What It Means to Be Captivated by Christ

Jan28_ABQuote2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blessing of Waiting on the Lord

Lone Bald Eagle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others May, You Cannot

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.

Writing from Eating the Hidden Manna

1-MANNA-FALLING-FROM-HEAVENAnd not only [so], but we also boast in the tribulations, knowing that the tribulation does work endurance; and the endurance, experience; and the experience, hope; and the hope does not make ashamed, because the love of God has been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5, RYLT-NT)

Some of you may have been wondering why I have not posted much lately. There is a lot going on in the world right now that I could comment on, but the question that He keeps before me is, “Is what you are about to write fresh manna from heaven or is it the ramblings of a mind that is not willing to wait for the inspiration of the Spirit for the sake of keeping a presence going in the “blog-osphere?” The lessons that my Father have been working deep into me are not the “insto-chango” verity that happen over night for they go deep. Maybe after I come out the other side and come up for air I will be able to share some of it… maybe not. It is all up to Him and HIS Spirit of Revelation.

Here is something that describes my walk in Christ and why I cannot just post whatever comes to my mind on this blog.

T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. (Revelation 2:17)

God always keeps the revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations. You and I can never get revelation other than in connection with some necessity. We cannot get it simply as a matter of information. That is information, that is not revelation. We cannot get it by studying. When the Lord gave the manna in the wilderness (a type of Christ as the Bread from heaven), He stipulated very strongly that not one fragment more than the day’s need was to be gathered, and that if they went beyond the measure of immediate need, disease and death would break out and overtake them. The principle, the law, of the manna, is that God keeps revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations of necessity, and we are not going to have revelation as mere teaching, doctrine, interpretation, theory, or anything as a thing, which means that God is going to put you and me into situations where only the revelation of Christ can help us and save us….

Now then, that is why the Lord would keep us in situations which are acute, real. The Lord is against our getting out on theoretical lines with truth, out on technical lines. Oh, let us shun technique as a thing in itself and recognize this, that, although the New Testament has in it a technique, we cannot merely extract the technique and apply it. We have to come into New Testament situations to get a revelation of Christ to meet that situation. So that the Holy Spirit’s way with us is to bring us into living, actual conditions and situations, and needs, in which only some fresh knowledge of the Lord Jesus can be our deliverance, our salvation, our life, and then to give us, not a revelation of truth, but a revelation of the Person, new knowledge of the Person, that we come to see Christ in some way that just meets our need. We are not drawing upon an “it,” but upon a “Him.”

 

Is Our Time Always?

Jesus against the crowdDo you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works… Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. (John 14:10 &12 RSVA)

What could I mean by this by this title, “Is our time always?” When Jesus was with His brothers in Nazareth, one of the big annual feasts came up. Every devout Jew was required to attend it if he could. In the Gospel of John we read:

After this Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of Tabernacles was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his brothers did not believe in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil. (John 7:1-7 RSVA)

Jesus’ very own brothers did not believe in Him. They were tempting Him to do the “reasonable” thing. “Hey, Jesus! Here is your big chance. Your disciples and all who believe in God will be at this feast in Jerusalem. Get on up there and do your miracles and blow their minds with your wisdom and Bible knowledge. Don’t you know that it pays to advertise? Location, location, location! What are you doing hanging around in this back-water town?” Weren’t they being reasonable according to the way most people think today? “Seize the moment! Go for the gusto!” To this Jesus replied, “Your time is always! You can come and go as you will, but I cannot.” T. Austin Sparks wrote,

You get to the heart of everything in the case of the Lord Jesus when you recognize that the one question which constituted the testing ground of His life was: “Will this Man act alone, speak alone, choose alone, decide alone, move alone?” And His answer was always, “Not out from Myself!” “The Son can do nothing out from Himself.” “The words that I speak unto you I speak not out from Myself.” Every kind of appeal was made to Him to persuade Him on the impulse of the moment, or in response to an entreaty that seemed to promise success, or by an argument that appeared to be the truest wisdom, to move, act, speak, do something as out from Himself….*

Jesus was tempted in this very same way by the devil during His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

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.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” (Matthew 4:5-7 RSVA)

“Yes, Jesus, you are the Son of God, leap off the pinnacle of the temple in front of all the faithful worshipers in Jerusalem and His angels will catch you and you will float down to the ground like a feather. It will blow their minds and you will be able to prove to them and yourself that you are the Messiah! Think of the instant following you will get!” The devil often tempts us to do the “reasonable thing.” Acting on our own for the benefit of others without getting the direction of our Father seems like the reasonable thing to do. “God has given you this gift! Shouldn’t you use it to the max?” But have you asked Jesus what to do? Are not we His disciples? Did not He say to His disciples, “Apart from Me you can do nothing”? T. A. Sparks continues:

That ninety-nine people do a thing is no argument for the hundredth to do it. We are not to be led by the appeals that decide the actions of the many – “It is the popular thing! Everybody else is doing it! It is the recognized thing to do!” No! Does my Father want me to do this thing? That is the question that must ever rule our steps. In the case of the Lord Jesus there was all the time an underworking to get Him to adopt the contrary course, to act without inquiry of His Father, without direct leading from His Father; to act in His individual capacity as though He were His own Master, as though He had not to make appeal elsewhere… *

In the account of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness, in Luke we read, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him for a season.” (Luke 4:13 KJ2000). Have you ever wondered when the “season” of temptation resumed again? In Matthew we read:

From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be unto you. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense unto me: for you consider not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:21-23 KJ2000)

Peter was appealing to Jesus to do the reasonable thing! “Spare yourself, Lord! Don’t go up to die in Jerusalem. Think of all the good you can still do here in Galilee! You have people here that believe in you and need you!” But once again we see Jesus only doing the works that His Father gave Him to do. He recognized the words of Satan in Peter’s mouth, tempting Him to not go to the cross as His Father had destined Him to do so that He could fulfill all righteousness. Sparks continues,

In Him there was none of that which was personal, [or] independent. We are not speaking merely of such things as are sinfully personal, positively personal, but simply of independent action, action taken for the best ends, for a good motive, with quite a proper intention. Yes, all this may be done, but apart from the positive word from the Father. That creates an independent thought, however good may be the motive.*

And it is our independence from God in our words and our actions that is the devil’s playground. Paul wrote:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. (Galatians 5:16-17 RSVA)

Jesus said that if any one would be His disciple that they would have to take up their cross an follow Him. The cross in each of our lives that He gives us to carry is tailor made to put an end to our childish independence. When we were young in the Lord we ran out and did all kinds of “good works for Jesus.” But was our Father in them or did they come out from us as we tried to outguess God as to what His will for our lives would be? There is a death that must happen to that old foolish Adam in each one of us that seeks to maintain control even when doing “good works.” Old things must pass away and ALL things in us must become new. For this process to occur our Father wants to hear from our hearts just as Jesus prayed before they crucified Him, “Father, I would that this cup pass from me. But none the less, not my will, Father, but thine be done.” The cross He gives us to bare is our doorway into lives filled with His life giving Eternal Life. May we embrace it as an instrument of His Fatherly love for us. Amen.

* http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002218.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)