Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Revelation


The last book of the Bible is called Revelation.  As a Christian who has been around for a while, I’ve heard a verse from chapter 3 quoted many times. It reads like this, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20; NIV).  In Bibles that use red ink, these words are printed in red, signifying that Jesus Christ himself actually speaks these words.  When preachers or teachers quote this verse, they most often speak of this statement from Jesus as an invitation to the nonbeliever to take an initial step toward belief in Jesus as the Messiah who came to save all who believe and put their trust in Him.  
But there is so much more truth here to be grasped.
This statement is a daily invitation to have an on-going personal relationship with God that transforms your life beyond initial conversion.  Deeper love, greater peace, and unending happiness are not automatic for the Christ-follower.  Allowing God to change our hearts from the inside out on a continual basis is the primary message of, “I stand at the door and knock.”  Our inner person is the door keeper.  Our mind is used to hear his voice, and our heart is used to open the door.  Our thoughts control what we focus on, and our will determines our actions.  
In order to hear, we must learn how to listen.  To hear God’s voice, we must separate from distractions, and focus on listening (and not listen to other voices).  Hearing the right voice can be a challenge of its own, but that isn’t enough.  We must “open the door.”  Opening the door always involves some degree of surrender.  Surrendering thoughts, wishes, hopes, dreams, desires, judgments, etc., not begrudgingly, but as an exchange for the better food at the table of the Lord.  The Lord will “eat with that person,” who has heard his voice, and opened the door of welcome into his soul.  The food is great at the Lord’s table (see Psalm 23).  Picture yourself eating at the table with a king in his palace.  It doesn’t compare to the feast of the Lord.  No earthly feast can come close to what it means to eat in the presence of God.   Life with God takes us beyond our natural experience.  
This understanding of the Revelation 3:20 is made even clearer by reading several verses in context before it.  “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!   So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” (Revelation 3:14-19).  Then it is said, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20).  We have a stern warning here against thinking we are “rich.”  What is meant here is not so much in terms of rich in material resources, but the condition of mind and heart.  Rich may mean a wealth of knowlege.  Knowledge of the Bilbe, theology, and sound doctrine do not equate to ability in hearing the voice of the Lord and opening one’s heart to Him.  Hanging out with Christians or being raised in a Christian family also doesn’t qualify as rich in the kingdom of heaven.  Good works and community service also doesn’t count.  Nothing in terms of human effort with save us from our “wretched” condition.  Our assurance of victory over this condition can only be based in the work of God’s Son Jesus coming to earth as a man, dying on a Cross, ascending back into heaven, and leaving us with the Holy Spirit to live inside us.  The Holy Spirit enables and empowers us to hear God’s voice and open the door to nourishing meals of God’s blessings.  
God’s counsel is to “buy from me gold.”  That is, we must “buy into” (as the saying goes) God’s ways, and forsake our own.  Becoming poor may mean giving up some long held beliefs that simply aren’t true.  We all have blind spots to our own selfish ways.  Continually surrendering our thoughts, emotions, and actions to God is a refining process that burns away the impurities and results in a life more deeply devoted to seeing God glorified in the world.   Anything that keeps us from embracing this process of inner person change must be thrown into the fire.  Surrender to the flames the demand to control our own fate.   
Today, Jesus is saying, be honest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20).
The two verses following Revelation 3:20 read, To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:21-22).  It may seem a little backwards, but surrender is actually the way to victory.  And the more we surrender, the greater victory we have available.
Where might your “wealth” of knowledge, self-will, or accomplishments be keeping you from feasting more lavishly with God?  Are you hearing God’s voice?  What might be keeping you from hearing his voice more clearly than you are right now?  Have you opened the door?  Are you willing to leave the door open for him and give him unlimited access?  Do you want more of the King’s food in your diet?  My prayer is that you are able to feast and enjoy the table of the Lord in greater measure each day he has ordained for you on the earth.

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Pain Evangelism as Discipleship


The previous article focused on esteeming Jesus by not only trusting him to make right our sin problem, but also to give Jesus the pain of the consequences of sin.  Some think that pursuing healing of the inner person and becoming a more devoted disciple selfishly puts the follower of Christ at odds with the commission to evangelize the world.    The loss and pain (everything from failures and disappointments to serious abuse) are experienced as a result of the broken world we live in. Loss and pain is common to both the new believer, and  the most seasoned disciple of Christ alike.
Healing is part of Jesus’ ministry of evangelism.  Jesus says of himself,  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus spoke these words in reply to religious people accusing him of hanging out with people of undesirable social status and the needy.  God wants to meet people in loss and pain.  Whether in small losses, moderate failures, or full blown hopelessness and despair, hope for healing is available for the asking.  
The best way  to help people recover from their losses and find freedom from their pain is the way Jesus himself helped people when he walked on earth.  He found people in loss and pain and offered salvation to them. We must be like Jesus, and offer Jesus as the only true Savior.  Generally speaking, people who responded in greatest measure, were people in the greatest need, with the most losses, and most ready for change.  
We must also be people who are open to admitting our own needs.  If we wish to recover from loss and pain, we must stop trying to hide it, and allow it to be found by Jesus.  Breaking through denial and positioning our hearts for healing involves the following three considerations.  
Consider the purpose of pain.  Physical pain in the body is meant to signal a warning of disrupted functionality.  If a carpenter accidentally hits his thumb with a hammer, the physical pain he feels tells him something bad is happening to his body.  A physical injury to a body may need treatment and a time of healing for functionality to be restored.  Mental, emotional, and spiritual hurts need to run a healing course as well.  
Second, consider what governs out actions. Reaction of the  physical or  tangible (outer man) is determined by the non-physical or intangible (inner man).  Jesus taught us that the sinful actions we take part in have their source in our heart (see Mark 7:20-23).  If the heart is at rest, a person’s behavior will reflect peace and calm.  If the heart is unrestful, the person’s behavior will reflect frustration, dissatisfaction, and all sorts of emotional pain, and all sorts of unpleasant, undesirable, or harmful behavior.
Third, consider what lies at the root of painful feelings.  From our conception in the womb, our own brokenness and the brokenness of people around us, creates  critical judgments,  bitterness, injustices, and  wounds of soul and spirit.  More about this is explained in other articles on this blog site.  Also see my book, Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.
So  if, 1) our bad behavior is undesirable or destructive (sinful), which is, 2)  caused by a heart full of pain, which is 3) caused by unresolved bitterness and woundedness, then doesn’t it make sense to go after the “bitter root” to bring healing to  the problem?  This is actually commanded in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile.”  Why is this so difficult?  It is hard because it cannot be done with mere knowledge or sheer will power.  It requires surrendering to the power of God for transformational healing.
Only Jesus can truly redeem the broken  condition of the human heart.  He has given us the gift and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this in our heart.
Healing is a process. We must embrace the process.  As John and Paula Sandford (founders of the Elijah House ministry)  teach in a book called The Transformation of the Inner Man, healing is the process of evangelizing the soul.  It is evangelizing believers in unbelieving areas of their lives.  Everyone is in need of some kind of healing and many times healing is painful because of the weakness of our flesh (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Healing involves transformation.  The Sandfords define transformation as "that process of death and rebirth whereby what was our weakness becomes our strength."   Transformation is still needed after our initial conversion experience (Philippians 1:6 and Hebrews 12:1-2).  Knowing our problem does not set us free, but only the Cross of Jesus (applied to our problem) can set us free.  Our goal then is to discover unbelieving areas of the heart and invite God to minister to them.  Hebrews 3:12 says, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God."
Continued evangelism is necessary for discipleship, and discipleship thrives on pain evangelism.  The healing we receive also makes us better evangelists.  The more of Christ’s salvation we receive into our own being, the more we understand and identify with others. Compassion and empathy for loss and pain are more effective tools than condemnation of  people for sinful behaviors.  Again, as Jesus taught, the being (heart) supersedes the doing (behaviors).
Pursuing God’s help for  healing  your own setbacks, losses and hurts, can be one of the best ways to help others.  By becoming a better person on the inside, others around you will surely be blessed.   
Let me encourage you to take inventory of your heart.  What might be remaining lost (and waiting to be found by Jesus) in your life?  Is there a behavior, habit, or pattern of reaction, that may indicate some degree of unrest in your soul?  Is there a root of bitterness and unforgiveness you already know about, but haven’t surrendered it to God for him to be the Judge?  If you think there’s nothing, let go of your denial and start feeling. Let the pain surface.  It wants to be your friend.  Let the ashes of loss,  failures, discomfort, uneasiness, unrestfulness, confusion, doubt, and worry be turned into beauty of pain-free circumstances (see Isaiah 61:1-3).   
Repentance and forgiveness is the path to freedom.   Psalm 32 blessings!

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Esteeming Jesus


To esteem is to attach worth or value to something.  For  followers of Jesus reading this, I have a question, “How much of your life demonstrates the value of what Jesus did for mankind?”  This article identifies some ways to show greater esteem for the King of Kings.  
First, let’s look at the response of his very first followers when he came to the earth.  Yes, even though they had about three years hanging out with Jesus face-to-face, saw the raw miracles with their eyes, and with their own ears, heard Jesus explaining the prophetic wrtings (from the Book), they were unable to understand and value the Kingdom of God unfolding in their midst.  Near the end of Jesus’ time with them Luke records, “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him;  they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”  The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about”” (Luke 18:31-34; NIV).  They could not accept the idea of a “suffering Messiah,” even when the Messiah himself told them plainly part of his reason for coming is to take on himself the pain of the world.  Jesus came to redeem the guilt of sin and pain of consequences (for every person who believes in him) and restore sonship with Father God.  
Jesus is referring to messages foretold hundreds of years prior like this one in Isaiah,
Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:1-6)
The phrase in verse 3 “and we held him in low esteem” is worth taking a closer look.  Obviously the people who were bent on killing Jesus held him in low esteem, but the 12 disciples he was talking to in the Luke verses above, also failed to esteem Jesus.  Luke says, “they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:34).  They were not able to fully comprehend the message Jesus was sharing with them at least in part because of the earthly mindset (belief system) of how things should turn out.  They thought, for example, the Messiah (whomever that was) would be the one to deliver them from the oppression of the Roman government.  The Romans were the ruling power over the Jews, and all the first believers in Jesus were of Jewish origin.  For a Messiah to redeem the Jewish people, they were looking for a literal overthrow of the regime.  But that was not in God’s plan.  God’s plan was laid out in the verses of Isaiah above.  Even after these verses were fulfilled and the grusome trauma of the crucifixion of Jesus took place, the disciples still didn’t understand.  In the days following his resurrection, the Bible records a number of times that Jesus appeared to his disciples to encourage them and give them the Holy Spirit and their great commission before he ascended to the Father (see Luke 24:36-49).  
When Jesus appeared to 2 of them on the road to Emmaus, for example (Luke 24:36-49), they were clearly not in a state to bring esteem to what Jesus had endured on their behalf.  They were downcast, depressed, and likely a bit taumatized.  They were likely guilt-ridden for not being able to protect Jesus from the cruel and unjust treatment he received.  One of their members betrayed Jesus.  In betraying Jesus, Judas also betrayed each of the disciples as team members.  They were all scattered, alone, fearing for their own lives, with their leader dead (or so they thought), and no purpose to continue what had consumed the last three years of their lives.   Their pain was too great to bear, and Jesus had to appear to them to bring them back from their strayed condition.  
Like the first disciples who had suffered great loss and needed to be reminded that Jesus came to bear their grief and pain, we too have a similar opportunity to show that we value what Jesus did on the cross to bear our sin and pain.   Jesus didn’t only die to wash away the guilt of our sin, but also was tortured to bear the pain of the consequences of sin.  The pain may be from an accident with no one at fault (ie. a natural disaster, financial,  illness, or physical problem).  It may be inflicted on you by someone else intentionally or unintentionally (ie. prejudgment, misjudgment, mistreatment, slander, rejection, betrayal, abuse,  injustice, etc.).  Or, pain may be self-imposed (ie. shame, self-condemnation, self-rejection,  bitterness, resentment, etc.).  
Whatever the source of emotional pain may be, we (like the very first disciples onward) fail to esteem Jesus when we fail to give Jesus our pain.  You may ask, “What does it mean to give Jesus our pain?”  Inner hurts and wounds from past and present are common.  Acknowleging hurt and offense is the first step to allowing Jesus to bear it for you.  After that, it is  responding  to his invitation to come  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).  It seems too simple to be true.  Yoking up with Jesus makes all the difference.  The “yoke” as mentioned here is a term for the instrument that controls a team of work horses enabling them to work together to accomplish a task.  Relief from the pain of an unrested soul, comes through surrender of control.  No matter how good we think we are at controlling things, God always does better.
This surrender continues the rest of our lives, so that greater and greater degrees of control are yielded to God.  As we “draw near” to God (see Hebrews 10:19-31), his power changes us in a way that goes beyond our natural abilities to change ourselves.  We esteem Jesus by surrendering to this on going change process.  Instead of “going astray” and “turning to our own way” (as described in Isaiah 53:6 above), we allow God to satisfy our deepest longings and needs.  Instead of depending on “self” to determine our fate, we cooperate with God’s plan and ways of doing things.  Or, instead of turning to a counterfeit like alcohol, drugs, porn, work-o-holism, etc,. we permit our hearts to be contented in gratitude for what Jesus has done to accomplish our rescue.  
How much of your struggles, disappointments, failed expectations, disagreements, concerns, criticisms, conflicts, etc.do you quickly take to Jesus for him to bear?  The more you take to him and the quicker you respond demonstrates the degree to which you truly value (esteem) Jesus.  And if you feel like you struggle to value Jesus, no condemnation.  Another problem will come your way before you know it, and you’ll have another chance!   Do not listen to the enemy of your soul who tells you things like “you’re all alone,” “no one cares,” or “you’re beyond hope.”   Perhaps you need some help from a counselor to sort out the effects of some very difficult events in your life.  
Sometimes I find it a challenge to practice this myself.  Over the years I have found that music helps me refocus sometimes in a way that points me to God.  One such song that goes way back is called  “Lay Your Burden Down” by Chuck Girard.  Here is a link to hear the song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrI9mFDbmXY 
May you be found faithful in esteemng Jesus.  May God grant you the rest your soul craves.  May you be freed to help others find their freedom in Christ Jesus.   And may God be glorified and greatly esteemed!  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry