What It Means to Be Captivated by Christ

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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.

Others May, You Cannot

Have You Ever Felt Hung Out to Dry?

But who will survive the day when he comes? Or who can stand when he appears? For he’s like a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap. He will sit refining and purifying silver, purifying the descendants of Levi, refining them like gold and silver. Then they’ll bring a righteous offering to the Lord. (Mal 3:2-3, ISV)

Yes, who shall survive the day of His coming? How many of you have been going through times of deep trials and even spiritual dryness, when  all of a sudden the night is over and the morning sun arises in your hearts?  It seems that in the ongoing process of God’s purification of our hearts, He takes us through dark nights, but eventually there is a glorious sunrise. We want the sunshine to last with no more periods of darkness and trials, yet another night comes all too soon! Will this process ever end? You start to feel like you are in the hands of a launderer who is scrubbing you up and down on a washboard with lye soap!

I was looking at Psalm 30 and noticed the ups and downs that David spoke of in his own walk.

“Sing unto the LORD, O you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness [up]. For his anger endures but for a moment [down]; in his favor is life [up]: weeping may endure for a night [down], but joy comes in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong [up]: you did hide your face, and I was troubled [down].” (Ps 30:4-7, KJ2000)

Does this look familiar? He blesses us and we rejoice and praise His name and are feeling pretty good about our place in His kingdom. Then we feel His displeasure and we are troubled and sad and another trial begins. We know His favor to be our life. We weep again and are sad for a season as He goes deeper into our souls, but when we see the reason for our suffering, we once again take courage that God’s hand is in it for our good. We eventually start to feel like we have arrived and are prosperous in the Spirit and say, “Finally, I shall never be moved! The Lord has made me to stand like a strong mountain in His presence!” Then He hides his face from our exalted pride and we are once again brought low. Poor David was going through this same process that has become so familiar to many of us as we seek to be made whole IN Christ.

John of the Cross wrote about this very process in his book, The Dark Night of the Soul.

…the soul that desires to consider it will be able to see how on this road… it has to suffer many ups and downs, and how the prosperity which it enjoys is followed immediately by certain storms and trials; so much so, that it appears to have been given that period of calm in order that it might be forewarned and strengthened against the poverty which has followed; just as after misery and torment there come abundance and calm… This is the ordinary course and proceeding of the state of contemplation until the soul arrives at the state of quietness; it never remains in the same state for long together, but is ascending and descending continually.

The reason for this is that, as the state of perfection, which consists in the perfect love of God and contempt for self, cannot exist unless it have these two parts, which are the knowledge of God and of oneself, the soul has of necessity to be practised first in the one and then in the other, now being given to taste of the one—that is, exaltation—and now being made to experience the other—that is, humiliation…*

David finally ends his observation by saying this:

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and [you have] girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto you forever. (Ps 30:10-12, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

In these last two verses David, is no longer strong in himself. He pleads to God for mercy and to be His help. There is no mention of never being moved, of prosperity, or of being strong like a mountain; now he is weak and pleads for God to be his strength. It is God who turns his mourning into dancing. It is God who girds him with gladness that he might sing His praises and give Him thanks forever. There is a subtle difference between verses 4-7 and verses 10-12, but that difference is true brokenness and humility. Jesus said this to Nathanial:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:51, KJ2000)

Jesus was referring to Himself as the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream. John of the Cross wrote that this process of exaltation and humiliation continues

…until it has acquired perfect habits; and then this ascending and descending will cease, since the soul will have attained to God and become united with Him, which comes to pass at the summit of this ladder, for the ladder [Christ] rests and leans upon Him… All this, says Divine Scripture, took place by night, when Jacob slept, in order to express how secret is this road and ascent to God [and few be they who find it], and how different from that of man’s knowledge. This is very evident, since ordinarily that which is of the greatest profit in it—namely, to be ever losing oneself and becoming as nothing—is considered the worst thing possible; and that which is of least worth, which is for a soul to find consolation and sweetness (wherein it ordinarily loses rather than gains), is considered best. *

I am reminded of Ezekiel chapter 37 when God sets the prophet in the middle of a valley littered with dry human bones and asked the prophet if the bones could live again.

And he said unto me, “Son of man, can these bones live”? And I answered, “O Lord GOD, [only] you know.” (Ezek 37:3, KJ2000)

When He has made our bones not just dry to outward appearances, but very dry so that even the marrow inside the bones of our souls is dried up. Then there is progress (remember, “the life is in the blood” and the blood is made in the marrow. Our natural soulish life is what He is drying up in us). Finally after many trials, we are done trying to out-guess Him and find a way out of our miseries. We even quit hoping that things will change under His mighty hand.  We resign ourselves to the will of God alone with no reservations saying, “Oh Lord God, only YOU know. Your will be done with me according to YOUR good pleasure.” This is when we enter into the glory of the Father and the Son, immersed in their love. That glory sings praises to them forevermore.  Finally, John of the Cross describes God’s goal in putting us through this process.

…we shall observe that the principal characteristic of [this] contemplation, on account of which it is here called a ladder, is that it is the science of love. This, as we have said, is an infused and loving knowledge of God, which enlightens the soul and at the same time enkindles it with love, until it is raised up step by step, even unto God its Creator. For it is love alone that unites and joins the soul with God. *

The Apostle John wrote:

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. In this is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with punishment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. (1John 4:16-19, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

*http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.viii.xviii.html?highlight=secret%20wisdom#highlight

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for finding this writing in “The Dark Night of the Soul” for me. She and I have been going through this process for years, and are starting to see our Father’s purpose it all. Though the heart pains during the downward cycle can really be painful, the glorious joy afterwards is heavenly.)

For Our God Is a Consuming Fire!

Consuming Fire

Susanne Schuberth recently wrote on her inspiring blog in the comments,

“I think everyone inside or outside the [church] system needs to go through God’s cleansing and purifying fire so that God can use us for HIS purposes.” (1)

Yes! This is the way of the Lord and He has always required His offerings to pass through the fire. Everything and every work we propose to give must pass through His fires of purification, including our own hearts. Oswald Chambers wrote of this process,

Whenever God gives a vision to a saint, He puts him, as it were, in the shadow of His hand, and the saint’s duty is to be still and listen. There is a darkness which comes from excess of light, and then is the time to listen. Genesis 16 is an illustration of listening to good advice when it is dark instead of waiting for God to send the light. When God gives a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will make you in accordance with the vision He has given if you will wait His time. Never try and help God fulfil His word. Abraham went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all self-sufficiency was destroyed; there was no possibility left of relying on common-sense ways. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not of displeasure. Never pump up joy and confidence, but stay upon God (cf. Isaiah 50:10,11). (2)

In the Book of Numbers we read a very telling commandment that the Jews who had come back from war had to strictly follow.

“Only the gold, and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that can endure the fire, you shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of purification: and all that cannot endure the fire you shall make go through the water. And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean, and afterward you shall come into the camp.” (Num 31:22-24, KJ2000)

So many Christians come to Christ and have a vision early on of what God wants for them to do in His kingdom. But they are either unaware that they have nothing in them that God can use without it all passing through His fires of purification (the dark night of the soul and the wilderness), or they are willfully ignorant and use the powers of their flesh and their personal charisma to try doing His work for Him. The trouble is that soon the stinking smell of the flesh and pride is all over it. Just like Cane’s sacrifice, God rejects it and they have to spend more and more human effort to prop it up and keep it going or worse yet, those who get involved in their efforts also become defiled.

“And Abraham said unto God, ‘O that Ishmael might live before you!'”(Gen 17:18, KJ2000) and God’s answer to the works of the flesh is always the same, “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac,” the miraculous child of God’s promise. How often do we see ministries begging for money and help to keep them going? “Oh, God, please bless my Ishmael!”

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13, KJ2000)

We are born into His kingdom by the Spirit and all that is done for His kingdom must also be born of the Spirit. Or as Paul put it, “Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3, KJ2000).

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)

The arrogance and pride of church organizations always make men and their works their foundation (they even often name their ministries after themselves). Each of these organizations are founded by a man or a woman with lots of personal charisma  and men blindly follow them. Instead of each follower being founded on Christ and able to follow the wind of His Spirit, they want a following that will give them unquestioned authority, be loyal to their vision, and do what they say!

Well, “the day shall declare” what manner of work each of us have built. We are in that final day of the purifying fire of God and everything that man has done by and of the flesh is going up in smoke. Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing!” The real question is, what will be left of all our works when we stand before the piercing gaze of God? Those who have been purified by His fire, His sheep who wait for Him to move among them, will hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” And the self-motivated and self-promoted goats will hear, “Depart from me you who work inequity, I never knew you.”

Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:26-29, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Oh that more of God’s people waited upon His empowering grace before they acted and  had a godly fear of Him before they built themselves a new oxcart to move Him along or stretch forth an unclean hand to steady what He is doing.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/is-the-church-age-over/#comment-13551

(2) http://utmost.org/vision-and-darkness/

How God Is Building HIS Temple

Stone quaryWhen the house [Solomon’s Temple] was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry; so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the temple, while it was being built. (1 Kings 6:7 RSVA)

Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. His answer was, “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21 GNB)

Have you ever wondered why we are so scattered from one another when it comes to fellowship? Those of us who really want to have loving communion together in Christ seem to be scattered all over the globe and it is rare that two saints who seek real depth of relationship in the Spirit live in close proximity with one another. I thank God for the internet! Could it be that we, as Paul said, would come together not for the better, but for the worse? And that the whole thing would be counter-productive if we came together too soon?

In the above verse from First Kings, we see that while Solomon’s great and magnificent temple was being built, the sounds of any iron tools at the temple site was absolutely forbidden. Each stone and timber had to be made to fit with precision many miles away, and once they were brought to the temple site, no pieces could be chipped or sawn off to make them fit. All this work on each stone and timber was done under the supervision of the Master Builder in advance while these pieces were in isolation. Isn’t this a magnificent picture of what God is doing today?

The New Testament tells us that each of us is a living stone being fashioned to fit together in His holy and eternal temple which is not made with hands (See Ephesians 2:20-22 and 1 Peter 2:1-9). We long to finally be “fitly joined together” in heavenly fellowship, but God seems to put a higher value on the preparation of each of us than He does on the final assembly of the temple.

Although we long to be assembled together as God’s house, if we are assembled too soon we will not fit. The house will be divided against itself and it will not stand. Like Herod’s temple that was not built by God’s design, not one stone will be left upon another. God’s judgment will be on it because it was not built according to His eternal design.

David discovered that God is very specific about how things are to be done when he tried to move the ark. When he moved it on an oxcart, just as the Philistines had, the result was the death of Uzza. Finally David asked God why, and when he heard His answer, David told the priests:

For because ye [did it] not at the first [move the ark of God], the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order. (1 Chronicles 15:13 KJV)

Isaiah prophesied that when God sets out to do something, He will not deviate from that plan. The beginning governs the end.

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10 RSVA)

God knows our end from the beginning. He knew from the very foundation of the world how each one of us fits in His heavenly temple. He knows what needs to happen in each of our lives to shape us into what is needed and best for us. He has the master blueprint in His mind and there is no deviation permitted from it. It was because of this that Paul prayed,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved… For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-12 RSVA – emphasis added)

So, dear saints, though it feels like God is not getting anything done according to our short time span, be assured that He will accomplish all that He has set out to do in perfecting each one of us into the image of His Son. All we can do is yield ourselves “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him.” Our Daddy is doing a perfect work in us and will continue to do so, though it seems that the whole world around us is racing to hell at high speed. Remember one thing–God’s purposes will not be deterred even if our own smaller plans seem to be suffering in the short run. It is not our worldly perspective and design that He is building from, but His eternal plan and we will be far better off in the long run that our immature view points did not prevail. Or as Paul put it,

May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 GNB – emphasis added)

Alexander MacLaren wrote in his commentary with great insight about our text in 1 Kings 6:7 saying,

Perhaps it was merely for convenience of transport and to save time that the stones were dressed in the quarries, but more probably the silence was due to an instinct of reverence. We may fairly use it as suggesting two thoughts.

I. How God’s house is mostly built in silence. ‘The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation.’

In reference to its advance in the world:

Destructive work is noisy, constructive work is silent. God was in ‘the still small voice,’ not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. Christ’s own career, how silent it was! Drums are loud and empty. The spread of the kingdom was unnoticed by the world’s great ones-Caesars, philosophers, patricians, and it silently grew underground.

[This is]: {a} An encouragement to those whose work is inconspicuous, {b} A lesson not to mistake noise and notoriety for spiritual progress and, {c} Guidance as to our expectations of the advance of Christ’s kingdom… Sudden changes are short-lived changes. ‘Lightly come, lightly go.’ What matures slowly will last long.

In reference to its growth in our souls, silence is needed for that. There must be much still communion and quiet reflection. The advance in the Christian life is variously likened to a battle, since there are antagonists and struggle is needed to overcome; and [as it is with plant life]… the mysterious indwelling life works without effort and almost without consciousness… the work of building is work that must be done in silence. If we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, we must silently drink in the sunshine and dew, and so prosperously pass from blade to ear, and thence to full corn in the ear.

Surely nothing is more needed in these days of noisy advertisement and measurement of the importance of things by the noise that they can make, than this lesson of the place of silence in Christian progress, both for individuals and for the Christian Church as a whole.

II. How God’s house is built of prepared stones:
That is true, in one view of the matter, in regard to the Church on earth, for there must be the individual act of repentance and faith before a soul is fit to be built into the fabric of the Church. There is providential training of men [and women] for their tasks before these are given to them.

But the highest application of the symbol which we venture to find in our text is to the relation between the earthly and the heavenly life. This world is the quarry where the stones are dressed for the Temple in the heavens;

{a} Life is the chipping and hewing. The unnecessary pieces are struck off with heavy mallet and sharp chisel. Pain and sorrow are thus explained, if not wholly, yet sufficiently to bring about submission and trust, {b} The Builder has His plan clearly before Him, and works accurately to realize it. He perfectly knows what He means to build, and every stroke of the dressing-tool is accurately directed. There are no mistakes made in His quarrying and {c} We may be sure that the prepared stones will be brought to the Temple site and built into it… We may repose on the Apostle’s assurance that ‘He that has begun a good work in you will perform it,’ or rather on the more sure word of Jesus Himself, ‘He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.’

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/1_kings/6.htm

Can These Bones Live?

Can these bones live

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, thou knowest.” Again he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host. (Ezekiel 37:1-10 RSVA)

Our brother Hosea Fwangmun from Nigeria wrote recently,

“I come to the conclusion that ONLY the Father can reveal the Son in me and vice-versa. And since then I resist the temptation of trying to create what I call ‘mechanical fellowship.’  Yes, we need the gifts in others to come to the full measure and the statue of the son of God, but not in a mechanical way. We have to learn to discern His Body. I remember one of the favorite quotes of our brother Watchman Nee. ‘…you don’t organize for fellowship, rather, fellowship is spontaneous.’ May God give us true discernment in other to be truly build up into Christ. Amen.”

In the American church mindset, which has defiled the Church (the true body of Christ) throughout the world, there is a “can do” mentality that has not been to the cross. We think in terms of “by my might and by my power we can get this done! We can build God’s kingdom. We can make body life happen! Spirit? What Spirit?” To quote my brother Philip in Vermont, who stepped down from being a pastor for this very reason, “What a crock!”

In Chapter 37 of Ezekiel there is a very important lesson that needs to be learned if we are to be used of God. The prophet had a vision of a valley of dry, dismembered bones that had once been a mighty army. Thus we have the state of the Church today! The individual members of the body of Christ have been torn apart by ravenous wolves who have come in and not spared the flock of Christ, and false shepherds have risen up over them who teach perverse things to keep them divided (See Acts 20:29-31).

So today we are trying to have fellowship with a valley of dry bones. What a desperate state of affairs. It will take a miracle of God if these bones will ever become the functioning body of Christ again.

Notice in our opening passage that the bones were “very dry.” There are bones, dry to the touch, that still have the marrow in them rotting away and stinking, and then there are very dry bones that have been brought to such a death that not even Satan can find a niche in them to work his defilement! Many of us have been in this drying-out process. God has taken us outside the various camps of man-made religion, but has He dried us out to the point that we have no life left in us to try to do anything for God or make anything happen by our strength and will? All too many of us have come out of Egypt, but only far enough so that we can still look back. We design our new house church systems using the great Pyramid of Giza as our blueprint. Thus we are building another top down system, men lording over other men and pushing our will on them as “our vision” for the restoration of the Church.

Before God can assemble the true Church by His design, all our individual lives and good ideas have to totally die and become very dry. As Jesus put it, “Unless God builds the house, they who build it labor in vain.”

The next thing the Spirit showed me in this passage was this, “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, thou knowest.’” Notice that Ezekiel was clueless when faced with the wisdom and will of the Lord. How many of those who call themselves visionaries or church leaders today recognize that they are totally clueless as to what God is doing? They all seem to have a plan as to how to build the church or get numbers of people into their buildings, under their authority, and filling their coffers with money “for the work of the Lord.” What God is looking for today in true leadership is men who have been “undone,” because they have seen the Lord as high and lifted up with His train filling His temple! Again, the wilderness has not yet killed the last vestiges of Egypt in them. Unlike Moses, they have not figured out that what they learned in the house of Pharaoh is useless to God.

Next we read, “Again he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’” True prophetic voices for God have no preconceived idea of what God wants to say through them. A true prophetic voice for God waits until He hears what God is saying to the churches and does not speak until he is told to! He does not add his own flavor (or stench) to what is being said, either, because he is very dry. Then he will have God’s word to speak to these other very dry bones!

Then we read in our passage, “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

You see, everything that has any eternal value is done by Him!

“I will cause breather to enter you and you shall live.”

“I will lay sinews upon you.”

“I will cause flesh to come upon you and cover you with skin.”

“[I will] put breath in you and you shall live.”

“And then “you shall know that I AM THE LORD.”

(Compare Hebrews 8:8-11).

Everything that happens in this universe of God’s that is done for any eternal purpose is done by HIM. This whole exercise we are seeing is so we will know Jesus as Lord and that He is building His Church. That Church is the one that the gates of hell will not stand a chance against! What a far cry from this pathetic thing we see today that has lost its saltiness and is being trodden under the feet of men.

“So I prophesied as I was commanded….” In Acts we read about Peter and the apostles being locked up in prison. “But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.’” (Acts 5:19-20 RSVA). Today many of us feel like we are in prison, waiting for the Lord to release us. Our self-wills are being broken and we wait for God to make the next move. Jesus told Peter, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:18 RSVA). Jesus is our “Another” who has bound us and carries us where we would not go. In this state alone can He trust us to speak as He commands instead dressing ourselves in religious garments and titles of authority and walking where we would, “in Jesus’ name.”

Bone to His Bone

Ezekiel went on to report, “…as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” There was not just some willy-nilly assembling of these bones. Every bone had to first find the body it belonged to and then find its place in that body. The body of Christ has been so dismembered and dysfunctional for so long, we don’t have a clue what body we belong to, where we fit or what our function really is! Many of us have experienced other bones trying to plug themselves into our bones and they just don’t fit! Believe me, when God puts two of us together according to His will, we will know it! It will be an instant fit and the anointing that goes with that joining will soon be manifest. Paul wrote,

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body being fitly joined together and knit together by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 KJ2000)

“Christ: From whom the whole body being fitly joined together and knit together by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.” It is Christ who fitly joins us together as HE wills. Imagine how it would feel for your forearm to be attached below your knee or your lower leg to be attached to your shoulder. Nothing would line up! The sockets would not fit, the blood vessels would not connect and the nerves would not be joined. In this situation, every joint would not be able to supply the nourishment from the Head to the lower parts and there would be no effectual working in the God given measure of each part. Brothers and sisters, we need to be very careful to listen to God as to who HE desires us to be connected to and how (See Acts 5:13).

The only thing that will make this happen is for each of us individual dry bones to yield to the wind of the Spirit and let CHRIST build HIS Church. He must show each of us what body we belong in and where our place is in that body. All to many of us have preconceived idea of who we are in Christ and what “our ministry” is. Only very dry bones will be worthy to be assembled in the Church He is building in this final hour.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.

“Prophesy to the Breath.” What breath? Did you know that the word in the Greek translated “spirit” is “breath”? Strong’s dictionary defines it thus,

pneuma

pnyoo’-mah

From G4154; a current of air, that is, breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively a spirit,

Without the breath of God blowing upon us and assembling us, we will remain individual dry bones bleaching in the sun. Jesus told Nicode’mus, “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit (the Breath of God).” (John 3:8 RSVA). So, dear saints, don’t get in a big fleshly hurry to make these dry bones come together or assemble yourselves to anyone who claims Christ as His Lord. Nothing is going to happen in God’s kingdom without HIS breath blowing on it and IN it. But be assured, that it is they who wait upon the Lord that will mount up as HIS exceeding great host, the body of Christ.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence they have come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. (Revelation 7:9-15 RSVA)

The Death of a Vision

Under Juniper TreeElijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, LORD,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!” He lay down under the tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Wake up and eat.” (1 Kings 19:4-5 GNB)
Have you ever heard of the death of a vision? God gives us a taste of what He has for us to walk in, even does the work of that vision through us for a brief season, and then takes it away. You see this pattern in Moses setting out to deliver the Hebrew people from the hands of the Egyptian slavery one task master at a time, only to learn that God had something far greater in mind. With the Hebrews he was trying to help turning on him, he high-tailed it for the back side of the wilderness in fear of Pharaoh. There he tended his father-in-law’s sheep for 40 years. So much for that vision—at least that was what Moses thought until he had an encounter with God 40 years later!

Then there was Joseph and his dreams of greatness as a young man. His dreams did not please his folks or his brothers when he told them that they would all bow down before him one day. The brothers did their best to make sure that this dreamer never ruled over them, and plotted to kill him! You know the rest. He was sold into slavery in Egypt, and thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Insult and injury seem to be his lot for being faithful to God. Twenty-three years after the brothers sold him into slavery, the dream was fulfilled.

How about the great apostle Paul? Everyone seems to think that Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road and “insto-chango,” Paul was a super evangelist on the mission trail! That was not the case. Jesus first put him in the Arabian Desert for three years where He taught him and stripped him of his Jewish traditions. It was a total of 14 years before he went out on his first missionary journey, only after the Holy Spirit spoke to the brethren at Antioch, where Paul was living as one of the brothers and said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

A lot of dying has to take place for God to get a purified vessel He can use effectively after He calls him or her. My case was similar. About 1978 He started to move by His Spirit in me through words of knowledge, prophecy, dreams and such. We had a group of people meeting with us in our home as well. It was a heady time for me. I finally had something from God that my own father never provided for me – a sense of identity. Like Moses, I did not know the difference between my soul and what was of the Spirit, and pride started rising up in me. Because of the accuracy of things He gave me and the resulting pride, I was dangerous. He showed me the mixture, and I started praying that He would purify me. One day I heard Him say, “Michael, if I quit moving in your meetings with my Spirit, will you try to fake it?” I replied, “No, Lord, if you quit, I quit.” After that that He pulled the plug on everything I identified as spiritual in my life.

About this time, I had what I felt was prophetic dream of a dear 35 year old friend of ours who had abdominal cancer. Sandy was prophetic and we shared a lot of things back and forth. In this dream I could see my hand reaching down to her where she was lying on her sick bed and I was praying that she would be healed. I was so startled I woke up abruptly, woke my wife and told her about the dream. I then went back to sleep and dreamed the second half. You know how we have those wonderful, feel good dreams and want to go back to sleep and have it some more and it never happens? Well, not in this case! In the second half of the dream her family and mine were all sitting around a large dining room table with the sunlight streaming through the windows. Sandy was now looking like a 24 year old woman in her prime, and she was talking about her healing from the Lord. This startled me awake again and this time I stayed up.

The next day I made an appointment to see the pastor about my dream. He told me to just sit on it and wait and see if God would confirm it. I waited and waited, and Sandy got sicker and sicker. Finally, for a brief time her cancer went into remission enough that she could come to church one Sunday. It was the first time in six months and when I saw here sitting there it was like an electric shock went through me! I got a chance to ask the pastor during the service if it was time to pray for her. At the end of the service, he had me come up and tell my dream, then invited Sandy and the church elders to pray for her healing.

We had given Sandy and her husband a large Chrysler station wagon. A few months earlier, the Lord had told me that the car was going to die when it turned over 103,000 miles. It had a six-way driver’s seat, so Sandy could adjust it to be more comfortable while hauling her kids from place to place. One day about a month after we all prayed for her, Sandy passed out, drove into a tree, and slid forward into the steering wheel. From that time on, her cancer went full speed and it wasn’t long before she died. I was heart sick, and felt like the worst false prophet that ever walked.

That was the beginning of the death of my vision. God shut down my home meetings as He had warned me. Soon the church was split by two cult leaders who came in with the pastor’s permission. Everything started falling apart all around me. I took a job on the other side of the state, sold our house and gladly moved away from all that insanity. That job died and other jobs dried up as well. I finally had to take a job on a remote Aleutian island of Alaska without my family. There I was surrounded by drug abusers and alcoholics and was about as spiritual as one of the volcanic rocks on that island. Little did I know that God was answering my prayer to cleanse me from the mixture of soul and His Spirit. In Hebrews we read:

 “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13 KJ2000)

Fourteen years went by from the time I prayed for Sandy in front of the congregation before I could feel the presence of the Lord again. Everything stopped. A sense of His presence was gone, the Bible quit speaking to me, and my prayers hit the floor with a thud. I had no meaningful fellowship with other Christians. He also stripped me of the pride of the work of my hands with long periods of unemployment. I was thoroughly dead by the time He finally showed up again in a way that I could recognize as Him. As I started to feel His presence once again, He spoke to me while sitting in a church service and said, “You have not been this way before.” These were the same words God spoke to the Children of Israel as they were about to cross over the Jordon at the end of their 40 year wilderness. He also reminded me that a seed that falls into the ground and dies doesn’t look like what springs up as a sprout. The idolaters that left Egypt 40 years earlier were not the ones that God took across the Jordon into the Promised Land.

About this same time, my wife and I started going to a home fellowship again. A lady named Kathy had been battling cancer in her abdomen (Yup! Re-runs). After what I went through 14 years earlier, I would never have volunteered to pray for her healing. I figured that God didn’t want me to do that any more. Because she was weak, the leader of the group decided to take the meeting to Kathy’s house so she could be there. That evening her husband carried her down the stairs from the bedroom and put her in a recliner in the corner of the living room. At one point during the meeting, the leader’s wife said to me, “Michael, I want you to stand in front of me and hold out your hand without touching me and pray for me.” I said, “Alice, I feel like a nickel waiting for change. I think you ought to be praying for me.” But she insisted, so I did what she asked.

Next thing I knew, Alice fell to the floor, thump! So Kathy said, “Michael, will you pray for me, too? My cancer is flaring up again and the doctors aren’t giving me much hope.” I thought, “Oh boy! Here we go again — more dying!” Her husband scooted her off the chair onto the floor so we could all get around her and pray. I held my hand above her torso about six inches and started praying quietly as the others joined in. All of a sudden I felt a strong magnetic buzzing in my hand, and as I swept it back and forth from her chest to her abdomen, the buzz got stronger over one spot. She had her eyes closed and said that it was like having an MRI–she could feel everywhere my hand moved. I started hearing the word “pancreas,” so I asked her if the doctors had told her that she had pancreatic cancer. She said that they had.

We decided to keep praying until that feeling left my hand. About 45 minutes later the buzzing stopped. At that point Kathy sat right up and said, “Okay, that is healed! Now pray for my kidneys. They said one of my kidneys is dead.” So I went around behind her, and without touching her again, moved my hand back and forth from the left side to the right. The buzzing in my hand started over the right kidney, and she confirmed that was the one. We prayed for about thirty minutes. Finally the magnetic buzzing quit. Kathy jumped up and said, “Okay, I’m healed.” Off to the kitchen she went to make us all a snack tray! Mind you just two hours earlier she had to be carried into the front room. The next day she went to the gym and worked out. God wanted me to know that He still loved me could heal my broken heart as well.

About a year later I was asked to pray for another woman, a widow with terminal cancer. She was also healed, but it was not immediate and there were no signs of power that went with the prayers. Do I think that I am a healer? NOPE! I believe that the one who receives the “gift of healing” is the one who is healed! But I have learned what Paul meant when he said, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

I know that some of you have gone through similar circumstances, and I hope this has encouraged you. There has to be a death in us before the power of His resurrection Life can be manifest in and through us. Since God raised me up from my spiritual death in1994, He has used me in many diverse ways but told me not to put a label on what I am in Christ as so many people do, claiming a particular calling and title. The flesh loves titles! Most of what I do is write what I hear the Spirit saying here in our little home in the back woods of Idaho, then share it with the body of Christ over the Internet. I keep as low a profile as I can. It is no longer about me! I pray often that Paul’s words would be true, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” And, “I can do all things through Christ who is my strength.” Amen.

Oh, that car that Sandy drove into the tree? They had the auto body class at the local technical college fix it up. One night it caught fire and burned, and that was the end of it. Yup, the odometer read 103,000 miles.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25 RSVA)

Wilderness, Weakness and the Work of God

Publican and the Pharisee

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; (2 Corinthians 4:7-8 KJ2000)

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 CEV)

 Have you ever had times when the Lord has just poured His thoughts into you like a river and then for no reason at all they just stop? I know that I have. The last three weeks has been one of those times.

We just got back from a nine day trip to South Africa. It was a great time of fellowship with Andre and Mia DeVries, yet I came home with a blank mind and feeling no inspiration from the Lord. Back about 1979, I prayed with all sincerity that the Lord would so cleanse me of self that I would become like His Son, only speaking the words that He wanted me to say and only doing the works that He wanted me to do. Those of you who know my testimony know that He answered my prayer by putting me through 14 years of wilderness. I could not perceive His voice or presence in any way during that time. This was not what I thought I would get when I prayed that prayer.

I can look back now and see that He was treating me as if I were in an alcoholic rehab center and my drink or “drug of choice” had been the religion I built up around myself and my relationship with Him. In short, God was drying me out! By 1994 He brought me back online, so to speak, in a wonderfully personal way, with this promise, “You have not been this way before.” He let me know that what I was going to be walking in was not at all like what I had before He cut me off. I could not have conceived of such a walk as I have now in my former high flying days of being “God’s prophet” and “man of the hour” (in my own “humble” opinion).

Yes, this walk since 1994 has proven another word I got from the Lord at the end of that wilderness period, “You will boldly go where no man has gone before.” This was part of the opening monologue on the “Star Trek” TV series. It was the assignment given to the captain and crew of the Starship Enterprise. The funny thing is, unknown to the sister who gave me this word, I spent nine months cruising around the world on the USS Enterprise while in the US Navy.

I should have got the hint from these two words that from then on out it was going to be a lonely walk. My experience with the wilderness is that it never really completely ends. It is a place in which God provides, but He makes Himself known to us in a whole new way and often that includes seemingly being left all alone without a visit from Him for weeks at a time. Alcohol rehab centers put you through an intensive period of being cut off from your former life as a drunk, and then require a few two day follow-ups to keep you on track and it seems that God does the same with those who are being exercised by the work of His wilderness in their lives.

In this place He uses both His light and His darkness to manifest Himself to us! Where we once relied on things that titillated our five senses, now He weans us off those overt methods of communicating with us and forces us to walk by faith alone, thus building up our faith within us even in darkness. David wrote,

 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hides not from you; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to you. (Psalms 139:11-12 KJ2000)

On the day that Israel finally left the wilderness and crossed over the Jordon while He held back the river’s flood waters, God gave them a commandment on what it would be like.

 Yet there shall be a space between you and it [the Ark of the Covenant], about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that you may know the way by which you must go: for you have not passed this way before. (Joshua 3:4 KJ2000)

“Come not near unto it, that you might know the way you should go.” What a curious phrase this is! There was a time when I relied on being close to God, His nearly audible voice, and my feelings that I interpreted as coming from Him. It was a real rush to be so closely involved with Him, touched by His presence, and communicated with on a daily basis. But He started to wean me off being such a senses-driven person and made me walk much more by faith and not by sight or sound or feelings. I could once get close to Him at will. But now it would be different!

I truly had not been this way before. The ark was now kept at a great distance from me as I walked across the Jordon during its season of flooding! Now I have to write and act by faith that what is on my heart is really from Him and not my imagination. It is unnerving most of the time. I never know how people will react to the things I share, where before in my “Thus saith the Lord” days, I was so sure of myself. And what was the fruit of such confidence? Pride, and pride came before my fall. Now I have no such assurances that what I write or do will ring true with anyone at all.

God seems to put a great premium on walking by faith and serving Him from a place of weakness. Paul wrote about this.

 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 KJ2000)

He went on to expound on how He found Christ as His total sufficiency:

 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size–abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG)

Weakness, need, handicap! This how God equips those He would use, not by puffing them up with degrees in theology and working miraculous signs and wonders through them all the time. Paul had been used to heal many, but he couldn’t heal himself. His sufficiency was not of himself, but of Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthians he wrote:

 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. But we speak wisdom among them that are mature: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nothing: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:1-8 KJ2000)

Weakness in and of ourselves! This is the way God prepares His workers to do His kingdom work. How opposite His ways are from our ways! This is the wisdom of God Paul spoke from, not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, an ability to expound with three part sermons, and a generous sprinkling of humor to hold the attention of the faithful. It was through weakness that Christ was crucified and it was in this weakness that He overcame the Wicked One. Weakness in ourselves and His treasure contrasting with our ugly and common clay pots that hold it is the wisdom of God. Coming as a lowly Servant in all weakness was how God chose to defeat the enemy of our souls. This is how we will also stand against him in this final hour of history–not with any sufficiency of ourselves, but having our total sufficiency in Christ and in Him alone!

The Treasures of Darkness

treasures of Darkness

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3 KJ2000)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2, NKJV).

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counselor?.. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 KJ2000)

Could it be that God allows us to go into darkness so that He can shine forth His marvelous light from within us so that He can create the greatest contrast possible for all to see? When a jeweler wants to show the brilliance of a diamond, he displays it on a piece of black velvet, not white satin. A dear sister who has gone through many hard trials and hardships in her life recently wrote on her blog, “God’s living flame which had just begun to burn exceedingly high in my heart in the year 2000… At that time I hoped that I had already finished my long way with God, that is, I thought I had reached the goal of perfect unity with Him. But, alas, it was only the beginning of a long, both blissful and painful way that led me closer and closer to Him. During the following years when I often thought that God would be silent and all the darkness inside me deeper than ever, He had been far closer than ever before… God’s indwelling of a human being is indeed a divine mystery.” (To read the rest of what she wrote see: http://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/the-living-flame-of-love/)

There is a saying around Christendom, “Be careful what you pray for; you might get it!” His answers don’t always come in the manner that we imagine they will. I remember praying in 1979, “Father, make me like your Son, that I would only do the works I see you doing and only speak the words I hear you saying.” I had enough time to think to myself, “Boy! That was sure a righteous prayer!” Then He answered back, “No my son, that is only the starting point!” This is when He, in answer to my prayer, moved my goal post way down the field and took me off the religious Foosball table I was on, spiritually speaking, and put me onto a real spiritual soccer field by comparison.

I soon found myself in total spiritual darkness. Where I once had thought I was God’s rising star in Christendom (See Isaiah 50:11), He pulled the plug on all my aspirations of becoming someone in the church. In fact, He even pulled the plug on all my aspirations and livelihood in the world! For fourteen years He held me in a spiritual state of darkness where my fleshly senses could no longer sense His presence in any form. Where my flesh and pride were once built up by Him speaking to others prophetically and using me through words of knowledge in people’s lives, I found myself in what some call the dark night of the soul or the wilderness of God. I soon became a spiritual zombie. People could be feeling the presence of God all around me, getting blessed, but not me. I was flat line.

After all those years in this state of spiritual suspension, He finally brought me out, but this time it was different. My flesh no longer wanted to surf on the Spirit’s wave or draw attention to myself. I just was just glad to have my first love relationship with Jesus back again. He was enough. I wanted Him, not what He could do for me. Or as one dear old saint solemnly advised me about that same time, “Seek God’s face, not His hands.” In 1994 I heard Him say to me, “You have not been this way before.” I soon was to find out that He was cutting me off from knowing Him after the flesh.

Paul wrote, “Therefore from now on know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 KJ2000)

Knowing Christ after the Spirit, His Spirit in us, and not after the flesh, merely by what we read about His earthly life in a book. This has made all the difference–knowing Him as the One who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you even until the end.” Where I once knew Christ by way of my five natural senses that I depended on so much, He was now fine tuning me to know His living presence by His five spiritual senses. Where once darkness was my all consuming enemy, I could now see that He can abide in the deepest of dark places where my old sense of sight was totally worthless. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me.”

David wrote,

If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hides not from you; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to you.(Psalms 139:11-12 KJ2000)

And when Israel was up against the Red Sea and the army of the Egyptians was at their backs we read,

All this time God’s angel had gone ahead of Israel’s army, but now he moved behind them. A large cloud had also gone ahead of them, but now it moved between the Egyptians and the Israelites. The cloud gave light to the Israelites, but made it dark for the Egyptians, and during the night they could not come any closer. (Exodus 14:19-20 CEV)

Light and darkness are the same to Him! When we are being led out of our spiritual Egypt–a land where our god dwelt in niches and temples made by men–the Egypt side of our understanding only sees darkness, but the side facing His kingdom sees His marvelous light! In this sense, light and darkness are the same unto Him; they serve the same purpose to cut us off from our idolatry and turn us toward worshiping the Father in Spirit and in Truth! Isaiah understood this saying,

Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the LORD and relies upon his God? (Isaiah 50:9-10 RSVA)

Those of us who have gone through the dark night of the soul have seen and heard the accuser of the brethren speaking through other Christians. We feared the Lord even more than before because of the darkness we were in. Often our accusers did not survive and their fleshly works were eaten up, but in Christ we were vindicated. In all these trials we learned how to trust in and lean on Him alone until our darkness became His Light!

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O my enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. (Micah 7:7-8 KJ2000)

If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee. (Psalms 139:11-12 RSVA)

The whole time we were in that darkness we were actually under the shadow of His wings and were never closer to Him! And when we thought He was silent (to our old way of hearing), He was teaching us subliminally so that our flesh could not rise up again with knowledge that puffs up. Remember, when revelations come to us from the Spirit of God, we can expect His humbling hand to also be upon us as it was with Paul. When we are weak, Christ is made perfect within us.

Many of us who have been severely tested under the hand of the Lord have a wonderful promise that we are starting to see unfold even now:

I will go before you, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of bronze, and cut asunder the bars of iron: And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel. (Isaiah 45:2-3 KJ2000)