Dead End, the Way of the Churches

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Dead End Church Street by Piano on Fire

My friend and sister in Christ, Susanne Schuberth, is often taught by the Lord by dreams and things she sees in her daily prayer walks and bike rides as well as hearing His voice from time to time and feeling His gentle nudges. She was recently on a bike ride and felt drawn by the Lord to turn down this lane called Kirchenweg. Kirchenweg in German literally means “Churches Way.” Well, she had not pedaled far when she saw a second sign that said, “Sackgasse” which is German for “Dead End.” It did not take Susanne long to get what Jesus was trying to tell her. The way of the churches is a dead end road. She wrote in her blog, “Honestly, who would ever tread on a path, beautiful or not, and follow a road if they knew it was as dead-end street?” Yet, she did so this time because the Lord led her to do it that He might show her a lesson.I hope you read her blog article. (*)

Sad to say that going down this dead end road of church attendance is done by millions who still seek after God in the highly visible, beautiful kingdoms of men called “churches.” Yet, if Jesus said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21, ASV), why do we seek Him in buildings made by the hands of men? Don’t we say, “Lo, Here!” when we say, “What church do you go to? You are welcome to come to mine”?  God spoke through Isaiah the prophet 2,700 years ago saying, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” (Isa 66:1, KJ2000). Yes, where is the place of His rest?

For many years I followed that dead-end way of the churches. Each attempt at making a new church my home ended in failure as I attempted to fit into their mold and follow all their rules. Somehow it just did not work and I went away sad and kept looking for a church in which I fit. I felt like Cinderella’s ugly sister trying to cram my size 13 foot (yes, hard to believe, isn’t it?) into that size 7 glass slipper. Finally, one day after another failed attempt, out of desperation I cried out to God, “Lord, I don’t fit! I just don’t fit!” To this He replied in an almost audible voice, “YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FIT!” You see, what I learned through all my bad church experiences was that none of them were THE Church which Jesus said He would build (including Catholicism which I grew up in) and all of them were and are spiritual dead-end streets. It wasn’t until I gave up on them and sought the Lord alone, that God started teaching me from some very important scriptures that had been right there in front of me all along. For instance that this one,

Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Heb 13:12-14, NRS)

It is of the fallen nature of Adam to go forth with a curse upon the earth and try and build cities just as Cain did on sinking sand, to leave our mark and to build a visible legacy that will last long after our miserable carnal lives are over. Yet, we have this promise which the builders have ignored. In Hebrews we read,

“See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:25-29, NRS)

Only the kingdom that God has built within us by His Spirit will remain and survive this final shaking that is upon us. We are faced every day with a new terrorist attack, a new contagious disease, a new pestilence, a new famine or a new super storm, a fatal earthquake or a new financial disaster. All our attempts to hold our outward worldly lives and institutions together will be for not. The more we hang onto them and seek to save them, the greater will be our loss, “for our God is a consuming fire.” Paul wrote,

“Now if any man build upon this foundation [Jesus Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1Cor 3:12-15, KJ2000)

Why do we keep pursuing the fallen ways of Cain of building lasting habitations when our example is so clearly the faith walk of Abraham?

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should later receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb 11:8-10, KJ2000)

Yes, Abraham sought a city, but it was a city that was made by God, not men. They were sojourners and remained so while on this earth living in tents and building nothing! What we who have our hearts fixed on our Creator are looking for is outside the gates of Christendom City and the mindset that goes with these institutions. Remember the Stone which the builders have rejected, has become the Head of the corner (See Matt. 21:42-43). God’s temple is made of living stone, not timbers, bricks and mortar (See 1 Peter 2:5).

I would like to end this with an excellent quote from T. Austin-Sparks,

Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. (Hebrews 12:26 ESV)

Everything is going to be shaken in earth and in heaven, with a view to finding out just how much there is of Christ living in it. These Jewish believers [to whom Hebrews was written] were going to see the temple and the whole temple system wrecked, and then they would discover just how much they had got of Christ, or how much of their life was bound up with earthly things. They would see what was left when that was all gone. God is not only going to shake Judaism, but this heavenly thing. He will shake heaven and earth, and we shall find out by that shaking what we have left when the earthly system passes, when even the representation of heavenly things in Christianity is tested (for Christianity has developed a representation of heavenly things, just as Judaism has). Men have made an earthly representation of the New Testament revelation of the church, and ministry, and priesthood. It is all going to be tested. For many it is now in the melting pot. The issue is the shaking of heaven and earth. What have we got left? The issue is Christ.

Whether you like all that we have said, or agree with it or not, does not worry me; but I am concerned that we have come to Christ, to show that Christ in heaven is our Life, Christ in heaven is our All, and appointed to be so by God, and nothing here can take the place of Christ. God will bring everything to an end that takes the place of Christ. He has determined from eternity that in all things Christ should have the preeminence, and have the fullness, and that nothing shall glory before Him or take His place. The Lord bring us into a larger measure of Christ, and a larger measure of Christ into us. http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002954.html

* https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/the-way-of-the-church-is-a-dead-end-street/

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For Our God Is a Consuming Fire!

Consuming Fire

Susanne Schuberth recently wrote on her inspiring blog in the comments,

“I think everyone inside or outside the [church] system needs to go through God’s cleansing and purifying fire so that God can use us for HIS purposes.” (1)

Yes! This is the way of the Lord and He has always required His offerings to pass through the fire. Everything and every work we propose to give must pass through His fires of purification, including our own hearts. Oswald Chambers wrote of this process,

Whenever God gives a vision to a saint, He puts him, as it were, in the shadow of His hand, and the saint’s duty is to be still and listen. There is a darkness which comes from excess of light, and then is the time to listen. Genesis 16 is an illustration of listening to good advice when it is dark instead of waiting for God to send the light. When God gives a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will make you in accordance with the vision He has given if you will wait His time. Never try and help God fulfil His word. Abraham went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all self-sufficiency was destroyed; there was no possibility left of relying on common-sense ways. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not of displeasure. Never pump up joy and confidence, but stay upon God (cf. Isaiah 50:10,11). (2)

In the Book of Numbers we read a very telling commandment that the Jews who had come back from war had to strictly follow.

“Only the gold, and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that can endure the fire, you shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of purification: and all that cannot endure the fire you shall make go through the water. And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean, and afterward you shall come into the camp.” (Num 31:22-24, KJ2000)

So many Christians come to Christ and have a vision early on of what God wants for them to do in His kingdom. But they are either unaware that they have nothing in them that God can use without it all passing through His fires of purification (the dark night of the soul and the wilderness), or they are willfully ignorant and use the powers of their flesh and their personal charisma to try doing His work for Him. The trouble is that soon the stinking smell of the flesh and pride is all over it. Just like Cane’s sacrifice, God rejects it and they have to spend more and more human effort to prop it up and keep it going or worse yet, those who get involved in their efforts also become defiled.

“And Abraham said unto God, ‘O that Ishmael might live before you!'”(Gen 17:18, KJ2000) and God’s answer to the works of the flesh is always the same, “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac,” the miraculous child of God’s promise. How often do we see ministries begging for money and help to keep them going? “Oh, God, please bless my Ishmael!”

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13, KJ2000)

We are born into His kingdom by the Spirit and all that is done for His kingdom must also be born of the Spirit. Or as Paul put it, “Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3, KJ2000).

Paul wrote:

“For no other foundation can a man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1Cor 3:11-15, KJ2000)

The arrogance and pride of church organizations always make men and their works their foundation (they even often name their ministries after themselves). Each of these organizations are founded by a man or a woman with lots of personal charisma  and men blindly follow them. Instead of each follower being founded on Christ and able to follow the wind of His Spirit, they want a following that will give them unquestioned authority, be loyal to their vision, and do what they say!

Well, “the day shall declare” what manner of work each of us have built. We are in that final day of the purifying fire of God and everything that man has done by and of the flesh is going up in smoke. Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing!” The real question is, what will be left of all our works when we stand before the piercing gaze of God? Those who have been purified by His fire, His sheep who wait for Him to move among them, will hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” And the self-motivated and self-promoted goats will hear, “Depart from me you who work inequity, I never knew you.”

Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:26-29, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Oh that more of God’s people waited upon His empowering grace before they acted and  had a godly fear of Him before they built themselves a new oxcart to move Him along or stretch forth an unclean hand to steady what He is doing.

(1) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/is-the-church-age-over/#comment-13551

(2) http://utmost.org/vision-and-darkness/

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