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Have you ever wondered “what if…”

I was thinking about some “what if’s” the other day and I decided to make a series out of my thinking. No I’m not going to give you the answers only pose the questions – you get to come up with your own answers in consultation with Holy Spirit. Why not actually ask yourself the following questions over the next month… All the questions are based on promises in scripture, see if you can guess which scripture this comes from…

WHAT-IF-COLLECTION-1

The following word was given this morning at Fiordland New Life Church in the worship time by Lyn Packer. It is given for the Church in New Zealand but is also a word for the Church in the nations as well.

“I say to you, victory is your starting point, not need! Provision is your starting point, not need. I’ve given you eyes to see; will you see, will you look from my perspective?

I’m raising up a company in this nation; a company of burning hearts, a company of those who see rightly, whose starting point is the as yet unseen reality of my promise. I am raising up a company of those who will take me at my Word and see that my promises have been fulfilled before they are given, who see the provision has arrived before its journey started. I am raising up those who see ahead of time to an already established reality and I am doing it in this place, in this time.

Can you see them? Can you see them, because they are you! I am doing a work in your life that will forever shift your sight line! Today I decree a shift in your sight line. No longer will you be satisfied with seeing through veiled or faithless eyes; no longer will you be satisfied with seeing from a ‘needs’ perspective. Today I say you shall now see with spirit eyes; the eyes of a seer are released today, here and in this nation. I give you eyes to see, and to function. from the place of victory already established, from provision already given.

See beyond time. See my already established future, my hope, my plans for yourself and this nation of New Zealand. I have given you my promises so that you may know ahead of time what your tomorrow will look like.

 You are about to step into a prophetic window of time that will establish what your future and the future of this nation will look like. It is a crucial time, weighty in its implication and in its reality.

Listen for me in what you hear, look for me in what you see. Look beyond today; see your future and begin to live in that now. Who said there must be steps you must take? Who said there must be levels to ascend. What I say you can do, you can do. 

Do not say “I am too immature, I need more healing before I’m ready.” I have already made provision for it, it is already established as I see you. I will take care of character as you walk in submission to me. I have already brought you into fullness of maturity in Christ. Stay in Him, lean into Him, rely on Him. Exchange your weakness for His strength and it will become your strength. Step into your future today. Don’t put it off into tomorrow, you can walk in it today. Go beyond now and walk in tomorrow today. I operate beyond time, so you can walk according to my vision, what I see, not earth’s timeline.

Victory is your starting position; maturity is your starting position; provision is your starting position, because they are already established in me, in my plans for you and for the nation. Do not look at this nation and say “It is too hard.” It is already accomplished in me. I am making you and I am making this nation a company of burning hearts. You, my called out ones, my burning hearts, will move through this nation and the nations of the earth, sharing the reality of my Kingdom.”



A declaration to make

“I declare that I am a part of the company of burning hearts that you are raising up in this time. I have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand what You are doing in this time.

I declare that victory is my starting place, that provision is my starting place, that maturity is my starting place; those realities already exist because of how You see me. I declare that I walk in purpose and destiny already because You see my end from my beginning. I am Your child, called by Your Name, destined to burn with Your love so men will see and be drawn to You!

 My jurisdiction is first this nation then the nations of the world. They are mine. You have given them to me as my inheritance and so I take my place in Your company of burning hearts, as one that will burn for You!”

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Jesus’ cry from the cross has for centuries been interpreted by the church to mean that the Father forsook Jesus, turned his face from him and left him to face the cross by himself. But is that true? Did the Father actually forsake Jesus and turn his back on him?

As we read those words of Jesus in scripture a seed question becomes planted in our minds – if he forsook Jesus will he turn away from us? I want to look at both of those things in this article – did he forsake Jesus and will he forsake us?

If we take the words of Jesus at face value we might believe that God abandoned Jesus on the cross, however if we look at other scriptures and understand some cultural things we actually begin to see something different.

In scripture we find quite a few verses in the Old Testament that seem to indicate that while God promised not to forsake Israel Deut 4:31 he then goes back on his word and does forsake them. But does he actually forsake them or does their sin have consequences; are they are reaping what they have sown? Here are some of those verses for you to check out – Deut 31:16-18; 1Ki 6:11-13; Neh 9: all esp30 ,31; Is 59:2; Is 54:8.

Let’s look at how God dealt with Jesus because that has a huge significance for us and our lives.

Throughout his lifetime Jesus made some interesting claims.

John 10:30,I and my Father are one.” That reality was never rescinded before, during or after the cross.

In John 14:9 -11 Jesus says four times that he and the Father are in each other. v9 “He that has seen me has seen the Father.”  10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” 11  “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.”

In speaking of his coming death, Jesus believed the Father would not leave him to face it alone.

John 8:28,29 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself…. 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone.

John 16:32, Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

Then we come to those famous words on the cross… My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me (Matt 27:46)

Did God really turn his back on Jesus and forsake him or was something quite different from what the words seem to imply actually happening. I believe that something different was happening.

Why?

Because God is good (Mk 10:18), he is love (1Jn 4:8) he is faithful (Deut 7:9) cannot be false to his word or who he is and his mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13)

Jesus perfectly fulfilled all the law and obeyed all Gods commandments so God couldn’t go back on his word and forsake Jesus. God said to the children of Israel that if they obeyed his laws then he would never leave nor forsake them (see verses earlier in article).

Jesus himself believed the Father would not leave him or forsake him as seen earlier in this article.

Paul says in 2 Cor 5:19 …God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.  God was IN Christ, they were one, and so he hung there too. The Amplified Bible says it like this “It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor).”(AMP)

Although mankind has felt abandoned or forsaken by God since the fall he was not. Even before mankind was created God made provision for the possibility of the fall, even then he decided he would never forsake us. Scripture tells us that Jesus was the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8)

Jesus, as fallen man, was identifying with us, taking on our sin; our grief, our confusion and the inaccurate feeling of abandonment by God that mankind had suffered since the fall. He was not speaking out of his feeling of abandonment, he knew God was with him, he was speaking out of ours. You might be thinking but the Bible says our sins have separated us from God and hidden his face from us (Is 59:2) Note here it is sin that does the separating, sin that hides Gods face from us making us not able to see him1 not God hiding himself from us because of sin. It is sin that is the bad guy not God. God has not forsaken or abandoned us because of our sin.

Another thing that was happening at that point was something that would be yet another indicator to all present there at the cross, that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, the long awaited one. A teaching practice in those days was that the teacher / rabbi would say the first verse (as we know them) of a Psalm or passage and the listeners would know what was coming, where the teacher was going by quoting that verse.

Those words “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” are a quote of the first verse of Ps 22 – the prophetic, messianic, psalm of deliverance written by David that begins with that cry but goes on to say that God hasn’t despised him or his cry, he has not hidden his face from him, he has heard when he cried to him; and the passage ends with the declaration “they shall come and proclaim his righteousness because he has done it!“  In other words “It is finished” he has delivered us! David is telling us ahead of time that the Father will not turn his face from Jesus and Jesus refers the Jews back to that passage of deliverance by using this phrase.

Most of those Jews listening would know that Jesus was referencing the entire passage especially any Pharisees or Sadducees there. They knew their scriptures and were familiar with the Messianic prophecies. For those that heard this cry aright, they would have heard that Jesus did not feel forsaken; they would have heard that he was proclaiming hope and deliverance.

Yes there were some who did not get that, who thought he was crying out to Elijah but those possibly were not even Jews and while we can’t know that for sure we do know that there were many people there from different nations. Any Jew listening would have known that Eli means “My God” not “Elijah” so they would not be likely to have made that comment.

Now to the other question – will God forsake us? I recently received an email from a woman who wrote that she had been through a hard time over the last few years, losing their business and much more in the economic crash. A friend had that day given her a verse (to help her make sense of her circumstances). It was Isaiah 54:8 – In anger I turned away from you for a moment etc.

As his children, does God get angry with us and forsake us this side of the cross?

No he doesn’t ever forsake us, not for any reason!

What about when we sin?

In Jesus God forgave every sin even future ones. To be honest, when Jesus died, every sin you or I would commit was a future sin. And God forgave us ahead of time! Even when you do sin today you are already forgiven and there is no condemnation (Rom 8:1). God cannot condemn you, to do so would mean he would have to discount Jesus work on the cross. He cannot turn his back on you – to do so would be to deny his word and he would have to take back his forgiveness, making him a liar. You are forgiven, totally, eternally already forgiven!

My thoughts are that those verses from Isaiah have no place in a New Covenant believers life other than to show us how different our covenant is to the old Covenant that God had with the Jews.

As New Covenant believers in Christ it simply isn’t true of us in our relationship with the Lord. He will never leave us, forsake us or turn his face from us because of anger toward us!

He says in Matt 28:20 Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world. And in Heb 13:5 for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Scripture is clear that we are now joined to God in such a way that we are one spirit with him – 1Co 6:17. God cannot separate Christ or us from himself – we are now in Him and one spirit with him.

Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that God will or does forsake us. That God will forsake us is a strategically planted lie of the Devil who delights in blinding us to the truth in scripture and the truth of who God is. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will not turn his back on us or abandon us in our hour of need just as he did not abandon Jesus.

God’s promises to us of his continuing presence, goodness and provision for every area in our lives are too numerous to mention here, but I want you to know that if bad things do happen to you or you do sin, God has not and will not ever leave you or forsake you. He longs to give you peace, wisdom and strategy for your circumstances and to turn your circumstances into good for you (Rom 8:28) because that’s who he is and that’s what he has promised!

1 – Matthew Henry Commentary

In a meeting recently I heard the speaker mention being “promoted in the Spirit”. Normally on hearing something like this I would’ve just accepted it. But as I was sitting there a thought popped into my mind which I recognised as being a question from the Lord. “Is there such a thing as being promoted in the Spirit?” Now I’ve come to understand that when God asks me a question it’s not because he doesn’t know the answer – it’s because I need to know the answer.

I have heard that saying for many years and understood being ‘promoted in the Spirit” meant somehow going to a new level of authority or standing in God although quite what that was, was never explained. Indeed, I know of people who teach that at a certain time each year God judges our performance and accordingly either promotes or demotes us in the Spirit.

If this is indeed the case what criteria does God use to judge us by? What do we have to do in order to get a promotion, and what do we need to abstain from in order to avoid being demoted? Is earning a “promotion in the Spirit” dependent on how much we are obedient or how many good works we do, or on God’s judging us by some set of criteria that we’re unaware of? What does scripture tell us and what is the New Covenant reality?

In the world we live in we are so used to the promotion system – get good grades and you’ll get promoted to a higher class in school; work hard enough and you may earn a promotion at work. In our natural world promotions must be earned, they don’t come as a result of sitting back and doing nothing. So when people use the term “promotion in the Spirit” we presume that it must mean that they have somehow earned a promotion.

In the church we unconsciously foster the concept of promotion in several ways. One way it is fostered is by giving people ranks and titles. We call some people Generals or Fathers in the faith or Apostle (usually because they head up a denomination, ministry or a church). Mostly we do it as a sign of respect but it can foster wrong thinking and believing.

We encourage people to aim for, or earn status or title by practicing the promotion system in our churches. You have to work your way up through the ranks. You may be called to pastor people but you must start by teaching in Sunday School and then maybe you’ll be promoted to Youth Leader and then an assistant Pastor and finally one day you’ll earn the title and get to be a Pastor. Scripture may look like it gives ranks and titles eg pastor, teacher, apostle, prophet, evangelist etc but it doesn’t, they are job descriptions not titles. All these people are called to train the saints for their service and ministry not be given a title.

At first thought the idea that we can get promotions in the spirit sounds appealing, but dig deeper and there is something wrong with that whole line of thought. It means that our place in God’s order of things is dependent on what we do, but that system is called ‘the law’, and we are no longer under law but under grace. The Christian life, and our place in God’s order of things, is not based on what we do but on what Jesus has done for us.

Promotion is the idea that we can earn advancement through our efforts. People even talk about being in the school/university of the Spirit. There is no university in the Spirit; God doesn’t give a degree in Christian living or in theology. Degrees in theology are man’s idea that stems from man’s desire to please God, understand the Bible or/and be someone.

You may ask, “But doesn’t the Bible say that if we are faithful with what we have that we will be given more? (Matt 25:14-30) Isn’t that a promotion?” In these verses I believe that Jesus was not talking about a system of promotion but about a natural part of the Christian walk – we have been given a new nature made in the image of God – one of his attributes is faithfulness. So this parable is about growing up into Him it is not primarily about us earning promotion. It is about becoming mature sons and daughters.

As a part of that maturing process we should, and will, bear fruit and learn how to wisely steward what God has given us. As we do we will be given more responsibility, the grace to handle it, and his joy in doing what he has called us to do. A part of growing in maturity in Christ is that we should become increasingly more aware of just how much he has done for us. We believe it, and walk from a place of rest in his work, not ours.

Scripture says in Matt 16:27 that Jesus will reward us according to our works. This would appear on face value to say that if we work hard we’ll be rewarded for that hard work.  But this passage is not about works as we think of them. It’s not about how many duties we took on at church or how many orphans we feed; it’s about our accepting or rejecting Jesus according to the commentaries I read.1

The Church has brought into the idea of promotions partly because it has misunderstood that word rewards. That misunderstanding has now become an accepted part of church theology. It says that we will be rewarded or promoted according to what we do for God – how long and how hard we have worked. It says that by doing more we can receive more from God – a higher standing and place of authority before him and others, maybe a bigger mansion in heaven or a bigger, more jewel studded crown or a closer throne to Jesus in heaven. Thinking this-  is evidence of our not truly understanding who we now are, what Christ bought for us by his death and what the Father has consequently given us as sons and daughters.

In Matt 20, in the parable of the workers, Jesus tells us that we all get paid the same, whether we worked longer, harder or not.

I am reminded of the disciples’ mother that wanted her sons to be rewarded by being seated by Jesus in a place of honour in his kingdom (Matt 20:20–24). Jesus’ reply to that was to tell them that they didn’t get it, that they had it back-to-front; that the greatest in the kingdom got to serve more not accumulate more or get a greater place.

In this passage it says that God will choose who sits there beside Jesus, but after his resurrection and his being enthroned on high, scripture also plainly tells us who God chose to sit there – all of us! We are all seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6), every believer in the same position, co-heirs and co-reigning with Christ.

(Now I am not saying people haven’t seen in visions what they claim to have seen, I’m sure they have seen those things. I have seen many things myself even. But we must remember to weigh our visions against what scripture plainly says and interpret them in the light of scripture. One problem with visions is that many people do not know how to interpret them, they are not all literal, many of them are symbolic. For example if you see some people sitting enthroned beside Jesus on thrones it may not be literally mean those people, they may just be representative of the fact that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places.)

God does indeed reward us, but not by being “promoted in the Spirit”. Col 3:24 says that our reward is the heirship or inheritance – what Christ won for us on Calvary. Phil 3:8 tells us that part of the true reward is “knowing Jesus and living with him forever”.

I believe our reward is knowing and experiencing the reality of relationship with the Godhead, and the things Jesus died to make our inheritance – some of which are his love, joy, eternal life, healing (for ourselves and others), abundant provision, and being seated with Christ in heavenly places.

Understanding that knowing Jesus and living with him forever is the true reward frees us to live for him with an attitude of doing whatever we do for love of him, not love of rewards. It frees us to take the focus off ourselves and back onto Jesus!

The idea of promotion in the Spirit is dare I say it, a subtle deception that has found its way into the church that appeals to our human desire to be the best we can be for Jesus and to our pride; but in the end it comes from a wrong base.

I believe that under the New Covenant to earn a promotion in the Spirit is actually impossible – you can’t get any higher than being in Christ, a co-heir with him. In order for us to earn a promotion in the Spirit we would have to come down from our place of seated authority in Christ, discount the work he did on the cross, come back under law and believe that our efforts are what count in ensuring our place in God’s eternal Kingdom. So we need to give up our ideas of worldly promotions and accept that he has already promoted us to the highest place beside himself. When we realize that, there is no striving for more, only gratitude for what he has done and what he has given us.

So where would you rather be – at rest in what Christ has done, seated with him in heavenly places, functioning out of that place of rest and authority or trying by your efforts to somehow earn your way into God’s good books and hope you have done enough to earn that promotion in the Spirit?

Think it through!

1 – Gills Bible Exposition & Barnes Bible Notes

It’s all very well to say we trust God but do we really? I suspect that your life is probably like mine to a degree. I say I trust God then I go and worry about whether things will work out how I hope they will.

Learning to trust God has been a journey for me. Growing up in a life where I felt I could trust no-one certainly didn’t prepare me in any way for trusting God. To start with I had to just take him at his word (in the Bible) and also rely on other peoples testimony of his faithfulness. That time spent in scripture looking up verses relating to his faithfulness was an absolutely crucial part of learning to trust him. Seeing how God came through in the lives of those recorded in scripture told me that if he came through for them he would come through for me. And over time I began to build my own record of God coming through for me in different situations.

So fast-forward to now – I was thinking about faith and trust the other day and how they are linked. The thesaurus says other words for Faith are – trust, belief, hope, conviction, expectation, reliance, dependence. Faith is linked with Trust! When I saw this it sparked some thoughts that I spent some time mulling over. So it’s that trust aspect of faith that I want to talk about here today.

Faith is so much a part of our life with God. The Bible even states that without it it’s impossible to please Him (Heb 11:6); so it’s a pretty important thing to have established right in our life. If faith is linked to trust then how much do I really trust God? What is that trust built on? How do I know He’s trustworthy? These and many other questions have invaded my mind and sent me on a journey of discovery.

Our faith is built on the foundation of the trustworthiness of God. We long to see ‘God be God’ to us and through us and for this happen we must settle the trust issue to be able to walk in the kind of faith that pleases Him.

We say we have faith and trust God but do our actions, attitudes and responses line up with our words? It is these things that really show how deep our trust goes.

How often do we make snap judgments and decide to trust someone we have known for a couple of seconds yet struggle to trust the God who has proved his faithfulness and goodness over many years or even generations?

Trust can be a very subjective thing. What do we base our trust on? Is it a snap judgment on our part based on how someone presents themself to us, their appearance, demeanor etc? Is it made up of assessing someone’s track record and seeing their trustworthiness or just blind acceptance?

In a counseling course that I attended a while ago the lecturer said that 95% (or more) of people do not have an adult way to assess who is trustworthy and who is not. Most of us simply assess trustworthiness based on our feelings (instincts) or our response to our dealings with people.

Trust is – loaning power to another. To trust means to give ones safety and future to the judgements and decisions of another. Trusting means being vulnerable to someone else’s choices and thoughts. So trusting is therefore risky. The alternative to trust is avoiding any form of loaning of power to another which results in attempting to control lives, both your own and others.

Check yourself out. Has God proved his trustworthiness to you or are you being lied to by your own bruised feelings and echoes from past hurts? Your ‘stuff’ from past betrayal may mean that in reality you trust no one, not even God. God does not mean us to go through life not trusting others and he also doesn’t mean us to go through life trusting unwisely those who don’t deserve our trust. But He does mean us to go through life trusting Him, the one who is worthy of our wholehearted trust and faith.

So how do you assess trustworthiness – I think some of the same ways you assess trustworthiness in people can also be applied to firming up our trust in God.

  1. Do you believe God is good and God is love? Because if this foundation isn’t there you will never be able to believe God can be trusted.
  1. Examine God’s track record – Is there a history of reliability, faithfulness and integrity? Listen to the testimony of others who are trustworthy. What do they say about his track record of dealings with them?
  1. Can you trust Him with what you share with Him? Will He use it in a way that will harm you?
  1. Is He forgiving? Does he hold grudges?
  1. Is he truthful or is he a liar? Is he who he says he is?
  1. What does the Word of God say about Him. Check out Ps 111:7-8; Heb 6:14-20;  Ps 25:2; Ps 56:3; Prov 3:5; Ps 93:5
  1. How does He treat His family? How does He view His stewardship as our King or Father? What is His attitude to His children or to those outside his family?
  1. Is He Love and is He loving?

If He is not Love then none of the above criteria can ever apply and He is not worthy of trust or belief but if He is, then we must settle that in our hearts and know that He is utterly trustworthy; so we can believe and have faith in whatever He says to us.

I have come to realise that while I trust God in most areas of my life there are still others where my responses are sometimes at odds with my words. I have discovered that the lack of trust in those areas stems from my past, not His character or lack of it.

Are you the same? Are there areas where your past fights against your ability to trust God? Realise that God has made provision for healing every area of your past in Christ’s work on the cross. Allow God access to those areas to heal them and choose to trust based on what you know of His love, faithfulness and trustworthiness. As we do it will build a stronger faith and trust in Him. Our faith will then have a foundation that will not be shaken easily by the storms of life or the faith steps God asks us to take. Our walk will be transformed as we step out in supreme confidence knowing that the one who is supreme can totally be trusted to do what He says He will do.

*Trustworthiness assessment questions based on David Riddell’s Living Wisdom course notes