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Friday, August 26, 2016

Stealing God's Heart -- This is a Test, This Is So Much More than a Test

Have you ever wondered why God would need to test us? I have. I think back to school, when the teacher would give us tests as a device to measure our progress in the subject matter. Why would God need to measure where I’m at? Doesn’t He know everything already? Isn’t He omniscient?

His word does comment on this:

“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2, NKJV).

Still, why? Why would He need to come up with a test to find out what’s in our hearts? Can’t He just use His X-ray vision, look inside of us, and instantly come up with an answer? Tests are grueling! Often even painful! Why do we have to go through this stuff?

In this post and the next, I want to look into two specific examples of Biblical testing and see what we can pull out of them to help alleviate these questions that sometimes weigh on our minds.

Holy Spirit was talking to me about the first example I will share very recently. I was in the middle of an intense workout, and He chose that moment to drop into my spirit something that amazed me. (Yes, He likes to speak to me while I’m exercising to Jillian Michaels videos. He’ll communicate with us Spirit-to-spirit ANY TIME if we are tuned in and looking for it!)

As He so often does, He whispered a verse to me and began to explain it. This time the Scripture I heard clearly on the inside of me was, “Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen. 22:12, NKJV).

He was initiating a conversation with me about Abraham’s ultimate test, and what it meant to Him.

The familiar tale unfolds like this: God asks Abraham for his heart’s treasure, Isaac, as a sacrifice. Abraham immediately obeys. The opening line of the story lets you know right off that the narrative that follows is about a test. “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham…” (v. 1a)

But again, why? Did God need “test results” to figure out if Abraham was devout? The Supreme Creator exclaimed when the deed was done, “Now I know that you fear Me!”

Lord, did You not know before that moment, that Abraham feared You? In Your majestic omniscience, had You not already gathered that he loved and reverenced You? Don’t You already know that we love You, without testing us in such extreme ways?

Yes. God knew. And He knows. But foreknowledge is never the same as experiential knowledge. God wanted to experience Abraham’s passion in the deepest way possible. Head knowledge was not enough. He, too, longed for heart knowledge of His covenant partner’s love.

Abraham could have said no. God would have respected his no. He respects our no, each and every time we are not willing to go all the way there with Him. Our free will is completely intact, and He will never, ever violate it. But Abraham said YES, and that stole God’s heart away completely!

Here is something to consider, as you listen in to understand God’s thoughts and emotions on this matter. Is it enough for you to know in your head that God loves you, if that knowledge never reaches your heart? I looked back at some of my teenage journal entries recently. They are overflowing with prayers, longings, even begging God to know His love beyond my head and into my heart. Head knowledge never satisfied anyone. Each of us can profoundly, sometimes achingly identify with the lyric,

“I want to know what love is, I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me…
Show me love is real, yeah, I want to know what love is”
                                                               - Foreigner

To know love. To feel love. To experience love. To drink of it exquisitely, to be consumed by it. To know that it is REAL. You and I and every human being on the planet long for that. Guess what? He does too. You were created in His image. That yearning in your heart directly reflects the Original Edition and His own longings. He made you just like Him. So you would long for Him too.

Even the words, “I love You,” out of our lips do not satisfy His burning desire, if He has not yet actually experienced our love. Listen to His heart when He expresses,

“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8, NKJV).

Can you hear the pain in His voice?

And again, “Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me…’” (Matt. 7:23, NKJV).

How will Jesus be able say that He never knew someone, when they stand before Him at the end of their life – if He knows everything and everyone? Here too, He is talking about experiential knowledge. This is the deeply personal knowing that comes through intimacy. The verb in Matthew 7:23 that is translated “knew” is the Greek ginosko. It means “to know…through personal experience” (HELPS Word-studies). The Lord will tell these people, “I never walked intimately with you. I was never allowed to experientially know your devotion. I never got to drink in heart knowledge of your love. You decided not to be Mine.”

Abraham gave Him the opposite. Abraham fulfilled the deepest longings of Daddy God. In this son’s ultimate act of devotion, God tasted a love that infinitely surpassed anything that He simply knew via foreknowledge.

It’s time to listen to these words again, with your deepest soul: “Now I really, really know! You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me! Oh Abraham, how exquisite is your adoration! How it conquers My heart! How it causes My inner being to bubble up and spill over profusely with joy and pleasure! You have ravished Me with your worship!”

X-ray vision doesn’t cut it, folks. Daddy God craves our passionate love.

This is what the testing is for. It’s not about measuring progress or gathering data or awarding brownie points. God longs to know you the way He came to know Abraham. He is ablaze with desire to ginosko you. Holy Spirit is inviting you to understand -- when He asks for your own personal Isaac, it’s not because He’s mean and demanding. On the contrary – He is achingly yearning for you. He wants to take His relationship with you so much deeper. He wants to experience for Himself, to the very depths of His burning soul, how much you love Him. He wants to live out love with you.

Close your eyes and lean in. Listen -- He is singing to you: “I want to know what love is, I want you to show Me…”

Daddy God, You craved Abraham’s tangible love, and he gave You the experience You longed for. He conquered Your heart in actuality and became Your friend permanently. You yearn for my love, my fiery affection, my fierce devotion too. You desire to be my most intense passion, to be the One that I love the most. You are inviting me to let You feel the deepest depths of human love possible. I want to give You this experience too. I want to give You what You long for. I want to fulfill Your yearnings. Take me! Take all that I am! Take all that I long for, and make me wholly and completely Yours!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Releasing Righteous Retribution through Reverential Regard

The devil was whispering all sorts of ugly promises to me during a painful season of my life. The future seemed to loom over me with a sinister heaviness. Impending scenes of catastrophe and heartache fought for space on the platform of my mind’s eye.

As I struggled to reach out for God in the middle of the overwhelming circumstances confronting me, I heard Him speak. “Do not fear what they fear; do not dread…” came His breath inside of me. He often drops fractions of Bible verses into my spirit to initiate a conversation. Sometimes He’ll even murmur just a couple words, such that I can barely hear Him. He does this so that I’ll lean in to listen extra carefully. Then He knows He has my attention. When I take the time to search for the verse He’s quoting, often time brand new revelation is birthed in my heart. This occasion was no exception.

So I hunted for the Scripture over which He was brooding. This is what I found:

"Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary…” (Isa. 8:12-14a, NIV)

Conspiracy. What is a conspiracy theory? It’s the mindset that says, “Powers greater than me are out to get me. Circumstances treacherously beyond my control are in a position to steal my wellbeing and happiness.” In this passage, Holy Spirit is communicating to us that He earnestly desires us free from living under that kind of fear and dread. Dread doesn’t just refer to a strong aversion to an unpleasant situation. Dread is the Biblical term for the apprehension that sits on your emotions and makes you feel heavy, unsettled, and fearful when you are imagining the future. It is one of the enemy’s very favorite tactics.

And at that juncture in my life, it was the one with which he was bombarding my soul in a thick, relentless, daily onslaught. There were many moments during that time in which I felt so downtrodden that I could barely take another step forward.

Holy Spirit came to rescue me. He truly does not waste anything. He used those difficult circumstances as a training ground for me. He revealed to me that the time had come to learn, in depth, what it really meant to fear Him and Him alone. “The LORD ALMIGHTY is the ONLY one you are to fear!” was His crucial message to me.

When I was a child growing up in church, the phrase “the fear of the Lord” seemed strange and hard to grasp. Wasn’t God a loving Daddy? Why fear? The Sunday School teachers would attempt to clear this up by asserting that it didn’t mean to be afraid of Him, but to be respectful of Him. I accepted this explanation, but the idea still felt remote.

Fast forward back to this distressing period of my life as an adult. Over and over again, my Comforter took me back to Isaiah 8:12-14. He faithfully, repeatedly insisted, “Don’t be afraid, My love. I am right here with you. Don’t let dread rule. Don’t give credence to the demonic mutterings of conspiracy sent into your ears. No one can snatch you out of My hand. I’ve got you, and I AM your sanctuary!”

I needed a specific battle strategy with which to fight the attack that was lambasting me. He gave me one, as I continued to meditate on these verses. What is the opposite of giving weight and attention to the enemy’s threats and imaginary scenarios of chaos and sadness? Filling up your inner space instead with praise for the Holy One!

He went on to illuminate for me the words, “He is the One you are to fear.” With His help, this is what I began to fathom:

To fear Him is…
  • to be impressed with Him to the very core of who you are… 
  • to see Him for who He is in all of His splendor and glory and ENORMOUSNESS… 
  • to be in awe of how infinitely powerful He is… 
  • to understand deep in your being that He really did already vanquish whatever enemy you are facing at the cross… 
  • to SEE with the eyes of your heart Him sitting on His throne, reigning in indestructible might and ultimate supremacy over every force that exists in all of creation… 
  • to be stunned by His majesty… 
  • and to worship Him with absolutely everything that’s inside of you.
“The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning (the chief and choice part) of Wisdom…” (Prov. 9:10, AMP). The truly wise will tell you -- you can actually exercise your fear of the Lord. Put it to work on your behalf. War with it! Chase the enemy off with it, along with his sorry conspiracy theories about your future!

How? What to do when the devil starts aggressively blowing his noxious smoke into your mind? It’s time to get your fight on. It’s time to shift your focus intentionally onto the grandeur of the I AM who will never let you go.

The best way to do this is to purposefully begin to exalt Him as you simultaneously look right into His face. Use your heart’s eyes. Lift up your gaze to Him where He is peacefully occupying His unshakable victorious position in the heavenlies. If you look closely, you’ll become aware of Him looking directly back at you. See? You’ve got His undivided attention and all of the immeasurable depths of His loyal love that comes with it. Now begin to magnify Him!

In order to get your whole being in alignment with this exercise, find some anointed music that moves your spirit in His presence. Turn it on and SING. Lift up your voice! Don’t hold back! Forget about how you sound and concentrate intensely on looking at Him. Remember, when you use your imagination (mind’s eye), guided by Holy Spirit, to see Jesus on His throne, it is not pretend – on the contrary, it’s the most real thing in the entire universe. He is truly there, and you are engaging your inner eyes through His empowering, to gaze on His beauty as He has invited us to do (Ps. 27: 4).

Lift up your face toward the heavenly realm. Lock eyes with Him. Belt out that praise!

As you do this, I want to share with you some lyrics that have powerfully aided me in getting my focus on the Lord and off the enemy:

“To the One who’s seated on the throne above all thrones…
To the One who was, the One who is, and is to come…
Highest Praises!”
                                  -- Amanda Cook

As I’m singing these words to Him at the top of my voice, I’m seeing Him exalted to the highest place! I am sending all the energy of my being into extoling Him over my circumstances. As I do so, I feel His power being released on my behalf. He literally is enthroned on my praises, and on your praises too – you and I are partnering with Him in establishing His throne over our adversities, as we work out our spirits this way. Through our worship, His government is dynamically exerting dominion in our daily realities. Even as we lift Him up with all that is within us, His kingdom is actively coming on earth as it is in heaven (Ps. 22:3, Mat. 6:10, NKJV).

When you have completely let yourself go in this exertion of magnifying him, you will notice something afterwards. That voice of dread has been silenced. The enemy of your soul cannot bear watching the Holy One receive the glory that he tried so hard to steal! He has run away shrieking with his hands over his ears. YOU have won! You have pulled heaven’s victory to your here and now!

Get militant about this one:

My Lord Jesus, YOU have the name above every name! YOU are the Holy One! You are set apart and far above all else that exists in this universe, in heaven and on earth and under the earth! YOU are enthroned in my praises! I exalt YOU far above these circumstances facing me! I will not be afraid of my enemies’ threats, for YOU are the One I praise! I stomp on dread because YOU are the Author and Owner and Establisher of my hope and future! YOU are the One I reverence! YOU are the One I worship! YOU are the One I stand in awe of! I fear YOU ALONE!!!! I praise You that You created me to OVERCOME!!!