His Voice Not His Hand: The Discipline of the Father

Not long ago I was leading a discussion about about how God corrects and trains us (disciplines us). The text we were exploring was Hebrews 12:4-17. I pointed out that that many believers have been taught that God is using sickness, lack, pain, and loss as His “scourge” to teach us things and punish us. But we saw that it is actually His Word . . . His voice . . . that He uses to correct and train us. 

I pointed out eight or nine examples from New Covenant scripture in which God’s correction of one of His own was spoken.

What I failed to mention was that we don’t have to speculate. We have a living, breathing example of God’s methods of correcting and chastising . . . in Jesus.

Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus was and is “an exact representation” of God’s nature. He only did/said the things He saw His Father doing and saying. Right? 

Jesus frequently chastised, corrected, and trained His disciples. So how did He do that? Did He hit them? Did He put sickness on them? Did He cause their fishing business to fail? Did He kill a loved one? 

Of course not. When they missed the mark . . . when they failed to have faith . . . misperceived the situation . . . were operating out of the wrong spirit . . . He SPOKE to them. (Sometimes pretty sternly. Sometimes in exasperation. But it was always His voice, not His hand.) 

  • “Where is your faith? (Luke 8:25)
  • “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:23)
  • “Allow the children to come to Me; do not forbid them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)
  • You don’t know what spirit you’re of. (Luke 9:55)
  • “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
  • “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)

Jesus corrected and trained just as our wonderful heavenly Father does. With His voice . . . His Word. That means we can wholeheartedly and confidently resist the works of the enemy and the effects of the Curse.

God’s house is NOT a house divided against itself. Specifically, God isn’t simultaneously redeeming us from and rolling back the effects of the curse on one hand . . . and using those effects as His tools of discipline on the other. 

Time Travel

I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You hear a song you loved three, four, or five decades ago, and suddenly you’re transported to a very specific place and time when you listened to it with full focus.

That happened to me yesterday as CSN’s “Southern Cross” popped up on a playlist of mine.

In an instant I was in an Edmond, Oklahoma convenience store at 3:00 a.m. in the fall of 1983. With a mop in my hand.

I stopped and leaned on the mop handle to listen to this song because it was a favorite of mine. I was exhausted and a little discouraged and had just had several waves of drunks and addicts come through the store. So sailing the seas in the southern hemisphere sounded especially appealing.

This wasn’t a particular high point in my life.

When you’re 23; have changed majors three or four times; have managed to pile up more than 120 hours of college credit without getting a degree; feel reasonably intelligent and talented; and find yourself working the 11p-7a shift at a convenience store . . . it’s safe to say you’re not exactly killing it in life.

The truth is, I’d sort of lost my way a year earlier, had dropped out of school, started working full time, and bought an ’81 Corvette I couldn’t afford.

A few months prior to that “Southern Cross” moment, I’d snapped out of it and re-enrolled in college. I’d also taken a 400/month job as a Jr. High Youth pastor at my church. But I still needed to pay the bills and cover tuition. Thus the graveyard shift at the convenience store, five days a week.

I’d get off work at 7a, shower, go to class and struggle to stay awake, spend a few hours at the church, help with youth services two evenings a week, and sleep a few hours. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

As CSN briefly transported me back to that precise moment yesterday, I had this thought:

I wish I could go back and tell that bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, directionless guy what a great adventure his life was going to turn out to be.

Extraordinary wife. Adult children who love God and like to hang out with us. A growing tribe of littles who call me pop. Meaningful work to do in abundance. And more blessings (spiritual, relational, and material) than I had any rational reason to dream of or hope for back then.

“Keep mopping buddy. Everything’s going to be okay. I promise.”

There is No Fear in Love

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 

Romans 8:15

“The fear of God.” That may be one of the most misunderstood phrases in all of Scripture, yet it is an important one, as the fact that it appears repeatedly throughout Scripture testifies (predominantly in the Old Testament). When most believers see the phrase “the fear of the Lord,” it instantly validates what they’ve likely been taught all their lives. 

Specifically, that God is angry, vengeful, touchy, difficult to please, and more than eager to dole out punishments to those who cross Him. It doesn’t help that many men had a flawed and broken father who was too quick to slide his belt off when faced with any perceived insubordination or infraction of the rules. 

But what if we’ve gotten this concept wrong? I believe we have. Often the best way to understand a concept is to contrast it with its opposite. And the opposite of the “fear of God” is the “fear of Man.” Your Bible has quite a bit to say about that, too. 

For example, in Proverbs, the Bible’s “wisdom” book, we find: “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever puts his trust in the Lord will be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25 MEV) And Paul wrote: “For am I now seeking the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? For if I were still trying to please men, I would not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 MEV)

When you’re in the grip of the fear of man, the quest for image and status becomes a driving motivator of your life. Your decisions are driven by what others will think or how they will react. You seek approval, validation, admiration, and applause from the crowd rather than the Throne.

In other words, the fear of Man involves caring obsessively about what other people think of you. In contrast, the fear of the Lord simply means caring that much or more about what God thinks about you.  It means having an intense desire to please Him, not because you’re afraid of punishment if you don’t, but simply because you love Him and the thought of making Him smile brings you joy. You want to “live up” to who He has already declared you to be. Paul called this “walking in a manner worthy of your calling.” (Ephesians 4:1)

Think of the “fear of the Lord” as caring more about what God wants to do with you than caring about what other people want from you.” By that, I mean living a life utterly unafraid of anything except the thought of living below your potential in God’s grace. It means rejecting the values of this fallen culture and cultivating a passion for the things God values. 

As with every other aspect of the Jesus life, you’re not on your own in this. Abundant grace is available to empower you to avoid the snare of the fear of Man and to live a life that makes your heavenly Father smile.   

Even so, many believers are afraid to stop being afraid of their Heavenly Father.

And there are plenty of bible teachers and itinerant speakers with books to sell who sincerely believe you should be afraid to stop being afraid of God.

In response to a blog post like this one, many will respond: “Of course, you don’t need to be afraid of God punishing you for being insufficiently good. But you should be afraid of being disqualified for God’s favor, blessing, and protection.”

The implication here is that good behavior, or not ticking God off, is what qualifies you for “favor, blessing, and protection.” Pardon the blunt language but this is a lie. It’s lifeless religion.

People who advocate that view simply don’t have a revelation of where we stand with God by grace.

The New Covenant version of “the fear of the Lord” means not wanting to disappoint our Father simply because we love Him . . . because He’s so wonderful and kind . . . and are grateful to Him. NOT because pleasing him qualifies us for favor, blessing, and protection; and disappointing him disqualifies us for it.

We always and only come to God in Jesus’s righteousness and His qualifications. And that means we always qualify for favor, blessing, and protection!

The religious mind reasons that since we disobeyed our way out of the Garden, we’re going to obey our way back into it. That’s not the message of the Gospel. That’s not “good news.”

Look at Romans 8:15-17 in The Passion Translation:

And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,”  leading you back into the fear of never being good enough.  But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,”  enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!”  For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!” And since we are his true children, we qualify to share all his treasures, for indeed, we are heirs of God himself. And since we are joined to Christ, we also inherit all that he is and all that he has. 

The moment we start thinking that our good works (and abstaining from bad works) is what qualifies us for favor, blessing, and protection . . . we are being led “back into the fear of never being good enough . . .” rather than listening to the voice of the Spirit saying. “you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God.

Love is more powerful than fear. And there is no fear in love. (See 1 John 4:18)

If the desire is to not “mess up” and disappoint your Heavenly Father, or hurt others, or hurt yourself . . . then love will do a much better job than “fear” ever will. Which is exactly why Jesus said all of the Law and the Prophets can be replaced with “Love God with all your heart and love others.” And it’s why Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you . . . Love one another.”

Love will do what fear cannot.

If Proof of Alien Intelligence is Revealed: What Then for Us Christians?

Project Aurora

The “If” in my headline above is doing a lot of work in that sentence. I’ve long been skeptical that reports of UFOs were signs we were being visited by advanced alien races. My suspicion has been that anything that couldn’t be explained by natural phenomena was most likely top secret, experimental projects by our government and others.

Please understand, that’s still my presumption.

I was also open to the idea that some of the phenomena people observed was spiritual (demonic) in nature. But if that was the case, no physical remnants of spacecraft or actual aliens would ever be located.

Nevertheless, there are some serious, credentialed, non-loony folks currently saying that our government, and other governments currently hold and are studying pieces of materials and technologies that seem to be of “non-human origin.”

For example, this week an article appeared in the online magazine The Debrief titled, “INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS SAY U.S. HAS RETRIEVED AIRCRAFT OF NON-HUMAN ORIGIN.” The site covers news in the area of tech, defense, and the aerospace industry.

The claim is that our government and a few others have been secretly hoarding and studying these materials in hopes of gaining a military advantage over the others. A new “Cold War” the article called it.

If the assertions in that article are ultimately shown to be true . . . again, note the IF . . . then it will trigger shockwaves throughout Christianity that will make Charles Darwin’s case for a very old earth and gradual development of lower lifeforms into higher ones look like a minor ripple.

As a Christian teacher, it seems almost irresponsible not to at least ponder the implications of such a revelation. So back to the question in the title of this post: “If Proof of Alien Intelligence is Revealed: What Then for Us Christians?”

Not surprisingly, I’m far from the only one pondering this question right now. Here’s a smart blogger I follow, Daniel Sinclair, examining it in a recent post titled: Will Christianity Collapse if Intelligent Aliens are Discovered? And another, Evan Minton, with: What Would Aliens Mean For The Christian Worldview? Both are worth your time. I’ve given this some thought as well. And I have incorporated a few of their observations into mine.

So let’s run a thought experiment . . .

Let’s say indisputable proof emerges next week that advanced, intelligent life exists on a planet other than earth. What then? Will the Christian faith or worldview be critically undermined or invalidated?

The answer is: It depends, but probably not.

The purpose of the ancient book of Genesis—particularly the opening three chapters—was not to answer 21st Century questions about the processes that brought the universe into being. It was to let the Israelite tribes (and ultimately you and me) know that the world and its people are not as God originally intended them to be. That something went terribly wrong. That creation is broken and we are broken. That there was a “Fall.” But . . .

The opening three chapters of Genesis also reveal that God immediately put into motion a plan to make right what had gone so terribly wrong. A plan that culminated in the arrival of another “Adam” who would begin to restore and repair what the first Adam had forfeited and corrupted.

So the Fall is presuppositional to the entire Christian faith. In fact, the late Charles Colson wrote that a biblical worldview had to contain three elements. Creation, the Fall, and Redemption.

What Genesis doesn’t tell us is . . .

the scope of the Fall. We know that mankind was affected. Catastrophically so. In the Genesis narrative, God’s pronouncement of the implications of what Adam and Eve had done makes that clear. We also see planet Earth impacted as well. “Cursed is the ground because of you . . .” (Gen. 3:17)

What is not clear is whether or not the entire universe was subjected to “the curse.” We know that entropy–the tendency of all matter and energy to decay, dissolve, and generally wind down—is a universal law of physics.

Is universal entropy an effect of the curse? That’s unclear. There is the line in Romans 8 about “all creation” groaning in anticipation of the revealing of the “sons of God.” (v. 22) But if . . . IF . . . God created other planets filled with life in this unimaginably vast universe, were they affected by the Fall as well?

God is just. And it would not seem just nor fair to have the rebellious failure on the part of one planet’s stewards bring a curse upon the innocent stewards of other planets.

Which presents a number of possibilities for our hypothetical aliens . . .

Possibility 1: The Fall of mankind on earth did not impact other inhabited planets (if there are any). This might explain why the (hypothetical) inhabitants of such a planet are so much more advanced than ours. Who knows how much the effects of the curse slowed down our advancement and development as a species. That would also mean such interplanetary travelers would be friendly and benevolent. Not unlike angels but, like us, would have natural material bodies and be able to reproduce.

Possibility 2: The Fall of mankind on earth DID impact other inhabited planets. This seems far less likely (or just) and it opens up a whole array of thorny questions. Did the eternally pre-existent God-the-Son, need to be incarnated as one of those other beings to redeem them, just as He had to become one of us? Or, since the Fall happened here, the Son only needed to be incarnated here, but it is now our responsibility to deliver the Good News to the inhabitants of other planets? After all, in the Great Commission, Jesus’ instructions were to preach the gospel “to all creation.” (pas ktisis in the Greek.) Those are the same Greek words Paul used in Romans 8:22 in saying that “all creation” groans to see the revealing of the sons of God. Would it be fair to have the inhabitants of another planet wait many thousands of years for our technology to make evangelizing them possible? Well, there are currently remote tribes on THIS planet who still haven’t been reached by missionaries, and they’ve been waiting 2,000 years.

Possibility 3: The non-terrestrial visitors are highly intelligent and advanced, but were not created “in the image and likeness of God” as Adam and Eve were. Over the centuries, many theologians have wrestled with the meaning of those words from Genesis 1:26-27. They call it the “Imago Dei.” I don’t believe they mean, necessarily that we look like God. I believe being His “image bearers” means we carry a spark of divine Life . . . His “breath.” But more importantly, that we also carry His seal of delegated authority. We represent Him. His intention was (and is) for His people to oversee the earth as His proxy rulers. That means this place belongs to us. But it also means it’s possible that any hyper-intelligent visitors that were NOT created Imago Dei lack the breath of God. This would make them a class of being we do not have here on Earth—essentially an animal that is smarter than we are.

None of these possibilities presents an existential threat to the Christian faith. As long as . . .

As long as we don’t make the mistake that many of my Christian fundamentalist friends have made in the past and continue to make. Namely, the belief that everything that IS has to have been mentioned explicitly in the Bible somewhere. And if it’s not mentioned in the Bible, then it cannot BE. And it if cannot be, then it’s a trick of the devil.

This is where such folks stood when the first dinosaur fossils began to emerge. They didn’t see dinosaurs in the Bible and therefore crafted elaborate explanations for why those fossils weren’t what they seemed to be. Once the evidence became undeniable, then fell back and dug in on new positions and twisted themselves into logical and evidentiary pretzels. All out of a (flawed, in my view) assumption about why God gave us the Bible and how we’re intended to read it.

So here’s where I currently stand . . .

“Currently” is the operative word in that subhead.

I suspect it takes, mathematically, a universe THIS big to end up with ONE place as perfect for life as this gorgeous blue marble is. Which means we’re alone in the material universe. Of course, the material universe is NOT all there is. Far from it.

That time they pointed the Hubble telescope at an “empty” portion of our night sky . . .

Even though the current rumors and speculation swirl around individuals with much more credibility than the usual fringe fanatics who know “The Truth is Out There,” I’m still skeptical for reasons I won’t take the time to go into here.

But if I’m wrong, it won’t shake my faith. Not because I’m prepared to reject any and all evidence that doesn’t comport with my interpretation of Genesis. Not because I would close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears shouting “LA LA LA . . . I can’t hear you.”

Like the two theologians whose blog posts I linked to above, I’m convinced such a revelation, no matter how unlikely I think it might be, presents no threat to authentic, historic Christianity.

I’m convinced the story the Bible is telling contains room for nearly any eventuality. There is nothing in the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed or any other ancient creed of the Church that would be negated by evidence of intelligent life on another planet.

By the way, I think about these things so you don’t have to.

The Illusion of Scarcity

I’ll be refilling the bird feeders this morning. Those little guys think the seed they see on those feeders is all there is. So sometimes they fight over access to them.

They have no idea that there is a virtually unlimited supply of bird seed in my storage cabinets and at the stores around the corner. And they have no conception that it is my delight to provide food for them . . . that it brings me joy. 

For believers, scarcity is an illusion. Abundance is the reality. In His house . . .

  • Provision isn’t scarce.
  • Love isn’t scarce.
  • Significance isn’t scarce.
  • Opportunity isn’t scarce. 

Your neighbor’s blessing, windfall, promotion, or breakthrough doesn’t diminish the pool of what is available to you. Some other person’s large slice of pie doesn’t leave less for others. The pie is infinite.

So, we can rest. Breathe. 
In Him, there are unseen reservoirs of everything we need to flourish. Our Father delights in blessing in His children

Jesus: Your “All Access Pass” to the Father

This perfectly wise plan was destined from eternal ages and fulfilled completely in our Lord Jesus Christ, so that now we have boldness through him, and free access as kings before the Father because of our complete confidence in Christ’s faithfulness. (Ephesians 3:11-12, TPT)

” . . . free access as kings . . .”

In the world of concerts and sporting events, there are tickets (good). There are front-row tickets (better). There are backstage passes (best). And then there is something called the “All Access Pass.” (epic)

When it comes to relationship with the God of the Universe, many believers seem satisfied with just having a ticket. They know they’re going to heaven when they die. And they know God hears them when they pray—although He often seems distant and disinterested.

Yet as the verse above suggests, Jesus is, in a very real sense, an “All Access Pass” to the Father and to everything Jesus died to purchase for us. One of the most significant, meaningful, and impactful realities of the new birth—a miracle which puts us “in Christ” and Him in us—is that we now have complete, confident, “free,” and “bold” access to our heavenly Father.

Yet most believers don’t think or act as if this is their reality. Too many believers let shame and guilt keep them at a distance from God’s presence. They’re sitting in the nosebleed section. From where they sit, it sure seems as though the crowd gathered in front the stage is having a very good time.

This is because they have forgotten, or have never been taught, that they never come to God in their own flawed righteousness. They can’t! They always and only come in Jesus’ righteousness. The tragedy is that it is only in God’s presence—in intimate fellowship, conversation, and communion with Him—that they can experience the transformation that changes the behaviors that cause their shame and guilt.

When I’ve acted unrighteously, when I’ve sinned, when I’ve made a mess of things, that’s when I must run to my Father. There the light of His presence will illuminate the dark, unrenewed corners of my soul so they can be made new. Only that light can expose the lies I’ve believed that are the root of my patterns of sin and failure.

Hebrews 4:16 says we can and should “come boldly” to God’s throne of grace, and there find both mercy and help in our times of need. But if I don’t understand the reality that I have received a better righteousness because I am “in Christ,” I will let my shame keep me away from the only place that can fix what’s broken.

We never again need to approach God on the basis of our own righteousness. By grace, we have literally “become” the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

All of this means we can view the door to God’s Presence as always wide open. Once we renew our minds to those truths—once we root our identities in them—we begin to feel free to fly to the Father’s arms of love at any moment of need or crisis.

What’s more, we will no longer view spending time with God as a box to be checked in order to qualify for blessing or answered prayer. Fellowshipping with our Creator becomes a privilege not a prerequisite. An opportunity not an ought.

That means our times with the Father become a source of joy in our lives. With Him we receive strength and nourishment and instruction. What’s more, in His Presence we experience transformation. Our desires begin to change. Whereas countless believers spend their entire lives trying (and failing) to change from the outside in through sheer discipline and willpower, we will experience seemingly effortless change from the inside out.

We discover a life without the fear of rejection. Without the fear of judgment. Without the fear of not qualifying for what Jesus died to provide.

That’s the epic power of our “All Access Pass” in Jesus.

2023: We Need a Revelation of Authority

I’m not a prophet by spiritual office. Teacher is my heavenly assignment and I’m gifted accordingly. Yet the Bible exhorts every believer to desire to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1) and, as it happens, in recent years, around this time, I’ve found the Spirit of Truth speaking to me about the year ahead. After all, Jesus said one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to show us things to come. (John 16:13)

Most of what I usually see/hear/sense relates personally–to me and my household. Some of it relates to the church I pastor, The Cup & Table Co., as a community of believers. And occasionally I get preparatory glimpses for the Body of Christ as a whole, our nation, and the world. 

What follows is what I’m getting for for myself and like-hearted believers:

We need a revelation of “authority.”

I’m not just talking about our authority in Jesus Christ, although that is a part of it. My sense is that we don’t understand authority at all. That we’re living in an age in which the spirit of the age is chaos and rebellion and individualism and autonomous willfulness. (I’m increasingly convinced that we can’t walk in spiritual authority while rejecting the truth about authority in general.)

Yes, we need to understand the authority “in heaven and on earth” that Jesus achieved through His victory (Matt. 28:18). But before we can understand that, we need to understand how God views authority in general. 

Authority is related to order. And order is the antidote to chaos. God loves order. The opening lines of the book of Genesis reveal an earth that is utterly chaotic, and the spirit of God hovering, brooding, fluttering over the chaos in preparation for God speaking and bringing order. 

I’ve always sensed there was great significance in the words uttered by the messenger of of the Roman centurion in the 7th chapter of Luke:

. . . but just say the word, and my servant shall be healed.For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under myself; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him . . . 

Luke 7:9b-11a)

(The Greek word translated “authority” there is exousia. It appears 93 times in the New Testament, usually rendered “authority” but sometimes as “power.”) 

A life in the Roman army had given that centurion a deeply ingrained understanding of rank, chain-of-command, and of territorial rule. That’s something a lot of believers today know very little about. 

Zoom out to 50,000 feet over the scriptures and you’ll see a picture emerge that reveals God’s ways involving hierarchy and delegated authority. 

Any people (like the Church in America) whose banner is, “No one is going to tell me what I can and can’t do,” will not . . . indeed cannot . . . effectivelly wield the authority that is ours in the resurrected, glorified, exalted Christ. We need what that centurion had.

I personally need to know more about how authority works in the invisible realm. I suspect we all do. Here’s good news. “If any one of you lacks wisdom, let them ask confidently . . . and God will freely give.” The Holy Spirit’s assignment is to lead us into all truth. That, as we’ve been seeing recently, inescapably involves exposing lies we’re believing. 

We have not because we ask not. Let’s ask for a revelation of spiritual authority and how it impacts systems of natural authority.

The centurion was utterly confident that all Jesus needed to do was “say the word.” That is, “give the command.” “Give voice to the decree.” 

As we get a clearer, fuller picture of how authority is structured and works, we’ll better know how and when to partner with God by giving voice to the commands that cause His will to be done here on earth, just as it is routinely done in the unseen realm. What, how, and when are a big deal. We generally just reflexively fire off prayers without thought or insight or perception. (See the teaching on Seeing and Decreeing

Our World

The Spirit of Jesus doesn’t give us insight into what’s coming just so we can say, “I knew that would happen.” We get glimpses for two reasons, so we can (1) Prepare, and so we can (2) Pray. With that in mind . . .

The believers in China and Russia need our intercession. The dictatorial leaders of both nations (Putin and Xi) are approaching the end of the line. There are ancient demonic spirits that have animated dictators through the millennia. The same unseen actors that animated the kings of Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Rome, the Seleucid Greeks of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Abbasid Caliphate, Genghis Khan’s Mongols, Stalin’s Soviets, and Hitler’s Nazis . . . stand behind our current crop of despots. 

The arc of those who yield themselves to those powers is always the same. Initial empowerment and success featuring brutality and cruelty; leading to madness and fatal mistakes. We’re entering the madness and mistakes phase for both leaders. 

As the Spirit leads us, let’s be ready and willing to intercede for our brothers sisters in difficult circumstances around the planet. One side benefit . . .

Glimpsing what other believers are enduring will put our situations as American believers into perspective. Perspective is valuable. Perspective is vital. 

Grace and Truth

The election turmoil and pandemic disruptions resulted in a thin veil of deception falling over the eyes of large sections of the evangelical world, including many spiritual leaders. It is a veil that doesn’t blind but does distort the way they “see.”

The fruit of this “veil” . . . the evidence of its presence . . . was and is anger, bitterness, resentment, and despair. (It should go without saying that these fruits are never appropriate for sons and daughters of a reigning King who is in the middle of riding to victory over His enemies.)

I see that “veil” beginning to dissolve now. We need to contend for that dissolving to continue and accelerate. The truth is our friend. The biblical definition of truth is not “knowledge” or “information” but “reality” in other words, “what’s really real” in contrast to that which merely appears to be real.

In Closing

These words of Jesus to His disciples hold a key piece of God’s word to us for 2023:

“There is so much more I would like to say to you, but it’s more than you can grasp at this moment.  But when the truth-giving Spirit comes, he will unveil the reality of every truth. He won’t speak on his own, but only what he hears from the Father, and he will reveal prophetically  to you what is to come. He will glorify me on the earth, for he will receive from me what is mine and reveal it to you. Everything that belongs to the Father belongs to me—that’s why I say that the Divine Encourager will receive what is mine and reveal it to you. 

John 16:12-15 TPT

Simeon’s Prophetic Warning

Rembrandt – “Circumcision”

Mary and Joseph stood there, awestruck over what was being said about their baby. Simeon then blessed them and prophesied over Mary, saying: “A painful sword will one day pierce your inner being, for your child will be rejected by many in Israel. And the destiny of your child is this: he will be laid down as a miracle sign for the downfall and resurrection of many in Israel. Many will oppose this sign, but it will expose to all the innermost thoughts of their hearts before God.” 

(Luke 2:34–35)

After a long lifetime of waiting and watching, Simeon has finally laid his dimming eyes upon the promised Seed through Whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. He can now depart in peace. 

But wait. As he holds the 40-day-old infant, the spirit of prophecy moves him. After speaking a blessing over the parents, he brings words of stark warning—for both the mother and the nation he loves. He sees heartache in Mary’s future. The source of her pain will be the rejection of her Son by many of his countrymen. Jesus’ presence and preaching will expose the true nature of hearts. Some will respond in a way that will lead to a resurrection—a new birth. Others will reject Him, to their everlasting “downfall.”

Indeed, the gospels reveal that Jesus will go through all the villages and synagogues of both Judea and Galilee. (Matthew 9:35) His preaching will be filled with classic Old Testament prophetic vocabulary, frequently warning of a fiery judgment coming to that generation of Israelites. (Scan Luke’s gospel and count how many times Jesus uses the phrase “this generation.”)

And, consistent with Simeon’s prophecy, His illustrations will frequently describe a sorting and dividing of the people who hear his message. Jesus will speak of wheat being separated from chaff. And wheat from tares. He will speak of the sorting of sheep and goats. And of fish after a catch. He will describe His Words of Life as seeds falling on four different kinds of soil. 

By the Spirit, Simeon saw what so many other Scripture experts of his day completely missed. The Messiah hadn’t come to unify the Jewish people against Rome. On the contrary, He was destined to divide them. For some He would be “the way” to new life. For many others, He would become a stone over which they would stumble and fall. (John 6:60-65)

Everything Simeon prophesies on this day will came to pass. The reactions to Jesus’ words will reveal the true nature of hearts. Many among the pious Pharisees and other religious elites will not only reject Him but despise Him. Yet many of those who had long ago abandoned both the ethics and observances of the Mosaic Law will return to God with joyful tears.

Finally, Simeon sees past the Jesus’ ministry as a prophet to His service as a priest—as both High Priest and sacrifice Lamb. He will be “laid down” (on a cross) and then lifted up as a “miracle sign” to the nation. 

Prayer of Declaration:

Jesus—Prophet, Priest and King—you willingly laid your life down so that I, and countless others around the world, and throughout history might receive eternal life. My heart is soft toward you. My ears are attuned to your voice. I’m good soil for your Words of Life!

A Glimpse of God’s Face

Rembrandt’s “Simeon and Anna in the Temple” – Wikimedia Commons

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She did not leave the temple grounds, serving night and day with fasts and prayers.”

(Luke 2:36–37 NASB)

Simeon was not the only aging Israelite with the gift of prophecy to receive Messianic revelation on the day Joseph and Mary went to the temple to “redeem” their firstborn son.

The old man was there at that precise moment only because the Spirit of God had directed him there. But Anna, an elderly widow, lived there in the temple complex. Although not a Levite, she was nevertheless allowed to reside and serve on the Temple Mount. She must have been very special.

Perhaps Luke mentions her father’s name because he was an important man. Luke also informs us that Anna is eighty-four and had been widowed after only seven years of marriage. A little math, along with the assumption that, per the customs of that culture, Anna had been wed as a teenager, suggests that Anna had likely been a widow for roughly six decades. Had she been serving and prophesying at the Temple complex that entire time? If so, she was certainly an iconic figure among all the devout of Israel.

We can safely assume that Simeon’s ecstatic reaction at encountering the baby Messiah caught Anna’s attention. Or perhaps the Spirit had nudged her just as it had Simeon. In either case, she walks up just as Simeon finishes prophesying. Luke tells us:

And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak about Him to all those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38 NASB)

Anna’s testimony will serve as a significant source of fuel to the fires of Messianic expectation that will engulf the land in the days to come. Fires so hot, that when, in thirty years, John the Baptist begins preaching way out at the Jordan River, “all of Jerusalem will come out to hear him.” (see: Mark 1:5) 

Throughout six decades of service at the Jerusalem temple, this large open plaza outside the gates of the inner complex, sometimes called the Court of the Women, is as close to the heart of the temple Anna, or any other woman, has ever been permitted to stand.

One level deeper lies the Court of Israel, (or the Court of Men). Deeper still lies the Court of Priests. Finally, in very heart of the complex, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The latter chamber is where the very presence of God is said to dwell. Only the High Priest is allowed into that sacred space, and only once each year. 

Here’s the irony. On this day, this devout widow gets closer to the presence of God than the corrupt High Priest ever has or will. Anna has seen the face of God. 

Prayer of Declaration:

Jesus, the curtain or veil that blocked access to the Temple’s Holy of Holies was torn in two as you laid your life down for me. Through your blood, I now have direct and free access to the very Presence and Person of God, my Heavenly Father.

All Must Be Fulfilled

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived. Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child . . . 

(Luke 2:21-22a NLT)

After the fall festival pilgrims and Roman census travelers returned to their homes, it seems Joseph and Mary were able to find better quarters in Bethlehem. Luke doesn’t say so explicitly, but the new parents appear to have been intent on staying there permanently. 

This move makes sense given that both received revelation from an angel that this child was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. Human reason surely suggested that it would be better to raise this most special of all Jewish boys in close proximity to Jerusalem and the Temple, rather than in far-away Nazareth. And what better place to groom the successor to David’s throne than in David’s hometown? (Of course, this is not God’s plan, but the couple doesn’t know it yet.)

So, they take great pains to do all their ancient faith requires. That includes having the baby boy circumcised on his eighth day. As with his relative, John, who is now six or seven months old, the name is announced at this ceremony. Both angels had been quite specific—Jesus, or Y’shua in Hebrew, was to be the name. And so it was. 

This meticulous attention to both Old Testament observance and fulfillment will continue throughout Jesus’ life and ministry. He will one day tell His disciples that He did not come to set aside the law and the prophets but rather to be their fulfillment. (Matthew 5:17) Time and again He will explain His actions and intentions in terms of fulfilling everything the (Old Testament) Scriptures had spoken.

Following His resurrection, in some of His final instruction just prior to His ascension to the throne, He will emphatically point them back to this aspect of His mission:

“Don’t you remember the words that I spoke to you when I was still with you? I told you that I would fulfill everything written about me, including all the prophecies from the law of Moses through the Psalms and the writings of the prophets.” (Luke 24:44 TPT)

There are two vital takeaways for us here. The first is that the entire Old Testament was pointing to Jesus—even though few if any recognized it before He came. As we’ve previously seen, the Bible is story about a Seed and that Seed is Jesus.

Secondly, one of the very best parts of the “good news” of the gospel is that Jesus is our fulfillment of all the Law requires. He did what is impossible for you or any other fallen human: He flawlessly kept the legal requirements of righteousness and acceptance by a Holy God. And simple, childlike faith in Him results in a miraculous transaction/transformation that simultaneously puts you “in Him” and Him in you. (Romans 6:3-4; Ephesians 1:3-14) From Heaven’s perspective you literally are “clothed” in Him and His righteousness. (Galatians 3:27) 

Prayer of Declaration:

Jesus, my Savior, thank you for perfectly and completely satisfying, for all time, everything that the Law and justice requires on my behalf. I am clothed with You—Your righteousness, Your acceptance, Your authority.