Living without an Agenda of Our Own

jesus_washing_feetYesterday my wife and I went to a gathering of saints at one of their homes. We had known these brothers and sister since about 1970. Over the years since Jesus first knit us together we have all gone different ways and have had many different experiences in churches and life as a whole. It was really good to just come together as God’s family with no one having an agenda in mind. How often in the past I have seen Christians come together not for the best, but for the worst. When we tried to come together and it seemed that somebody (even me) had an agenda to see something happen or to get our point across and it ruined the whole time. Resting in Jesus’ presence in each one of us made all the difference, yesterday, and it was from there that HE was able to speak and act according to HIS will among us. What a difference it made.

Personal agendas can be a deadly thing in the family of God. Jesus did not live by HIS own agenda. He lived by every word that proceeded from the mouth of His Father. This was His bread (see John 4:7-32). He only did the works that He saw His Father doing. He rested in the will of the Father and in so doing He was without sin. He truly walked by faith all the days of His life right up until the night He was to go to the cross. It was then He prayed, “Father, I would that this cup pass from me… never the less, not my will, but yours be done.” He would not slip into His own will or agenda even to save His own life.

All too often we get together with other Christians with a mind to “minister” to them. We have an agenda to “strut our stuff” and impress others or convince them instead of just relaxing and being members one of another in Christ’s body. I am getting where I hate that word, “ministry,” but there was a time that it was all I could think about. This word “minister” and its derivatives were used in the KJV instead of being properly translated, “to serve,” “servant” or “service” as one who waits on tables. Jesus’ disciples didn’t get it, either. Right up until the end they were arguing over who would be first in Christ’s new kingdom government. He had to finally show them by example that leadership in His kingdom is nothing more than servant-hood and laying down ones life for others. He was a Servant in all ways. Even at the last supper where He stripped Himself of his garments, wrapped Himself in a servant’s towel and washed each of their feet. After He was finished He said to them,

“You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:13-17 RSVA)

Brothers and sisters, let us love and serve one another without an agenda other than to be obedient to the Father in all humility. God is love and love seeks not its own. Only as we abide in His rest will we hear His voice. Remember God’s warning to Israel,

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength. But you would not, (Isaiah 30:15 AMP)

Let us love one another in deed and in truth, preferring and encouraging one another in all things.

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35 comments on “Living without an Agenda of Our Own

  1. Scarlett says:

    Of a truth dear brother, we could serve the Lord, (and each other) better by “doing less, and loving more”, even in our so called “ministries and fellowships”. For when man begins to scheme, (agendas), the Lord is not in it.
    Little children, after all, have no agendas…

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    • Scarlett,
      In this nation of self-willed doers, the concept of obedience through resting in the Father escapes us. All too often we equate obedience with doing. I think that this is the reason that the Spirit is not moving in a great revival at this time. He can not revive flesh. Or as Jesus put it, “The flesh profits nothing.” In Hebrews we read, “They who have entered into His rest have ceased from their own labors… labor, therefore, to enter into His rest.” We have so much forward momentum that it is a lot of effort to stop this habit of doing things “for God” and then expecting HIM to bless them. In quietness and rest we will posses (control) our souls. We need to come to a full stop and wait for HIM to move and move with Him and let the Shepherd go out before us and call us by name. Like you said, an important part of that is “loving more.” Love for others must be the motivating power given us by God before we act, not religion.
      Thanks for your input, dear sister.

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  2. Scarlett says:

    “I think that this is the reason that the Spirit is not moving in a great revival at this time. He can not revive flesh.”

    Yes, God forbid! Why would he want to? That which is dead…is dead. It was interesting that the Lord Jesus said, “let the dead bury the dead, but you come follow me”. Do you suppose this lack of quickening is why we see few people healed, and none, (that we know of), being raised from the dead as during Jesus walk on earth and in the early primitive believers? Just a thought……

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    • Scarlett,
      Interesting tie-in on your part… the flesh, dead religion burying the dead and Jesus command, “come and follow me.” It reminds me of something else He said about the dead religious order of 2000 years ago, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”(Matthew 15:13-14 KJ2000) Leave them alone, blind leading the blind, dead burying the dead… divinely appointed ditches… you come and follow me. Somebody said that a rut is a grave with both ends kick out… a ditch. Leaving the endless grave of dead religious order must happen if we are to follow Him… leaving it all behind, counting it as less than dung except for the excellent and intimate knowing relationship with our Lord.

      As for the impotency of the church today in the face of sickness and death, Jesus answered your question well saying, “No man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or cling to one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and Mammon.” A leader of an early Catholic order named Dominic was in Rome, seeking authorization for his order from the Pope, the Pope gave him a tour of the treasures of the Vatican, and remarked complacently (referring to Acts 3:6), “Peter can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.'” Dominic turned and looked straight at the Pope, and said, “No, and neither can he say, ‘Rise and walk.'”

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      • Scarlett says:

        “A leader of an early Catholic order named Dominic was in Rome, seeking authorization for his order from the Pope, the Pope gave him a tour of the treasures of the Vatican, and remarked complacently (referring to Acts 3:6), “Peter can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” Dominic turned and looked straight at the Pope, and said, “No, and neither can he say, ‘Rise and walk.’”

        Oh, I have often thought of that story. I wonder if it really happened? If it did, Dominic should have thought twice about seeking the Pope’s “authorization” for his order…or anything else for that matter.

        Nevertheless, it is a fact, that the Pope cannot say, “Rise and walk”. Nor does he bear any resemblance to Peter.

        There is a great lesson to be learned and pondered on in this story.

        Who taught Peter that he could say with confidence, “Rise and walk” to the crippled man, and have the power of the Holy Spirit to back up his words, and make it happen? Jesus, of course…our lovely Master.

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  3. Scott Peck said all this another way in his books A world waiting to be born and A different Drum where he talks about the stages of true community. ! Pseudo nice, 2 trying to heal, teach, convert change, the other, 3 letting go all those agendas 4 the Spirit of true community comes and all these things happen, the difference being that it is God Who does it , not us. I too, hate the word ministry and all it conveys.

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    • Sandra, I looked this up on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._Scott_Peck#The_Four_Stages_of_Spiritual_Development) and found the following which is pretty close to my own experience in perusing the truth that is to be found in the Son of God.

      The Four Stages of Spiritual Development

      Peck postulates that there are four stages of human spiritual development:

      Stage I is chaotic, disordered, and reckless. Very young children are in Stage I. They tend to defy and disobey, and are unwilling to accept a will greater than their own. They are extremely egoistic and lack empathy for others. Many criminals are people who have never grown out of Stage I.
      Stage II is the stage at which a person has blind faith in authority figures and sees the world as divided simply into good and evil, right and wrong, us and them. Once children learn to obey their parents and other authority figures, often out of fear or shame, they reach Stage II. Many so-called religious people are essentially Stage II people, in the sense that they have blind faith in God, and do not question His existence. With blind faith comes humility and a willingness to obey and serve. The majority of good, law-abiding citizens never move out of Stage II.
      Stage III is the stage of scientific skepticism and questioning. A Stage III person does not accept things on faith but only accepts them if convinced logically. Many people working in scientific and technological research are in Stage III. They often reject the existence of spiritual or supernatural forces since these are difficult to measure or prove scientifically. Those who do retain their spiritual beliefs, move away from the simple, official doctrines of fundamentalism.
      Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature and existence. While retaining skepticism, he starts perceiving grand patterns in nature and develops a deeper understanding of good and evil, forgiveness and mercy, compassion and love. His religiousness and spirituality differ significantly from that of a Stage II person, in the sense that he does not accept things through blind faith or out of fear, but does so because of genuine belief, and he does not judge people harshly or seek to inflict punishment on them for their transgressions. This is the stage of loving others as yourself, losing your attachment to your ego, and forgiving your enemies. Stage IV people are labeled as Mystics.

      My stage one lasted until I was about 22, then I found Christ in a very real way and by that time I was tired of the fruit of my rebellion. It was then that I submitted blindly to authority in the church and ended up in many ditches as I followed many blind guides. Stage three for me was a time of withdrawing from Christendom and my former ways of blindly following its leaders and digging deeply into the scriptures for myself and no longer taking anyone else teaching at face value. I KNEW that something was stinking in what called itself, “Christianity,” and wanted to know where the wheels fell off the wagon for it was not what Jesus put in motion 2000 year ago. This brought forth in me a lot of criticism of everything “Christian” today. It also was a time of being very judgmental and often unforgiving until I saw the folly in that as well. I am now in stage four and have a place in my heart for those in the other stages of spiritual development, though I have no desire to ever go back under the authoritarianism that is so prevalent in Christendom where stage two people gather. I have found that there is only ONE Shepherd and one flock and that is where I want to be found, walking in HIS love and forgiveness toward all men. Call me a “mystic” in process.

      Thanks, Sandra, for sharing this. Hopefully we will continue to encourage one another to pursue our high callings IN Christ Jesus and the perfection that is ours IN the Son.

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      • Thanks for folowing up on this Michael. My experience of my spiritual journey was similar to yours in the stages I went through. However, the process I was referring to in Scott’s writings were the ones that said in a different way what you were writing on above, that of entering our rest and stopping trying to do God’s work for Him. They are the four stages of community building and they have been really important for me to understand what is going on when there is conflict.ie, someone has an agenda. Stage 3 is where we let go our agendas and he describes it as agonising, well dying to anything is isn’t it? Especially our agendas!

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      • Sandra, (see what my answered about the stages to Scarlett in this thread, dated Feb. 12th) Yes, dying to our own ideas of what is best and our own agendas is hard. But the cross Jesus has tailor-made for each of us to carry is designed to get us beyond ourselves until we find ourselves IN the Son and it suffices us. It is there that we quit trying to be the savior and judge of the world and start seeing each person the way God sees them from His place of rest. It is as we are overwhelmed with His great love poured out on us that we become instruments (conduits if you will) of the same to all. It is an exchanged life… the selfish life of the first Adam for totally selfless life of the Last Adam. Thanks again for sharing your journey and discoveries with us.

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      • Scarlett says:

        Michael, I would like to hear more on this subject if you would kindly break it down a bit more. I have seen this pattern of stages you describe in my own walk, and have been trying by the grace of God in his patience and longsuffering with me, to bring me out of Stage 3. It’s like I phase in and then out of Stage 4 at times, and then back into Stage 3, (if that makes sense).

        Also, would you be willing to share your thoughts on Stage 5?
        As you probably know, this stage of the mystic, has been very misunderstood, and maligned, and most recently brought under near condemnation because of so much discussion about “Contemplative Prayer”, etc; to the extent that many Christians have hesitated to reach beyond the word of scriptures for inspiration. And seem to think of mystics and mysticism as an evil that should be avoided.

        It has been my understanding that the definition of a mystic, is that of one who is on direct communion with God. In the sense of the Christian, I fail to see that should be a problem or out of the realm of possibility, (or attainment)
        for any true believer.

        Blessings,
        Scarlett

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      • Scarlett, The challenge is how to explain in few words what I have been allowed to see so far. These “four stages” that this man wrote about were his observation, as a councilor, of people as they matured in life. He went on to say that these are not four fixed steps that are progressed into without a lot of flopping back and forth in the process. This “four stages of development” is a man’s attempt to put in words what happens as Father attempts to grow us up into full sons and daughters of God IN Christ. The trouble with “stages” being defined is that a person can take them and start plugging everyone they know into one of them instead of seeing that it is the Father who is the change agent and that we are all on the journey into His kingdom. We know one thing for sure and that is that “the increase of HIS government [kingdom], there will be no end.” Who knows how many “stages” that the Father might see for us all? We once thought that saying a sinner’s prayer and “getting saved” from hell was the goal. Then someone pointed out that Jesus sent us His Spirit to abide in us and we got “spirit filled” and we thought that we REALLY arrived then! Then somebody showed us that we are called to walk as the sons and daughters of God and we then saw that SONSHIP was the goal of God for us and we who thought of ourselves, as “sons of God,” were pretty special and we got our noses in the air about that! Pride comes before a fall and it was back to “stage one” we went.
        This “stage three” he describes is a hard one to get out of, because in an attempt to find out where the wheels fell off the church that once turned the wold upside down, we search the scriptures and get “ammunition” against the stage two overlords in the church who call us “rebels.” And in so doing we make ourselves judges and not servants. For me a big step in the right direction was to get my eyes off the wounds I and others have received and off “the church” and put them back on Jesus who is the Author AND the Finisher of our faith and all points in between! In both stage two and stage three way too much time is spent focusing on “the church.” And somehow we live as if it was up to us to “build His church” and keep it on track. It’s not.
        Jesus didn’t die on the cross so WE could take His place! He is the Head and we are all members of HIS body, not the church bodies we are building.

        I think it was when the Spirit showed me Jesus words regarding false teachers where he called them “blind guides” that I saw the purpose of divinely appointed ditches for the spiritually blind. Blind people need blind guides and blind guides need blind people to follow them. God knows how to move all of us along, blind or not. I finally got my eyes off of them and back on Jesus and let the ditches do their work. He said, “leave them alone.” Ditches are great teachers for those who follow blind guides. I had to wake up in the bottom of a few spiritual ditches with effluent up to my nose before I quit letting men take His place in my life as the Head of the Church and realized that HIS sheep follow HIS voice and not the voice of the hireling and the strangers. I finally got my idolatrous eyes off of men and quit searching for “Pastor Wonderful.” Yes, I did for a time get my eyes on the problem… tares sown among the wheat, but I finally got them back on the Lord where I started so many years ago.

        I think that “stage four” is where we can be objective about all the stages of men and keep our eyes on Jesus as our Shepherd and truly pray for those trapped in the other stages, “Father, do what you must to move them into a fuller walk with your Son.” We can leave it at that without any feelings of superiority, or anger but rather finding ourselves humbled by the vision of the Son of God whom we follow.

        Remember in John’s revelation of the Son of God. He spent the first three chapters looking at the churches as Jesus showed them to him and I am sure it was very disheartening. Just when it looked like the worst had happened, he saw a church that had Jesus locked outside its doors while they were feeling complete and smug inside without Him. BUT just then the scene changes and John hears a voice and he turned form that closed door system to see an open door in the heavens and a voice calling him saying, “Come up here and I will show you things.” Sister, that is what we must do if we are to go on. It is not a horizontal call, but rather an upward call out of this world and the mess into the Father’s house that we might be where Christ is, ONE with the Father and the Son. Will He still use us to reach out to the others? Yes, but only as we abide and rest in the Son at the right hand of the Father and are filled with His eternal love for them. It is then that we can say, “For me to live is Christ” even among all those other stages of people He sends us to.

        Hope this helps, for I am still on the journey myself.
        Your brother and servant,
        Michael

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      • kevin says:

        Micheal, thanks for all your posts today. they really “ministered” to me.

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      • You are welcome, my brother! Thanks for letting me know.
        Michael

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  4. Carina says:

    Very true. More often than not, we find pastors and ministers who have a vision of their “ministry” that consists of the concepts they learned at seminary + their own ideas of what they’re good or interested at. They pray a bit and decide those ideas are God’s. And then they fiercely suppress any questioning voice as opposition. Any doubt expressed outloud amounts to murmuring and touching the Lord’s anointed.

    We’ve recently suffered just another disappointment. A pastor we considered very Christ-centered, balanced, biblical, showed a controlling side we couldn’t have foreseen when we first joined his church. When we started to attend less, he began to “worry” about the condition of our souls, but the way he comes across when he speaks to us, it seems he’s more concerned about proving that he’s right than about helping us work through our doubts and disagreements. His strategy is not the meek and loving servant entreating us with love to come back to the fold but rather the overbearing Bible-thumper trying to scare us into submission. My husband wanted to find biblical arguments to counteract his, but the way our interviews go, this person hardly listens to any concept that is outside of the box of his religious background. So we’ve decided to not meet in person, and, in a brief phone conversation just tell him God has shown us this is not the place for us.

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    • Carina, many of us have been down this path on our way finding that only Jesus is the Good Shepherd and all the rest are either strangers or hirelings at best. When a man thinks he is above correction and being a simple brother with the saints of God because he has a title or degree he ceases to be part of the body of Christ and becomes something that is not of the New Covenant in the humility of Christ. Jesus put it this way,

      “And Jesus called them [the disciples] to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 RSVA)

      Carina, remember that even David had understood the nature of the kingdom of God when he wrote, “The LORD is my Shepherd…” Jesus made it clear in John chapter ten. There is only ONE Mediator between God and man. I hope you prayerfully read John ch. ten again.

      Love IN Christ,
      Michael

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      • Gordon Fee had a series of tapes we just relistened to last week. He talked of two circles, that of the ‘leaders’ and that of the ‘others’. He made the point that we all need to be in the same circle as brothers and sisters, whether we are in ‘leadership’ or not, hence his violent attack on people calling themselves by a title that really only describes a function the person is fulfilling. His point was that as soon as we label ourselves something, eg pastor, we are putting ourselves in another circle above the rest.

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      • Sandra, thanks so much for sharing this. I love this illustration you shared. Even that often trumpeted passage in Ephesians 4:11 is not one of elevating “five privileged offices,” but one of functions of servanthood in the body of Christ. I have often been uses to teach, once in a while to bring others to THE Shepherd, been sent forth a time or two to the saints of God, spoken a word of prophecy on occasion and so on. Am I a teacher, No for the Spirit of God is THE Teacher and didn’t Jesus say, “Call no MAN, teacher” and that the Comforter would lead us into ALL truth”? Am I a shepherd? No, There is one Shepherd and one flock. Am I a prophet? Yes and no, we all are and all who speak under the influence of the Spirit prophesy (see Acts 2:17 and 1 Cor. 14:31). Am I an apostle? No, God sent me out as His emissary, but it is Christ who is the Apostle of our faith.

        The whole context of chapter four is about the whole body of Christ:

        I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you [the whole church] that you walk worthy of the vocation by which you are called, (Ephesians 4:1 KJ2000)

        Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3 KJ2000) Unity, not division by hierarchy.

        There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 KJ2000) What part of ONE and ALL don’t we understand?

        But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Ephesians 4:7 KJ2000) EVERYONE OF US!

        Therefore he says, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Ephesians 4:8 KJ2000) A few privileged men? NO, ALL MEMBERS OF CHRIST’S BODY.

        Then there is a curious shift in the flow of the text speaking of ALL, EVERYONE, the unity and gifts of God IN US ALL…
        “And he gave SOME, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:11 KJ2000)
        The word translated “some” is the Greek word ho. It is the definite article and most often translated “the”. The same word is used in John one, “It the beginning was THE Word…” Who is THE Teacher? Who is THE Apostle? Who is THE Prophet? Who is THE Evangelist? Who is THE Shepherd? Who is THE Teacher. Sorry all you so-called five-folders, but Jesus has already filled the job so you can go back to being one of us in His ONE body.

        These manifestations of Jesus called “gifts unto men” have one purpose…

        “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry [servanthood], for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we ALL come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13 KJ2000 – emphasis added) There is that word ALL again!

        Remember Jesus’ words to the disciples, And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 RSVA)

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  5. Scarlett says:

    “God has shown us this is not the place for us.”

    Amen, and he did, didn’t he Carina? He always does when we are paying attention to Him over and above what man made doctrines consist of.
    Praise Jesus, who received his doctrines from the Father,

    “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
    He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” John 7: 17-18

    So, was this man-pastor seeking God’s will and glory…or his own, and his position as pastor?

    He “worried” about the conditions of your souls as you attended less? Never considering that he may have been part of the reason why?

    After all, who is our Savior, and master…as well as the author and finisher of our faith? It is Jesus, not man. His Grace is sufficient to bring us through, even though some may not think so if we depart their false authority.

    Jesus bless you and your husband, dear sister.

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    • Carina says:

      I’ve asked myself all these questions in the brief time we attended that place. At the wooing period, when we were still in the process of leaving the previous place, it was all perfect. No pressures at all. The first month or two of official membership, it was like a honeymoon period, still a lot of support and help, all very impressive. But then he started to come down on my husband because of certain unresolved issues (my husband has had employability problems all his working life, now he’s 47 and it’s not exactly easy for him), making us feel guilty with his judgmentalism, telling us if the problem hadn’t been solved in 10 years of being Christians, it was surely our fault. That’s when my husband began to withdraw emotionally. Not that this man wasn’t partly right in his conclusions. But the way he stated his ideas was… well, a bit aggressive. And then he began to attempt to micromanage our lives in that respect. He wanted my husband to join a company another brother had created on HIS advice and which was very successful. But repairing air conditioners has no relevance to my husband’s talents nor interests, and we were pretty sure that was not the Lord’s will for him. (Now we know why the Lord said NO to that job.) To this day, he insists my husband should have taken that job EVERY time we meet, by stressing how successful this brother is.

      And yes, Scarlett, what turns me off the most is the absolute certainty he has that he’s 100% right, has made very few mistakes if any and has our best interests at heart. He can quote all the proper verses about true service and has no clue that he’s lording it over others the way the Lord forbade. But then again, I think most pastors are like that. They have NO idea of how they’re hurting the sheep by assuming an authority the Lord never wanted them to have in the first place. I don’t mean there shouldn’t be any pastors in true church, but they are undershepherds, not overlords.

      The religious spirit is very dangerous. Extremely difficult to discern when you have it. It makes you accept the impressions you receive in your soul (whether they come from the flesh, the world or the devil) as coming from the Holy Spirit. It drowns out the voice of God and the warnings of discerning people.

      Now, to be honest, I’m at the cynical stage. I feel I have backslidden, for the most part. I have to learn to relate with God outside of the walls of religion, and realize I’ve had little relationship with Christ outside that human-mediation. I’m a bit bitter, perhaps a bit angry with God, very disappointed, sad. The temptation is to blame God and tune Him out. I suppose many of you have been at that stage. Any words to help?

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      • Carina,
        I can see how that a man over a system that is dependent on money and lots of it would be putting the pressure on your husband to get a job. In our American culture, when there is a choice between Mammon and Christ, Mammon always wins. This is why it is so important to be set free of what Jesus called “the world” if we are to follow Christ. I know of a brother who turned down a high paying job because God told him not to take it. Well the pastor of their mega-church in Seattle convinced his wife that he was insane and needed to be committed. With his signature and hers they put the poor guy in a mental ward for six months. She finally came around to seeing that it was totally unjust and got him released, but it caused a deep wounding in this man and he now stays clear of the church systems of men.

        These men take church growth classes and seminars on how to “grow churches.” The are taught to be careful and not let “their churches” become loaded up with “high maintenance” people and to target the demographic that has the most income so that they have plenty of resources to build their churches with. Once the “church” became associated with the need for buildings and offices as well as officials, the world system way of thinking took hold and money and wealth became its idol and the poor and outcast ceased to be of interest to it. To easily see what is wrong with what calls itself “the church” today all we have to do is look at Jesus and who He surrounded Himself with… the multitudes. The very Greek word translated “multitude” is very revealing.
        Thayer Definition:
        ὄχλος
        ochlos
        1) a crowd
        1a) a casual collection of people
        1a1) a multitude of men who have flocked together in some place
        1a2) a throng
        1b) a multitude
        1b1) the common people, as opposed to the rulers and leading men
        1b2) with contempt: the ignorant multitude, the populace
        1c) a multitude
        1c1) the multitudes, seems to denote troops of people gathered together without order

        Oh, how this differs from today’s church building mentality. Just where in the New Testament did Jesus or the apostles command men to go out and build buildings to meet in? Where did He tell them to go out and demand a salary from those they served? If money was donated it was immediately distributed back to those among them in need. When a multitude followed Jesus out into the wilderness and they were becoming weak from lack of food He told the disciple that THEY were to feed them. They were NOT commanded to take their twelve baskets and take up a great offering! Jesus was so impressed with the need for money that He gave the money bag over to a known thief! And he told them to NOT store up treasures here on earth where thieve break in, but what do we have today? We have church alarm system, security guards, burglary safes, armored car pick-ups, you name it. It is no different than corporate America and getting gain has become more important than the souls of men and meeting the needs of the destitute.

        Sister, in short, hirelings (those who tend sheep for money) are NOT shepherds. I end with Paul’s words:

        Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate.
        (2 Thessalonians 3:6-9 RSVA)

        Like

      • I can identify with you Carina. I also went through all those stages of being cynical. The only truth I could hold for about a year when I first left the church institution was ‘The Lord is My Shepherd” and “He is worthy of praise” They were the only two things I was sure enough in to believe! It’s a process and we need to be very gentle with ourselves as the emotions come and go and rest in this process as in any other and let God be God and not try to get ourselves straightened out. He leads us into an wonderful place eventually that is so focussed on Him and His Grace that all the other seems like fluff and bubble.
        Bless you. You are not alone!!

        Like

  6. Mia says:

    Dear Michael
    What I find so incredibly charming and beautiful about our dearest Lord Jesus is that as the Son of Man, He not for once used His divine powers as the Son of God but willingly laid it down to allow our Pappa to be the dynamic and life behind everything He did. And He is still the only Person that is still able to do that. Oh, the joy when we realize that the only “work” we need to do to do the “works” of God, is to be receptive to His ability and to allow Him to do in, through and as us as we learn to just rest in Him. He is the dynamic behind His demands, the love in our hearts that just overflow to others. He really spoke so much truth when He said that unless we allow Him to wash our feet, we cannot follow Him. God does what He does, because He Is who He is. He does everything out of Himself, Ek Theos. Jesus is the servant behind the servanthood of the leader in us, as us and through us. We can only respond to His ability to in us.
    Blessings XX
    Mia

    Like

    • Dear Mia,

      So good to hear from you. What you shared was like a bright light coming on in me. Yes, Jesus was the Son of Man and limited Himself to the confines of this manhood and took on the form of a servant. You bring up an important point, it was the Father working through Him that did the works. He made that clear. It was not Jesus as the Son of God acting with all the power that that title entails from which He functioned. Amazing! He could have shifted over to the other and turned stones into bread, cast Himself down off the pentacle of the temple and not been harmed, taken possession of all the kingdoms of the world and caved into the last temptation and call downs legions of angels to deliver Him from the hands of evil men, but He didn’t. He only moved as the Father moved and spoke as He heard the Father speak. Why did He do this? To show us the way of God’s Sonship that we might do the same once we received the Spirit. Too many have taken the Spirit and the principle of sonship to be a license to act in God’s power without waiting for God to act or speak and this has been used by the devil to turn people away from Christ. Look at all the division this has caused.
      Yes, resting IN Him is the key to obedience, not getting out ahead of Him and trying to impress people with our powers. Like Jesus said, The works are the Father’s works and He has foreordained them from the foundation of the world that we should walk in them.

      Love you IN the Son, my sister!

      Michael

      Like

  7. Al Nelson says:

    Reblogged this on Last Days of the Age and commented:
    Something important to consider as we move forward in Christ. It is His will and agenda. Not ours. Let us drop our own flesh and expectations and look to Him alone. Then there will be peace.

    Like

  8. Pat Orr says:

    Abraham looked for a city whose builder and maker is God. So do we. However, as I have read the yearnings of the saints and precious comments that you, Michael, and the others have made, I am reminded that we long to enter into His rest – not just visit it occasionally.

    Like

    • Pat, I agree fully. This longing in us to stay in His rest is an answer to Jesus prayer,

      “And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
      (John 17:22-24 KJ2000)

      Jesus is in the Father’s seventh day rest. He was and is the Lord of the Sabbath and never left that rest. He prayed that we also would be where HE is, in that rest with the Father and the Son. As we cease from our own labors we can enter into HIS rest. Does this mean inactivity on our part? Not at all, any more than Jesus was inactive on this earth. We rest IN Him and only do the works that HE originates in and through us. This might require us learning to do nothing at all “Christian” for some time until we learn the difference.

      There is a difference between living works and dead works. All living works are given life by the Father. Just as we had to be born of the Spirit so must our works. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Doing dead works apart from Him is the same as doing nothing in the economy of God’s kingdom. Whatever is not born of faith is sin. I had to come to the place that I would rather never do another “good work” than do another dead work that had not been born of the Father.

      Let us therefore fear, lest, although a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it… For we who have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spoke in a certain place of the seventh day in this way, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. (Hebrews 4:1-4 KJ2000)

      Pat, I struggled with this for years. I reasoned, “What will I have to show the Lord on judgment day that can prove to Him that I am a Christian. I have to do some good work, I have to go out and get people saved!” Salvation by grace alone is an insult to the flesh. Notice in the above passage that the works of God were finished from the foundation of the world! Jesus hung on the cross and His final words were, “It is finished!” He did not say, “It has just begun!” We rest in the finished works of God.

      The difference between the Son of Man and the Son of God escapes most of us because we know Jesus by both titles. He was the Son of God and had all the privileges and power power of God available to Him as such. BUT He lived before men as the Son of Man. Finding Himself in the form of a man He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but He humbled Himself and took on a human form, not as a king, but the form of a lowly servant and was obedient unto death. You might be saying, “What is your point?” It escaped me for all these years. As the Son of Man He could only do the works that He saw the Father doing and He could only speak the words He heard the Father saying… as an obedient Son He was totally dependent on the will of the Father. If He had dared to live as the Son of God, He could have turned a stone into bread when He was hungry, thrown Himself off the pentacle of the temple in front of everyone and not been hurt and removed all doubt that HE was the Son of God “least He dash His foot against the stone.” As the Son of God He could have taken immediate control over all the kingdoms of the world from the hands of Satan and finally, He could have called down legions of angels to save Him from the hands of sinful men, but He was obedient as the Son of Man even to the death of the cross. And because of this obedience to the Father in the form of a man, HE showed us the way to true sonship as His called-out sons and daughters of God. This truth gives depth to why Paul prayed, “That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings and be conformed to His death.” Obedience… living IN the plan of God instead of trying to make it happen, by His grace.

      Love you, my sister.

      Like

  9. Ken Burgess says:

    Michael,

    A great message. I just needed to let you know that Mike Messer called me a few minutes ago and we had a short but wonderful time of fellowship in the Lord. I private messaged him and sent him my email and cell number. What a precious brother! Thank you for sharing him with me. Truly the body is coming together one piece at a time. But coming together in Him it is.

    I am you brother,

    Ken

    Like

    • Ken, Mike is a true New Covenant son of God and knows the fiery trials that purify HIS priesthood. God doesn’t spoil His kids. Good thing or we wouldn’t be able to stand one another, much less see such God given treasures in one another’s hearts. I treasure what He has done in you, my brother.

      Michael

      Like

  10. Scarlett says:

    Michael, in response to your last message to me, first I want to thank you. It’s been a couple of days…sometimes I have to do a bit of thinking before responding back.

    My experience was such that I spent many years out of the church system due to a disappointing experience in the SBC as a young woman, perceving how shallow that church was. Unfortunately, I threw the proverbial baby out with the water.In this case, it was Jesus and his word.

    Many years later, Jesus rescued me, delivered me, and filled me with his glorious spirit….all by Himself, outside the church. In a way, it was fortunate that I wasn’t indoctrinated by the “system”, and had the opportunity to really study the scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to teach me the basics – without any outside man made “help”.

    So, when I did enter the church system, it didn’t take too long to begin wondering why it didn’t look like the church that Jesus started. I tried to rationalize this, but the nagging thoughts remained, until as I grew in my walk… they became more demanding. Over time, I developed a more keen discernment, and began asking questions…which were not well received, and I began to suffer much opposition and persecution by my brethren. I’m talking some really hateful stuff. All this while…I was praying, studying and wanting more of my Beloved. But I was in spiritual and emotional pain due to their abuse, at that point I felt more like the woman in Song of Songs;

    “The watchmen found me,
    as they went about in the city;
    they beat me, they wounded me,
    they took away my mantle, (veil),
    those watchmen of the walls.” 5:7

    I believe Christ allowed that partially to teach me the realities of how far away his people had departed from his purposes. But I was relieved to be shown by our Lord, that it was time to leave. Nevertheless, I left with many wounds on my back and mind from the spiritual beating I’d taken at the hands of my friends.

    All that said, I can very clearly see by hindsight, the stages we go through in our spiritual development, as you’ve illustrated.

    Most recently, there has been a restlessness in my spirit that I couldn’t identify, and I am beginning now to feel the Counsellor is trying to show me it’s time to move out of that militant stage against the church system, into a new realm. And frankly, I am having more than a little struggle with this.

    However, in any case, your words have been very helpful in clarifying some of these issues. I have discovered a certain level of discernment, and resistance against “agendas”, against following man. Against allowing others to “overhaul” me into their image instead of Christs…..as well as having to take a look at my own agenda of “us against them”, Joan of Arc militantcy against the institutional church. Yes, I still find it abhorrent. Yes, my heart still bleeds for the multitudes still caught up in it, as well as those it has wounded, and or destroyed. I’m trying to find the proper spiritual way to deal with all this, but I know I must, if I am to move on in His Footsteps into a proper alignment with His Will.

    I’m so grateful to the Lord for you and the time and patience you had to help me. Thank you again, dear brother.

    Blessings,
    Scarlett

    Like

    • Scarlett,
      What a wonderful heart-felt letter. Sister, I have walked many miles in shoes much like yours. So many things came to mind as I read your letter. Many years ago I read Paul’s heart cry, “That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings and be made conformable to His death.” I read that and said, “Yes! That is for me. I want to know Him like that, too.” Little did I know what I was really asking for. I just knew that I wanted to know Jesus in the most personal way. Then after many years of suffering and rejection in the church and by the world and family members I spent many an hour licking my wounds wondering why. Then, among other passages, I read what Isaiah said about Christ life, suffering and death…

      Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no stately form nor splendor; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days, and the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
      (Isaiah 53:1-12 KJ2000)

      Many of us want the power of His resurrection (Jesus said, “I lay down my life and I take it up again,” who would not want that kind of power?) and we want to fellowship with Jesus, but once we start down that road following Him it is “the full meal deal.” We don’t get to pick and choose what parts of taking up our crosses and following Him includes. So after praying a prayer like Paul prayed we start finding out that the servant is not greater than his Master and that we start getting the same treatment He got; we don’t get to run with the “beautiful people,” we suffer rejection from our own people, we suffer many sorrows and griefs and they say it is all our fault and God is giving us what we have coming… all this is the fellowship of HIS sufferings that we unknowingly prayed for because we love Him so much. He lets us experience His life and death because He loves us.

      Then there is another depth of Christ that Father is in process of bringing out in us, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7 RSVA). Somebody once said, “Dead men don’t complain or fight back.” Every once in a while the Father lets someone stick a fork in us to see if we are done yet. Being conformed into the image of Christ includes not fighting back, “When He was reviled against He reviled not again.” How often when we take up another person’s offense is it really OUR former offense we are taking up?

      We who are His are being transformed day by day into the image of Christ and like Paul said, “It is through much tribulation that we must enter the kingdom of
      God.” I identify with the Shulammite woman in Song of Songs as you do even the same passage you quoted. Yet her story doesn’t end there, in 8:5 we read,

      Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I awakened you under the apple tree: there your mother brought you forth: there she brought you forth that bore you. Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm… Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it…” (Song of Solomon 8:5-7 KJ2000).

      He pursues us out into the wilderness and finds us and we come forth out of it leaning upon His loving arm. He knew us from our birth and has appointed us to be His own and nothing can separate us from His love. Eventually His great love for us so saturates our hearts that we find it spilling forth not only for those who have hurt us, but for all mankind… even those who have hurt the ones we love. Saul was persecuting and killing the church and Jesus told him, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you persecute.” He totally identified with His called-out one as being Himself, yet look how Jesus reached out to Saul (Paul) and took Him to be His own until he was totally transformed. For man this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.

      Sister, keep pursuing Christ with all your heart and He will change you so that there is no one that He cannot use you to reach out to them in His love.

      Your brother In His love,
      Michael

      Like

      • Carina says:

        I loved this post. It reminded me of a verse the Lord gave me once, after receiving a painful rebuke from a church “leader”

        Songs 5 My heart went out to him as he spoke.
        I searched for him but I did not find him;
        I called him but he did not answer me.
        “The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
        They struck me and wounded me;
        The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.

        How often has it happened to us, that in our worship and our sharing with brothers and sisters we were “going out to search for our beloved”, and so-called church ministers, who were supposed to be protecting us, not only misunderstood us but beat us up and took our dignity away. How often, when sharing what the Lord has revealed in our prayer closet, they come up with harsh rebuttals because that doesn’t fit in with their traditions of men and their narrow-minded hand-me-down ideas of what church should be like.

        If that has been your experience, take heart. It may very well be because you are one of the bride. 🙂

        Like

      • Carina, I really relate to being pounced on by the “watchmen of the city” when you dare to be real and honest with them. One time a “pastor” asked me how I saw myself in the church, so I dared to tell him. He spent the next three hours yelling at me and berating me for saying something that didn’t fit his program. I finally agreed with him about midnight that night just to get away from him and then ceased to attend his church after that. It was hard because we only lived about a half block away from this guy. When we first started meeting with him in a home he was just Brother Bob, but he finally rented a building to meet in and started going to the weekly pastoral meetings in the town and once he became “Pastor Bob,” he was unbearable. Sound familiar? Let me say that he finally moved away and hung up his pastoral cape for good and went back to being a caring brother last time I saw him. It was a blessing to see the change.

        Like

  11. bill says:

    greetings saints,

    The other day the Lord spoke loud and clear to me through a sign posted outside Sears at the local mall. On the first line of the sign was the word *LOVE* in huge letters. On the second line in much smaller letters were the words *a better way.*

    It’s becoming more and more obvious that God’s agenda is simply one of LOVE. For it pleases Him to deliver folks from the domain of darkness and transfer them into the kingdom of the Son of His Love. And I believe as we all continue to press on toward the finish line for the award awaiting us there, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, we will discover
    that time and time again LOVE never fails.

    Like

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