Jesus’ Hometown

Mark 6:4-6 (NASB) Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief.

Many Bible scholars don’t catch the reason Jesus couldn’t do anything but a few “minor” miracles in Nazareth, His hometown. I’ve read commentaries that say it was unbelief that prevented the Son of God from working in His hometown. I don’t think that’s quite true, though unbelief was acted out in a way that made it impossible for Him to work in the lives of those who were filled with unbelief. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve read some who say God positively cannot work in an atmosphere of unbelief. But I remember Jesus saying, “With God, all things are possible.” Was Jesus lying? God is not a man, that He should lie (Numbers 23:19). And if we can prevent God from doing miracles in a place, how do we explain the miracles done when the Jews came out of Egypt? They certainly doubted God many times and thought they were going to die, but He delivered them again and again, despite their unbelief. God does not change. Unbelief doesn’t stop Him.

So what happened in Nazareth? If you notice in Mark’s gospel, everywhere Jesus went there were crowds, even multitudes. The Holy Spirit inspired Mark to mention great crowds over and over again — except in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown. In the place where everyone thought of him as just the son of Joseph the carpenter, there were no crowds around Him. They simply questioned where He “got these things,” that is, His wisdom and ability to do miracles. They didn’t fall at His feet and worship Him. They didn’t reach out to try to touch the hem of His garment.

I tell you that the reason Jesus could do no miracles in Nazareth is because the citizens of that town never came to Him, except for a few sick people. Those few who came, He healed. There were no crowds around Him in Nazareth. They didn’t come, because they did not believe. So the reason He could not do much was that hardly anyone came to Him. Indeed, He wondered at their unbelief! They never came to Him, thus their unbelief was acted out in a way that made it impossible for Him to work in their lives.

I tell you that Jesus wonders at the unbelief in His church today. He asked in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”

I believe that much of the church is just like Jesus’ hometown. We have a concept of Jesus and we’re stickin’ to it. He’s our Savior. We’re familiar with that part of Him, just like Nazareth was familiar with Jesus the carpenter. But don’t start believing in the dunamis (miracle-working power) of God! Savior is good. Miracle-working is too “far out” for us. Let’s keep things real quiet and orderly. Please — don’t bring in big crowds pressing in to touch the hem of His garment. We’d rather have a form of godliness while denying (720 arneomai, disowning, disavowing and rejecting) its power (1411 dunamis, miracle-working power, might and strength).

Just like in Nazareth, we do not see many true miracles in the church because the church rejects the miracle-working aspect of our Lord and Savior. They do not come to Him, because they are filled with unbelief. Therefore, He does not heal them in all the wonderful ways that Jesus heals.

There are a few in the church today who come to Him for healing anyway, just as a few came to Him an Nazareth. I’m one of them, even though in the beginning, I didn’t believe Jesus heals today. He took me on a journey that erased all my preconceived notions of Him. Then He completely healed me of MS, nine years ago next month. My church family, who loved me so much as an MS victim, was appalled. They did not rejoice when I announced one Sunday morning that Jesus had healed me. This was not the Jesus they were familiar with. They were very, very uncomfortable.

Did I forgive them for not sharing my joy? Oh, yes. They knew not what they were doing, just as I had no idea I had the hammer in my hand when Jesus was nailed to the cross.

Did I love them? After I was healed, I sought to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and the Father poured out His love in my heart, even to the point of overflowing! It was not pleasant to walk with them during that time, but I love them still today and will always love them. I love the whole church — the ones who claim the Word of God isn’t really His Word (there was a time when I didn’t), the ones who think Jesus doesn’t do miracles any more (there was a time when I didn’t), and even the ones who cannot see Jesus beyond His role as Savior (there was a time when I didn’t).

I forgive them, I love them, and I intercede for them. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit and I don’t want His church to be like His hometown. I’m praying for the church to honor Jesus, to embrace all of Him, to crowd around Him seeking His touch, to fall at His feet and worship Him and to come to love Him with His own love, so they may become very, very much like Him and thus glorify Him!

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The Greater Light

Gen. 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

I gave an evangelistic message at a church on Sunday, a passionate plea for us to believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8.) It was a “testimessage” (that’s a message and a testimony combined). Hebrews 13:8 was the means God used to open my heart to be healed of MS nine years ago. Through it and other scriptures, the Holy Spirit used my pastor to show me that Jesus is still the Great Physician. Throughout my testimessage, I spontaneously praised the Father and Son, by the Holy Spirit who always exalts them. By the grace of God and for His glory, the congregation was greatly stirred and encouraged.

My husband recorded the message, and processed the recording that afternoon. In the evening, I listened to it. Jeff and I often reviewed our messages at the churches we pastored in Maine, as a means of improving our presentation of God’s Word. We always found it to be especially helpful when Satan came along on Monday morning and tried to tell us we missed the mark. Pastors, you know what I’m talking about.

As I listened to my message, I heard my voice go up and down. I heard by my words that I did not look at myself in my lostness as kindly as Christ did. Satan began his accusations. I cried out to the Lord in my journal, “I was almost out of control in giving my testimony. Help me to control my voice! I want all of what I say to honor You!” I began to doubt my motive for preaching. Was I prideful and self-confident, rather than leaning on Him? I wrote to Him that I must not let the devil use this. I knew my accuser’s voice, and I began to run from it. I asked the Lord to let His power shine forth in my testimony. I opened my Bible to Jeremiah 48:18 and wrote, “I sit on the parched ground, Lord!” The Lord responded from Jeremiah 48:42, that I am not arrogant toward Him, so 48:18 didn’t apply. The devil knows the Word, and tried to use it against me. But I continued to stand before the Lord and heard the voice of my Good Shepherd.

Satan wasn’t through yet, though. In our home, we have a large, open area that comprises the kitchen, dining room, and living room. I looked out the living room window, to my left. The moon was full and still shining. Then I looked to my right, and the sun was rising. I wrote in my journal, “The moon is losing its brightness because of the rising of the sun. The greater light You created is overtaking the lesser light. Let Your Son overtake the lesser light in me! Overcome and obscure and destroy any confidence I might have in myself. Do not let not that lesser light appear ever again, Father!” As the sun rose higher and higher, I watched the moon fade until it was invisible. I asked the Lord to make me invisible. Weeping, I wrote, “Amen. So be it, Lord.”

I went to Jeff and told him what I thought the Lord was showing me with the moon and the sun. He had a different interpretation. He said gently, “I saw the lesser light proclaiming the Greater Light. The lesser light is supposed to be there. God created it that way. Remember, the lesser light would not shine at all except that the greater Light illuminates it. The greater Light must have something to illuminate. He illuminated you!” I wept and wept, so grateful to the Lord that He had made His greater Light shine on His lesser light!

The Lord was showing me something wonderful — something all who speak God’s Word, and all who listen, must always remember. We who speak the Word are not perfect. We will mispronounce. Our diction, our intelligence, our oratorical skills may be inferior to others. We may not always perfectly interpret the Word of God, despite our best efforts. But remember this, pastors and fellow Christians! We are all lesser lights reflecting the Greater Light — the Father and the Son — by the power of the Holy Spirit. None of us will ever execute everything perfectly. So do not evaluate and criticize and judge and play favorites when you hear the messenger, but absolutely evaluate and test the message compared with the Word of God! And do not tear yourself to pieces, Pastor. You’ll never be perfect. God is counting on that, so His perfection can be seen in you.

Look to the Apostle Paul! The Corinthians were looking for great orators and intellects and comparing one evangelist to another. He writes, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1.) And he writes, “You are looking at things outwardly . . . For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.’” (2 Corinthians 10:7a, 10.) And yet Paul’s words and ministry are a gracious, God-given gift to all of us for all time!

Pastors who evaluate yourselves to pieces, and churchgoers who criticize and carve up your pastors, do not look at things outwardly! Is a lesser light proclaiming the Greater Light? Then Pastor, give praise to God, you are exactly in the condition the Lord wants you. When you are weak, you are strong. Glory in your weakness, as Paul did! And churchgoer, arise and shine, because the glory of the Lord has risen upon you (see Isaiah 61:1)! Rejoice and be glad in His presence, and receive His Light so you may also be a lesser light who reflects the greater Light! Hallelujah to the King!

The Ancient Paths

It seemed good to share with you what I’m praying about on this monthly “day of prayer and fasting” for the church. Last month, it was 1 John 3:9, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” No willful disobedience to God in one who is born of Him! That’s radical!  I share the second “monthly prayer and fasting” scripture so you can see the progression of thought that I believe is from the Lord: my first “monthly prayer and fasting” scripture was from John 17, concerning the true definition of sanctification. Our benchmarks of the sanctified life need revision, for it is the Lord who sanctifies us through and through — our nature the same as Christ’s nature, the sin nature dead on the cross and buried. Hallelujah to the King of Kings! Then it was 1 John 3:9 (and the surrounding verses), the test to determine in our own hearts whether we are filled with the Spirit or not.

The Lord led me to Jeremiah 6 this morning, and put a Holy Spirit “speed bump” on verse 16: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.'” I’m praying that the Lord leads the church back into the ancient paths. Immediately as I type this, the Lord reminds me of Psalm 23:3 “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths [literally, “tracks”] of righteousness for His name’s sake.” The word picture is like a dirt road over which many wagons have traveled. Tracks (but not ruts, God forbid) form, and soon, the wheels of wagons traveling that dirt road automatically find and follow those tracks. Having studied the history of the “holiness movement” church, I see that she spurned the operation of the Spirit. The churches in that movement had grown rapidly up to that point, but began to decline shortly after that. Please know that I love the church. She is my family, and I love her even with the very love of God that He has poured out in my heart to overflowing! But we must stand and see (7200 raah, meaning “discern”) and ask for the ancient paths, for we have lost our way.

The church at large, as well as the those in the “holiness movement,” became afraid of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to the point where even today, some church leaders chastise people who are filled with the Spirit and operating in His gifts. I have seen it happen to my brothers and sisters and have experienced it myself. Please note that these Spirit-filled ones were operating in submission to their spiritual leaders when they were chastised. Those who have been crucified with Christ are submissive. Jeff and I checked with our denominational overseer when we were being considered as candidates for ordination; we would not have continued if he objected, but would have pursued ordination elsewhere. We cannot deny the gifts the Lord has given us, and we pray that the holiness with which He has filled us is evident. We do not magnify the gifts; we magnify the Christ who gave His church the Holy Spirit, and the Father who gave His Son that we no longer be under His wrath but forgiven and given life eternal, even zoe, the superabundant flow of the life of God here and now, and that we be given sanctification through and through, knowing Him and Christ and the Spirit with great and glorious intimacy! Glory!

In some ways, the church has become like the Pharisees whom the Spirit-filled Stephen admonished in Acts 7, saying, “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” That may sound harsh to you, but I believe the Holy Spirit is very grieved by our rejection of all of Him — we’re OK with the holiness part in the “holiness movement” (though for the longest time, outward holiness was the order of the day), but we don’t want those gifts! We might lose control of things if they are manifested. But God is not a God of confusion. The Corinthian church misused the gifts because they were not filled with the love of God. But if we are filled with the Spirit, we are filled with that love and will operate the gifts in that same love. The gifts are gifts from God, and are for the common good, for the edification of the church. Yet I have seen congregation-led mutinies ensue when the Holy Spirit and His gifts are preached from pulpits.

I am praying for a great repentance and full embracing of all that our wonderful Lord sent to us. I pray we stand by the way and SEE and ASK for the ancient paths, even back to the days of the Book of Acts. May we humble ourselves and ask for the good way, the God way that leads to “God works!” May we humble ourselves and walk in this good way. O Lord, soften our necks and open our ears to hear the Word today, that we would find rest for our souls, that we might be revived as followers of You, that we may live for You, that we may be like shining stars in the universe, holding out the word of life in this dark world!

What Does Holiness Look Like?

John 17:19 “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”

I don’t know how many times I preached on Jesus’ words in this verse of His prayer before He was arrested, beaten and nailed to a cross. I spoke of how necessary it was for us to be made one with Christ and the Father, our natures changed to their natures. I spoke of how He prayed for our hearts to be filled with God’s actual love, and what effect that would have on the world. But Dan Bohi, an evangelist for the Nazarene Church, opened it up even wider than I had been able to see up to that point. Thanks, Dan.

What do we think are the characteristics of a human being made holy by the fullness of God, the Holy Spirit, indwelling him or her completely? Let’s look at what Jesus said about His disciples in these verses.

Here are some of the fine things that Jesus said of His disciples and says of us in verses 6-16:

– He has revealed Himself to them

– They were the Father’s and now are Christ’s

– They keep His Word

– They know all that Jesus has been given is from the Father

– They received and believed Jesus’ words which were from the Father

– They knew He came from the Father and was sent by Him

– Twice, Jesus says they are not of the world

We normally describe holiness/ sanctification by all Jesus said up to verses 17 and 19. The clincher is that they are not of the world – that’s certainly a description of someone who is holy, isn’t it? Not according to Jesus. Despite all of these wonderful truths about the status of the disciples’ faith and walk, Jesus prays for them to be sanctified. If they were already holy, He wouldn’t have needed to pray for them to be made holy.

Think about the disciples’ behavior up to this point. On the very night He prayed this prayer, they had entered the upper room for the Passover meal, arguing about who was the greatest. They’d been with Him for more than three years, yet John and James sent their mother to see if Jesus would let them sit on His right and left on His throne. Didn’t they understand that His kingdom was not an earthly one? Nope. They were still thinking in the natural. Set apart? They surely were. Holy as in sanctified, filled with the Spirit? Not yet.

Why did they (and we) need to be sanctified, filled with the Spirit? “So they may all be one,” Jesus prayed in verse 21. What does that mean? The disciples argued with one another, and they didn’t understand Jesus’ words. They needed Christ’s nature to replace their human, sinful natures and to open their eyes to the Word. His nature would give them oneness, the unity of nature among themselves, all of them having Christ’s nature, just as Christ has the Father’s nature. It’s a selfless nature, a self-giving nature, a nature that takes no thought of itself or its needs but dies to its self-interest so others may live. We must all be united in nature with the Father and the Son, Them in us and us in Them, but it won’t happen unless we actually become doers of the Word the Spirit-inspired Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2.

Why isn’t “somewhat holiness” (an impossibility anyway, but one which I hear from many Christians) enough? In the Word, something is either holy or it is profane and unclean. What are the consequences of people thinking they can be holy sometimes, or partly holy, or a little holy? Strife, division, angry meetings, political power plays. In the corporate world, those things are to be expected. But in Jesus’ church, His bride? No, never! They are to be the church glorious, filled with the glory, the love and the power of God.

Church, we have far too many “Jesus clubs” where Jesus is the mascot (poor Jesus!) and everyone gathers to hear the latest gossip and to take pot shots at the preacher. I’ve actually heard one church member say of a new pastor, “I think he’s going to fit in quite well here.” Do you see what’s wrong with that statement? If he plays by the club rules, he can stay. If not, out he goes! Folks, that’s not holiness, not in the least!

Out of Christ’s love for us, He prays to the Father for all of us who have all the fine attributes He described. He asks the Father to sanctify us, to make us perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Glory! Does that mean I will execute everything He asks of me perfectly? No way. I’m human. But that’s not an excuse to disobey God.

If I am perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect, it will require that He remove from me my soulish wants, my pride, my self will, my orneriness. If I will yield to His will and His command, He will take out my stony heart and give me a new one. The motive for all I do will be His love in my heart, filling it to overflowing. I won’t willfully disobey Him (I won’t willfully sin) any more. In verse 19, He says that’s why He was now going to set Himself apart on the cross.

What effect will we have on the world if we obey Jesus and ask the Father for the good gift of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13)? The outcome, in the last section of Jesus’ prayer, is that the world will believe that the Father sent the Son, and that the Father loves us even as He loves His Son. The world will know us by the perfect love the Father pours in our hearts til they overflow with it. And when we are filled with the Spirit, we will intimately know (ginosko 1097) the Father and Son, “by the operation of the Holy Spirit,” per Vine’s Expository Dictionary. And that is Jesus’ definition of eternal life!

Yield to God, my brothers and sisters. In view of God’s great grace toward you, expressed in Romans chapters 1-11, offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. It is your spiritual act of worship. The Father is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Put away all your selfishness. Empty yourself of your glory, as Christ did. You must — He commands it!

Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

I am sometimes in a quandary, perplexed about how to respond when I hear the Scriptures mishandled. Not wanting to be labeled with a critical spirit, I often simply pray for the one who has not divided the Word of God rightly. We’re talking glaring errors here, not “differences of interpretation.”

Is praying enough? Do I need also to speak in love to those who err? Is this a situation where iron must sharpen iron, where the Spirit must speak through a brother or sister to the one in error? Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Paul is iron, and he is sharpening Timothy. If we cannot speak to one another in love, bringing truth, how will anyone grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus?

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

I’ve heard Romans 8:19 used to call men to “step up” in their Christian walk: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” (NASB used here.) Is that a correct use of the Word of God, or did the person speaking take a verse out of context to make a point? The “sons of God” spoken of here are the saints, both male and female, and the passage refers to the church of Jesus Christ being fully revealed when all is concluded. Could misusing such a Scripture cause harm? What if a new female believer heard it and believed  she is not a “son of God”?  Maybe I’m crazy, but I think we’re supposed to handle the Word of God very carefully and never, never use it out of context. I grieve at the twisted gospel preached in many churches today, the sad result of  preachers  lightly esteeming the Word!

In the same way, I have heard prison ministries teach that we should go into prisons to give the gospel message, using Matthew 25:36 as a text. But it is His brethren that He is speaking of: “The King will answer and say, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (NASB, my emphasis.) I am not saying, “Don’t evangelize in prisons.” My husband and I did that for three years! But we surely didn’t use that Scripture to prove why we should go. After all,  In 1 Peter 3:17 (NASB), the the Spirit-inspired Peter writes,  “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Are those who do evil brothers of Christ? And just two verses before that, in 1 Peter 4:15 (NASB), he writes, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler, but if anyone suffers as  Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” Those who profess Christ and land in prison for committing a crime should be ashamed of their sin, but we must go to give them (and the lost among them) the Good News that there is a Savior who will not only save them from their sins but from the sin nature that keeps them captives of sin. If the Son sets them free, they shall be free, indeed!

My friends, my colleagues, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, I beseech you to treat the Word of God with the reverence it deserves, rightly dividing it, handling it accurately! I do not want any of us to be ashamed before Jesus Christ when He examines our work.

Consider Your Ways

Haggai 1:5  Now, therefore says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!”

Dear church,

Consider your ways! No effort you’ve made to improve or strengthen yourselves has worked. You continue to be a laughingstock (and it is not a  joy to say that about those I love). You continue to be powerless. Why has God not answered you? Why have you not been able to rebuild the church to its former glory? Why have  you experienced a famine for the Word of God, and why have you not seen the latter rain of the Spirit for which you pray? Consider your ways!

Are you expecting to be made holy by “feeling the presence” or “having an anointing” of the Lord in a church service? Do you think that being externally touched by the presence of Him is sufficient to make you holy? Can a holy God even descend into a congregation full of those who lie to God and each other about their spiritual condition? Know that, as the Lord says through Haggai, touching something holy does not make you holy. The LORD of hosts asks the leaders of the church these questions (Haggai 2:11ff), just as He did Israel when He brought them back from exile:

(Verse 12) “If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil or any food, will it become holy?” The leaders of the church say, “No.” They think, “That’s obvious. We know that something unholy is not made holy by that which touches it.” Really? Then why do you cry out, “God is here, His presence is here, His anointing is here, He is blessing us,” when there is much unholy activity, not only in your own private life but in the lives of your worship team and your congregation members? You allow unconsecrated people to be on the platform with you because they are good musicians or singers, and think nothing of it. You yourself spend virtually no time in the Word and prayer, too busy babysitting your congregation. In your own life, you do things you should not do, look at things you should not see and say things you should not say. You tell your congregation it’s sufficient to be “somewhat holy.” We either are, or we aren’t, my friend. If the presence of God is truly evident in your services, great repentance and weeping will break out. Waves of emotion do not indicate God’s kabod has come into your service. When God’s holiness enters the scene, the evil in men’s hearts is exposed and weeping, wailing and cries for mercy result.

(Verse 13) Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?”

Our church leaders say, “It will become unclean.” If we are unclean, unholy, profane, whatever we touch will become tainted with uncleanness. So it is with the people of the church and this nation, in the presence of the LORD. “and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there (in the sanctuary) is unclean.”

Look at Ezekiel 22:26, my brothers and sisters, my fellow leaders of the people, “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.”

You profane the Lord. Repent now. Clean up your life. Be filled with God’s holiness by the Holy Spirit. Surrender to Him now. Then hold high the standard of God’s holiness and do not compromise. Teach  your people that they cannot become holy by feeling “the presence,” but must be made holy by the fullness of the Holy Spirit indwelling them. It’s not an option but a necessity. Stop pretending. The hour is late and we don’t have much time to do God’s work. Darkness is coming. A great shaking is coming. Forget about popularity contests. Put your self-interest on the Cross and die so you may live. Let Him fill your temple, and the temples of your people, with glory.

Stay With the Ship!

Jeff and I pray on Friday nights, asking the Lord to revive His church. We pray always for revival, but this is a more formal time. He and I look separately at the Word, seeking a lead from the Lord on what Scripture to pray.

Last night, my Scripture was from Acts 27, verses 6-44. I meditated on it for a while before our prayer time, praying for revelation from the Spirit. When we prayed together, I read a paragraph or two and then stopped to pray out what the Lord showed me. Here it is:

In verses 6-10, I see that Paul represents the Holy Spirit and those who are Spirit-filled who are in the church. The ship is the church. We know that if the church makes decisions contrary to the advice of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God, damage and great loss, even loss of life occur. This is the precarious position of the church right now. She is, by and large, off on her own, making plans and doctrinal changes that are contrary to the Spirit’s lead and God’s wisdom. We grieve for her and intercede on her behalf. Let’s go on.

In verses 11-13, I see that the centurion (a type of pastors in the church) are persuaded by captains and pilots (a type of those above them in leadership positions) to do what is contrary to the Spirit’s instruction. There are many reasons why leaders do this: a desire for more people in the pews, or greed, or because they really think they have a better idea than the Lord (spiritual pride). The church has thus launched out into a storm, contrary to the Lord but in the strength of man’s wisdom. I see that she is in the midst of the storm even now.

In verses 14-20, I see that in the storm, the church continues to use man’s strength to try to secure the ship which is the church. They expend much energy and money to shore it up against the storm, but nothing seems to work. The ship continues to be imperiled. There will come a time when all hope of saving the church will be abandoned. Some in the church already feel that way.

In verses 21-26, I see that the Spirit is reminding the church that He warned her against going out in her own wisdom. She has now incurred damage and loss. What’s more, food is running out. We already have experienced a famine for the Word of God in thousands upon thousands of churches in the U.S. and around the world. Just a few crumbs or some milk (snippets of Scripture that tickle the ears) are offered, rather than the sumptuous banquet that should be taught and preached, the feast that grows Christians up in the Lord and makes them hungry to be filled with righteousness, even filled with the Holy Spirit. But look! God is compassionate and full of mercy, gracious and slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness! Those filled with the Spirit have seen a vision. God has spoken to us supernaturally, saying He has granted to us all who are on the ship. We believe God, that it will turn out exactly as we have been told. But we know the church must run aground at a certain point. All of those man-made plans and doctrines must come to an end, and God will do it.

In verses 27-32, I see that some are afraid that the church will run aground, even though in verse 36, we saw that the Spirit says she must. They continue to try to use their own strength to keep from being wrecked. Some, seeing the impending shipwreck, are trying to secretly escape. But be careful! Unless we remain with the ship, we cannot be saved. This is a warning to those who want to flee the church. Do not go; you’ll imperil many if you do. Believe the Spirit, for He says God has granted life to all who stay with the ship! Let the ropes down and let your means of escape fall away. [

In verses 33-36, the Holy Spirit calls those in the church to take spiritual sustenance, for their preservation (the Greek soteria, which means physical or moral rescue, deliverance, salvation). They must eat the Word so they will be strengthened. Not a hair from the head of any of us will perish. Let us take the Word in. Let us begin to eat in the midst of the storm, in the midst of what seems like a hopeless situation. Take and eat, just as those on board the ship with Paul took and ate! You will be encouraged!

In verses 37-44, I see that the end of the journey is nearing. Now it is time to discard anything unnecessary. We have eaten, we are satisfied. Let us cast aside whatever would hinder the journey’s conclusion. It’s time to make for the beach! The church will run aground and will be wrecked; the Spirit says it must (again, see v. 26). Satan will seek to kill us so we cannot escape to the shore and freedom. But pastors will recognize that the Holy Spirit’s instruction was wise and that leaders’ ideas were unwise. They will keep Satan  from his intention. They will guide some to reach safety because they are spiritually equipped to do so, and will provide pieces of the church upon which others will float to the safety of the beach, which is the ultimate destination of the church — the true Promised Land.

What happens next? Look at the first part of Acts 28. Before the end of things, I see revival, healing, empowerment and the church’s full use of her authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of Satan.

NOTE: Please do not interpret this as me saying we are saved through the church or a denomination; we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ. But I see that many are abandoning ship (church as we commonly know it here in the U.S.) these days. I believe we need to continue meeting together as Hebrews 10:25. I do not believe we are to continue with a church if it is in obvious theological error. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! Find a church that is dividing the Word of God rightly.

Jeff was in 2 Samuel 6. Here again, Jeff sees that the Spirit speaks of not following the Holy Spirit’s instructions. Even out of love for God, the church goes off on her own to bring His presence into our places of worship. Disaster ensues for Uzzah and for those in the church who believe they must help bring in God’s presence in their own strength. The plan is shipwrecked, as it were. Then the church follows the Spirit’s instructions and successfully brings God’s presence into her midst. The joy of those bringing His presence will be outrageous, and some will scorn it. But beware — those who scorn will be barren all of their days.

Take what you will from this word; we believe it is from the Lord. May it outrage, bless and encourage, just as the Lord desires.