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.)

The Power in Our Souls to Be Deceived

the_temptation_of_christ_by_armusik-d4x15hc

“The Temptation of Christ” by Armusik

But evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2Tim 3:13, KJ2000)

What is our real motive for following after the Lord? Is it what Jesus demanded in the Gospels, that if we would be His disciples, we must take up our own flesh-killing crosses and follow Him for the glory of His Father alone? Or do we claim to be His followers, but all the while seek to find our own successful lives and keep them fully under our own control?

There are so many fleshly ways to “serve the Lord” that are really nothing more than a human seeking after pleasure, profit, and notoriety, to further our own grip on the usurping Adamic life in us. This life takes pleasure in control and in ruling over others instead of being a true humble servant IN Christ. One of the most common ways Christians look for illicit power is our pursuit of knowledge and spiritual gifts. The soul loves to be “spiritual” in an outward show of spirituality. This covers our inward sin of rebellion against God. Just like Adam and Eve sewed together fig leaves to cover their nakedness, these so-called “gifts,”scholastic degrees and hierarchic titles can be used to “hide” our spiritual nakedness from others, though God sees right through to our hearts. It is amazing how many high profile people in Christianity have perfected this act and use it to deceive others and themselves. The more people they deceive and garner as followers, the more they deceive themselves into believing what they are doing it “all for the glory of God.” Susanne Schuberth wrote this in her recent blog:

The counterfeit problem arises because we as human beings are usually not that patient by nature. Instead, the old self wants to have ALL of God’s blessings, immediately at that! Normally, we do not want to wait on God. Therefore, Satan who knows about this, sneaks in and offers everything which the old (and seemingly spiritual) self wants to have. He offers spiritual experiences like dreams and visions that are pleasing to the eye and keeps us focused on our imaginary magnificence and our imaginary spiritual virtues. Yes, the devil is a people pleaser. He whispers some pleasant things into our ears until we believe him. It is only later that he begins to discourage and destroy the soul. Yet in the beginning Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and tells us that he is God who loves us. He even appears as “Jesus” at times and leads astray whomever he can by doing so. In fact, Satan also offers a kind of spirit baptism and “bestows” several powerful “spiritual gifts’ on such deceived believers. Actually, as soon as someone has fallen in love with possessing such gifts, it is very difficult to convince them that God was not their author.

One might wonder here about how to discern the difference between true and false spirituality and I admit it is not always easy to recognize it right at the outset. However, we can say if someone is not used to dying daily like the apostle Paul told us he was doing (see 1 Cor 15:31), but (mis)uses his ‘gifts’ in his old and unchanged self, he cannot grow in loving God and his neighbors, either. We do more damage to God’s case and the kingdom of God when we follow our soul’s desires to become someone. If our focus is more on our (old) self and on what God (or not God?) is doing through us instead of enduring those necessary and painful changes in our hearts that always direct us away from our self toward God, we might have been deluded by Satan. Since it is not a rare thing to be deceived by the devil, I thought I needed to point that out, once again. (1)

She went on to quote Paul where he warned:

The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thess 2:9-12, RSV)

Most Christians are waiting for Antichrist, the “lawless one,” the “man of sin” to build himself a temple in Jerusalem and sit on a throne there and deceive the whole world. The sooner we discover the antichrist that abides in us already,For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (verse 7), that is, in our flesh, the sooner we will start giving God the authority to destroy that ugly thing we have been in league with all our lives. The meaning of that Greek word antichristos is not only “against Christ” but more importantly “instead of Christ.” It is that usurper inside of us, “Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God [our hearts], showing himself that he is God.” (2Thess 2:4, KJ2000)

That thing in us wants to be preeminent and take Jesus’ place in ruling our lives. Dear saints, the flesh lusts against the Spirit in us (see Galatians 5:17) and there is a war within us as long as the natural man in us is still in control. As we can see from the verse above, Satan is more than happy to manifest in our flesh with all pretense of signs and wonders to deceive those who do not desire the Truth of Christ where it really counts, in our hearts. David wrote,

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Ps 51:6, ESV2011)

We are watching the onslaught of Satan being let loose to raise hell upon the earth and all manner of evil is being done today in the name of God. There is no uglier and more treacherous works on earth than those done through fleshly men under the name of a “righteous cause” or a “holy war.” Men and women are being deceived, and because they have no desire for the truth of Christ to dwell in their hearts, God is giving them strong delusions to follow as they take pleasure in unrighteousness. This is all too evident at this time as we watch Muslims, ethnic groups and yes, even Christians taking sides and feeding on anger in the current political, religious and ethnic conflicts around the world. Jesus told us that this would be a sign of the end of days before He returns:

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity [literally – no way out] — Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking toward those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26, KJ2000)

I believe we are watching the last great battle for the souls of men. Will we deny our soulish selves and Satan from feeding on this dust within us and cling to Christ alone or will be caught up in his lies and subterfuge that feel so good to our flesh as we ignore the warnings of Christ and let our hearts become hardened for fear of what is coming upon us?

Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence [in Him] firm to the end, (Heb 3:12-14, RSV)

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/satans-counterfeit-spirituality/

Bondservants of God… to be Led by the Holy Spirit

by Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth*

Bondservants of the Lord pic

Austin-Sparks rightfully observed,

Many things are being constructed to which the Name of the Lord is being affixed – things which appear fine and great and like “the Church,” but which are destined to collapse when God’s hurricane and fire test every man’s work. Good works – philanthropy, hospitality, reform, education, religion, relief, etc. – may be the products, or byproducts, of what is called “Christian civilization” …and things for which to be profoundly grateful… but let us not confuse these with “a new creation,” regeneration, a being “born from above.” (1)

Today the highly visible church systems of men have become something that has a life of its own with the leading of Christ’s Spirit among them a rare thing. There is no resemblance of what calls itself “church life” today and what happened when the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who believed in Christ which we read about in the Book of Acts. All of our best attempts to even duplicate what they had back then will fail for one reason, they are our best attempts! Either Christ builds the household of God upon Himself, The Rock, as its foundation and enlivens what He builds or it is a sham subject to the eroding winds of time and the whims of presumptuous men (See Ephesians 4:14), doomed to live without His blessing on it and subject to the wiles of the devil and his delusions.

Jesus left the Holy Spirit in His place to give life, instruction, direction and power to His body (the ekklesia of God) and His presence was so powerful in those early days that those who lied to Him dropped dead and no one dared to add themselves to those who were called and empowered by Him for fear! The body with its many God-gifted members moved in the unity of a normally functioning human body. In fact the human body is a parable of what our Creator meant the body of Christ on this earth to be… unified, coordinated, obedient to the Head as it builds itself up in the love of God. No amount of human organization can cause this to happen.

T. A. Sparks continues,

The Church is nothing which man can build by any resource in himself personally or collectively. The Church is an organism, not an organization: “Behold, I show you a mystery – we are members of His flesh and of His bones.” Build that, if you can! Launch that; organize that; “run” that! It cannot be done. It is the spontaneous outworking of spiritual forces released… in the acceptance by faith of tremendous facts concerning Christ – facts which are proclaimed out of experience in the power of the Holy Ghost. Not the theological Christ; not the doctrinal Christ; not the Christ of the letter; much less the Jesus of history; but the Christ of Eternity in all the meaning of His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into the Throne of God revealed in the heart by the Holy Spirit – this alone is authority to preach, to serve, to occupy position, to “build” in relation to the House of God. It is folly to spend time and strength otherwise. It is wisdom to labor on this foundation. (1)

Paul wrote,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… individually as he wills. (1Cor 12:4-11, ESV2011)

 Today, few who believe in Christ wait on the Holy Spirit to empower us as HE wills, rather we put our eyes on something that titillates our flesh and makes us feel important as we answer our own call. Or if we yield to the will of God in our initial calling, how soon is it until we cast our eyes on something that is more pleasing and appealing to our natural man who wants to maintain his own preeminence and wars against the Spirit within us? We get away with this in today’s church because even church leadership to whom we look to as an example has often fallen victim to such things.

In my own case, I started out with what some called a “ministry of helps.” I was with a street ministry in the early ‘70’s that had many homes and facilities for those being saved off the streets and it was my gifting to rejuvenate, repair and maintain them. I spent many an hour re-plumbing and unclogging sewer pipes in basements and such, out of the sight of those who had the more glorious positions in that ministry. You might say that I was the guy behind the scenes who kept it all going with my mechanical, electrical and plumbing skills. After leaving that group I was often the church janitor and handy man that kept “things” unplugged the sound system, etc. going.

God did not anoint me to write for him for 22 years after He filled me with His Spirit and even then my writings were not allowed to go public for another eight years. It was then a brother found me and put what I shared with him on the web. I did not call myself to this more visible ministry of blogging book writing and website publishing and to this day I am quite content to remain in obscurity in the back woods of northern Idaho, unknown by others even in my own small town.

Somebody high in Christian circles observed a few years back with pride that in the sixties men were pastors. In the seventies they became teachers. In the eighties they became evangelists and in the nineties they became prophets and finally in the beginning of this century they became apostles. It is as if church leadership is a military or corporate machine in which we are entitled to go up the ladder and achieve higher ranks and titles regardless of our original callings. Far from the minds of leadership today is the downward calling of God regarding our flesh ever descending until we, as Paul, we see ourselves rightfully as “the chief of sinners” not the chief of the apostles. Truly, Paul called it right when he said, “The flesh wars against the Spirit…”

T.A. Sparks continues,

When one called of God to do the work of an evangelist assumes the role of a teacher, or vice-versa, or anyone marked out for this particular functioning attempts to do that, or when one goes beyond their scope and assumes any prerogative which is not theirs by Divine ordering, they are in the way of an arrested ministry, and more, they will be landed into serious confusion. People and things – otherwise occupying a vital position in the Divine plan – put into their wrong places have the Divine unction withdrawn from them… The Holy Spirit’s method is to set His seal upon us as we move according to His leading; not according to our fancy, choice, aptitude, predilection or ambition. (2)

 

Bondservants of the Lord

The apostle Paul wrote,

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” (1 Cor 9:16-19 ESV)

How many bondservants of the Lord do we have leading in the churches today? How many men will do the work that God called them to without pay or remuneration from those they serve? How many find presenting the gospel free of charge out of obedience to Christ enough reward in itself as Paul (see also 2 Thes. 3:7-12)? How many leaders seek reward for their efforts because they have not been called by God and have not been entrusted by Him with their stewardship? Today, men in our pulpits shamelessly beg for money and support. If God calls a man to be His servant He meets their needs and as David observed, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Ps 37:25, KJV). It is not righteous for men and women to approach the service of the Lord as if it is a worldly profession, using worldly methods to ascend and succeed.

T. A. Sparks continues,

“Christian service” has come to be a realm in which all the acquisitive, ambitious, obtrusive, assertive, self-seeking, and numerous other elements of the natural man have been vented and taken hold. It has created a system in which human distinctions are the order of the day. Yes, and much more which it is too painful to mention.

We need an adjustment of our minds by a true spiritual perception of the real nature of service, and it will be well for us ever to remember that all work for Christ is not service to Christ (emphasis mine). A child may be very well-meaning and industrious in its “helping [out] mother”, but poor mother may find rather more work created than done.

Now let us say right away… with emphasis… that the indispensable and basic thing to real service is THE SERVANT-SPIRIT AND THE SERVANT-MIND. The matter of service is infinitely more than busy-ness in religious causes, earthly activities in Christian interests; it is the accomplishment of a heavenly will and Divine purpose which registers its impact in the breaking of another foreign will and destroying the works of the devil. This is the force of “obedience” and the “not my will” …and this is the servant-mind and servant-spirit. (1)

Paul wrote,

“For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.” (1 Cor 7:22-23 ESV)

We are called to be the bondservants of Christ not of soulish, self-promoting men. We have been bought by Him as His own with His precious blood. No man has the right to rule over us in the place of Christ’s Spirit. Yes, we are to obey the laws of the land in which we live (see 1 Peter 2:13-17), but we are always to obey the leading of the Spirit and when these two are in conflict it is better to obey God than man.

For a while I was a part of a church that was founded in California by a charismatic leader from the Hollywood area, in fact he was involved in the music industry there before God called him. He was highly respected in the ranks of the church, but he often taught things that were not scriptural and his will and writings were respected by the church leadership under him without question. Our pastor would quote him before he would quote the Bible and was constantly reading his books and often attended seminars taught by him. He was definitely a “company man.” Finally, when I showed him how what he was teaching was contrary to the scriptures the pastor got offended and I told him that this man did not own me. I knew that I was already purchased with the blood of Christ and that I was to obey His Spirit and not the whims of men with their winds of doctrine. We were finally forced to leave that church and since then that pastor was forced to step down in shame and the denomination’s founder and his son (the heir apparent) both died not long after we left. Jesus said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted shall be rooted up.” We are called to be the bond-servants of Christ and obey the leading of His Spirit for He alone is our Savior and Lord. Sparks continues,

The Lord’s need is to have bond-servants… even though the extreme pressure at some time might make them say that they would “no more speak in this Name” … they find that they cannot forbear for long; but cost what it may, they must be in it and at it – the fire is in their bones and zeal of His House eats them up. May we be such, and may the true ground and motive of this fellowship in service be:

“I love, I love my Master,
I will not go out free!
For He is my Redeemer,
He paid the price for me.
I would not leave His service,
It is so sweet and blest;
And in the weariest moments
He gives the truest rest.

“My Master shed His life-blood
My vassal life to win,
And save me from the bondage
Of tyrant self and sin.
He chose me for His service,
And gave me power to choose
That blessed, perfect freedom
Which I shall never lose.” (1)

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001520.html

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003697.html

* I want to give a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth who sent me these quotes from T. Austin-Sparks and the quotes from Paul that inspired me to write this blog. Once again she and I are hearing the Lord say the same things. What a blessing to walk together in the unity of the Spirit.

It’s a Matter of Life and Death… the Love of God

Solitude and LightThis year has been a blessing as Father continues to draw us closer to Him even though the trials have often been severe. As His love has grown in me, so has the scope of suffering and joy grown as my heart has been opened to feel what is going on in the lives of those He has placed me with in His kingdom. They have been a great encouragement to me as we have prayed for one another and seen Him move in our lives. I would like to thank my wife, Dorothy, for her steadfast encouragement and proof reading and editing skills in these articles I write. I would also like to give a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth and her blog* and the many times God has used her to inspire the things that I have shared as we both have grown in Christ and have encouraged one another.

 The events of this year so remind me of this stanza from “Amazing Grace,”

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I [we] have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me [us] safe thus far,
And grace will lead me [us] home.

I was recently reading something by T. Austin Sparks that really spoke to me about the nature of our Father’s working in our lives and the pattern of terrible lows, followed by His wonderful heavenly highs.

We can have many times of glory in our Christian lives. It is progressive, progressive in this sense: that it is an increasing matter. The Christian finds that from time to time he or she is taken into a deeper, deeper experience of trial, affliction, sorrow… something deeper and more difficult than anything before, and it’s a time when there does not seem to be very much glory; the glory seems to be veiled. There is nothing necessarily wrong about that, dear friends… That is the common experience and that is recognised as being true to Christian experience. But, you see, God is the God of glory and we are called unto His eternal glory and what the Lord means by this is more glory. The deeper the trial, the greater the suffering, the greater the glory, presently. It is only to bring about the glory in fuller measure. It is progressive, like that. And so there seems to be no end to these going-down experiences, but equally there is no end to the coming-up experiences. If there seems to be no end to the dark experiences, be assured that there is no end to the light [enlightening] ones. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/004310.html)

As I read this, something that Paul wrote took on greater meaning.

For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11 RSVA)

For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost. For those who are being lost, it is a deadly stench that kills; but for those who are being saved, it is a fragrance that brings life. Who, then, is capable for such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 GNB)

Who can survive a life such as this, and who is sufficient to understand God’s ways with us? We can only endure such dying in Christ by faith, because it is designed to kill that old Adam in us with whom we have so closely identified, so that only the life of Christ remains in us and is manifest to all who know us. To those who perish we smell like death and they despise us for it, but to those who are being saved, we are the smell of His Life that brings life. Mary broke that alabaster box of perfume and poured it all out on Jesus and totally blessed Him with her act of love, and the smell of that perfume filled the whole house and blessed everyone in it. This is the nature of our own sacrifice in the plan of God… our being broken and poured out on and for Him.

Death and glory go hand in hand, but for those who belong to Jesus, death never has the final word, but rather the glory of God manifest in us through Christ. Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you” (John 17:1 KJ2000). Jesus glorified the Father by the sweet smelling sacrifice of His own life in obedience. What love for the Father that He would not only lay down His own life, but that He might redeem all of God’s precious creation from sin and death. I love the fragrance of Christ in His saints!

Jesus went on to pray:

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22-23 ESV)

So we not only see that death is a prerequisite to glory in the economy of God, but is also needed to fully live in the love of the Father and the Son. Oh, what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the children of God and made one with the Father, the Son and one another in perfect agape love!

Thank you all for your kind and loving comments on our blog this year. May He continue to conform us into the image of Christ as we go from death to death and life to life and may He also draw us ever closer together in His great love.

* https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/

Making Room for the Spirit to Mature Others in Christ

By Michael Clark and George Davis

Church

“My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the severer judgment. For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man…” (James 3:1-2 KJ2000)

Lately the Lord has drawn our attention to a problem that exists among many of us “more mature” saints of God who have a lot of Bible knowledge and have had many decades of experience following the Lord. That problem is that many of us are not making room for the saints who are more timid or who are still learning to experience first hand the Living Christ and assure them that they can hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to and leading them. Paul wrote,

“Let us have fond affection for one another with brotherly fondness, in honor deeming one another first” (Romans 12:10 CLV)

“Deeming one another first”…How often I (Michael) have listened to a brother or sister tell about their latest insight they got from the Lord only to jump right in with a couple of scriptures and assure them that I also knew all about this truth before they did. You see, this is not demonstrating fond affection and deeming the other saint first before myself. In fact when I have done this or seen it done, the more timid of God’s little ones will often just shut down, feeling that their little offering is only “one talent” compared to ours and go away and bury it out of intimidation because of the glaring neon lights of our own “giftedness” compared to their “pocket flashlight.” Is it any wonder that churches are filled with silent observers that do not personally know the voice of THE Good Shepherd?

When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am,” it was not so that He could lord over them with His great knowledge as the Son of God. He was the consummate Teacher and often taught by asking questions to draw people to engage with what He taught and to hear God Himself speak to them. When Peter answered Him and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus did not say, “Well, it is about time you guys figured that out! I have known that from the foundation of the world!” No, He commended Peter that he himself could hear the Father speak to him and said that it was upon this foundation that God would build His house! How often do we look for or make opportunities that we might show other saints more honor and commend them in their faith to walk and listen to the Spirit for themselves and move with His wind? We cannot expect to grow the kingdom of God by making people perpetually dependent on professional clerics and teachers. Real maturity takes place when His followers are doing as He did, only speaking what they hear the Spirit saying and doing the works that the Father foreordained them to do.

If we are not making room for others to interact with the Spirit of God and encouraging them to do so, but instead trying to be their “be all and end all” for everything that has to do with faith, we are putting ourselves in their lives instead of Christ. The very definition of the word “anti-christ” is “instead of Christ!” Real maturity does not happen when we do all the “fishing” for those around us. Real maturity takes place when they also learn how to “fish” and can teach others to do the same (See 2 Timothy 2:2).

Jesus taught the 70 disciples for a few months and then sent them out and said, “Okay, boys, go do it!” It was time to “get tough or die.” He equipped them to fly and pushed them out of the nest and they came back with glowing reports of their success (See Luke 10:1-19). How often we have heard in the last few years about the glories of the “five-fold ministries.” Yet, if we read the context of Ephesians 4:11 where these graces are listed we see that they are not an end unto themselves. These were given to individuals so that they would work themselves out of a job,

“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:12-15 ESV)

In our experience the more we have heard men teach the importance of these five gifts they claim to have, the less we have seen the saints under them “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Rather we have seen these men and women trying to do all ministry (except the nursery, setting up chairs, mowing lawns, and janitorial work, etc.) while the faithful sit there Sunday after Sunday in their pews sucking on their spiritual thumbs. One dear saint referred to this syndrome as “the perpetual babyhood of the believer.”

Dear saints, we cannot count on that system that men have built around themselves, that produces weak Christians at best, to get the gospel out into the highways and byways or teach those who are saved to listen to the Spirit as Jesus did, growing up in every way into Christ who is their Head. We have to point all who believe Christ to Him and His Spirit, not ourselves! Like John the Baptist, we must decrease and Christ must increase. He who is supposed to have the bride is the Bridegroom not the friends of the Bridegroom (See John 3:25-31).

This is the NEW Covenant, Not the Old

Most of the dysfunction in the church today is due to an inadequate comprehension of the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant prophets, priests and kings preformed mediatory functions between God and the people. In the new covenant “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5 RSVA)

In the Old Covenant there were many teachers. In the New there is only one. Christ commanded His disciples not to be called teachers, “. . . for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:10). Foreseeing this in the Spirit Jeremiah prophesied,

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD . “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD ,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD . “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34, NIV)

The Author of Hebrews quoted this passage to emphasize the vast difference between the Old and the New Covenants.

“. . . And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (see Hebrews 8:10-11 – emphasis added)

they shall not teach . . .

One of the primary differences between the Old and the New Covenants is teaching. In the old, men taught every one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ but in the New Covenant all are taught of God and all know Him.

Quoting Isaiah Jesus said,

 It is written in the prophets, “‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John 6:45, NKJV – emphasis added)

John wrote of the individual believer’s submission to this One Teacher saying, “The anointing you received from him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. Instead, because his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not a lie, abide in him, as he taught you to do” (1 John 2:27, ISV – emphasis added).

To make one’s self the teacher of God’s children is to become a busybody in the affairs of another. To do so is to attempt to control others through doctrine and to usurp the role of the One Teacher. Jesus said, “But you must not be called Rabbi, for One is your teacher, Christ, and you are all brothers” (Matthew 23:8 MKJV – emphasis added).

Paul addressed this at length in Romans 14. Regarding the then hotly debated matter of what one should eat. Paul wrote, “Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should” (Romans 14:4, NLT – emphasis added).

The Greek word translated condemn here is Krinoto rule, govern, to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong. This is the same word translated “judge” and “judged” in this verse that we know so well, “”Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 NKJV).

Individual believers are accountable directly to the Lord not to each other. And so in addressing this inordinate ambition Paul does not advance special doctrines to enforce uniformity, in doing so he would have been guilty of the very thing he was exhorting the Roman believers not to do. He encouraged them to live their lives in direct accountability to the Lord and to allow their brothers and sisters to do the same. knowing that it is God who teaches each one right and wrong and it is He who keeps them standing as they live before Him alone. Our faith finds its proper place privately before God. “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. . .” (Romans 14:22). The exhortation here is clear– forcing our opinions on the servants of God is counter to true faith. True faith believes that they are kept by Another. True faith believes that they will be made to stand by their own Master. True faith holds its piece and allows the one Teacher to instruct without constantly interjecting our “superior” knowledge, opinions and will..

The Brother with the More Perfect Word

A friend of ours shared with us a problem that repeatedly stifled mutual sharing in there gatherings. Someone would be telling about what God had been teaching them and then a seemingly well-meaning brother would interrupt them and give them a quick course in one-upmanship. He always completed their thought by adding his fuller revelation. Soon no one was sharing. The only one left standing or speaking was the brother with “the more perfect word.” How often have we seen this? Or rather, how often have we been guilty of this very thing? In our pride we want to flaunt our biblical knowledge, but behind it all the underlying message we communicate is this, “Look at me. See how special I am. I have traveled down the Christian road further than the rest of you. My understanding of spiritual things is vastly superior to yours. Who better then to be the final arbiter of truth? Or does experience count for nothing?”

There is a word for such delusion–pride. And by it we reconstruct the old mediatory system and privately christen ourselves king, prophet and priest. By such arrogance we both disrespect our brothers and sisters and their Teacher. Nothing could be further from the self-forgetfulness of those truly spiritual individuals who think of others as being higher or better than themselves.

Not understanding the New Covenant, many believers have returned to the Old Covenant mediatory system. They have replaced the one heavenly Teacher with many human ones and have garnered to themselves teachers who tickle their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Some have ambitiously risen up “. . . speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30). Some are unduly exalted above their calling while other men and women are dishonored and subjugated. A few high profile people assume responsibilities well beyond their appointed measure leading the rest to abdicate their proper function in the body of Christ. What a travesty! We are not rightly discerning the body of Christ and many are spiritually emaciated and sick among us.

Once again we see an Old Testament system using New Covenant terminology. The result is the same–believers are once again relegated to the outer court instead of boldly coming into the throne of grace.

The Friend of the Bridegroom

JohnBapThey [John’s disciples] came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, the same baptizes, and everyone is coming to him.” John answered, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. This, my joy, therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all.” (John 3:25-36

John the Baptist was the ideal messenger and forerunner of Jesus Christ as his words in this passage reveal. John was not all about John, but he was  a man devoted to pointing to Jesus Christ. His faithfulness is nothing short of inspirational. His famous words, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” were descriptive of his single passion, the spirit in which he came. Do we really know what these words mean? Do we know it on the level that John did? This is John’s mission statement. It was his goal from the outset. It never entered his mind to establish and maintain a high-profile ministry or following. When asked by the religious Jews who he was he simply answered “[I am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord…” He found his identity in Christ, not in his calling and ministry. He didn’t even call himself, “Prophet John.” From the shores of the Jordan, where he first saw the One whose shoelaces he was not worthy to unloose, John never stopped heralding, he never stopped pointing; he never stopped directing the eyes and hearts of the hearers to Jesus. He never stopped saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

But the time came for John to decrease even further. His job was done and he saw the need to disappear. He had prepared the way for Jesus and now it was time for him to make way for the Bridegroom. He knew that if he stayed he would find himself in competition with Jesus. How many of us are willing to decrease? Isn’t it the carnal will of every man to leave a legacy?

John’s followers had not yet left him and gone after Jesus, and now they were tempting him. Their words were filled with jealousy against Christ. “He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” They wanted John to get with the program; to compete with the very one he was called to serve. Couldn’t John see that his ministry was failing? That people were no longer coming to him? Perhaps they were attempting to get John to hold more meetings, to do what had worked for him in the past. Get up! Do something! Can’t you see that all are coming to Him?

Today in the blogosphere we would say, “Post more blog articles and keep your name in front of the people and the search engines alerted to your presence!” Oh, how aware many of us are about how many followers we have. Many bloggers will go out and click “likes” on hundreds of other blog articles without even reading them in order to get others to come to their sites and boost their stats. If we are about pointing God’s people to Christ and not to ourselves, should our stats be a motivation for our actions and our writing? Shouldn’t we be waiting on the Lord and the voice of His Spirit to tell us what He wants written? I can tell you that if you do, you can count on being led down a path where you decrease and Christ increases.

John’s reply to his followers is teeming with significance. He reminded his disciples that “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” John did acknowledge that he had (past tense) been sent before Christ, but that time was over. John reminded his disciples what his ministry was all about when he said, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom.” In the context of the traditional Hebrew wedding ceremony, John saw himself as the friend of the bridegroom, who helped in any way he could to present the bride unmolested, as a chaste virgin, to the Groom.

The final act of the friend of the bridegroom was on that long awaited night when the groom came to steal the bride away. When she heard the cry, “The bridegroom comes, go out to meet him,” she was swept away to the house that the Groom had been long preparing.

According to the Jewish tradition, the friend of the bridegroom followed the wedding procession at a distance. When the groom took the bride into the bridal chamber, the friend of the bridegroom drew near. Standing just outside the bridal suite, he listened to the sound of lovemaking and at the first note of joy in the Bridegroom’s voice, the friend of the Bridegroom danced and shouted for joy. His job over, the groom’s friend turned and walked away for the marriage was consummated and his calling was fulfilled.

So we see in John a perfect messenger with a perfect heart. May God help us to be such friends and messengers of the Bridegroom today and walk away from any clamoring after our own gain under the guise of ministry!

(Note: I would like to give credit to my good brother in Christ, George Davis, for having much of the original inspiration for this article. To read all of the original essay we wrote together go to: http://www.awildernessvoice.com/ElijahCompany.html )

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 Power of Our Words and Prayers

altar_of_incense

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door were shaken at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged. (Isaiah 6:1-7 KJ2000)

I was in fellowship with a dear saint recently and we started to talk about prayer and how important it was for those of us who are in unity as members of Christ’s body to pray for one another. This person felt the power of God when we prayed together and saw results in their life. Words are a wondrous thing. With our words we have the power to move heaven to act, bless those dear to us, or to do them harm. Really getting to know others in close relationships is wonderful, but the closer and more open we are with each other, the easier it is to wound one another with our words. I’ve apologized numerous times to people I’ve hurt without intending to. Each time I’ve wounded a dear saint, I’ve been reminded of Jesus’ words that it would be better for a millstone to be hung around my neck and be cast into the depth of the sea than offend one of His little ones. In this last year God has put me in relationships with people who are serious about the kingdom of God and what it means to walk together in the light as He is in the light. We know that unless we are walking in this kind of transparency with the ones He has placed us with, we are not having real fellowship (see 1 John 1:5-9).

After seeing both the negative and positive effects of my words, I was reminded of some verses in the Bible that God has given me in the past.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote:

Dead flies cause the ointment of the perfumer to send forth a foul odor: so does a little folly to him that is respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1 KJ2000)

Paul wrote:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God…Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:1-4 ESV– emphasis added)

As I experienced both blessing and wounding coming out of my mouth more recently, He reminded me of what James wrote.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. (James 3:10 RSVA)

For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:2 KJ2000)

Yes, brethren, this ought not to be so! I started asking God to do a miracle in my life in this matter of the tongue. He started answering my prayer by letting me feel in my own heart the pain others were feeling. A couple of times it was so intense I had to go lie down because I couldn’t function any longer.

Fourteen years ago, while watching the movie, “The Green Mile,” I started weeping and praying that God would use me to take some of the suffering out of this world. I was inspired by the empathy of the main character in the movie, John Koffey. I had no idea what I was asking when I prayed that God would use me this way. As is so often the case, He starts answering our prayers by dealing with us first! He wanted me to deal with the pain I was causing others in this world! I soon found that the closer these people were to me, the greater the pain I felt when I offended one of them. Pain is a great teacher. C. S. Lewis wrote,

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ~ C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

At this same time, God started talking to me about really seeking His face. God told Moses, “You can not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20 KJ2000). There had to be somewhere else that God said to seek His face, and I found it in Psalms where David prayed:

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When you said, Seek my face; my heart said unto you, your face, LORD, will I seek. Hide not your face far from me; put not your servant away in anger: you have been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Psalms 27:7-10 KJ2000)

David was a man after God’s own heart and a prophetic type of Christ. Man might not have been able to see God’s face and live in the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant we are called to boldly enter into the Father’s presence as we abide in His Son, Jesus.

 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 RSVA)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. (Ephesians 2:13-16 RSVA)

About four months ago as I pleaded to see our Father’s face, He gave me Isaiah 6:1-7 and this was the part He wanted me to feel:“Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Father told me, “If you want to see me, you must be undone.” I knew that something must be done about my unclean lips. Since then, I have never been so conscious of the words that come out of my mouth and the effect they have on others! I have never felt so much heart pain either! I have cried more in the last four months than I had in my whole life as He has let me experience the pain in the hearts of others. I have become “unhinged”… undone and cry at the drop of a hat. He was answering another longstanding prayer of mine. He was letting me in close to His heart and experience the fellowship of His sufferings.

I have become so sick of the damage my uninspired words were cause others that I have started praying He would take a coal from His altar and put it in my mouth as He did with Isaiah. I am tired of hurting others with my words, especially His “little ones,” those who walk in humility before Him.

To become sons and daughters of God it takes a miraculous work. We must be made into a new creation, and that is what He does. 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 5:17 KJ2000)

There is nothing of that old Adam in us He can use. Paul wrote,

 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:49-50 RSVA)

Over the last ten months God has gone deep in my heart after some bitter root judgments (see Heb. 12:14-15) I have held on to from old wounds in the past. These wounds have kept His love from flowing through me. The process of dealing with this has required the constant working of death in me. I have been going from death to death so that He can spring forth with new life unto life in me. Paul wrote:

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient [capable] for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 RSVA – emphasis added)

Who is sufficient for these things? God is!

 And such trust have we through Christ toward God: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (2 Corinthians 3:4-5 KJ2000)

Paul went on to say that we are:

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:10-12 KJ2000)

Are we willing to let death work in us so that life might abound through us to others? I’ve had to go though a lot of pain and tears, yet I have never felt such intense love for others in my heart as well. I never knew that love could be so painful, yet so rewarding at the same time.

This Thing Called Prayer

Today Father showed me something new about prayer. Luke tells us about Zachariah, John the Baptist’s father.

According to the custom of the priest’s office, his [Zachariah’s] lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the time of incense. (Luke 1:9-10 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

It is interesting that here we see a passage speaking about prayer and incense at the same time. For 35 years my prayer life was in the tank. In 1980 God removed any sense of His presence from me and put me out into a spiritual wilderness. As a result, I quit praying on any regular basis. Prayer that had once been personable, powerful and fulfilling was lost in that wilderness. When I tried to pray the words seem to fall off my lower lip and hit the floor like a “sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.”

But today something happened. He spoke to me about prayer and let me see that our prayers are not just mere waves of energy that go flying by God’s ear at the speed of sound, never to be seen or heard from again. No, just like faith, prayers have substance and are gathered at His altar just as our tears are gathered in His bottle (see Psalm 56:8). A strong sense of peace came over me as He showed me this passage in Revelation:

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire from the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1-5 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

At first I thought prayer and incense were two different things, but then I read David’s words,

Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalms 141:2-3 KJ2000)

Here we not only see prayer as incense before the Lord, but we also have an admonition about every idle word that comes out of our mouths. God tied both of these issues together in the same passage of scripture! In Revelation we see those prayers as incense being hurled back down to the earth to do a work as God has intended. We might not see an answer to our prayers come in the form we had expected, but they are still valuable to Him. When the time is right, He sends them out with His power to accomplish His will.

He had taken me full circle –from the idle words of my mouth that smote my heart as I felt the pain they caused in the hearts of others, to how our prayers are incense to God and something He uses to accomplish His divine will. As I meditated on this fresh revelation, my tears flowed! Prayer has taken on new meaning to me and I feel that its importance has finally been restored to me after 35 years. So Father I pray that you will…

 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 KJ2000)

Discerning the Kingdom of God

Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness_-_James_Tissot_-But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world [kosmos] has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14 RSVA)

Why did Paul emphasize the cross of Christ so much? Because the cross gives us power over the world as it works the death of that old Adam in us that listens to the deception of this world. When we read John’s words about not loving the world or the things of the world, it is good to look at the context of this verse.

“I have written unto you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever. Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; by which we know that it is the last time.” (1 John 2:14-18 KJ2000)

The word translated world is the Greek word kosmos. It can mean the earth and the universe itself, God’s creation, but most often it in the New Testament it means:

1) an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government
6) the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ
7) world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly
7a) the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions)

John went on to write, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world [kosmos] is in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:19-20 RSVA)

There are only two realities for humans on this earth. We are either in the power of the evil one and his kosmos system, or we are in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were of their father the devil, that he was a liar and murder from the beginning, and they would do his works (see John 8:40-44). They proved Him right by having Him killed!

Jesus had an interesting dialogue with Pilate at His trial:

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world [kosmos]; if my kingship were of this world [kosmos], my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world [kosmos].” (John 18:35-36 RSVA)

Jesus said to His disciples, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world [kosmos] is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world [kosmos] may know that I love the Father…” (John 14:30-31 RSVA)

Satan is the ruler of this world and world powers do his bidding, often unconsciously. The Bible speaks of the world [kosmos] and the earth. These words are translated from two different Greek words. Paul wrote,

“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 fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth [Greek – ghay – soil, terrain, the earth]. (Ephesians 1:9-10 RSVA)

Jesus said,

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5 RSVA)

“You are the salt of the earth [ghay]; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. (Matthew 5:13 RSVA)

The earth as God’s creation is not evil. We read in Genesis that He made all things good. Evil is what Satan has done on this earth as he set up his kingdom here to rule over men by his lies and deceptions. It is this kingdom, his kosmos, that is judged and condemned. We are not to be of his kingdom and worldly ruler-ship. The kosmos is not Jesus’ kingdom. This ungodly kingdom of Satan has armies that fight for their sovereigns and do their will. It is all under the wicked one. His princes rule over these principalities. Jesus’ kingdom is one of peace and righteousness, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17 RSVA). The earth is ours to enjoy as it reflects His glory and love for mankind (see Romans 1:20).

In his letter, John is speaking of the kosmos that is under the authority of the Wicked One. We who are mature have overcome the devil. As it is in Christ, the Prince of this kosmos comes and he finds nothing in us that he can use to tempt us. And as John wrote, we who are mature and abide in Christ, “Love not the kosmos, neither the things that are in the kosmos [for] If any man loves the kosmos, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the kosmos, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the kosmos.”

The prince of this kosmos system tempts us through the lust of the eyes, the lust of our flesh, and the pride of life. These were the three things he used to tempt Eve in the garden in the beginning. When she caved in to that temptation, she gave dominion over the earth to him.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6 KJ2000)

There was one other Great Temptation later, and if Satan had succeeded, it would have sealed all our fates. Satan tempted the very Son of God to use His God given powers to do a selfish thing. That worm used these same three temptations on our Lord.

The lust of the flesh: “And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3 RSVA)

The lust of the eyes: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9 RSVA)

The pride of life: “Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:5-6 RSVA). Yes, Jesus, below you are all the temple worshipers. All you have to do is jump off this pinnacle into their midst and float down to earth in their sight and they will all know you are the Son of God and follow you.

Satan has perfected his temptations in these three areas. When we hear him speaking to us to do his will, it will always be in one of these three areas. But the Spirit of God is not about puffing up by our pride and satisfying our fleshly nature, but He is about lifting up Christ and crucifying our carnal natures. This is how we know which spirit is speaking to us.

John went on to say in 1 John 2 that there are many antichrists in the church and you will know them by what they teach. Do they speak of the kosmos of Satan and work to build up their kingdoms with the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life? They do this by preaching worldly power and prosperity, being lifted up before men as “larger than life” leaders, and always falling for “the seven deadly sins”).

In this hour of great deception we who are Christ’s do not need men who seek to draw disciples after themselves teaching us (see Acts 20:29-31)! We need ears that can hear the Holy Spirit, the unction within us. He will lead us into all truth and away from error.

But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4 RSVA – emphasis added)

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth of Germany for inspirations I got as I read her blog article, https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/how-can-we-discern-gods-voice-from-other-voices/#respond )

Growing Into the Fellowship of Christ’s Sufferings

Woman and Jesus

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”~ C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I recently posted this in a comment on another blog and felt the Lord wanted me to share it with you all.

When we suffer pain, God has a purpose in it. First it makes us to turn to Him alone when everything else in our lives has “gone south.” I had to reach the end of myself before I surrendered to Christ in 1970. If He had not come to me when He did, I would have ended my life. He picked me up and gave me His beauty for my ashes, His joy for my mourning, and His praise in my heart for the spirit of depression and suicide.

Then phase two started, God’s child training. After a wonderful honeymoon with Jesus that lasted ten months, the pain started again, but this time it was my Daddy taking me out to the woodshed (see Hebrews ch. 12). I then went through years of church abuse and disillusionment with what calls itself “the church,” because I found it to be the same dysfunctional family that I grew up with. My father was an alcoholic, but this time the booze of choice was power over the people. God had to let me get kicked around in that system until I quit looking to men for what only He could give. Jesus’ words, “Call no man father, teacher or Rabbi (pastor)” finally took on new meaning and scope. Christ was to become my all in all and He shares that place with no man.

More recently another thing has been happening along the lines of what Paul alluded to in his letters. For years I have licked my wounds and felt the pain of what others have done to me, but now He is letting me feel the pain of what I have done (and am doing) to others instead. It is part of “the fellowship of His sufferings” (See Philippians 3:10). Paul said about a healthy body, “when one member suffers, all members suffer.” I rarely saw this in all my years of church going. Most of my life I have been so absorbed in my own pain that I could not feel what I was doing to others and could not feel Jesus’ pain. He stands before the Father ever making intercession for us as our High Priest who is acquainted with our humanity and sufferings in a very real way. He has been making me feel His empathy as well – feeling the pain and sufferings that others are going through whom I have not affected directly. Paul spoke of wanting to “know the fellowship of His sufferings” and “filling up the sufferings of Christ” in himself. This happens when we finally start to walk as He walks upon this earth, and gladly start embracing the pain that death might work in us so that life might abound to others. It is no longer about “our little owie ” any more, but us reaching out beyond our pain in Christ’s love for others because of our love for Him–such a great love that we even want to be conformed to His death.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Love you all,
Michael