Publication: Pastoral Letter, March 2005
Dear Friend in Christ:
I enjoy worshipping the Lord, but even more, I depend upon it. It is not simply what I say to God as I worship, but what I hope to hear from Him. Once the worship rises into the spirit of revelation, the Lord will speak to our hearts.
I was recently in such a service when the Lord spoke something to me, which I believe was a word for a friend: “You are living in the unimaginable; what you are doing now, you could not have imagined years ago. But now you have seen it. Continue to live in what you cannot now imagine. The key to that is not to increase your imaginative capacity, but to listen to the Holy Spirit. That is how you got here and how you will get to where the Lord is taking you. He wants to take you beyond imagination.”
When I had opportunity, I shared this exhortation with that friend, and I shared it in the presence of another friend. When I concluded, my first friend thanked me and stated that it confirmed a word given to him by a pastor. But to my surprise, the other friend who was listening said, “Can I appropriate that word for myself as well?”
It caused me to realize that this brief exhortation, might also apply to all believers.
LIVING BY THE WORD
When Satan sought to tempt Jesus to turn stone into bread, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (see Matthew 4:4).
Both Moses and Jesus addressed the same issue. Men and women are tempted to live by the visible instead of the invisible Word of God. Notice that “living by” is continual. “Proceeds” is continual. The “mouth of God” has not ceased speaking, and He speaks of that which is not yet, but is always arriving. The heavenly word is always proceeding to us in order to bring heaven’s will into our lives and into the earth.
Many Christians live as though God has ceased speaking. Some actually believe that when the last book of the Bible was written, that was all God had to say. Let me be clear, the Bible is the Word of God and the standard by which all revelation is to be judged. But the Bible never stated that God would cease to speak.
Other Christians believe that God still speaks; yet, they are not hearing from Him personally today. They are living in what He said long ago. Life is not fresh and exciting to such people. Where adventure once moved them, it does no longer.
The Bible teaches us that God’s Word creates something out of nothing. What God’s Word creates is unimaginable to the human mind (see 1 Corinthians 2:9-12). I recently asked a congregation, “How many of you are currently living in ways that you could not have imagined 10 years ago?” Most of their hands went up. The other question is, “How many of us expect to be living a life 10 years from now that we could not have imagined today?”
Look at some biblical examples:
- David the shepherd could not have imagined David the King.
- Abraham and Sarah the barren could not have imagined parenting nations.
- Peter the fisherman could not have imagined Peter the Apostle.
- Paul the Pharisee could not have imagined Paul the Apostle to Gentiles.
In each case these heroes were still living in vision, even when they died.
How did these ancestors arrive and continue to journey? Not by imagining, but by listening. Isaiah says, “Listen and live” (see Isaiah 55:3). Conversely, when we stop listening, we begin to die. God’s Word accomplishes His will (see Isaiah 55:10-11) and brings joy, peace, and singing (see Isaiah 55:12). A stagnant spiritual life or a sense of gloom or heaviness can be cured by hearing from God.
Humanity has a tendency to settle. We could call it many things: Spiritual laziness, seeking our own comfort, or sinning. Whatever we call it, we are defying Hebrews 13: 14: “We have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”
Once we change from pilgrims to settlers, crystallization sets in. We move from seeking the Spirit-Word to relying only on academia or human imagination. This can turn bad. We are heirs of pilgrim fathers and mothers.
“Crystallization” lives in the past. It memorializes and even worships yesterday. It relies on boundaries and rules. It institutionalizes and becomes “Saul’s armor” hindering the current word. It depends upon protection rather than the “smooth stones.” It refuses to face the giants that challenge the purpose of God. Instead it internalizes, rationalizes, and seeks escape.
“Giants” do not go away. They continue to threaten and mock the people of God, until someone who hears God steps forward. Such a person is usually ridiculed and has to overcome “God’s people” in order to deliver them. Such was the case with Moses, David, and even our Lord.
Who is that who speaks to us? He is the Eternal, Sovereign, Creator, and Omniscient God. His Word imparts His life_overcoming life. Realizing who speaks affects our response.
We are not God. We are limited by our own flesh, minds, and capacities. Without God, we face death and destruction. In short, we are totally dependent upon Him (see Romans chapters 7 and 8).
WHERE IS HE GOING?
We may crystallize, but God does not. He finds those who are willing, hungry, and needy. He seeks those who have “nothing to lose,” drunks, addicts, the poor, and others imprisoned who desperately want out. For those of us who have prospered, based upon former words, it may be difficult to see ourselves in that light. Yet, Paul, David, and others saw themselves that way.
When we acknowledge our need, perhaps because of challenges, we posture ourselves to hear once again. Then we can move toward the unimaginable. We once again become pioneers and sojourners.
God still moves beyond our thinking. So I cannot say more than He has given us in the Scriptures. But He has declared that His Kingdom will subdue all other kingdoms. If we believe, we will see the unimaginable: the major religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and all world governments will finally acknowledge Christ as Lord. Every knee will bow (see Isaiah 45:23 and Romans 14:11). Isaiah and Paul both saw the unimaginable_centuries ago.
Am I a “universalist”? No, I just believe in His overcoming word and power. I cannot imagine how_ but I can believe His Word. His truth marches on. “Not by might or power, but by His spirit” (see Zechariah 4:6).
EXPANDING OUR LIVES
It is possible that charismatics can live in the past and ritualize as other movements have, if we neglect the word of His mission. There is evidence that many people are living in “past spirituality”. We have serious challenges before us to grow in our vision for the world.
How can we expand our lives? I believe that the answer is simple: Get in the presence of God, listen, and obey. A new dynamic will enter our lives. Fresh vision and power will animate us. Yes, even in our advanced age, as was the case with Abraham, Moses, Caleb, the Apostle John and others.
For many of us this will be a year of change. We will be challenged by circumstances to seek God and then challenged to advance. We may be at our own Kadesh-Barnea (see Numbers 13). Our great need is not merely manna for sustenance; it is the Word of God for life. Listen and live in the unimaginable.
We’ve experienced “the unimaginable” here at CSM during the past year. In 2004, with no visible funds, limited time, and a small staff, we launched the next phase of Covenant Institute, which included gathering teachers, setting out a long-term curriculum for reaching and training the emerging generation, and recording courses for DVD and internet streaming.
By God’s grace, we have now recorded 24 hours of classes, with many more to come before this Summer, Lord willing. The first course is already being taught via DVD and written curricula by local mentors across the United States. If you would like more information on Covenant Institute and how you or your local church can participate, please contact us.
We also launched “Marketplace Exchange,” which provides resources and encouragement to believers who are taking the Gospel to the street, into their businesses, workplaces, and neighborhoods. We will be expanding this outreach beyond One-to-One Magazine, ultimately into a specialized brand of CDs, DVDs, and publications. We are particularly encouraged about reaching the emerging generation with teaching on excellence, diligence, stewardship, faithfulness, management, and other biblical principles for marketplace application.
Would you also please continue to remember CSM in your prayers and in your budget this month? We have faced intense spiritual warfare as we have sought to advance. Your prayer and financial support are vital as we seek to move forward in the mission that the Lord has set before us: “Extending the kingdom of God, one person at a time.” The cause is great, the need is urgent, and the hour is late.
Thank you for your friendship and prayers. And may the Lord continue to bless you and yours, now and always!
Scripture Reference: Matthew, Deuteronomy, 1 Corinthians, Isaiah, Romans, Zechariah, Numbers,