The Commander of the Army of the Lord

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, `Are you for us or for our enemies?’

“`Neither,’ he replied, `but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, `What message does my Lord have for his servant?’

“The commander of the Lord’s army replied, `Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5: 15 NIV)

Imagine if you are willing that there is no chapter division at this point in your Bible. Suppose that the beginning of chapter 6 flowed from the ending of chapter 5. If that were the case the following scripture instructing Joshua in the method of the attack on Jericho would be coming from the commander of the Lord’s army as Joshua bowed in reverential awe before Him:

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, `See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’” (Joshua 6: 1 – 5 NIV)

The mysteries of Scripture are revealed to us only by the Lord: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” (Proverbs 25: 2 NIV) Jesus was incarnate among us so that He could be the full revelation of God the Father. But the essential truth is that Jesus has always existed. There have been times in history when Jesus has appeared on earth in visible form. One of those times was as Melchizedek king of Salem:

“After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram saying,

‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.

And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’

“Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14: 17 – 20 NIV)

Another time that the Lord appeared in bodily (visible) form in the life of Abram was at the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, (Abram’s name had been changed to Abraham to signify the fulfillment of the promise of an heir from his own body at the age of 100) was living in Sodom. Three visitors appeared to Abraham and confirmed the promise of a son to be born to Abraham and Sarah. Two of them continued on to Sodom and proved to be angelic beings as the story unfolds. However, the Lord remained and talked with Abraham because he had been chosen:

“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18: 19 NIV)

In these two stories involving Abraham we find the Lord to be physically present. Note that in both of these stories the destruction of enemies was the central theme. In the first Abram is involved in rescuing Lot and his household who had been captured at the time of the king of Sodom. Now we find that the report of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great that the Lord has decided to destroy them if the report is as bad as He has heard.

When we meditate on these three appearances of our Lord we find that destruction has become necessary to bring about justice and righteousness. God is neither with us or our enemies. His love abounds to all of mankind. This is the basic theme of the entire life of Jesus. His admonition to love our enemies is based on the fact that God makes no distinction between the just and the unjust when He brings about the natural blessing of rain.

In the case of the appearance of the commander of the armies of the Lord to Joshua the Lord had waited more than 400 years for the “sin of the Amorites” to reach its full measure:

“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, `Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’” (Genesis 15: 12 – 16 NIV)

We come full circle to the story of Joshua. This story is of particular interest to me in relationship to Living Fully and VMTC-International. When I attended the International Board Meeting (IBM) in the fall of 2014 I was encouraged by the Lord when Dr. Ian Heming, a delegate from Australia, gave me a scripture from Joshua 1: 2 – 9 for myself and for VMTC-Canada (Living Fully). This word of encouragement has played a significant role in our attitude as we prepare for the Leadership Conference of May 1, 2, 2015, and the additions to the School of Prayer Ministry that we are presenting.

All of this has happened since we dedicated ourselves at the annual meeting in 2014 to follow the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit rather than ask the Holy Spirit to bless what we were attempting to accomplish. In the case of the story reported in Joshua; when Joshua and the Israelites dedicated themselves to follow the Lord through His designated servant, Joshua, 31 kings were conquered in the Promised Land and their territory appropriated into the inheritance promised to the Israelites, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In the case of Living Fully; we have dedicated ourselves to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. We have followed the word of the Lord to us given at the IBM from Joshua 1: 2 – 9, and have been strong and courageous. When we follow the word of the Lord to be strong and courageous we witness that Jesus shows up through the power of the Holy Spirit. What we are being led to do is add teaching to the SPM to include the gifts of the offices given to the church to carry out the ministry of Jesus. We are adding this in two places. One place will be in the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The other place will be in the teaching on Total Commitment. We will also organize the SPM so that the Prayer Vigil will start at the beginning of the school and increase the emphasis on worship throughout the school. We also plan of emphasizing the prophetic word of the Lord throughout the SPM with an expectation that the Lord will give word to those in the Prayer Vigil as they pray for each prayer ministry session.

Furthermore, since we have found it difficult to have meaningful fellowship in churches that do not yet fully accept the ministry of Living Fully; it may be necessary to develop small groups that can meet to encourage and pray for one another. This thought is simply one aspect of the final command of Jesus to love one another and is the basic identifying mark of those following Jesus. By these changes and actions we can expect that the walls in our lives will fall as surely as the walls of Jericho.

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Rivers of Living Water

“Jesus said, `I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’

“The Jews said to one another, `Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, `You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and `Where I am, you cannot come’?

“On the last and the greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, `Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (John 7: 33 – 39 NIV)

Much of Scripture is subject to more than one interpretation. In Zechariah we find many references that lend themselves to Messianic prophetic interpretation. For example:

“`Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!’ declares the Lord Almighty.

“`Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. . . ‘ (Zechariah 13: 7 NIV)

We read this passage as prophetic and was mentioned by Jesus referring to what would happen at His arrest. (See Matthew 26: 31) The mysterious admonition that Jesus included in His instructions to His disciples at the Last Supper, “and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” may be making reference to Zechariah.

However, I am making reference here to the words in Zechariah specifically mentioned in connection with living water flowing out of Jerusalem. The Zechariah passage speaks specifically of a physical event. I believe the passage can also be a prophecy of what Jesus proclaimed on the great day of the Feast of Tabernacles quoted above.

“On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” (Zechariah 14: 8, 9 NIV)

We humans are very predictable. When we read of a prophetic message we usually make one of two choices. We expect the passage to be fulfilled in a manner that can be recognized with our physical senses and we also expect that the passage will be fulfilled by the Lord with someone other than ourselves being involved. We read the passage in Zechariah and wait for it to be fulfilled physically sometime in the future with an earthquake and the splitting of the Mount of Olives. I certainly am not denying the physical fulfillment of this prophecy. However, I also read this prophecy as being fulfilled by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and the preaching of the kingdom of God going throughout the earth—“The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”

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Caring for the Sheep

“`For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.’” (Ezekiel 34: 11 – 13 NIV)

“`I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.’” (Ezekiel 34: 16 NIV)

“`Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.’” (Ezekiel 34: 20 – 24 NIV)

“`I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.’” (Ezekiel 34: 26, 27 NIV)

“`You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34: 31 NIV)

The above excerpts have been taken from a longer passage in Ezekiel 34 to bring to our minds the intent and purpose of God to shepherd His people. Undoubtedly, this passage refers to the Israelites coming back from exile and focuses particularly on those who abuse their fellow Israelites. There is a long standing way of speaking of the justice that is required by God: “To care for the widows and the fatherless and the aliens among you.” Oppression in Israel often was accomplished by the rich enslaving the poor and taking their inherited land from them so that the rich became richer and the poor became more and more destitute. Is this any different in our world today? Was not this exactly what Jesus was addressing in Luke 16 with the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus? (See Luke 16: 19 – 31)

For Living Fully we are declaring that the ministry of the Good Shepherd has been assigned to us by the Holy Spirit. This is not surprising because the general scriptural basis for Victorious Ministry through Christ – International and Living Fully, the VMTC-Canada organization, is Luke 4: 18, 19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

And recovery of sight for the blind,

To set the oppressed free,

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

At the annual meeting of VMTC-Canada of 2014, we had a revelation that we had been carrying on the established ministry of Victorious Ministry through Christ rather than obeying the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit. The result of our attitude and approach was a restlessness and dissatisfaction with what we were doing. Another way of expressing how we were feeling or what we were being shown was that we were asking the Holy Spirit to empower something we had created rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to continually direct us in the creation of something constantly new.

What the Holy Spirit is revealing to us is to add something to the teaching of Living Fully. It has always been our intention of preparing people to carry on the work of Jesus as described in the formation scripture from Luke 4: 18, 19 quoted above. We have, however, failed to complete the process necessary to equip the people of God to carry out the mandate of Jesus. We have made an assumption that is largely false. We have failed to recognize that during the ministry of Jesus opposition came from the religious community in which Jesus lived. Furthermore, we have not recognized that the religious community of our day is not remarkably different from the religious community of Jesus’ day.

One April 16, 2015, the president of Living Fully and the vice-president met to finalize plans for our Leadership Conference to be held in Grand Bend on May 1 & 2, 2015. We sense strongly that we are going forward with plans to announce changes to our School of Prayer Ministry (SPM) schedule with some consolidations and some additions. We sense that the emphasis that the Holy Spirit is directing us to bring about is in agreement with the emphasis that Jesus demonstrated and with the Scriptural mandate.

The illustration of the emphasis that we sense the Holy Spirit bringing about is difficult to envision. I have entitled this article “Caring for the Sheep.” That title brings to mind the vision of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, as the incarnation of God among us who has carried out the mandate of Father to care for and provide for the sheep. Included in that vision is the emphasis of leading the sheep with justice so that the fat, sleek sheep do not bruise the weak sheep and trample the pasture and the water so that others are destroyed.

Now, we come to our day. We come to the situation we find among the sheep in our modern day. We have today in our midst fat, sleek sheep who bruise the weak sheep and trample the pasture and the water so that others are destroyed. Within the teaching of Victorious Ministry through Christ (VMTC) we have taught the Scriptural mandate that confession of sin, repentance, and asking for forgiveness is a necessary part of continued spiritual growth. We have further emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit, the need to understand Spiritual Warfare, and have called for Total Commitment to follow Christ. In short, we have been a Total Commitment ministry with the mandate to partner with and come alongside churches to assist the people of God to find spiritual maturity so that the churches will be helped in the process of continuing to being about the kingdom of God on the earth. With partnership with the churches in mind the expectation has been that spiritual maturity will continue as individuals return to the shelter and support of the churches. Our actual experience, however, has been that individuals returning to the expected shelter and support of the churches have been butted by the heads of the fat, sleek sheep and have been pushed aside.

Again, I emphasize that the illustration that I envision is difficult to consider. The picture takes a radical turn when I suggest that our goal is to put armor on the sheep. Yes, I know that VMTC has always recommended taking on the whole armor of God as described in Ephesians 6: 10 – 18 and elsewhere is scripture. However, this armor has always been presented as a defensive protection from the whiles of the devil. I am suggesting armoring and arming the sheep with an emphasis on offense. I believe we have the mandate of Jesus to follow Him into Hell and take out the lost souls entrapped there. I believe we can go through fire, storm, and flood to save the lost. Following Jesus in an offensive battle fully armored and equipped is what Living Fully is all about.

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Pay Taxes to Caesar

“Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: `Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’

“He saw through their duplicity and said to them, `Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’

“`Caesar’s,’ they replied.

“He said to them, `Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’

“They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.” (Luke 20: 20 – 26 NIV)

Even though Jesus had outwitted his adversaries, after His arrest and trial, they still brought accusations against him before Pilate that He opposed payment of taxes to Caesar:

“Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, `We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.’” (Luke 23: 1, 2 NIV)

We know that the above discussion and accusation was initiated by opponents of Jesus. We also know that the ultimate attempt by his opponents was to destroy him. Yet, Jesus submitted to these abuses and allowed Himself to be arrested, accused before the Sanhedrin, taken before Pilate, and was condemned to death, the death on the cross. According to Jesus, all of this was the work of the devil:

“I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes to that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14: 29 – 31 NIV)

However, even though the devil thought that he was about to destroy Jesus; Jesus knew that His Father would take the work of the devil and turn it into good. Actually, God allowed the devil to kill Jesus so that He could bring about the salvation of the world.

The theme that I am addressing is trusting God in all circumstances in our personal lives and trusting that God is sovereign over the affairs that are making current history. Paul addresses this theme in Romans:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. . .

“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13: 1, 2 . . . 6, 7 NIV)

Paul continues with the answer to the question, “How is it possible to carry out obedience to the authorities:”

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, `You shall not commit adultery,’ `You shall not murder,’ `You shall not steal,’ `You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13: 8 – 10 NIV)

There are injustices in the world that must be spoken against. There have been governments that are unjust and must be opposed. Jesus has shown us how to do so peaceably. Turning the other cheek; leaving your shirt in court after your coat has been taken away, and going the extra mile as advocated in the Sermon on the Mount were actually ways of protesting injustice. These concepts were understood by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. who used peaceful protests to bring about the independence of India from Britain and voting rights for black Americans respectively.

In all of this Jesus trusted Himself into God’s hands and was vindicated by the resurrection. It is our place now to trust that God still has sovereignty over the affairs of current history and will bring about His plans and purposes as we turn our lives over to Him.

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