One notable Passover tells the story of an infamous criminal named Barabbas. His name was known through out all of Judea for being a criminal of the highest notoriety and one might say of the lowest repute. An unconscionable derelict, an indiscriminate thief. The scripture describes this unsavory fellow as being the fortunate recipient of a Jewish custom facilitated that year by Pontius Pilate. This custom took place annually at the Passover, and that particular year on what Christians have long since called Good Friday. The Roman Prefect accommodated the crowd by releasing the criminal of their choice and the proverbial lot cast on this occasion, fell to Barabbas.
This was quite an unusual custom for the Romans to embrace, and one would have to wonder how the Jews persuaded Roman officials to acquiesce to such a request. What were the chances an individual imprisoned by the Romans for egregious behavior would go free? But as I have long since come to believe, even evil exists to fulfill God’s purpose. (Habukuk 1: 5-11) So here Pontius Pilate, a man known for insufferable brutality (Luke 13: 1) who carried complete legal authority regarding this matter, sent Jesus to be crucified and released Barabbas to freedom. This done despite his strong personal preference and repeated statements that Christ was innocent.
Leviticus chapter 16 describes a priestly ritual in which Aaron was commanded to prepare a bull as a sin offering for himself and his household. This was necessary to spare his life as a High Priest when he entered into the Holy Place, apart from which he would surely die. Then he was to take two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Casting lots over the two goats, one goat would be sacrificed and one set apart for AZAZEL. Azazel was a Hebrew term used to describe the goat of departure, or the SCAPEGOAT. This Goat would be set free in the wilderness, while the other goat would be sacrificed to the Lord. Barabbas seemingly the former.
It seems doubtful Barabbas sensed God’s merciful plan of salvation during those defining moments and legend tells us he arrogantly gloated over the decision made that day. Could he foolishly have believed he outsmarted the system and yet again had gotten away with his corrupt deeds? Some stories tell of a later repentance in his life in which he became a follower of the risen Savior. We just don’t know for sure. One thing I do know; for the Barabbas that lives in my heart and the heart of all men, I pray to live the rest of my days in humble gratitude. For I was the guilty one released, forever free to go, as Jesus, the Holy Lamb was slain for the debt I owed.
The youngest of the disciples was John, believed to be the cousin of Jesus. Maybe that’s why the Lord had a special affection for him, the younger little cousin he played with as a child. Scripture refers to him as “the one whom Jesus loved.” In our Lords dying hours on the cross He committed his Mother Mary to John’s care and she lived out her life in his home. Clearly, it was a special relationship they shared.
Among the other disciples was the gregarious Simon Peter. A robust fisherman whom Jesus called to be “fishers of men”. In a pivotal moment when many turned away from following Jesus, he asked his remaining disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” It was Peter who responded “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Special men that shared an all consuming love and devotion to our Lord.
Despite their unquestionable dedication, scripture states in Mathew 26: 31, there came a time when they all fell away. Peter who vehemently professed earnest love and commitment assured Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.” All the disciples made the same promise. Yet we know how the story ended, that “before the cock crowed” Peter denied him three times. Not only denied him, but vulgarly swore and cursed he had never even met Jesus. (Mathew 26:74)
I have never sworn and cursed, denying the name of our Lord but at different times of my life, my behavior has denied him. Denied his commandments, denied his truth, denied his holiness. As Simon Peter did, I have also wept bitterly. It is a sobering and humbling experience to discover what lies within the human heart. Your heart. But it allows for an embracing of a powerful, transformative truth that the scripture reveals in John 2:24. “But Jesus, for his part, did not entrust himself to them, because He knew all people (and understood the superficiality and fickleness of human nature) and He did not need anyone to testify concerning man ( and human nature) for He Himself knew what was in man (in their hearts, in the very core of their being.)- Amp. Bible
He alone solved the greatest problem of our lives: our own nature. He came to bring us the most precious gift one could give. Forgiveness, unconditional love and the power to become like HIM. In Jesus Christ, at the cross of Calvary, mercy and truth kissed. Compassion poured forth through every drop of his shed blood. Compassion for your sin and pain, compassion for mine. So what did that do for me? It resulted in Grace. Undeserved, unmerited, grace. Grace that changed my life. Grace that healed my heart. I guess that’s why it’s called amazing.
Understanding words fail to capture the magnitude of my experience, I will try to express what has remained hidden in my heart for over forty years. Untouched by the opinions of men, I expected to silently carry this experience with me until I one day returned to this place. But in this season the Lord has said “Speak.” So I will speak and pray we have ears to hear its message.
My fifth grade teacher never told me there was an ocean beyond our sky. Neither did anyone else for that matter. I discovered it in a life altering encounter, that with the exception of parents and husband remained unspoken for forty years. It’s like what you read in the book of Revelation, or Daniel, or reminiscent of 2 Cor. where Paul describes, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven-whether in the body or out of the body I do not know. God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise-whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows-and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” But it’s not Bible times, it’s our times and it’s not a great Apostle, it’s only me. Never the less it happened.
I traveled through a mammoth ocean above our sky and entered a different universe that the City of God resides in. The place we have all referred to as Heaven. To be more specific, I traveled to the shores of Paradise that border Heaven, or what I will call The City of God, through an ocean of water I never knew existed. Genesis 1:6-8 however makes it plain as day. “And God said, “Let there be an expanse (of the sky) in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters (below the expanse) from the waters (above the expanse). “And God made the expanse ( of sky) and separated the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so (just as He commanded). God called the expanse (of sky) heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.” -Genesis 1:6-8 Amplified Bible. And then there’s Psalms 148: 4 “Praise Him ye Heavens of Heavens, and ye waters that be above the Heavens.” and Exodus 20:11. “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and THE SEA and all that is and rested on the seventh day.” The intention of this writing is not for the purpose of debate as I know assuredly that many (most?) will never believe these words. That will not change the fact they are true. So why would the most precious experience of my life, that remained unspoken for so many years, now need to be told? Because in the purpose of God HE desires it.
It took place in an old fashioned tent revival that most of us would never be caught dead in, but I became alive in. The evangelist shouted, “Come Here” as if I were a little girl that dropped her mothers hand and was running toward the street. A man who looked like a politician panning for votes, as freshly pressed and hair sprayed as a TV anchor was calling me. I don’t understand how he even saw me amidst the crowd of thousands. I was silently weeping and pouring my heart out to God in the last row behind the tent tie-down poles. Overwhelmed with emotion from a cascade of anger, pain and torment that was pouring from my soul to an unnamed God I was not at all sure existed, I was a mess. Abundantly clear this shiny-shoed, snappily made up professional preacher, would not take no for an answer, I tried to stand. My brain did a “does not compute” at my body’s lack of cooperation to move. Nothing about this day was normal.
In a somewhat southern, unidentifiable drawl he demanded two ushers assist him. Without request or apology two complete strangers bodily removed me from my seat. I was heavily weeping and now confused and mortified. Losing the battle of poise to my running nose, I did not make eye contact. I heard him speak of God’s hand on my life, something about ministry, something about demonic forces coming against my life and then BINGO. He stated my life was almost taken very, very recently and asked what happened. “Did you almost die recently?” he shouted with amazement at his knowledge of this. It is not possible he could have known what happened three weeks prior. How my brother and a random surfer navigated the treacherous undertow to try and pull my limp body from the ocean’s overwhelming force. How, only due to the violent upchuck of salty vomit I was awakened from the unconscious state the ocean had succeeded in putting me in. How could he have known this? I nodded yes and obediently complied with his next command to explain, as I whispered, “drowned. I was drowning.” As I continued to weep for reasons I can not begin to explain, he began to pray. This next part is what the skeptics will hate.
In a split second of time I was snatched out of my body. Upward, upward at lightening speed I am now traveling upward. It is as if a massive vacuum is sucking me toward the ceiling and I pass right through the roof canopy. None of this can be happening, but it is happening. It’s like a powerful force of air is blowing through me as one may experience if flying. But I am not flying, I am not floating, I am being taken. The speed is immeasurable. It is not yet dark outside and I am traveling through the sky upward through the clouds at such breath taking speed. Torpedo speed. I feel no pain but waves of air rushing through me with immense intensity. My bewilderment circumvents fear as I am catapulted upward. I am over taken with utter astonishment. My brain is racing and silently screaming “What is happening? This is not possible!” But it is happening. As I continue to be transported at lightening speed I travel a great distance. Through the sky, through the clouds. It is overwhelming what I am seeing and how fast I am being taken. Why? Where? It is incomprehensible what is happening.
I being to feel a cool vapor as if I am entering a mist. I am passing through what is remaining light into darkness. A deeper darkness and dense moisture begin to envelop me. It is a terrifying darkness but as thoughts of fear come they do not remain. I am entering into a dense, dreadfully dark fog. It is staggering and intermittently horrifying. A frightening place of empty darkness. It is enveloping me but I continue to travel at this incredible, immeasurable velocity and my mind can not reconcile what is happening. I enter water now traveling at this speed but feel no pain. The water, immense in size and weight brushes against my body as a soft shrub. I think this is still my body, but I realize it is different. It is lighter. It is spirit, but it is totally me. I am now in an ocean of utter darkness. I am breathing normally and still traveling at incredible speed. Although the darkness is dreadful I sense life all around me. Different textures brush against my body and I know I am surrounded by all manner of life. As I whisk against them fear is melting into awestruck wonder. Astounding wonder over takes me and I begin to comprehend this is meant for good. I am not in danger. This is miraculous.
A very faint light is becoming visible. Piercing through the darkness, there is a soft white glow of pure light. I realize I am being drawn to the light, almost taken up into the light from an immeasurable distance. It is so far, it is so faint but it is my destination. Prior moments of fear have vanished and a sense of ecstatic joy is filling me. Joy, wonder, astonishment is consuming me. The light begins to magnify and I see it beginning to shimmer through this massive ocean of water. Vegetation, fish and indefinable creation glimmer in the reflective light as it becomes brighter. I want to understand. I want to see, but I am traveling at this boundless speed. I can barely discern what my eyes catch a glimpse of. It is becoming a kaleidoscope of spectacular dance. Rainbows of multi-colored life all around me, touching me as I pass. I am filled with inexpressible awe. The psychedelic pandemonium continues as the light becomes brighter than any light I have ever seen. Even under the water the light is brighter than the brightest sun, yet it does not hurt my eyes. I am gazing into it. I am being taken up into this place of utter brightness like nothing I have ever seen or could imagine. It is magnificent.
I am lifted out of the water and laid face down. Not a drop of moisture leaves the water with me. I am laid prostrate before the Brightness of His Being that exudes out of the City of God whose threshold I am laid upon. The Holiness of this place is not expressible with language of the earth and I understand why this Universe of His Dwelling is buffered by the massive ocean I have just traveled through. But it will not always be so. For as the Apostle John told us, ” Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold,the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of of invalids-blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.” And at once the man was healed and he took up his bed and walked.-John 5:2-9
For centuries archaeologists disputed the existence of an actual pool of Bethesda, stating it was a metaphorical place, until the 19th century when the remains of this pool fitting the description in John’s gospel was discovered. As with so many other initial contradictions Holy Scripture will always prove true. The pool of Bethesda was an unsavory place, a depressing place. A place of disease, sickness and shame. A place where only the most desperate went in the hopes they may possibly be the one to touch the miraculous and leave whole. The Angel of the Lord would come and stir the waters transforming this place of shame into a Basin of Mercy, albeit only for one. As one scorned individual was transformed from a shunned member of society to a uniquely special recipient of grace, others laid with little hope. Such was this invalid of thirty-eight years. I wonder if he secretly held a place of hope in his heart, that against all manner of reason he would somehow one day be healed. Or maybe this was an unselfish man who took actual pleasure in seeing the miraculous touch others. Whether kind or bitterly dejected, one day the gentle Shepherd lovingly looked into his eyes and asked the question only he could provide the answer to, “Do you want to be healed?”
As is so often the case, we seek to have our needs met in diverse places and not the loving eyes of our Savior. We don’t know him to be the Jesus the Bible describes; the Lover of our souls, our Redeemer, our Healer. Yet still, his penetrating voice of kindness whispers to our heart and asks the question that stirs the water of our soul, “Do you want to be healed?” As with the invalid at Bethesda’s pool we could respond with an honest heart and divulge our plight to the only one who can truly help us, or we can do as so many have done a thousand times, harden our heart and turn away. Can you count the number of times you dismissed his word? Dismissed his invitation? The sharing of a testimony of grace from a friend or acquaintance? “This is the carpenter’s son, what does he know?” the man at Bethesda could have said. But to the glory of God and the joy of his existence he opened his heart and received more than he could ever have imagined.
I pray today is the day you too position yourself for a touch of the miraculous. The Lord God according to the nature of who he is, can not disappoint. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not put out…”-Isaiah 42:3 This depressing, dirty place at Bethesda was turned into a House of Mercy because this man embraced the undeserved Grace of our Lord. He was changed body, soul and spirit. When the waters of your soul are stirred as the waters of Bethesda, do not wait but run to him. Run while he calls to you for you may not hear his voice again. Do not miss the precious opportunity to be healed in the deepest part of yourself and to experience the essence of life, the opening of your spiritual eyes, the re-birth of your soul. Though foolishness to perishing bystanders, it is joy unspeakable to the recipients of his Grace.
Below is a quick blog I wrote end of year 2015, posted January 2016. I was sensing the oncoming season of polarity in our nation and a line being drawn in the sand spiritually. A season where people would be turning to ones true spiritual DNA, both individually and as a nation.
Now as we approach fall, the sense of polarization and division in our nation has been impossible for any of us to escape. It has been compounded by a brute sense of hostility with an ever deepening racial divide. Even our customary election process has split communities, families and friends and contributed to a heightened state of national dis-ease.
As a Christian, I continue to be impacted by the literal tearing apart of our nation’s values. Those established by our fore-fathers at our country’s inception, which were unashamedly based on scripture with its implied principals. It was out of these beliefs and ideologies our constitution was born. As I witnessed the White House being covered with colors of the rainbow, celebrating the supreme courts decision to re-define marriage, and the abortion total climbing upwards of 60 million since the passing of roe vs. wade it seems the America I held in my minds eye is swiftly vanishing.
Add to this, the most recent displays celebrated in New York. The erection of the Arch of Triumph, (entrance to the Temple of Baal) in Manhattan’s City Hall park and the image of the Hindu god Kali, god of death and destruction lighting up the New York skyline, projected on the empire state building. It is difficult to ignore the glaring symbolism of these acts and their spiritual underbelly. For more info on these events check out the following links: https://stream.org/arch-temple-baal-arrives-new-york-city/ and http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/…/articlesh…/48420733.cms
In ancient Israel, Baal was the primary god of the Canaanites, the demonic entity that vied for the allegiance of the nation and ultimately brought the downfall and utter devastation of Israel. The Baal culture, earmarked by sexual perversion, the sacrifice of infants, lust, greed and corruption, resulted not only in the physical devastation of their temple and country, but the disintegration of their society. Baal worship was the path that brought them to a life of servitude as the ones who survived became slaves and exiles in a land ruled by their enemies. Everything they worked so hard for was possessed by the nations that despised them as they wittingly or not spit in the face of the one true God and lost His blessings and protection.
According to an Israeli news report, the Hebrew Nation Radio made this disturbing connection. “The original arch was built commemorating the Roman victory over Partha. Many of the Parthans were from the remnants of the Ten Tribes of Israel. So the original purpose of this arch was to celebrate victory over the demise of the Northern kingdom, the 10 tribes of the house of Israel, aka Joseph/Ephraim,” wrote Hebrew Nation. “Is that really something that we want to put up in New York?” Apparently it is.
It seems to me glorifying a representation of Baal which brought with it the destruction of a nation highlights a people’s willingness to embrace the values that symbol stands for. Shall we expect the swastika to be proudly displayed next? As we see before our eyes history being re-written in current reports, I am deeply grieved to say it would not shock me.
Repentance is the clarion call and blessed invitation to every form of prosperity known to man, yet it is the dirty word of our age. It is an offense, an insult. Repentance. The bridge that safely carries us over troubled waters and the gift that enables us to realign with our divine purpose. The humbling, empowering, liberating paradigm shift that re-unites us with our creator and washes away the burden of shame and guilt. The turning around of one’s direction. The undeniable heart response of grief and disdain for the sin and failure of our ways and the sheer relief and utter joy of surrender. It is the current that safely carries us to shore and the treasured compass that brings us home.
There are certain physical properties and laws of nature each of us accept and respect. It is foolish to spit in the wind, dangerous to leap from great heights and reckless to board your tiny boat as a hurricane is making its way up the coast. And so it is in the unseen world of the spirit. Most assuredly where there is a design, there is a designer, an architect where one finds architecture. This deeply loving architect of our souls exists in holiness and righteousness. He is filled with tender mercies and is ever patient, calling us close in his love and grace. Yet He too draws a line in the sand.
The gift of repentance He so graciously offers to our nation now, will not always be. History shows us powerful nations who believed they would remain and could not fathom their demise. Sadly few embraced the call to change while the day was young and a bright future still awaited them. As the prophets of old were told, when the hearts of the people grew too hardened, and the deceitfulness of sin too blinding, their wound became incurable. As they continually refused to repent it actually became more difficult to repent.
Repentance. It is not the affront many perceive it to be, but it is the blessed vehicle that moves the very heart of God on our behalf. To mercy, to restoration and blessing. While the Lord calls to our nation through the prophetic voice of his servants, the clarity of his written word, and the still small voice that whispers in each of our hearts, I earnestly pray we have ears to hear. Having had much to repent of myself, I will tell you it’s life changing. Transforming. I have become quick to embrace its call and rush to it. I have learned the wisdom of genuine repentance can never lead me astray but only lead me closer to the heart of God.
Let us together embrace repentance. America, America, God has shed its grace on thee. Now it is time to return to Him.
ORIGINAL BLOG published January 2016:
I have no doubt 2016 will prove to be a pivotal year, a crucial year. A year of diminution to ones primary core. A calling to ones true Spiritual DNA to come home. A call to the heavenly kingdom, for many and for others, a call to darkness.
For those who currently remain the un-redeemed remnant of God, the fish not yet caught in the great end time harvest net, the love relationship of their lives await them. The innermost cleansing of their souls via the precious blood of the lamb. The true liberation of their spirits.
The Greek word Epistrepho most eloquently captures this great sense of motion and turn-around, conveying the substance of repentance. However in Hebrew the word Epsitrepho communicates with exquisite nuance the presence of distress that thrusts us toward this whole-hearted rushing home of the spirit. The ache that leads us to his still waters, the sorrow that brings us to our knees, to discover the miraculous. The mercy hidden beneath the anguish, the beauty covered with ashes. The Oil of Joy for mourning, to discover and to embrace HIM.
As all manner of evil is manifest in ways we have never imagined, the brightness of his Glory is also appearing. Darkness juxtaposed against the light, only to be dispelled. 2016 is the year of turning toward and turning from. Which call will you heed? The line in the sand is drawn.