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.

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The Bridegroom Cometh!

The Fall of the Church

Destruction of the Church of Reconciliation in Berlin’s ‘death zone’ in January 1985 (Picture credits https://www.rbb-online.de)

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 cometh; go ye out to meet him. (Matt 25:4-6, KJV)

The last call of God, as judgment is pending, is a call to Himself. Here then is the call of God in our time. The last movement of the people of God is to Himself: not to a movement as such; not to a teaching or interpretation of truth; not to a sect or party; not to an enterprise or mission – but to Christ. The final true and Divine movement is to the Lord Himself. The sheer pressure of the conditions in the gathering storm and tempest will demand a leaving of all lesser interests and objects, however good a purpose they may have served hitherto, and a moving toward the Lord Himself. ‘Things’ divide; the Lord unites. ‘Things’ must pass; the Lord abides. The time comes when all the means and accessories which the Lord has sovereignly used will cease to avail. This includes all the organized side of Christianity, and the Lord will force the issue as to how much there really is of Himself. ~ T. Austin-Sparks (1)

Someone pointed out that God does not tell time in hours, days, or even years like we do, but in ages (See Ephesians 3:1-6) or dispensations. One of these ages lasted from the fall of man to the flood, the next one from the flood to Moses and the age of the law. That age came to a close 2000 years ago on the Day of Pentecost when God poured out His Spirit on all flesh (See Acts 2:16-22 and Ezek. 36: 26-27), not just on an appointed few as in the Old Covenant.

With all this in mind, think of how traumatic it was at the end of each of these ages–a world ending flood, Egypt all but destroyed, the destruction of the temple, and the end of Israel as a nation and the Jewish worship and sacrificial system, etc. What do you think will be the sign of the end of the “church age” before God ushers in what I believe to be “The Age of the Bride and the Bridegroom”? I believe it will be a complete destruction of this false system built by men around the gospel of Jesus Christ, coinciding with the raising up of His bride as she has made herself ready to go out to meet the Bridegroom in grace and Truth.

“…and the light of a lamp may be appearing in you nevermore; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride should be heard in you nevermore; for your merchants were the magnates of the earth, for by your enchantment all nations were deceived.” (Rev 18:23, CLV)

What started out as a comment on an inspired article by Susanne Schuberth eventually turned into this article. The above quote from T. Austin-Sparks also came from her article. Take a look at the above picture that she chose for her blog post.(2) It shows the destruction of “The Church of Reconciliation” in the “Death Zone” of Berlin. How apropos! For the past few years almost all denominational leadership have been striving to bring their organizations into reconciliation in a sort of humanistic unity. Their efforts are failing  to come into agreement with one another no matter how many doctrines they do away with, for unity in doctrine does not make a people of one heart and one spirit. Jesus came not to bring peace but the sword of division! All man-made sects will be divided against one another even if they are forced under one title and human head, just as it was at the tower of Babel. Babylon the Great is the end result of their efforts– religions that have formed around “Christianity” — and God’s judgment is on it. Why? Jesus put it this way, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt 15:13, KJV). God is ushering in a new dispensation. The sword is necessary because the previous administrations are so embedded that they never willingly let go and follow His lead!

Peter wrote,

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pt 3:8 ESV)

A day is as a thousand years with God. We are also about to go into the third millennium of the church age, but not without a bang! Hosea prophesied,

“Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” (Hos 6:1-2, KJ2000)

Yes He is tearing us, the church! It is not the devil, ISIS, communism or anything else. These man-made temples that Christendom is so focused on are coming to an end along with the political systems that support them. Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus command the apostles to go forth and build churches and organizations to support them so Christians would have a structured form and place to worship! Quite the opposite! He stated that all worship would no longer be in holy places, but true worship of His Father would be in the Spirit and in verity, truth in our inward parts, our hearts. He also said that the temple system would be torn down and that His temple would be made of living stones, the very hearts of the true worshipers!

So, all that said, after two days (2000 years) of Him tearing us, He will heal us and bind up our wounds. In the third day, not at the end of it, He will raise us up that we, His bride, may dwell in His sight. Jesus is coming back for His perfect bride who is filled with the oil of His Spirit, not a divided and self-destructive church system that is so focused on its own greatness and need to survive that it cannot see Him coming!

Look up, dear saints of God who truly love the Son, because your redemption draws near!

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/002100.html

(2) https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/is-the-church-age-over/#more-2200

And Two Shall Become One

Two on Road to EmmausAnd that he died for all, that they who live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again. Therefore from now on know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:15-17 KJ2000)

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28 RSVA)

If all the forces of hell are arrayed against any one thing that has to do with the Kingdom of Heaven and the Gospel of Christ, it is to keep the saints of God divided. Everywhere, even in the churches the lines of division are clearly to be seen–male against female, clergy against laity, teens against adults, blacks against whites, conservatives against liberals, Fundamentalists against Pentecostals, organized religion against house churches. On and on the list goes.

For about four years the Spirit has been teaching me the depths of what Jesus spoke just before He went to the cross. You could say it was His last will and testament, so we should give close attention to it. He prayed,

[I pray] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:21-26 ESV)

Unity, love, perfection, glory and witness are all interwoven together in His prayer. These are part of a whole for the people of God to live and walk in. They cannot be divided and were in the plan of God for His creation from the foundation of the world.

Jesus describes His unity with the Father as God in Him and He in God. When I get up in the morning, I pour myself a cup of coffee and add a flavored creamer. With the help of a spoon, they are soon one, and as such, the creamer may not be extracted from the coffee and put back in its jug and the coffee can’t be poured back into the pot. The creamer is in the coffee and the coffee is in the creamer. They have become a whole new creation with an identity of its own that is the best of both parts. This is what it means for us to be one even as the Father is one with the Son and He with the Father. Only as we are one with the Father and the Son can we become truly one with each other. This was the witness that the church had as we read the opening chapters of the Book of Acts. They were all of one heart and one mind, no one said what he had was his own, and no one was lacking because they all cared for one another. Soon the world was saying, “Behold how they love one another!”

Paul wrote about this very same unity using the example of a godly marriage between a man and a wife to demonstrate a deeper truth.

For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; (Ephesians 5:29-32 RSVA)

Here we see tender care, love and unity between a man and a woman as they become one in marriage. Although this is something many take for granted, Paul goes on to tell us that this a profound mystery because it portrays Christ and the Church. “I in thee and thou in me that they may be one in us even as we are one.” Dear saints of God, there is a unity that can be ours in Christ and the Father. In this unity we are enfolded into one another and truly become one in the Father and the Son, just as they are enfolded into one another. “Herein God commands a blessing” (see Psalm 133).

This unity of Jesus and His Father was so profound that He could say to Philip, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” So as Jesus prayed for our unity as His body and bride (the true ekklesia of God), He prayed that she would be just as He is in this world, “That the world might know that you have sent me.” If you have seen that beautifully perfected bride that dwells in unity as members of His body, you have seen Jesus. To this fact John wrote:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2 RSVA)

We become what we behold. John wrote that it would happen when Christ appears! He appears because we are like Him in the unity He has with the Father. He becomes evident because we are in the unity, love, perfection and glory of God as a witness of Christ to the world. We have to let Him crucify anything in us that stands in the way of this divine gift of unity in His love. The scripture makes it clear that He will not physically return until He has a perfect bride to return for! “Behold the bride has made herself ready.” “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!” She is one in the Spirit of Christ.

Dear saints, I have been in many Christian groups and churches and any time that even two people started to come together in the unity of the Spirit, all the forces of hell have risen up against them to divide and conquer. Jesus warned us that Satan was a liar and a murder from the beginning, and all too often we as Christians are ignorant of his ways. We let him make us instruments of his will and become part of the problem, adding to that division. We quickly finding fault with one another and speak against one another. If this happens when only two Christians start to come into agreement in the unity of God’s love, is it any wonder that today’s 41,000 different Christian denominations and sects are so divided when the New Testament says that there is only one church and one body? We can come together in some kind of ecumenical conclave and round-off the corners of our doctrines to make them compatible with the other groups, but unless we are joined in the life and love of Christ with HIM as our Head, it profits nothing.

In reality we cannot do much about the divisive mess the churches have become. The visible church took the wrong fork in the road many years ago and was already dividing along the lines of ethnicity, doctrinal differences, and a party spirit by the end of the first century.

But if just two of us would pray and humble ourselves and ask that our Father would make us one no matter what the personal cost–if being one with the Father and the Son was more important to us than being “right” or being “over” the other person. If serving one another in the self-denying agape love of God becomes most significant, He will command a blessing to spring out of that love and unity and His great grace will go out from us unto a dying world.

One person cannot do this alone. It takes two, always a minimum of two who become one. First we have the Father and the Son becoming one as our example. Jesus sent out the disciples in twos. The idea of “one man band” ministries ended with the Old Covenant, yet what do we have today? Ministries that come from and focus on a single individual. This is travesty and a terrible sin against the heart of Christ! He told us that if two or more would agree as touching any one thing, it would be granted to us. This cannot happen by the flesh when one person is imposing his will on everyone else under him. When God made Adam, He said that it was not good that man should be alone; He made Eve so they could become one flesh. This has always been God’s requirement. The unifying of two people in one heart, one mind and one spirit is where the world sees who Christ really is, “I in thee and thou in me.” May we pray for and allow Him to put us with that other saint He has for us to grow with in Christ and knit us together in His love that the world might know that He has sent us in His Son. This is God’s synergism.

And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. And I will have regard for you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and will confirm my covenant with you. (Leviticus 26:7-9 RSVA)

If this was true of the Old Covenant how much more is it true of the New and Lasting Covenant with Christ as our Head? I would like to end with this quote from T. Austin Sparks,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations. (Matthew 28:18,19 ISV)

But who is to go? It is the Church, and His irreducible nucleus of the Church is two. It is a corporate thing, the bringing of the significance of the Body into view. When there is a functioning in the Spirit, it is nothing less than Christ risen, ascended and exalted, going on with His work through His Body, with all those limitations dismissed. That is tremendous! It is either true, or it is not true. If it is true, it is an immense thing. If it is not, well, what fools we are! But here it is, and, oh! that the Church might learn more of what it means to be in living union with a risen Christ! That there should be a company, two or three or more, though limited physically here on this earth by time and space, yet really functioning in the Holy Spirit, so that the universal Christ – all that it means that He is there at God’s right hand – is having some expression! I would to God that this could come home to you by the Spirit and that you could grasp it, for what differences it would make! We have a long way to go yet before this is appreciated adequately. But it is true.

When you touch these things, human language is a vain instrument for expression. “The exceeding greatness of His power” – the superlatives in this realm! Oh, for this enlargement by a new apprehension of the greatness of Christ in His Person, in His death, in His resurrection! Well, then, the supreme thing the New Testament shows is that the Church on its true, spiritual basis corresponds to Christ risen. Not “the Church” that we know here on earth, for it does not. But God’s thought about the Church is not an impossible and merely idealistic one. It is a practical thing. Two saints, simple, humble and unimportant in this world, but really meeting together in the Spirit, can be a functioning instrument of Him to whom has been committed all authority in heaven and on earth. With them all these old limitations can be dismissed and they can at one moment touch all the ends of the earth. Do you believe that? That is really the meaning of our glorying in Christ risen. It has to be something more than emotion, and more than glorious doctrine; yes, more than a truth to which we give some assent…. If it is true that we are one with a risen, enthroned Lord, it ought to have tremendous repercussions. May it be so! ~ http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002021.html

The Sovereign Grace of God – Walking by Faith

(The "God's Eye" helix nebula -  pic taken by by the European Southern Observatory's VISTA telescope  http://www.space.com/14282-helix-nebula-eye-amazing-photo.html )

(The “God’s Eye” helix nebula – pic taken by by the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope
http://www.space.com/14282-helix-nebula-eye-amazing-photo.html )

…the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do. (Romans 4:17, NET)

Oh, how Jesus knew and knows His Father! Our God calls those things that do not yet exist in our temporal realm as though they do. Jesus walked in this same knowledge when it came to the death of His friend Lazarus. He had received news that Lazarus was about to die, and yet He waited another two days before He started to Bethany. By the time He got there, the man had been dead four days. When He finally arrived, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ two sisters, started to berate Him. “If you had only come when we bid you, he need not to have died.” Have you ever complained to God when He did not do what you wanted when you thought you had to have it? Only God knows what we need and He will often make us wait to prove our faith. To these two women Jesus replied,

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, KJ2000)

Those things that do not exist God treats as though they do. This is what faith does–it sees things from God’s perspective. A few days earlier, after Lazarus had died, Jesus told the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” Why did Jesus tell them that this dead man was only asleep? It is because the grave has no victory in the Kingdom of God (See 1 Corinthians 15:55). Paul wrote later to the Corinthians, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8, KJ2000). We who believe in Christ will never die. Do YOU believe this? This mortal must put on immortality. There is no limbo state in between this life and next. Paul makes it clear in I Corinthians chapter 15 that we put off this mortal body and then put on our immortal heavenly bodies. Some people have died and found themselves in those perfected bodies and then were called back into this corruptible world. It was a great disappointment to have to come back.

Yes, in the mind of God, He calls those things that are not yet in this world as if they already are. Time and space are of this earthly creation and He is not bound by His own creation. If He were, creation would be god. So we see Jesus by faith in His Father (doing only what He saw His Father doing), defying the laws of nature with power over disease and weather, feeding thousands of hungry people with almost nothing, walking on water, and moving through a murderous crowd that tried to kill Him without a finger being laid on Him. Later we see the resurrected Christ walking through walls and Philip being transported over a great distance miraculously by the power of the Spirit.

Our God is the God of the impossible. Only we who are earthbound and lack the “magic” of faith are bound by our pragmatic view of creation. Faith is spiritual sight. It is seeing things as God sees them and believing in and doing what He shows us in our hearts.

Since God is outside the time-space continuum, He calls a people that are not His people as though they are. He called the Hebrew people to be His people and worked with them as His chosen wife for over a thousand years, yet they revolted against Him and His desires over and over. So what did He do? He chose the Gentiles to be His own, a people with whom He had no history. God loves to color outside our religious lines. Paul wrote about this.

And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9:23-26, NET)

Have you, like me, been one of the “not chosen” people of this world–the wall flower at the high school dance, the kid that was chosen last in a sand lot ball game, the one thought least likely to succeed by the class of your peers? Most of us who have come to Christ are of this category. Why? Paul explained:

For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, KJ2000)

He chose those things that are not to bring to nothing the things that are. “God… summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do.” Do not be dismayed because the wicked prosper in this world and you have to endure hardships. In fact, rejoice because this world system is rejecting you. You are marked by the Spirit of God as one of His, and because of this the world that is under the devil will hate you! A comfortable life in this world is not our goal, but eternity in Father’s heavenly kingdom is. The world does not know us because it does not know the very God who created it. God knew each one of us from the foundation of the world and claimed us for His own. We are not only called out (the ecclesia of God) of the world (the kosmos under Satan), but we are called into a very high calling as the sons and daughters of God. As such, our Father has done everything to make sure that we obtain what He has called us into. Paul wrote:

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:27-29, NET)

Our salvation and perfection is all about His mighty working in our lives! Paul continued with this thought.

And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:30-31, NET)

Peter wrote along this same line.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10, NET)

Oh, Father, please open our spiritual eyes of faith that we might see everything in our lives and the lives around us as you do and live according in your great hope with lives that reflect your glory. Amen.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2, RSV)

How God Is Building HIS Temple

Stone quaryWhen the house [Solomon’s Temple] was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry; so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the temple, while it was being built. (1 Kings 6:7 RSVA)

Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. His answer was, “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21 GNB)

Have you ever wondered why we are so scattered from one another when it comes to fellowship? Those of us who really want to have loving communion together in Christ seem to be scattered all over the globe and it is rare that two saints who seek real depth of relationship in the Spirit live in close proximity with one another. I thank God for the internet! Could it be that we, as Paul said, would come together not for the better, but for the worse? And that the whole thing would be counter-productive if we came together too soon?

In the above verse from First Kings, we see that while Solomon’s great and magnificent temple was being built, the sounds of any iron tools at the temple site was absolutely forbidden. Each stone and timber had to be made to fit with precision many miles away, and once they were brought to the temple site, no pieces could be chipped or sawn off to make them fit. All this work on each stone and timber was done under the supervision of the Master Builder in advance while these pieces were in isolation. Isn’t this a magnificent picture of what God is doing today?

The New Testament tells us that each of us is a living stone being fashioned to fit together in His holy and eternal temple which is not made with hands (See Ephesians 2:20-22 and 1 Peter 2:1-9). We long to finally be “fitly joined together” in heavenly fellowship, but God seems to put a higher value on the preparation of each of us than He does on the final assembly of the temple.

Although we long to be assembled together as God’s house, if we are assembled too soon we will not fit. The house will be divided against itself and it will not stand. Like Herod’s temple that was not built by God’s design, not one stone will be left upon another. God’s judgment will be on it because it was not built according to His eternal design.

David discovered that God is very specific about how things are to be done when he tried to move the ark. When he moved it on an oxcart, just as the Philistines had, the result was the death of Uzza. Finally David asked God why, and when he heard His answer, David told the priests:

For because ye [did it] not at the first [move the ark of God], the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order. (1 Chronicles 15:13 KJV)

Isaiah prophesied that when God sets out to do something, He will not deviate from that plan. The beginning governs the end.

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10 RSVA)

God knows our end from the beginning. He knew from the very foundation of the world how each one of us fits in His heavenly temple. He knows what needs to happen in each of our lives to shape us into what is needed and best for us. He has the master blueprint in His mind and there is no deviation permitted from it. It was because of this that Paul prayed,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved… For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-12 RSVA – emphasis added)

So, dear saints, though it feels like God is not getting anything done according to our short time span, be assured that He will accomplish all that He has set out to do in perfecting each one of us into the image of His Son. All we can do is yield ourselves “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him.” Our Daddy is doing a perfect work in us and will continue to do so, though it seems that the whole world around us is racing to hell at high speed. Remember one thing–God’s purposes will not be deterred even if our own smaller plans seem to be suffering in the short run. It is not our worldly perspective and design that He is building from, but His eternal plan and we will be far better off in the long run that our immature view points did not prevail. Or as Paul put it,

May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 GNB – emphasis added)

Alexander MacLaren wrote in his commentary with great insight about our text in 1 Kings 6:7 saying,

Perhaps it was merely for convenience of transport and to save time that the stones were dressed in the quarries, but more probably the silence was due to an instinct of reverence. We may fairly use it as suggesting two thoughts.

I. How God’s house is mostly built in silence. ‘The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation.’

In reference to its advance in the world:

Destructive work is noisy, constructive work is silent. God was in ‘the still small voice,’ not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. Christ’s own career, how silent it was! Drums are loud and empty. The spread of the kingdom was unnoticed by the world’s great ones-Caesars, philosophers, patricians, and it silently grew underground.

[This is]: {a} An encouragement to those whose work is inconspicuous, {b} A lesson not to mistake noise and notoriety for spiritual progress and, {c} Guidance as to our expectations of the advance of Christ’s kingdom… Sudden changes are short-lived changes. ‘Lightly come, lightly go.’ What matures slowly will last long.

In reference to its growth in our souls, silence is needed for that. There must be much still communion and quiet reflection. The advance in the Christian life is variously likened to a battle, since there are antagonists and struggle is needed to overcome; and [as it is with plant life]… the mysterious indwelling life works without effort and almost without consciousness… the work of building is work that must be done in silence. If we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, we must silently drink in the sunshine and dew, and so prosperously pass from blade to ear, and thence to full corn in the ear.

Surely nothing is more needed in these days of noisy advertisement and measurement of the importance of things by the noise that they can make, than this lesson of the place of silence in Christian progress, both for individuals and for the Christian Church as a whole.

II. How God’s house is built of prepared stones:
That is true, in one view of the matter, in regard to the Church on earth, for there must be the individual act of repentance and faith before a soul is fit to be built into the fabric of the Church. There is providential training of men [and women] for their tasks before these are given to them.

But the highest application of the symbol which we venture to find in our text is to the relation between the earthly and the heavenly life. This world is the quarry where the stones are dressed for the Temple in the heavens;

{a} Life is the chipping and hewing. The unnecessary pieces are struck off with heavy mallet and sharp chisel. Pain and sorrow are thus explained, if not wholly, yet sufficiently to bring about submission and trust, {b} The Builder has His plan clearly before Him, and works accurately to realize it. He perfectly knows what He means to build, and every stroke of the dressing-tool is accurately directed. There are no mistakes made in His quarrying and {c} We may be sure that the prepared stones will be brought to the Temple site and built into it… We may repose on the Apostle’s assurance that ‘He that has begun a good work in you will perform it,’ or rather on the more sure word of Jesus Himself, ‘He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.’

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/1_kings/6.htm

“Male and Female Made He Them”… the Gospel

boy and girl and benchSteadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. (Psalms 85:10 RSVA)

So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27 GW)

Many of us have grown up in a misogynistic culture that was promulgated by the churches we attended where only men could do the “God stuff” at the altar and gave out, under certain conditions, the sacraments that made the difference in one’s life between heaven and hell as our final destination. Women need not apply!

The problem with a culture dominated by men is that half of the image of God is missing! He made mankind in His image, both male and female. As a youth when I thought of warriors, judges, law makers, law enforcers and even pastors and priests, I thought of men clad in special uniforms that set them apart from and above the crowd. These men were aloof, stern faced and cold, so that was the image of God I grew up with.

Thank God that in the last fifty years things have changed and women have made inroads in all these areas. But if that same hard male-like image prevails in these professions where women exist, have we really gained anything toward seeing who God really is? He is still the law maker, the law enforcer, the judge, the warrior that avenges, and can even be the distant and set aloof priest who is supposed to be touched by all our afflictions, but he doesn’t have the time to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice because the very size of the church he has built is too much for him.

“God so loved the world…” wrote John as he described the gospel (good news) in his gospel narrative. He did not write, “God so judged the world.” Christ was given to us that we might have Life and that more abundantly. The Old covenant was more about judgment and death than it was about life. In other words, you might say that the Old Covenant was primarily about the male side of God, and the New Covenant takes us deeper into the female aspect of God’s nature.

What I am trying to say is that there is in the nature of women (if it has not been distorted by the harsh world of men in which they exist) a tenderness, kindness and nurturing love that is rarely seen in men. This nature is the “feminine side” of God because He is also the God of forgiveness, kindness, love and mercy. God created Adam in His image and His likeness. But He then said it was not good that man should be alone since Adam didn’t find a helper fit for his human companionship among the animals. So, God put Adam to sleep and took a rib out of him and formed Eve. You might say that God removed the female part of Himself from Adam, formed a separate being from it, and called her Woman. For Adam to become one once again, he had to cling to the woman and she to him in the love and unity of God. Intimacy between a man and a woman was born that day and God saw that it was good! We read later this same verse in Genesis about a man and a woman clinging to one another in unity in the New Testament when Paul wrote:

We are parts of his [Christ’s] body. That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with [joined to] his wife, and the two will be one. This is a great mystery. (I’m talking about Christ’s relationship to the church.) (Ephesians 5:30-32 GW)

You see, we must have the unity of both the man and the woman and all that they are meant to be IN Christ if we are to truly be that city set on a hill that God desires the world to see.

You do not have to teach little boys to play with tools, toy trucks and toy guns. It is natural to them. Likewise you do not have to train little girls to play with dolls or play house or “Nancy Nurse.” Their whole makeup is to love and nurture. God made us to be complementary to one another in His image.

King David grew up in a culture that was all about obeying the laws of God or else. He served in the courts of a harsh and spiteful king named Saul. Yet David was chosen to be king in place of Saul because he was a man after God’s own heart (See 1 Sam. 13:14). This same David handed out judgment as the King of Israel, yet he also handed out mercy, even to his enemies! David understood the love and mercy of God where his predecessor only understood law and punishment and showed no mercy. The law demanded sacrifices to be offered up for sin, but Hosea was quoted by Jesus when He said to those who judged His disciples, “But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7 KJ2000)

When David was caught in his sin, plotting the death of Uriah so that he could have Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, He cried out to God for mercy as the God of all mercy and wrote Psalm 51 as his prayer.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:1-10 ESV)

Here we see even in the Old Testament the good news of the gospel. David appealed to God’s love, mercy and tender washing as a mother does with her child. He cried out to God for a new clean heart and for Him to blot out all his sins and to put a new right spirit in him. Jesus was called “The Son of David” because this is what Father sent Him to do in each one of us (Read Hebrews Ch. 8). All these attributes are what the New Covenant is about.

In the same way that Saul judged, he was judged. He lived by the sword and died by the sword. It is interesting that David lived by love and mercy and died in the arms of love and mercy with a young woman named Abishag, who kept him warm in his old age.

Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm. So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not. (1 Kings 1:1-4 ESV)

I believe that in these last days, our culture has disdained the feminine nature, even among those who have advocated women’s lib. Women have left their homes for a career in the world so they can compete with men in harsh environment of dog eat dog business or even choose combat in the military. They have left the raising and nurturing of their children to institutions, just as the church today has become a cold institution and a business run primarily by men. The tenderness of God in the image of “male and female made He them” has, for the most part, been lost in a world gone mad. Without this we do not have a demonstration of the Good News and mercy of the love of God.

The older I become, the more God has tenderized my heart. Like David, the more I see “my [own] sin that is ever before me,” the more I want God’s mercy and the more I want to show His love and mercy to others. Jesus said, “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:2 KJ2000). I don’t know about you, but these words are enough to scare the judgment of hell out of me (See Revelation 12:10)!

In closing, I encourage the brothers in the body of Christ to yield to the gift that God has put in the sisters in their loving and nurturing natures and open your eyes to see how Christ Himself so often showed His love and mercy to those who needed healing in not only their bodies, but also their broken hearts. And I would encourage the sisters to see that there is also a need at times for firmness and discipline as when Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Together both the male and female natures of God are needed if we are to see Him as He is.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are… Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2 RSVA)

Love Personified

By Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth

woman-at-the-wellSusanne wrote in an earlier blog,

“I was just pondering on the fact why we as human beings are not always the same. I mean, there are people with whom we dare to be more open than with others. People of whom we know that they love us and that they will forgive us whatever we might say or do. But there are other people we do not know that intimately and therefore we are a still bit cautious of how to deal with them.” (https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/be-who-you-are-since-there-is-no-other-you/)

There is something that the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well felt about Jesus that made her dare to be totally open with Him. When we hear the story about her preached, many like to say that Jesus confronted her with her sins. Susanne and I hold that this was not the case, but rather she was confronted with how much Jesus loved and respected her in spite of knowing what her past history was. She was shocked that He was even talking with her and asked her for a drink, knowing that Jews did not have anything to do with Samaritans, much less a Jewish man with a Samaritan woman! She was the dog of dogs in the mind of an orthodox Jewish Rabbi.

Yet, Jesus personally shared the gospel with her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10 RSVA). Jesus told her that He was the Gift of God and that as such He could give her the water of life that flows freely. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 RSVA). What is amazing is that she did not for one moment doubt His offer that He could give her living water and eternal life! She responded, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:15 RSVA). She wanted all that He had for her because she realized that she had met the lover of her soul, the first man in her life who was not interested in what she had to offer him, but who wanted to give her what she really needed. We know that this man was God, too. A human being can never fill the void in our hearts which were created by God to only be filled with His Spirit. His love is the only love that can make us whole again.

Jesus, after offering her eternal life and she wanting it, pointed out to her that she was living with a man who was not her husband. Yet, where was the condemnation? It was not there! Rather He commended her for telling the truth, “I have no husband.” This woman felt no shame or condemnation from Him, only love and respect. And what was her response to this divine encounter? She said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he. ” …So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” (John 4:25-29 RSVA). Jesus had shown her in a few words the very inner thoughts and longings of her heart. Messiah had come and showed her all things including that men would no longer worship God in special buildings or in special places, but that true worship would be done by God’s Spirit within them from lives filled with and demonstrating His truth.

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did!” I don’t know about you, but we believe that if this woman had been shamed by what Jesus said to her, would she be telling everyone she knows that there is a man down by the well that knows every sin she ever committed? No, she would be hiding out in her house, hoping He would go away and keep silent! But she ran into her village and rejoiced for having met the Christ. THAT IS THE GOSPEL. She met LOVE personified. He showed her compassion and understood WHY she had sought love in men and had been married five times before. But He did not condemn her in the slightest, but rather told her about where to find eternal life and what real worship of our heavenly Father is all about; therefore she trusted in Him.

All too often the gospel today is presented to people in one of two extremes. On the one hand people get the idea that they have to “clean up their act” before they can come to Christ. The other extreme is that we can be a Christian without ever having to change a thing, we can just go on living in sin with impunity. Neither is true. But we finally see that the love our Father has for us is not contingent on our performance, for He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall of both the bad and the good. We love Him because He first loves us. What follows from that love relationship is a longing to please the One who loves us so much. We are given the Spirit of God who speaks in our hearts when He wants us to change and what it is that pleases Him and it is because of our love relationship with our Father that we are empowered to change. Love is the most powerful motivator known to man and GOD IS LOVE.