Can God Provide a Table in the Wilderness?

Bench at Castle Quarry Overlook

Photo by Susanne Schuberth

Yea, they spoke against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? (Ps 78:19, KJ2000)

And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now late; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; you give them to eat. (Matt 14:15-16, KJ2000)

In the meanwhile his disciples besought him, saying, Teacher, eat. But he said unto them, I have food to eat that you know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, has any man brought him anything to eat? Jesus said unto them, My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (John 4:31-34, KJ2000)

I met a brother while fishing a while back, and when he found out that I’m a believer in Christ, he invited me to join him on Saturday mornings for a “men’s fellowship” he goes to at a local church. He assured me that I would enjoy it and with my knowledge of the Bible would fit right in and be appreciated. He is still young in the Lord and has much to learn when it comes to following the Spirit vs. following men. After inviting me every time he sees me, I finally assured him that I would pray about his invitation and do what the Lord tells me to do and only that.

So, you might be asking what this has to do with the verses that I quoted in the beginning of this blog. This brother and I met on the bank of a lake where there is little sign of man and his doings. Compared to many fishing places, some would call this a wilderness. There are no docks to fish from, no toilet facilities, no picnic tables, no trash cans, and no benches to sit on. We were able to fellowship in the Spirit’s leading without anyone supervising or interrupting our time together. He was amazed. God had prepared a “table” in the wilderness for us. It was totally outside a church setting and he was blessed, yet unwittingly in his immaturity, he wanted to pull what we shared into a place where he was used to getting his spiritual food under the control of a church official.

How many times have you heard church-minded people say that they go to a certain church because they are getting fed there or they are looking for another church to attend because they are not getting fed? As I grew in the Lord, I found myself in that mindset and became less and less content with the food that was provided by men in their religious institutions. The Spirit started leading me to go out into the wilderness to hear the words of my Lord. Because I grew to where I could hear His voice without all the intellects of men interfering, Church people would say, “What church do you attend?” “Did you go to Bible school somewhere?” Or like the disciples they were asking of Jesus, “Has any MAN brought him something to eat?”  When the lame man at the pool was asked by Jesus if he would be made whole he replied, “I have no man…” We are all too focused on men for our provision and because of this we miss out on what God has for us.

Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” and this was HIS food. God can and does prepare for us a table in the wilderness where there are no churches, no fellowship meetings, no Bible schools and none of the things that most religious people relate to for “daily bread” for their hungry souls. This is the way that the Israelites thought in the wilderness (Psalm 78:19) – we doubt that He can speak to us and provide food for our spirits with every word that proceeds from HIS mouth through His Spirit within us. It is just as the prophet warned:

Behold, the days come, says the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. (Amos 8:11-13, KJ2000)

I am reminded of the visible church systems of today compared to His table set for us in the wilderness in the following account about John the Baptist:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zachariah in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-2, KJ2000)

Can you see it? Every person who was considered the world’s authorities in their centers of civilization, the people “in the know” are mentioned here, even the temple high priests in Jerusalem, but the word of God came to John in the wilderness! As we mature in Christ, we will find ourselves being drawn more and more to Him that we might live by every word that proceeds out of His mouth. Our spiritual walk will become more and more isolated from those who “live by bread alone” as He fine-tunes us to hear and obey His voice. Just as John found more than enough “ministry” to do in the wilderness, so did Jesus as the crowds so often followed Him out into the wilderness to hear His words and be healed by Him. As we mature in Christ and obey His leading, we might often find ourselves alone, but God knows how to arrange for us to speak and to do His will when the time is right. Remember, God is more interested in what He wants to put into us than what He stands to get out of us.

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for letting me use her picture of that old hand carved table and benches in the Bavarian woods. Also, thanks to George Davis and the time of sharing we had together this morning when the Spirit made those opening passages from the Bible take on new meaning for me.)

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When We Fellowship Together

Two bucks sparring

Two bucks sparring in the fall. Photo by Michael Clark

Paul admonished the Corinthian church saying,

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. (1Cor 11:17, ESV2011)

Often we take our coming together as members of Christ’s body for granted. Recently when I needed fellowship, the time was spent talking about the things of this world (weather calamities, mass murders, terrorism, politics, etc.) instead of lifting one another up in Christ. I have been as guilty of this as anyone else. I woke up to this fact when I saw the fruit of my words pulling another dear saint down. She was brave enough to tell me about the effect these words were having on her. As I prayed about this, I came across the following excerpt by T. Austin-Sparks, which I later shared with her and apologized.

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” [Acts 2:42]. There is a tremendous means of grace, a tremendous enrichment of Christ in the fellowship of the Lord’s people. I believe the enemy will get believers, when they are together, to talk about anything under the sun rather than about the Lord. It is easy when you meet together with the Lord’s people to be carried off with all kinds of matters of interest and not to begin to talk about the Lord; but if you do there is always an enrichment, always a strengthening, always a building up; it is the Divine way. Fellowship is a means of imparting Christ to the believer. And wherever spiritual fellowship is possible, you and I ought to seek it, look after it, cherish it. There are all too many of the Lord’s children today, who have no chance of spiritual fellowship, and who would give anything to have it. The Lord would have us at least two together. That is His order, and there is something in ministering Christ to one another. There will be something lost unless that is so. These are ways in which we feed upon the Lord. (1)

Fellowship in Christ is necessary–even if it is just two or three gathered together in His name–if we are to grow and prosper in Him. Our times of fellowship should be sought out, nurtured and cherished. We should start out our days in prayer instead of being pulled down into the affairs of this world. Satan will do whatever he can to weaken us so that we are not effective to lift others up and encourage them in the Spirit, and we should not be ignorant of his devices.

I often find that the Spirit can use me to speak to others through a scripture He brings to my mind while we fellowship, but like Peter I can be speaking the very words of God and later in an unguarded moment be speaking for the devil (see Mark 8:27-33). James addressed this very thing.

Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing [Grk. katara – literally “downward prayer” or communications]. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (Jas 3:10-11, KJ2000)

I always thought of this word cursing as something more overtly done with words of anger toward a fellow saint. But as we look at the root meaning of this Greek word, it means any communication that pulls us or others down. How often does both bitter and sweet water come from the fountain in our hearts? This should not be so. Jesus said this to the woman at the well in Samaria:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14, ESV2011)

If we have the Spirit of Christ abiding in us we should always be speaking word of life to one another. As for prayer and how necessary it is to get us on the right track in the Spirit, Sparks went on to explain.

We do feed upon Christ in prayer. To put that in another way, there is an imparting of Himself to His Own in prayer. We may go to prayer in weariness, and rise in freshness; we may go to prayer exhausted, and rise renewed… really seeking the Lord, reaching out, taking hold of the Lord, giving ourselves up to the Lord in prayer, never fails to have renewing, uplifting, strengthening results. You say prayer may wear you out? Yes, but there is a wonderful strength that comes by wearing out prayer. There is vitality given to the spiritual life even in prayer that tires us physically, and we go in the strength of it. Yes, prayer is a way in which Christ is ministered to us by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a way in which we feed upon Christ; He becomes our life. (1)

Prayer, time spent meditating on the scriptures and fellowshipping in the Spirit is what made the early church such a powerful force in spreading the gospel and lifting each other up. Dear saints, may we all do the same.

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001510.html

Fullness IN Christ or Fullness of Iniquity?

Smokey Sunrise over Fernan Lake

Smokey Sunrise Over Fernan Lake, Idaho ~ by Michael Clark

There seems to be no end to the terror, murder and civil unrest that is going on around the world these days we live in. We are watching Syria destroy itself in a civil war, North Korea threaten the United States with nuclear attack and the U.S. government reacting with counter threats. We see thousands of Christians and others being killed and maimed by Islamic terrorists around the world. The murder and crime rate in our American cities is appalling. And just in the last couple days we have seen the civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia end in many injuries and even murder.  How does this measure up to the prophesies about Jesus? For example:

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

This might seem confusing if Christ did not point out that His kingdom would not come with outward manifestations, but would rise within the hearts of those who love Him (See Luke 17:20-21). And what about Jesus’ own prophesy regarding the end?

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matt 24:9-13, KJ2000)

Many, even many would be Christians, are offended with one another, betraying one another and even killing one another as they are coming under the spirit of this age–murder and lawlessness. What is amazing to me is that even so-called preachers are helping to spread this disease with their words. It is easy to see how radical Islamic clerics are fulminating terror and murder using the Koran in the name of Allah against the infidels, but aren’t some of these Christian preachers and teachers doing the same in the name of Christ? As Jesus warned, “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”

With great insight into the workings of God Paul wrote:

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope, Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body. (Rom 8:18-23, KJ2000)

There is much groaning in the pain of childbirth in our hearts as we await the full manifestation of the children of God — those who will be set free from their bondage to their own fleshly corruption and obtain the freedom and glory of the children of God. Father is bringing forth many sons and daughters in the likeness his own glorious Son to manifest His glory. As for the increase of Christ’s kingdom I spoke of earlier, T. Austin- Sparks seems to have summed up what I have been trying to say.

It is a glorious prospect to know that the universe will be filled with Christ, and God is going to have His end. When the Lord gets hold of a life utterly, and when the Cross has really entered into that life, so that that life can say: “I have been crucified with Christ”, nothing passes, nothing gets through that is not Christ. God keeps intensely short accounts with that life. God is alive to everything concerning the first Adam. That is the meaning of: “He that hath the seven spirits of God”. That phrase means the perfection of spiritual vision. Go back to the prophecies of Zechariah and you remember it speaks of “seven eyes”. That means that the Lord Jesus, who has the seven spirits of God, is alive to everything, takes in everything, comprehends everything. Nothing escapes Him. Especially is that perfection of perception related to the things that would be a menace to His ultimate purpose, and in all that we do He knows exactly where the point is which marks the end of what is of Himself and the beginning of us. We do not know, but He does, just where these things overlap, and He is letting nothing pass.

That represents a challenge to us! We have been seeing that God, for His own satisfaction in relation to His own ultimate purpose, must have a candlestick all of gold, a vessel which represents what Christ is in an utter sense, that means a deep cost, a great measure of suffering. That is the challenge which comes to us. Until the Lord reveals it with a heavenly light we do not see how big the difference is between self and Christ. When the Lord does a thing, it is eternal.

Are our hearts set upon God having that which is wholly of Himself? That means ‘I’ crucified! No longer I, but Christ! And that means that Christ in us is the basis of our conformity to His image, until we partake with Him of His own nature – pure gold. It is something to face seriously before Him. It brings to us a challenge, but surely it also brings to us a glorious possibility! What Christ is can be made good in us!

…This is what God is doing in the groaning creation. It does not appear to be so, for to all appearances the ‘fullness’ seems to be evil. Do you remember a very illuminating phrase in Genesis 15:16: “The iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full”? The context shows that Israel’s exodus and occupation of the Promised Land waited upon the Amorite’s full cup of iniquity. “Amorite” is a representative name for all the nations then occupying the land. When that cup of iniquity was full God emancipated Israel. The exodus synchronized with a condition in the world. The filling of the land with what was of God required the enemy’s extension of his evil nature to its limit; then God acted.

We need say no more. The end time will be marked by ‘iniquity abounding’. The rapture of the Church will take place – as its exodus – when “the man of sin is revealed”, when the cup of iniquity is full. We are living at a time when there is a positive landslide of moral iniquity…

God is taking account of this. He is causing the simple facts of His salvation to be made known on a scale unprecedented in the world’s history, and when the whole world has had its opportunity “then shall the end come”. Two things are UNMISTAKABLY evident: the world-encircling by the simple gospel of salvation as never before, and the headlong rush of iniquity to ‘fill up the cup’. There is a third feature: it is the ripening of saints by suffering unto the grape-harvest. These three things are the “work in the groaning creation”. (http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001617.html)

Worth the Fight… Extending Inner Quietness

Very good, Susanne. To know quietness within as only Christ can give in the midst of chaos, THAT is a miracle. “Peace I give unto you…peace that surpasses all understanding.” Again it is the refining in less than ideal circumstances that God uses to work His Son’s life in us.

Entering the Promised Land

Last week I felt a strong nudge to get closer to God and to let go of more and more, partly self-imposed, duties. As a woman, you might know how difficult it is to get rid of old habits and of letting go to care for others (more than they really need it) in order to meet EVERY expectation perfectly. I have also been used to care for my body daily and I sensed that my exhausting workouts tend to make my life more and more burdened. However, I could not get rid of swimming ‘the English Channel’, so to speak. 😉 I do know that I am no longer twenty or thirty and therefore I had begun to take at least one break during the day some years ago. Mostly after dinner I spend time in bed praying. Admittedly, sometimes I fall asleep because of exhaustion. 😉

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Life’s Clouds

 

Morning Clouds on Fernan Lake – Photo by Michael Clark

Both Sides Now

by Joni Mitchell

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

 

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

 

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

 

(…)

 

But now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

 

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all…

 

Have you ever thought that if you just prayed, listened to God and obeyed, everything would go smoothly for you? That all your clouds would be “ice cream castles in the air” and so much “angel hair”? In my past I had Christian leaders I submitted to because they taught me that if I just obeyed everything they commanded, everything would turn out just fine in my life. Yet, I can look back now and see the many shipwrecked lives of those who submitted to these leaders without question. Only God is worthy of such devotion and He has given us His Spirit to lead us into all truth. The rest springs from idolatry. This is what John was warning the church about when he wrote:

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1John 2:26-27, ESV2011)

I must have put this “formula for success,” following men instead of the Spirit, over on my relationship with God along the way.  But as I have grown older He has been teaching me that obedience to Him is not always a comfortable road to follow. Often our clouds in life rain and snow on us and even block the sun, leaving us in darkness at the most inopportune times.

Do you remember the story where Jesus commanded the disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side of the lake? A great storm came up while they were out in the middle, trying to obey. The wind was blowing contrary to them and making it impossible to go where Jesus told them to.

Immediately he made [constrained] the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. (Matt 14:22-25, ESV2011)

About this event Oswald Chamber wrote,

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God. (1)

As Joni Mitchell wrote, “But now old friends they’re acting strange. They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed. Well something’s lost, but something’s gained.  In living every day.” The process of His Son being worked in us is the goal as far as our Father is concerned (Hebrews 12:11), not pleasing people or even pleasing ourselves. He shows us His Son, calmly walking toward us on the raging sea of our lives, if we will just look beyond the immediate effect of the storm on our little boat. Our boat is not our salvation. Christ is! The Christian life is not all about us and our comfort zone. In fact, we must have trials and storms in our lives to get us to look to Jesus only. The goal is to get us to look beyond all the stuff of life, learn from it, and see Jesus as all that we need.

Chambers continues:

God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious. (1)

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined. (Isa 9:2, KJ2000) “God’s goal for us is not to do, but to be.” – Dorothy Clark

(1) “My Utmost for His Highest” July 27

Beware of Vipers!

paul and viper.jpegPaul wrote that we should not be ignorant of Satan’s devices. Many of us who have come out of organized Christianity have had to learn about his divisive ways in the process of sorting out all the false teachings we absorbed in that system from the voice of the Spirit in us. As we know, Satan can quote scripture to accomplish his twisted goals and vipers are of the very nature of the Great Serpent we must deal with. Jesus called the Pharisees (who often quoted scriptures) a “brood of vipers” as they tried to tempt Him with their logic.

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (Matt 12:34-35, ESV2011)

There is a very instructive story about how vipers work in what happened to Paul when they were shipwrecked on the island of Malta.

And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Malta. And the native people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the natives saw the creature hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice allows not to live. And he shook off the creature into the fire, and felt no harm. However they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:1-6, KJ2000)

When we are the weakest and struggling to maintain our lives, as it was with Paul, is when Satan likes to sneak in and fasten himself to us and inject his spirit-life-killing lies into our hearts. During these times, there have been those who have shown us kindness and kindled a fire in our hearts with their words. But there is another creature that often comes in. Evidently Paul had picked up this snake with the sticks he had gathered for the fire and even had clutched them to his breast, but because of the cold, the snake did not act until he felt the warmth of the fire. False Christians who harbor demons in their natures are like that. These demons can be dormant until they feel the warmth of the Spirit and then they spring into action and fasten themselves onto a saint of God in a moment of weakness. What should be our response when this happens? Should we listen to, cajole, and try to save these demons from their folly? No! Jesus didn’t give the Pharisees any quarter when they spoke their venomous words and neither should we. We should do just as Paul did and shake them off into the fire least they continue to inject their poison into us and draw us away from the path of Christ, the way of the cross.

It is interesting to note that part of the effect of a viper’s poison is to make us swell up with pride if we take its words to heart. When the gracious islanders saw this attack they, too, were confused and took Paul for an evil man, but when he didn’t swell up or die they started to idolize him. Carnal Christians are like these Maltese. They are easily moved by every wind of doctrine. On the one hand, they might want to make us their spiritual gurus because of God speaking through us, but on the other hand they turn and walk away when they see that our hearts are fixed on following Jesus even unto death. This is how the crowds treated Christ and it’s what Paul was talking about when he wrote this:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 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 for these things? (2Cor 2:14-16, ESV2011)

Yes, who is sufficient for these things? Our sufficiency must be in Christ.

(I would like to thank Susanne Schuberth for her latest blog entry from which God used to inspire me for this article. https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/beware-of-jobs-false-friends/ )