Pressed Beyond Measure Into Christ

By Michael Clark and Susanne  Schuberth

Pressed Into ChristFor we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence [Grk, apokrima – an answer] of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead: (2Cor 1:8-9, KJ2000)

Susanne Schuberth recently took this picture on one of her prayer walks and sent it to me (Michael) and I cropped it to fit.

I (Susanne) thought about the biblical meaning of the number four. These four arrows represent the world system that puts those under pressure who eagerly want to follow the Lord. The two people with arrows coming at them from all directions seems to portray what we have been going through for some time with many attacks from the enemy causing afflictions in our bodies and our hearts. This sign depicts what it is like when two walk together in the unity of the Spirit and how the adversary presses in on them from every side. As we looked at the picture of the sign we noticed that these two are not alone, there is a third Person behind them as if He is looking over them with His arms around them. We are being pressed in from every side, but the enemy is actually pressing us into Christ! In the above verse Paul actually said, “we have the answer of death.” Death of our old self-natures is the answer to our prayers that we be conformed into the image of God’s Son.

As I (Michael) thought about what this sign depicts, many scriptures came flooding into my mind. Here are a few of them.

 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isa 30:20-21, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

When we experience adversity and are afflicted with bodily pains, our adversary does all he can to get our eyes off Christ who has not left us, and onto our pains and attacks. But in all this we have the promise that our Teacher, the Holy Spirit, will continue to teach us in and through all these things. He teaches us and fine-tunes us to hear His gentle whisper and follow His leading in the most adverse circumstances.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Ps 23:5-6, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Even after we have passed through the valley of the shadow of death, we are not free of our enemies. Rather, God prepares us a banquet table of spiritual food in the midst of them and their attacks. It is here that we experience the anointing of the Holy Spirit on us and the goodness and mercy of the Lord in spite of what our enemy attempts to do. We start to dwell in the house of the Lord and His covering in all situations.

 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. (Isa 59:15-16, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Yes, it seems like a very lonely walk in which we are made a prey of our enemy. As the sign shows, he comes at us from all sides in his attempt to overthrow our faith. We can’t expect any help from men and the world around us. The Lord alone will uphold us and vindicate us because He is with us.

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. (Ps 31:19-20, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Even in the midst of verbal attacks by others, we find that we can take shelter in Christ in heaven and He foils the evil plots against us. It is here that we discover the abundance of our Father’s goodness towards us.

 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. — Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! (Ps 57:1-3, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Yes, we can take refuge in the shadow of His wings! As Jesus said, “How often I would have gathered you together unto me as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” God lets adversity come upon us so that we will cry out to Him and fulfill His purposes in us. He shows His great love and faithfulness to us through it all.

 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. (Ps 34:19, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Jesus said:

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome (Grk. Nikao – to conquer) the world.” (John 16:33, ESV2011 – emphasis added)

Have you ever wondered how the fact that Jesus has overcome the world is supposed to make us take heart in tribulation? We sure have. Just yesterday I (Susanne) was mulling over the frustration I have had with that verse above which tells us that Jesus had overcome the world. How disappointing for us miserable human beings to have to live in this world until we die and to not be able to overcome the world just as Jesus did! But wait a moment… Thinking about ‘death’… Jesus was still alive on this earth and told us that he had overcome the world already. How so? Because He was IN the Father where there is no death any longer. IN God and IN Christ there is only LIFE, and PEACE, and LOVE, and JOY etc., even in tribulation and suffering (Rom 5:3 ESV). If Jesus conquered the kosmos, the “world” system that is under the rule of Satan, why then are we still under his attacks? The key is found in the following verse where Paul wrote:

 Now thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the fragrance of his knowledge by us in every place. (2Cor 2:14, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors (Grk. HuperNikao – to totally conquer or totally overcome) through him who loved us. (Rom 8:35-37, ESV2011 – emphasis added).

We are more than overcomers in Christ because that is where our Father places us as His sons and daughters. As soon as we have died to our old Adam natures, this will become obvious. So it is truly a new life after ‘death,’ although we are still in this world when this happens by God’s grace. In Romans we read, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2, ESV2011). We stand in Christ. We also stand in faith because we stand in His grace. Here and there is no room for doubt. The enemy always gets us to sell short what is ours in Christ by getting us to doubt. T. Austin-Sparks wrote:

To prevent assurance of faith is the devil’s own work, it is his aim to get the Lord’s people unsettled; and doubt is one of his most subtle means of working. It was so in the beginning, “hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1), and it is still his method. The way, and the only way, to frustrate this is by being established in the faith (Acts 16:5; Col. 2:7). “Stand fast in the faith” (1 Cor. 16)…

The great need of God’s people is to be established in the faith, not just established in doctrine, in an orthodox gospel, or by acquiring knowledge of fundamental truth, but established by an inward knowledge of our standing in the Lord Jesus on the ground of His finished work and complete triumph over the devil and all his works. So many of the Lord’s children lack this assurance of their position in the Lord; yet it is written: “God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world… in love having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself.” (Eph. 1:4,5)…

Stand on God’s facts and not on the quicksands of your own feelings. Some are doubting simply because of feelings! Salvation is not a matter of feeling, it is God’s fact – “It is written” – God hath said. The word of God is “no condemnation“. “There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” – Rom. 8:1. We are perfect in Christ the day we are born anew, that is as to our standing, we have good reason to be sorry for our state; but the word is “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” – 2 Peter 3:18. “My little children of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you” – Gal. 4:19 A.R.V. Yes it is to be a day by day growing in grace…

Here we are passing through trial, adversity, sorrow, suffering, and we are tempted to think the Lord has given us up; the enemy presses in on every side with accusation, condemnation, question, doubts, fears. “Be ye steadfast, unmovable,” for beloved, this is the establishing principle at work, our faith is being exercised. We know anguish, travail. Remember the establishing work is done while our eyes are unto Him; when things are against us, seeking to press us down, then we look off unto Jesus now in the presence of God for us, having all authority in heaven and on earth, and a NAME that is above every other name, a title of Sovereignty above every other title of sovereignty…

This is the ONE unto whom our eyes are. Faith is thus exercised and enables us in the very midst of pressure and contradictory circumstances to rise upward and stand in Christ Jesus in the position He has given us, “seated together with Him in the heavenlies.” “Ye are made full in Him in Whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form.” – Col. 2:9.

So through trial, the establishing work is done; it is the manifestation of His Victory over all the power and pressure of the enemy, “God who giveth us The Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Cor. 15:57. Yes, it is HIS victory, a life that has conquered death – 1 Cor. 15:54. ~ http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002923.html

Wow! Did you get that? God has chosen us in Christ from before the foundation of the world. In His love, He foreordained us in our adoption as His sons and daughters into Himself (the Greek is clear that we are chosen in Christ and that as we have believed into Him and it is here that we have all the grace and love and faith we need – see 1 Cor. 3:22-23). It is all a matter of the faith of Christ working in us. The enemy does all he can to get us to doubt and live as if we are subject to this world instead of seeing that we abide in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, which is our inheritance now in Him. We are overcomers because we are in Him who has overcome the world. Everything that the enemy does to us only presses us further into our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1John 3:1-2, KJ2000)

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Each One’s Work Will Be Tried by Fire

church fireEach one’s work will become apparent, for the day will make it evident, for it is being revealed by fire. And the fire, it will be testing each one’s work — what kind it is. (1 Cor. 3:13, CLV)

Have you ever noticed how many great and highly visible ministries that men have built up and that seemed to have been blessed by the Lord have shriveled up and come to naught? Or have you noticed that since you committed your life to Christ things have got more difficult, not easier? I am sure that all too many Christians blame the devil for this, but is that the case?

Jesus said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted shall be rooted up.” He also told His disciples that “the flesh profits nothing.” How much of what we do as Christians is a product of our own human industry and wills? We come into our Christian walk but still have all our worldly goals, pursuits and giftings with us. In effect, we put Jesus in our bag of supplies that we think will get us where we want to go and help us get there. Then we wonder why He kicks a hole in the bottom of our bag and our treasures start falling out!

Some of us have a natural ability to draw a crowd with our speaking or writing skills and then we set out to build an organization and a marketing scheme around them–all “for the glory of God,” of course. That’s the American way to become prosperous, is it not? And everyone knows that Jesus is an American. At least it seems that way because the world has embraced an Americanized version of the gospel that preaches, “Jesus suffered so that we don’t have to. We are the King’s kids and we should live like princes and enjoy the fat of the land. The heathen have stored up their wealth for us to inherit! ” It all sounds so smooth and so good, doesn’t it? We can have the best of both worlds. This is the “gospel” that draws the self-serving crowds and fills mega-churches, but is it the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Jesus preached a gospel that crucifies the carnal desires of the flesh if we dare to yield to Him and follow His Spirit. Jesus said, “If any man would be my disciple let him take up his cross (not his BMW) and follow me.” Jesus preached a gospel that was meant to divide. Think about it. One man that heard Him said, “Let me first go bury my father.” To this one He said, “Let the dead bury the dead; you follow me.” To another who was rich He said, “Give all that you have to the poor (not the prosperity preacher) that you might have riches in heaven, then come and follow me.” That man turned away because the “deceitfulness of riches” had him. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.

John the Baptist gave us a hint of the nature of the gospel of the Kingdom of God as he prophesied about the coming Christ.

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:10-12, rsv)

I grew up in a wheat farming area, the famed Palouse Country of the northwestern United States. When wheat comes to a head and is ready to be gathered into the granaries, the farmers use combines to first cut down the stalks of wheat and then to separate the wheat kernels from the stalks and the chaff (the husks around the grain). The chaff is discarded with the stalks and stubble and the wheat is saved. They only want the wheat kernels themselves. The rest goes out the back of the machine and often the farmers burn the stubble and chaff in their fields when the harvest is over. Fire is good for the grains and natural grasses. It shocks the grasses and brings new life, but it kills the weeds and their seeds. It is part of God’s natural design.

For years I have pondered this baptism of fire that John prophesied, and felt that it is not the same as the baptism of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. I was reading a writing by T. Austin-Sparks that confirmed my suspicions. The Spirit comes into a person and He both anoints for service and He purifies the servant. Jesus said,

“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and what do I desire, if it is already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened [constrained] till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:49-50).

It was the fire of unerring and avoidable discrimination. Fire always finds things out. As it creeps and encroaches and overtakes, it makes one discrimination between things that it can devour and things over which it has no power. It puts them into those categories; the finding out, the classifying, the deciding. Look at the context, Luke 12:51 – “Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” He goes on – “There shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother in law against her daughter in law, and daughter in law against her mother in law…” – discriminating, setting things in the category to which they belong.

One category is that which can go on and abide and endure because it is of God. The other will be licked up by the fire, and simply pass out of existence. “The fire shall try every man’s work“, said Paul (1 Cor. 3:13). The fire of unavoidable and unerring discrimination [It classifies our works into wood, hay and stubble or gold, silver and precious stones]. That has ever been the effect of a work of the Holy Spirit; to put us into the place to which we belong. It is a kind of dividing thing all the time. Are you for or are you against? Are you with or are you not with the Lord? Are you going on with the Lord, or are you not going on with the Lord? The Holy Spirit is pursuing that course all the time to find us out and to just classify us like this, so that when the Holy Spirit has worked we are in definite categories. Division has come, and it is unavoidable.

It is no use, dear friends, our trying to avoid this. You see, here is a terrible statement. “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34), dividing even families and households. You cannot avoid it; it is no use trying to. If you are going on with the Lord, this sort of thing is going to happen, and in the world it is going to become perfectly clear and pronounced where we are. It is of no use just trying to keep and avoid, you have got to yield to the work of the Spirit, and it is costly in your own home with the clear division on the ground of whether the Lord is having His way or not – clear division in the family anywhere, everywhere – you just cannot avoid it…*

We are first filled with the Spirit of God when we believe in Christ, but then the real work of God in our lives begins, the work of destroying our souls’ power over our freshly enlivened spirits (see Hebrews 4:12). Everything of our old soul natures that the New Testament calls our “flesh” has to go. Our flesh once controlled everything we did, but now it is a threat to going on with Christ. The flesh is the chaff and the kernels of wheat are our spirits. All things must pass through the cleansing fires of God. Peter was a mixture. On the one hand he heard God tell him that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and on the other he was used to tempt Christ to save Himself from going to the cross. To this man of mixture Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, ESV2011). Fire and sifting are needed to get the chaff out of us.

The fire of the Holy Spirit also does something else. It makes you an enemy of this world that is dominated by Satan. Brother Sparks went on to write:

It was the fire of inevitable provocation. No sooner had the Spirit come, the fire fallen and begun to move over the earth, than there was tremendous and terrific uprising of antagonism. It is inevitable. If you and I are going to be men and women of the Spirit, we are not going to have an easy time. Hell will see to that. At once the clash arises and it is true that the more the Holy Spirit is able to have His way in us and to lead us into all the will of God, the more we find this opposition, this antagonism. And it not only comes between us and the world, it sometimes comes in the circle of the Lord’s own people. It is inevitable provocation. You wonder why, sometimes. As you read the New Testament you wonder, ‘What is the matter with these people? Why should they be so upset and so annoyed? And why should it be so spontaneous, this thing? And persistent; so unreasonable?’, but there it is. There is the fact. It is inevitable.

You see, this thing that the Lord came to do and is doing, will not allow for any neutrality. It is going to be one thing or the other. It is going to be for or against. The eyes of flame (here the fire comes in again) the eyes of flame will not allow lukewarmness or anything that is of the Laodicean character. The fire is a positive element always, and it will create positive situations. If everything is all just nice and quiet, no disturbance, no trouble and no antagonism and opposition, you have reason to question whether the Holy Spirit is doing much, because He does aim at such a positiveness, which is a very, very costly thing. It is either with the Lord, or not with the Lord, and there is nothing between. It is going to come out sooner or later and be precipitated.

Now, the Lord says that is what He came to do. This is not an accident, a chance or things having gone wrong or miscarried. This is exactly what He came to do – to scatter fire on the earth and these are the inevitable effects of the fire. They are going to work out.*

Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” So, dear saints, as the apostle put it, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12, KJ2000). When things are hard as you follow the Lord, they are supposed to be. He is pulling your “camel” through the eye of His needle. None of the old baggage we have held so dear can proceed on in this walk we are called to, not even the “good things” we had or the “good qualities” we possessed. If it is not out from Christ in us, it is of no use to the building up of the kingdom of God. Thank God that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him. The working of Spirit will make sure of it in those who are the sons and daughters of God.

* http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002845.html

“And Five Were Foolish”

five foolish virginsHo, every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love… (Isaiah 55:1-3 RSVA)

Most of us who read this blog have given our lives to the Lord. Once we started living this new life in Christ we became new spiritual creatures. We set out to find spiritual food, like a new born babe looks for its mother’s breast making sucking movements with its little mouth. My wife, Dorothy, and I have had four children and she breast fed each of them. There is nothing more sacred or peaceful than watching a baby nurse from its mother’s breast.

In the natural the mother lays the child on her breast and it takes to sucking on it immediately without needing to be taught that this is what it is for. But what if the mother puts in its mouth on a bottle with artificial formula or cow’s milk in it? Will it be as good for the baby as her own milk? Scientists have found out that first flow from a mother’s breast is special milk called colostrum. The mother passes her immunity to the baby through the colostrum, and the child will be a much healthier baby with fewer problems. The Bible calls this milk in the spirit world, “The pure milk of the word.” Peter wrote,

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word (Logos – as “In the beginning was the Word…”) that you may grow thereby: If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious. (1 Peter 2:2-4 KJ2000)

According to this passage, whose breast should we be nursing on right from the beginning as spiritual infants? “If you have tasted… the Lord…coming unto the Living Stone…chosen of God…” JESUS is the Word that we should be getting our nourishment and spiritual immunity from right from the beginning, not the breasts of men! But how many of us who have been born again were put on His breast right from the beginning? How many were taught to seek our spiritual sustenance from Sunday sermons and Sunday School classes in the churches we attended? Most of us were taught nothing about the Comforter Jesus sent in His place who would lead us into all truth (see John 16:13-15 also 1 John 2:26-27).

Now to my point. Jesus told a parable about ten virgins that were called to His wedding feast. Five were wise and five were foolish. What do you suppose it is that made some of them wise and the others foolish? Let’s read…

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of man comes. (Matthew 25:1-13 KJ2000)

It is interesting that all ten of them were virgins and all were waiting for their Bridegroom to come. Yet the fate of half of them was not good. Their lamps had gone out while they slept and the Bridegroom was delayed. Why? They had been in the habit of getting their oil from other virgins, piecemeal… just enough get by. But the wise virgins knew where the real source of their oil was to be found, Him that has the supply! The later in this dispensation of grace it gets, the more important it is that we have a good supply of oil if we are going to make it through these times of trouble that are upon us.

In the Daily Study Bible they comment about this parable.

It warns us that there are certain things which cannot be borrowed. The foolish virgins found it impossible to borrow oil, when they discovered they needed it. A man cannot borrow a relationship with God; he must possess it for himself. A man cannot borrow a character; he must be clothed with it. We cannot always be living on the spiritual capital which others have amassed. There are certain things we must win or acquire for ourselves, for we cannot borrow them from others.

In the Bible, oil is symbolic of the anointing of God. They who have the Holy Spirit should know where their oil comes from–the same One who gave them spiritual life in the first place. ”Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13 KJ2000)

To the foolish virgins the Lord said, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” But wait! They were all virgins, were they not? And is it possible for the all-knowing God to not know one of us? This verse is speaking of a lack of intimacy with Christ as our Bridegroom. Jesus knows who have been feeding from His breasts and who have not – who have been taught by His Holy Spirit and who have been nursing from the breasts of teachers and preachers who have no unction.

Jeremiah prophesied this very problem that Israel was also guilty of.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13 RSVA)

So, dear virgins who are called to be His bride, where do you get your oil? Whose breasts are you drinking from? How good is your spiritual immunity? It is crucial that you find out where your Source of spiritual food is!

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, whom they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39 KJ2000)

The Death of a Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prisoner of the Lord

paul-in-chains

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in Him. (1 John 2:27 NIV)

I often sit at my keyboard waiting for the unction to write something from the Lord on our blog. Each time He makes me wait and as time drags on I wonder if He is through with me. This morning I read two quotes back to back, one on the blog of a dear sister in Germany (http://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/on-receiving-more-of-the-holy-spirit/) and the other a quote from T. Austin-Sparks from a sister in New Zealand in my daily devotional, “Open Windows.” http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/openwindows/003437.html. I hope you don’t mind me quoting from them here.

Seeing the unction to write in terms of a beggar waiting at the door of the rich man’s house for a scrap of bread helped me a lot…

“That our watching and waiting may be of a proper kind, and be successful, we must turn entirely away from all created things, and appear in the presence of God, with a heart entirely empty, and hungering and thirsting after grace, so that we may boldly say, ‘Lord, here is my vessel, here I wait, here I continue lying on the brink of the waters; here, O my God! I expect the promised power from on high, with perfect resignation and in child-like confidence, that thou wilt, in due time, fulfill thy promise! Thou hast promised thy Holy Spirit to me; and thou wilt also perform. Do not look at my poverty and wretchedness, my nakedness and destitution; for it is for this very reason I need thy grace the most; on this very account I am worthy of compassion.’

It is thus that a soul, which is entirely turned away from the world, and directed to God, and which hungers and thirsts after God, waits in a right and proper manner, and therefore shall be filled with the blessings of salvation, and most assuredly made partaker of the Holy Spirit.
When the beggar, at the door, has said, ‘Give me a morsel of bread!’ he does not immediately go away, but waits; and if he is left to stand long, he repeats his request, again and again, until he has really received what he desires. And although he be refused, yet he continues to beg, and does not move until he be attended to. So ought we also to act. We must stand at the door of God’s grace, and wait, until we have received what we ask for. (Gerhard Tersteegen, Spiritual Crumbs from the Master’s Table, pp. 250, 251)

And this timely word from T. Austin-Sparks…

“Do you ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Why do you ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Is the anointing something that you crave? To what end? That you may be used, may have power, may have influence, may be able to do a lot of wonderful things? The first and preeminent thing the anointing means is that we can do nothing but what the anointing teaches and leads to do. The anointing takes everything out of our hands. The anointing takes charge of the reputation. The anointing takes charge of the very purpose of God. The anointing takes complete control of everything and all is from that moment in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and we must remember that if we are going to learn Christ, that learning Christ is by the Holy Spirit’s dealing with us, and that means that we have to go exactly the same way as Christ went in principle and in law… ‘The Son can do nothing out from Himself.’”

(How much is our own reputation worth? Are we willing to give it over to God for Him to deal with? For most Christians I have met, that is a bit too much. Most want to at least salvage that much from their own lives and they fight to save it “so they can be more useful for the Lord.” But even that has to go if we are to be yielded totally to God. Remember, even Jesus made Himself of no reputation when He came down to earth in the form of a lowly servant).

As we yield to God are we then “controlled” by the Holy Spirit? Demons possess people and take control, but the Spirit of the Lord leads. Paul wrote, “I Paul, the prisoner of the Jesus Christ…” To be yielded to the Holy Spirit is being controlled like prisoners are controlled, the guards open and close doors in their cell block from remote that either allows or denies them access to other areas (See Acts 16:6-9). They still have a modicum of freedom, but it is orchestrated freedom. Jesus said to Peter, “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.”(John 21:18 KJ2000). The more we pursue the Lord and the anointing of His Spirit, the less freedom we have to do things the way we used to, yet the more unction we experience as we yield to the will of our Father and part of that is the continuous working of the cross of Christ in our lives. It takes us from being “when you were young” and self-willed into “when you shall be old,” becoming yielded vessels of the Spirit.

So our sister in Germany I mentioned above has remarked often how she felt “empty headed.” She is an intelligent and educated woman, but as she has yielded to the working of God in her life He has taken control of that intelligence more and more and has been governing it with the mind of Christ. So, she has to wait on Him to give her what she is to write. This can be very unnerving at first for those of us who are used to depending on our own minds and abilities to get things done (I was the “go to guy” for my bosses in the world), but that is what the cross of the Lord in our lives does as we yield to the Spirit of God. Using our prison analogy above, sometimes He even puts us in a time of solitary confinement to break that self-seeking will in us! But the fruit of all His wonderful work in us is good. We have a promise…

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt [the world and its ways]: open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalms 81:10 KJ2000)

God bless each of you as you seek His will to be done in your lives and my fellow bloggers as you write.