Thursday, 14 July 2011
CONCLUSION OF PART II
There is a white horse. There is an army. There is a Commander who sits upon His stallion waiting. All wait in breathless anticipation. Hooves are stamping in impatience, wanting to ride the wind. The Commander waits. He waits for His Bride to become ready. All the heavens stilled at the nearness of the hour.
Abraham, Esther, David, Hosea, Nehemiah, Gideon, Ruth … all Old Testament heroes of the faith. Is it possible that these Old Testament figures can guide us into the future of today’s Christian Church? If the Church is actually called to become a Warrior in these last days, or if the call to intimacy deepens during these final hours, how is it possible that our everyday existence can be relevantly affected by these examples? Besides the obvious moral, life and historical lessons these ones leave behind, could we find the secrets we need to become that Bride without spot or wrinkle?
I believe that every one of these examples is saying the same thing. The message is strong and true and it finds itself manifested in many different walks of life, times of history, and struggles of human natures. The common denominator between these and most other examples God has given us is that if we truly want to fight the war, walk up the mountain or become the Queen; it is the true and honest relationship of our heart that must be at the forefront. Not our works, not our miracles, not our casting out of demons, nor our prophecies.
It is clear that in every scenario, the communication of the heart’s responses is the crux of the issue. Jesus, our Commander and Beloved Bridegroom, has suggested that there are those who are religious enough to do miracles, but still did not know Him. There are those who are of such spiritual power to cast out demons, and yet again still did not know Him.
Isn’t it fascinating how God leads all of us on such different walks, and we all come from different places yet our fears and concerns are not personally unique? We all worry about our children, both from external pressure from the world and that they would maintain some spiritual backbone. We all worry about where we are going, or where we came from, or what we are supposed to be doing now that we’re not. Our families of origin, our culture differences, our spiritual background all work together to create the climate where we find ourselves today.
Somehow through the noise, the pressures, the history and even the worries, we must find the still, small voice and be able to recognize when He calls our name. We may find ourselves in the highest level of leadership or in the lowest position; God still demands the same attention. If we are to find any levels in our hearts deeper than we have already gone, we must determine to do away with the focus on the outward. This has been reiterated many times over the years, but the truth of it still remains as powerful as it once was. The only one concerned with the true condition of our hearts is the one to whom we are called to give our hearts.
What does this Warrior Bride have to do with my family life? If for a moment we look at the examples taken from Scripture, family strength is crucial to facilitate our goal. The Scripture is clear that we can do miracles, prophesy, even raise the dead, but if we do not have love, it means nothing. Those signs speak to me of highly spiritual people, but without love the spirituality is lost.
Love begins in our homes. Love is defined by our relationship with our spouse and our children. God has entrusted us with a nucleus of people, both young and old, not to be merely tolerated, abused or put up with, but rather to gain insight into His intimacy. We are to practice the art of intimacy within our family dynamic. As we have seen in the examples, intimacy comes at every level and has many different faces. The common denominator in all is, once again, the communication level and the true heart responses.
Our time within our family unit is what points us to the family of God. It is all intertwined and interdependent. The more that honest, heartfelt communication flows between family members and those of our church bodies, the more the walls break down. There is no more time for petty attitudes concerning one another. There is no more time to be wasted making external judgments about those that we are supposed to be upholding. As the heart of God becomes clearer to us, we take on His heart for those around us. God’s heart is not that we should win the world at the sacrifice of our families. God’s heart is not that we stretch our children’s fortitude to its breaking point, but rather make our children’s needs our priority. Our hearts in seeking out the intimacy with our Bridegroom need to be turned to our homes, as the place we are to be taught true intimacy, and the truth about who we are.
Our children need to see men and women who are not afraid to call on God in front of them. Our families need to see that our ‘calling’ is not the priority in our lives, but our knowing the One who has been calling. Children only learn how to pray by watching those they love praying. There is a definite place of intimacy and transparency when children and parents pray together. We learn valuable lessons on the heart of the One that loves us, from those ones who He has entrusted to us.
The truth of the Warrior Bride is that it is not reserved for our prayer closets, if we even have them. The truth of the Warrior Bride is that it must have relevance in our daily living. It makes very little difference how prophetic we are if, in our homes, our responses to our Bridegroom are not evident. It is my belief that we are being called to be a true and honest people, that while we are very human, we are making our way to becoming people who care less about what others will think of them and more about the honesty of our heart.
What does the Warrior Bride have to do with my church and business life? As it was also raised earlier, again the relevance is clear. We live in times where we are surrounded by relationships of all kinds. People, who are in authority over us, people who are under our leadership, and peers at every level. Mutual respect and spiritual backbone should be the cornerstones of our professional relationships.
It is no longer acceptable to take advantage of a weaker brother or sister in order to gain position. It is no longer acceptable to flirt with waitresses, even if you are a married preacher. It is no longer acceptable to tolerate racism and issues of perversion either in attitude or speech. It is no longer acceptable to not be accountable to someone who you will not lie to. We scoff that none of these things apply to our lives. We puff ourselves up to think that issues of our character are just fine the way they are. Perhaps one of those specific areas is not the problem in your life, but you know what your issue is. The public arena is probably one of the easiest areas to fool people. The face we wear in front of our peers and our insubordinates is the one of our choosing. The level of honesty and truth is our own to decide. It is at this level that our motives are weighed and our character is honed.
God has something to say to you. All that is required is an open mind, open heart and our free will in offering to take up our cross. A good test for us is to look at our prayer time. Is it taken up only with our list we are taking to God? Or is it preoccupied with the list we receive from God? Upon hearing that voice calling us to lay down that area which is the hardest to let go of, are we clinging to our possessions or the song our Savior is singing over us declaring our freedom? Do we run in the direction of the voice for our protection, or cower in the corner in fear, or run the other way afraid of what we may hear next from this Voice?
Again, a personal, private affair. No one is looking – there is nothing to be gained or lost in the eyes of others. Only our personal place of commitment, peace and faith remains at stake.
Count the cost, build the house, but listen to the Voice. God still has something to say and He is desperate to whisper the secrets of His love to your heart in the middle of the night. He is anxious for you to know Him in His power and His love.
Some of us, at this point, are third and fourth generation Christians, having grown up in some form of spiritual household. Or perhaps the salvation experience happened a lifetime ago for you. The beautiful part about these situations is that Christian heritage is deep and strong, but the difficult side is that our ‘old’ man is someone we are completely unfamiliar with. Selfish ambition, pride and spiritual gluttony have become something some of us have accepted as the normal existence in our spiritual walk, never dreaming that the more these are exercised, no matter the role we play, the further we are form the One who is calling us.
Being a Warrior means doing away with weights that so easily beset us. Selfish ambition, even in the spiritual world, besets us to the point we can see nothing else but where we are going. We don’t see the ones beside us or behind us, who need to hear us tell them not to ring the bell of giving up. We can’t take the time in our professional lives to stop long enough to extend grace to a brother who is weaker. Spiritual gluttony has us bound by signs and wonders, and yet we are called to ‘be still and know that He is God’. Being still begins our path to intimacy. It is one that takes our time. Being still means actually seeing those around us and recognizing their needs. Being still is not making a move without waiting for the Voice of our Commander, no matter how long it takes.
The trumpet is going to sound. The white horse is going to fly on the wings of the wind. The Commander is going to come. The Wedding Feast is being prepared. There is going to be a moment when He calls our name. There is going to be a moment when we will recognize that whisper, that voice, that sweetness that has lead us and loved us during our own times of battle. We will be so grateful that we took the time to deal with the undisciplined areas of our hearts, no matter where that road took us. There is coming a time when our Beloved will lean his ear to us, and listen to our continued love, honor and worship. There is coming a time when we will judge. We will sit with our Commander and He will incline His ear to us, as we inclined ours to Him before.
Intercession and intimacy, worship, being a watchman and a prophet, must all be a part of our preparation experience. These are the prerequisites for being a Warrior Bride. Looking past ourselves and onto the job at hand is what makes this Warrior Bride that best of the best. These attributes make her the principle unit called on in the face of the greatest war ever known to man.
Abraham had his Beloved’s ear. Through his belief, Abraham trusted. He walked on and trusted the pledge of his tomorrows. Ruth knew the intimacy of submission. Our hearts must, in all humility, take the direction of our Commander/Bridegroom. No matter how mundane that direction is, for it is in the mundane where our redemption meets us. Worship must be an integral component of our becoming the Warrior Bride. The freedom and abandon David teaches us to desire, works towards bringing down our prison walls. Worshipping in spirit and in truth becomes our battle cry.
Nehemiah and Hosea both made the choices it took to make the work of the Bridegroom happen. The Watchman and the Prophet are close in their disposition and calling. Both have the daunting task of going against the popular choice of the present era, even in the church. In responding to their individual calls they have allowed us insight into the kind of commitment needed to fulfill our own calling.
Preparation and discipline was the filter that we started with, and it is with this that we must end. We must be prepared. We must take a hold of the things that have been left undone in our lives and deal with them. For some, this means remembering the past and acknowledging its existence. For some, this means validating the past and moving on. For other, it means waking up to this present day and not living only for where it takes them. It is a personal journey, just as it has been all along. For each one the call is different, but the call is there and we must heed it.
We don’t like discipline. As adults, we believe we are above it. When those in authority try to impose it on us, we rebel sometimes outwardly, but more often in our hearts. Discipline, in our minds, is only called for in cases of dealing with children or those who have blatant sin. While that is a reasonable assumption, to me it seems that some of use need the discipline of our Commander, to keep us true to our calling. To not discipline us, even as adults, our Beloved does us a great disservice, allowing us to wander unchecked into territories of spiritual ineffectiveness, or a hornet’s next of enemy fire.
For each one, clear choices are given all along the path. The narrow road is narrow for a reason. It is difficult and lonely and not many are lured there by its brilliance. The wide road is one that is paved with indifference, unchecked hearts and bright lights. Many want to travel there because it is a place of recognition and fast results. The narrow path is the higher road. Although it is a lonely walk, the Lover of our Soul finds us there, becoming our companion, our soul mate. No matter where this walk finds us, it is the choice of our hearts that will determine the depth of our calling, not the outward manifestations of that call.
To quote from an earlier passage, “As we submit to the leadership of our Commander/Bridegroom in both training for warfare and preparation for the intimacy of His Chamber, our hearts are made stronger and our spirits softer to His voice. We can recognize His whisper whether on the battlefield or in the Bridal Chamber”.
“Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Nehemiah, The Watchman
Nehemiah was a cupbearer. His position was of great importance to the king. He was also a Jew. His people were in recovery, a remnant trying to comprehend what had happened to them and how to move on. The symbol of their worship, the House of their God, had been destroyed. It lay in charred ruins, just like their hopes and dreams.
Nehemiah was a cupbearer. A cupbearer with a heart for how things should be and how God intended for them to be once again. A cupbearer whom God equipped for the job to which he was called.
The story of Nehemiah is a very personal account about the struggle one man has against the despondency and hopelessness of a nation. Amid ridicule and impossible situations, this man’s commitment to reestablishing the Temple and the Law was astounding. He is a cupbearer who becomes a Watchman. In my personal opinion, being a Watchman is a vital component to becoming the Warrior Bride. It would seem that Nehemiah’s willingness to respond to each situation with fortitude and resolve, must be something that we have in our every day responses.
A Watchman is a protector. They are people with an eagle eye, who are acutely aware of the weaknesses of the defense systems surrounding those they are to protect. A Watchman is a navigator. They are people with a strong sense of community, having the ability to maneuver protective forces around the weak links, without sacrificing the work already accomplished. A Watchman is a wise and firm leader. They are people with a powerful determination to set things right, and can enlist the support of all those beneath them without segregation. Finally a Watchman is a force to be reckoned with. They are people who can recognize where the enemy is attacking, and move to deal with that attack swiftly and competently.
All these things are displayed through the eyes of Nehemiah. His competent and organized leadership in the face of much difficulty led the people to make him their governor. His ingenuity in dealing with the attacks of their enemies led the people to respect his opinion and follow his leadership to the letter.
Nehemiah’s purpose was two-fold, to re-build the wall around the Temple and to reestablish the Law. In doing this, Nehemiah fulfills his commission. He is not sidetracked nor do the smoke screens sent by his enemies to take his attention off of the job at hand, deter him. In a swift manner, Nehemiah places protection at the weak spots along the wall, and continues on.
This is such a powerful example for us. How often do things that get our attention off of the job to which we are called, sidetrack us? How often can the enemy place smoke screens in our path to cause us to lose our focus? Nehemiah was a man of careful planning, for even during the sleeping hours, the wall was protected.
With so much in our lives clamoring for our attention, how is it possible for us to find balance, but stay in complete focus? I would say it is by clinging to the Commander. It is by ‘laying aside the weights that so easily beset us’. It is by keeping our hearts clear of the things that pull us aside from our calling.
Examining the heart of Nehemiah, the thing that perhaps strikes me the most is that he chose to identify himself with his people. The remnant was trying to salvage any bits of pride they had left when he came and chose to get dirty with them. They needed someone who could motivate them and believe in their ability to rebuild the wall. Nehemiah somehow understood that with the rebuilding of that structure came the rebuilding of their national and personal pride in who they were. It was his choice. He had lived in the palace and he had served the king.
Choosing to leave our palaces, pulpits or our soapboxes to get dirty trying to restore personal pride in our people is the work of a Watchman. It is a noble and valiant effort, and one cannot choose that road lightly. It means protecting the weak links. It means navigating protection on the night watch, when all those around are sleeping. It means leading through ridicule, difficulties and insurmountable odds. It means rallying a remnant together who have perhaps lost their sense of identity and personal pride, and need the chance to re-build.
A Watchman has a keen eye. Watchmen are people with a powerful ability to see the enemies advances and thwart those opportunities. They do not just see, however, they have a sword to fight with in one hand and a brick to work with in the other. They do not live in a world of their own, not getting dirty or building up themselves.
It would seem that Nehemiah has the true nature of a leader. He is one who works for and with the people he serves. His job is important, but his eye is never far from the weak spot in the wall. He is touched by his people, he is ridiculed on their behalf, and he puts himself in the place of hazard for the sake of those he loves. He does not ask for them to carry out one task which he himself is not willing to perform.
Nehemiah’s story is not unlike some of our churches today. Complacency slips in. Casual sin settles on congregations like a comfortable blanket. Watchmen are sometimes frustrated and weary souls. Nehemiah had brought reform, the people repented. Nehemiah has choreographed the rebuilding of the wall, only to have to close those gates for those who began to disregard the Sabbath. He had helped to rebuild the pride that they had lost through exile and evil leadership, only to have them intermarry once again.
His was neither an easy road nor an easy choice, but through all of it, Nehemiah remained true to the calling of his heart. He bucked the complacency, he battled disloyalty to God, and he struggled through the ridicule of the Law he had worked so hard to maintain.
A Watchman has a somber heart as they must relinquish control and watch loved ones flounder that no longer want protection. Watchmen must fight to the bitter end to do what they can for those who become complacent, but cannot change their message in order to win back those who walk away. They must plead on behalf of those loved ones, those sheep who have wandered off, but must maintain the focus of their calling.
Nehemiah could not allow casual sin to re-enter the camp of his people. He could not turn a blind eye to those ones who began disregarding the Sabbath. No matter how many times they had been warned, forgiven, warned again, forgiven again, they still chose to allow the enemy into the camp. And Nehemiah still chose to get dirty on their behalf, all without sacrificing his own personal mandate.
Perhaps to the remnant, the little things didn’t seem to matter. They probably crept in undetected, or shushed away as insignificant. However, little things when they are heart issues never stay little very long. “Lusts of the flesh, lust of the eye and the pride of life’ seems to encompass so much of what we deal with. If we allow the enemy a place in our mind, our homes, our lives or our churches, even with the seemingly insignificant things, pretty soon our focus will evaporate.
It is possible to imagine that no one would have thought twice about Nehemiah taking a foreign wife, as others had, even though at that time it was against what God’s law established. He still made the choice to remain true to the calling of his heart. His focus remained rock solid, in spite of many smoke screens the enemy threw his direction to catch him off guard. We need our focus grounded and steady. Little things slip in faster than we think. Lust finds a playground in our minds. Pride in the fact that we do not think we sin, swells our chest and has us believing we are above all of that weakness. Whatever we see that we want, we must have, disregarding any call to financial stewardship and materialistic balance. These are issues of our character that don’t make any difference to anyone but our Commander/Bridegroom. No one else see that playground in our minds, or our credit card bills. No one sees our chest swell with pride as we watch our peers confess the sins of their heart.
It is my belief that Nehemiah made the choices to be true to what God was calling him to. I believe that he chose to not disregard the Sabbath, just like once before he chose to leave the palace. It is our choice as well. If our focus or vision is blurry, it is our heart that needs to become clearer.
A Watchman is careful to guard himself as well as those he loves.
Ruth, The Intimate
Our example of Ruth is certainly one of intimacy. As the ancestress of the Messiah, the story of Ruth also becomes a marvelous foreshadowing of the qualities we need to enhance our own life. This story is also one that captures the imagination, describing the love and character of the Bridegroom, ensuring the safety and success of the object of his affections.
We would do well to remember some of our foundational concepts in our look at becoming that Warrior Bride. The story of Ruth typically relates to women and becomes passed off as a woman’s love story – men only relating to the Boaz character, leaving the women to cling to the character of our heroine. The walls of our gender must come down, however. We must begin to see that these examples we have been given have to be applied to our lives, and learned from, in spite of our gender issues.
Once again I generalize, but the probability is that women find themselves aligning to the stories of David and Abraham much easier than men can align themselves to the story of Ruth. We have been given both genders to learn the total picture of who God is, and to learn those things from each other that point us to the truth of our Commander/Bridegroom. As these walls fall, we can embrace our differences, and as our Commander dictates, becoming closer to the Bride we need to be.
The striking quality of Ruth is her humility. Her story is one of commitment and obedience and trust. As Naomi is leading, Ruth is following. As Naomi is directing, Ruth is obeying. For most of us, our obedience days are over. Taking direction is difficult. As children we are taught to ‘trust and obey’, obedience is expected, and most of the time our voices are meant to be in compliance with the one who is directing. As we become adults, male or female, we place great value on the fact that we now have our own voice. It dictates to us our comings and goings. It is the rare individual who can submit to the direction of another if that one does not give latitude for our own discretion. Our own ideas, plans and agendas become our identity, they become who we are, instead of our ability to follow the directions of one above us.
It is interesting to me that whenever we discuss issues of submission, it seems to be always in terms of husbands and wives, male and female, the gender walls again. I understand where these arguments originate, and why we get stuck on them. Paul is giving us guidance in areas where we still, 2,000 years later, are having problems getting it straight.
What is fascinating to me is that I believe one of the greatest pictures of true submission that gets overlooked, is that of Ruth. Not her submission to Boaz, but her compliance to Naomi is what astounds me. It is the model for our submission in almost every situation. The older advising the younger. The younger ensuring the older is taken care of. The younger following directives without even her own voice given place. Her tongue was silent, and her heart obeyed.
The trailblazers and trendsetters will not be happy with this. Most of us, myself included, would like to make our eternal mark by being one who has his own mind and voice.
Could I submit that some of the people I know that have made huge eternal differences have been some of the most humble and submissive people ever know? Some examples of this line of thinking come to mind. Mark Buntain, missionary to India, Mother Theresa, Amy Carmichael, and perhaps lesser known, but equally great in the Kingdom of God, Ron Garrison, one of God’s current ambassadors to Russia, or Todd Bender whose mandate is to reach inner city children for the sake of the Gospel. There are legions of those who are quietly doing the work they have been called to. You have your own heroes of the faith. Whatever our personal feelings towards the humanity of these individuals may be, the evidence of their humility and submission to the voice of God is very clear. Am I suggesting these are merely victims to their call, without power or identity or voice? Never. The power of Mark Buntain came from his quietude. His identity was clear. He was never a victim, but he was submitted. His voice was never silent in his communication with his Commander, but more importantly, he was constantly listening for his Commander’s voice, and ready to do His bidding.
Most of us think that it is our voice that gives us our identity, but truthfully, it is our heart. Our heart is seen through the most spiritual of words or the hardest eyes. It is Ruth’s heart of humility, obedience and submission that draws us, and Boaz the bridegroom, to her. Her submission was a choice, like it must be for all of us.
How then do we break free from religious tradition and from the trappings of our pride? If not with our voice and our maverick spirit, how can we hope to bring about the changes we so desperately need? I would suggest it be by clinging to our Commander/Bridegroom. It is lying on the threshing floor at His feet in submission. It is doing the work, however menial or difficult, without our voice in complaint or discord. It is knowing the Voice and following the directives.
Groundbreaking work spiritually is done, not by the proud, but by the humble. True humility is secure in its identity. It is confident in its place of trust to the one it is submitted to.
What about those difficult situations? Surely humility is not called for to overcome difficulties. What about those areas where we are seemingly ‘stuck’, or must contend with people of a difficult nature? I would submit that Ruth’s walk to Bethlehem with Naomi could not have been an easy one. This woman who had left with so much, 2 sons and a husband, now came back calling herself ‘Mara’, the very definition of bitterness. With Ruth walking beside her, Naomi says, “I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” If we had been Ruth, our personal reactions to that would have been anything but humility and obedience. Ruth’s commitment to Naomi went well beyond what was expected of a daughter-in-law, and still Naomi’s response was one only of her own loss and bitterness. Of course, Naomi’s response is a natural one, losing as much as she did. Our concentration is on Ruth and her heart responses, however. With Ruth as our very human example, our situations where we feel that we are ‘stuck’ in dead ends, or with difficult people, we find that humility and submission must become our code.
At whatever place Boot Camp finds us, our humility and submission will be the only resource we have for change. In order to maneuver land mines and skirmishes, our hearts need to take on the submissive nature of Ruth, following directives, no matter how mundane the task seems. Our Commander knows the battle plan. He knows the layout of the enemy’s camp. It we submit to His leadership, the victory will be ours. If we, in our arrogance, believe our eyes see a better way, we will stay in Boot Camp until we have learned our lessons. Far better to let the Commander lead, and as we learn to follow the Voice, the intimacy will come.
“…whither thou goest, I will go…”
David, The Worshipper
King David. The worshipping warrior. The man God calls His friend. The very picture of the Warrior who is intimate with the one for whom he is at war. Of course, every example we are given in Scripture are of human people living for a perfect God. It is debatable though, whether we are given another such example as the life of David. His emotional highs and lows speak to our emotions today. His commitment to being true to his heart, for good or for bad, speaks to those of us who have given our honest efforts in spite of our humanity and weakness.
Many aspects of the life of David can be translated into our everyday situations to encourage and uplift us, allowing us into that same friendship relationship with our God. King David is one of the finest examples in Scripture that encompasses the full description of the Warrior Bride. The intimacy and warfare that define David’s life from beginning to end is what should hallmark our existence.
Graciously, we are shown this man’s personal communication with his Commander/Bridegroom. His confidences, his fear, his anger, his peace – all are shown in their transparency to help us know that that level of communication we seek is attainable. Even the times of ignoring that voice, David is quick to re-establish the communication necessary to set things right. To quote from an earlier passage, it is not the perfection of our trying, but in the trying itself which pleases our Commander/Bridegroom.
One of the remarkable aspects of David’s life, from our earliest pictures would be the sense of abandon and freedom we see written across every encounter David has with God. God seems to make it a point to show us that David’s responses are with his total heart and with no thought for what may be the expectation of others. As God’s friend, it was imperative that God allowed us into the areas where David ignored the communication that was so imperative to them both.
We would lose a valuable example of what we are aspiring to attain in our lives, if we could not look past David’s weaknesses, and look onto what He was in the eyes of God. Again, we have done this at times on a surface level, which meets our needs up to this point. It behooves us to diligently take note of the heart response of this particular example, in order to search our own heart for the abandon and freedom we need to carry on.
The place of freedom is a powerful place to live. It is a place of truth, a place of joy, a place of anger and sometimes a place of pain. Most of all, however, it is a place of honesty. Our heartfelt response to every situation that comes across our path, this is the place of freedom. What makes this place a place with such power, is that it is precisely our heartfelt reactions that gives us our truest indication of where we are in our journey. Most of us find it necessary to temper or moderate what we are truly feeling, probably for the benefit of those around us. Total abandon and true freedom make it impossible to live a life that does not make extreme choices. This life is not a people pleasing life. It takes us out of the place where we feel most comfortable, watching over sheep in the pasture, and into the place of power, meeting and destroying our Goliaths.
In the past we have had to be so careful, so wary. Our examples of freedom and abandon have been less than solid. We have our tradition, our propriety, and our godly order that helps us maintain control. I would suggest that these are vital for the life of any of us who wants the stability and strength that comes from order. In looking at David’s life, however, I do not see someone who has gone off any deep ends to expose what was in his heart. There is no indication that he lost any of his understanding of the holiness of God. If anything, David’s understanding of the reverence of God was enhanced by his freedom. There is much to suggest that his heart dictated his actions, and his heart was that of one who understood who he was to God.
Looking for a moment at the more self-seeking areas of David’s heart, we find that he is just as honest in his responses. His issues and weaknesses have been displayed publicly for generations and generations to see, judge, and learn from. What if the self-seeking areas in our hearts were to come to light? It doesn’t matter where our walk finds us – from minister to homemaker, from judge to convict; our heart is the issue and has been from the beginning. David’s heart was free. It was free to worship and express that worship in the truest sense possible. It was free to listen and follow all the instructions needed to destroy a giant. His heart was repentant and he was quick to fall on his face in repentance, as his weakness became clear.
Would that we all could have our honest responses so close to the heart of our Commander/Bridegroom. It takes us a series of checks and balances, a list of right and wrong responses, before we can find the truth inside. Am I suggesting that order and checks for balance are done away with, all in the name of freedom and abandon? Absolutely not! May it never be that we lose our ability to be checked in our spirit. May we stop giving place in our hearts for secret sin. The self-serving and self-seeking kind that must be tempered before it can be brought out.
I am, however, suggesting that the more our heart response comes in line with our Bridegroom’s, the more often we can find ourselves responding, not out of checks and balances, but out of freedom and abandon. As a King, as a Warrior, as a Worshipper, as a Friend of God, David’s heart is one of freedom. It is one of truth. And it is one of abandon.
Shall we all then dance in the street in a loincloth? Shall we start carrying our slingshots for our respective giants? Physically , no, but spiritually yes. Freedom does not do away with propriety, but it should enhance the God-given direction and order of our lives.
It would be a thing of wonder in our lives if we could dance freely without shame before our Commander/Bridegroom. It would be a thing of complete power if we could, at His bidding, take our small slingshot and little stones and completely defeat our giants. It would be a thing of complete humility when, as our true heart condition is exposed, we literally fall on our face in abandon and repentance.
We make the mistake of thinking that freedom is only reserved for the victorious Jericho marches, or the giants that tumble down. I would suggest that freedom find itself in our everyday responses. Our response to sin, our response to pain, our response to hope, and our response to love.
So much of our attitude is determined by our conditioned response that we have lost our ability to relate to our Bridegroom honestly. We would like to think that sin no longer has a place in our hearts. We would like to try and convince God and those around us that we no longer have any particular areas of weakness. What ends up happening at that point is that our honesty then has to be clouded by what we want to be, instead of what we truly are. It is my opinion that David was fortunate to have his weaknesses so exposed that it was impossible not to see his self-serving nature. In most of us, these issues are heart issues that are only known by our Bridegroom and us. What is important for us to know, truly know, is that it only matters to our Bridegroom and us. He is the only one to whom our heart issues are an offense. As we start to temper our heart issues with our heart responses, we create a prison for ourselves.
Freedom is truth, joy, anger, pain, peace, but most of all power. As we abandon ourselves to our Bridegroom, and perpetuate the honesty of our hearts, we unlock the prison doors we have created for ourselves.
David was a worshipper. True worship comes from true freedom. It is likely that the more we truly worship from our heart the more we can discover the freedom that exists and our hearts can change.
“…And the truth shall set you free…”
Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Hosea, The Prophet
Coming from our original picture of our Glorious Warrior Bride and her Beloved Commander/Bridegroom, we find that there is becoming a greater depth of intimacy and communication as we get closer to our goal. We can hear clearer that sweet whisper and the battle cry of the one our hearts long to behold. Can it be that we hear these calls in the clamor of our everyday? In the midst of deadlines, children, bills, and all sorts of other commitments, how can that voice be heard above the noise? At times we are so busy doing our good works and showing those around us how much we hear from God, that His voice can actually get drowned out.
In the midst of another very human picture comes an example of how great the communication must be between the Bridegroom and His Warrior Bride. The Book of Hosea contains one of the most vivid pictures to be found in the entire Old Testament. This prophet was given the job of voicing and having a role in the picture of redemption and the redeeming love of the Bridegroom for His Bride. As the debate rages on as to whether or not Hosea knew his wife to be a harlot, or whether in fact he married her at all – the story being allegorical, we cannot allow ourselves to lose sight of the marvelous picture that our Bridegroom has given us.
A picture that all of us understand. Young, old, Jewish, Gentile, Old Testament, New Testament or today right now, we all understand marriage and its vows. It is a relevant picture. The Children of Israel had been unfaithful time and time again. The wickedness of the leadership was legendary. An evil king would take over and at every corner suddenly there were monuments to false gods. The sacrificing of children among them was taking place as a regular occurrence. The precious temple ornaments and worship utensils were flagrantly misused and defiled.
Interspersed throughout the years of wickedness a godly king would be established, and he would tear down all the idols and temples and every altar of worship, trying to re-establish the temple of Yahweh, their one true God. Even after everything that God had done for them, the Children of Israel still were fickle in the obedience and devotion. This seems to be the theme for the entire Old Testament. The struggle between godly and ungodly leadership leads to a people who are becoming blinded to the truth.
All of this is elementary. We have heard of the grumbling and complaining of the Children of Israel most of our church lives. Being a prophet during this time would have been one of the most challenging callings ever. Having to remain constant in a constantly changing world. Having to have an ear to the Voice of the One True God, while the world is clamoring for attention. Having to maintain the vision given from the heart of God, while all around them their eyes are being filled with sights of pagan rituals and children being sacrificed to false gods.
Doesn’t that describe our situation today and what we are to be? Don’t we need that single-mindedness in the face of constant change? Isn’t our sight sometimes clouded by the sights around us, instead of maintaining the vision we have received from the heart of God?
The prophet of the Old Testament was one who was called to re-align people to the truth. The truth of their ways, the truth of who God was, and the truth of what their wickedness was costing them. While serving a different function today, I believe the prophetic message is the same.
If we could perhaps take a deeper look into the life of Hosea, for a moment, we might see that there is relevance for us today beyond the issue of marriage vows and the significance of taking an unfaithful partner back to our lives. Certainly not wanting to take away any of the strength of this passage and how it relates to marriages today, I believe that preparations for becoming the kind of Bride our Bridegroom is returning for can be clearly seen.
There is a level, of course, where we can place ourselves in the position of having been the one who has disregarded all the things that God has given us before, and at the first hint of trouble turned and run away. In all of our honesty, we all are unfaithful to our call and to the one who has called us. We would like to ‘set our eyes on the prize’, but distraction seems to have a louder voice. Like the Children of Israel, before too long, we are serving masters in our lives we didn’t even know we had. And yet still, our Beloved Bridegroom purchases us back. He brings us to the desert and strips us of all the ornaments we have received while looking to our own way.
Even as Christians, even as saints, we get dirty from the places where we live, and some of the places where we live are fraught with challenge and pain. Our Beloved wants to make our ‘Valley of Trouble into a Door of Hope’ (2:14, 15). He wants to adorn us Himself. It is to Him alone our gifts should be given.
Looking into the prophetic heart carries us into a place where our Commander has our ear. In intercession, we have our Beloved’s ear and we trust Him with our petition. With a prophetic heart, which we are told to desire, we are trusted with the battle plan. We have the confidence of our Commander, that what He needs us to relay, we will. Going one step further into the life of this prophet gives us an indication of what it is going to take to make eternal differences. Not all of us are being called to marry a prostitute just to prove God’s point. Not all of us have the ear of the nation to show them the error of their ways. In fact, I would say almost none of us fit into either category.
The truth of the matter however, is that whatever it is that God has asked us to say or do, needs to be done. Just as in the life of Abraham, the level of communication of those looking towards reigning with our Bridegroom must be constant.
Has God asked you to take a stand in some way? In your heart of hearts you would do anything for God, anything He asked you to, but does fear have a louder voice? Does the fear of your family, your church, your Board Members, have you bound to not take that deeper step? Has God spoken to you about something you need to do that might wreak havoc in your position? Is the voice inside calling you to something that is outside of your comfort zone? Most of us on the surface would be quick to say that we would follow and are following the mandate we have been given. Looking to our hearts, maybe there are areas that we have been fighting to hold on to that we need stripped away?
If we take the story at face value, there was nothing glorious about what Hosea did. In the natural, one would expect a prophet to have a ‘godly’ wife, one who was faithful, at the very least one who was supportive and made no mistakes. In the natural, marrying a prostitute probably did nothing for his social standing. But in following the voice of God, Hosea met the challenge, swallowed his pride and even bought her back after she walked away.
I know the areas in my heart that are being challenged. The truth is we all have them. We will all have them until the day comes where we stand complete as we make up that Glorious Warrior Bride, without any spot or wrinkle. The imperative point is the willingness to listen to His voice. Once again, it comes down to the level of communication we have and the amount of truth we will let ourselves hear from His heart.
There is much to be learned from the journeys of the Children of Israel, but I believe even more can be gleaned from the lives of the prophets and those to whom the Voice of the Bridegroom is an familiar as their own. They made the choices to hear that Voice. They made the choices to see the visions. They made the choices to sacrifice their own agenda, for the agenda of the one they served.
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Abraham, The Intercessor
Promises, pledges, oaths and vows. Words of marriage and, oddly enough, of war as well. Many promises exist throughout the engagement period of marriage. Pledges and oaths are taken in armies to maintain allegiance to our country of origin. Vows are made standing before an altar in a wedding ceremony. We take comfort and security in the promises and vows made in those decisive hours. Our oaths and pledges keep us in a narrow focus during times of war. Our allegiance is critical in times of difficulty.
It is the same in our understanding of the relationship between our Commander/Bridegroom and ourselves as we press on. In our journey to get from where we are to where we need to be, can we with any success examine the life of an intercessor, the life of a patriarch, the life of a very human man, and find our Warrior Bride?
Intercession from my understanding is an intimate knowledge of the voice and heart of God. It is the comprehension of the workings of God and a confidence that is built upon the knowledge of His promises. Intercession becomes the communication between the Bridegroom and His Betrothed.
It is my opinion that one of the greatest examples of this, of course, is Abraham. While the art of intercession and the life of Abraham are complete studies in themselves, this is not meant to be an exhaustive study of either. For our purposes, the life of Abraham, his humanity and his beautiful communion with the same Bridegroom we await, gives us a precious insight into issues of our own communication and character.
It is imperative to bear in mind that it is our humanity that brings us to a place of trusting and dependence on that Voice we are desperate for. Abraham went forth on the promise of an unseen God to an unknown land. Abraham survived, functioned and stood firm on the promises of the Voice who spoke to him. This does not take away his humanity or his very human response to situations that seemed beyond the promise. Just as in many of us today, it was fear and impatience that drove him, at times, to shut out the voice instead of trusting in the One who called him out.
The stories are so familiar that they are like old friends. The exchange between Abraham and God for the preservation of Sodom and Gomorrah, the covenant of circumcision, Hagar and Ishmael, the miracle of Sarah and Isaac and, of course, the great sacrifice.
In the midst of all the communication between Abraham and the Almighty, we are allowed to catch a glimpse into God’s patience with our humanity. In his heart of hearts, “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness”.
The communication between Abraham and our Commander/Bridegroom is what we need today. Believing the One who makes the promise allows us to become the Warrior Bride. We must believe the Voice we hear and trust in the fulfillment of the promises and pledges it brings. If we follow the Voice in doing battle, the victory shall be ours. If we are listening for the intimate call into His chamber, the promise is that we shall know Him.
Abraham walked with ridicule from his wife, questions from his son and greed from his nephew, yet still it was the promise and the Voice that gave him the hope that he clung to. Just like us however, just because we hear the Voice and have the promises doesn’t negate our humanity.
I believe the essential element throughout Abraham’s life is that his heart believed. He believed that he could commune with that One whose voice he heard. When all those around him were traveling the same way, were also part of the covenant, what sets Abraham apart was that he believed the promise.
Abraham also knew the cost of the promise. There is much to be said about trust and belief as he walked his only son up that mountain. A knife was raised to actually sacrifice the seed of the promise. The very Voice that had called him, lead him and that he trusted was now asking him to lay down the very thing he had been given.
The Warrior Bride must learn to listen to and believe the Voice of our Commander/Bridegroom. We have been generations of skeptics and those who can go through the motions, but not actually allow things to touch our hearts. In our humanity, our trust has crumbled and our belief system is unbalanced.
Our place as the Warrior Bride is one that has the ear of our Bridegroom. Just as Abraham plead the cause of a lost city, so we too have the freedom to intercede on the behalf of so many others. Just as Abraham believed, though that belief was stretched and tested to the very limits, we also need to believe the Voice of our Commander/Bridegroom. If that Voice tells us to sacrifice the very seed of our dreams, we need to get to the place of trusting and believing.
It is such a diverse and personal journey. For each of us the exchange of pledges and promises, oaths and vows will be vastly different. What my Bridegroom asks of me in a show of my trust and belief will perhaps mean nothing to you. But it will be the seed of my promise. It is the very promise that holds my hope and faith and dreams, and it will be tied up and laid on an altar for the testing of my heart.
There are times I am fearful for my life and my family, so my humanity kicks in to reveal the unbelief in my heart. There are times I am impatient for the fulfillment of all that has been promised, so I run on ahead of my Commander right into enemy fire. There are times when indeed everything is ready to be sacrificed. How is that walk up the mountain for me? How is it for you? Is it spent begging and pleading for the chance to escape having to make this sacrifice? The cost is too great? We say no cost is too great for our Commander/Bridegroom, but are we able to lift the knife? The issues of sacrifice are highly personal and different for us all.
As we are preparing ourselves to be the Glorious Bride of Christ, it is imperative that we believe Him. Not just believe in Him and what He has done for us, but rather believe Him. On the surface, most of us scoff at this notion as being an infantile concept. Of course we believe Him. Huffing and puffing, we sputter about how much we love our Bridegroom and how close we are to Him. Look at all we do for Him and the fruit of our labor. Understanding that I applaud all the work and the fruit, I beg you to consider the possibility of a deeper belief system.
Would you, in all honesty, have believed in a voice that promised you the world – descendants as the number of the stars in the heavens – and then asked you to kill that very promise? I submit that this is a challenging notion about our trust in a Bridegroom who will not hurt us, or tease us, or play with our emotions.
What has been your promise? To be sure, you have heard that Voice pledging your future. Now, what has He been asking for? Can you even make the walk up the mountain without pleading for the possibility of not having to sacrifice at all?
These issues are such intensely personal ones that they virtually have nothing to do with your public walk. No one else knew what Abraham had to do. He made no effort to garner sympathy for this great sacrifice. He simply walked and believed. We see clearly that Abraham had our fears, our impatience, and our humanity. We see that it was his belief that enabled the walk up the mountain.
The more we make the sacrifices we are called to make, the more we know and understand the heart of the One who calls us. We can have an exchange with Him, we can intercede, because we know Him, we trust Him and we believe Him. Our trust will lead us to intimacy and war. The oaths and pledges given by our Commander raise our expectations and our level of trust.
As a bride stands before her groom, and a soldier before his officer, mutual trust and belief must accompany the promises and pledges made. Nothing will happen of any consequence if that trust is not there. Battles will not be won, neither will a partnership be established. Our Warrior Bride must make every effort to understand, trust and believe the Voice that calls her. In doing that she will be rewarded with the communion she craves and victory in the wars that are so necessary to win.
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…”
Monday, 11 July 2011
CONCLUSION OF PART I
As the time speeds closer to the fulfillment of our promise as the Warrior Bride, it becomes clear that the cost is greater and greater. Our commitment and faithfulness to our Beloved Commander comes at a higher price than ever before in our lives. The ironic thing about this cost is that it cannot be measured before it is required. You do not know what will be asked of you before it is asked.
As our Bridegroom/Commander begins the processes of cleansing and purifying, much of what we hold dear to us will be deemed a deterrent to our calling. For some it will be a larger than life step of faith into an unknown country following wherever the Commander leads. For others it will be the daily dying to many little areas that we thought were unimportant. What we have overlooked in the past is that both the giant leap of faith and the dying daily to the inconsistencies in our lives are what define us as the Warrior Bride. It is our level of awareness and our submitting at that level, which determines the depth of our commitment.
In looking back at great examples of faith in the past, many men and women of God were called to something greater than themselves. In each case the cost of that commitment was every area, shadow and corner of their hearts. It is interesting to note that even though great faith was required to give their all, at each step in their walk the price is paid again. A fresh surrender at each fork in the road is a hallmark of those who have truly understood the life of becoming the Warrior Bride.
The fire in the eyes of our Beloved now challenges little inconsistencies, which once were thought to be insignificant. Our wholehearted devotion with all its beauty and wonder, comes at a great price to us all.
Gone are the times of selfish prayer. Gone are the times of the vanity of our spirituality. No longer is there time or place for our own fulfillment and successes no matter how they are measured. The time is short. It is too short for petty self-indulgences, especially in the spiritual realm. Our thoughts, motives and actions can be and must start to be brought into alignment with our Bridegroom/Commander.
It is not enough to say the spiritual words. It is not enough to merely look at the Isaac’s in our lives and talk about the sacrifice and cost. To make that Abraham walk will cost a great deal almost daily. To lay those things on the alter of our faith requires great courage.
Another irony in it all is the only one who truly knows if this process of sacrifice is taking place is the One to whom we are sacrificing. Those around us, who we would impress with our jargon of the cost, really matter little to our own walk up the mountain. It is usually those areas people do not see which turn out to be the hardest and most costly to surrender.
As our humanity dictates, we spend a great deal of time and effort gaining the approval of others. This happens from the lowest persons of society right up to the spiritual echelons. As our focus becomes aligned with the Commander/Bridegroom, part of the cost of our submission will be bearing the reproach for our efforts. So many of us are motivated by our peers, spiritually and otherwise, that we ignore the inner whispers that call us o change.
Those who, in the past, have effected the greatest spiritual truths were those who were motivated solely by the inner prompting of the Commander. They knew His voice in intimacy and in warfare. Their lives were a picture of the cost of the commitment. The reproach most received was great. Family, friends and the church were against most of those great examples of faith.
Early Christians gave their lives. Pioneers of the early church also gave their lives to the spreading of the gospel. Today people are still giving their lives. It is difficult for some of us to understand why the Commander asks some to give the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to prove their love. We seem to have it much easier we think to ourselves, living in relative freedom and peace. I would submit that the price is just as high for those of us called to make our living sacrifices.
Our Bridegroom/Commander demands everything from us – including the hard to reach areas, our motives and our responses. These two areas are the easiest to ignore, the hardest to see and the heaviest to carry. The definition of who we are is wrapped up in our motives and responses. As we are to die daily, both become the measuring sticks by which we can determine the depth of this calling. It is tricky, however, to accurately determine this from the outside. Spiritual words do nothing to help us hear the intimate call of our Bridegroom. Lofty ideals do little to bring the discipline so necessary for the preparation for battle.
Ours is a call to do away with the outer trappings and finery, and place the focus back on our Bridegroom. It is at that place of His intimate whispers, where we will find the courage to bear whatever reproach may come. It is in Boot Camp where we find the determination to lay aside the weights that bind us, to pay whatever price comes our way.
It doesn’t seem to be of much consequence where our walk of life finds us. Missionaries, teachers, factory workers, homemakers or pastors only serve to define where our preparation time must be spent. Preparing for battle and intimacy requires our faithfulness and loyalty in the ordinary situations our lives find us in. Temptations come, frustrations are great and our stamina gets tested to the breaking point to fulfill our calling.
Our Blessed Bridegroom has shown us how to refine some of the qualities necessary for our becoming the Warrior Bride. Our cry must be to become the reflection of our Lover. His Spirit and Life must be evident in each stride we take to becoming that intimate partner we so desire to be. His intimacy is gentle, whispered in our hearts. His war cry is great, resounding in our hearts.
How then can we better hear and know His gentle and urgent whispers? A great gift from the One who loves us is such a record of those who have gone before. By no means are these examples perfect people, neither is the following an exhaustive study. It is for our benefit that we can see the reflection of the Warrior Bride in preparation through the eyes of these valuable souls gone before. Being a Watchman through the eyes of Nehemiah, … An Intercessor seen in Abraham, … Prophetic eyes such as those found in Hosea, … Intimacy as taught us by Ruth, … and Worship as understood through the experience of David. All of these teachers reflect the heart of the Warrior Bride as we let the Commander/Bridegroom illuminate their example to our hearts.
As our eyes of understanding become more enlightened, we are quick to humbly submit ourselves to our Bridegroom’s revelation. We quiet our tongues and await our orders. We stand at the door or the Bridal Chamber awaiting the explanations of mysteries held within its walls
The call is one of intimacy and warfare. We must wear the veil and carry the sword as the Lover of our Soul leads us to do battle.
Allow us Oh Beloved One to grasp what is the breadth, depth and height of Your Love.