The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing

“THE PURSUIT OF GOD” (Chapter 2) A.W. TOZER

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kindgom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply “things.” They were made for man’s uses, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.

But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.

Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.

This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

Our Lord referred to this tyranny of things when He said to His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

Breaking this truth into fragments for our better understanding, it would seem that there is within each of us an enemy which we tolerate at our peril. Jesus called it “life” and “self,” or as we would say, the selflife. Its chief characteristic is its possessiveness: the words “gain” and “profit” suggest this. To allow this enemy to live is in the end to lose everything. To repudiate it and give up all for Christ’s sake is to lose nothing at last, but to preserve everything unto life eternal. And possibly also a hint is given here as to the only effective way to destroy this foe: it is by the Cross. “Let him take up his cross and follow me.”

The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. These are the “poor in spirit.” They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is what the word “poor” as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Let me exhort you to take this seriously. It is not to be understood as mere Bible teaching to be stored away in the mind along with an inert mass of other doctrines. It is a marker on the road to greener pastures, a path chiseled against the steep sides of the mount of God. We dare not try to by-pass it if we would follow on in this holy pursuit. We must ascend a step at a time. If we refuse one step we bring our progress to an end.

As is frequently true, this New Testament principle of spiritual life finds its best illustration in the Old Testament. In the story of Abraham and Isaac we have a dramatic picture of the surrendered life as well as an excellent commentary on the first Beatitude.

Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough indeed to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From that moment when he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms he was an eager love slave of his son. God went out of His way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous. It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.

“Take now thy son,” said God to Abraham, “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” The sacred writer spares us a close-up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form and convulsive wrestling alone under the stars. Possibly not again until a Greater than Abraham wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane did such mortal pain visit a human soul. If only the man himself might have been allowed to die. That would have been easier a thousand times, for he was old now, and to die would have been no great ordeal for one who had walked so long with God. Besides, it would have been a last sweet pleasure to let his dimming vision rest upon the figure of his stalwart son who would live to carry on the Abrahamic line and fulfill in himself the promises of God made long before in Ur of the Chaldees.

How should he slay the lad! Even if he could get the consent of his wounded and protesting heart, how could he reconcile the act with the promise, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”? This was Abraham’s trial by fire, and he did not fail in the crucible. While the stars still shone like sharp white points above the tent where the sleeping Isaac lay, and long before the gray dawn had begun to lighten the east, the old saint had made up his mind. He would offer his son as God had directed him to do, and then trust God to raise him from the dead. This, says the writer to the Hebrews, was the solution his aching heart found sometime in the dark night, and he rose “early in the morning” to carry out the plan. It is beautiful to see that, while he erred as to God’s method, he had correctly sensed the secret of His great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament Scripture, “Whosoever will lose for my sake shall find.”

God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, “It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou bast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.”

Then heaven opened and a voice was heard saying to him, “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou bast done this thing, and bast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is `upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou bast obeyed my voice.”

The old man of God lifted his head to respond to the Voice, and stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lord for special treatment, a friend and favorite of the Most High. Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and God had taken it from him. God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In dealing thus He practiced an economy of means and time. It hurt cruelly, but it was effective.

I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was his still to enjoy: sheep, camels, herds, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and best of all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned only in the school of renunciation. The books on systematic theology overlook this, but the wise will understand.

After that bitter and blessed experience I think the words “my” and “mine” never had again the same meaning for Abraham. The sense of possession which they connote was gone from his heart. Things had been cast out forever. They had now become external to the man. His inner heart was free from them. The world said, “Abraham is rich,” but the aged patriarch only smiled. He could not explain it to them, but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal.

There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic.

We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

Our gifts and talents should also be turned over to Him. They should be recognized for what they are, God’s loan to us, and should never be considered in any sense our own. We have no more right to claim credit for special abilities than for blue eyes or strong muscles. “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what bast thou that thou didst not receive?”

The Christian who is alive enough to know himself even slightly will recognize the symptoms of this possession malady, and will grieve to find them in his own heart. If the longing after God is strong enough within him he will want to do something about the matter. Now, what should he do?

First of all he should put away all defense and make no attempt to excuse himself either in his own eyes or before the Lord. Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other; but let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself. Let the inquiring Christian trample under foot every slippery trick of his deceitful heart and insist upon frank and open relations with the Lord.

Then he should remember that this is holy business. No careless or casual dealings will suffice. Let him come to God in full determination to be heard. Let him insist that God accept his all, that He take the things out of his heart and Himself reign there in power. It may be he will need to become specific, to name things and people by their names one by one. If he will become drastic enough he can shorten the time of his travail from years to minutes and enter the good land long before his slower brethren who coddle their feelings and insist upon caution in their dealings with God.

Let us never forget that such a truth as this cannot be learned by rote as one would learn the facts of physical science. They must be experienced before we can really know them. We must in our hearts live through Abraham’s harsh and bitter experiences if we would know the blessedness which follows them. The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough old miser within us will not lie down and die obedient to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence as Christ expelled the money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart.

If we would indeed know God in growing intimacy we must go this way of renunciation. And if we are set upon the pursuit of God He will sooner or later bring us to this test. Abraham’s testing was, at the time, not known to him as such, yet if he had taken some course other than the one he did, the whole history of the Old Testament would have been different. God would have found His man, no doubt, but the loss to Abraham would have been tragic beyond the telling. So we will be brought one by one to the testing place, and we may never know when we are there. At that testing place there will be no dozen possible choices for us; just one and an alternative, but our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.

Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its things. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but 1 do come. Please root from my heart all those things which 1 have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter avid dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

2023: A Word for the Church in America

This is a Word I believe the Lord is speaking over the Church in America entering into the season of 2023. I’ll be honest. This is not a message that my flesh wants to hear. I’m too filled with self-vindication and disengagement. Neither can I say that I entirely believe this message – yet. This is why we pray… :o)

The Holy Spirit testifies, saying chains and tribulations await us. (Acts 20:23)

“Why do you test Me?”(Luke 20:23) inquires the Lord.  I have declared that You shall not make anything to be with Me – gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. (Exodus 20:23) And yet, many, in their fear of chains and tribulation continue to fill their stomach with idolatry and rebellion. Upon them I will cast the fury of My wrath, and will even rain it upon them while they are eating. (Job 20:23)

Your dishonest analysis and perverse justice is also an abomination to Me. (Proverbs 20:23) The way that you evaluate yourself is out of sync with the way you evaluate others. It is also out of agreement with the ways that I evaluate you. Your scales are “perverted” and “distorted”. And when you use a different set of weights against others than you do for yourselves, it is “villainous” to Me.

The people with malice in their mouths, who stand up to utterly kill and destroy will destroy one another. (2 Chronicles 20:23) I will also scatter and disperse them so that they become desolate, because they did not seek out My counsel, in order to execute My judgments. They despised My statutes, profaned My festivals, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers’ idols. (Ezekiel 20:23)

The ones who have rebelled against My Word shall not enter the land which I have promised to the children of My covenant. (Numbers 20:23) You shall not walk in the ways of these ones. Their arrogant strength shall cease. And then they shall know that I am the Lord.

I am already calling the children of My covenant to go up and weep before Me and ask Me for counsel. (Judges 20:23) Come up here. Learn how to weep as a friend (John 15:13-15) of our Bridegroom King, and a kinsman redeemer (Leviticus 25:25-26) through the open door of Revelation 4 and 5. I will cause you to drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I Am baptized with. (Matthew 20:23)

The call of this hour is HUMILITY, CONTRITION, REPENTANCE, and THE FEAR OF THE LORD. This is the valley through which all who walk with Me as friends must pass.

The exaltation of millions will be turned to mourning, and I will visit the lowlands with both early and latter rains. “Blessed are those who pass through the Valley of Baca; they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools.” (Psalm 84:6) I Myself will act on My behalf and I will cause many who have walked contrary to My constitution to wholly surrender themselves to Me. I will turn the mountains of MAGA into the valleys of BACA.

I will make you a refuge for them that they may be redeemed to Me and My household. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. (John 20:23) Be a people who will wash the feet of all whom I bring to you. Though your ways are hidden and opposed here on earth, in heaven your works are being celebrated, and openly rewarded.

“So rejoice, O sons of Zion! And BE GLAD IN THE LORD YOUR GOD; for He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain; the early and the latter rain as before.” (Joel 2:23)

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JSB • November 15-17, 2022 and December 12, 2022

January 13, 2023 Addendum

Up early. My spirit is trembling. I’m hearing the Holy Spirit speaking Psalm 2 over our region, and most likely, over our nation.

One of the wisest spiritual realities any church fellowship, family or prayer group can cultivate right now is the sober fear of the Lord that leads us to His uncompromising threshing floor. The refiner’s fire is terrifying, just, and close.

We dare not let our false (or true) narratives fill us with the RAGE of the NATIONS. Untempered and unsubstantiated anger WILL lead us to FUTILE PLOTS, AND the RAGE of the NATIONS.

Even if the Church were to perceive all mysteries, and understand every way of wickedness at work in our culture re: vaccines, pandemics, elections etc… the Word of the Lord in Psalm 2 is clear: THE ONLY SAFE RESPONSE in this time of trouble is to offer Jesus “wholehearted adoration and purified devotion; abject repentance, abandoned humility, and a spirit that both rejoices and trembles at Who He is, what He is doing on the earth.”

By any objective measure, this is the opposite of what we’ve seen the conspiracies produce in the Bride over the last three years.

Beloved, in this hour, the enemy will use anything to draw us away from the contrite posture that takes refuge in the Lord (Psalm 2:12) – including true and false conspiracy theories. Whether a conspiracy theory is true or not is a secondary question. Let me say this again. It’s that important. The question about whether a conspiracy theory is true or not is NOT the PRIMARY question we need to be concerned about. THE QUESTION the people of God MUST ask ourselves right now is “Are our conspiracy theories leading us into deeper anger and rage? Are we letting the enemy use our narratives to lead us into vain plots? Is what we say about what’s going on in our world giving us more self-justification for the idols that we’ve left on the high places in our hearts?

The Lord is saying, “Church, you will see your idols for what they are or you will not see My Presence. I will let you have the rage of the nations or the harvest from the nations. I promise you, I will not let you have both.”

When our conspiracies become fuel for rage, vain plots and kissing the rings of carnal power we need to know, we are on the path to perishing from His way.

Where Is the Church’s Voice Against Anti-Semitism?

Again. December 9, 2022. Both the Israeli news outlet “The Times of Israel” and “Haaretz” are reporting Donald Trump’s egregious choice to castigate Jewish leaders rather than Kanye West and Nick Fuentes as he prepares his 2024 run for office.

Folks. This isn’t a little problem. And it isn’t going away. This is the third egregious anti-semitic episode from this man. The third time the press in Israel is sounding the alarm about former President Trump’s broad-stroked hostility toward Judaism. And the third time our evangelical leaders are saying nothing.

Let that sink in – Our pro-Israel, we know “The Hiding Place” by heart, watchmen on the wall: Wallnau, Sheets, Kirk, Metaxas, Baker and the false prophets have said “NOTHING” about the candidate our family favors to be President again in 2024; the one who, five weeks ago called Jews who do not endorse him, “not real Jews”; who three weeks ago invited openly anti-semitic friends to dinner, and refuses to denounce them for their pro-Hitler, pro-Nazi propaganda; and whose next statement isn’t clarification about his own views about Judaism, but shaming and verbalizing more anger toward Jewish leaders who won’t support his bid to be re-elected.

These wolves are famous for saying “It’s time for the Church to stand up. Evil thrives when good men say nothing.” And yet for mere political idolatry they are staying silent about the very issue that gave inspiration to many of the very statements they love to quote: anti-semitism.”

Beloved. None of this is lost on the Lord. Neither is this a run-up we get to “do over”. Our silence has massive consequences on earth – AND in heaven. The judgment of the Lord is heavy upon us over this issue right now. Today. We either see how deeply contorted we are because of our idolatry and repent on the threshing floor of the God Who sees it all clearly, or we’ll bluster ourselves and our Jewish neighbors right into pre-war Nazi Germany, while corrupting the heart and soul of millions of our own sisters and brothers in Christ.

“6 If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’

7 “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.

8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 33:6-9)

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JSB • December, 9, 2022

Post-script. Last year in our book, “Seek My Face” we identified “anti-semitism” as being the third judgment that the Lord was releasing upon His household (1 Peter 4:17); a judgment over which the Church largely was being rewarded for. The Lord continues to refine hearts, and separate rhetoric from reality. Our posture toward the Jewish people has massive implications toward our partnership with what Jesus is doing on the earth in the minutes before He returns. This isn’t a failing grade for which we can receive a mulligan. If the Church won’t tangibly support Israel, she’s in league with the enemy’s end-time army.

What the Lord Says to Us About False Prophetic Narratives

“Who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me.” (Isaiah 50:8)

My people, there are SO MANY CONTENDING NARRATIVES in your ears…

The mere fact that there is so much contention within you is a SIGN that I, the Lord, have entered into judgment with you.

You ask, “How are we to know when a prophet of the Lord has spoken? How do we know the true narrative of the Lord?”

Here are eight distinguishing marks of false prophetic narratives…

a.) If a prophet speaks and his narrative calls you to increased zeal for a divinely ordained nation; realize that this was the false hope of the false prophets in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

b.) If the prophet speaks and urges you to rise up, while they themselves do not bow down low, realize that there is no spirit of humility in them. They cannot be walking in My grace. (James 4:6)

c.) If the narrative is being spun by someone who refuses to be held accountable for 4, 5, 6 and more prophecies that have not come to pass – ’nuff said. Do not listen to this one. Do not fear him, or those who follow him.
“If you say in your heart, ‘How will we recognize the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, and the thing does not happen or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you are not to be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)

d.) If the prophet urges you to seize special permission to override My Son’s Sermon on the Mount, realize that My Kingdom is not divided against itself. (Matthew 12:25) These ones are “workers of lawlessness”. (Matthew 7:23)

e.) If the narrative that he speaks does not primarily and centrally call you to My threshing floor in repentance, realize that his words are wholly out of step with every single Old and New Testament prophet that I have sent!

f.) If the narrative shames you to dismiss the crisis via nefarious and malicious conspiracies that do not call you to contrition and an increased fear of the Lord – it is of a false and lying spirit.

g.) If the prophet himself urges you to be bold against political enemies while he stays silent (even about issues like blatant anti-semitism) to protect political allies, realize that he is a wolf, and an enemy of My people.

h.) And should these “prophets” and “teachers” fail to call you to selflessly trust Me, and never exhort you to “deny your self and take up your cross for My Son”, tell them that it is the devil who is speaking through them (Matthew 16:23) – and like their father, these prophets will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Beloved. Many are being driven into “apostasis” from the stability that only I can provide in the hour of tribulation. This is a day to “test all things; and hold fast to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

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JSB • December 8, 2022

The Man

The consuming desire of the first century Church was the Man and the proclamation of that Man; not causes, strategies, moral standards, epochs, or destructive insights into the fallen world order. They understood that without the Man there was no reason, nor power, nor hope for the building of any other societal scaffolding.

John the Baptist came proclaiming a Man, the disciples followed a Man, the apostles proclaimed a Man, and the last book of the New Testament is entitled “The Revelation of that Man”.

Christ is the entirety of our message, our hope, our life, our vision, our strength, our consolation and our glory. To pursue theologies, politics, justice, and philosophies without centrally, incessantly, and vigorously pointing to the Man, Christ Jesus is to bear a husk of a message and miss the seed, the root and the fruit of the matter altogether.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-2)

“It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose… Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:27, 29)

“I determined to know nothing among you except for Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

“For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of His grandeur. For He received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to Him by the Majestic Glory: ‘This is my dear Son, in Whom I am delighted.” When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1-3)

“From Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’ Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. (Revelation 1:5-8; 12-18)

“I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.” (Revelation 4:2)

“Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

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JSB • December 8, 2022

THE Glaring Omission of a Generation

THE GLARING OMISSION of a generation of American evangelicalism is precisely the one thing Jesus demands we have if we follow Him.

Its absence has permitted scholars and leaders to sit in judgment of the scriptures…

Its absence has enticed millions to embrace LGBTQ…

Its absence has defrauded generations from engaging their destiny on missions fields…

Its absence has allowed the Church in our culture to pursue, sell and endorse endless fantasy, wealth and consumerism without restraint…

Its absence has confused the world’s understanding of the gospel as we do battle over political matters…

Its absence has corrupted the Church’s vision of power and greatness…

Its absence has given our children and our children’s children open license to bottomless carnality…

Its absence has allowed us to live in, and even celebrate enmity, unforgiveness, “raca” and malice…

With it present in our lives…

…it obliterates our rebellion,

…it purges our sinful hearts, 

…it buries our falsehood, 

…it defines wholeheartedness, 

…it propels us to the lost,

…it enables us to turn enemies into brothers,

and it empowers us to manifest first-commandment love, and the breathing Presence of Jesus in our worlds.

In 40+ years within American evangelicalism, I’ve never had a class or attended a conference or break-out-session that had it as its emphasis.

You’re hard pressed to find a leader who has published a single book on the topic in the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, 10’s.

Singers and musicians are the ones among us who most often reference this necessity…

…but we almost never (can’t think of one instance) when a pastor/leader/teacher has explicitly explained, detailed, taught about the topic in a practical and Biblical way.

It’s an omission that’s especially peculiar to the wealthiest, most free, rights conscious, mutually affirming Christian church in the history of the world.

It’s not included in the material that we give and teach to new believers…

…even though its the most ubiquitous way that Jesus bids individuals, groups and leaders into relationship with Himself.

Its also what Jesus calls “satanic” when His disciples attempt to live in His Kingdom without it.

When I look at the way the American Church justifies celebrating celebrities while ignoring foreign missionaries; touting war and hostility while allowing peacemakers to sit quietly in the corner; creates wholesale theologies that tackle Jesus’ call to racial compassion and contrition; and even champion political candidates with an antiChrist spirit, I don’t wonder why. (I really don’t.) We’re the trees of seeds that have been planted for as long as most of us have been believers in Jesus of Nazareth. We have no grid for what has not been planted, valued, encouraged, and cultivated in us…

And in an hour when the judgments of the Lord are upon us, unless we develop a paradigm where the “it” becomes the norm instead of an exception millions of our American sisters and brothers will suffer real shipwreck of faith.

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JSB • December 2, 2022

Being a Prophetic People: Learning Righteousness in an Hour of Judgment

“When Your judgments are on the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)

The people of God were always meant to be a “prophetic people”.

We were called to interact with the Word-speaking God through the events of our lives for the purposes of discovering a.) the intimate, redemptive nature of our God, and b.) our great need to be intimately redeemed to God.

When God reveals Himself into human circumstances; through great blessings, war, plagues, rewards and even supernatural punishment Isaiah 26:9 states, “…the inhabitants of the world LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS”; that is, we learn how God wants us to relate to Himself. We learn that God’s heart is much more personal, and His ways much more powerful, and we learn the very opposite about ourselves. We learn that we are much more content to relate to God from a distance, and we learn that we vastly overestimate our ability to successfully live within a fallen world.

At the core of every prophetic event in our world, from the blessing of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, to Babylon, to the restoration of the nation of Israel, to 9-11, this is the root lesson that God intends for His people to receive: “A.) I Am trustworthy. I want you to come close to Me so that I may extend My faithful leadership over you. B.) Your hearts and your laws, and your customs, and your economics and your politics and your wisdom are not capable of navigating the evil and the threats that are in your world apart from being deeply dependent upon Me.”

When the Philistines were vexing the Children of Israel and they began to cry out for a king, YHWH spoke judgment through the prophet Samuel. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘It is not you that they have rejected, but it is Me that they have rejected as their king.'” (1 Samuel 8:7) In that moment both people and prophet learned a.) how deeply the Lord desired to personally administrate the affairs of His people, and b.) they learned how profoundly bent the covenant people of God were toward rebellion and independence.

When the prophet Jeremiah relentlessly issued the Lord’s messages of restoration year after year after year to the obstinate house of Judah Jeremiah learned a.) the long-suffering, grieving nature of the heart of the redeeming God, and b.) he learned just how hard-hearted the peoples’ attitudes were toward God’s tender and far-reaching mercy.

When the crowd on Pilate’s portico screamed “Crucify Him!” while appealing to the Roman governor to release a violent insurrectionist instead of their own long-promised Messiah, we all learned just how a.) meek and devoted to our salvation our God is, and b.) how hostile, self-reliant and deluded humanity can become.

We, the household of God, were always meant to be a “prophetic people”. We have a perpetual need to be reminded a.) how passionately our God longs to live with us in scandalous friendship, and b.) how grossly we miscalculate our ability to captain our own souls.

I say all this because for the last several years the Lord has been escalating the prophetic events in our American evangelical culture. I know it’s not popular to state this but 911 was a wake up call from God to a slumbering American Church. He even numbered the day, beloved! He was alerting us to the fact that a.) He wanted to be the center of our economic and military might and b.) we had become profoundly proud in our self-power to chart our own course in the world. Billy Graham, at the National Memorial service days after the catastrophe summed up the prophetic lesson in one phrase: “We have ALWAYS needed God!”

Cut to 2016. Our nation, and more importantly, the household of God (1 Peter 4:17) was about to enter into yet another level of prophetic judgment from the Lord. In an hour when social darkness was ravaging the land, would we elect a woman who was focused on endorsing unrighteousness and duplicity? Or would we campaign for a man who’s entire life had been a testament to the opposite of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? The choice seemed impossible. Millions of Christian leaders and believers haggled over the axiomatic, Biblical thing to do, as if we could attain circumspection without engaging the prophetic Voice of the Lord Himself. We chose to operate by principle, not prophecy, and in the end 82% of the people of God elected a Saul.

In the days before the 2016 election, several quiet prophetic voices in our nation heard the Lord weeping to us: ‘It is not you that they have rejected, but it is Me that they have rejected as their king.'” (1 Samuel 8:7)

The Lord had been calling His household to transcend the wisdom of the nations, and to a.) invite Him to intimately administrate and reign over our incarnational and intercessory assignment to America. Instead, like restless Israel we b.) chose our champion, who would fight for all the liberty that we said we could handle rightly. And in so doing, we dreadfully miscalculated our aptitude to achieve the Lord’s definition of greatness.

Six short years later… In spite of all our assemblies, our protests, our votes and our cursing the Church in America is much more divided, alienated from truth, adamant about our conspiracies, explosive in our dialogue, and determined in our rebellion. We are no closer to greatness. We do not have the harvest. And we are adrift from the Presence of the Lord.

In the fall of 2019, our little House of Prayer in the mountains of Arizona began to hear the Lord calling His people to “seek His Face” (Psalm 27:8); one on One; where we could see a.) the degree to which our God wanted to be our Present Help in the time of trouble, and b.) where we could discover how genuinely impoverished and unprepared our ways were. We weren’t the only ones. Other believers and Houses of Prayer around the world were hearing the same summons: “Seek My Face!”

The Lord led a handful of us to give Him 100% of our focus – for 180 days – from a time of darkness and blindness, into a new hour of righteous light and prophetic vision. Through this 6 month season He led us through the prophetic lesson: A.) I am a faithful and trustworthy leader and I want you close to Me. B.) You don’t have the ability you think you have to guide yourselves through the calamity and tribulation that has now come upon you.

Now, a scant three years later – and as I look around at the Body of Christ, I lament that we not only have not given ourselves to learning the A’s and B’s of righteousness, I marvel that we (the covenant people of God) can look back over the last 36 months and ascribe no prophetic significance to the season at all!

Rather than see the hand of the Lord in our events, we are hell-bent and content to credit plagues, riots, signs and stolen elections to nebulous and nefarious forces, an attribution and pursuit that teaches us a.) nothing new about Who our redeeming God is, (in fact it diminishes His intimate power in our lives), and b.) calls for no new understanding and appropriation of the nature of our weakness and vulnerability in the world. It’s as if we’ve had our eyes plucked out and dine on delicacies while the people languish in unrighteous captivity.

Our family has given ourselves to seeing much evil and conspiracy, and little eternal and even less contrition in the events of the last three years. With this in mind, it’s vital that we ask ourselves several remedial questions:

  1. What did we learn about the zeal of the Lord as He brought 195 nations to a complete standstill in one Passover week in 2020? What did we learn about our own ability to handle a world-wide plague?
  2. What did we learn about the nature of our God when both President and prophets falsely predicted the end of the plague at Easter, and then Pentecost, and then once the warm weather came? What did we learn about our own hearts to throw off forces that were out of our control?
  3. What did we learn about the justice and compassion of our God for the marginalized and the poor in our nation as millions rose up in lament, anger, protest and violence over the inhumane treatment of numerous black individuals in our culture? What did we learn about our own self-justifying nature?
  4. What did we learn about God’s jealousy to be honored in our political activity when He suddenly struck down the very first evangelical leader who openly and resoundingly endorsed our former President? What did we learn about how quickly we can be raised up, and brought low under the hand of God?
  5. What did we learn about God’s truthfulness and integrity when thousands upon thousands of evangelical leaders incorrectly predicted that our former President would be reelected (many promising in “a landslide”) in 2020? What did we learn about the willingness of our hearts to be deceived and to operate with no accountability?
  6. What did we learn about the redemptive ways of our God as we gathered on the steps of our capital to protest an election that our champion had lost? What did we learn about our own rebellious hearts?
  7. What did we learn about our God’s gentleness when millions of us refused to mask and/or be vaccinated against a disease that was killing our weakest neighbors? What did we learn about our own self-determined liberties?
  8. What did we learn about our God’s attitude toward generational sin when thousands of Native American children’s graves were unearthed? What did we learn about our own theology of self-justification and American principle of “manifest destiny”?
  9. What did we learn about God’s fervor to reverse decades of unrighteous laws, when Roe vs. Wade was overturned? What did we learn about a people who give themselves to unceasing prayer and justice in the land?
  10. What did we learn about the steadfast reliability of God when “the red-wave” failed to materialize earlier this month? What have we learned about our incessant desire to run to false-prophets for salvation and consolation in an hour when we desperately want relief from the pressure of God’s judgments upon us as a people?

These questions aren’t ancillary to our walk with God. They tackle the brass-tacks of what we really believe, and where and how we place our faith in a real God Who earnestly wants to govern us through real threat and danger. These are questions that the Lord has eagerly wanted us to bring to Him in His tent of meeting. In many cases He’s prearranged the pressures precisely so we would come into His Presence and inquire in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)

He’s not relenting. He’s promised His Son a Bride without unrighteous spots, wrinkles or blemishes. (Ephesians 5) He’s promised His Son that when He returns His Bride will look and act and think and speak like Him. (1 John 3) If we don’t learn righteousness under the aforementioned conditions, He’s committed to having us satisfied in righteousness through more arduous conditions.

Rest assured. The more arduous conditions are about to come upon us – in order to teach us two things: A. The strong, glorious and redemptive character of Who our God is, and B. the great great need we have to live in vibrant righteousness under His Wings.

____________________
JSB • November 27, 2022

POSTSCRIPT: In the few days that have followed the original publishing of this article the Lord has released yet another level of judgment upon the Church in our nation. The issue has been brewing for years. The headlines of this past week, and our many comments and opinions on the subject tell us the Lord is inviting us into dialogue. The issue centers around our heart-attitude toward the Jewish people. Will we embrace the Father’s heart for covenant Israel? Or will we put our own self first, protect our idol and allow 1930’s Germany to come to our nation – into our churches? Have we really learned the lesson of our fathers? Or will we, join the spirit of the age and exalt ourselves in our own eyes?

We are in the process of being weighed, beloved. It’s a real judgment with real reward, and real consequence. It’s fraught with deception and temptation to alienate. As in the previous judgments in recent years there’s one road home. It’s the road taken by those who choose to be broken in an hour of self-exaltation; who see the wisdom of embracing contrition, and trust that repentance is what will (continue to) lead us deeper into the heart of our King.