During my quiet time this past weekend, I was reading through Leviticus and the animal sacrifices that were required of the Israelites. Until that morning, I always read through these chapters with the understanding that the animal sacrifices pointed to Christ’s eternal sacrifice for us. But, I never really thought much about the innocent little animals that had to give up their lives. But that morning the Spirit gave me a powerful impression that will forever change how I read those chapters.
My cats, Malcolm and Sophie, often sit with me during my quiet time. As I read those chapters I looked over to them and reflected upon their innocence and how much they trust me to care for them. The thought that an animal, an animal like my Malcolm or Sophie, would have to die for me hit me in a powerful way. To think that they would have to give their precious innocent life for my wretched sin cut me to the core – how horrible that they would have to die for me. It’s their innocence that makes that thought so horrific.
But now take that same thought to Jesus. Now I am not putting our pets and Jesus in the same category, which would be ridiculous, but sometimes those physical examples around us remind us and prompt us to reflect. Jesus was perfect in innocence and His love for us. The value and preciousness of His life is beyond our ability to grasp and yet His life was given for us. Sometimes we hear so much about His sacrifice that we lose the potency of it. This reflection reminded me of the purity, innocence, and value of His life that was given for my sinfulness. How much God must love me, to give His perfect son to die for me so that I am live in His presence. How wretched my sin must be to need such a valuable sacrifice.
Imagine someone giving you their precious pet or even a child to be sacrificed for your sinfulness – now that is an awesome, amazing love. If someone did that for you, what would your response be? What is your response to God and what He has done for you? He gave His Son so that you could be reconciled back to Him and be united to Him in love – how do you foster that unity with God?
We live in a hilly area of California. The other day I took a walk up to a high point in our neighborhood that overlooks the valley below. It provided a respite from the busyness of life; a place to be still and quiet in God’s presence, and to hear His voice.
As I looked over the mountains, the beauty and complexity of God’s creation amazed me. I thought, what a peaceful and revitalizing time it must have been for Jesus to escape from the multitudes to a mountain to be alone with God, to be still in His Father’s presence, to pray, to reflect. Did He just sit there and feel the gentle breeze across His skin as I am now?
As I looked over the expanse, I reflected upon God’s creation and all He has given us to enjoy, and the perfection of how everything works in harmony. But then a sharp pain pierced my soul as I thought about how many people never consider God and what He has done – how for so many years I didn’t. As my eyes fell upon the houses built into the mountainside, I thought about how people look to their own strength, provision and protection, something I’ve often done. They think they provide and protect when in a moment the God they forget could make those mountains crumble – those mountains they feel so secure upon in their houses – houses full of their precious treasures like their spouse, children, and pets.
Who are we to think we protect or provide? How quickly we could be crushed? Haven’t we learned from floods, earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes that we aren’t in control? That we are dependent on God’s mercy? What arrogance to think we are the providers, protectors, sustainers of life . . . that we are in control. How arrogant to forget our God when His beauty, complexity and order are all around us are screaming about His power, might and love. Without His mercy, we would all perish.
When Jesus was on the mountain – did He think a similar thing? Did He think about all He has done for us and all He was about to do and yet now we continue to turn our back on Him, reject Him, think we know better, don’t heed His Words, don’t spend time with Him, and don’t trust Him?
How sad it must make Him even now, when He has done so much for us, and we continue to reject His true lordship and kingdom in our lives. He has created a world that reveals His wisdom, perfection and love. Yet, we don’t exalt Him but we exalt ourselves. Even though we continue to deny Him and go our own way, He continues to preserve us. Even for those who do intimately know Him, how often we slip into thinking we are in control. We get consumed with worry, when He has done so much for us. God forgive us.
This mountain top experience was very humbling. And yet, it was full of powerful moments of praise for all that God has done, does do and will do. God’s love and patience overwhelms me.
May we daily have mountain top reflections that puts our perspective in the right place and reminds of us who we are, who our God is, and how much He loves us and pours His mercy upon us and that it is His work and not ours to be exalted.
The other day as I was walking on the beach, I reflected upon on the bleakness of our times contrasted to the beautiful truth of God’s Kingdom here on earth. I thought about how many people are waiting for heaven when God has given us access to His Kingdom now – something few truly enter into. Most are sitting on the sideline waiting and missing out on an incredible journey now. The reflection took me back to that poignant moment in my walk – the realization of the realness of His Kingdom here on earth and in my life.
The Realness of the Kingdom on Earth
One morning many years ago, my husband came into the kitchen where I was sitting having my quiet time. He said, “Can I interrupt you for a moment?” “Sure!” I said. I’m always ready to hear an insight. He said (paraphrasing) from what he was reading and what the spirit was teaching the Kingdom of God in our lives is just as real as this physical life. Therefore, dwelling it affects our earthly lives now in very powerful and real ways. We are called to a different existence now. His words confirmed what I had been learning. Often God teaches us individually similar truths at similar times – it never ceases to amaze us.
We dived into an extraordinary conversation about the Kingdom. We volleyed back and forth on what God was showing us. Our study, our circumstances, and our conversation were uncovering this mind altering truth. God was unveiling the mystery of His Kingdom. That day catapulted our lives in a new direction. The Kingdom of God became real like the sand that runs through your fingers and the surf that dashes across your feet. We discern it differently than the physical world but its affect on us is more potent than what we see. The impact in our lives from dwelling in God’s Kingdom affects our health, family, marriage, work, everything. It isn’t pie in the sky; it’s pie you eat. We were transitioning from hearing the truth of the Kingdom to it becoming our home. It’s like hearing about a country verses traveling there.
What is the Kingdom of God?
The Kingdom of God is within us. It is God’s Spirit within us. It is Him conquering the territory of our soul and moving in as King and us stepping aside. It is us being reconciled back to God through Christ’s sacrifice and dwelling in the presence of God and all that He is. In His presence, His Kingdom, I’ve experienced in substantive ways His love, mercy, truth, joy, peace, rest, comfort, deliverance, healing, power, strength, protection, provision, purity, goodness, purpose, beauty, wisdom, counsel, freedom, instruction, perfection, and sovereignty – all far beyond what the world offers. And when those things fill your life your life changes dramatically. Meditating on what He has given me in each one of these is something I often do. As we seek God’s face with our heart and soul in the truth of His Word, then these treasures become apart of our lives. It’s tremendous as I’m discovering.
The Focus of Jesus’ Teaching
Luke 4:43 but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.”
The Kingdom is the focus of Jesus’ teaching. It is the reason He came to earth. It is the place He opened to us with His eternal sacrifice, as His gift of righteousness opened the door. We need His righteousness because we have none and we only enter this Kingdom if we are spotless. The travesty is many are spiritually born and given this gift, but are stuck in the birth canal. If we neglect to enter in, learn, seek, and explore this new place then we abandon what Jesus brought us, abundant life. For God is life. It’s something we seek with our spiritual eyes, because it isn’t discerned with our physical eyes, but its power in our lives that dominates everything we do see.
The world functions by its wisdom and we, the children of God, by God’s. Just as we are born into the physical world, we are born into this spiritual one. For those who aren’t born into the spiritual, their lives function and are limited by the rules of the physical world. For us who have been spiritually born, we have a new set of rules that govern our lives as we live according to God’s wisdom. How we succeed, fulfill our dreams, define our purpose, make decisions, and obtain wisdom; and what brings joy, pleasure, and happiness are some of the areas where we learn and enjoy a new way of living.
The Journey into the Kingdom
Coming to understand how to live in our new life takes time. Just as we grow physically learning to function in the earthly realm, we grow spiritually. In order to do both we eat. In one we consume food, in the other the Truth, the Word. If we don’t nourish our spirits we won’t mature and will continue to live as we always have, outside His promises. How many mal-nourished Christians do you see? How many do you see feasting on the pure Word, and not man’s watered-down interpretation? If we ate more of His pure truth we would grow and live as we are called in His presence and not as mere men. 1 Corinthians 3:3 Why don’t you see the affects of the Kingdom in people’s lives? Because they aren’t eating or aren’t eating and digesting the pure Word of God.
For us to know and live in the Kingdom was and still is Christ’s passion. We don’t have to wait until heaven to experience a life with God that far exceeds what the world offers. Our response to Jesus’ gift of His life that allows us entrance into this world is seeking understanding and belief in all the promises of our new home. If we don’t take the time to discover its treasures, we never leave the airport. We stay just outside a world that would transform our lives. We remain in the wasteland of endless striving and insatiable hungers. Jesus came to give us life, life in His Kingdom. In it we find the abundant life He came to give. As His bride, it is our part to enter in and explore and we do by stirring the deep.
Verses to ponder about the treasures of God’s kingdom:
As I read and hear about all the unrest around this issue, I felt compelled to share part of my story with you. This is a difficult topic to talk about – no doubt. My prayer is that you will listen with an open heart and that you will get from it whatever God has for you.
This second video is my thoughts on an issue that is often raised when people mention leaving the church system – the assembling of believers mentioned in Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
I’ll be posting more related videos in the following weeks.
First Video Transcriped . . .
Out of the Church System – Into His Arms (Video Transcribed)
Hi, I’m Rachel with Stirring the Deep and I wanted to talk to you about what has been happening in the church community regarding people leaving the church system – not the true church, the body of believers, but the system, the institution, the business. I see a lot of restlessness occurring, so I wanted to share with you my story. Now, I know this topic brings up an lot of different questions and issues. I want to address some of those – not in this video but in a later one when I have more time. For example, the verse Hebrews 10:25 where it talks about not forsaking the assembling together, issues about young Christians, fellowship and those sorts of issues.
But here I want to tell you about my story.
I grew up in the church. Like a lot of us that grew up in the Church, there comes a time when you have to make God your God and the faith your faith. God brought me to a point in my life where He basically turned everything upside down. Where I was just tired of my life. I wanted God to take over. It came to a point that I wanted a relationship with God that was real. I didn’t want a religion. I didn’t want to go through the acts anymore. I wanted a real relationship with God.
So I started seeking Him in His Word. But now when I read, I was reading on a daily basis getting to know Him – asking God who are you? Show me who you are. I want this to be real because that is what a real relationship is, right? It is communication back and forth. It’s really getting to know somebody. And God started to open up His Word to me. It was slow . . that development of a relationship with Him because I had a lot of things I had to let go of. It was a process. But that is what started to happen in my life, this relationship developing. I was no longer reading to do a Bible Study or to “fix” myself. I was reading to build intimacy with God.
Around this same time, I was involved in a church, highly involved. My husband and I would go to Bible Studies and small groups. We helped out at the church, and built a great sense of community, friends and support. It was wonderful what we had. But over time, a gap started forming between the cultivation of our relationship/intimacy with God as we spent time in His Word one-on-one, listening to His Spirit in our life AND our church involvement. It wasn’t just that we disagreed about different truths in the Bible. It was more than that – it was a bigger gap happening underneath it all. This gap created a restlessness in us that at first we really didn’t understand. As this restlessness continued, we decided to take a break from the church. Whenever you are so wrapped up in something it’s very hard to hear clearly. We said, God we just want to be still and be with you and give ourselves time and not be influenced by all these other things, including our own thoughts because we had enjoyed all that community, all the social aspects and all that it offered. We had to honor that restlessness and figure out what was going on.
We sat with God day after day seeking, reading in His Word – old prophets, Revelation, reading everything. Over time, from His Word and the prompting of the Spirit, we felt that God was calling us out of the church, not the true body of believers. We’re always connected with them, but the church system, the business, the institution. This was a radical thought, because I had grown up in the church. I had always been in the church. It was a part of my life. Can this be? But the more I prayed and the more I read, I felt YES, this is exactly what you’re hearing. I started seeking around and other people where feeling the same thing and had already left the church. It was incredible.
Having been in the church for so long, we decided to go back and see how we felt in our spirits. This is now we often are – we ask God and He answers us in His Word, confirms it in our spirits, and through other people, but we still say, are you sure God?
Leaving was such a big deal and it was hard because we had a community of friends. But when we went back, it was like the spirit was pushing us out the door. It was undeniable that we weren’t supposed to be there. We haven’t been back since, that was 2004. It wasn’t to go find another church that is also something else that was very clear. It was to come out of the church system.
It was difficult and I continued to pray, why, is this right? Because I have friends and family in the church. But the message has only grown clearer and stronger over time. The basic message was, that I’m reading from God’s Word, judgment is coming upon the church. And part of that judgment is that the sanctuary, the house of God, will be given over to the enemy. It talks about this in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and so on and it all connects back to Revelations – it’s incredible. That’s prophecy and that’s what is going to happen, I believe. God is going to call His people out and He will protect them. Those who are really listening to Him will follow Him, His voice wherever He leads. He will be their sanctuary, their Shepherd, and protect, guard and provide for them in every way. This message is what I’ve been seeing happening exactly. You see what the church is starting to and has become. How the enemy is taking over the sanctuary. How people are giving into a big delusion. The church has become the center and not God. People are trusting in the church and man for their provision, protection, comfort, and teaching. Everything is really centered on the church. They can’t pull away from it because they wonder what’s going to happen to them. That kind of dependency means that is where your trust is thus your idol. And all of this is exactly what God’s Word talks about. Our trust should be in God. God can use different things, but who is the source of our trust – our dependency will tell us.
Anyway, God continued to unfold His Word and lay out this plan. It has been hard because being outside the system isn’t where the majority of people are. But the choice really came down not so much leave the church or not, because you can give all these reasons why church can be bad or good, but it was about whose voice was I going to listen to, man’s or God’s?
I hope that my story encourages you to seek God’s truth in this, not anyone else’s like your church’s, but what is God saying to you. What is His will? And give yourself time to really listen to His voice – that still small voice. If we truly seek and we really want to know the truth, then He will open up His Word to us. He will lead and show us His will for us. But we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to truly follow Him. It’s my prayer that you would have that seeking heart.
2 Thessalonians 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
The last couple of weeks have been full of God’s instruction (discipline, conviction, correction, abundant mercy) in my life. There were several things that He told me to do at various times awhile ago, but I didn’t carry through on them. The past couple of weeks He not only reminded me of these items but also revealed to me the reason I didn’t do them – I put a fear of man over a fear of Him. (Fear of man meaning a fear of alienating others, having certain confrontations, and speaking particular things I hold as true) Each one was difficult to face and especially the overarching reason of misplaced fear. I desire to walk in God’s ways, and when I discovered I hadn’t been it was heart wrenching. But I was thankful for His instruction so I could turn back to Him.
The Bible tells us that the fear of God is to hate evil Proverbs 8:13 and the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 It is the beginning of wisdom because when we fear God we walk in His ways which consist of the only true good and wisdom there is. God told me to do certain things and those instructions were in accordance with His wisdom. Because I put a fear of man over my fear of God, I wasn’t walking in them and therefore not living in wisdom in those areas.
As believers we don’t have a fear of God in this sense that we fear judgment that is the unbelievers fear or should be. Our fear is one encapsulated in love. We fear Him because we love Him. And that fear is a fruit of the spirit that becomes ours as we draw near to Him in truth and grow in love with Him and His ways.
God illustrates this fear-love dynamic in the father-child relationship. Growing up I feared my Dad. Never once did I doubt his love for me, but I shook in my sneakers when I knew I acted against his will. My trepidation came from knowing what he could do and being totally dependent upon his mercy. If there had been no mercy I would have had another kind of fear. He was a big tall man. Yet, I knew he would never hurt me because he loved me. I had a fear that was a combination of his sovereignty in my life and love.
My dad and I shared a bond, which encompassed love, trust, honor, and respect. When I betrayed that bond by going against his will, I dreaded the disappointment I would face. My fear was grounded in how I would make him feel if I went against his will and my desire to show him my love in return for his. Now I didn’t fully realize the depth of this reason as a kid. I just felt the desire to not disappoint him, but this bond of love was the underlining factor.
As a good student, I remember when I brought home my first low grade in high school chemistry, a D. The terror of what my Dad would say but more the disappointment in his eyes made each step into the kitchen to hand him my report card near impossible to take. I went against his will by not trying my best and I knew that. He trusted me and I broke that trust. I knew what I deserved.
You know what he did? He hugged me. He said it was okay. He said he trusted me to do better next time. Wait a minute, no reprimand, no disappointing look? Unbelievable, his mercy washed over me. I depended on his compassion and it was always there. Instances like that made me love him more because he didn’t give me what I deserved and gave me what I didn’t. He showed me his love and my love for him grew. There was nothing I could do to break his bond of love with me, even when I did something against it. And the next semester I got an A.
Our relationship with God is very similar. When we come to know God as our Lord we develop a fear of Him but it is tied to love for Him because He is merciful toward us. His love doesn’t remove the trembling but just envelops it because we know what we deserve and what He could do but never would because He loves us. We fear Him because He loves us and we love Him.
Psalm 103:10-11 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
God’s immense mercy redeems us from the destruction we daily invite into our lives. If there was a single moment that His mercy retracted, we would perish. His perfect love for us drives out fear of His wrath and replaces it with a holy fear fashioned in love.
Psalm 130:4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared
As God showed me these past weeks how I had been blindly disobeying Him, a sensation of fear wrapped in love started to fill me. I remember the days I use to not have that sense of a loving fear – I’m thankful to feel this treasured fruit growing inside me. I am thankful for the passion and desire it creates to walk in His ways of goodness and wisdom. This is my prayer – Psalm 86:11 “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.”
Psalm 112:1 Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.