By Martin Cisneros
The 23rd Psalm, though poetically written stands apart from all other poetry as being a divine revelation of all of the plans and processes of God in the behalf of Creation. The 23rd Psalm isn't poetry, again, though it is poetically written. The 23rd Psalm stands before us as the Genesis chapter 1 of all of Creation, the outworkings of divine grace through the eons of time, and as a masterpiece "snap shot" of Bible prophecy as it concerns us in both the immediate future, the coming ages, and the endless eternity of all in all.
The 23rd Psalm challenges all of our notions of what constitutes being a Shepherd by insisting that ultimately the divine benevolence towards all of us is called "Shepherding" when all other nouns, pronouns, and superlatives escape our ability to declare what exactly life in God is like. The idea of the Lord being our Shepherd offends the thoughtful and rational person, who in spite of his/her care for details of compassion and Christian gentleness and meekness in all other areas of life would still nonetheless not give it a second thought to partake of some animal's poor and betrayed flesh.
Woe, indeed, to the person who views Shepherding as necessarily self centered and essentially and ultimately a means of exploiting animals for personal gain, gratification, and self centered comforts! Your view of your God is necessarily a view of someone who will stop at nothing to fulfill His purposes at your complete expense rather than at His expense!
If you view "Shepherding" as necessarily and eternally about growing "animal crops," for human consumption, then the 23rd Psalm is bad news to you, indeed, because by your set of definitions you are left with the same misguided emotions that tormented St. Paul that you are, therefore, a spectacle to both the world and to angels who are waiting for God to say the Word in finally granting them permission to do with your flesh and belongings all that you, yourself, would ever personally care to do to animals or a worst enemy!
But if the Lord being your Shepherd brings hope and a shout of triumph to your soul, then something within you may yet be more merciful and tender towards yourself, the animal creation around you, and all souls who will yet know Christ's saving power in their personal experience than you've thus far considered to be within yourself. The appetites, minds, and traditions of many hold the purest of hearts in strictest bondage to what's ultimately profane and immoral --the going after "strange flesh" in the Words of St. Jude!
The 23rd Psalm is the creative germ from which all of Creation was formed, molded, temporarily broken [as pottery or dough], and yet to be restored in fullness. The 23rd Psalm is eternal truth in the midst of a generation that still asks "what is truth?". You were created from and for the 23rd Psalm. That's where you come from and that is your destiny! It begins with an utterance of "The Lord" and ends with a focus on the "Time Lord," or the Lord of Time.
There's no need to fret or debate about the meaning of "forever" where that passage is concerned because it's not an utterance of any context of time outside of the context of God being All in all. God is the Creator, the dam, and the flood-gate of time. God in Christ is it's source, climax, extent, rules, definitions, and Redeemer. The last line of the 23rd Psalm is the Old Testament counterpart to the Romans 16 declaration of Christ as the God whose purposes of Redemption ride the currents of the ages that themselves have flowed from the age-enduring promises of Redemption. He's declared as the "age-lasting" God in the sense that no matter the period in which death, destruction, and damnation reign through the first man Adam's one act of disobedience, Christ is still the Man whose one act of obedience will seek and save every soul while [systematically] seeking and destroying every last vestige of rebellion from the cosmos!
We are promised to dwell in the "day" of the Lord all of the days of our lives while we are in this mortal body. To me, that's the real sense of the last verse of the 23rd Psalm. The house of the Lord is obviously our bodies, from what the Bible teaches about the Blood of Christ, the perfect lamb, having been applied to our hearts and consciences through faith and what we have of the downpayment on redemption besides and in lue of that reality.
The 23rd Psalm is a promise to animals, it's a promise to angels, and it's a promise to both men and women who've lived at either extreme of being either animals or angels. We dwell in the house of the Lord's ages, times, or days with the anointing on our heads, a corrective paddle on our butts, succulent provisions of green pastures and still waters for our weary bodies and bellies, and with the hope that we can sit down on our sore butts and partake of Christ in the presence of our enemies. You don't eat in front of enemies that haven't been defeated! The 23rd Psalm assures you of victory over every enemy that's ever waged war against your soul to terrorize, harass, and spoil you of every good thing and purpose of God in your life.
Christ is restoring your soul and leading you in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. You don't have to fear a single evil, either temporal or eternal, because He is with you always. His rod and staff are there to comfort you. His rod and staff are there to pull you out of the interesting ditches that you've fallen into. And they're there to test the depths of the waters He's asking you to cross, even before He asks you to cross them! They're instruments that'll be used more swiftly in the days to come to correct you and to frighten off your enemies --while correcting them and fulfilling His additional purposes of redeeming their lives from the very destruction that their hard hearts have necessitated. They'll be used more forcefully in the days ahead to restore your long lost provisions and to restore you to your rest. They'll keep the valley of the shadow of death from ever being anything more than a mere shadow!
His rod can be looked at as being the scepter of righteousness that Christ weilds as both our Priest and King. One might even go so far as to consider it the angels that inhabit His presence which He puts off as the coat of a gentleman which He's purposed to lay on the puddle before us which we've feared was a rushing river bent on keeping us from His provisions, direction, and rest. Though we should never give angels a place in our lives which the New Testament doesn't give them, we may still rest assured of their Presence and Activities in our behalf since we're the heirs of salvation. He's placed them before us so that our foot won't dash against a stone according to the 91st Psalm. If they're baring us up in their hands so that we won't dash our foot against a stone, then they're the appointed red carpet of life to the believer announcing all of the dignities of the New Covenant, the dignities of the first born, and the promise of God towards the latter fruits who though destroyed in this age are still subject to the Anointed Savior Who's the same yesterday, today, and through the ages of unfolding grace.
It can't be emphasized enough that Christ still restores souls that have weakened in the valley of the shadow of death. Though we've previously been so unsure about the waters before us and the title deed of the green pastures within view because of the menacing valley of the shadow of death, we don't have to fear any evil. He's with us to protect us, deliver us, teach us, and restore our souls. His Anointing, which is His burden removing, yoke destroying power in the Words of Isaiah the prophet, can restore clarity to our minds where there's only been fear and confusion until now. Even if we've never ever known peace of mind and rest from our struggles, He can create within us a pure, undefiled, strong, and healthy heart. He's committed to removing every fear of failure, every fear of abandonment, and every shadow of the past that's continually demanded our death, our tension, our frustration, and our fragmentation. He loves you, no matter what! He declared that before the foundation of the world and He declares it with every mistake we make, with every crushing blow that tries to bring confusion, estrangement, and loss, and He's determined to be satisfied with the results of the travail of His own Personal Soul according to Isaiah chapters 53 and 54.
"Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me." --Psalm 23:4
The Psalmist assures us of being delivered from the fears of the valley of the shadow of death. What are those fears that have to bow their knee to the greater fear of the Lord (which is the beginning of wisdom, according to the Proverbs)? Are you afraid of being jobless? Perhaps you are jobless or have just found yourself in a jobless situation. Or maybe the threat of being laid-off is ever before you. You can fear no evil because the Lord is with you. You can potentially be afraid from the perspective of the threats that surround you, but you can experientially be without the fear of evil because you abide in the secret place of the Most High. The threats that surround you may be more than shadows, but you're called into the fellowship of light.
In the fellowship of light His Blood cleanses you of all evil. That doesn't just mean a total cleansing from the evils that either you've committed or that have been committed against you, but that also means having the immune system of the Lord at work in your being to where financial crisis can strike the body of your life or your life's work and that financial evil can be totally overwhelmed by the white Blood cells inherent in the Blood of Jesus Christ at work in your life through the power of His High Priestly ministry and His manifest Spirit in your life. Perhaps you may be experiencing the fevers and sweats that bills bring on. That doesn't mean that the Blood of your High Priest in the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, isn't working in your life. When you weave in and out of sweats in the midst of a feverish condition, in the natural, that generally means that WWIII is going on inside of your body as your body is fighting against infection, right? The Blood of Christ will do the same exact thing in your spirit warring against those temptations that are warring against your soul and warring against those things that are invaders into your life to take away from the quality of your life as it progresses towards the eons of His purposes for your life.
It is not the will of God for you to be broke or to barely be able to pay your bills. It is not the will of God for you to have to decide which bills get paid this month and which will have to wait until next month! It is God's will for you to obey Him all of the days of your life and for you to dwell in the house, or riches, of the Lord, forever and ever! Just because your family has "always" been broke, busted, and disgusted, that doesn't mean that God's plan has ever been anything less than for you to reign in life through the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness that He's given you in Christ.
My son, fear the Lord and the King; do not associate with those given to change; for their calamity will rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin those two can bring? Proverbs 24:21-22
Have reverential awe for God and Jesus Christ, according to this in the book of Proverbs (i.e. the very book of the Old Testament that asks it's readers if they know the name of the Son of God in Proverbs 30:4).
The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22
Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor -- this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
Reflections on the past are only towards the undoing of one's life, unless it's the pure testimony of God's goodness in one's life or just historical studies in a general sense (apart from personal considerations). We are promised satisfaction in the book of Proverbs if we dwell in the fear of the Lord --satisfaction up to and including all of the days of our lives that we spend in the reverential awe of the Lord that proceeds from the Lord rather than from the flesh or the mind.
Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; do not plunder his resting place; for a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. Proverbs 24:15-16
Call to remembrance the reverential awe of the Lord that entered into your life when the Holy Spirit invaded your life. Honor Jesus, the King of Glory, and do those things that are consistent with His teachings and that are consistent in His teachings in unfolding towards the goal of universal sanctification towards the universal brotherhood. Don't associate with those who are tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, because the Bible warns that their immaturity will be their undoing. And you don't need to be sinking on their Titanic without hope and without God in this world because you estranged yourself from the covenants of promise that shine as a sure lighthouse unto the perfect day!
Only -- goodness and kindness pursue me, All the days of my life, And my dwelling [is] in the house of Jehovah, For a length of days! (Psalm 23:6 Young's Literal Translation)
Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place. (Psalm 23:6 Amplified Bible)
Surely, goodness and loving-kindness shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of Jehovah for the length of the days. (Psalm 23:6 Darby Translation)
I'm continually amazed when I still get the question, "If animal exploitation is cruel, then why did God look the other way for so many centuries?" It is a deep question that merits a lot of consideration even among Christian Animal Gospel teachers/practitioners. At the same time, when this question is coming from a critic, this is like a first century Jewish Christian objecting to the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the Gentiles on the basis of God's sanctioned cruelty towards the Gentiles at the time of the Exodus, the taking of the promised land, and throughout Jewish history. Such a "clever" argument never came up in Acts chapter 15 because it became increasingly clear to most who were present at that debate over whether or not a Gentile could become a Christian that God's previous judgments didn't preclude the possibility of future mercies to those who were once harshly judged and delivered over to corruption and death by the Lord.
The Lord has always had to contend with the hardness of the human heart. And if there was indeed a preexistent state for each of us prior to the creation of the world as some Bible teachers are insisting upon, then perhaps the hardness of the human heart was present even back then. And perhaps this cruel world was created in order to give each of us hard yet practical lessons about hardness of heart and why the Lord is always right about everything! God will continue to contend with the hardness of the human heart until He's acheived His eternal objectives of humility, obedience, justice, mercy, and the love of the truth in every heart.
I am not implying that animals have been more wicked in previous generations. I am saying that God is visiting every issue of hardness with every heart until He's achieved His intents with every heart. If God never did any more in the hearts and minds of animals than He's already done, and if there were no seeds of more to come in any animal anywhere, that wouldn't let you or me off of the hook with all that the Lord has ever intended for you and I to become! You and I are not [personally] accountable for the last several thousands of years.
We don't even know the whole story of the last several thousand years. And if we feel any sense of shame about it, what does it profit us? It neither wipes the history books clean of the atrocities nor brings healing to the Creation around us at the present time. It doesn't atone for what's already happened long before we came along. History has usually been written by the winning side or even by the most prejudicial side of conflicts. There are basic assumptions that are made by archaeologists and anthropologists. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists subscribe to certain levels of an academic creed or faith in order to proceed with their investigations. Until Christ returns, they may never know the full story about our past and about their assumptions of a certain continuity to history that they've relied heavily upon to reconstruct for us the best picture of our origins that they can personally come up with. None of us knows for certain how long animal cruelty has been universally practiced and whether there have been generational, century, or millenial gaps in various animal cruelty practices. The past could be hundreds of times worse than we've ever imagined with many animal extinctions being the legacy of early humanity. There's also the possibility that the last 3 to 5 thousand years could be the worse that it's ever gotten - with the last century being the absolute worst.
In purely sociological terms, human civil liberties as we understand them today, have only really been growing since the Magna Carta was signed in 1215A.D. However, the Holy Bible is the Magna Carta of Christianity, sealed in the Blood of God. It's pages dictate that compassion must be our first priority and final course of action. I say "final" because it's the lesson that the Lord insists that we each learn, and because in practice it hasn't always been the starting point for each of us. Compassion is our final authority in all matters of faith, practice, civil duty, and self sacrifice to God. If there were no room for growth and if tradition and the continuity of our traditions inherently made things morally sound, then we'd each ignore the last 800 years of struggle of human history for human liberty and we'd submit ourselves once again to absolute monarchies that are subject to no restraint but their own whims of coveteousness, squeamishness, or blood thirst. When we ask ourselves how so many generations of human beings on planet earth could have been so wrong about animals, we tend to overlook the prejudices of human beings of former eras even towards other human beings! To put it bluntly, if other human beings didn't even have equal standing in the eyes of our ancestors, then is it any wonder that animals were thought to be nothing more than "leather," "milk," "wool," "cheese," "eggs," "silk," and every other demeaning form of "property" and idea?
Revelation 6:8 talks from the human vantage point of humans being afflicted by the animals during the judgments of the future and of perhaps what some would call the "tribulation." Whether this affliction is through the exploitation for consumption of cloned animals or simply the oppressor's views of a slave revolt on the part of the last remaining oppressed animals, at that time, through God's prophesied decrees of their freedom from exploitation, let the reader decide. As a clear example: haven't God's kindnesses to one race of people always been perceived as tremendous judgment on others? I take the Revelation 6:8 passage to involve God's continued work of grace where the beasts of the earth are concerned. The book of Revelation is a collage of God's wrath. The wrath of God is essentially God's projectile love. It's God's insistence upon His own rights and ways, when His gentlemanly qualities haven't made enough of an impression regarding His will. One of the Greek words repeatedly used by both St. John and by St. Paul in their writings that gets translated as "wrath" is the same Greek word that we get the English words "orgy" and "orgasm" from. It's the intensity of Who God is, upon those He's everlastingly committed to that are falling short of intimacy with Him and obedience to His will. It's the intensity of God's ultimate designs for all of Creation everywhere. It's His rejection of our rejection of His will. His Biblical and New Testament "wrath" is when He denies our denial of His will. It's His declaration that His position on the matter is nonnegotiable!
[Check me out on that - the definition of "wrath" - in a Strong's Concordance and compare it with a few other lexicons. "Orge" (pronounced or'-gay) means and is used as "intensity of the Being." The only question that you're left with is the particular nature of the Being under consideration who is exploding Himself on everything and everyone in sight. What would be coming out of Him? How did Jesus move in "orge"? How did He treat sickness; disease; demonization; traditions of men that violated His will for their lives; women on the verge of being stoned; death; and unbelief? What was the motive? Isn't He Anointed Saviour - the same - yesterday, today, and to the age, according to Hebrews 13:8? If Isaiah 10:27 calls the anointing that flows from Him, "burden removing, yoke destroying power" then again, what was coming out of Him in the past? Do we have Scriptural reason to believe that He's the same Jesus with the same motivations to please the Father that's coming back soon? Read Isaiah 40 sometime. You'll be glad that you did.]
I do believe that the Lord's returning soon. And with that return approaching, obviously the judgment and grace of the Lord would hit where animals are concerned prior to His return. But, should the Lord's return tarry, I still see enormous changes happening where animals are concerned over the next 15 years or so. It's just time right now for God's specific dealings with the wicked, as indicated in Isaiah 11 and Psalm 104. Where the Bible speaks of great tribulation, I allow for the context to be the theological idea of "the tribulation" more specifically than a lot of other things. But where light is being shown of God's everlasting watchfulness over animals in a given passage, then I take the passages of God's dealings with the wicked in the same context to be specific types of wickedness involving animals. (Ephesians 4 prophesies to the generation that we're in, where Christians will come to the full knowledge of the Lord in a matured, unified faith.) I no longer take the Isaiah 11 passage to be millenial, as I formerly did when I viewed animals as comodities, because that prophetic passage involves God's judgments on the wicked alongside His full knowledge covering the earth. That's this generation where we'll see the Noahs of God at work in full knowledge of God's heart, simultaneous with those who are ignoring God's promises and warnings, rather than the thousand year reign of Christ which is yet to come.
In Mark 11, we see Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem, indicating that man and animal inherit the Kingdom of God together; each going to his own position of divine rest that God has ordained for each with it's own peculiar rights and privileges that are associated with it. An animal was instrumental in the fall. Therefore, for all righteousness to be fulfilled, animals are restored to God's place of wholeness with the same unfolding dispensations of God's grace that each of us [human beings] are restored with. There's very likely an "each in His own order" associated with how the animals are restored, as there is in 1Corinthians 15 regarding mankind's restoration by Christ to God, from a handful chosen initially by grace that'll progress to engulf the whole rest of created beings in God's timing for their deliverance and consciousness of Him.
Like the rebirth of Israel, I see many elements of the animal liberation cause of the Scriptures to be independent of the coming of Christ in one sense, and in yet another sense something that points to the soon coming of Christ. And obviously, like all other things, it's something that'll only know total perfection when Christ is Bodily amongst us, exercising His Lordship both over us and
alongside His joint-heirs, as He's given grace, over the rest of creation.
The right questions for us to be asking today aren't about what God may have endorsed or allowed in previous millenia. But what is God saying to us today? And if we're hearing correctly in our hearts, is what we're perceiving from the Holy Spirit allowing us to build Solomon's Temple in our bodies for the Lord? Are we sacrificing our lower animalistic natures on the altar of God within the Temple of our bodies through the power of His Holy Spirit at work within us? Or are we continuing to pacify our animalistic lower natures by our indulgence in the sacrifice of the animals that God has intended for us to faithfully raise to wholeness and life in His purposes which [emphatically] doesn't include their senseless bloodshed? Are we growing into Christ, into having a child's heart, inheriting the Kingdom, and making Jesus Christ stand head and shoulders taller than every other religion on earth? Are we freeing ourselves about speculating about our diets based on what other animals are doing, what other people are doing towards animals, and refusing to use others as an excuse for our own damnation and that of the world around us? Do we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and help mend broken wings along the way?
On second consideration of the 23rd Psalm, it is very evidently a written revelation of Christian godly character. From submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ to the extent of being humble enough to allow Him to set a believer's prosperity before them, in any level that pleases Him, to sticking close with the Lord always, to allowing Him to prepare your bountiful table in the presence of anyone that it pleases Him to do so. Often as we would lay in green pastures beside still waters, there are enemies close at hand who would wish to challenge our right to those green pastures and still waters. Many often ignorantly want our green pastures and still waters without the association with our Lord that our green pastures and still waters are to us.
Though the Lord has often called people to totally leave their old lives behind, including their families as in the cases of Abraham and Ruth, there are still many times when we're anointed by God to sleep with lions in a lion's den. How often were Jeremiah and Paul the most anointed when they were sitting in the presence of their enemies?
Having enemies doesn't mean that one lacks a godly character!
Often one is best known and loved and remembered in the light of who exactly it is that is presently hating them. Enmity is as much of a doctrine of the Scriptures as reconciliation, although enmity pertains to the ages while reconciliation belongs to eternity.
Even though there's much talk of moderation today, a necessary attribute of godliness is to have a full and overflowing cup. Humanity knows this inherently and shows it's greatest reluctance to submitting to anything or anyone that doesn't fill one's cup to overflowing.
I've often wondered upon this very idea, if the Lord has told everyone before they'd ever come into the world that they'd know Him and distinguish Him from all of the false gods in this, that He'd fill their cup to overflowing when they'd rediscovered Him!
Another idea that's often come to me as I've read the 23rd Psalm is whether or not goodness and mercy are opposites. In this world there's often talk of a mercy killing, or of "in mercy" being put out of one's misery, when suffering has extended past what is conscionable. As much as mercy is often called an "unmerited favor" ( to contrast it with "grace"), there's often a sense of mercy expressed in the knowledge of "when" it can be said that "enough is enough." We often either whince too easily, or go to the opposite extremity of coldness on a lot of different issues in a lot of different lives that we come across. But my Shepherd will never whince nor grow too cold to fail to extend a nail pierced hand into any situation.
Goodness is complete generosity rooted in absolute wisdom and might. If "riches" are the wisdom and might of God in your life, according to His plan and your spiritual and mental "DNA," then you'll either never lack them or they'll be yours at the first appropriate moment. But His absolute wisdom and His absolute might will introduce all things into your life at their appropriate season or moment of new beginnings for them in your life.
Can your Shepherd trust you yet? Never fear and never worry. His rod, staff, and anointing oil will bring you into the place, state of mind, and expression of His being through you until you are the person you've always been meant to be!
The Lord leads me beside the still waters; He restores my soul.
There is something that is called the "stream of consciousness" that is very familiar to a lot of writers and school teachers. In literature, or in literary circles the stream of consciousness has to do with the general flow of a piece. Though preachers, including the Lord Himself, when He was on earth, are often loud, there is something quiet, still, and quietening about the promises and judgments of the Lord. The teaching of the Lord, once it creates an obedient heart in a human being, has an uncanny way of bringing a lot of stillness.
He leads in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. It is His leading that is for His Name's sake and not merely that the paths that He chooses and prepares are righteous for His Name's sake. And as your Shepherd, He'll ensure that those paths are there, that they're accessible, and that they're in the presence of your enemies.
So, cheer up! It's lunch time!!
And the good news that I have to share with you is that you're not meat on the devil's table. And contrary to popular Pentecostal belief, you're not going to have to live on deviled ham in order to prove your spiritual stamina!
The Lord has an amazing tree for you. It's leaves are for the healing of the nations - whether human, animal, demonic, or extra-terrestrial!
The Lord's cross has budded with lots of almonds!
The Lord still has resurrection power in His ol' bones.
One taste of His bread and cup from a heart with the slightest faith, and absolutely anything is possible.
The Lord is good to all.
If you've never experienced the goodness of the Lord up until now, then you ought to be the most excited of anyone who will ever read this, because that means that you're next on His agenda!
Though mountains of death may seem to surround you on every side, your body is still the temple of the Holy Spirit. And you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. His mercy will never let you hurt infinitely more than you've already hurt.
Goodness is real.
And though He bares a rod and staff that can inflict severe judgement, it's always with the view in mind of never allowing the wolves of sin to permanently feast upon you and God's image within you!
He has to separate you from sin. He has to separate your mind, will, and emotions from sin. And He has to separate your body from sin. However deep He has to hold you under the baptismal waters of death, He's never going to lose you!
There is a breath of fresh air above all of this water that you are under.
And He will breathe the breath of life into your nostrils at the earliest possible moment.
I want to say to those of you who feel like you are suffocating in the water world that you are in, that once He has your unconditional obedience it won't be the end. It will be a new birth. Your melting heart is about to cause the uterus that you're in [between these mountains of death] to turn you totally loose. You're not really born yet until your obedience to the Good Shepherd has been worked out.
The Goodness and Mercy of His rod and staff are simply preparing your heart for the oil of gladness. When your soul is totally restored, you'll never want for any good thing ever again. All of the provisions are along the paths of righteousness. The reason your enemies are drawing nearer is because the Lord is working out the same process in their lives!
The table that the Lord has prepared before you in the presence of your enemies isn't a card table where the Lord is deciding over a game of cards - whether solitaire or poker - as to whether or not you'll dwell in the house of the Lord forever. No, it is a banquet table. It is a covenant table. Perhaps it's a grooming table for the Lord to remove the filth of the world from your beautiful coat. But whether for a covenant meal or for an act of spiritual circumcision, you are the Lord's!
Though your cup may seem to have only overflown with the bitterest vinegar up until now, there is a sweet glass of wine that you are destined to drink.
Has your life been all of that different than the plight of many animals on the earth?
From the bitterest tears to the harshest exploitations; from the severest pains, to the most gruesome deaths, what they've gone through has been a perfect analogy for all that you've ever gone through.
They've pled their innocence and they've pled for mercy - all seemingly in vain!
They've been stripped of their parents and of their young. They've been mocked, beaten, torchered, belittled, starved, dry shaved, frozen, and cooked.
Day after day, countless animals have wept for a true manifestation of the sons of God!
Sometimes the Lord Himself has seemed like the greatest exploiter of us all. He lurks and makes many feel uncomfortable. Unsure of His motives, we've all tried to hide under mountains and piles of leaves because we've often felt naked around Him and we've felt many reasons to question His motives. We've often wondered if He was a Saviour Noah or the Judas of us all.
Jesus Christ is coming again really soon. He's not only making that abundantly clear to many hearts, but He's also asking His Father night and day whether or not any of us are remembering His lessons of love, personal sacrifice, servanthood, patience, generosity, wisdom, joy, and kindness.
He's the Shepherd of us all, wondering whether or not we've faithfully shepherded the Creation at all.
He's given us His Blessing, His Word, His atoning Blood, and His command to make all disciples and to neutralize the curse WHERE EVER it's found.
Curses aren't uniquely a human problem.
They're a ball and chain for all of Creation that we're all called to annihilate from everyone everywhere. Some of you may be thinking, that it seems like such a massive job to be done before He returns, that we couldn't possibly finish it all.
That's why He created a thing called "eternity" because every individual whether they're human or not - all of us matter after all.
Love will always be love.
Love will never fail a single one of us after all.
All of Creation will be the gift of Christ to the Father at long last. (1Corinthians 15:28)
All of us, great and small, human or otherwise, will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The 23rd Psalm says, "He makes me..."
He's still making each of us.
As subatomic particle collides with subatomic particle, in nearly the same way all of us are colliding with one another as the Lord is arranging our spirits, minds, and bodies in the ways and manners that please the Father most.
None of us are fully out of the womb of the morning yet.
Don't prejudge all of eternity based on a few difficult years in this beginning phase of love and all of eternity. None of us have sprouted yet.
When He comes back, the sprouting will begin!
Perhaps you've been concerned for the well-being of animals for a while and you've never understood Christ to be the Living God Who weeps with you over all of the animal cruelty - during the long and painful process that He's been the silent Partner of every animal liberator on the planet. You can build your faith on Christ, the Living One, Who is as concerned about each of these animals as you are. He knows what it's like to be sacrificed and for His cries to go unheard.
He's asking you today if you'll trust Him with all of your heart, that as He's working diligently to free the world of their unbelief towards Him, He's also as intimately involved with each animal as He is with each of us. He knows the feeling of being butchered and He overcame that in Himself in the behalf of every animal everywhere.
Do you remember the lines that Superman spoke over his own child at the close of the new "Superman Returns" movie? They're Christ's Words to you! If you've never seen the movie, then that's not important right now. What is important is that the same sacrificial Blood of Jesus Christ that is destined to wipe away all of the animal cruelty from the earth and every tear from every eye - through the vehicle of His High Priestly Impositional Activities right now at the right hand of God - is the exact same sacrificial Blood catalist that has already taken away absolutely all of your sins!
If you'll trust in Jesus today, He'll lead you into green pastures and still waters, and He'll give you new strength to cope with the long and fearful journey that we're all on towards the mutual symbiotic wholeness of every destroyed life everywhere. Give yourself totally over to Jesus Christ today so that together you - that is, you and He - can reclaim countless broken lives together, for the rest of your life and during the ages to come! Pray this with me right now:
Jesus Christ, if you genuinely care about these animals - if You do - then I don't care about what others have said about You. I embrace Your Lordship today and trust in You to equip me to do something in the behalf of these animals that'll really count for their deliverance and recovery from all of these evils. Martin says that You've taken away all of my sins and I believe that. But we're not going to leave things at that. You're going to show me how to destroy each of these works of the devil that have thrived for centuries in bringing torment and destruction against these little animals. Every detail of what You teach me from here on out has to empower me to fix all of these broken lives that get ignored by most other Christians. Satisfy me with Your peace, strength, and wisdom for my own heart's sake and for the sake of all of these animals that otherwise don't have a prayer unless You are Who You say that You are. Amen!
The fogs will come and go in the valley of the shadow of death, but keep your eyes on the light that's coming from the lighthouse. Stay focused on the ultimate glory of God in the regeneration of the whole of Creation after many purging judgments and baptisms in the Spirit. Keep your focus on the growing level of the fear of the Lord that's independent of any religious edict, but that has rather begun to unfold into your heart from the Father of Glory. That fear of the Lord, that has proceeded from the Lord's Spirit into yours, IS your source of Prosperity. Satisfaction is in that secret place of the Most High! Remember the abode of Praise:
A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth, but the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence. He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction. Proverbs 13:2-3
You don't need to be given to change but towards the reverential obedience of the Lord. Reverential fear is not enough. Reverential fear that actually proceeds from the Lord rather than from the clergy in your life or in your past is not even enough. You must actually do those things that the Father Who commands the obedience of all tells you to do. Jesus is the image and the Holy Spirit within you is the map. The soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence. Does that mean that you and Jesus need a really long talk --with you doing most of the fasting and listening-- about the movies that you are watching or recommending? It says elsewhere in Proverbs that only by pride comes contention. Are you feeding on hours and hours of contention in the movies that you're watching, thinking about, and recommending to others? Pride goes before a fall. Pride is more than the puffing up of one's chest in defiance of all sound advise from the Scriptures. Pride is any deviation of thought form from the Scripture's presentation of the image of Jesus Christ that God has commanded to shine out of the darkness of your heart. Are you preferring darkness rather than light because your deeds are evil, as the Scriptures describe as the preoccupation of some who are among us? You'll not be satisfied outside and away from the Fountain of Living Waters that we have in Jesus Christ! Proverbs 12:27 calls diligence man's most precious possession. Proverbs 10:11 says that violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
What are you being most diligent towards? The image of the Son of God within and around you? Jesus taught, in the Gospel of John, that He abides in those who abide in His Word. Satisfaction is only possible in seeing the Godman on the inside of you. Can you see Christ within you as the hope of glory? Or have you departed from the fountain of living waters with your names inscribed in the earth as an indictment against you by the Son of God?
He loves you, but the only way to fear no evil because of the fear of evil having been completely and practically cast out of you is to have an awareness of all that He's done in your behalf. You must begin to guard the Spirit's activities in your life and not allow anything to ever again be a distraction from Jesus Christ and you crucified in Him! An awareness of the ever-expanding resurrection into all of Creation must begin to dominate your most basic thoughts. The only way that that'll happen is through diligent study, meditation, and praise to God along the lines, toward the lines, and in the behalf of the lines of all that you are discovering! There are no shortcuts. Proverbs 10:17 says that the one who keeps instruction is in the way of life. What has the Holy Spirit been pouring light on in your life? Both in a general and in a specific sense; both in a practical and in a mystical sense. You'll not escape death without it! You must begin to seek, again, for glory, honor, and immortality according to Romans chapter 2. If you don't, then there's no nicer way of putting it: you will treasure against yourselves wrath in the day of wrath and indignation of God. If you're self-seeking and not obeying the truth that has been revealed to YOU in Jesus, then you're following the destination of tribulation and anguish of soul. In that context, then you will fear evil and you will fear really great and powerful evils in your life!
It doesn't matter what God in Christ has revealed to others nearly as much as it matters --where your own life is practically concerned-- what God in Christ has revealed to you. Just as you won't be judged for the deeds of others, you must not worry about how much God has shown others or how much (you think) He has not shown you. You'll be judged for your obedience, even more than you'll be judged for your light. Stupidity is more easily overlooked by the Lord than disobedience. All of us are stupid to varying degrees in varying subjects and matters of importance. That's why humanity is called the cattle on a thousand hills by the Scriptures, rather than the "oracles" on a thousand hills.
For you to fear no evil then the greater reverential awe of what God in Christ has accomplished on the cross must dominate in your thinking. The chastisement in all of it's bloody fury necessary to bring us peace was upon Jesus Christ. He was totally impoverished in His one act of obedience towards the end of making us wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of an obedient, hopeful child. A crucifix should loom heavier and more menacing in the horizon of your life than any temporal storm you could ever conceive of. But it takes time to establish your heart, in the language of Psalm 112, to where you trust the crucifixion enough to obey your risen Lord in all that He commands of you as you follow Him into green pastures and still waters for baptism and lunch along the sea-side of life. Listen, anew, to His teachings and take the overflowing cup alongside Him, KNOWING that it's an overflowing covenant cup that speaks of reconciliation, sanctification, and the oneness of all spilling all over all of creation. The table set before the Body of Christ in the midst of His enemies is a covenant table over which we can celebrate the negotiating power of Jesus Christ to reconcile all things to God that are in the heavenlies and in the earthlies. Christ is Christ triumphant indeed!
The table set before us and the overflowing cup placed in our hands isn't a cup or a table of drunkenness as we try to drown the sorrows of the divine Sovereign Who's been vanquished from the presence of His enemies. It's His table that's set before us. And as our table is set before us in the presence of our enemies, it's only a type and shadow of the table set before Him in the presence of His enemies and to the ever expanding proportions that His enemies are brought to justice, peace, and to the new order before Him they'll likewise be brought to justice and peace and reformation before us!
We not only have the hope to fear no evil set before us because of this consummate hope for all of Creation that in the midst of the earth beneath where blood, fire, and vapor of smoke are the prelude to every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord, but we have this hope of no fear set before us in the fact that our heads have been anointed in the presence of our enemies. While hell has enlarged itself to overtake and imprison larger and larger sections of creation, the burden removing, yoke destroying power of Isaiah 10:27 is upon our heads to cause the most brutish beast to lie down in the presence of the most benign lamb in the creation around us. Isaiah 11 and the hope extended towards us in the Hosea 2:18 covenant are that bow, sword, and war are abolished as much in the behalf of animals as they're to be abolished in our behalf. When we talk of the abolishment of enemies and all enmity, then we can talk of the eternal struggle that wages war in the heavenlies and that our struggles with evil may enter with us into the new arena of the "hereafter." But when the same promises are pledged towards the animals in Scriptures that understand them to be animals still in bondage to the present futilities, then we have reason to hope in the justification of all of humankind not only in the final and consummate hope of the ages of the ages, but also in the here and now. Yes, there are yet many realms to plunder and many enemies in many hells to rebuke, tear, and heal, but few can deny the hellatious existence of this present realm towards those who aren't carried about through near endless personally (apparently) inherent wisdom (tailored to the age) or riches (tailored to the age) from birth.
Still waters and green pastures are not only a feature of the heavenlies, but they're also promised to our generation in this world in Isaiah 30 from the point of having seen the day of the great slaughter when the towers fell. You can know peace and provision in the midst of eonian (apparent) chaos simply because of the seasons that have been with the Father from the beginning that we've now entered into. We've entered into the ages of still waters and green pastures that'll comfort all of Christ's sheep and deeply punished and shamed goats.
Have you known Christ's "depart from me, because I never knew you" in the past? Cheer up because the time of the regathering is at hand when the Lord will reach out yet again to many nations according to Isaiah 11. The flocks shall again pass under the hands of Him who counts them, according to Jeremiah 33. The King of Glory who once only bade those perfect in the Blood of Christ to come forth out of the shadows of death now cries forth His command for all to come to Mt. Zion so that He can teach them His ways! Rejoice because the time of the greater universal deliverance is at hand! He loves you, He died for you, He's lived for you, and though He's judged you, rebuked you, torn you, and utterly destroyed you, He'll not abandon your souls to hell nor allow His holy One to see a corruption in His reign over all!
Praise the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever and YOU WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS FOREVER AND EVER AND THROUGHOUT ENDLESS WORLDS KNOWN AND UNKNOWN AND EVEN YET TO BE BORN!
The Restorer of souls Who is ever with us keeps us from being in want by leading us through green pastures along still waters. He keeps us from fearing any evil by restoring our souls in the knowledge that He's with us and will always be with us, that He'll discipline and train us and love us, and continue to love us. He loves us with all of His Singularity, Heart, Mind, and Strength. He's always our Savior, the Healer of our hearts, the cleanser of our minds and consciences, and the Purifier of our enemies as we press them before Him in prayer. He's the One Who's taken away the sin of the world and is actively, and systematically, reconciling every enemy as He's subduing them and punishing them for their arrogance, presumption, and hardness of heart. As High Priest that's passed into the heavens, He's the continual guide of our words until they're conformed into the Image of His Words. He's the discipliner of our hearts and flesh Who's commanded the unconditional obedience of our words and actions before Him.
The punishments of the Lord are real and they frighten demons to almost no end. God will punish as deeply as it takes to separate us from our disobedience and to cast every fear out of us. His wrath is genuine, true, and faithful to the end. He'll have us obedient and far from paradise until that day. He'll rebuke us sternly and Scripture pleads with us not to grow faint and wearied at His rebuke, but to part with our sins and take our refuge in His promises of newness of being and restoration of righteousness, sanctification, wholeness, and paradise. He shows us His love and adoration hundreds of times a day, mostly in the little things, while despising the ugliness of our flesh-likeness that would ever try to put Him to the test. He loves and cherishes our physical bodies all of the days of our lives. What He despises is not our flesh, but our tantrums, our bitterness, our envy, and our fears. He loves us fully, eternally, and with infinite commitment.
He'll gather every heart in the fullness of time, destroy every expression of fear, rebellion, and darkness of mind, heart, and life. The greatest pain to initially strike the soul is the learning how to hear and obey His voice. Learning to hear is as learning to walk with our physical legs, while learning to obey is like learning how to run, tone, nurture, and rest our bodies. As fear is being driven out from before the Presence of the Lord in our lives, every part of our bodies will feel as if they're on fire. When disobedience and any sense of rejection is being parted from our spirits, it'll honestly feel, at times, as though a mighty warrior is running a sword through the deepest parts of our stomachs.
Eternal punishment is NOT ETERNAL IN DURATION, but it's ETERNAL in it's effects. It's ETERNAL in the sense that it's the ETERNAL God Who is punishing. It's ETERNAL in the sense that it's the ETERNAL response of God towards sin, now and in the ages to come, and in any other time, whether infinite past, infinite future, or some sort of parallel time/space in which God will deal with sin! God has but One reaction when His children anywhere, and at any time, sin, and that's the ETERNAL destruction of the sin from the Presence of the Lord and the Brightness of His coming -- coupled with the capturing, nurturing, and restoring of His lost/miscarried child. The Lord Who is our Shepherd Whose Rod and Staff Comfort us is the same Lord in Whose House we will dwell from time Immemorial to time Immemorial. His Rod and Staff are the curse and destruction of sin and His method of shattering EVERY yoke while removing EVERY burden of bondage. God is eternally committed to us, no matter what. He doesn't have a nodding attitude towards sin at any time, whether yesterday, today, or into any of the [ordained] forevers of divine graciousness, sternness, and wholeness.
Many people have criticized Origen's speculation of possible future falls from the divine grace after all things have been regathered to God through Christ. But I know that what the beloved Origen was trying to say was that God was eternally yoked and knit to every single one of us, and that though His holiness abounds forever to His glory, there never will ever be anything that can ever separate us from His love, His mercies, and His redeeming wisdom. God will always demonstrate the fullness of His commitment towards each and every single one of us. He'll never fall short of reaching the inherent demands of His own compassion, wisdom, and eternal commitment towards each of us!
Not any of us will ever "want," in any eternal sense from the perspective that He's always our Shepherd and He's always leading us, though through our own blind and insistent wrestling against the divine nature and commandment we may each find ourselves falling into ditches, up to our necks in water, and being pounded by the winds and broken branches of life. He'll rescue us. He's the Lord our rescuer - our Redeemer. None of our souls will ever be eternally broken, though through our own fears, fearful imaginations, and fear-filled rebellions we may each and every single one of us experience brokenness at one time or another that's more than we can ever seem to be able to endure. But He'll not tolerate the eternal existence of fear, but will burn it thoroughly out of our lives. What fear there yet remains in us at death will be hunted down and painfully extracted by the discerning Eyes of the Lord and the Eternal fire of His discerning Word/Scripture which is the filtration system of the cosmos.
Everlasting consolation will be born out of the pains and pangs of the previous ages upon which the Blood of Christ has struck through His High Priestly ministry and eternal Spirit. His Blood has struck the ages and germinated all of our brokenness into a beautiful flower of completeness before Him. His love is what we've always longed for, even in ignorance, because deeply imbedded in our spirits is the memory of the One from Whom we all proceeded at the foundation of the world. The emptiness that we've all felt at one time or another only indicated to the discerning mind that there was something that we were created to house. It's not the gathering of possessions or the accomplishment of anything on our part that restores our wholeness and gives us peace of mind and the ever-illusive mistress known as Contentment. It's resting at the feet of the everlasting Shepherd that causes all of our fears to flee and all of our needs to be met. The only thing that we're ever truly required to obey is His loving Eyes that look our way, look us over, and, most importantly, see us as a full grown harvest or as a completed exotic building. It's a true saying that we're not as complete in His Eyes as we are in His Arms. Look at His Arms that have been bludgeoned to death on their pilgrimage to bring us back to the divine glory that we were Created for. And then try to tell me, from your heart, that He's not the Shepherd of us all!