His Face

Someone on Facebook asked the question: “What made Jesus compelling to you?” My answer was, “His Face.” He said that he was “interested to hear more!” I asked him if I could give him a long answer as to why. This is my long answer as to why I find His face compelling.

How do I know Jesus’ face? I’ve been collecting a kind of mosaic.

  1. In the Scriptures in the original languages. My Dad wrote this for me in my first Greek New Testament. It’s from A.T.R. “A Grammar of the Greek New Testament” pg xix. “There is nothing like the Greek New Testament to rejuvenate the world which came out of the Dark ages with the Greek Testament in its hand. Erasmus wrote in the Preface to his Greek Testament about his own thrall of delight: ‘These holy pages will summon up the living image of His mind. They will give you Christ Himself, talking, healing, dying, rising, the whole Christ in a word; they will give Him to you in an intimacy so close that He could be less visible to you if He stood before your eyes.’” I personally have found this to be true not only in the New Testament, but also in the Old. The Face of Yahweh, is revealed at last in the divine human face of Jesus. “He who has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
  2. Visions. He has let me see something of Him, which of course is appropriated to my being enabled to receive, and the purpose He has for me according to which any revelation is designed to conform me to Him. This is submitted to Scripture. Also, all of this is in relationship with God, as I seek to engage with God with a “pure in heart” (they will see God) and “clear conscience.” (1 Tim 1:5)
  3. Scripturally exemplified relationships. When I see Jacob’s story of wrestling with the “man” I see how he engaged with Him, and afterward went to see Esau. When he saw Esau, Jacob says, “. . . I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably.” Gen 33:10 This is translatable as “I have seen your face like seeing the face of God, and you have favored me.” How did he know what seeing the face of God was? He recognized the favor in Esau’s face according to God’s face. So, I recognize Jesus’ face in love and relationships. As the musical Les Miserables ends, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
  4. Interest. I am a very interested person, because I know that through Jesus everything was made, which means everything that exists has come through Jesus, and I like tracing it back to him. As G.K. Chesterton says, “There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.” I have an open face to see the world, to know what it all means as coming from Him. This open face is what I love about children (I’m a school teacher) because their hearts are so full of wonder. And when I welcome them in His name I welcome Him, and I recognize Him. (Mark 9:37)
  5. Art. When I see a painting that answers what He has revealed to me through His word, through the Holy Spirit, through relationship, and the world around me, I do not worship that “image” or “idea,” I take it to God as I seek to know Him face-to-face personally not eidetically or un-livingly. Examples: The famous picture by Akiane Kramarik, the Nathaniel Hawthorn Story: “The Great Stone Face,” Michael Card’s Song “His Gaze” are all parts of the mosaic, which bear some likeness to the One I know personally!
  6. Glory. Not the glory of man, but as I worship Him, I know His glory, and that glory is the revelation of Christ. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” And the more time we spend “seeking His face” in worship, the more the light of His face will shine through us.

So, I know His face by pure heart, clear conscience, and sincere faith in His Word, by His Spirit, with love, throughout creation, from his revelations, and as worship. And it is beyond compelling. It is beyond compare. It is . . . altogether lovely.

To a Mature Man: Revisited

3/27//2020 After reading 2 years of VOM articles, and 8 chapters of “Revival God’s Way” by Leonard Ravenhill:

I do desire greatly to see the Church’s glory in my America restored. But it’s only because I’ve seen it in other nations around the world: nations where she is persecuted and treated as the enemy.

In my exploration of the Ten Stages of Christian Maturity entitled “To a Mature Man” I wrote two years ago, I made the case that every believer must be working toward the stage of Persecution. One man quoted by the Voice of the Martyrs said, “If I do not obey, then I don’t get persecuted.”

My question to the church in America is this: We are the body of Christ right? So often, Jesus is most recognizably portrayed as with his body hanging on the cross, right? This is what many people in our nation know. If the glory of Jesus body is portrayed as giving himself up on the cross
How should the glory of His body, the church, be portrayed?
If the Body of Jesus is not portrayed to people as giving himself on the cross,
how on earth, will mankind recognize our Savior in the church at all?

I also said in “To a Mature Man”, I don’t believe the church must be persecuted to come alive again. I believe it must come alive again and then will be persecuted. We lack in obedience, division from the world, the power of God, devotion to Him, and a heart to do righteousness and to follow His mission. Look at how things are going in our own nation right now. It’s not entirely their fault.

I am at Stage 6, but the danger here is getting entangled in the good and bad snares of the world. I have been bogged down by responsibilities, entertainments, and the fear of Man. It is the mercy of God to show me this, and it is my ache to need to share this, somehow.

Also, in sharing these stages with friends, one friend commented that the stages are sometimes in a loop. We go from Justice to Service back to Wilderness often. As I thought more about it, I realized that each stage is built upon the previous one. That means the key to advancing from one stage to the next is in the previous stage.
Example: If a person is in the Community Stage (5), but is not receiving any specific calling or clarity from the Lord about their mission, but they are falling into the pitfall of man’s approval, they will not advance to the Service Stage (6). To fix this, a believer must return to the Wilderness (4) to see if there is any area of compromise that is hindering his wholehearted devotion to the Lord. If a believer comes back to this stage and finds that the Holy Spirit is not even in him or with him, he must go back to his Baptism (3) to see if he has even received the Spirit. Only through humbly growing at the Lord’s pace will full Maturity in Christ be reached, and as T. Austin-Sparks said, “God is not satisfied with anything less than fullness.”

God, please forgive me for my slackness in pursuing this maturity and in calling others to this maturity. It is only in the person of Jesus Christ, His actualization, that all the world will know Your good news is real.

The Workbench and the Altar

This is a guide for those seeking the Presence of God in their hectic internal world.

So much needs to be cleared from the Workbench of my mind.
So that it can become an Altar where God can meet with me.

  1. Many cares. They keep me from seeing and knowing Him.
  2. My self-sufficiency. It keeps me from even looking to Him.
  3. Distractions–I put them on the Workbench, making no room for Him.
  1. Many Cares
  1. My Self-Sufficiency
  1. Distractions

These three things have been my mindset, and way of being. However, The following three things are what I long for.

4. An Altar–My First ministry

Presenting yourself to God asking Him for God’s filling and anointing

I cannot account for why, but in these moments I have discovered that the eagerness of God has been ready to send the fire of His Holy Presence to blow through, and search out, and scour away my heart with the Glory of His Spirit, His Word, and His presence.

5. The Fire

All of this is one thing: His letting you know Himself. It returns the heart to its original glow, and the problems are cast with a smaller shadow. His light shines from a heart now aglow with his fire. And so long as that fire is kept burning (For our heart is a most unreliable fuel) then it will keep our minds enlightened.

6. Enlightened (In the Christian Sense.)

As Paul prayed, so I pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. ~Ephesians 1:17-19

For this to happen, you must clear your workbench and first make it an altar.

Grace

It comes like a meek kid
One who never flips his lid
Someone you can easily ignore.
When you’re all puffed up
You call “Who’s who, and “What’s what.”
You are blinded to his true glor’

But then in the bleakness,
That black sin of weakness,
You cry out for God to forgive,
And you realize his strength
To endure all the length
And with us despite sin choose to live.

Take heed, o sinner
Grace is the true winner
He will say, “Go and sin no more.”
And if you sin still
Bear the cross he still will
For the precious one, He does adore.

My Spiritual Journey

This, in Christian terms, is my “testimony” I’ve translated it into more common speech, which I hope will be of help to people who are seeking a place to start.

My personhood is where I’ll start. My family was a father and a mother and two older sisters, with extended family still largely intact. At home, I was scheduled, given quiet time to be on my own, and given limited time in front of a screen. I had fairly consistent parents who disciplined not just actions I did, but also called me out on attitudes I held.When I reflect on my childhood, I felt safe, loved, and full of respect for my parents. They took me to church, where my discipline as a child proved useful in making me very well liked in the Homeschool Co-op and Baptist Bible Belt communities I found myself a part.

The selfishness was in me from the beginning. I can retrace places in my heart where I acted out of selfishness and was punished, and my pride caused me to make un-punishable error after self-destructive decision. I wouldn’t check my work, I would find ways to twist things to my own advantage, I would use the good behavior and things I did right to make me more prestigious in the eyes of people so that I would be praised. Silly boy. My Mother I’ve long understood has been much more caring than I, and my Dad knew what it was to be led by something greater than him.

Now that I have started with the setting and the problem, when I was 5, I prayed to ask Jesus to become my Savior, which basically means I knew I had done bad things, and I wanted to go to Heaven one day. But this hasn’t felt like the biggest part of my spiritual journey.

One of the big moments was around 7 or 8 years old: a moment when I made a promise to God, and refused in my heart of hearts to break that promise. I had lied to my parents about cleaning up my room, and lay awake that night unable to get past the promise I had made to God that I would tell them, so I told them. That was a pivotal moment when my heart decided that God, or at least my integrity before Him was the most important thing.

I got baptized around 12 years old, and for some reason it was around this time that I felt an acceleration in my spiritual journey. I started journalling, after the pattern of MYST and Riven, complete with the number system. Dad, who claims to have been led by God for many years (not that he has ever claimed it. He hasn’t really needed to claim anything to me), told me that God uses men who journal, so I journaled. He also told me two things that have greatly shaped my life. He encouraged me to pray two prayers:

  1. Give me a heart completely and utterly devoted to You.
  2. Speak to me in a way I can understand you.

To a reader, it may seem like the deck was stacked pretty heftily in God’s favor as far as shaping who I was going to believe in. Granted, I was steeped in Bible verses from the AWANA program, and my Dad almost always had a Proverb for anything he was doing, but I started pursuing it for my own sake. I dabbled in systematic theology, listened to the Bible on tape, Christian artists. When it came to sealing the deal for the direction of this spiritual journey, I had one main thing I can point to.

As I journaled, I became fascinated with the idea of what true manhood means: what it means to be a real man. I read John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” and it really got me excited about the battles to fight, adventures to live, and beauties to rescue. It gave my heart room to fly. I wanted to be mature as a real man so badly, and I knew I would have to leave my childishness behind.

A climax to this initial stage of my spiritual journey where I think I was completely convinced was thanks to Norm Wakefield, of Spirit of Elijah Ministries. His tape series of Equipping Men, had one particular lesson that brought me to my knees.

In his lesson “In Search of Happiness,” Norm explains that a person will try everything he can to be happy, except just Jesus, and Jesus only is the only answer. In a moment I saw my idolatry, and my fleshly pride. I saw my sin utterly, and I confessed to the God who I believed was real how I had been trying everything to make myself happy, instead of looking to Jesus alone to meet all my needs. Basically, I turned over full control of my life to God at that point. From that point forward, I wouldn’t want to do anything, make any decision unless it was what He wanted me to do. In Christian terms, Jesus became, “Lord of my life.”

I believed God wanted me to do vocational ministry in some way, though I’m not entirely sure what kind. My Dad continued to call me out to manhood, especially to being like Jesus. He gave me some books which continued to shape me into College: Refiner’s Fire Volumes I and II, and The Existence and attributes of God Volumes I and II. After those two books, Christianity had taken on a very interesting characteristic. I would compare it to colors: the Christianity that glows amber. It’s Christianity with a smell to it. It reverberates with the heart, mind, and soul in ways that only melted and broken hearts can. This vein of Christian tradition has taught me to prioritize God as a person, rather than prioritizing doctrine, tradition, or expressionism. (Blue, Purple, and Yellow respectively). These are subjective terms, but the point is that through my journalling, my listening for His voice, and the writings of those who had been with God, I had a pretty steady grasp in my heart of the God whom the Bible attested to.

Speaking of His voice, I don’t actually remember the first time I heard Him “speak” to me. This is one of those mystical experiences that many of the ancient Christians attested to, and many of today in various branches of Christianity also experience. I know what it is to hear His voice because, this voice miraculously sounds like the Bible, and he says things that I do not yet know or understand. I’ve recently learned that there is more for God to say to people who are willing to take the time to listen, but it seems so few truly are interested in listening to Him. I’ve found precious few.

From there, College met a lot of trial and error as I tried to walk out this very personal faith on a campus of very doctrinally solidified individuals (PCA Covenant College) My heart’s fire was not dimmed though. However, I had a continual source of personal revelation of God: the Scriptures. This has been the most fundamentally important pieces of my spiritual journey. The more I studied the Bible, the more I got a clear picture of God, humanity, me, and Jesus. This religious text is far more than that to me, because of who I have felt breathing in it page after page, word after word. Like thrusting my heart back into the fires from whence it was forged over and over again until I am shaped more like my maker.

Anyway, as you can tell, I start to get passionately excited about this journey. It has grown sweeter. He keeps showing me how there is so much more to Him even in the Bible for people who truly want to know Him. He is real, and does ever so desire a relationship of close intimacy with those who are honest of heart.

This is probably one of the main points my testimony asserts: God is real, and really interested in intimacy with the honest of heart. I’ve genuinely wanted to know Him, and my spiritual journey has led me to conclude that He is real, and He has matched my desire with the purest responses of genuine love that keeps me changing to be more like Jesus.

Now that I’m married, a lot of things about God that the Bible said have made a lot more sense as I get to experience them in relationship with another human being. The Torah has given me a greater appreciation for the depth of human (my own) depravity and the depth of God’s goodness in response, and the power and importance of the Cross. This is where I find myself currently on my spiritual journey: married, teaching Bible to children, and growing in my faith by following God’s leading, studying the Scriptures, and journaling what I’ve learned. I also do a lot with music, but maybe that’s another story.

I hope this has been helpful to you, dear reader. It’s not a testimony of which I am ashamed. I am nothing, an insignificant proud guy who has learned to lay his life down for the pursuit of God’s pleasure in all my life.

Thanks be to God. He is absolutely amazing!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Eye of the Storm

I’ve been here before
The world is sprawling around
The rush of water forcing its way
Down, around, along the ground
Inland waves sweep you off your feet
Fear of loss, and helplessness
Feeling too paralyzed to go outside.

Familiar is the feeling when I choke
A shame, a stifling of the breathing life
Situations feel insurmountable
Everything beyond my reach from my unsure footing
Each victory seems one stroke against the tide
Catastrophe feels bigger than reality
I wish I could run and hide myself somewhere.

This is what I have always known
The storm, the shame they have an eye.
One is the calm around which the winds rage
The other is that body’s light, I evade to the floor.
The fear to surge through the fiercest tempest
Only to let the ferocity shatter my frailty
Venturing to enter that gaze safely

Elihu told Job that God was here
Our heart meandering knows this home.
The screaming winds guard this safe place.
The place only the humble seek unswervingly.
As shame gives up the last ounce of covering
Naked and vulnerable just I alone remain
Staring into His gentle clear blue sky.

Always
Through chaos
Ordering all powerfully
Present within our midst.
Testing the heart
Choosing us
Loving

I’ve been here before
The world is sprawling around
The rush of water forcing its way
Down around, all over the ground
I will wait here with Him safely
His presence my security
His eye, my soul’s calm.

♫ Opus 1: An Oracular Opus – Luke Ferguson. Listen @cdbaby

Click to listen at CDBaby

Source: ♫ Opus 1: An Oracular Opus – Luke Ferguson. Listen @cdbaby

 

I will keep a link to this on “My Music” but I wanted any followers to know where they could find my first Opus online.

It’s an oracle, or a burden the Lord impressed on my heart during my second last semester at College. It didn’t get anywhere then, but the Lord had me keep working on it, and now it’s available to the world.

The essence of the whole, is it traces the journey of the heart from the Prophet’s cry to the Glory of God, and shows the believer much of what he must know in between.

There are words to the Oracle, God gave me 3 years later, but for now, only the music is released for listener, theorist, and enthusiast alike.

May you find as much if not more soul-firing encouragement from this music as I did in writing it.

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Poem)

It takes faith to believe that God is.
Once you have this, you can see him.
I do not promise that you will
Because He must decide to reveal Himself.
It takes a pure heart, with no guile.
Some believe that this is impossible,
But all things are possible with God.
How will you recognize him?
You won’t be able to ignore.
No more than a stick can ignore an all consuming flame.

How did I see Him?
I waited.
He spoke.
I looked.
He stood.
I bowed.
He is.

Music purged my heart of unexpressed filth.
Writing arranged my thoughts according to biblical specification.
Love set my heart on fire for another.
Joy surged in my creative freedom and pleasure of wisdom.
Peace quieted me in His approval.
Translation laid sticks of explosive dynamite end to end.
The Holy Spirit’s voice was the match.
The prizing and valuing of His own personal being.
And Jesus the Living one of all my life came.

T. Austin-Sparks~ “God’s answer to strengthen His people for Suffering.”
Is a new unveiling of the glory of the person of Jesus Christ.”

“What is the answer?
A new grasp of His greatness
That’s all.
And then if we are suffering
If we are knowing adversity, trial
And the clouds seem to be gathering, Accumulating, increasing.
How will we get through?
Only thus: by this:
Getting away
And asking
And seeking
And pursuing
In prayer
A new heart revelation–unveiling
of Jesus Christ.
And I am sure that will do it.
God give it to you.”
~T. Austin Sparks

 

Answer: The Cross

“By His stripes we are healed.”
There it is again.
I’ve heard that so often, like I’ve heard, “By the atomic bomb Nagasaki was destroyed.”
Let me rearrange it:
We are healed by His stripes.
Let me take care of the pronouns.
We are healed by Jesus’ stripes.
Let me personalize it for this blog.
I am healed by Jesus stripes.

Why? What about Jesus getting beaten senseless is so healing for me? I’m sick. I consider the deepest cause of my sickness is my own self-salvation, my own self-righteousness, my own self-service, or simply, my own “sin.” Is it just a matter of Jesus being beaten for that, that I am healed?

“The stripes that wound scour away evil.” All the brokenness of the world He scoured away in his body. There is something to that, because His resurrection proved that God was coming not just to crucify the world, but resurrect the world. The world will burn. The world will be remade. We will die. We will be changed. Every pain I face isn’t just a reminder that it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a chance to go to the cross and embrace it and say, “I accept your mercy to righteously judge my brokenness and my sinfulness because of your great love, and I lay down my life again, the way Jesus did on the cross, and ask you, that I may take it up again to serve you a little longer.”

The Cross is the door; only the dead can pass through it. That means I can’t save myself, I can’t heal myself, I can’t rule myself, I can’t love myself, or keep my relationships or my family, my church, even my own life for myself. “God you can have me, but you can’t have my family.” You haven’t gotten a hold of it yet. It’s Christmas, the “Family Holiday” it has become more so than Thanksgiving. Everything needs to be nailed to the cross, even family. Right?

So how does this practically apply? I am going to wait patiently for the Lord to completely heal me. Seems simple. People of the “Faith” tradition will say, “Proclaim it!” I do indeed. Just remember God doesn’t listen to the proud. He listens to the humble. 🙂 The humble are those who embrace the cross. It’s perfectly in keeping with God’s plan for the world to work supernatural healing in the world. I kinda want someone to come to my house and teach me a bit more of how this works, but the cross takes care of all sickness. And if there’s a sickness still, then He’s bringing part of the world to the cross, until it’s completely put to death. I guess.

The Cross is the answer. Thoughts?