244. The Hell Delusion

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

Pagan myths repackaged

It is factually inaccurate to claim that Jesus spoke more about hell than about any other single subject. He did not. The whole Bible is completely silent about ‘hell’. For the first five centuries, few Christians held a doctrine of eternal torment either for the wicked or for unbelievers. But over time, pagan myths about the afterlife were repackaged and passed off as Christian.

We looked briefly last time at the four Bible words traditionally translated ‘hell’. In this post we will go into them in more detail. Let’s be prepared for the Spirit to reveal the truth to us and not get stuck in tradition.

Sheol (Hebrew)

Strong’s Concordance says:

Sheol (H7585) she’ôl From H7592; hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), including its accessories and inmates: – grave, pit, hell.

All good, right up to the last word: ‘hell’ has been added there, only because the compiler has already decided that some scriptures where this word is used are talking about ‘hell’. The true meanings of the word, ‘grave’ or ‘pit’ have no context of punishment at all. Most modern Bible versions now translate this word accurately.

Hades (Greek)

Hades (G86) hadēs From G1 and G1492; properly unseen, that is, “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls: – grave, hell.

‘Hades’ is used only 11 times in the New Testament, including 4 times by Jesus (and some of those are the same story in different gospels). It does not relate to punishment. It is the Greek equivalent of ‘Sheol’ and has been ascribed the added meaning of ‘hell’ in exactly the same way.

In these Bible verses we will use Young’s Literal Translation, which is not easy to read but uses ‘hades’, the actual word in the original texts, and not the invented word ‘hell’.

  • And you, Capernaum, which unto the heaven was exalted, unto hades you shall be brought down (Matt 11:23, Luke 10:15). “Capernaum, you think you’re so great but soon you’ll be nothing.” There is no context of punishment.
  • And I also say to you, that you are a rock, and upon this rock I will build my assembly [ekklesia], and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). We, the ekklesia, are going to overcome the grave. We do not need to be fearful of death.
  • There are 2 uses of hades in Acts, both quoting a single OT reference to Sheol, that the Messiah’s soul was not left to hades, nor did His flesh see corruption (Acts 2:27, 31).
  • Breaking the power of death: Where, O Death, thy sting? Where, O Hades, thy victory? (1 Cor 15:55).
  • 4 times in Revelation
    • and he who is living, and I did become dead, and, lo, I am living to the ages of the ages. Amen! And I have the keys of the hades and of the death (Rev 1:18). Jesus has the keys of death and the grave – to set people free, not to lock them up!
    • and I saw, and lo, a pale horse, and he who is sitting upon him – his name is Death, and Hades doth follow with him (Rev 6:8). A personification of ‘the grave’, or perhaps the Greek god who, in that mythology, rules over the place of the dead.
    • and the sea did give up those dead in it, and the death and the hades did give up the dead in them, and they were judged, each one according to their works (Rev 20:13). Again, simply ‘the grave’ (and according to this verse, judgment comes after the dead come out of it, not before).
    • and the death and the hades were cast to the lake of the fire – this [is] the second death (Revelation 20:14). Death and the grave are not the end. They are to be put somewhere else, and we will look at this ‘lake of fire’ in a future post.

None of these references relates to torment or punishment. The only use of ‘hades’ which may appear to do so is in Luke 16:23, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

  • and in the hades having lifted up his eyes, being in torments, he doth see Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

There are several things to say about this passage:

  • This whole story may not be original to Jesus. Its roots can be traced back to the Hebrew traditional text Gemara Babylonicum, which dates from Israel’s captivity in Babylon.
  • The primary characters in the story are not distinguished from one another by righteousness or wickedness but by wealth and social standing.
  • This whole section in Luke’s gospel is a series of lessons about trusting in riches and failing to help the poor, directed primarily at the religious leaders and their supporters. Jesus’ purpose in (re)telling the story was not to give a literal account of what the afterlife looks like.

We will look at this parable again later in this series. Meanwhile, there are links to articles on the subject at the foot of this post.

Tartarus (Greek)

Tartarus (G5020) tartaroō From Tartaros̄ (the deepest abyss of Hades); Greek mythology the place where the Titans were incarcerated. To incarcerate in eternal torment: – cast down to hell.

This last sentence in the definition was a total invention of the compiler.

‘Tartarus’ is only mentioned once in the New Testament:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment (2 Peter 2:4).

If they were ‘reserved for judgment’ then they had not yet been judged and it would have been unjust to subject them to punishment. This is not ‘to incarcerate in eternal torment’.

Gehenna (Greek)

Gehenna (G1067) of Hebrew origin ([H1516] and [H2011]); valley of (the son of) Hinnom; gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem.

Gehenna is the Greek word for the Valley of Hinnom, a literal geographical feature outside the gates of Jerusalem. It was an evil and dark place, used for a variety of evil acts (including child sacrifice to Molech); literally a place of perpetual fire, a rubbish dump filled with so much trash (including dead bodies during the time of Isaiah) that the fires never went out and worms would never die from lack of food.

Therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter (Jeremiah 19:6).

Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, when dead bodies were literally thrown into Gehenna during the siege by the Roman army. Rather than eternal ‘hell’, Gehenna was a physical place for dead bodies.

Jesus used the word ‘Gehenna’ in 11 instances. In all of them He was talking about kingdom life here and now, not about the afterlife (whether ‘going to heaven’ or ‘going to hell’).

Here are all those references:

  1. Matthew 5:29
  2. Matthew 5:30
  3. Matthew 18:9
  4. Mark 9:43
  5. Mark 9:45
  6. Mark 9:47

#1-6 are all the same concept: Jesus is using the imagery of the most disgusting location in Jerusalem to illustrate how destructive sin is (see also #12).

  1. Matthew 10:28
  2. Luke 12:5

#7 and 8 are the same passage in different gospels: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Suppose this is referring to God (and there are plenty of other possibilities), it does not say ‘punishes’ or ‘torments’, nor mention ‘eternal’, but only says ‘ is able to destroy’. Perhaps this might be a good proof-text for annihilationists, but not for those who believe in eternal conscious torment in ’hell’.

  1. Matthew 5:22

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery Gehenna”.

So the difference between saying (1) ‘You good-for-nothing’ and (2) ‘You fool’ is enough to make the difference between (1) being sentenced to death by stoning and (2) being tortured for all eternity without hope of reprieve? That seems like an unreasonable escalation in punishment between two offences most of us would struggle to distinguish.

In reality, Jesus is raising the standard of behaviour to include thoughts and emotions, emphasising how powerful our thoughts and words are. He is demonstrating how little it takes to negatively affect us, how just a bit of unresolved anger pollutes our lives and how unforgiveness lands us in a torture chamber of our own making.

  1. Matthew 23:15

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of Gehenna as yourselves”.

The Pharisees were all about perceived righteousness. They obsessively followed every directive of the Law and made a show of their piety. They were self-righteous DIY-ers. Jesus was telling them that their own “righteousness” was like dung. They were proud of being ‘children of Abraham’ but He called them children of the refuse heap and compared them to those who sacrificed to idols.

  1. Matthew 23:33

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of Gehenna?

They were going to end up outside the covenant. Some of those listening may actually have had their dead bodies dumped over the city walls into Gehenna during the Roman siege of AD70.

  1. James 3:6

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by Gehenna.

Evil from one body part corrupts the whole body.

Fear and love

Religion uses the fear of an angry God and the fear of hell to keep us in order.

But God calls us to simply love Him, ourselves and each other: no religious rules, nothing complicated about it. He is not angry with us, He is always the same: loving, faithful and full of grace and mercy. He has never changed. He has shown us how to love: He loves us so much that He was prepared to come in the flesh and die for us, even when we saw ourselves as His enemies. If we loved like that, the world would be a different place.

I am not saying

I am not saying you should believe what I believe. I am offering you the opportunity to lay aside common misconceptions of what the Bible says so that you can read what it does say and engage with God for yourself to find out what He is really like.

Note: The quotations in the header image of this post are from published articles sent to us in reaction to our previous post, 243. Not Counting Their Trespasses. Please excuse us for not linking to those articles. If you really want to find them, just google the phrases.

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
Older related posts
Resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

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242. Enjoy The Ride!

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

God is Love. He really is! Having a relationship with Him does not involve trying to please or appease Him. He loves us unconditionally, and there is nothing we can do that would cause Him to love us more (or less). He is Love.

Our view of God has become so distorted that many people, not only outside the church but even within it, believe He is angry with us and only keeps us in line through fear. They are getting Him confused with some other god. Love that is forced, coerced or demanded is not love at all.

“Heresy!”

Ironically, this deep truth that God is love is often seen as heretical by members of the religious institution because they hold to a warped theological image. If anyone dares to challenge doctrinal assumptions and presumptions it always provokes accusation. I have been told myself that I am ‘on the slippery slope away from orthodoxy’ as if that is something I should avoid at all costs. The implication is that backsliding and a complete loss of faith are the inevitable result.

I am not so sure. I believe that God is challenging our preconceived, pre-programmed ideas about Him. Those preconceptions and programming are largely a consequence of our place (and century) of birth, our family traditions and other sociological factors. In another time or place the received truth about God passed along to us would have been different anyway.

All roads lead to…?

God does not want our knowledge of Him to be conditional upon when or where we were born, or the religious tradition we were first introduced to. I do not believe He wants something so important to be based on that sort of accident. Regardless of our religious beliefs (or lack of them) He is reaching out, looking to engage every single one of us in a personal relationship. To that end He pours out His Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17).

‘Does that mean,’ said Mack, ‘that all roads lead to you?’
‘Not at all.’ Jesus smiled as he reached for the door handle to the shop. ‘Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.’ (William Paul YoungThe Shack).

Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy is an interesting concept in itself. The word is defined as ‘an authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine or practice’. With our 20000+ denominations you can easily see how rare ‘generally accepted’ might be! So whose orthodoxy is it that we are in danger of slipping away from? Roman Catholic orthodoxy? Anglican or Presbyterian orthodoxy? Reformed, evangelical or charismatic orthodoxy? Or even Orthodox orthodoxy (take your choice of Greek or Russian)? We cannot slip away from most of those since we never actually subscribed to them in the first place.

Almost all of us, if we are honest, believe something different today to what we believed 10, 20, or 50 years ago. God never changes, but through fresh revelation He is continually unveiling aspects of Himself we have never seen before. We call this ‘progressive revelation’. Any ‘orthodoxy’ can only be a snapshot of someone’s view of God at a particular point in time, which perhaps explains how many versions of it there are.

But The Bible Clearly Says…

Every scripture we read today is a translation into English (or one of dozens of other modern languages) and they all reflect the translator’s particular viewpoint or understanding (those compiled by committee no less than those by individuals).

The Passion Translation and Mirror Bible state their viewpoints front and centre. The translators of the King James version had to adhere to a set of rules drawn up on the King’s behalf by the soon-to-be Archbishop, Richard Bancroft. For example, they were explicitly prohibited from translating ‘ekklesia’ (church) as ‘community’, ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’, most likely in case people realised it was supposed to have a legislative, governmental role. There is no such thing as an objective, definitive translation (even if you do call it ‘Authorised’).

Those who are able to read the original languages fare little better. We do not have complete manuscripts and where more than one version exists it is clear that alterations to the text have occurred.

Canon of Scripture

Proponents of protestant evangelical orthodoxy would have us believe it is very different from its Roman Catholic counterpart, but in reality much of its theology stems directly from the councils, doctrines and creeds established by the early Roman Catholic and Latin Church.

The very concept of a ‘canon of scripture’ was only introduced in 397 AD at the Council of Carthage. Carthage was the one school (out of six) in the ancient Christian world which held to an angry, retributive view of God, possibly because it was also the only one where Latin, not Greek, was the language in common use. Augustine was from Carthage, and he had no understanding of the Greek in which the gospels and letters were written; if he had, he would never have developed such a distorted view of God.

The Council delegates bartered over what books were to be included. Perhaps they forgot that Jesus warned His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, of political and religious spirits, but their eventual selection was more politically than divinely motivated. So although all scripture is ‘God-inspired’ (1 Tim 3:16), we may well have differing views about what Paul meant not only by the word translated ‘inspired’ but also by ‘scripture’.

Fear and control

The Emperor Constantine united church and state for his own political ends. Almost 1300 years later King James directed the Bible translators to translate in a way that would ensure there was no conflict between church and state and would maintain his control over all sections of society. In fact, much of the history of the Western church can be summarised as the exercise of fear in order to control people, and ‘orthodoxy’ is still being used in the same way today, to defend and protect entrenched positions and to suppress valid questions and ideas.

Fairy tales

It is very healthy to doubt what you believe, rather than just accepting it as the truth. There is far more to God than any theology or doctrine can contain. I agree with this statement I heard quoted by Brad Jersak “When doubts appear in me it means that I have outgrown my incomplete idea of God, my imperfect knowledge of Him” (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom: Doubts).

It is only through experience that the nature of God can be known. It can only be subjective, and that is not a bad thing. People will warn us that without something objective to rely on (usually they mean the Bible) we will end up believing fairy tales. Well, I suggest we have been believing fairy tales already and God now wants us to come to the knowledge of the Truth (a person, not a doctrine). Love will always be our plumb line.

Mind-quakes

Many of my experiences have revealed God’s love at a new level I would never have believed possible. They have challenged and unravelled most of my theology and doctrine and I am not looking for new ones; nor am I asking you to do anything but to be open to engage God’s love for yourself and see where that takes you. Where it has taken me is into an experiential relationship in which heaven has opened up.  I have come to know ‘the breadth and length and height and depth’ of that love (Eph 3:18) and how ardently He desires everyone to experience it for themselves. Even death is not enough to stop Him loving us.

My encounters with God created cognitive dissonance within me (that is, they caused me mental stress and discomfort as I tried to hold on to two or more mutually exclusive and contradictory views, ideas or values). I had a choice: I could fight to hold on to what I had thought to be true or I could allow the Truth – Jesus – to renew my mind. I chose the second, and it was not easy. It wobbled my head. It felt like ‘mind-quakes’. Explosions of truth shook loose the belief systems I had.

Conversation

God spoke to me a lot during the process. He told me, “Reveal the Truth, unveil for people your testimony of who I am… Son, reveal Me, the true Me. Let the Joshua generation know the true Me unfettered by the old orders of the theology of intellectual information”.

One day, God said, “Let me show you My mind”. I am not going to describe it visually, but it was like being in the midst of a conversation between Father, Son and Spirit that is continual and is all ‘now’.  I got just a brief glimpse of God’s reality, and saw that He was connected to everyone that had ever lived, is living or will live, all at once (that is 108 billion and counting). He was connected to everyone in the ‘now’, knowing every choice and every decision made every microsecond. His loving desire was to bring good out of every choice, to redeem even the most stupid decisions of every person (and we all make them). This love is not limited to a select group of people but is extended to everyone at all times and in all places.

It was a living experience of what Paul described in Romans 8:28, that ‘the love of God causes everything to mutually contribute to our advantage’ (Mirror Bible). Our view of God influences how we see ourselves and the world that we live in, and this experience changed that for me. Our view of everything has to be aligned with Love. His love won’t relent. God desires us to know Him (Love) by personal experience so we can know ourselves as His children and bring His kingdom of love to the world.

The real slippery slope

I love Chuck Crisco’s acronym for ‘heretic’ (I have tweaked it just a little):

Happy Enlightened Righteous Exploring Truth In Christ.

On those terms, I’m willing to be called one. So for myself, I have joyfully stepped off the slippery slope that for 1800 years has been taking us away from a relational, loving God towards a false image of Him horribly distorted by religion.

I encourage you to do the same: to discover for yourself the true nature and character of God who is Love.

I joyfully jump onto the slope that goes from the pinnacle of modern theology and doctrine back to the beliefs of the apostles and early church fathers who were relationally discipled by Jesus and His disciples in love.

I encourage you to jump onto the same slope – and enjoy the ride!

Soundtrack: You Won’t Relent (Jesus Culture) via YouTube

This blog post is adapted from Mike’s teaching in the ‘Engaging God‘ subscription programme. Find out more…

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
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Resources from others

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  • Do you want to go deeper? Deeper into intimacy with God, deeper into God Himself, deeper into the Truth (Jesus), deeper into revelation?
  • Do you want to go higher? Higher into the creative light realms, into the heart and mind of God outside of time and space, to engage with who He created you to be?
  • Then join us from March 8th to 10th, either in person (£65 GBP) or via the livestream (£30 GBP), for Engaging The Father, the first of our Sons Arise! conferences for 2018.
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240. Loving Instruction and Correction

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

Love, the very essence of His Being

If we continually engage with God in a relational way we will continually find new things. We certainly cannot contain Him in a box – or even in a book. We need a relationship with Him and then, just as in any relationship, we will gradually (or sometimes in a flash of revelation) get to know what He is really like.

As the Joshua Generation, we are called to engage our inheritance, to cross over into the realms of heaven. In that, whether we are engaging God in the realms of heaven or engaging Him in our own heart, or in the spirit, or outside of time and space in the heart of God Himself, God is revealing His precepts, His character and His nature. When we meet God face to face, it begins to change our view of Him, and for the better. You can take it from me: we honestly have no idea just how good He is!

When I have engaged face to face with Him, what I have found is that God is Love. That is not only His predominant characteristic, but the very essence of His being. That Love poses a challenge to many of the ways we have thought about God because of our religious upbringing or traditions. If we are to live as the sons of God we truly are, if we are to love one another and to love the world as He does, then we need to have an authentic experience and testimony of God as a loving Father. After all, we are His representatives, His ambassadors, and we are to play our part in bringing the whole of creation back into a relationship with Him, to be reconciled to Him. Notice that it is not that He needs to be reconciled to us, the world or creation: He has chosen to maintain relationship with us from eternity past and unambiguously demonstrated that once and for all through the cross.

Father, Son and Spirit

The word ‘God’ has all kinds of different meanings to different people. When I write or speak about ‘God’, what I mean is Father, Son and Spirit; there is a relationship there, eternally expressed between the members of the Trinity, and this is the relationship into which we are now invited. As we experience the true reality of who God is, false doctrines and theologies will be exposed as lies, distortions and misrepresentations when compared with the Truth (the person, Jesus, rather than an impersonal set of beliefs, tenets or ideas).

Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. He said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father”. We may think we ‘know’ this, but right there is a potential bombshell of cognitive dissonance waiting to explode. What do I mean by that? When we read the Old Testament and the New Testament, there is a danger that we see two different ‘Gods’. The New Testament ‘God’ looks like Jesus, whilst the Old Testament ‘God’ is vengeful, vindictive, unpredictable, and downright scary. It should be no surprise if we struggle to hold these two incompatible views of God in our minds at the same time, yet that is exactly what many of us have done ever since we became Christians. We have looked at this through our own filters and through our own preconceived ideas. If we will look through the lens of Jesus we will realise that any dichotomy is not real, it is just a perception.

Not God at all

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17).

“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

Everything that is good in our lives has come from God. Conversely, we can know that everything that is bad has not come from Him. He is, has been, and will always be the same. And His unchangeableness is the reason we are not consumed, and do not have to fear being consumed. It is because He is Love, that perfect Love who drives out all fear. He is good, all the time.

God (who is Father, Son and Spirit) is always smiling at us and is always in a good mood with us; always, even when we mess up. His countenance does not change. He does not get angry with us. Everything He does towards us is for our good, not to harm or punish us. And every time I have used the words ‘we’ and ‘us’ in this paragraph, that does not only include Christians: God so loved ‘the world’ [Greek: kosmos] that He gave… but we will pick up that particular hot potato another time.

The reason we might find it hard to trust God is because the god we have been taught to trust is not God at all. That “GOD” is an imaginary construct of DIY religion, a distant, angry disciplinarian, a two-faced deity with a dark side which is to be feared. That anger, or perhaps you may have heard it called ‘wrath’, could be poured out in extreme punishment on anyone at any time.

That was who Adam and Eve wanted to avoid by hiding in the bushes. But God did not come lashing out at them in anger, roaring “What have you done?” He came seeking them out in love, asking, “Where are you?”. He was saddened by the loss of relationship (and was ready to restore it, if only they were willing).

Discipline, not punishment

Last time we saw that the cross had nothing to do with ‘penal substitution’, nothing to do with God punishing Jesus. But that whole doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement has so perverted our view of God that we often try to avoid His discipline because of fear of punishment (because if He would punish Jesus, for sure He would punish us). Can we really trust a god who would punish his own son so cruelly? It is very difficult to see how anyone could trust in a god like that. The world does not, and votes with its feet.

However, God’s discipline has nothing to do with punishment:

Embrace correction. His instruction confirms your true sonship, just as a father would take natural responsibility for the education of his children. Discipline is not punishment but loving instruction and correction to bring out the best in us (Heb 12:7 Mirror Bible).

God disciplines us to bring us back to the image He created us in. The Greek word translated ‘discipline’ is paidian, which means ‘the training and education of children’ or ‘instruction that trains someone to reach full development (maturity)’. That is what God does with us. But we have a tendency to read into the word all kinds of experiences we may have had in our own childhood and customs and practices we may have adopted in bringing up our own children or observed in others. But God’s discipline is not flawed like ours. If His discipline seems harsh at the time, it is often because we do not like being caught out, or do not like the learning process necessary to get us back on track.

The perception of an angry, punishing, retributive “GOD” is reflected in our society. Western civilisation may be built on a Judeo-Christian ethical foundation, but if the Judeo-Christian understanding of the nature and character of God is flawed, then so too will be the society built on that foundation. The evidence is clear: angry, punishing parenting styles, support for corporal and even capital punishment, wars, jihads and crusades. This kind of institutionalised violence and retaliation has not solved the problems the world faces and it never will. Only love will solve the problem. Only relationship with God will deal with these issues. Our DIY methods only make things worse.

Spare the rod and spoil the child?

Many of us were told (and have believed ourselves) that corporal punishment is clearly taught in scripture. Christians in some countries have fought for the right to smack their children when their governments have sought to bring in laws to forbid the practice. Here is the scripture which is often quoted:

He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently

(Prov 13:24).

Does this mean that we should beat our children to discipline them? It does not. When you understand what the rod is, you realise it is not a cane to beat someone with.

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Ps 23:4)

The shepherd uses his rod to guide, to keep the sheep from stepping off the correct path, not to punish them.

God does not beat us. He corrects us, He puts us back on the right path in a loving way. His discipline is not an angry parent taking out their frustration on their child, as sometimes happens in human society. His discipline is parental love in action and nothing else. Nothing that harms and nothing that maims, shames or blames: only a love that empowers us to fulfil our destiny, a love that strengthens us to know our true identity and to express who we really are.

That is why we can embrace His correction, understanding that it demonstrates how much He loves us and that He cares deeply about us.

This blog post is adapted from Mike’s teaching in the ‘Engaging God‘ subscription programme. Find out more…

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
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190. By Personal Encounter and Experience

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

Israel always sent Moses to hear God for them, although God offered them all the chance to hear for themselves. We have no need for a mediator. Our inheritance is to walk with God, to encounter and experience Him in a real, intimate relationship as Adam did, to see, hear, feel, smell, taste, sense Him, and to mature in that relationship. Then, as we experience intimacy, we need to teach and model that intimacy to the next generation.

This is a characteristic of the Joshua generation.

22. The Joshua generation will encourage people to hear the word of God directly

Then Joshua said to the sons of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God” (Joshua 3:9).

Regular communication is essential to a relationship. We have a Father who loves to have intimate conversations with his children, we have Jesus, the Living Word, and we have the Holy Sprit who leads and guides us. ‘For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). The Greek (western) mindset is about hearing and thinking, analysis and study, whereas the Hebrew way is by seeing and feeling, by experience. God wants us to experience Him in fullness.

When Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14), He is not speaking of intellectual knowledge, whether derived from a book or an earthly teacher, but of personal encounter and experience, of being intimately acquainted with Him, just as He is intimately acquainted with the Father:

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner (John 5:19).

The Father is in Me, and I am in the Father (John 10:38).

He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9).

All our worship and service must flow from the relationship of rest and intimacy that comes from truly knowing God in this way.

But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him (1 Cor 6:17).

We are the house of God, we are the gate of heaven

Jacob called Bethel ‘the house of God, the gate of heaven’ (Gen 28:17). It was where he saw the ladder set up from earth to heaven, and where God spoke to him. Today we are that house, that gate. Jesus said:

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).

Tradition interprets it this way: the Father’s house is heaven, with many houses (mansions) in it. Jesus goes to heaven to build our houses, and He will return to take us to heaven, where we can live in them.

But in reality, the Father’s house is the church, and Jesus went to the cross to prepare us to be the dwelling places. Jesus was resurrected to receive us into relationship: ‘where I am’ is not a location, but a relationship (I am in the Father and the Father is in Me).

We can be included in the intimate knowledge and experience that Jesus had of the Father. The Creator of the universe has chosen to make a home in us. That is amazing! But if it is not our daily experience, then it is just head knowledge. We can experience personal encounters with God, both in heaven and on earth, as Adam did, and as Jesus did.

We can connect with God in the realm of the spirit, and experience the reality that our spirit is a habitation of God’s presence and glory. We can build a relationship with God who lives on the inside.

We can also encounter God in the heavens, as we become a gate of heaven – perceiving what the Father is doing, and ourselves doing the works that Jesus did. Knowing and hearing must lead to following and obedience. As we become like the One we follow, we do as He did.

When God reveals, we are responsible to do.

God speaks

Does God literally speak, so that sound waves come and cause our physical eardrums to vibrate, sending a message to our brain which it interprets as words? Rarely. Most often, something in our spirit picks up and discerns what God is communicating with us. It takes time and it takes practice to develop that sensitivity.

When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord (Num. 12:6-8).

There are 5 different ways the Lord speaks here:

  • dreams
  • visions
  • face-to-face, clearly
  • in riddles (parables)
  • in the open seer realm.

In fact, there are many different types or degrees of prophetic gifting throughout scripture, demonstrating how much God wants to engage with us in relationship. These avenues of hearing and seeing all require patience, practice and development. But most of all, they require relationship.

God of the journey

People can get frustrated that they are not having heavenly visitations and open encounters with angels, but most people do not start off on this level. God births spiritual babies, not mature eagles. However, baby eagles are born with the potential to fly.

If we are faithful with the little, more will be added. If we are faithful with the simple nudging He gives us, He will entrust us with more complex revelation. The nature of progressive revelation is that God gives us keys along the way, from one level of glory and experience to another. He is concerned just as much (and perhaps more) with the process in us as He is about end results. He is God of the journey, not just God of the destination.

The fundamental truths of our faith are absolute and unshakeable. However, they are living absolutes, because Jesus is the Living Word. He continually brings fresh life and fresh revelation into what is already written as we engage with Him today.

God wants to meet with you today

[Click here to hear the audio of this activation]

Picture yourself walking up to God, your Father.
Imagine coming to Father, head bowed, willing to be a servant.
Look up and see the Father waiting, arms open.
Look into His eyes, see the fire of His love and passion for you.
Feel His embrace.
Feel His arms around you.

Feel that ring of sonship which He puts on your finger
The seal that says ‘this is My son’.
Feel the clean robes He puts on you.
Enjoy the joy and celebration of His heart.
Feel His acceptance and restoring love,
Feel His affirmation,
Feel His approval.

Feel it.
The Father is here.
The weight of His presence is resting upon us,
The covering of His love.
We are under an open heaven

Hear these words coming from the heart of God,
Let them go deep into your spirit.

I declare you are my beloved child and I am well pleased with you
I call you My child and I am your Father,
You are mine and I am yours.
I legitimise you as my child,
I call forth your spiritual destiny.

I call your spirit to attention
Listen with your spirit to the words that I, your heavenly Father, have for you.
The Spirit of your Father gives witness to your spirit that you are My child.

I bless your spirit with the spirit of sonship and the mindset of sonship
I bless you with a deep heart identity as My very own child, securely loved in My family

I bless you with the settled assurance that I have a future and hope for you
And I have written your days in My book with love,
For your best interest and for My ultimate glory.
I bless you with the deep knowledge that I know what you need
And I have all the resources of the universe to meet that need.

Listen with your spirit to My words for you.
My Spirit testifies to your spirit that you are My child.
I bless you with the ears to hear the testimony of the Spirit of the Lord,
The Spirit of knowledge, wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel, power and fear of the Lord

I bless you with being tuned into Me
With eyes for seeing, ears for hearing and a mind for understanding according to the Spirit.
I bless you with being led by the fullness of My Spirit of truth
To see things as I see them in the heavenly realms.

I bless you with the deep knowledge
That you are an heir with your brother Jesus to all My treasuries.
I bless you with the confidence that you lack for nothing that you need,
Spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically and practically

I bless you with the sure understanding
That I want you to have My blessings and My glory, and to possess your birthright.
I bless you with the desire to press forward to see the glory that I am revealing.

I bless you with a heart that does not rebel
Or shrink back from the opportunities I put before you daily.
I bless you with a hunger for the manifestation of My glory
Day by day in you and through your life.

I declare that you are no longer a slave, an orphan or a victim.
I declare that you are Mine and I am yours.
I am your inheritance and you are My inheritance.

I declare that I am your Father and you are My child
And I give you access to your heavenly home.
I give you access to the river and tree of life in your heavenly home.
I call you to be a gateway of heaven on the earth.

You are my child
And I call you to be displayed as a mature son on the earth.

Receive the truth of God’s words into your spirit and into your heart. Pursue Him, and live in intimacy of relationship with Him.

Soundtrack: Pursuit (Daniel Bashta feat. Kim Walker-Smith)

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179. Sealed Up Until the End of Time

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Information or revelation?

Through the centuries there has been a battle for truth: we have an enemy who does not want the church even to know about the supernatural, much less experience it! At the Constantinople council in 553 there was a lot of argument about what should and should not be included in the canon of scripture. Many books were removed at that time, and some wanted to throw out even the books of James, Peter, and Jude (all with a lot of the supernatural in them). Centuries later, even Martin Luther was unhappy with Hebrews, James and Peter.

During the dark ages, when people could not read the Bible, a lot of truth was lost. God has been restoring that truth over the last 1000 years, and there is ongoing revelation of truth. Please do not just accept everything I say, do not be satisfied with just information but go and seek God and get revelation for yourself. He often speaks to me through science fiction films, so He can speak to you through anything; just check that it lines up with who God is, His character and nature and the overall tenor of scripture. Examine things to see whether they are true (rather than to prove they are not)!

Now these (Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11).

Sealed up

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever (Dan 12:3).

God wants us to have insight. We need to have understanding, which only comes through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. God has spoken to us as a church about being like the sons of Issachar, understanding the times.

But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase (Dan 12:4).

The revelation that Daniel was bringing in that book was to be sealed up, so that the full understanding of it would not be available until the end of time. I believe now is that time, when people are freely travelling back and forth all over the earth, taking this knowledge everywhere. Because of modern technology, and especially the internet, knowledge is available now like never before.

He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand” (Dan 12:9-10).

We are now in the days where God is refining and purifying so that Jesus can come back for a church without spot or blemish. We are in a time where God is doing things He has never done before.

Normalcy bias

Many people don’t believe that. The technical term is ‘normalcy bias’, defined as ‘a tendency to underestimate coming disaster, its effects and consequences’. Basically it means people are in denial, not wanting to accept that anything will be significantly different from the way it has always been. If something has never happened up to now, we assume it never will, and act accordingly.

But things are going to change drastically. It will be nothing like it is now.

The effects and consequences of what is coming are beyond most people’s understanding. God is now starting to open and unveil the books to show us those things so that we can be ready and prepared. That is what the Prophetic Timetable is about, God saying “Be prepared for what is coming”.

There is going to come a shaking of all the world’s systems. God will be behind it, but the enemy will be involved in the process. It will take place whether we are ready for it or not.

If God says something is going to happen, I want to be ready. Then, when it does, I will be in position to be used in God’s purposes to fulfil what He wants from His church, to raise her up above all the systems of the world, to provide the answers they do not have and so desperately need.

Something new

Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? (Isa 43:19).

The implication of that question is that we might well not be aware of it. We always have to be looking out for the new thing God is doing – He rarely stays still for long. We must be prepared for change. When we sing ‘Strip everything away’, we must be prepared for Him to do just that. When we pray Psalm 139:23-24, we should expect God to show us what is in our lives so that he can change it.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).

This is not primarily talking about the Bible, but about Jesus, the living Word of God (who created and holds everything together by the word of His power). He is living, active, and sharp; piercing, dividing and judging so that we can be restored to wholeness (nothing missing and nothing broken) and come back to God’s original intent and purposes.

Let’s cooperate, by presenting ourselves to Him. Let’s give Him permission, opening up our hearts to let Him in. Let’s allow God to do what He wants to do. Let’s pursue Him with everything we have. Let’s desire with all the desire of our heart that we will become one with Him (1Cor 6:17). That is the level of intimacy He wants.

He will remove every obstacle, every stumbling block and every chain even right down to stripping out all the impurities in our DNA so that we can be changed into the image of Jesus. So let’s be willing, open our hearts and let him transform us so that we can be ready for what is to come.

Strip everything away
‘Til all I have is You
Undo the veils
So all I see is You

I will pursue You
I will pursue Your presence…

(‘Pursuit’ – Daniel Bashta)

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169. Beholding As In A Mirror

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:1-2).

We have seen how we can come into Holy Place in the heavenly tabernacle through the cross, through Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Just as the sacrificial lamb was prepared by the High Priest, so Jesus prepares us daily as a living sacrifice.

Beholding as in a mirror

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18)

Besides the altar of incense, in the Holy Place there is also a laver (a large bath, made of polished bronze) (Ex 38:8) in which the priests would immerse themselves to wash. This mirror surface is supposed to reflect the image of God. The word of God is our mirror (James 1:23), and when we look into that mirror we should increasingly see the reflection of His image in us.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb 10:19-22).

We may have thought this something we do on earth. Look again: we do it in heaven. We have access through the blood of Jesus, a new and living way, into the heavenly realms.

…Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word… (Eph 5:25-26).

Authority of the word

Are we willing to submit to the authority of the word of God in our lives? The Spirit of God breathes life into the word and applies it; we surrender to it and make it the authority in our life. The logos (written word) becomes the rhema (spoken word).

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and separating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12).

This familiar verse is not about the Bible, the book, but about the living word which addresses the issues in our life. When we look into the word; when we surrender our lives to it, God can reveal to us aspects of our life and behaviour to which we have been blind (our ‘blind self’). We see and surrender to the truth, and step into the light where the 7 spirits of God are burning, bringing knowledge, wisdom, understanding and so on (represented by the candlestick there in the Holy Place).

When Jesus, our High Priest, prepares our life as a sacrifice, He removes all our coverings, skins, and masks; all our onion layers of self-protection. We stand before Him naked, transparent, uncovered; our flesh completely exposed before God. Fig leaves did not work for Adam and Eve: we need to stop trying to cover up with dead works, self-righteousness, defence or coping mechanisms, trying to meet our needs apart from God. We need to surrender.

Threes

Hebrews 4:12 (which we looked at above) talks about three things: dividing, separating, judging; three layers of God’s dealing with us. The division of soul and the spirit is about our behaviours (transgression); but there is a deeper level, our thoughts and intentions, our motives (sin); and deeper still, the bone and marrow, the root or source of things in our lives (iniquity).

We are a 3-part being: spirit, soul and body.
God is a 3-part being: Father, Son and Spirit.
This is because 3 is the number of government.

  • The body has 3 layers of skin – dermis, epidermis, sub-dermis
  • The heart has 3 layers – endocardium, myocardium, pericardium
  • The brain has 3 layers – dura matter, arachnoid matter, pia matter
  • The soul has 3 components – heart, emotions, will

Everything operates in threes, even transgression, sin and iniquity.

Trauma, nurture, nature

God wants us to deal with the layers in our lives. We acquire these skins, layers, masks, and behaviour patterns in one of three ways:

  • Trauma – experiential programming
  • Nurture – environmental programming
  • Nature – DNA genetic programming

Trauma is the record of our experiences, stored as memories in our lives. We create layers of protection, coping and defence mechanisms because of such things as

  • Abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, physiological, verbal
  • Incidents and accidents – emotional
  • Grief and loss, death, divorce, moving home

Nurture is our environmental programming, the record of our upbringing. We may have been affected by:

  • Parents – less than perfect acceptance, affection, affirmation, approval – security
  • Family, school, friends, church
  • Words – curses, vows, agreements, lies
  • Familial and familiar spirits

Nature is our:

  • blood line – records of family sin, behaviours, spirits – iniquity
  • seed line – our DNA genetic record, which may contain reptilian seed (Cain), Nephilim seed (angelic/human hybrid) or righteous seed (Noah).

We can deal with both trauma and nurture by surrendering; by entering into the realms of heaven to present ourselves as a sacrifice. We allow ourselves to be skinned of all masks, coverings and layers; self-righteousness, religious coverings, denial and projection; self-protection, coping and defence mechanisms. We will see how to deal with our nature (blood line and seed line) later in this series.

Our being

Transformation 2012 6_277

We are made in the image of God, spirit, soul and body. Our spirit is where the Holy Spirit is resident, with the mind of Christ, the glory of God and the heart of the Father. When we surrender our spirit and the throne of the government of our life to God, then our spiritual senses are activated to express God’s glory through us to the world around us.

Transformation 2012 6_279

Our spirit is surrounded by our soul. Our conscious mind is the outer layer of our soul, the connection between it and our body. We can have lies masquerading as truth in our subconscious (at Freedom we call it our ‘knower’ because it is where we know that we know that we know things). But just because we ‘know’ something does not make it true. Our strongholds defend our right to believe lies. We need them demolished so that lies can be replaced with truth, reprogramming the mind and renewing the heart.

Transformation 2012 6_280

I do not know anyone who grew up with the ideal of perfect love, esteem, worth, value and security. We have all had unmet needs which we tried to meet through imperfect people, who inevitably disappointed us (God is the only one who can meet our needs). Emotional damage eventually comes out through our conscious mind and expresses itself in our behaviour every day. We have lived under the rule of things that shaped our lives.

If we present ourselves to Him, God heals and restores us.

Transformation 2012 6_281

In our will, sin and iniquity have caused stubbornness, doubt, fear and so on. As we surrender, as we daily present ourselves as a living sacrifice, God replaces those with patience, confidence, humility, endurance – all the positive attributes you see there.

If we pursue transformation, God deals first with our behaviour. And if we persevere, beyond that there are still motives and roots that He will begin to address.

Wash me, skin me

Father I thank You that You have made a way for me
To access Your heavenly presence
I step in through the veil of Jesus through the way of the cross
I step into the realm of Your government

I look into the mirror of Your word
Reveal my blind self to me
Show me the hidden motives of my heart
Show me how I look compared to Your image
Wash me and cleanse me with Your living word

I step through the veil of truth into the Holy Place
I stand in the light of Your truth
I ask You to search me

I present myself to You, Jesus, my High Priest, as a living sacrifice
Prepare me for the altar of incense
That my life would be an acceptable offering

Skin me
Remove all layers of self-righteousness
Remove all the masks I hide behind
Remove all my defensive behaviour patterns
Remove all my coping mechanisms

Remove all the mindsets and strongholds I have built
To defend my false beliefs and values

Remove all patterns of thinking,
Philosophies, ideals, lies and values not of Your kingdom

Remove all layers of doubt and unbelief
Remove all my emotional layers of rejection, insecurity, fear, dependence,
Remove all layers of guilt and shame
Remove all layers of anger, resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness
Remove all layers of control, independence,
Stubbornness and rebellion, pride and self-sufficiency

Give me revelation of my true identity as a son of God
Renew my mind to the mind of Christ
Meet all my unmet needs in Yourself
Heal all my unhealed hurts
Restore my soul

I receive Your unconditional love, acceptance, affirmation, approval
I stand transparent, naked and unafraid before You
I hear You say ‘I see You and I love You’
I receive Your value, esteem and worth
I receive Your strength, patience, perseverance,
Courage, boldness, humility and confidence

I step back into this realm to walk in the ways of Your kingdom
Manifest Your glory through me on earth as it is in heaven

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159. Your Word, Treasured in my Heart

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

In meditation, we position ourselves to hear God’s voice and experience His presence. When we meditate on the word God has spoken and revealed to us, so that we have that word firmly established in us and can live from it, it will enable us to prosper and have success in all we do.

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).

Give attention

The process of meditation is as simple as giving attention to what God says:

My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your sight;
Keep them in the midst of your heart.
For they are life to those who find them
And health to all their body.
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
(Prov 4:20-23).

He wants our attention. Yes, we can relate to God in the busyness of life, but it is important for us to give Him quality time too. When we meditate, we repeatedly bring the things God has said into the forefront of our thinking. What we repeat gets stored in our heart, in our subconscious mind; and what is in our subconscious triggers our conscious mind: Out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

Meditating on what God has said also ministers life and health to us. Certainly healing can come through the anointing and laying on of hands, but if we get the truth of health and healing in our hearts, we will not normally need anyone else to pray for us.

God’s life in us comes from our spirit, out through our heart and through our body to impact the world around us. So let’s keep watch over and guard our hearts. Worry and anxiety come from focusing on the wrong things, driven by fear. The word He has spoken to us and over us can protect us by guiding and directing us, but only if it becomes part of us, through meditation.

Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You
(Psalm 119:11)

Remember

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches
(Psalm 63:6)

I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old
(Psalm 77:11).

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your doings;
I muse on the work of Your hands
(Psalm 143:5).

The Logos Word of God reveals God’s nature and His character. That Word is Jesus: He is Truth, and becomes our standard, our plumb-line. When we remember God, call Him to mind again and again, meditate on His character and nature, on the way He does things, we recognise Him in the world around us and He can flow through us out into that world to transform it.

We must be not only prepared to listen, but also to respond. God speaks truth into our spirits, into our hearts. We respond to that rhema word in obedience, we act on it and live it out. And God then always responds Himself to our living faith in His word.

In Psalm 119, verses 1-40, we read of meditating on God’s word, ways, testimonies, judgments, law, precepts, statutes, ordinances, commandments, and wonders. Then those verses speak of what we do with that word: how we walk, observe, seek, look, treasure, tell, rejoice, meditate, establish, delight, live, long for, cling, run, incline, reverence, give thanks. Finally we see the ways in which God responds to us: blesses, ordains, teaches, opens our eyes, rebukes our enemies, takes away reproach, revives us, answers us, strengthens us, grants us, enlarges our hearts, gives us understanding, and deals bountifully with us.

Beholding and becoming

[We,] beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18).

What we consistently look at, we become like. If we look at, focus on and meditate on the Lord, if we have an intimate relationship with Him, we will become more like Him. It does not happen overnight, but little by little, step by step, from glory to glory, until people can see God in us and in what we do.

Preparing to meditate

Here is a prayer we can use as we prepare to meditate:

Lord, cleanse and prepare my heart.
Give me a teachable attitude.
I surrender my senses to You
Open the eyes of my heart.

Lord, I present to you
My abilities to reason and imagine
For You to fill and flow through.

Lord, I focus my attention
On what You show me
And I thank You
For what you are revealing to me

Garden of our heart

In closing, here is another way of looking at meditation: every testimony we have, every encounter, every vision, every victory won, every revelation from God; every word God has spoken to us, we can take as a seed and plant it in the garden of our heart. The River of Life flows through our garden and waters it. We have the authority to speak life to what we plant, and command it to grow. So we can expect to receive fruit from it again and again – and not only fruit to eat, but more seeds to sow. These in turn will grow into more plants, producing fruit and seeds of their own.

What are we growing in our garden?

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