Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Prize of Knowing Him by Mike Bickle

"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I count everything loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I might gain Christ...that I may know Him in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death." (Phil. 3:7-8, 10)

In Philippians 3, where Paul gave an autobiographical look at what motivated him, we find a very striking example of what it means to be a person of one thing. He sometimes gave a sentence here and there in his other writings, but I don't know any place where he shared his deepest heart so richly. Without apology, Paul pointed us to the necessity of fierce abandonment for the sake of one thing. He confirmed that stunning and fascinating things happen when new discoveries of the God-Man touch our spirit. Verse 8, "Oh the excellencies of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things! I count all of these losses as rubbish that I may experience Him." He was not saying that he suffered these things to earn Jesus' approval but that in forsaking them, he removed what hindered his ability to experience Jesus to the fullest possible degree. He purposefully narrowed his options. He willingly became a man of one thing.

Paul went on in verse 10 to give three foundations of his inner motivation. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he put them together in a strategic way.

1. "I want to know Him," speaking of sharing intimacy with Jesus.

2. "I want to know the power of the resurrection," speaking of the ability to operate in the anointing.

3. "I want to know the fellowship of His suffering," portraying his desire to bear the inevitable counterattack of suffering and persecution. Paul understood the paradox that even as the anointing prepares and equips the heart for suffering, it also triggers the counterattack that brings suffering. It starts a chain reaction in the kingdom of darkness. When we operate in new levels of the anointing and plunder Satan's kingdom, we touch new dimensions of counter-attack. Paul actually gloried in the privilege of having intimacy with Jesus in suffering, which is a necessary dimension of the kingdom of God.

Paul revealed the inner activity of his soul in verse 1, "I press on." In other words, he committed himself to experiencing the three things he just spoke of. He said, "I want to lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by God." The Lord Jesus laid hold of each one of us for a very specific reason. God had something in mind for you when you were born and when you were born again. You were "laid hold of by God," handpicked by Him in His creative genius and created with certain passions. But it is so common in the kingdom of God today for people to never lay hold of the thing for which they were born and to never enter into the destiny God prepared for them. This is because we are not yet a people of one thing. We are not people after His heart. We are trying to do business as usual. We don't want fellow Christians thinking we're strange; we don't want discomfort. We want to live like everybody else lives. But we're in danger of not laying hold of what God has for us in this hour of history.

Paul went on to say that he didn't consider himself to have already attained to this. He didn't believe he'd fully apprehended the fullness of what he was created for. Yet he committed himself to one thing: to forget the things that were behind him and press on to what was ahead. Paul was a single-minded man, much like David was. He reached forward to take hold of knowing Christ, of experiencing the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. He determined in his heart to spend his entire life doing this. He went out of his way to remove any known hindrances to his destiny in God.

Beloved, we will not accidentally lay hold of the highest things God has called us to. We must press into them knowing that the devil will press back. We must push against our resisting flesh. We must fight as believers and unbelievers alike come against us. We must lay hold of the prize, and the only way to accomplish that is by being individuals and churches of extravagant devotion to Jesus. No other kind of devotion will survive the onslaught of the enemy.

I believe that the "prize" Paul referenced in verse 14 was the experience of intimacy and power spoken of in verse 10. He wanted the dimension of power and fellowship that was found only in suffering for the gospel. His prize was not just eternal, but was meant to be experienced in some measure on the earth. Daniel prophesied about this same reality saying, "...the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits...yet for many days they shall fall by sword, and flame, by captivity and plundering" (Dan. 11:32-33). Daniel spoke of two different time periods in this prophecy. First was the time of Antiochus in 167-175 B.C. which was a type of persecution just before the Second Coming of Jesus. The second time frame is at the end of the age. This tells us the people of God will know their God, will have a mighty spirit and will do great exploits. They will also know suffering and fall by the sword and flame as martyrs. Notice Daniel describes the same three things Paul described, these three dimensions of being a people of one thing.

1. Knowing God.

2. Operating in the anointing.

3. Being equipped to fellowship with Him in suffering.

In this pursuit, we must not apologize for our intensity. We must not accept some idea of "balance" that is not the balance of the Spirit, though it might be the balance of religious man. We want to be balanced Jesus-style, so God says on the last day, "You had a fiery heart. You bore the sufferings. You learned to operate in the anointing. You knew how to worship in the Spirit. You were a person of one thing, after my own heart." That is balance from God's point of view.

What's the point of being a person of one thing? What do we gain? God Himself! God revealed Himself as the primary reward of the human heart in Genesis 15:1 when He stood before Abraham and said, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." Those words amaze me. God reveals Himself as our prize. He is the ultimate satisfaction of our hearts. He gives us secondary rewards, too, and I love them as well. There's the anointing to touch the ends of the earth. There's health, wealth and influence, anointed ministry and favor in significant relationships. God gave all of these to Abraham and promised them to us. But they are all secondary. God Himself was the great reward surpassing all others. He is the prize of the ages.

God demonstrated this truth again with the story of Levi. "At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day. Therefore Levi had no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance, just as the Lord your God promised him" (Deut. 10:8-9).

In this passage, the words "to bear the ark of the covenant" symbolized receiving the presence of God. God separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark, or to experience the presence of the Lord. He set them apart to stand before Him and bless the name of God. That was their anointing. Because of this unique blessing, Levi and his brothers received no portion of the land and no inheritance when the other tribes of Israel received their portion. Why? Because the Lord Himself was Levi's inheritance. "I Myself will be your inheritance" (Deut. 18:2). God set this tribe apart to receive the greatest blessing: the reward and the inheritance of Himself. That's a picture of true intimacy with God, when we don't need anything else but Him to make our lives complete.

Beloved, this prize will not automatically fall at our feet. There is a pressing in. We reach for the one thing, the exceedingly great reward. There is a forgetting of what came before, both success and failure. In Phil. 3:13 Paul said, "One thing I do, I forget the things which are behind." Part of our offering to the Lord is forgetting our dedication and personal sacrifice. Paul counted them as nothing. We do not stand before the Lord and calculate how much we have given Him in prayer, fasting, finances and persecution. We forget all of that because our glory is not found in anything we can give. Our glory is in being loved by Him and in the anointing to love Him. That alone gives us value. When we become preoccupied with our sacrifice, religious pride steals in and our motives become corrupt. We also should forget our accomplishments. God doesn't look at spiritual risumis. The great revivals we lead, the Bible schools we started, the ministries we ran; these are not our offering. No matter how many people we lead to the Lord or how many sermons we preach or how many people grow to spiritual maturity under our leadership, these mean nothing when compared to the privilege of knowing Christ. We should discount them, let them go. God will reckon them in proper balance when we get to heaven, but for us there is nothing so valuable as simply knowing God. For this reason we should also let our failures go. These can distract us more than our accomplishments. Paul tells us to forget all of that and to press in to God's heart with a spiritual violence, reaching toward the prize with all the energy we have. That's how we want to live. We want to be a people of one thing, forgetting what is behind and pressing to what is ahead. That's how we become men and women after God's own heart.

Born After Midnight - A.W. Tozer

No, there is no merit in late hour prayers, but it requires a serious mind and a determined heart to pray past the ordinary into the unusual.

Most Christians never do. And it is more than possible that the rare soul who presses on into the unusual experience reaches there after midnight.

Friday, August 27, 2004

"DEEP calls unto DEEP"
-Vickie Johnson.

In this past month God has shown me a lot of things concerning our choosing to go right to His heart. One of the things He showed me was a vision. The vision was of people, masses of people, all coming out of a wilderness. The words I was given when I saw this was 'it's a mass exodus out of the wilderness.' But I also saw that it was the forerunners who were coming out. As we came out we looked around much like someone would if they just woke up in unfamiliar surroundings. When we looked around we noticed the thers that were also coming out.

When I saw the others I instantly knew that each of us had been totally alone with the Lord yet we had been alone all together. It was a Hosea 2:14 wilderness time for masses of people whom God has chosen to be forerunners. This wilderness was a time for each of us to create our own personal history walk with our Beloved. And that walk enabled us to come out on the other side leaning on our Beloved. We are coming out and we are leaning on our Beloved, but we are not yet ready. While I saw us coming out, I also notice we were not dressed in Bridal clothes. What I saw was that it is the beginning of the beginning of our coming out and I saw that it was Jesus personally taking us to meet His Daddy.

I feel it is time for us to go to the place of meeting Daddy. That place is where the deep that calls to deep meets. When the Deep in us, which is the Holy Spirit, calls out to the Deep of God, and the Deep of God calls out to the Deep in us, the place where these calls meet also will be violent. But it will be the Lord's violence, His violence of love for us. This is the place where Jesus is now taking those who are coming out of the wilderness.

I hope I am explaining it to you ok and that you understand. I have been so calling out from the depths of my being that all else in my life dims in comparison. A vision I saw on this was of me running down a dark path, crying out in lovesick pain to the very core of His heart. On both my left and right sides things of my life were trying to get my attention. But I just swam right past them as if they were made of dust. They mattered not. All that mattered was to get to the secret place of His heart....
Because Audrey set out a challenge, I am distracted, and I feel somehow guilty for not posting lately:

we were meant to live for so much more
have we lost ourselves?
somewhere we live inside
somewhere we live inside...

for me it means taking hold of what God has in store for myself everyday. its kind of like seize the day, except seizing the day is more selfish. it's about seizing the moment based on your desires and impulses, not what God has in store. its a seemingly minor distinction, but it makes all the difference in the world. what God has in store for me is so much more than my puny little mind can comprehend or process. when i look at my day, i can only see to the horizon (figuratively speaking). when God looks at my day, he sees past the horizon. he sees the day and the evening. every little thing. i'm reminded by the c.s. lewis quote about settling for playing with sandcastles in the mud and not knowing what it means to have a holiday by the sea. man, we settle so easily! and God in his infinite goodness and awesomeness is telling us daily. "my child, i have so much more in store for you." SO MUCH MORE.

but in order to grasp this more, we have to take up our cross. i think that's what it means to live. in order to live for so much more, we must die to ourselves, our desires, our wants, and impulses, our instincts, our rights, our privileges...and lay them at the cross. its funny because believe it our not, the natural is incompatible with the supernatural. somehow we manage to convince ourselves that we can have what God has to offer and eat our own cake too. God can only do as much as you allow him to in your life. if you yield everything, he will take everything.

these lyrics speak to the God-magnet in all of us. it is a sad thing not have that yearning, that magnetic pull to live out everything that was written about us in the book of life. we were meant for so much more in life.

i believe God's speaking that to a generation...will this be the generation that rises to the call? God's singing it over us... "You were meant to live for so much more..."