24. For Such A Time As This

Mike Parsons 

We are in the middle of looking at some serious issues which require a response from us. We saw last time that Jesus is saying to the church, ‘Repent, or else!’. There are things which God wants removed from His church in these days and if we are wise we will remove them ourselves – because if not, the ‘or else’ is that He will come and remove them.

Jude picks up the same theme: Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah (Jude v11).

Cain was a murderer, overcome by anger and  jealousy; we need to watch out for unforgiveness in our relationships with each other – these things have no place and can no longer be tolerated in the church. Balaam, as we said last time, indulged in licence, immorality and idolatry; and he encouraged others to do the same. Ministry for personal gain was what that started with, being paid to prophesy against God’s people. Korah rebelled against Godly authority; he wanted to do it his own way. But the days of loose cannons in the body of Christ is over. There is no room for ‘lone rangers’. We work together, in unity and harmony; side by side, not on our own.

We need to keep in mind that all these things were written for our benefit: ‘Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.  Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come’ (1 Cor 10:6-11).

We need to be really careful about polluting our bodies. If 23,000 fell in one day under the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant brings greater responsibilities, then we had really better not try God’s patience. Grumbling? It doesn’t sound like much, but it was fatal, it brought destruction on them. God is not going to tolerate such things much longer; He is coming to clean His house, and if we carry on behaving this way then we are putting ourselves seriously at risk.

We are called for such a time as this. That is what was said of Esther; she was the queen and the bride, representing the bride of Christ in the New Covenant. She lived in a time of extreme danger, as do we, and she was able to go in to the king and rescue the nation. But she had to go through a time of preparation, of anointing with fragrant oil and perfume, she had the very best lavished upon her, and she made herself ready for the king.

We need to make ourselves ready because this is our time. We need to deal with all the idols that take priority over God. Those might be family, work, church, sport, relationships, ministry, money, success. Sickness can be an idol, as can addictions, problems, issues. Images you have seen, words you have heard and said, memories of past hurt and trauma, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, disappointment… the list goes on. Mindsets and strongholds, things you strongly believe and hold on to, doctrines and traditions in the church (Mark 7:8) – anything that is bigger than God in our thinking. Smoking is a big one: using tobacco to cope with stress and trouble, to relax. Some people use food the same way.

Looking at the problem rather than the solution will magnify the problem, and then it gets in the way of our looking at Jesus. Maybe we can still see Him a bit, but it prevents us looking into His eyes; it prevents us looking into His heart. It can appear so big to us that it gets to the point where we can’t see past it. Or if we can see through it at all, it still acts as a filter; so that everything we see of Jesus is coloured by our issues. But Jesus is way bigger than any problem we might have. If we keep our eyes fixed on Him, the problems become diminished and He is magnified. Nothing is impossible for God.

Let’s remove the stumbling blocks from our hearts. Let’s not see everything through the filter of our idols. God doesn’t want us seeing Him that way; he doesn’t want us living like that. That sword is coming. That living, active, sharp word will come and judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. It will reveal our motives; it will expose selfishness and self-centredness.

When I was on the fast I spent time going through my life year by year, repenting and being cleansed. It was really valuable, but I know I only scratched the surface. God wants to take us deeper. He wants to cleanse and purify our conscience, the ears of our hearts; He wants to cleanse and purify our imagination, the eyes of our hearts; He wants to cleanse and purify our reason, the voice of our hearts. The deaf cannot hear the voice of God, the blind cannot see Him, and the dumb cannot speak with His voice. But we can do all these things if we choose to be cleansed and purified.

I have said it before: our choice empowers God or it empowers the enemy. God wants us undistracted; He wants our choice.

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23. A Bride Bejewelled with Splendour

Mike Parsons 

William and KateIt is, and always was from time and eternity past, God’s intention to have a bride for His Son. And that bride is going to be arrayed in finery, perfumed with fragrant oils, and adorned with precious jewels: she will not be dirty and dressed in filthy rags.

Royal Wedding

We had a royal wedding here in Britain a while ago when Prince William married Kate Middleton. Do you remember what that was like? The bride wore a beautiful lace dress – it must have cost thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands – and she went through weeks and months of preparation to be ready for that day. God wants a bride like that for His Son.

He wants her meticulously prepared. The angels are going to be looking on in wonder and amazement. She will be adorned with the character of Christ – that is what the beauty is, the fruit of the Spirit – and bejewelled with gifts of splendour. Jesus is coming back for a bride like that. And who is that bride? It is the church, and we have the opportunity to be a part of that bride, or to be an obstacle that gets in the way.

Discipline

The Message version of Heb 12:6 says:

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child He loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training.

And verse 11:

But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

So God is doing His best for us, because He wants His best for us. He is looking for a people who are well-trained, people who are mature in relationship with Him. We need to risk letting Him see inside our hearts, and we need to surrender.

Eyes on Jesus

We also have a part to play if we want His best:

London_MarathonLet us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

You do not run a marathon carrying heavy weights. You don’t wear a heavy costume – well, some people do, but not the winners! You are not going to win the London marathon dressed in a gorilla suit.  The winner will wear a lightweight vest and proper running shoes, and their focus will be on the finishing line, the goal, and on the prize. We need to have our eyes fixed on Jesus.

It is so easy to get distracted, to take your eyes off Him and start looking around at something else that catches your attention. Not everything that distracts us is bad in itself. But we can’t afford to lose sight of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We will need to be radical. We will need to be ruthless. We need to ask ourselves the questions: What is it that holds me back? Entangles me? Distracts me and draws me off track? People do get drawn off track, sometimes for years. Whatever it is, you need to turn away from it, and run the race with your eyes fixed on Jesus. Such things are idols, idols in our hearts, they become bigger than God to us.

Thus says the Lord GOD, “Any man who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity” (Ezek 14:4). God hates idolatry; he has the right to first place in our lives, and that is what he demands. What idols are we bowing down to? God wants them thrown down.

You can put the name of this church, or any other church in the world, into this scripture, because Jesus is saying this to His church everywhere:

And to the angel of the Church at ……… write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this… I have a few things against you… The teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality… Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth (Rev 2:12, 14, 16).

The sin of Balaam was idolatry and immorality. God is going to clean house. Anything that we fail to deal with ourselves, He is going to come and deal with it. Jesus says ‘Repent or else!’ That is a strong word, and we had better sit up and take notice. The ‘or else’ is that He will ‘come with a sharp sword and make war against them with the sword of His mouth. I don’t want that; I’m sure you don’t want it; we don’t want it for ourselves, and we don’t want it for anyone else, come to that. God is giving us one last opportunity to repent and turn away from these things.

If we are smart, we will take that opportunity.

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22. He Disciplines Those He Loves

Mike Parsons 

good-seed-enGod is making us ready for the conflict that is inevitable if we are to bring in the harvest He is looking for. In the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew chapter 13, you will see that tares have been deliberately sown by the enemy to cause confusion and dismay. We are sons of the kingdom, but the sons of the evil one are out there and they are determined to oppose and obstruct us all the way.

Sons of the evil one

I am not just meaning worldly people. Jesus explained about these ‘sons of the evil one’ in Matthew 13:36-43: ‘”Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”  And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear’.

We are the good seed: we are the sons of the kingdom, so we need to manifest the kingdom. We cannot afford any longer to live like worldly people. The sons of the evil one have been planted on purpose to come into direct conflict with us as we seek to carry out God’s purposes. Some of them are sitting there on the tectonic plates even as you read this. They are operating in the atmosphere of the earth, with power and authority that is rightfully ours, and there will be conflict as we confront them and take it back.

Stumbling blocks

Jesus says that the harvest is at the end of the age, and that angels are involved in reaping it with us. And He says that ‘The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom’ – not ‘out of the world’, you notice – ‘all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness’. The stumbling blocks are right there, in His kingdom, in His church, among God’s people.

This is serious. We could be a stumbling block. We could be opposing Him by doing it our own way. If so we risk Him saying, ‘Away from me, I never knew you’. There are people who have died and found themselves in a fiery place, which the Bible properly calls Hades (Greek) or Sheol (Hebrew), who thought they were going to heaven; I have seen them.. They were stumbling blocks. Stumbling blocks can be people; they can also be things in our lives that will cause us to trip up and fall. The dictionary defines a stumbling block as a ‘hindrance, offence, snare or trap’. The Greek word in the New Testament is ‘skandalon’, which gives us the word ‘scandal’ but actually means ‘the bait in a trap’. A ‘skandalon’ is something that leads us into a trap, it can be false faith, something that draws us into sin or error.

God wants to remove stumbling blocks from His kingdom; He wants to remove them from us personally. During this period we will see ministries that will fall if they are not working according to His Kingdom; churches too, however big or successful they appear to be. Jesus is looking for a church that is holy and pure in the Kingdom of His Father.

‘He who has ears, let him hear’. That is a phrase Jesus uses when He wants us to pay particular attention to what He is saying. It means He is saying something especially serious that we need to get hold of properly. God is issuing a challenge to us. He wants to remove the stumbling blocks, so He is sending His angels, and for now they are watching and waiting for us to say, ‘Yes, God, do it. We submit, we agree to you removing those things that hinder us’. But they are not going to watch and wait much longer. This is our window of opportunity to say, ‘I do not want to be a stumbling block that gets in the way of God. I can see there is a rock fall coming, one way or another (Matt 21:44). So deal with me, change me’.

Judgment begins

It is time for judgment to begin with the house of God (1 Pet 4:17). The sword comes to bring judgment, to divide right from wrong. God will tell us what is right and what is wrong today, if we will listen. He is looking for those whose hearts are willing. That is why He wants us to know Him intimately, because He loves us so much that He wants to make us ready for what is coming. He doesn’t want us ensnared or entrapped. He doesn’t want us to stay as we are because the way we are just will not do on the next level.

He disciplines those He loves – disciplines, not punishes – and that speaks of both correction and direction. Ours is not the best way: He wants to show us a better way. Hebrews 12:11 tells us that ‘no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness – in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living]’ (Amplified Bible). We need to display that righteousness, so that it is not just that He calls us righteous but that we outwork it and that it produces righteousness in us.

He wants us to be conformed to His will, conformed to the image of His Son; He wants us to be revealed as His sons. And as we will see next time, He wants a bride for His Son, radiant in beauty; for that to happen we have to face up to the fact that some preparation is needed.

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21. Conflict for Souls

Mike Parsons – 

One Sunday, as we were singing, I saw Jesus, and He was looking at me. He was the Jesus of Revelation chapter 1, with fire in His eyes; His gaze was penetrating, seeing into my head, seeing into my heart. There was love in His eyes, and fire, and He was looking deep within me.

The eyes of God

The scripture says that the eyes of God are going to and fro throughout the earth (2 Chron 16:9), looking for those who He can strongly support: those whose hearts are completely His. That is what He is doing in this time, looking for willingness; willingness to say, ‘My heart is Yours. There may be stuff in it that needs dealing with, but I am willing for You to do what needs to be done, to restore me and make me whole. I am willing to step out and do Your will’. God’s eyes will penetrate your heart. If He looks into your heart and mind, what is He going to see there? Certainly you are not going to be able to hide anything from His eyes. And because He is also a warrior king, He is coming with a sword in His mouth; His words too will penetrate your heart and life, bringing division between the positive and the negative, the good and the bad, what can remain and what must be got rid of.

God never acts without revealing his plans to His prophets. Some of you reading this, you are on a crash course. You have been saved into this environment, into this understanding of God’s revelation and His purposes in our days. It will not take you the twenty years or more that it has taken some of us to come into the reality of the presence of God. And things are only going to accelerate, if we are willing. We do have that choice – we can resist Him and stop Him having His way in us, prevent Him from purifying and refining us, clearing out the dross and revealing the image of His Son in us. My advice is, don’t hide, don’t resist; allow God to deal with what is in your heart. In what is coming, a level of holiness – a level of being set apart – will be required that we simply do not have as yet. The highway of holiness is higher than we have imagined.

Harvest

Jesus is returning. He will return, at the end, but He is returning all the time. He is coming to us all the time. Open your heart, and He will come to you. The reason He is coming is to prepare us for the conflict for souls. The harvest that is coming is a battle for souls, make no mistake about it, and there will be conflict. People are falling into a fiery pit every day, and they are making that choice to go there.

I had a vision while I was on my 40 day fast, a vision of people, hundreds and thousands of them, walking across a plain. In the distance I could see that fiery pit, and people were just walking straight up to it and falling in. And I saw other people, Christians, standing in front of them and planting a sword in the ground right in front of them and saying, ‘Stop!’ Some of them did stop, but they looked around them, then they stepped to one side and carried on going.

Others did turn around though. With some of them it took 3 or 4 people to plant a sword in their path and cry, ‘Stop!’ before they turned and went back. The enemy has blinded their eyes. Our part is to bring the light. This is a real battle, this battle for souls: we are not playing games, not just having nice times with God for our own personal enjoyment, for the sake of the experience. Yes, He wants us to experience Him, but He wants our hearts and lives transformed for purpose, for His eternal purpose. People’s destiny is at stake, and we must shine so brightly that we get their attention so that they see that God is real and that they too can be transformed through His love.

What did Jesus say? ‘Look around you, the fields are white but there are not enough labourers’. He is seeking out those who have a heart for the harvest, to bring it in. In everything God is doing and planning to do, this is what it is about: bringing in the full harvest, seeing all those people saved, and healed and delivered.

The first stage we have looked at in God’s Prophetic Timetable is that call to intimate knowledge of Him, to really know Love. But the second stage has already begun for some people, even as that first one continues. Every stage of this plan takes us closer to the return of Jesus. We have already seen that God has established forerunners of everything He plans to do, little tasters if you like, to give us an appetite for what he intends to bring about on a much greater scale. So everything we have seen so far is tiny in comparison to what is coming.

That second stage is the removal of stumbling blocks, and the revelation of a generation of those who will bring in and train the harvesters. You have to understand, there are two phases of the harvest. There will be a final harvest at the very end of the age, but first the harvesters themselves need to be brought in. We will consider this next time.

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