Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Are You Sure You Want an Open Heaven?


God’s glory has been manifested through what appears to be gold dust and a glory cloud at Bethel Church in Redding, CA with increasing frequency since August. This post is not a debate whether you believe it or not and even if you don’t truth is not diminished by your lack of belief. The Bible says nothing is impossible with God and if God is in it, I want it. I have friends who have first-hand testimony of the phenomenon happening at Bethel Church. I want to experience it in my church, but lately, I’ve been wondering: are we prepared for it?

Last week I was reading the book of Mark; I noticed something I hadn’t seen before in Mark 1:10. It says when Jesus was baptized in water he saw heaven torn open. I was struck by the words torn open. It depicts violence and I had to look it up in my Greek Bible. The original word is schizo, which means to rend, divide, break and it denotes a violent action.

Everyone wants the effects of an open heaven but are we ready for the violence to receive it? It’s exciting what is happening at Bethel but I have to stop and remember they have been stewarding the presence for more than a decade, and they have experienced a lot of tearing, rending and dividing to be where they are today.

What’s more, any time an open heaven is mentioned in the Bible, the individual or people group are thrust forward into ministry – Jesus, disciples at Pentecost, Saul (who became Paul) on the road to Damascus. Abraham, Jacob and Moses are examples in the Old Testament, too.

We forget, at least I forget, Jesus was a man like us and experienced pulls and forces working against him, and yet he never turned his face away from the Father. Oh, to be like that - let that be our prayer. Jesus preached the good news, which is the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He could confidently say that because wherever he went, the heavens had already been divided and torn apart so he always had an open heaven. Jesus tells his disciples, and he tells us the same, to preach the good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, within reach. Amen, praise God.

I fasted for most of November and instead of feeling close to God, I described myself as feeling ‘schizo’ –the exact same word as the Greek word for the tearing heavens at Jesus’ baptism. As I meditated on the scripture in Mark, I realized the heavens (the ruling powers) are tearing around and in me, and I rightly used the correct word. Things that are not of God must be torn away - with violence - so I can be wholly devoted to the Lord and ready to not just experience an open heaven but to be an open heaven.

It takes effort and a willingness and surrender to subject yourself to receive an open heaven. Jesus told us to count the cost; somehow we skip over the cost and only want the effects. We chase signs, instead of the sign.

Are you still sure you want an open heaven?


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