We must have heavenly vision and heavenly hearing.
For the moment, however, we are confronted with a great disparity, a wide gulf, between things as God intends for them to be and things as they appear to be. We could go down a whole list of items. God says He will meet our needs, but we look and we see that our needs are not met. God says He is the life of our body, but we cannot seem to shake off illness. God says He has destroyed the works of the devil in Christ, but we see the devil working as usual, seemingly unperturbed. And on and on it goes.
What does this mean? Well, it can only mean one of two things, so we have two options. The first option is to give up and just believe that God does not mean what He says. That is the most common response. The second option is to believe what God says regardless of whether we see it or not. We call this “faith”. Faith is not a power we exert in order to change our circumstances, it is an assurance we possess inwardly whether our circumstances are changed or not. The ability to change my circumstances does not make me an overcomer, but to live independently of my circumstances makes me an overcomer. It is living according to “those things that be not as though they were” (Romans 4:17b). If they already “are” outwardly, then we do not need faith, do we (cf. Romans 8:24)?
In other words, if I have no provision, I still believe God is Infinite Supply. If I have poor health, I still believe God is the life of my body. If I am attacked by the devil (even if I am BEATEN by the devil), I still believe the devil is defeated. Yesterday I was thoroughly defeated, but today I say that Christ is Victory. This either makes me a crazy person or a disciple living the normal Christian life. How long will it take before what we believe inwardly is seen outwardly? We do not know. But a LIE is a LIE, whether it is told to us once or whether it is told to us a thousand times. It does not become more true with the passage of time. Here is the problem. We resist a lie the first few times we hear it (e.g., “God will not meet your needs”). But if things do not change we eventually accept the lie as truth (e.g., “Things are no better now than ten days ago, so perhaps God really has forsaken us”). How easy it is for us to believe in a lie - but it is as much a lie the first time we hear it as it is the hundredth time. So why would we ever listen to it later if we did not listen to it earlier? We MUST know the Truth. For the one that overcomes, what is seen OUTWARDLY neither helps nor hinders the TRUTH that has been seen INWARDLY. This is how the Truth makes us free (John 8:32).
Now all of that leads us to this. The Lord says He will have a Church that is without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. A perfect Church. When was the last time you saw the Church, as a whole, anywhere close to this? There are many good brothers and sisters who can articulate what the Church is SUPPOSED to be. We can learn a great deal from them. Then there are many good brothers and sisters who can articulate what is WRONG with the Church, how it falls short of God’s purpose. This is not difficult to do, and more and more, people are becoming specialized in this. But very few can take us from what the Church IS (outwardly speaking) and bring us into what God INTENDS for it to be. How do we span the gulf? How do we get from where we are to where God wants us to be? This is seldom talked about, and it seems to be a mystery. But the Book of Revelation is a book that reveals mysteries, and there we find the answer.
There is a principle of God’s dealings that we need to recognize, and the whole Book of Revelation itself bears witness to this principle. It is this: whenever the Church is in decline, or is defeated, or is compromised, God has only one remedy, and that is, to bring a fresh revelation, a fresh unveiling, of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1a). He is constantly re-centering us on His Son, because only ONE THING is needed (Luke 10:42).
The ones who overcome are the ones who see Jesus afresh, who keep the Heavenly vision in front of them at all times. The surest way to be defeated is to get your eyes off the ONE THING and get them onto the “many things”. The Spirit of Antichrist does not require you to bow down to satan, it only hopes to cloud your vision of Christ. The problem with the Church today is that we lack this seeing of Christ. We have lost sight of Him, and in His place we have programs, church services, end-times predictions and interpretations, plus and a million-and-one other things that all add up to “zero” without Christ. Even worse, we think those things ARE Him.
In the Book of Revelation we see that Jesus walks IN THE MIDST of the candlesticks. This is important. So many people carry on the business of the Church as if Jesus left the whole thing to them to run while He simply stands on the sidelines, nodding His approval every so often. In fact, Jesus is not on the other side of the universe, but He walks in the midst of the candlesticks, building His Church, and to every one of us He says, “I KNOW your works!”
“I was on the Isle of Patmos… because of the Testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9b). “They overcame the dragon by… the word of the Testimony” (Revelation 12:11ff). “The dragon… went to make war with the remnant… which keep the commandments of God, and have the Testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). “The Testimony of Jesus is the inspiration of all prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). We should see how this entire conflict evolves around THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS. It is the focal point between Heaven and Earth, Light and Darkness, Christ and Antichrist. But what is the Testimony of Jesus? It is the demonstration (not merely the proclamation) of the Truth concerning Jesus in all His fullness, in all His preeminence. It is showing forth the centrality of Christ in each disciple, in the Church, and ultimately, in all Creation. Overcomers SEE this in advance of its fulfillment, and they align themselves with this tremendous energy of God that is bringing ALL THINGS into subjection to Christ. They see this as a present Truth and not a future hope, and THAT is why they are Overcomers.
When we SEE an ever-increasing Christ Who is destined to fill all things then we will be delivered from smallness and narrow-mindedness. We do not overcome a thing by focusing our attention and directing our energies against that THING. “Things” will keep us busy from morning until night, and from night until morning. May God deliver us from “things” and show us His Son! We must learn to keep the focus of our heart on the Lord Jesus Christ, Who MUST increase. Then there is no room for “things” anymore. They are simply swallowed up in Victory.
Over six years ago I asked the Lord to teach me about spiritual warfare. God did not respond by teaching me about spiritual warfare, and praise the Lord that He did not. Instead, He simply revealed Jesus Christ to me. This revelation was, and is, sufficient. Seeing Him seated in the heavenly places, and me seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6), was enough to make me an Overcomer. Then I saw that who I am or what I know or what I can do means nothing, but Who He is and what He knows and what He can do is everything. The focus shifted off of “me” - my needs, my problems, my ministry, my spiritual warfare - and onto Christ, where it belonged.
Up until that time I did not know what it was to see the dragon defeated. When I read how the Overcomers would defeat the dragon, I thought how wonderful it would be in the future when that would be possible. But when the Lord revealed Himself to me I saw that He is not the God of “future-tense”, but EMMANUEL, God with us, in past, present, and future. I suppose anyone can overcome after they have visited heaven, seen the angels, talked to Jesus face-to-face, and been clothed with their spiritual body. But Overcomers have glimpsed something of heaven already and are bringing it into this earth TODAY. “As in heaven, so in earth” is an everyday thing. Do we really understand the implications?
Many people write to me and ask how to deal with this thing or that, how to get the victory here or there. May I say that it does not matter what your need is, or what your problem is, the Answer is the same. Victory is a Man, not an experience. If you must fail a hundred, a thousand, or a million times in order to learn that lesson then it is worth it. It does not matter whether you understand it, agree with it, believe it, or see it yet. Indeed, everything else seems to say the opposite. But you will see, just as I have seen, that Victory, Grace, Strength, Peace, Love, Light, and Life are not “things”, they are Christ, and having the Man, you have everything the Man is.
“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter… The seven candlesticks… are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:19,20b).
Now that we have identified the role and the characteristics of the Overcomers, it would be inspirational for us to examine the several promises made “to him that overcomes”. To do so, we turn to the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation.
We are familiar with the seven churches of Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These seven churches are a representative number, to be sure. First, they symbolize seven types of believers found within the Church at any given time. Second, they represent seven distinct ages of church history. Third, and most obvious, they represent seven actual assemblies that were in existence during the time John wrote his letter.
There were not seven distinct letters, each sealed in an envelope, and delivered to each church privately. We know (cf. Revelation 1:11) that the book was one letter which was written and sent to each church openly, along with the rest of the vision. As a result, a believer in Ephesus knew what the Lord was saying to Philadelphia, and a believer in Laodicea knew what was happening in Smyrna, and so forth. The point being that each assembly was incomplete without the other. They may have been distinct, but they did not stand alone. In each we see a piece of the puzzle, but we do not see the entire picture until we put all of them together.
To each church He says, “I know your works.” Good, bad, or lukewarm, seven times He says, “I know your works.” He walks in the midst, observing. And seven times He says, “To him that overcomes.” The Lord still calls forth overcomers, and the promises (and warnings) are as applicable to us today as they were to them in their day. As we look at each promise, I pray the Lord will stir us up and draw us out.
“To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7b).
I have called these “promises”, but a better word might be “evidences”. We tend to see a promise as a future thing, something we have to wait for. I like evidences better, because if something is evident in my life then it is the demonstration of something which is mine already. The Lord says when we live as overcomers our lives will be characterized by certain evidences. By these we know who the Overcomers are, and we know if we are indeed living the normal Christian life - which is a life of overcoming.
The first evidence is that the Overcomers eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Immediately we go back to the Book of Genesis and see that Adam was originally driven out of the paradise of God, Eden, and no longer had access to the tree of life. The tree of life was blocked by angels and a flaming sword (Genesis 3:24). Because Adam ate from the tree of knowledge, he was prohibited from eating from the tree of life.
We should see that Christ does more than restore what Adam lost. He goes beyond Adam, offering the Overcomers fruit from the tree of life, fruit Adam knows nothing about. Obviously this is symbolic language, but what does it mean? The tree of life represents the Cross, for from that Tree the Lord yielded up His Life for us all. Those who overcome have learned that fruitfulness and life come from death to Self, and that is what the Cross means. The Cross is a tree of life to those who embrace it.
Like Adam, we can choose to eat from either tree, but we cannot eat from both. Adam sinned when he fell into the flesh and yielded to his Self-life. He rejected the tree of life in favor of something that was “good… pleasant… and desirable” (Genesis 3:6ff). The Cross does not look like a tree of life at all. It is neither good, nor pleasant, nor desirable. It looks like death. Perhaps this is why Adam did not eat from it first. But God’s End is not death, regardless of appearances: God’s End is life out of death, which is resurrection. To eat of the fruit of the tree of life is to glory in the Cross of Jesus Christ and find life out of death. It is becoming popular to preach and teach about the Cross these days, but how many are eating of its fruit? Can we really see the Cross as the TREE OF LIFE, and are we eating of its fruit? We will know a true disciple of the Lord, not by words, but by fruit (Matthew 7:20), and the Cross is the tree of life from which this fruit comes.
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life… he that overcomes will not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:10b,11b).
The next attribute of the overcomer is Resurrection Life. Those who possess Resurrection Life cannot be hurt by the second death. What exactly IS Resurrection Life? It is life which has passed through death. Since it has already passed through death once, it cannot die again. When Death is defeated, there are no more enemies. And the only way to defeat Death is to die (cf. I Corinthians 15:26; Hebrews 2:14,15).
Practically speaking, Resurrection Life can be seen in our actions and in our words. When some people open their mouths you sense death. Their presence contributes nothing living. Instead, you have a hollow, empty feeling when you are around them. The words may be correct, but there is no life in what they are saying. It is as though you are handling a dead thing. There is no Spirit and Life.
On the other hand, there are brothers and sisters who are naturally very excited, bold, gifted, talented and persuasive. They seem very much “alive”, but this is not Resurrection Life either. How so? They have not passed through death yet, and you cannot be resurrected until you have died. They do not have the imprint of the Cross on what they are doing. They have never been broken. They may be naturally gifted at whatever they are doing for the Lord, but they have not yet died. Outwardly speaking they may appear to be doing some good, but the issue is not good versus bad, but life versus death.
Paul says that he “dies daily” that the “life of the Lord may be manifest” (I Corinthians 15:31; II Corinthians 4:11). Thus, the Crown of Life comes to those who lose their life daily in order to gain His Life daily. Overcomers cannot be hurt by death because they have already died - not once, but thousands of times: taking up the Cross daily, denying Self, and following the Lord. Thus, the highest call is not to lay down our physical life as a martyr, but to lay down our Self life as a disciple. We can lay down our physical life in an instant, but to take up the Cross daily is the truest test, and much more difficult. It requires us to be “faithful unto death”. This is the secret of the Overcomers.
“To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows except the one that receives it” (Revelation 2:17b).
Here are two more evidences of an overcomer: the hidden manna and a white stone with a secret name. Before we get into a description of these two items we should first note that the manna is HIDDEN and the name is SECRET. The Lord is doing a work, but that work is, for the most part, hidden and secret. If we are always looking for something out in the open and in plain view then we will miss the deeper workings of God below the surface.
So what is the hidden manna? The manna was the bread which fell from heaven and fed Israel in the wilderness. You will recall that the Lord instructed them to put some of the manna into a golden pot and store it in the Ark as a permanent testimony (cf. Exodus 16:33; Hebrews 9:4). Centuries later, Jesus says, “I am the living bread which comes down from heaven… your fathers ate manna in the wilderness and died… but whoever eats of this Bread lives forever” (John 6:51a, 58b). Jesus is the Hidden Christ, bringing forth the Hidden Wisdom, represented as the Hidden Manna, and preserved forever within the Ark of the Testimony. When we speak, are we just bringing a message or a “word”, or are we bringing the Lord Jesus Himself? The Overcomers eat of the Hidden Manna and touch Christ directly. The difference between the Person of Christ and a teaching “about” Christ is the difference between the Hidden Manna and the ordinary manna which soon turns to worms.
What does the white stone represent? In ancient times the judge would hand down his verdict by giving the defendant either a white stone (acquittal) or a black stone (condemnation). The white stone meant “life”, and the black stone meant “death”. The white stone meant “not guilty”, and the black stone meant “guilty”. Praise God that there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Now, anyone can quote that, but not everyone can fully appreciate it. Religion still condemns us and burdens us with a difficult yoke and a heavy burden. But the Lord says, “Not guilty! The Son has made you free, so you are free indeed!” This is the inheritance of all the saints, but it is actually demonstrated in the Overcomers.
Along with this white stone, Overcomers are given a new name that no one else can know. Our Good Shepherd calls each of us by name and leads us Himself (John 10:3). The Lord is fond of changing our name, not only to mark a new beginning, but to more accurately express what He sees us becoming. Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, Simon becomes Peter, Saul becomes Paul. Each of us are near and dear to His heart, unique to His Purpose. So He gives each of us a white stone with a new name. But this new name is His secret - no one else can know it but you and Him. This speaks of intimacy. The Overcomers keep some things between them and the Lord. They do not tell of all they know. They keep back a portion that is not meant for anyone to know but Him. And so they dwell in the Secret Place of the Most High, treasuring in their heart the things they see and hear.
“To him that overcomes, and keeps My works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father. And I will give him the morning star” (Revelation 3:26-28).
Remember we are discussing evidences of overcoming: not merely future promises, but present realities found in “the one overcoming” (literal Greek). We may overcome today. We need not wait for a future event. Of course, in some sense there will be a literal fulfillment of these promises some time in the future. But if we are not seeing them fulfilled in us NOW, at least to some degree, then we are not overcoming. Overcomers are overcoming TODAY, so if we are not overcoming then we are missing out on the present reality as well as the future promise.
These verses are rich, but I would like to especially focus on one thing: “To him will I give power over the nations.” The language of this passage is identical to Psalm 2. The Father has said that the Son will rule the nations, and now the Son says the Overcomers will rule with Him. What a glorious thing to rule with Christ! But this certainly sounds like a future promise. How could we claim to have power over the nations today?
The secret is found in Matthew 6:10. Jesus says our daily prayers are to include, “Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done: as in Heaven, so in Earth.” This is a revolutionary act. It is praying for the establishment of a Kingdom and a Will in which Christ has the preeminence as All in All. In this Kingdom there is no room for any earthly government, ruler, or king. In this Will there is no room for any human agenda. We know Jesus is Lord, yet we do not see all things submitted to Him (Hebrews 2:8b). So what do we do in the meantime? Overcomers do not just passively wait for Jesus to come back. They pray for His Kingdom to be established and for His Will to be performed. In this way they exercise power over the nations by preparing the way of the Lord. How? By raising up valleys, bringing down mountains, making the crooked things straight, and making the rough ways smooth (Luke 3:5,6). So this prayer is destructive in a natural sense, but constructive in a spiritual sense, for as the nations are decreased, Christ is increased (cf. John 3:30).
Just as Jeremiah was set over nations and kingdoms “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10), so we have received this authority also. We do not serve in a governmental capacity, but in a spiritual capacity, praying for the Kingdom and Will of God to come forth. Such prayer is very weighty and universal. It is beyond the earth, and so it moves the earth. In addition to authority over the nations, we are given “the morning star”. Christ is the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16b), the Heavenly Man, Who is higher than the nations and kingdoms of this world. The Morning Star gives Overcomers the heavenly authority which is beyond the influence of the earthly realm in which they must live.
“He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5).
Another evidence of our overcoming is being clothed in white. Again, this may have a literal fulfillment in the future, but we need to see how it applies to us as present-day Overcomers. How does one become clothed in white raiment?
The Scriptures say that “fine linen, clean and white” represents “the righteousness of the saints” who have made themselves ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb (cf. Revelation 19:7,8). So we know that white represents righteousness. Now let us ask: how do the saints become righteous? What is righteousness? Is it the sum total of my good works? Is it performing many good deeds? Is it church attendance, Bible reading, praying, and witnessing? According to man’s thinking these things may equal up to righteousness, but not according to God’s Wisdom. Our own righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). So in the Kingdom of God we do not have a “thing” called righteousness that we can attain to. Instead, righteousness is a Person!
“But of [God] are you in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption” (I Corinthians 1:30). This verse does not say wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption are special things we must strive for in order to attain. It does not say they are gifts God gives to the faithful. Instead, it says God has placed us in union with Christ and made the Lord Jesus to be our Wisdom. He has made the Lord Jesus to be our Righteousness. He has made the Lord Jesus to be our Sanctification. He has made the Lord Jesus to be our Redemption.
So if white represents righteousness, we have the answer to our question of how we can be clothed in white. Paul says, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). This is one of my favorite passages. How do we live righteously? Not by trying to do it in my own strength, but by putting on Christ; by clothing myself with the Lord my Righteousness. Since He is my Righteousness, I simply clothe myself with Him. When we have put on the Lord Jesus then there is no room for the flesh. Our capacity to enjoy sin is decreased until we quite naturally find ourselves living as holy people. This is the only way to overcome sin; thus, the Overcomers are clothed in white, and they have access to the heavenly places. This is why their names are in the Book of Life, and why they may stand before the Father and His angels and be acknowledged as sons and daughters of the Most High God.
“Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My new Name” (Revelation 3:12).
Overcomers are pillars in the temple of God. Like Anna, they do not depart from the temple, but they minister to the Lord day and night (Luke 2:37). Here is what makes someone an Overcomer. It is not a question of how many times can we “attend” something, but whether or not we are abiding at all times. Pillars are an integral part of the structure; if they were to suddenly “go out”, the building would collapse.
Too many people serve God according to their calendar. When the calendar says it is Sunday morning, or Wednesday night, or Easter, or Christmas, then they flip the switch and become “spiritual”. They might attend a church service or meeting and sing a few songs in hopes of “coming into the presence” of the Lord. When this is over with they flip the switch and go back to their normal lives. The pattern repeats itself each week. This is one reason why churches must use “worship leaders” in an effort to induce people to do something on Sunday because it is totally foreign to them every other day of the week. They come in, and they go out.
What are we saying? That God’s highest is not for us to come in and to go out, but to be a pillar. A pillar does not come in on Sunday morning and leave on Sunday night, but is always in the temple. And of course, we do not mean a physical building. Overcomers are pillars in the temple of God, and that is a heavenly matter. However you wish to interpret this, one thing is clear: they have learned how to minister to the Lord continually, regardless of time or place. It is Spirit and Truth worship the Father seeks, and they give Him what He is looking for. There is no holy day or sacred hour or special devotion. They do not have to “come into” the presence of the Lord because they LIVE IN the presence of the Lord continually. And so they overcome the earthly by abiding in the heavenly.
They belong to the Lord, hence, they bear the name of God, the name of the city of God, and the new name of the Lord Jesus. This, in contrast to those who bear the mark of the beast. To bear the Name is to have the Testimony. When the Name is written upon us then we bear the Testimony within ourselves. It is not so many words that are uttered, but a life that is lived as a pillar in the temple of God, no more to go out.
“To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne” (Revelation 3:21).
Remember that the one writing this vision, John, once approached Jesus with his brother James and asked if they could each sit on thrones next to the Lord in His Kingdom - one on His right hand, and one on His left. The Lord did not deny their request, but said that they did not understand what they were asking for. He then asked them if they were willing to drink of the cup that He must drink, and be baptized with the baptism that He must be baptized with (cf. Mark 10:35-40).
In Revelation we see that God’s thought is not to place one or two special saints on His right hand and on His left hand. Then those positions would be limited to two, and just like the first disciples, we would all be competing against one another for that special place. Instead, the Lord says that the ones who overcome will sit WITH HIM in HIS throne. There is room enough in the Throne for the Father, Jesus Christ, and for every saint that overcomes. Hallelujah! Obviously this is symbolic language - or is it?
Paul tells the Ephesians that God “has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). This will not happen after we have died, but has already occurred. How did we arrive at the highest place in the universe, far above all principality and power and might and dominion and name (Ephesians 1:21)? It all begins with “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20a). For if I was crucified with Christ, then I died with Christ. And if I died with Christ, then I was buried with Christ. And if I was buried with Christ, then I was made alive with Christ. And if I was made alive with Christ, then I ascended with Christ. And if I ascended with Christ, then I am seated together with Him in the heavenly places. It is not about me, it is all about Him! Our union with Christ is the way we overcome. There is nothing in me, personally, that overcomes: the secret is “not I, but Christ” (Galatians 2:20ff).
This is why the Lord says to take up your cross daily, and follow Him. The Throne is only for those who can drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism - that is, be crucified, dead, and resurrected. We only see the cross, so we think this is terrible. But the Lord sees that the cross leads to death, and death leads to resurrection, and resurrection leads to ascension, and ascension leads to being seated with Him in His throne. It is impossible for us to take up the cross and not be resurrected. I am almost afraid to make it so plain lest we fail to appreciate its mystery, but it is all there in the Scriptures. We cannot ascend until we have first descended. Can we embrace the cross, and love the hands that nail us to it, and hold nothing against the One Who put us there? Can we commit our spirit into His hands and give up the ghost of Self, when we see the joy that is set before us?
Just as certainly as the Vine was crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended and seated, so the Branches were crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, ascended and seated. The whole issue is: will we abide in the Vine and share in the overcoming, or not? Overcoming is bound up with abiding. The Lord says, “Live in me, and I will live in you” (John 15:4a). Now the Lord says that overcomers will sit WITH Him in His throne. How is that possible? Because we are IN Him, and He is IN us, so “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (I Corinthians 6:17) and “the two shall become one” (Ephesians 5:31, 32ff).
“He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be His God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7).
What is our idea of overcoming? Is it going forth as a conqueror, forcing the world into submission like a medieval crusader? Not at all. According to God’s purpose, Overcomers will inherit all things, not overthrow all things. It is the meek (not the mighty) who inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). It is the Lord Who gains the victory, and gives it to us. We do nothing of ourselves. It is He Who gives us our inheritance. We cannot do anything to obtain an inheritance. It is simply granted to us in the Will. If we are indeed sons and daughters of the Most High God then the inheritance is ours; and if so, then our life on Earth is not our real life, but a preparation for another Life. That is why those who are faithful with a few things HERE will be made rulers over many things THERE (cf. Matthew 25:21).
We know that God’s eternal purpose is “that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one ALL THINGS IN CHRIST, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him” (Ephesians 1:10). We see the fulfillment of this in Revelation 21. We see a new Heaven and a new Earth. We see the Bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven in order to establish a place on Earth where the Lord may dwell with men. Interpret this however you like, but one thing is clear: the Lord’s eternal purpose will be done. ALL THINGS IN CHRIST is not just a piece of poetry Paul employs to sound impressive: it is the aim, purpose, goal, and object of everything God has done, is doing, and will do. And the Overcomers are central to seeing this purpose fulfilled.
Here is what I want us to see: God’s purpose is not accomplished in one grand stroke, but comes to pass in degrees: in each disciple first, and then in the Church, and finally in Creation. The reconciliation of Heaven and Earth, God and mankind, is foreshadowed in the Overcomers. In them we see Heaven coming down into Earth every day. We see a Remnant that lives, works, and walks in the Earth while maintaining a Heavenly communion, a Heavenly citizenship, a Heavenly calling, a Heavenly testimony, a Heavenly LIFE. As ambassadors for Christ they represent something foreign to the Earth, but maintain something for Heaven on the land in which they dwell. They already maintain a tabernacle for the Lord within themselves, so they “have no need of a temple” (Revelation 21:22). We see the New Jerusalem in them already, for the glory of God and of the Lamb is their Light (Revelation 21:23). They see His face already, and they serve Him continually.
The cry of the Overcomers is “Father in Heaven! May Your Name be hallowed, may your Kingdom come, may Your Will be done: as in Heaven, so in Earth!” (Matthew 6:9,10). This cry is the very essence of how and why they overcome. While Heaven and Earth are estranged from one another the Will and the Kingdom of God is not fully established. In Revelation we see the End of all things, for then God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the full-knowledge [epignosis] of the Truth [Christ]” (I Timothy 2:4); and, “they shall all know Me, from the least of them, to the greatest of them, says the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34b). Blessed are they who know Him now, and do call those things that be not as though they were.
“And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the Testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17).
Ah Lord God! Religion has kept us from seeing who we really are, and Who You really are. Religion has kept us comfortable, weak, and stupid. We have played “church” for so long. Reveal Your Son to us anew; give us an open Heaven, that we may ascend!
I pray that You will raise up Overcomers: those who will have the Revelation of Christ, and will bear the Testimony of Jesus; who will demonstrate the preeminence of Your Son over sin, self, and satan; who will defeat the dragon by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their Testimony, and by loving not their lives unto the death.
And now, Lord, I have committed this to Your Body. Supply, secure, and strengthen Your Remnant. Deliver us from evil. Deliver us from the natural, the carnal, the fleshly, the earthly, the temporal, the seen-and-felt universe. Even as you have already given us the Kingdom of Your Dear Son, now establish us in His Kingdom. Establish us in the heavenly, the eternal, the invisible. Open our eyes to see that we are seated with You in the heavenly places, far above every assault of the enemy, overcoming as You overcame.
Your Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, Your throne endures forever, and Your scepter is a scepter of righteousness! I thank you for decreasing us and increasing Christ. Now, “thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57). Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus in sincerity. Amen.