Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 12 January 2012

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Revelation 01 – A Change Is Coming

 

Imagine (that) you are not going well in your faith. Imagine (that), as a Christian, your life is hard – every day, a painful exertion of discipline. Imagine (that) everyone seems to be against you and they seem to be in charge. How would this make you feel? What would you think about God? Would we whinge? (Probably – yes!) Would we – over time – learn to have a small vision of God? (Saying: he cannot do much. He’s in heaven but seems absent here on earth. At least, this is my experience and the experience of many other Christians. Why are we in such bad shape – suffering and struggling with sin, death and the devil?)

The Bible book of Revelation begins with a church leader writing to seven churches – (located in seven cities in the Roman province of Asia) – and he was not doing well and neither were the churches. Listen to his words – Revelation 1:9: “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” John – the leader – the author of the book – was on the island of Patmos which was a prison island – not unlike Alcatraz – a rocky, mountainous place about ten miles long and six miles wide. [Show map of Patmos and the seven churches.] He may have had chains around his ankles – working in the mines. What led to his banishment was his witness to Jesus. Pressure – agony – had come his way and this was for everyone. In his own words – John was a brother and companion in the tribulation that everyone experienced – and kingdom – (but – so it seemed – a kingdom on the back-foot) – and patient endurance.

How would he cope? Would he complain – become depressed – accept defeat? I am not sure how he felt but I know what he did. Irrespective of any setbacks – he stuck to the discipline of prayer and worship – (this is what can carry us through) – especially on the seventh day which God asked us to keep holy and spend with him.

Then, it happened. I read – Revelation 1:10-16:

 

On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

 

This was an amazing experience. [At the back of the church, there is a loud trumpet playing. As the congregation turns towards the loud sound, they see a figure resembling Jesus with a long robe, golden sash, white hair, blazing eyes, a sword coming out of the mouth, bronze feet, shining face and holding seven stars in his right hand.]

Throughout the book of Revelation, John is going to spend time on describing his many experiences – (there are more to come) – and – (as readers) – we need to hear what he was hearing and see what he was seeing to understand the fullness of the revelation which he received. Take in the trumpet blast and this figure of Jesus – take your time – because the accounts of this book appeal to our imagination and are not simply the dry communication of some intellectual truths about God. The Jesus who appeared to John – and the whole book of Revelation is about him: “The revelation of Jesus Christ ... ” (Revelation 1:1) – invites you to process more than technical information about God. Enter into the experience of him. Use the eyes and the ears of your imagination and – by the power of the Spirit – (as John was in the Spirit when he received the vision) – participate in the encounter with Jesus. The first words of Jesus to John were about sharing him with others – Revelation 1:11: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the . churches ... ”

 

I quote the insight of another pastor and writer: “If the Revelation is not read as a poem, it is simply incomprehensible. The inability (or refusal) to deal with St. John, the poet, is responsible for most of the misreading, misinterpretation, and misuse of the book.

A poet uses words not to explain something, and not to describe something, but to make something. Poet (poetes) means ‘maker’. Poetry is not the language of objective explanation but the language of the imagination. It makes an image of reality in such a way as to invite our participation in it. We do not have more information after we read a poem, we have more experience ... ” (Eugene Peterson: Reversed Thunder, San Francisco: HarperCollins 1991, p5).

 

How would you respond to Jesus’ voice that was loud like a trumpet – like the sound of rushing waters – and his appearance of brilliant light and so forth? What would this do for you on the island of Patmos? You are going to be changed. Jesus is far more real than you would have thought. A glimpse of him is overwhelming. He’s there and he’s big.

John could not handle the vision. He writes – Revelation 1:17: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid ... ’” John fell at Jesus’ feet like dead – mortified –(literally) scared stiff – until he heard Jesus say: “Do not be afraid.” John may have also felt drained of all energy which also happens when imperfect – sinful – humans come close to God:

 

Daniel 10:8: So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.

 

Daniel 10:15-19: While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.” Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

 

Jesse Duplantis: Heaven. Close Encounters Of The God Kind, Tulsa: Harrison House 1996: ... I felt the chariot slowing down; then it came to a stop. When the door opened, I experienced the shock of my life: I was in heaven! ... Then I saw other people who didn't have on robes; they were wearing gowns. They started walking toward the city, but they seemed to get weak. I saw them walk over to the trees, pick what looked like fruit and eat it. Then they took some leaves off those trees, put the leaves up to their faces and breathed in, smelling them.

I asked the angel, “What's happening?” He said, “Some of them have not lived the life they should. They believe in God and love Jesus, but they didn't live to their fullest potential.” Then I asked, “Will they still be able to go before God's Throne?” “Yes, God is merciful to them,” he said. “But they have to be prepared to stand in the presence of the Almighty.”

“What happens when they eat enough of that fruit?” “They will be strengthened,” he said. “As we get closer to the city, the anointing and the light will get stronger. When we go before the Throne, it can be blinding.” ...

When I began to feel weak, the angel walked over to one of those trees, picked some of its fruit and brought it back to me. I don't know what kind of fruit it was, but it wasn't an apple. It was juicy and copper-coloured fruit. The angel said to me, “Eat this fruit so you will be able to withstand the glory of God.” So I ate it, and I was strengthened ...

Then the angel said to me, “We must go to the city.” As we were walking in that direction, the angel said, “You're going to get weaker and weaker.” He had kept fruit for me and offered it to me frequently.

I noticed some of the people in gowns who were slipping out from under those trees and walking toward the city. They almost got there; then they stopped, turned around and had to go back. It seemed as if they were depressed.

I heard someone say, “There is no depression here. Just eat of the Tree of Life, smell the leaves for healing and let your spirit grow. You shall stand at the Throne of God.” ...

All of a sudden, the angel stopped our chariot and said, “Kneel. He’s here.” I felt weak then and fell to my knees. The angel handed me some fruit and said, “Eat this.” So I did.

As Jesus walked toward me, those children ran up to Him. They sang praises to Him, and He just hugged them. As the kids sang, He rejoiced with them.

To me, He looked like a shaft of light. He was so glorious! He turned toward me, and I fell at His feet. I said, reverently, “Oh, God!” He said, “I’m here.”

As I was kneeling down, I noticed Jesus’ feet looked like burnished brass. I thought there would be scars in His hands and feet. But it wasn’t like He had been cut and scarred. I could see the holes in His feet. They were so big—about the size of a nickel—that light was shining through them. I realized then just how big the nails were that had been pounded into His feet and hands at His crucifixion.

We don’t realize how much Jesus suffered on the cross. There are no adjectives to describe what He really went through. He put His hand on my shoulder and said, “Jesse, stand to your feet.”

I stood and looked at Him. There was a brilliance coming out of Him that seemed like waves of glory. The light was emanating from Him. His clothes were beautiful and looked like solid diamonds that were sparkling.

Jesus was taller than I thought He would be. I would guess Him to be from five feet eleven inches to six feet one inch. I thought at first His hair was white; but when He turned His head, I caught a glance and saw that it was light brown. When He looked at me, the glory of God was emanating from Him.

I said, “Jesus!” He said simply, “Do you like this place?” I said, “Yes, Sir.” ...

I felt weaker and weaker as we approached the Throne room. It looked to me like millions of people were there. Looking around, I saw twenty-four empty seats near the Throne. I said, “I’ve read in the Scriptures about the twenty-four elders.” (Revelation 4:4.) “Those are their seats! Where are they?”

“Jesse, we’re servants here,” David told me as he had earlier. “They’re out in the city and in Paradise blessing and helping people. We help people here. Everyone serves. Somebody is always trying to do something for you. Someone will always ask, ‘What can I do for you?’” ...

When the light from the Throne hit me I couldn’t stand up; I fell down, and the angel gave me more of the fruit saying, “Eat this so you can withstand the glory of God.” I ate it, but my knees had just buckled. I stayed on the floor. Everyone else was standing up. For a lack of a better way of putting it, when you stand or fall at the Throne, God’s glory washes out your glory. His glory goes in you and on you ...

 

The good news is that you can receive strength and acclimatise to the glory of God. [Cf. Exodus 34:29-30: “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.”] His holiness – his pure glorious nature – can find more and more room in you.

But – most of all – at all times – Jesus – the overwhelming figure of glory – is better than we think. There we are feeling scared – there we are expecting correction and a wagging forefinger – but this is what he is actually doing – even to you this morning – Revelation 1:17: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid ... ’” Jesus touched John. He placed his right hand on John’s body in a gesture of love and comfort – stooping down from his glorious heights to the cowering bundle of humanity at his feet.

Jesus who is the Lord over everything – who is busy with the whole world and the affairs of millions (billions) of people – he takes the time and care to touch one man because he is afraid and needs strength. Is this you? Can you see him touch you this morning? He has not changed. He loves his people and everyone that lives on earth.

When Pastor Jesse Duplantis had his encounter with Jesus in heaven – (he was also taken up in a vision) – he was also surprised at the goodness of Jesus. He writes:

 

Jesus said simply, “Do you like this place?” I said, “Yes, Sir.” “Tell My People I’m Coming” The first thing I thought of doing was confessing my sins to Him. I said to Him, “I’m not the man I should be, I’ve made some mistakes.” When you get to heaven, all you want to do is repent! But He said, “You’re forgiven. I made a plan of redemption.”

 

According to Jesse Duplantis – when you get to heaven, all you want to do is repent. Reaching the goal of your existence – entering into an eternity of glory and communion with God – you realize that you have (too many times) lost track of the core issue, that is: repentance, turning away from sin and making sure that your life lines up with God’s holiness. In the midst of persecution, bad news and the island of Patmos – you may have worried about lesser side-issues but in heaven – after all of the temporary problems are behind you – the status of your relationship with God is what counts – nothing else.

Yet – just when this truth confronts us with a sense of dread and regret (as we are looking at the mighty figure of Jesus) – Jesus has us covered. His hand is on us and he is saying to our fearful hearts: “You’re forgiven. Do not be afraid. I love you.”

This is why John begins his letter to the churches – (you find these words in the first chapter of his book of Revelation) – with these words – Revelation 1:4-6:

 

John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

   To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

 

John was touched by Jesus; therefore could not praise him enough. He came face to face with the overpowering attributes of Jesus – his voice like a loud trumpet, his brilliant face, blazing eyes, the sword out of his mouth – but had experienced grace. He writes: “Grace and peace to you ... [especially] from Jesus Christ ... ” Then, before he did anything else, John launched into the core proclamation of the Christian faith: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”

There is exuberance in these words. Jesus loved us. Jesus freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us on a cross – offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus made us his own. Everybody – can you hear the Good News? Jesus loved you. Jesus freed you – (or can free you) – from your sins. Jesus freed you from shame and guilt. Jesus – glory be to him and power be to him for ever and ever. Amen. This makes us so happy. This is what no one can take away. This is what really matters – in the long run.

However – building on this foundation – John learned even more about Jesus. What do you think John may have been struggling with on the island of Patmos? What can be a problem for you when the Christian testimony gets you into trouble, life crumbles in prison, freedom of speech and mobility are shut down, iron shackles make for sore skin, church members are torn apart and the general population thinks that this is a good idea? What thoughts might go through your head?

Maybe you would begin to wonder about the Christian faith, asking yourself: “Where is Jesus? Where is the power? I thought that I would experience a greater measure of breakthrough in mission and health and provision? What’s going on?” Then – as these thoughts begin to take a hold on you – you may adapt further to the prison reality on Patmos and change your thinking on Jesus. You bring him down to the level of the current tribulation where the church is boxed in by enemies from all sides. This is what could cross your mind: “Yes – Jesus saved me on the cross. I love him. His body was bruised for me and his blood poured out of him onto the ground. I have a suffering Saviour who made a way for me into eternity. This is what I am grateful for and – therefore – this side of eternity – I just hang in there because salvation concerns the future of eternal life and not the current circumstances.”

Do you recognize this kind of thinking? It expects very little from Jesus now and exercises faith purely for the forgiveness of sins to spend the future in heaven. I am not sure how much John was influenced by these thoughts but what do you think his vision of Jesus would have done for him? What is it doing for you? Have another look:

 

Revelation 1:10-16: ... I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet ... I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw ... someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

 

Jesus did not look like commiserating with John in persecution. He did not look like the suffering Jesus any more. He was not there in weakness (as on the cross) – encouraging John to wait out this time here on earth because nothing could be done before the day of judgement and eternity. There was a sharp sword coming out of his mouth. His eyes were like blazing fire. Stars were in his right hand and his entire face was shining with immeasurable brilliance. He spoke like someone that meant business – with loud trumpeting sounds.

As you let this vision grown on you, what may again be rising up in you? Faith! Jesus is not going to wait until the after-life before he is taking charge of business here on earth. Something is about to happen. Jesus is powerful already now and he looks like he is ready to use his power – now. And he does – just keep reading the book of Revelation.

The vision certainly inspired John to assert again the present authority of Jesus Christ. Nothing and no one compared to him. I read to you again how he began his letter to the churches in the very first chapter of the book:

 

Revelation 1:4-6: John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Can you see how John immediately identified Jesus as theruler of the kings of the earthwhich is a description of him that is applying now in the present – not only in some distant future. At the time of writing Revelation – John may have languished on the prison island of Patmos but his jailers and the oppressive regime of the empire were subject to his Saviour – Jesus Christ. He – the man in chains – belonged to the true ruling power – not his persecutors.

For John and the churches – the situation would change – soon. Jesus would exercise his rule and pull the kings of the earth in line and this is what the very first verse of the book promises – Revelation 1:1: “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place ... ” Revelation 1:7: “Look, he is coming with the clouds ... ”

John also said that Jesus was thefaithful witnessbut again – keeping the vision alive before us – Jesus was not like John who was suffering because he bore witness to Jesus (Revelation 1:9). Jesus was now a witness with a sharp sword coming out of his mouth which means that his words that were bearing witness to the truth and righteous judgement of God came with power to cut down any opposition.

Last but not least – Jesus conquered death in his resurrection – three days after his death on a cross – which means that he is alive now. He is the Living One now. The power that will enable him to overcome our death – and what greater enemy is there – is with him already:

 

Revelation 1:5: ... Jesus Christ ... the firstborn from the dead ...

 

Revelation 1:17-18: When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

 

Do you like this vision of Jesus? I do but this is getting even better. When you look at Jesus in all of his brilliant glory, you can actually see yourself. We are not unlike Jesus. Maybe we don’t possess magnificence to the same degree but Jesus saved us to make us like himself.

First of all – his attention and care secures our life in him – Revelation 1:19-20:

 

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

 

Then, the Jesus of the vision – possessing royal dignity and wearing what may have been a priestly robe – speaking with the power of a double-edged sword – helps us to understand our new dignity as his people:

 

Revelation 1:5-6: ... [Jesus] loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father ...

 

We are a kingdom of priests which means that we share in the royal power of Jesus and – like him – as priests – not only pray but decree the words of God with a double-edged sword. This is the underlying reality of being faithful witnesses like Jesus:

 

Revelation 1:2: ... who bore witness to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

 

Revelation 1:5: ... Jesus who is the faithful witness ...

 

Revelation 1:9: ... was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

 

As we witness to Jesus, we function as a kingdom of priests with power because there is more happening in witnessing than the conveyance of truth. As priests we stand in the presence of God and – from there – from this place of authority – speak words of truth which accomplish what they say – Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of the testimony ... ” Revelation 19:10: “ ... the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.”

 

[Pray and speak the word. These two actions flow out of our identity as a kingdom of priests to our God:

 

Exodus 19:6: “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation ... ”

 

1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

 

Revelation 1:6: “ . has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father ... ”

 

Revelation 5:9-10: “ ... you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

 

As a kingdom of priests we pray – as you would expect priests to pray – and we exercise authority – as you would expect royal priests (kings) to exercise authority. In another Bible reference, we learn in more detail the authority that we have received. Jesus said:

 

Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”

 

As a kingdom of priests, the keys to the kingdom of heaven are ours. As we speak the word – we bind or loose – open or shut – allow or disallow – on earth what God has determined in heaven. God is taking the initiative. First, there is a binding and loosing in heaven – in the spiritual realm – but then – as royal priests – we have the keys to manifest these spiritual advancements here on earth. I rephrase the Bible verse to make this absolutely clear:

 

Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever will have been bound in heaven you bind on earth, and whatever will have been loosed in heaven you loose on earth.”

 

[Cf. Matthew 18:18-19; John 20:21-23: Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”]

 

 See also John 5:17-21: “ … My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working … the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does … ”

 

John 6:63: “ … The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

 

This principle was already operational before Jesus came – Amos 3:7: “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” See also Ezekiel 37:1-10.

 

Jeremiah 1:9-10: “Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’” Cf. Isaiah 6:5-13.

 

Revelations 19:11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True … on his head are many crowns … his name is the Word of God … Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations … On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.”

 

Ephesians 6:17: “ … the sword of the Spirit . is the word of God.”

 

James 1:18: “God chose to give us birth through the word of truth … ”]

 

The following testimony may give us a glimpse of what Jesus wanted to inspire in John. Victory was coming. Jesus was the Living One, the Ruler over all the kings on earth. Be ready for the breakthrough until the final breakthrough of overcoming this life in eternity.

 

Kris Vallotton: Basic Training For The Supernatural Ways Of Royalty, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2006, p182-185:

In the early ‘90s, my family and I started feeling a strong burden for Lewiston, a small town in the mountains of northern California about a half hour from our house. Although this was a community of less than a thousand people, crime, drugs, and immorality were running rampant there. It was the worst town in Trinity County. The Sheriff’s Department was perplexed with how to solve the problem and the older residents were up in arms because criminal activities were growing.

The Lord began to talk to us about becoming the answer for this community. We didn’t really know what to do. The problem seemed huge, and frankly, we were scared of the violent people who were at the heart of the real issues.

We began to walk the town every week praying over houses. The Lord would often tell us what was going on inside certain homes and show us where the strongholds were. We would stand outside those homes and quietly pray for them. Many times we would get prophetic words that would be the answer to the troubles that we could see in the Spirit. We would prophesy that life would come to those “dead bones” in those homes.

We prayed over the city weekly for a year. We prayed after dark so that we would not be conspicuous and stand out as religious freaks. We weren’t doing this to be noticed by man but to be recognized by hell and to be honoured by Heaven. We felt such a burden for these people that it caused us to pray many times in the rain and snow. We never missed a week for a solid year. We were determined to see the kingdom of God destroy the works of the devil in Lewiston.

At the end of the long year of warfare, on a moonless and cold winter night, about fifteen people joined us to walk through the community and pray over the city. We split up in teams of two and prayer-walked the Lewiston subdivision for a couple of hours. Later, we met in the gravel parking lot of an old abandoned gym. The gym lay in front of a large field overgrown with weeds. We held hands and began to pray for the people of the community. Within seconds an incredibly loud, bloodcurdling voice started screaming from the midst of the field. It sounded like the deep voice of a man writhing in pain. It made our skin crawl. The voice echoed through the valley on that dark, eerie night. When we would stop praying the voice would stop but as soon as we would begin praying the screaming would start again. We decided to pray more fervently until it quit for good. A long while passed as we battled that evil spirit over the town and finally the voice lost strength, got very faint and went silent. It was a strange experience, but we knew that we had received a breakthrough that night.

Within a week the Trinity County Probation Department called and asked us if we would like to work with them in Lewiston. They had about 35 teenagers on probation and they were going to teach their parents twice a week for a month. They wanted us to minister to the kids while they were doing parental training with their folks.

We were scared but excited to work with teenagers in Lewiston. The community gave us the abandoned gym to use for free. It was a mess, not having been used for years. It leaked when it rained and it was freezing cold in the winter. We cleaned it up the best we could. The first several months were wild. I broke up four fistfights the first night, wrestling guys to the floor to get them to stop killing each other. We would play basketball and volleyball for an hour and then take a break. During half-time I would share a relevant message with them concerning the things they were going through. Most of my messages gave them tools to deal with life and let them know how valuable they were to God.

They weren’t required to stay in the gym for the message, although most of them did. Little by little we became a big family. We met twice a week over the next five years and loved on those kids. The group grew to more than one hundred. Several drug pushers joined us most nights. We made rules about not selling drugs in or around the gym. It was also against the rules to bring weapons into the gym. After a year or so, they began to have a lot of respect for us and they would keep the rules and even police themselves. If someone new came to the gym and tried to sell drugs, the older kids would go over there and let them know that the gym was off-limits for drug trafficking.

The Sheriff Deputies messed up our youth group for a while because they would come in to the gym and arrest our kids who had warrants. I finally convinced them to arrest them somewhere else and to let us minister to them first.

The community was so touched by what we were doing that they gave us two awards. The Lions Club paid for all the refreshments. Everyone in the county knew what we were doing and were very supportive. That is, of course, except for the religious people. They thought that we should “Bible-bang” the kids and talk to them about their cussing and other obvious outward problems. We were more concerned about their hearts.

Over the next five years the entire town changed. Drug-dealers got saved and most of the kids began respecting themselves and started having moral standards. We taught the teenagers how to deal with conflict so that the fighting stopped and the entire community cleaned up.

If you drive through Lewiston now, you will see a beautiful mountain town nestled in the Trinity Alps. The homes are nice, the yards are well taken care of, the gym is remodelled and there is a great ball park where the overgrown field once was.

There is so much more to this story that it would take the entire book to tell you about it, yet what I learned firsthand through that experience is that we in the Body of Christ have what it takes to see our cities transformed. If we are willing to follow the burden in our hearts and take ownership for our community beyond what is expected, God will give us the strategies and strength to see breakthrough happen.

The Body of Christ is equipped to bring the kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy wherever we go. We have power over the evil prince that keeps people in bondage. We have love that causes people to know they are cared about. We have grace that gives them the power to change. We have mercy that picks them up when they fall. We have courage that stands in the face of violence and brings peace, and we have wisdom that shows people how to live. Most of all, we have an awesome Father who knows how to melt the hearts of His people. We have the answers to the world’s problems and the devil’s devices.

John said, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and a few verses later he declared, “As He is, so are we in this world” (4:17b). Let us not stop short of imitating every work of Jesus Himself, for He has all authority in Heaven and on earth and has commissioned us to represent Him in His fullness. He was the One who promised we, His royal family, would do even “greater works than these” (John 14:12).

 

If you are on the prison island of Patmos now – if you feel like there are chains around your ankles – (life is hard and you seem weak) – know that a change is coming. John had a vision of Jesus which compelled him to write the book of Revelation. Grow your faith according to this vision. Share in the experience. Jesus’ voice is loud – like a trumpet and rushing waters. His eyes are like blazing fire and his face is shining like the sun in all its brilliance. There is a sharp sword coming out of his mouth. He holds stars in his hand and walks among the churches.

John took one look at this Jesus and fell like a dead man to his feet but Jesus touched him and he is touching you. He loves you and he invites you to know him as he really is:

 

Revelation 1:5-6: ... Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

 

A change is coming. John had an amazing – a scary – vision of Jesus Christ; therefore wrote with new conviction that Jesus Christ was indeed the ruler of the kings of the earth and we are his people – freed from sin – sharing in his authority – a kingdom of priests. Take one last look. Jesus’ eyes are blazing for a reason. A change is coming. Amen.