Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Office of Prophet and Contemporary Times


There has been much written about the office and function of prophet in the past three decades. In this article I will be writing regarding my own experience in understanding what the Bible says about the prophetic ministry, and I will attempt to connect this to today’s world.

First of all, by prophet I am not referring to a person who exercises the gift of prophecy as taught in 1 Corinthians 14:2-4 (consisting of general exhortations, comfort and rebuke, which everyone in the church is encouraged to do; read 1 Corinthians 14:39). I am also not referring to a person preaching a sermon to a congregation. I am speaking about a person who, through much prayer, travail, and meditation in the scriptures, regularly stands in the council and heavenly assembly of God (with the angels and other messengers of God’s court) to hear what the Spirit is saying, so that the mind and heart of God can be communicated to the church and nation. Examples of a prophet standing in the council and/or court of the living God to hear His word are found in Isaiah 6:1-9; Ezekiel 1-3,10; Jeremiah 15:19; extraordinary examples of this can be found in the New Testament with the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:1-12 and the Apostle John in Revelation 1:9-20 and 4:1-2.

Jeremiah 23:16-22 shows that the main distinction between false and true prophets is that false prophets speak without being in the council of the Lord and, hence, utter words without ever being sent by God.

David Chilton says the following about prophets in his book The Days of Vengeance:

“The prophets not only observed the deliberations of the heavenly Council (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-22); they actually participated in them. Indeed, the Lord did nothing without consulting His prophets (Amos 3:7). This is why the characteristic activity of the Biblical prophet is intercession and mediation (cf. Gen. 18:16-33; 20:7, the first occurrence of the word prophet in Scripture). As members of the Council the prophets have freedom of speech with God, and are able to argue with Him, often persuading Him to change His mind (cf. Ex. 32:7-14; Amos 7:1-6). They are His friends, and so He speaks openly with them (Gen. 18:17; Ex. 33:11; 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; John 15:15). As images of fully redeemed Man, the prophets shared in God's glory, exercising dominion over the nations (cf. Jer. 1:10; 28:8), having been transfigured ethically (cf. Isa. 6:5-8) and physically (cf. Ex. 34:29). They thus resembled the angels of heaven, and so it is not surprising that the term angel (Heb. mal'ak, Greek angelos) is used to describe the Biblical prophet (cf. 2 Chron. 36:15-16; Hag. 1:13; Mai. 3:1; Matt. 11:10; 24:31; Luke 7:24; 9:52)” (page 82).

So how do those standing in the office of prophet function in today’s world?

First of all, prophets are people who regularly engage in deep intercession and travail for the purposes of God to be fulfilled on the earth. Whenever a person is in true Spirit-led travail of soul, they are literally standing in the council of God—participating and pleading with God to have His way on the earth. A person who has no such deep experience with God will probably only be able to move in the simple gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:2-4) and not function in the office of prophet for the nation or church.

Second of all, true prophets take what they hear from God in the heavenly courts and pray or pronounce the will of God by faith, so that His will is done and His kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven (Luke 11:2). When it is spoken in prayer, they are pronouncing divinely inspired orders from God that are then transmitted from the throne room to the angelic beings (both good and bad) who serve as the spiritual archetypes that influence the earth realm (read Matthew 18:18-19; Ephesians 3:10).

Third, prophets can also be preachers who don’t only come with prepared sermons based on human wisdom of words but speak a specific word to the church and/or people that they heard from God in the heavenly courts. This kind of preaching transforms individuals and congregations because the force and authority of the Holy Spirit is behind it, and is manifest as a rhema word (Hebrews 4:11-13).

Fourth, prophets have a deep thirst to be in the presence of God and meditate on the word of God so they can actually engage God in the scriptures while God burns His searing hot truth and light into their being! This in turn enables the prophet to understand how to apply the word of God to the people or situation he or she is confronting, counseling or speaking into.

Fifth, prophets have an understanding of the times in which they live (1 Chron. 12:32). Through both natural knowledge (from reading newspapers, books, and interaction with high-level societal leaders) and spiritual knowledge (when in prayer or fellowship with God) they are able to take the natural knowledge they have assimilated and present it with clarity, divine accuracy and power! Thus prophets not only read the Bible but also keep up with current events so they can apply the word to contemporary situations.

Sixth, prophets always have a window open to God in their souls, resulting in them regularly moving in words of knowledge, words of wisdom, discerning of spirits and prophecy, even when they are not engaged or totally focused in an act of prayer or in a church service or setting. Thus they are always in fellowship with the person and presence of God and are able to hear what He is saying at a moment’s notice, even in the midst of their mundane, daily activities.

A close friend of mine serves as an extraordinary example of this. Once while he was walking in an airport terminal, he felt an impression to give a word of guidance to a total stranger, who was at that moment praying in his heart for divine guidance. The result of this prophetic word was confirmation for Pastor Jonathan Cahn to write the New York Times bestselling book The Harbinger

I have often operated in this gift, but many times the person I am speaking to doesn’t know it because my words come in the context of a regular conversation, yet with significant results. (I can give many examples of this but do not have space in this article.)

An examination in the gospels shows that Jesus regularly moved in words of knowledge as part of His evangelistic and prophetic ministry, to confirm His word to those He was speaking to (read John 4; Mark 2:8-10; 3:1-7).

Seventh, prophets do not have to be pastors or preachers, but can be marketplace leaders who function with a high degree of intimacy with God and use it in a profound way to engage culture and affect change in the lives of those they are working with. For example, read the prophet Daniel chapters 2, 4, 5 and the account of Joseph in Genesis chapters 40 and 41. These are two men who had secular jobs but utilized their prophetic callings to transform nations and empires!

Also, my prophetic friend mentioned in the previous point is not a full-time preacher but an accountant!

Eighth, prophets walk in the royal favor of God. Somehow they are usually at the right place and the right time! Thus, God is always providentially opening up doors for them or guiding them, even when they are not aware of it!

Ninth, prophets are able to divinely interpret the redemptive reasons for the suffering, pain, and seasons of life that people experience. They are able to give profound words of advice that can transform a life, answer a prayer, bring clarity to an enigma, or help a person discover their purpose, just with a short conversation, prayer or prophetic word. Whole books of the Bible like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos illustrate the power of prophets who are able to interpret the times and the seasons for the people and nation they live among.

Tenth, prophets are called to represent God to a people or nation and bring a covenant lawsuit to them (Micah 3:8). The word witness was originally a legal term regarding a person that was an aide to a person bringing a lawsuit, even to the point of being part of the legal process that involved execution! Thus, prophets who stand in the heavenly council as witnesses of the Lord not only hear God’s will regarding a people or nation but can actually be part of the process that brings judgment to that person or people group.

Biblical examples of this include Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1, when the prophet declared to King Ahab that Israel would have a drought until his word released rain; Peter in Acts 5, when he pronounced judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira for lying; Paul in Acts 13, when he blinded Elymas the sorcerer for obstructing the gospel; and John in Revelation 1:3, when he bore witness to the words of Christ that resulted in bringing judgment on false Israel and the pagan systems of the world that Israel was in cahoots with.

Finally, most importantly, prophets have learned that those who are friends with politicians and wealthy people are a dime a dozen. But those who are intimate with God are very few on the earth! The most important function for a true prophet is to be a friend of God who knows God and speaks to Him face-to-face as a man speaks to his friend (Deuteronomy 34:10; John 15:15).

By Joseph Mattera



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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Restoring the Fallen



"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." (Galatians 6:1)

I watched a leader stumble.

I watched the church quickly jump into action. "Accountability!" they cried, and then set up a system of hoops, hurdles and hoolas for the servant to perform. Whether or not the hoops, hurdles and hoolas were doing anything directly to bring about restoration was inconsequential. The fact that something was being done, was sufficient to keep the servant out of the limelight long enough to prevent them from being associated with the church that embraced him.

The word "restoration" has been thrown around the church for many years. I've watched, seen some good restorations, but mostly bad ones. Magazines, authors, TV shows, and tabloids continue to exploit failures long after the servant is gone. The servants of yesterday who failed miserably during their lives carry the darkness of their blemished lives well into the history books, without regard for the blessings and countless lives that were transformed through them while they lived. The malice of this behavior is abhorrent to God who is not looking for earthly advisors to increase punishment when He has increased grace!(Read Matthew 18:22-35) Jesus tells us that the ones who are "blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy". (Matthew 5:7) Paul writes that he was an example of the most hideous sinner, in order to display the unlimited patience of Christ Jesus! (1 Timothy 1:16)

Failure is history's school teacher for generations to come. It stands alone as the "principals office" as an example to those who walk naively by. I remember once in primary school in South Africa receiving two "cuts" (spankings) as they called them. It was with a bamboo switch and it helped me very quickly come to the decision that I would never get another one. I was made to sit in front of the principals office for what felt like hours, while everyone walked by, knowing I was about to enter a painful discipline process. My behavior was modified. I never endured that situation again! I failed. Others saw that I failed. They knew I was disciplined. But that was the end of it!

If restoration is truly from God… then the failures of the past are swept beneath the blood of Jesus too, and if we are walking beneath that blood, we too, must function as Our Father… and forgive… and move on! Restoration only occurs when we forgive.. and move on!

When we are invited into the process of restoration, it is to restore a brother or sister to the place destined for them by God who is STILL their Father! We are invited into that process with the caution to be careful. Be careful of falling as they have fallen and be careful of judging beyond the atmosphere of grace.

Paul deals with the this subject specifically when a man is caught and continues in the sin of adultery in the Corinthian Church. He administers the rod of correction when he tells the church to "turn him over to satan!" (1 Corinthians 5:5). Evidently the discipline worked and the man repented. But the church continued on in their discipline. They disciplined beyond grace. They went from discipline to punishment and from punishment to banishment and rejection. The didn't understand the  restoration process was to restore the man to his function and calling in God. They operated under law. Law always produces a legal spirit that demands, extracts, and extorts more than what is required. The man was defiled… and they didn't want to be associated with him anymore!

Paul writes to forgive and comfort the man so that he won't become discouraged anymore. He must again experience the LOVE of Christ. He must be embraced again or who knows what will happen to him! The schemes of the enemy are to produce self-righteousness in those who are trying to walk purely, and devastation for those who are trying to walk righteously. On either account. Grace is removed, and law prevails! We must not be outwitted. We must prevail.

(2 Corinthians 2:4-11) For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent--not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes."

Time fails me to share about Peter who was restored fully after a bold, public, rejection of Jesus. The failure simply demonstrated that God invades humans who are frail. Peter's life reflected failure, but his life also, and more predominantly, reflected brilliant obedience that resulted in his ultimate martyrdom for Jesus! Or Elijah, who failed miserably and ended his days outside of the treasured promised land for disobedience in not anointing the two kings God told him to, and wallowing in self-pity. (1 Kings 19:15-16) I could also bring up Moses, who failed horribly during his life. He too, was prevented access to die in the treasured Promised Land. (Numbers 20:11-12) "Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.' " Interestingly, because of Grace brought by Jesus, both of these Old Testament examples were restored to the full Promises of God when Jesus invited them to the Mount of Transfiguration!

In October 2005, I had a lengthy visitation with Jesus that indicated a "Restoration" among the prodigals would begin after a restoration took place in my own home. On February 2, 2006, my daughters who have been abducted over six years prior were returned to me. They are home, and are thriving in His Presence today! I received emails and letters from around the world indicating that the restoration of my daughters was a prophetic sign to many. They didn't realize Jesus had spoken that to me specifically. I knew in general that there would begin a restoration with children of those who love God…. but I also knew that there would be a massive release of restoration upon those who had failed miserably in years past; those who were now simply sitting on shelves and collecting dust would be restored! I saw Fathers, Mothers, Sons, and Daughters of the King waiting on a bench for those who were playing the game to invite them back into the game. I knew that many of them were far better players with greater skills, but they had been sidelined and they simply waited. I knew that some died while they were waiting, knowing that the Father had laid hands on them, but they were discouraged to the point of excessive sorrow. They couldn't measure up to those who could invite them back into the game, and so in mercy God allowed them to come home!

Samson failed miserably. He had his very eyes taken from him. His future vision was removed. But where were the rescuers who would go and restore him rather than leaving him to grind grain with animals? He was a powerful servant of the Lord. He fulfilled the office God called him to, but the people of God were not included in that victory because they left him to fend for himself. Where were the mighty men of Israel in that day?

It is easy to remember what once was? It is easy to remember failures in each other. Even a simple Egyptian can do that. Moses had plenty of those reminders in his life. (Exodus 2:14) The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become known."

Knowing the past about a person doesn't make us prophetic... calling them into their future does! The question has never been, can we read the history of a man. The question has always been, can we restore the future of a man! Anyone can read the history of the man… but the Heart of the Father is to release the unfulfilled destiny of His broken Children.

Restoration is based on Repentance. Repentance has fruit. John questioned the self-righteous Pharisees who knew how to twist truth to meet their own agenda and doctrines. His words were like a sword! "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." (Matthew 3:8) Grace doesn’t annul a holy lifestyle, grace simply overwhelms our confessed unholy unrighteous acts with the Love of Christ that forgives!

But having said that; neither does repentance come as a result of believers beating each other up. It doesn’t come as a result of a heavy hand that extracts justice and revenge. It doesn’t come as a result of judgment! It's the kindness, not judgment, of the Lord that leads people to repentance. "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4) Just as we can “quench and grieve the Holy Spirit,” we can also be contemptuous of the ways of God as He works with His kids. God lavishes the riches of Grace on us through kindness, tolerance, and patience. When we step in and become the taskmaster and produce judgment beyond the parameters of Grace, we reveal hearts that are very different than our Father in Heaven.

I don't in any way believe that we "restore people who are continuing in sin  “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2)“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God”. (1 John 3:9)

My heart is not to "bless those who continue destroying lives," I don’t believe that is the Father’s heart either. He indicated that those who cause little ones to stumble were those who needed to be stopped! Jesus made it very clear when he talked about a millstone around a man’s neck! The Scripture calls those who prey on the innocent, wolves! It is the nature of a wolf to deceive in order to manipulate situations to their benefit and ultimately to their capturing further prey! We don't want to bless wolves in any way!! BUT regardless of the sin we, as His Children, must forgive and release people into their callings. (Jesus only spoke of one unforgivable sin - that I won't discuss in this article). Grace changes lives. People do change. All things become new! If we don’t believe this, we don’t really believe the power of the Gospel, and we are simply walking out memorized doctrines without a true understanding of Him who bought us!

I too am one who has born the brunt of difficult situations against my own life, against my family, my wife, my daughters, and my sons... but at the end of the day, Jesus believes His Sacrifice was plenty for not only Him to forgive those that wounded me, but for me to forgive them as well.

The examples of Scripture indicate God used pretty messed up people.... who were changed by His Grace! When people repent, we MUST recall them to the destiny that God has for them. The fruit of their life will evidence the changes that Grace made!

There is a vast difference between punishing and shaming a person and disciplining and correcting a person! The first is administered by the letter of the law that brings death, the other is administered by the Holy Spirit who gives life! Jesus demonstrated well this grace when He overcame the "requirements of the law" with grace when He ministered to the woman caught in adultery.  "Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"  "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:10-11)

The fields are ripe. Just a couple days ago the Lord spoke to me that He needs more workers. In the conversation I knew He was going to be making a profound prophetic call to some who had gone AWOL (absent without leave/ deserters from His army). I knew He was going to be calling some who had been benched and were living in caves! I knew that that call was going out to those with extreme failures… the ones that would give the Apostle Paul pretty close competition for his statement in 1 Timothy 1:15-16. ”Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” Some have failed miserably. But many are going to burn more brightly than ever with His Glory!

The evidence of Grace is that God can take a man or a woman and redeem them. He can change their lives where fruit prevails, where once there was only baggage. He can show His awesome kindness to the world by overwhelming the worst with the Love of the Greatest! I am looking for that army! He is looking for that army! Broken…. but covered with GRACE!

The world awaits this army of Grace! What are you waiting for? Get off the bench… His Grace is greater than all the shame. His Grace is greater than all your failures. His Grace is sufficient to reveal, not your reputation, but HIS through your life!
Saved by Grace!
Overwhelmed by Kindness!
Mesmerized by Love!

Thank you Jesus!

Danny Steyne

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The “Law of Undulation,” or the Way of the Wilderness


“We didn’t count on suffering…we didn’t count on pain…but if the blessing’s in the valley…then in the river I will wait…” – Delirious

            Christians often speak of “seasons.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…”  One of these seasons is what Screwtape calls the “trough.”  In letters eight and nine of The Screwtape Letters, the elder demon, Screwtape, writes to his nephew, a novice demon, about “The Law of Undulation.”  This law is a major principle in the Christian walk.  While Wormwood, the novice, is thrilled about this condition of spiritual dryness, the trough, Screwtape is much more cautious, and writes at great length about how God (The Enemy) uses the trough to His advantage.  Screwtape’s terminology is of “troughs and peaks,” but Christians often refer to “wilderness” or “desert” seasons, and to hills and valleys.”  It’s all the same concept.  All Christians, at some point, go through these ups and downs.
            While Wormwood is eagerly planning the ways he can use his “patient’s” trough to his advantage – and in fact, the demonic can use troughs to their benefit – he gets a stern correction from his uncle:  “Now it may surprise you to learn that in His [The Enemy’s] efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.”  Consider Moses, who spent 40 years in the wilderness with the Israelites, but who remained faithful throughout.  Or Job, who had all kinds of horrible things happen to him, but still declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 15:1).   Or David, who often felt abandoned by God, and did not hesitate in saying so.  In Psalm 22, he cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent…” Perhaps even Jesus was in this trough, when he echoed David’s words on the cross.  Certainly these are good examples of God’s beloved experiencing deep valleys, or troughs, as Screwtape calls them.   Screwtape also says “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”  All of the aforementioned people prove Screwtape’s point.  Despite their trials, their pain, or what seems like God’s absence, they ultimately remained faithful, and what’s more, they remained obedient.
            Troughs, or valleys, or wilderness seasons, generally do not constitute the fun part of being in relationship with God.  In these seasons, it is harder to hear God’s voice, feel His presence, or even see evidence of it anywhere.  Doubt and depression often enter in.  Screwtape harps on this when he encourages Wormword to get his patient to think in terms of “phases.”  We wonder if we ever heard God, if He was ever there, if we really witnessed those miracles.  We can even begin to wonder if we are really “saved.”  These are the times where we must rely on what we know to be true, not what we feel is true.  It doesn’t matter what the trial is.  What matters is our response.  Are we going to give up on God, write our whole relationship off as simply a “religious phase,” as Screwtape would like? Or are we going to take advantage of what God has for us in the wilderness?
            Looking through the Scriptures, it is interesting to note how often those in the wilderness are led there.  They didn’t just find themselves there, completely by accident.  The Israelites were led out of Egypt into the wilderness.  Not only were they brought out of slavery, but they witnessed miracle after miracle, like the parting of the Red Sea, bitter waters made sweet, manna sent from heaven, and water brought from the rock.  It might be safe to assume that God was with them.  And indeed He says “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand.  He knows your trudging through this great wilderness.  These 40 years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked for nothing” (Deut. 2:7).  Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He countered satan’s tempting with the Word (Matt. 4, and a good lesson for us).  And then there is Hosea 2:14-16, which is perhaps the most moving passage about the wilderness in the Bible. 
14)”Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
15)I will give her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope.
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the days when she came up from the land of Egypt.
16)”And it shall be, in that day,”
Says the Lord,
“That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’
And no longer call Me ‘My Master.’”
           
While we may not see, hear or feel God in the wilderness, in the trough, in the valley, it is in this place that we are schooled in His grace, His provision, and His love.  The Israelites – though they complained bitterly – lacked for nothing, with all the miracles they witnessed and lived on. Job had everything restored to him.  David continued to offer that “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15,) and was considered “a man after God’s own heart.”  And I don’t need to describe what Jesus did.  In the trough, we have to walk by faith, and not by sight, which we as Christians are called to do, anyway. (2 Cor. 5:7).  We have to trust that God is with us, even if we can’t hear or feel Him.  And we know that He’s with us, because He promises to never leave or forsake us. While we may enjoy the mountaintop experiences, or the peaks, we grow in the wilderness, in the troughs.  Screwtape himself says, “It is during such trough periods, that it [the human] is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.  Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.”  In the trough we learn to rely on God and on His promises.  We learn to seek more diligently after Him, and in doing so, can be rewarded with the some of our most intimate and rich moments with Him.  Look at what He says in Hosea:  He will “allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.”  Comfort in the wilderness?  Yes, it is possible.  And in verse 16, He says “You will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master.’”  What a picture of intimacy!  On the mountaintop, or on the peak, to use Screwtape’s word, we tend to become self-sufficient.  In the trough, we are unable to be self-sufficient.  We may find ourselves stripped of all that we once relied on, meaning that we must depend solely on God.  In this time, it helps to remember that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).  And in the trough, we are indeed quite weak.
I don’t mean to paint such a glorified picture of the trough.  It is not an easy season to be in, and we can be quick to resent it, and resent God for it.  But as I said before, it is not simply our being in the wilderness that matters; it is what we do with our time in it that makes the difference (and often determines how long we remain there).  It can be a time of real intimacy with God and tremendous growth in our faith.  It can also be a time of depression, doubt, and even worse, self-pity.  This is when Screwtape and company can really enter in and rob us of what God has for us.  Doubt can destroy all the good God had planned for us.  Wormwood is advised about this:  “Do not let him [the human] suspect the law of undulation.  Let him assume that the first ardours of his conversion might have been expected to last, and ought to have lasted, forever, and that his present dryness is an equally permanent condition.”  It is easy, when in the trough, to see it as permanent, and lose hope, and even worse, lose faith.  Screwtape continues:  “When you have caused him to assume that the trough is permanent, can you not persuade him that his ‘religious phase’ is just going to die away like all the previous phases?”  We need to be like Jesus in the wilderness, responding to the devil’s taunting with the truth, the way Jesus responded with “for it is written…” each time the devil tempted Him.  And the truth is that the trough is not permanent; God’s love is.
We cannot reason our way out of the wilderness, the valley, the trough.  We may remember with longing the joyous feeling of being on that mountaintop, and work our hardest to get back up there.  But if we don’t pause, seek God and see what He has for us, we miss the potential for so much.  We might miss blessings, miracles, opportunity for growth, and worst of all, true intimacy with God.  Though it may be dark, the fire by night will guide us, and we will lack for nothing.  God will be with us, even if His presence is not as readily apparent as it once was.  It may seem like He’s gone silent, or even worse, left us.  It may seem like we are being punished for something.  This is not the truth.  The truth is that the wilderness – though difficult and often painful – is when we get to mature as followers of Christ, to learn to rely on God rather than people or things, to stand on His promises and not be swayed, no matter what may come against us, and above all, to really draw near to Him, knowing that He never has and never will leave us.  In the trough, if we respond well, Screwtape’s fears will be justified, and we will become just the sort of “creature” God wants us to be. 

by Kim Mitman



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