Motivated Only by His Love

A Heart after God.jpg

Please forgive me, but as many of you have discovered, I only tend to write when the Spirit wind is blowing in my neck of the woods. Thus you get my blog articles in short bursts and then I must be still and listen for a while in silence. So here is number three in about as many days. You might call this a “book report” on a YouTube video that came to my attention out of a time of fellowship, so the format is a bit different than my usual missive.

I was having coffee with an old friend of mine who has been in the wilderness of God for many years. We had often bumped into one another as we tried to find a local church that felt like home, without much success. I had also met much of his family over the years. Like many of us, he has struggled with discerning the difference between the flesh and spirit in him and struggle with being set out to dry in Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. But this time he spoke to me about being encouraged by listening to a YouTube message by Paul Keith Davis, who in some circles has been regarded as a prophet. This alone made me skeptical of his message at first, but I went home at the Spirit’s urging and listened to it. You can hear it here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBsg0J-ZILk).

Listening to it was a rough start for me, because he spoke with some religious overtones and traditions of today’s “prophetic movement” that God brought me out of, but the Lord told me to keep listening because there was a word for God’s called-out one, Ekklesia, in this video. As he told the story of his own wilderness period, I realized there were some life similarities we share, but mind you I no way endorse all of the messages on his YouTube site.

In 1980 the Lord showed me in a vision of how I looked to Him after I prayed that he would show me as He saw me–not as I thought He saw me–in my “glorious ministry.” What I saw was not pretty. I was filled with pride and ministered with the gifts of the Spirit so that I could draw people to myself and become somebody of notoriety in their eyes. I was stealing His praises and glory to myself. After that I prayed, “God this is ugly! You do not share your glory with any man. If this is what I am doing, just kill it! Show it no mercy.” That was the beginning of my 14 years in His wilderness, a time of being stripped of everything I once was and knew so He could build His house on the foundation of Christ in me and nothing else.

Brother Paul Davis also spoke of a time of stripping where God forced him into seclusion and inactivity with a back injury (another thing we shared). I found there was still a bit of a ministry fixation about him in this message, but the further I listened, the more his focus was not on ministry and ruling and reigning with Christ, but on a love relationship with Jesus and the Father. He had an encounter with the Father and His great love during that time that touched him deeply, even though it lasted only a few minutes.

One thing I disagreed with was when he said in effect, “Because of this love, the bride of Christ wants to lay there with her head on His breast, but the Lord wants to push her out to do ministry….” Not quite. In the final battle Jesus leads His army of saints forth to do battle and they follow the Lamb wherever He goes because of their love for Him. There is no “pushing us out ahead to do battle or ministry” for that matter. Jesus made it clear that apart from Him we can do nothing! The taking of the Promised Land by the sword became necessary because the Children of Israel sinned. He had planned at first to go before them and fight their battles, but since they failed to enter in because of their fear and unbelief, they had to fight when they went in forty years later (see Exodus 23). This is the difference between the Old and the New Covenants. In the Old Covenant, where they sinned, they strived and fought to gain the land, but in the New Covenant all things are ours as we abide in Christ. When He cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” it was!

We must get out of Martha’s kitchen and join Mary, who was madly in love with Jesus and sat at His feet with the other disciples because she chose the better part. Without our first love for Him abiding in us (the great flaw of those seven churches of Asia in Revelation), we will miss the will of God because we’ll lack the spiritual closeness of those who lay their heads on His heart. It is there that we discern His needs, desires and purposes and are motivated by His love. Ministry cannot be our first love. Until Jesus is once again our First Love, we have nothing to give of any eternal value, and most all of what we do will be out of our own flesh instead of from Him. The last god to go in the lives of men and women who want to be somebody in the church is the god called, my ministry. Sooner or later, God demands that all such things be laid on the altar of sacrifice where His fire burns up everything that is of the flesh. Apostle Paul wrote:

For no other foundation can a man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1Cor 3:11-15, KJ2000)

I get a check in my spirit when I hear a person focusing on ruling and reigning “with Christ” instead of being a servant with Christ. Jesus’ whole example was that of a lowly and loving servant, not a king who came to be served. When John heard the angels of heaven call out, “Behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” he turned and was shown “a Lamb as though it had been slain.” There will be a final battle at the end of the age, but those who go forth behind Christ will be there out of love for Him and He has already conquered Satan on the cross.

Jesus was always and will always be the abject Servant and His message for His bride was that she should do likewise.

And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” [ruling and reigning with Jesus] But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” [the cup of suffering] They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:21-28, NRS, emphasis added)

There is no ruling and reigning with our beloved Slain Lamb until we drink our own cup of suffering that kills our fleshly desires and urges and enables us to hear His voice instead of the din of our own untamed thought processses. Right up until the end when Jesus was about to go to the cross, the disciples were still believing in an earthly kingdom with Jesus on the throne and them ruling and reigning with Him as His executive administrators just like the kings of the Gentiles and their governments. We are no different today. For all too many of us, our focus is on the kingdoms of this world–what the Russians are doing, what the Democrats or Republicans are doing, what Trump or Obama are saying and doing, etc. As a result, we have a worldly kingdom mindset of top down over-lording when we hear “The Kingdom of God.” As Jesus stood before Pilate at His sentencing, He said clearly, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom was of this world my armies would come and fight.” His final lesson to them, as it still is today to us, was about the necessity of being a lowly servant motivated only by love.

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was seated again, he said unto them, Know you what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord: and you say rightly; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. (John 13:12-17, KJ2000, emphasis added)

In this video brother Davis said, “I wanted to stay home until this (wilderness) process is done,” but he went out and did some ministry meetings before it was finished. I also had prayed about half way through mine that He would not release me until He had fully accomplished what He set out to do and to please forgive me for my whimpering to the contrary. During our wilderness testing, there is a great temptation for us to escape it and go “do something for God.” At one point in the wilderness, Israel plotted to kill Moses and appoint a new ruler who would lead them back into Egypt and its slavery rather than let the wilderness kill them. It is the same for us. I ministered at a couple of meetings before my flesh was bleached white by the sun in the wilderness (see Ezekiel ch. 37) and what I did had no anointing upon it and it stank!

About half way through this YouTube recording, Davis started to teach about the metamorphosis of a butterfly and how that applies to our death to the old self and rising again newness of life in Christ during this lifetime. A butterfly has no similarity to its former caterpillar self.  Peter spoke of this process.

“[you have an] inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In which you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold trials: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1Pet 1:4-7, KJ2000)

Like Jesus said, if we are to reign with Him we must first drink His cup of suffering, but it releases in us an unbarred relationship of love with the Father and the Son (see John 17:21-26).

Paul Davis also went on to teach about the process of starting out as spiritual infants and going on to become adopted sons of the Father. It’s important that we see the need for this and pray that God does all that it takes in our lives to come into full maturity. George Davis and I wrote about it here, “A Child or a Son?”

Paul said in the video that because of what the church has become in these days, the Spirit of adoption is driving us into the secret place of the Most High, into the heart of the Father and out of the limelight of  “doing church” as usual. So true! This is why many of us do not take in church meetings anymore and if we do, we usually go away feeling empty. As it was with the Shulamite woman in Song of Songs, no one or anything in Solomon’s kingdom could take the place of her lover who said, “Arise my love, my fair one, come away.” Second-hand love never works. There is no comparison in these crowded church meetings to being alone in the arms of the One who loves us.

The Paul Davis quoted Jesus, “To him that overcomes I will grant to sit down with me in my throne, WE must overcome!” Excellent! We must overcome the flesh that desires preeminence, to be in control at all times, to be a somebody, or have our own way. The first enemy we must conquer is the one within! Our hearts must come to the place where they are totally focused on a love relationship with Jesus and the Father, not in love with ourselves. The earmark of the Laodicean church is not that she doesn’t work, but that she does! Jesus said, “I know your works!” But because she has lost her red hot first love for Jesus, she does all her works out of duty and lukewarm religious tradition. There is a smug, self-centered completeness about her that does not need Jesus as well, “I am rich, I am increased with goods, I have need of nothing.”

Paul Davis went on to say, “I was granted to stand for a few minutes in the perfect love of the Father and I have groaned to be there ever since. I groan to get back into that place of perfect love… Jesus is coming back for a bride that has perfect love for the Bridegroom.” The Christian walk is all about love for God is love. We must be motivated by His love for and in us, not ministry, not ruling and reigning, not what’s in it for us. All that is of the flesh. It takes being touched by His love in our innermost being for us to get our priorities straight and have true Kingdom vision. Just before the going to the cross Jesus prayed His final will and testament,

Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known you: but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:24-26, KJ2000)

Oh,  Jesus, please draw us into the fullness of the love of the Father and the Son that we might become spiritually whole and one. Amen.

Words, Words, Words or Will We be One?

 

Words, Words, Words

In the musical “My Fair Lady,” Eliza Doolittle (a woman taken off the streets of London by Professor Henry Higgins, a linguist who has been teaching her proper English), says to her would be suitor, “Words, words, words. I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through, first from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?” Good question, Eliza. In this day of desktop publishing the problem of an abundance of words with little Holy Spirit content has become epidemic. T. Austin-Sparks, another Englishman, observed the same problem among Christian ministries where words are cheap and plentiful.

 A striking feature of our time is that so few of the voices have a distinctive message. There is a painful lack of a clear word of authority for the times…. Why is it so? May it not be that so many who might have this ministry have become so much a part of a system? A system which puts preachers so much upon a professional basis, the effect of which is to make preaching a matter of demand and supply; of providing for the established religious order and program? Not only in the matter of preaching, but in the whole organization and activity of “Christianity” as we have it in the systematized form today. There is not the freedom and detachment for speaking ONLY when “the burden of the word of the Lord” is upon the prophet, or when he could say, “The hand of the Lord was upon me.” The present order requires a man [or woman] to speak every so often; hence he must get something, and this necessity means either that God must be offered our program and asked to meet it (which He will not do) or the preacher must make something for the constantly recurring occasion. This is a pernicious system and it opens the door to any number of dangerous and baneful intrusions of what is of man and not of God. The most serious aspect of this way of things is that it results in voices, voices, voices, a confusion of voices, but not the specific voice with the specific utterance of God for the time…. (1)

Frankly, I also am tired of all the “words, words, words” with so little or no anointing behind them. I have had to whittle down my “Following” list to a handful of bloggers. I, also, have grown suspicious of the spiritual content of the ones that put out a periodical posting on a regular basis, whether it is daily or even weekly. Sometimes I go for weeks without Him giving me any inspiration to write and then, “Bang!” I might get three messages in a row only a day or two apart. Can you see Isaiah, Peter or John saying to themselves, “Oops, it is Sunday morning at 10AM and I need to get down to the temple and prophesy a chapter or two. The faithful are counting on me. I need to keep up my presence before the people or I will lose them”?

Amos prophesied this exact problem would be coming upon us saying, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11, ESV2011). Today there are thousands of Christian websites, blogs, podcasts, books, sermons, YouTube videos, Sunday services, and conferences where would-be authors and “ministers for Christ” spew out their cacophony of words, even laced with Bible verses, but how many of these messages have come out from the heart of God? When He finally does manage to get a word in edgewise, who in the land of Christendom has an ear to hear and distinguish it from the rest? Yes, Amos, there is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, either because our minds are numb from all the words we bombard them with or we have never had spiritual hearing in the first place.

In 1980, God heard my cry to hear what He wanted me to do while the church we were members of went through a very destructive split. He answered my prayers by unplugging me from going to regular church meetings and reading almost all things by Christian authors so that I would learn to distinguish His voice from the all the other voices speaking in His name. The hardest to distinguish form His were the ones that preached with a lot of Bible verses to back up their points. Satan knows the Bible better than any of us and he knows how to use it to his advantage. It took years for me to get to the place where I could tell the difference and recognize when God was speaking to me and the further I go, the more quietly He whispers forcing me to draw ever closer to Him with greater attentiveness.

Austin-Sparks continues,

Here we have the necessity for an awakening to what God has to say. In the Revelation, this is “He that hath an ear, let him hear,” and in the case of Laodicea – which represents the end – it is “I counsel thee to buy of Me eye salve that thou mayest see.” “And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me,” said John. God is speaking, He has something to say, but there must be “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your heart being enlightened.” (1)

Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.”

I find that few follow my advice. We go to church and read to be entertained and are information addicts. The more He gives me a word that puts the finger on where the spiritual problems are in Christendom, the smaller the audience becomes. Only a few have ears to hear what the Spirit IS saying to the church. If I want to see the stat counter on my blog jump up, all I have to do is speak words of comfort that do not challenge the status quo in Christendom. I completely understand the problem that Isaiah had with the people of Israel when God told him,

Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, forever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Who say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. (Isa 30:8-11, KJ2000)

The moment Christianity became acceptable, popular and condoned by the Roman Empire in the fourth century, it started to die. The Christian faith is not a popularity contest, but rather a threat to this world and the prince that controls it. Didn’t Jesus say that few would find the straight path and narrow gate to eternal life? I think that the following quotation points out why.

For “the crowd” is untruth. Eternally, godly, christian-ly what Paul says is valid: “only one receives the prize,” [I Corinthians. 9:24] not by way of comparison, for in the comparison “the others” are still present. That is to say, everyone can be that one, with God’s help – but only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, everyone should cautiously have dealings with “the others,” and essentially only talk with God and with himself – for only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, the human being [singular] is in kinship with… the divinity. (2)

This is exactly what Jesus prayed just before He went to the cross,

Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth… That they all may be one, [just] as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me. (John 17:17 & 21, AMP)

This gives me a whole new light on what Jesus was praying, “Sanctify and set them apart to yourself, Father, that they might be ONE even as we are one…” God desires of us a singleness of eye, not focused on the world or even our fellow Christians, but on our heavenly Father. “Only ONE receives the prize.”

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001541.html

(2) The Single Individual, by Søren Kierkegaard

Our Ever Expanding Spiritual Universe

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Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:7, KJ2000)

A strange thing has been discovered in the last decade or so. Creation is defying the laws of physics. After many centuries, scientists finally discovered that the universe is expanding  after starting in a flash of light they call “The Big Bang.” They tell us that all matter started from one highly compressed and very small object that exploded, going outward in all directions, creating the universe as we know it. But then a problem was found in their theory. Not only is the universe expanding, but it is continuing to accelerate away from that central starting point. According to the second law of thermodynamics, matter can’t do that unless there is a continuing force applied to cause that acceleration. An influence greater than the first “big bang” seems to rule over the universe! So, the scientists just call it “Dark Energy” and “Dark Matter” because they can’t see it. The real darkness is in them because they refuse to acknowledge God as the Creator and Energizer of all things.

Susanne Schuberth recently wrote about three women she knows in Germany that are so steeped in their religions that they are always judging her for not going to their churches and believing in their doctrines. As a result, they never give her an opening for her to share what God has been doing in her life outside their religious institutions and traditions. She started out where these women are, going to churches in similar denominations, but Susanne has learned that continuing to grow in Christ soon causes those old wineskins to burst if we try to stay in them. In her story about these three ladies is a warning to us to not become fixed in our ways of thinking about the kingdom of God. Denominational teachings and thinking can be the worst enemy of growing in Christ. Even worse, we can be blessed by God in a “ministry” of our own that grows into something we become emotionally attached to more than our obedience to the upward leading of the Lord. We become fixed, not wanting to let go of what has grown into our Ishmael as Abraham found out. And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”

God has given and taken away wonderful Godly things in my life, even wonderful fellowship with individuals from time to time. These wonderful God-given things served a purpose for a season, but once He wanted to take me further in His upward call than they allowed, He had to remove them or remove me from them. The Bible is full of stories of great people of faith where this has happened to them: Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David, Ruth, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc. In Hebrews they are called God’s people of faith. The early Church in the New Testament was blessed with the Spirit of God in wonderful fellowship in Jerusalem. Then after a couple of years, God scattered them to the four corners of the earth, and they took the gospel of Christ with them. Sometimes we are just like these early believers. We know that Jesus told the disciples to take the gospel first to Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria and unto the utter most ends of the earth, but what happens? We become settlers and happy campers and what Jesus said becomes, “first Jerusalem, then Jerusalem and finally to the uttermost parts of Jerusalem!”

In today’s devotional, T. Austin-Sparks expands on God’s desire for us to continue to grow. As I read it I saw a picture of a crab. Crabs constantly shed their outer shell and make a larger one as they grow. During this time they are quite vulnerable with little protection, but it has to happen or they will die. When our comfortable shell, our “house,” becomes rigid and inflexible, God has to take us through a molting period where the outward things pass away and all things become new.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” This verse and many others take on scope if we are willing to be stretched by God’s work in our hearts. Even if God has blessed us so far as we have obeyed His voice, the vision He has given us will not always be the same tomorrow. As the Spirit pushed me to grow in Christ, I had to leave many churches and fellowships behind. He even gave me a dream where He destroyed my comfortable house and rooted up the old foundation because it was not sufficient for what He wanted to build on my “site.” He had to go deeper and wider with a new Foundation that would support the “building” He wanted to place on it. This is God’s way in our lives if we continue to follow His Son and let HIS government and peace continue to increase in us. To resist this stretching and His increase in us is to lose our heavenly peace.

Paul was first a Pharisee of Pharisees with great scriptural knowledge, but counted it all as dung in a flash once he saw and heard the resurrected Christ. He then spent years in isolation being taught by Jesus. Then one day Barnabas came to Paul’s home town of Tarsus where he was making tents, and took him to be in fellowship with the saints in Antioch. After a year or so he was separated from that wonderful fellowship he had in the Spirit and was sent off on what was the beginnings of his missionary journeys. That did not last forever, either. God finally confined him in prison and then under house arrest for years in Rome. It is from this season in his life that we have so many of his wonderful letters in our New Testaments. Finally, after he finished the course that God had for him, he was martyred by Nero. Yet, Paul was obedient to his upward call at each stage along the way, even unto death. What a lesson lies in all this for us. Those who hate Paul and his teachings today, like those rebellious Jews of old, refuse to follow the Spirit of God as they cling to a covenant that has been replace by a New and Living Covenant IN Christ. Zion is our heavenly habitation, not an “ism” or a war-torn country in the Middle East (See Hebrews 12:22-24 and 1 Peter 2:4-9). Now back to what I read by Sparks this morning that said it so well.

The implications of any movement of God are not always recognized at the beginning, but if we go on with Him we shall find that much that is done here and is of time is – and has to be – left behind. The spiritual and the heavenly is pressing for a larger place and becoming absolutely imperative to the very life of the instrumentality and those concerned. It is spontaneous, and just happens. We wake up to realize that we have moved into a new realm or position, and no amount of additional earthly resource can meet the need. It is not only something more that is demanded, but something different. This is a crisis, and it will only be safely passed if there is vision of God’s ultimate object. This demands spiritual mindedness, capacity for grasping heavenly things. One world may be tumbling to pieces, but the full and final is the explanation.

The great pity is that so many just will cling to the old framework or partial vision. God presents His heavenly pattern in greater fulness and demands adjustment. He does it with foreknowledge, knowing of a day which is imminent when this vision alone will save. But, because it is ‘revolutionary’ or not ‘what has been in the blessing of God’ etc., etc., it is rejected and put aside. Then the foreseen day comes and all sorts of expedients have to be resorted to to save the ship. Paul warned out of his intuitive vision that such would be the case on the journey to Rome, and it proved true, the ship eventually foundered and much was lost.

Abraham had a vision of “the city which hath foundations” and he “looked for” it, but never found it on earth. He found it at last in heaven, but it was the climax of a walk which was ever upward. Ezekiel saw “in the visions of God” the glory lifting from the earthly scene, and moving up and on; and this vision related to all his other visions, culminating in a spiritual house and river which have their counterpart alone in the revelation given to Paul and John particularly: heavenly, spiritual, universal. What a significant phrase that is about the house seen by Ezekiel – “there was an enlarging upward” (Ezek. 41:7). God-given vision is always “the heavenly vision”, and always moves away from the merely temporal and sentient. If this were apprehended there would be much more vital fruit, and many fewer ‘white elephants’.

God is never on the line of reduction, limitation. It may look like that, but it is not so. If we really had His vision, that which looks like trimming and reduction is His way of enlargement, but spiritual and heavenly enlargement.

It was “the God of glory” who appeared to Abraham (Acts 7:2). It was the pattern in the heavenlies that was “shewn” to Moses (Heb. 8:5). It was “…above the firmament… a throne… and upon… the throne… a man above upon it” that Ezekiel saw. It was “that the heavens do rule” that Daniel apprehended. These are not only sovereign factors in government, but heavenly conceptions in the nature of things.

These two things proceed as one. God in sovereignty will run the risk of shattering, or allow the shattering, of so much that He has used of scaffolding or framework in order to realize the fuller purpose. It is not that it was wrong, but now He wants something more. We thank God for ever that He took Paul away from his travelling ministry and let him be shut up in prison. It was then that the full glorious vision and revelation of the “heavenlies” and the “eternal” was given to eclipse all the earthly and temporal. It was worth it, and was no tragedy! The Holy Spirit is the custodian of the full purpose of God, and under His government the Church and the individual believer will move ever on and up.  (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002082.html)

A Death that Brings Glory to God

john-21-18

When I was a young Christian I often heard other new Christians say, “I would gladly die for Jesus!” Well, it seems that there is a deeper kind of dying than just taking our last breath as a martyr. Susanne Schuberth recently wrote on her blog, “Suffering continues when we grow up and see that this world is not what we hoped for or expected it to be. Neither are we perfect, nor is our environment including the people we know. We may have had many wishes and desires in our lifetime of which only a few were fulfilled. Or worst case, even none of them! Furthermore, we suffer from diseases we would not have chosen if we had been asked before. We suffer from being rejected and misunderstood, from being hurt and offended, and so on and so on…” (1)

Peter wrote, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1Pet 4:1, ESV2011). Suffering is the most powerful weapon in God’s arsenal to put an end to our old selves and bring forth His Son in us.

Now that I have had time to read her blog once again (being interrupted by pain and medical issues of my own) I see how much of what Susanne wrote reveals my own walk since I came to Christ. I appreciate her openness. Her transparency has been an inspiration to me after being immersed in a Christian world where leaders strive to put their best face forward and appear “larger than life” to the masses instead of walking in the light of Christ with the saints of God.

Yes, our suffering starts at birth and it continues throughout our lifetime. I was born with a collapsed lung and isolated from human touch for the first two weeks of my life in an oxygen tent at the hospital. Then I did not see or hear my father for most of the following year while he was shipped off to fight the war that was still raging in Europe. Maybe this set in motion this deep longing in my heart to have a truly close and open relationship with another human who can reciprocate on the same level in heart to heart fellowship with me. Because of this, life has been rather disappointing for the most part because most (not all) people freak out and run when they sense that being close to me demands that they open up and reveal what is in their heart of hearts and communicate with me in total transparency.

A casual reading of the Bible reveals that God didn’t show only the best parts of His people whose lives are spread across its pages. Even in the blood line of Christ He reveals murderers, thieves, idolaters, liars, and even harlots. It is obvious that God is more interested in honest transparency than He is in making a good impression because He wants truth in our inward parts. John wrote,

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1John 1:5-7, ESV2011)

The spiritual reality of this longing in me to live in transparent heart to heart relationships is exactly what God has always wanted as well. Man started out this way in his walk with God, but soon interrupted this journey by hiding and covering himself up from God and his fellow man because of sin. Religion, I have found, has a giant wardrobe of fig leaf garments that we use to cover our spiritual nakedness even though God created us naked and unashamed while we walked with Him in that primeval, perfect garden where there was no toil for food or clothing and no death, pain or fear. In short, there were no distractions in their totally loving relationship that was always in perfect peace, transparency and light. Trusting God was so easy for Adam in the beginning until he fell for the lies of Satan and hid from Him. In Isaiah we read,

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isa 26:3, ESV2011)

Susanne wrote about another result of the fall of man, “…we suffer from diseases we would not have chosen if we had been asked before.” Now we are getting down to where I find myself lately. I have had good health, for the most part, all of my life. At least I had nothing that altered my plans for any length of time. I, like many, have always identified with the exuberant and self-willed disciple named Peter. He was a robust outdoors-man and commercial fisherman by trade. The following words of Jesus to Peter have spoken to me in a much deeper way recently.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, When you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall dress you, and carry you where you would not.” This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19, KJ2000)

There is so much for me to take to heart here! I have always been the “go to guy” who could just about do anything if I put my mind to it. That served me well in the kingdoms of this world. I often was called on by my employers to do what the other employees could not. The problem with this is that in the kingdom of God, “the flesh profits nothing!” My greatest strength in the world is my greatest weakness in God’s kingdom.

I will soon turn 72 and, for the most part, it has been 72 years of dressing myself (spiritually and physically) and walking where I wanted to go–until recently. It seems that my back is the weakest point in my body in my old age. When your back is in pain and aggravated by any activity, it is soon “ALL STOP!” I have a collapsed vertebra in the middle of my back that radiates pain through my whole torso and causes muscle spasms that lock me up from doing much of anything. Lately I’m to the point where I “stretch forth my hands” and my wife helps me get dressed and undressed. Since the doctors have put me on notice to not lift anything heavier than five pounds, she has to do things that I was able to do easily all my life. She even is doing the driving, taking me to places I do not want to go, to doctors’ offices and the hospital so they can figure out what went wrong with my old body.

Yesterday I got x-rayed and then spent 40 minutes on my back being perfectly still in a noisy tube called an MRI. After all that, they decided that I have a compression fracture of my T8 vertebra, confirming the diagnosis of a chiropractor I finally saw in desperation after many prescriptions of men dealing with the symptoms. There was evidence that the same thing already happened to my T5 vertebra earlier this summer. That had the same disabling effect, but eventually healed with me bent over a bit more than before. Now with a second collapsed vertebra I have a “second witness” that God wants me to yield my “can do” self-will to Him. He has a lot more vertebra to call on until I get the message! 🙂

The above passage of Jesus speaking to Peter has a curious ending, “This spoke He (Jesus), signifying by what death he (Peter) should glorify God… Follow me!” Death, oh that dreaded fact of life called death! It seems if we are to truly follow Jesus it has to happen. Jesus said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25, NIV). As natural men we love our lives and are very short sighted when it comes to living in God’s eternity with Christ. We like our own here and now better. We love to stretch out our hands and go forth and live our lives as we wish. We even try to make a bargain with God to maintain our control and promise to live “for Him” if we can just be a somebody in Christendom. What a con game! No, the only way we can glorify God is through a complete death to all our wants, hopes and desires and lie on that heavenly altar as a trussed-up living sacrifice unto Him. Someone said, “When we work, God stops working. When we stop working, God starts.” What a hard lesson to learn and live.

I would like to close this with a more positive observation from Oswald Chambers,

 The New Testament teaching about regeneration is that when a person is hit by his own sense of need, God will put the Holy Spirit into his spirit, and his personal spirit will be energized by the Spirit of the Son of God— “…until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19)  (2)

So, dear Father, once again I lay it all down before you. I give up my “best laid plans of mice and men” and surrender my all to you, knowing that apart from your Son I can do nothing. Do what it takes that I might glorify you with the death of my old Adam within so that Christ’s life might abound in me. Amen.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/10/04/knowing-the-lord-through-the-fellowship-of-his-sufferings/

(2) http://utmost.org/  “My Utmost for His Highest” for October 6th

What It Means to Be Captivated by Christ

Jan28_ABQuote2

For three and a half years people were captivated by the words that Jesus spoke. Crowds seemed to follow Him everywhere He went. When I first started following Jesus, this was all the deeper the meaning went in my mind of what it meant to be captivated by Him. After I was saved, I went to every Christian meeting I could. I couldn’t get enough of hearing about Jesus. But as time went by a greater revelation came to me. I started to see a deeper meaning of what it means to be His captive. Jesus spoke to Peter about this process.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, When you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall dress you, and carry you where you would not.” This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, “Follow me. (John 21:18-19, KJ2000)

Death? Yes, the price we must pay if we dare to follow Him! After the newness of my experience wore off, I started to go to Christian meetings just because that was the thing to do on that day of the week. Then the time came when I had to ask God for permission before I went to a meeting. Slowly over time, going to meetings became less and less important to me and a deeper personal and obedient walk with Christ came to mean more, even when He had me stay home.

The more time I spent in obedience to His leading, the more He showed me the deeper meaning of the scriptures that I never heard come from a pulpit or conference podium. At the end of an isolation of many years in His spiritual wilderness, He had me start writing these things down. Eventually the wilderness and isolation ended and I was encouraged by others to put the things I had written into articles on a website and books so the saints of God could have access to them. (Did you know that Paul spent many years in isolation between His Damascus road experience with Jesus and when he was sent by the Spirit on his first “missionary journey”?) God eventually put me together with another brother on a similar journey, and we fellowshipped and wrote together and even took in some meetings for a season. Then he started showing us the depths of another scripture:

He must increase, but I must decrease. He that comes from above is above all… (John 3:30-31, KJ2000)

It seems that those glorious days of writing with that brother have come to an end. He has also been coming into a deeper meaning of what it means to be the Lord’s captive, learning the depths of what Jesus said, “you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall dress you, and carry you where you would not.”

Yes, I have been writing this blog for the last three or four years, but slowly even that seems to be winding down as He increases in my life and I decrease. “He that comes from above is above all.” Christ and the will of Christ and the Father must be above all. His life must become our only life. Paul had a highly visible ministry among the Gentiles in Asia Minor, yet that was coming to a close as he wrote to the Ephesians about this same process in His life and called himself “the prisoner of Jesus Christ.” It is oh so easy for our flesh to ride the wave of what the Spirit is doing through us and get some of the glory for ourselves along the way, but all glory belongs to the One who died and rose again and sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He must increase and we (that old Adam in man) must decrease. We can only share His glory to the extent that Christ is our ALL in all. All the rest, the adulation and attention that comes to us from men–even the saints of God–only provides a temptation for us to think we are something without Him.

The life of Paul, how he decreased as a mere human, and how God increased His effectiveness in life (and death) is a spiritual principle that must work in any true disciple of Jesus.  He said, “If any man would be my disciple let him take up his cross and follow me.” T. Austin-Sparks wrote about this very thing from his own experience.

I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you…. (Ephesians 3:1)

The measure of approximation to the fullness of the revelation has always been accompanied by a relative cost. Every instrument of the testimony has been laid under suspicion and reproach in a measure commensurate with the degree of value to the Lord, and this has meant that, humanly, they were limited to that extent. Many have withdrawn, fallen away, held aloof, doubted, feared, and questioned. But as Paul could say “My tribulations for you, which are your glory” (Eph. 3:13), or “The prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles” (Eph. 3:1), so the measure of limitation in the Lord is the measure of enrichment in His people. The fuller the revelation, the fewer those who apprehend, or the greater the number of those who stand aloof. Revelation only comes through suffering and limitation, and to have it experimentally means sharing the cost in some way. But this is God’s way of securing for Himself a spiritual seed plot….

All this may apply to individual lives in relation to the Lord’s testimony. There may often be a chafing against limitation, confinement, and a restless hankering after what we would call something wider or less restricted. If the Lord has willed us to the place where we are, our acceptance of it in faith may prove that it becomes a far bigger thing than any human reckoning can judge. I wonder if Paul had any idea that his prison meant his continuous expansion of value to the Lord Jesus through nineteen hundred years? What applies to individuals also applies to corporate bodies, assemblies, or companies of the Lord’s people scattered in the earth but one in their fellowship in relation to the Lord’s full testimony. May the Lord be graciously pleased to cause the merely human aspect of prison walls to fall away, and give the realization that, far from being limited by men and circumstances, it is imprisonment in the Lord, and this means that all ages and all realms are entered through that prison. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/000689.html)

Dear saints, may we each look beyond the limitations of our natural lives and situations to see that God is doing something far greater for HIS glory that is beyond our sight and our reach at this present time. Love to you all.

Solitude with Our Father

Fernan buck and doe

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? (Ps 42:1-2, NRS)

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (Ps 8:3-8, ESV2011)

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made… (Rom 1:20, ESV2011)

Lately, I have been getting up early in the morning and taking my boat to a local lake to watch the sun rise over the nearby mountains and the foggy mist rise over the waters. Of course being a fisherman, I go prepared to catch fish, but the last couple of days I have paused from my aquatic pursuit to admire God’s handiwork in everything He created and think about Him.

This morning I saw two bald eagles, some Osprey, many small birds chasing flying insects above the water. There were also a pretty buck and doe feeding at the water’s edge. I was filled with praise for our Father as I considered all the works of His hands and thanked Him for allowing me to be part of it. Then as my heart was rejoicing over all He has created, as an added bonus He told me to look for a large dark colored creature as I entered the last bay at the end of the lake. I thought, “Oh good! I will get to see a black bear this morning!” I was looking at the far end of the bay and saw nothing. Then right near me to my right stood a young bull moose! I was only about 50 yards away from him as I rounded the corner. I only had my cell phone camera with me, so I decided to see how close I could get so I could get a good picture of him. The deer got nervous and headed up the hill when I tried to get close to them earlier, but not so with Mr. Moose. I got within 20 yards of him and he just kept eating the water lilies by the shoreline.

Fernan young bull moose

So, by now you are probably saying, “What does all this have to do with a spiritually inspired blog article?” Let me quote the pertinent parts of the above Psalm once again. “When I look at… the work of your fingers… what is man that you are mindful of him…You have given him dominion over the works of your hands… all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.” After my time of praise for all that my Daddy had put in place for me to see and enter into worship for Him this morning, I was feeling totally blessed. It was truly a wonderful morning to rise early, fellowship with Him, and feel the same rest that God entered into after His six days of creation were complete.

I entered into His seventh day rest and there I could feel not only His rest, but His great love and the faith of Jesus Christ working in me. Then came hope and belief that God would surely bring all good things to pass in my life even though, lately, He seems to have been taking things way more than giving.

How important it is to enter into God’s rest, dear saints, for it is here that we find all the other wonderful fruit of the Spirit working in our hearts: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The business of this world and even religious activities can rob us of our inheritance in Christ. How important it is to get away first thing in the morning to be with God and preferably surrounded by His creation, away from the din of man-made noise, chaos and stress causing distractions.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35, NIV)

Harry Foster wrote in “A Witness and a Testimony” magazine:

As an experienced traveller he [Paul] would never find much difficulty in having his daily Scripture reading and prayer, even though he were surrounded by people. This is just a matter of practice. No servant of God, however, can exist day after day and night after night with nothing more than normal “quiet times” of reading and prayer; or if he does, his spiritual effectiveness will suffer. He must at all costs have time to think and times when he can quietly listen to God. He must be able to stand back from the swirl of activities, and the demands of preaching, interviews and consultations, so that his own spirit can he renewed and his mind adjusted.

The Lord Jesus got up very early in the morning and went out to a solitary place, or He sent His disciples ahead in a boat while He went up to spend hours of evening and night in the hills, and, like Him, Paul sent on this shipload of travellers and fellow-labourers (even the beloved Luke himself) and elected to tramp across from Troas to Assos, for twenty miles of sacred communion with God. It was both a luxury and a necessity. The action was so deliberate and significant that Luke gave it special mention in his records. Let us not, then, skip over this little incident as though it had no relevance to his apostleship. The hot springs, the shady oak glades, the splashing streams, were spiritual necessities to him, even if the literal beauties of nature had no appeal.

We long for Paul’s power and Paul’s success. We are ready, perhaps, for Paul’s sufferings. What about copying his example of getting right away with God? When did we last have a long quiet walk of communion with the Lord? When did we last move out from the companionship even of beloved brothers in Christ to listen only to Him? (*)

Wow, that stung! God has been cutting me off from writing blog posts and many other Christian activities so I would get alone with Him and find out just how wonderful and important it is to put my communion with Him first. I hope we all will learn this same lesson.

(*)http://www.austin-sparks.net/mags/ttm01-4.html

The Blessing of Waiting on the Lord

Lone Bald Eagle

Photo taken along the St. Maries River in Idaho by Michael Clark

…Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away from Saul. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the offerings of well-being.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived; and Saul went out to meet him and salute him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “When I saw that the people were slipping away from me… so I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you. The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, but now your kingdom will not continue; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and the Lord has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (1Sam 13:7-14, NRS)

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to wait on the Lord? His sense of timing seems to be so much slower than our “need.” This story of King Saul’s panic because he was losing his following strikes close to home in my case. It has been a few weeks since I felt the anointing of the Lord to write a blog article. As time has gone on I could see that there were fewer and fewer visits to the blog. After leaving FaceBook a few weeks ago and no longer visiting all bloggers that visited my blog (I only visit the ones I feel God is sending me to), many dropped off  my “following” list. I have a whole website of articles I wrote with George Davis that I could re-post here daily and not run out of material for many months, but I would have to do so without the leading of the Lord. Waiting on the moving and leading of the Spirit before we act has a cost attached to it. You often feel like you are being cut-off from fellowship with those around you. At one point Jesus was left with only the twelve disciples as all His other followers left Him, because He only spoke the words that His Father gave Him. But there is also a reward as we rely on God alone.

Andrew Murray of South Africa gave three wonderful teachings at Exeter Hall in England in 1895. Here is an excerpt from one of them that speaks of the importance of waiting on the Lord in our Christian walk.

 “My soul waiteth only upon God [marg: is silent unto God]; from Him cometh my salvation.” (Ps. 62:1)

If salvation indeed comes from God, and is entirely His work, just as creation was, it follows, as a matter of course, that our first and highest duty is to wait on Him to do that work as pleases Him. Waiting becomes then the only way to the experience of a full salvation, the only way, truly, to know God as the God of our salvation. All the difficulties that are brought forward as keeping us back from full salvation, have their cause in this one thing: the defective knowledge and practice of waiting upon God.  All that the Church and its members need for the manifestation of the mighty power of God in the world, is the return to our true place, the place that belongs to us, both in creation and redemption, the place of absolute and unceasing dependence upon God. Let us strive to see what the elements are that make up this most blessed and needful waiting upon God: it may help us to discover the reasons why this grace is so little cultivated, and to feel how infinitely desirable it is that the Church, that we ourselves, should at any price learn its blessed secret.

The deep need for this waiting on God lies equally in the nature of man and the nature of God. God, as Creator, formed man, to be a vessel in which He could show forth His power and goodness. Man was not to have in himself a fountain of life, or strength, or happiness: the ever-living and only living One was each moment to be the Communicator to him of all that he needed. Man’s glory and blessedness was not to be independent, or dependent upon himself, but dependent on a God of such infinite riches and love. Man was to have the joy of receiving every moment out of the fulness of God. This was his blessedness as an unfallen creature.

When he fell from God, he was still more absolutely dependent on Him. There was not the slightest hope of his recovery out of his state of death, but in God, His power and mercy. It is God alone who began the work of redemption; it is God alone who continues and carries it on each moment in each individual believer. Even in the regenerate man there is no power of goodness in himself: he has and can have nothing that he does not each moment receive; and waiting on God is just as indispensable, and must be just as continuous and unbroken, as the breathing that maintains his natural life.

It is only because Christians do not know their relation to God of absolute poverty and helplessness, that they have no sense of the need of absolute and unceasing dependence, or of the unspeakable blessedness of continual waiting on God. But when once a believer begins to see it, and consent to it, that he by the Holy Spirit must each moment receive what God each moment works, waiting on God becomes his brightest hope and joy. As he apprehends how God, as God, as Infinite Love, delights to impart His own nature to His child as fully as He can, how God is not weary of each moment keeping charge of his life and strength, he wonders that he ever thought otherwise of God than as a God to be waited on all the day. God unceasingly giving and working; His child unceasingly waiting and receiving: this is the blessed life.

“Truly my soul waiteth upon God; from Him cometh my salvation.” First we wait on God for salvation. Then we learn that salvation is only to bring us to God, and teach us to wait on Him. Then we find what is better still that waiting on God is itself the highest salvation. It is the ascribing to Him the glory of being All; it is the experiencing that He is All to us. May God teach us the blessedness of waiting on Him. “My soul, wait thou only upon God!” (http://lovestthoume.com/PDF-Files/murraywaitingongod.pdf)

Remember that the Lord is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Those who wait upon Him will be given new strength, will eventually mount up on wings as eagles, and will not always have to sit on their perch. Bless you all as you wait on Him.