Thursday, September 30, 2010

WHEN IN TROUBLE

NOTE:  I dedicate this to several of my close brothers who are in deep trial like my wife and I are today.  We need this Word of encouragement.  We need this confirmation of our position in Christ.  We need to view trouble in the right way today, or we will miss the point, as we have so many times through the years!

WHEN IN TROUBLE
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“Is any one of you in trouble? 
He should pray.”
James 5:13

“Therefore confess your sins to each other
and pray for each other
so that you may be healed.”
James 5:16

Many of those who claim to be Christians today refuse to acknowledge trouble.  Many refuse to acknowledge that trial and hardship come into our lives for a purpose.  Many believe that it is important to cover up trouble, and to pretend that it doesn’t exist, and so we ignore our own trouble, smooth it over, and we do the same with the trials and troubles that come into our brother’s lives.

In particular, we have many today in the Body of Christ, those who sincerely want to know the Lord, and to serve Him, who are in trouble.  They are experiencing terrible crises, of finance, of marriage, of family, of work, or of health.  Hundreds of thousands of sincere, “Bible-believing” Christians today suffer from all these hard things, and many are on the edge of despair daily.

We’re suffering in our hearts because we don’t get why these things are happening.  We don’t understand the purpose of trouble in our lives.  Modern Christianity teaches a false version of discipleship, and many of us feel down deep that these troubles all come as God’s judgment on people who are living in some way out of God’s will.

What a foolish sentiment.  Don’t we understand Christ at all?  Don’t we hear the Scriptures, which abound with God’s truth about trouble?

Trouble and trial and tribulation, the “Triple-T Brand” on God’s flock of sheep, means He loves us so much He wants the depth and genuineness of our faith to be tested, and He wants to be our salvation in the midst of it.  This does not mean God will miraculously lift us out of it.  Many times in the Word of God we are shown that we must go through the fire, and go through the deep waters of suffering, not around them.  Yet He will deliver us.

But trouble is in many ways the wonderful mercy of God in action.  He must have our full attention, and He will not allow us to be distracted by complacency or lukewarmness.  He will not allow us to bask in the glory of our own strength, which we often do. 

James knew trouble well.  And the believers in Christ he was writing to knew trouble and trial, and James wrote to that situation. 

For my brothers this morning who face deep trouble, as I do, let’s take heart in the truths of James’ Word from the Lord.  What are we to do if we are in trouble?

PRAY.  Pray and pray and pray.  Seek the Lord at every moment you can.  He is the One who wants to guide you and keep you through this trouble.  Not for the purpose of getting you out of it, but to teach you His power in your life.  You must learn from it.  You and I must learn the Presence of God, as Israel learned the Presence of God when He delivered them from the clutches of Pharoah, and brought them out of Egypt.  How else would we learn God’s power and love but through great trouble and trial—so great that we cannot deliver ourselves!

Listen to what James says.  He says that we are to pray, but he also says we are to confess our sins to one another, and pray for one another, and seek God’s healing.  This is completely abandoned in our day.  Who can we trust?  Does brother trust brother to love, and not to condemn?  So we hide ourselves and our troubles, and go to church and pretend, and so the Body is sickly and full of hidden pain and sorrow.

But for my brother and sister who grieve, who sorrow, who are so afraid that you will not make it through whatever trial faces you, James has another simple instruction for us.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.
If any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God, who gives generously
without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
James 1:2-5

You see trouble is not about blame.  God looks at you “without finding fault” and comes to you in your trouble to teach you His love and grace and mercy, and His power.  This isn’t about you.  It’s about Christ in you, and learning the Presence of God, even in your worst circumstances.

This is our simple haven.  We are to lean on the Lord, talk with Him continually about our troubles, share our troubles with brothers and sisters we can trust, pray together, confess our sins to one another if we’ve sinned, and pray for healing.  We must turn to the Lord only, not the world.  He must answer us with His wisdom, as He has promised. 

These are our instructions in times of trouble and trial.

And woe to those among us who condemn and look down their noses at the Lord’s own who are experiencing terrible afflictions.  Woe to those who look at others and see their many sins, yet who don’t see their own.  We know what Jesus said to the Pharisees, and the religious people who believed that holy people didn’t see trouble.  We know how He feels about judgmental people.

God’s best is for those who seek Him in these terrible times.  Trouble is our friend.  God will give us wisdom, and we will learn perseverance and faith, and become mighty in the Spirit of God if we do these things and don’t give up.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WE WHO HAVE MUCH

 WE WHO HAVE MUCH
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“From everyone who has been given much,
much will be demanded;
and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked.”
--Luke 12:48

         
How much have we been given, in our affluent western cultures? 

We have been given incredible riches and freedom.  God has given us unlimited access for generations to the Scriptures, and unlimited freedom to spread the gospel.  We’ve had massive resources to produce books, and music, and every form of communication—now adding all the electronic media—that can carry the Truth of Jesus Christ to every forgotten corner of not only our society, but the world.

In particular the United States was founded on the basis of freedoms of speech and religion.  There were no curbs on our Christian endeavors.  There has been plenty of money, and business power, and political clout.  And extra time to pursue, after our unprecedented shorter work days due to this very affluence, sharing the Truth of God with others.

We’ve had a long, clear, untrammeled road to influence the world for the Kingdom of God.  But it’s clear we’ve largely mishandled the “much” we’ve been given. 

Generation after generation has gone by, and, instead of America becoming a focal point and base for Kingdom power through Jesus Christ, Christians here have become less and less committed to Him, less and less filled with His love and power, and more and more in tune with the world.

The western churches are weak with riches.  Our Christian institutions have become staid, organizational, and committed more to their own longevity than to breaking through with Christ and seeing His power displayed in His Ekklesia, the ‘called out to be together’ people of God.

Doesn’t this sober you up, dear brother or sister?  Doesn’t it give you pause in your daily rush?  Wasn’t Jesus talking to us in this passage from Luke?

We have been entrusted with the Word of God in abundance.  It’s legal to own and read the Scriptures.  It has been more available to us than to any other people group at any other time in history.

Yet we treat it casually, as if it’s a cookbook, or a nice coffee table book.  We open it now and then, but mainly get our spiritual truth in small doses from the pastor on Sunday, or from a daily devotional booklet written by someone else.

Where is the powerful anointing of the Spirit to open our eyes individually to what Scripture says?  Where is the conviction of sin?  Where is the earnest repentance? 

Where is the daily focus on Christ, the moment-by-moment living in Him, the daily dying to self that Scripture calls for?  Where is our love?  Where is our peace?  Where is our hope in the future promises of God? 

Where are our hearts, and our treasures laid up?  Where is love of the brethren, and the daily sharing of ourselves and our very lives with them? 

Where is the life of the Body, exhibited by active gifts employed by every individual as distributed by the Holy Spirit?  Where is the Scripture being pored over hour-by-hour, day-by-day among those whose lives are charged with the electric love of God and hunger for His righteousness? 

Where is the daily encouragement for those in trouble, or in poverty, or in pain, or in various distresses and problems that threaten to overwhelm them?  Where is the love of Christ?

Perhaps we should give full attention to working out our own salvation with fear and trembling instead of acting as if we are a beacon to the world, and light to the nations, and worrying about the other cultures who have far less.  Perhaps we should look at ourselves and see with the eyes of the Spirit, and regard our spiritual poverty in the midst of our material plenty, and begin focusing on letting God work in us.  Then when we’ve taken the lumberyard out of our own eye, we might be able to see well enough in Christ to carry the “full message of this new life” (Acts 5:20) to the world. 
         
We are those who have been given much.  And we are those who stand to lose all, because we have ignored the gracious hand of our God upon us.


          

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

PROPHETS OR FARMERS

PROPHETS OR FARMERS
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

“On that day every prophet
will be ashamed of his prophetic vision.
He will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair
in order to deceive.  He will say,
‘I am not a prophet.
I am a farmer; the land has been
my livelihood since my youth.’
If someone asks him,
‘What are these wounds on your body?’
he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given
at the house of my friends.’”
Zech. 13:4-6

I am not a prophet.  I am a farmer.  The Word of God is the seed, and I have been given the task of sowing it.  I am not responsible for the increase of it, only the sowing.  I am not responsible for the reaping of it, only the sowing.  The wounds on my body are the wounds of my Friend, Christ.  This is a simple revelation, but one we must listen to.

Too many of us are zealous to do the Lord’s work.  The Lord requires us to put off the natural man, and to “put on Christ”, who will do His work in us, and who will advance His work through us without our particular help.  The importance of this putting off of self, and putting on of Christ cannot be overemphasized.  So many of us strive and strive, we take up a “work for God” and do it in the natural man, we undertake tasks for God, we run off and do things for God.  Yet the important work, the making of each of us into a man or woman of God, we neglect and ignore. 

We have been raised in a wrong way of thinking.  Even in the churches we have stressed the doing of things.  We have stressed the building of things, the taking hold of things, the effort of things.  We talk of “walking with Christ” and “doing the Lord’s work” and we haven’t died at all, we have just taken up a work in our own strength and our own hands.

In the calling of Abraham, God did the impossible.  He took this old man, and his old wife, and he made them parents of an entire nation.  He did something, not out of the efforts of the old man, but out of His own power.  This resulted in glory for God alone, and not for Abraham.  Abraham’s only glory was that he “believed God and it was reckoned unto him as righteousness.” (see Romans 4:18-25)

This man is a picture of Christ in us.  It is God who calls, God who wills, God who works in us for His good pleasure.  It is none of our effort that benefits the Kingdom.  Our faith is our glory, because it brings glory to God alone.  Until we see this, we are still viewing Christ as someone outside ourselves, who we serve because we want to earn His favor, to be significant.  We are striving because of the emptiness inside us, which many of us know to be the truth from experience.  Even those of us who’ve claimed Christ as Lord for many years KNOW this emptiness, this striving after wind.

The wounds of Christ are His marks in us.  What does this mean?  It means we must die, and be marked with the death of Christ in us before we can experience His life in us. 

Too many of us claim to speak for Christ.  Yet we live without scars and wounds, and we have never gone up to the “Place of the Skull”, Golgotha, carrying our cross, dying to self, and having God turn His face away during our time of dying.  When Jesus was on the cross, He cried out in his natural man, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”  Yet the Father had to turn away in his grief, and not save His only Son, but let Him die for us.  At that moment, Jesus became man in the way that allows Him to know every suffering we will ever go through.  So the Father must turn away and let us die many times in this life on earth, because He knows, even in His grief over our pain, that we must go through the dying in order to have Life.

The small things are the significant things.  The things that go unnoticed by the world, and sadly, often by the people of God.  These are our Golgothas.  The places of dying.  These are necessary for Resurrection to take place in us.

Then, with Paul, we will understand, and say:

“Since you died with Christ…
Since then you’ve been raised with Christ…”
Col. 2:20;3:1

In this new place, this place of resurrection beyond the grave:

“Here there is no Greek or Jew,
circumcised or uncircumcised,
barbarian, Scythian, slave or free,
but Christ is all, and in all.”
Col. 3:11

Brethren, we must stop our striving to be someone in Christ.  We must stop working to be someone of significance.  We must stop working to do the Lord’s work.  It is Christ in us that does His work.  We must rest in Him, and let Him work.  His work in us will be enough.


Monday, September 27, 2010

MEN OF GOD BEWARE

MEN OF GOD BEWARE

A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

TEXT:  1 Kings 12:31-13:32

I ask you to read this entire section before you read what I’ve written here, men.  This is a little-known occurrence, yet has great importance for us today.

I’m going to share a few insights God gave me this morning about this man of God and the prophet who lied to him and ensnared him in a sin that resulted in his death.  I pray that the eyes of our understanding will be opened by our Father, and that we will take to heart the lessons here for us.

First, note that the man of God brought God’s message forcefully to the King.  He was a man of conviction and courage, standing up to the most powerful leaders of his day.  He had a message from God and he delivered it, on time, and in the place he was to deliver it.  He also didn’t back down when the King became angry, but called on the Lord and the Lord answered right there, withering the King’s outstretched hand.  This unnamed man of God is very impressive.  And He was obedient to his calling.

Then, after the Lord saved the man of God, he actually had the courage and character to turn down the King’s offer.  (Read it, men).  He told the King he wouldn’t compromise even if the King gave him half the kingdom.  This was a guy we could all emulate.

But, in the end, this mighty man of God, after all these exploits, disobeyed God in the “little things”, and was tempted and fell to a silly dinner invitation by a fellow prophet.  This temptation came from a “brother” who lied to the man of God in order to lead him astray. 
This old prophet said, “I, too, am a prophet as you are.  And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord…” (13:18)

The Lord gives me two other Scriptures for us today.

“…for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
2 Cor. 11:14

“But even if we or an angel from heaven
should preach a gospel other than the one
we preached to you, let him be
eternally condemned.”
Gal. 1:8

In this critical hour we have many who preach gospels of their own devising.  These men masquerade as angels of light, and bring their words from God to us.  If we are not grounded firmly in the Word of God to us, the original gospel as handed us by Christ through His apostles in the Word of God, then we will fall.

This mighty man of God, unnamed, forgotten, was a great man.  He had the Word of God and followed it.  He was a man of courage and conviction.  He risked his life to defy the powers of his day and stay true to the Lord.  Yet he was led astray by a fellow prophet who claimed a different word, delivered by angels.

Is this a picture of us today?  Oh, brothers, read the news.   Men of God led astray by greed, lust, and the love of this world.  And leading other men of God with them.  For a dinner our man of God in this passage gave up his ministry, and died on the road back home.  He never made it.

I pray better for us.  Let the Holy Spirit give you His insight in these matters, and watch yourselves, for many masquerade today, giving us words they claim are from the Lord, yet they are liars and deceivers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

THE UGLY GIFT

THE UGLY GIFT
A. Brother
(c)2010 Narrowgate Publishing
 
         
          Christ Jesus comes to us out of the depths of the dark forest that lies in our pathway.  He is carrying something, and He sets it down in front of us.  It is a present, though one like we’ve never seen before.  In all our years of church, our months and weeks of believing in Jesus and participating in the busy life of a Christian, we’ve never encountered a moment like this.
          We look at it, and give Jesus, who is standing expectantly in front of us, love and hope in His eyes, a puzzled look.
          He says, “I want you to go with Me today,” and points into the blackness underneath the tall trees.  “This is the gift I’m giving you, the gift of discipleship.  This means you share in everything with Me from now on.  My joys, My sorrows, My love, My sufferings.  You’ll become like Me on this Narrow Road.  But in order to experience this New Life, you must be willing to come now.”
          Our sensibilities recoil at the sight of this huge gift, with its ugly wrapping, its strange and forbidding shape, and the long, uneasy shadow it casts upon our desires for brightness and easy living.  We resist, standing unsure at the edge of the forbidding forest, with its hanging moss, its dank, smelly, unknown, murky depths.  
          We think about this Jesus thing. It’s been fine as long as it means “our best life now”, holding the promise of sunlit days and comfortable nights of restful sleep.  What is He talking about?  Why does He have to come and spoil a good thing?  
          Christ is smiling at us as He always does, His eyes bidding us go further and deeper and higher with Him. 
          We stand shuffling our feet in the grass, diverting our own eyes, unable to meet His unwavering gaze.

          “Wait, Lord Jesus, I must go bury my dead father,” we say with some embarrassment. 
          “Follow Me and let the dead bury their own dead,” Jesus replies kindly and cheerfully.
          We try to fend Him off with assurances of our good intentions.
          “Teacher, I’ll follow you wherever you go,” we say to Him, with a sincere, heartfelt look in our eyes.
          Jesus looks at us with tender understanding, but firmly He says, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”
            Glancing again toward the forest, where the path disappears into the undergrowth, we hear strange noises, and are afraid.
          Thinking fast now, we bring up our accomplishments. 
          “Lord, you know how I have so much responsibility.  I teach in the second graders in Sunday school, help clean the church, and give my tithe.  I’ve believed in You since I was a teenager.  I’ve been faithful in attendance, sincere in worship services, and I read my Bible every morning and pray.” 
          We look at Jesus now, hopefully, waiting for what we’re sure will be a commendation.
          Jesus looks at us fondly, then smiles, takes hold of our shoulders, and looks us right in the eyes.
          “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow Me.”
            At this point, we turn and look back at all we have in life.  We see our friends,   family, job, comfortable lifestyle, toys, projects, goals and ambitions--the busy and successful path we’ve been on. 
          The good life beckons, and we stand glued to this familiar scene behind us, thinking that if we just try hard enough, we can do both.  We can have all we want in the world, and we can still walk with Jesus.  We think about the great sermons we’ve heard, and the good church life we’ve enjoyed, and all the good gifts of being with Christ we have, and we can’t understand why He insists on spoiling it with this new wrinkle.  We begin to question whether we heard Him right, and turn to face Him, and this time we’ll really ask Him some harder questions, because we can’t just drop everything to follow Him.  He’ll have to understand.  We’ll make it plain to Him and He’ll be fine with everything once we’ve explained.

           We turn reluctantly toward Jesus, still thinking of clever answers to His simple call.  But what we see is His back, muscles rippling beneath His shirt, as He blends into the shadows of the forest’s fringe, His feet already treading the unknown, twisting, narrow path that cuts into the blackness.
          “Wait, Jesus!” we call.  He turns and lifts His hand to us, motioning us forward,  and yells in return, “Anyone who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
            This is not what we wanted to hear.  This is not good.  We stand sweating in the sunshine, barely able to discern Jesus under the boughs of the great trees.
          “But Lord, I wanted to talk with you about this.  I’ve got a life, and it needs living!  I’ve got plans and goals and dreams, and friends and family and a job and a good life now, and you can’t just mean that I’ve got to be willing to give it all up, and come into the unknown, and possibly suffer and die with You!  This isn’t the Christianity I learned!  What will everyone say?  They’ll laugh at me, or be angry with me, and things will not go well for me!” we shout into the forest, shading our eyes, trying to see Jesus.
          His voice is getting faint now, and we hear the sounds behind us of our life and our desires, and it seems they’re growing stronger and louder, and we can barely discern the voice of Christ.
          Yet His clear, calm, loving answer cuts through the din, and as we’re surrounded suddenly by the church activities, and our career objectives, and the bills and the business, and the vacation plans, and the things we want and have worked toward, and the house and the cars and the busy days, and the comfortable Christian walk we’ve led so far, we can barely hear Jesus as He disappears up the trail.
          “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it!” 
            The echoes fade away into the leafy wall, and we turn a little sadly back to the life we choose, looking forward to dinner and a movie, and getting back to work in the morning—anything to take our mind off the ugly, poorly wrapped present still sitting in the tall grass at the edge of the known world—anything to ease the pain and sorrow that we felt so keenly for those last few insane moments.

          Within a short time the memory of the encounter has mercifully faded, and becomes something we dismiss as the result of an overzealous imagination, or dangerous fanaticism.  Or maybe just bad eggs for breakfast. 
          Once in a while, as we’re reading our quick daily devotional and praying for God to bless us, we hear the soft voice of Jesus as He fades into the forest, calling us, beckoning us with a strong, nail-scarred hand, and we feel that deep tug of desire for the narrow path that disappears into the unknown.  But mercifully, our cell rings, or the clock reminds us we’re going to be late if we don’t get going, or one of the children interrupts us, and we’re off for the day. 
          After all, what does Jesus expect?  We’ve got a life to live!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

A SYSTEM THAT PERPETUATES SIN

With another sad revelation of alleged sexual sin by a well-known US Pastor this morning, the Bishop Eddie Long out of Atlanta, who has a huge ministry there, I urge you to read 2 Peter chapter 2.  Why are we surprised, when we have set up this ungodly church system that elevates people based on their talent to preach or sing instead of their proven, humble Christ-like character, including their love and wisdom?  

We have 'bought into' a worldly Christianity that emphasizes all the wrong things.  Christ's power is shown through the weak and lowly, those who rest on Him for all.  His power and glory are in us, His chosen vessels, fragile and emptied of self.  As we are taught throughout Scripture, it is God, not us.  It is Christ's interests that count, not some guy who's managed to enthrall thousands with his fiery preaching ability, or his closet full of tailored suits.

I don't know much about Eddie, and I don't judge his innocence or guilt this morning.  But I am angry, and God's Spirit is in me, and He is angry.  For we perpetuate the sins of men like this by revering them in their bully pulpits, and obsequiously bowing to them like they are above us, instead of holding them to account as equal brothers in Christ.  This man may have done what was alleged by the four men suing him.  He may not have done it.  But the very fact that he is in a position where he could have done this is an indictment on the man-made structure that created his lofty position.

The Pope is apologizing.  But the system that perpetuates the ability for men who claim to be Christ's emissaries and bishops on the earth to sin, still stands unchanged.  These systems, whether Catholic or Protestant, are evil structures that encourage men and women to sin. By setting men above one another instead of Christ above every one, they draw men away by their very position and power over others.  We must stand against these systems, true brothers in Christ, and have the courage to show in Scripture the simplicity of the Body of Christ and its functioning as laid out for us.

It is time for many to step away from these false teachers and prophets.  Even many of our pastors in pulpits of ordinary churches down the street are operating with impunity and without accountability.  Elders have been treated like sacred cows, and it is time we applied Scripture and stopped disobeying the Lord in these matters.  Every believer in Christ is equally important, and equally responsible to answer to one another.  No matter what hat they wear, or what office they hold.


Friday, September 24, 2010

JESUS NEVER PLEASED HIMSELF

JESUS NEVER PLEASED HIMSELF

NOTE:  The Lord gave me 1 Corinthians 10:23,24 this morning, which says “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”  Then I opened this from our brother Zac in India.  See how the Spirit works in harmony among His people? 

A. Brother

WORD FOR THE WEEK  26 September 2010
Christian Fellowship Church, Bangalore, India
http://www.cfcindia.com
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           Jesus Never Pleased Himself

                      Zac Poonen

In Romans 15:3  - it is written about Jesus that  "He did not please  Himself". He always denied Himself. Thus He pleased the Father at all times.

Pleasing oneself can be done in many areas of one's life - for example, in the area of eating. Consider a situation where, even when you are not hungry, you decide to spend some money to buy some tasty snacks to eat. There is certainly nothing sinful or wrong in that. But it speaks of a certain way of life. Because you have money, you buy what you like, whether you need it or not. You do what pleases yourself. If you feel like buying something, you buy it. If you feel like going somewhere, you go. If you feel like sleeping late, you just sleep late. What is the end result of living like that, even if you go regularly to the meetings and read your Bible every day? You may not lose your salvation, but you will certainly waste the one life that God gave you to live for Him.

Another brother however acts differently. He decides to discipline his body. When he is not hungry, he decides not to eat anything unnecessarily. He decides never to buy any unnecessary things for himself. He decides to get up 15 minutes earlier each day to spend time with God. When someone speaks to him angrily, he decides to reply gently. He decides to remain in love and goodness always. He decides not to read certain news items in the newspapers that will stimulate his lusts. In every situation, he decides to humble himself and not to justify himself. He decides to give up certain friendships that are influencing him towards the world. Through constantly deciding to deny his own will (what pleased him), he becomes strong in his will to please God alone.

What did he lose by not buying that unnecessary thing, or by getting out of bed 15 minutes earlier, or by giving up his human sense of dignity and asking for forgiveness? Nothing. But think of what he has gained!

A man like that, who is consistently faithful in the little things, will in a few years' time become a trustworthy man of God - not because of the Bible-knowledge that he possesses, but because of his faithfulness in the little decisions he takes in life not to please Himself but to please God.

Don't be weak-willed then. Exercise your will to please God at all times. Mature Christians are those who "because of practice (in exercising their will in the right direction through many years), have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Heb.  5:14).

Consider an illustration: Two fat men go to a doctor to remove their flabbiness. The doctor gives them a course of exercises for the next twelve months. One man goes through the discipline of those exercises consistently every day, and slims down and becomes strong. The other man does the exercises for the first few days and then slackens off and finally gives up altogether. His pot-belly gets fatter and fatter with his undisciplined ways, until he finally dies prematurely. This is an illustration of how we can either make our wills strong to do God's will, or leave them flabby and weak for the devil to exploit.

I remember reading once of a young servant of the Lord who felt that he had been watching too much television (even though he had been watching only clean programs), and who decided one day not only to sell his TV set, but also to use the time that he had spent watching TV in prayer every day. As a direct result of that little decision that he took - and maintained - God gave him a ministry that blessed thousands. Those who see nothing wrong in watching clean programs over TV find that God does not entrust them with much - for He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him and there is no partiality with Him.

Yes, you are what you are today because of those many, many little decisions that you have taken in relation to either denying yourself or pleasing yourself in the areas of food, money, sleep, reading, etc.,

So forget the blunders that you have made in life. Repent radically of your sins and be wholehearted in the days to come. God forgives you and blots out your past. Don't mope over your failures now, or you will be a drifter in the future too. The memory of your failures will help you to recognise that you are what you are only by the grace of God. It will also enable you to keep your face in the dust at all times before God.

Determine that you will become a true man/woman of God.
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For more information write to: wftw@cfcindia.com

Thursday, September 23, 2010

THIS PECULIAR KNOWLEDGE

NOTE:  The Lord has involved me in taking care of things this week that ought to have been taken care of years ago.  He has told me to share other’s teachings, such as T. Austin-Sparks and Zac Poonen, while He works in me.  I’m praying for all God’s people, that we might have this “peculiar knowledge” that only comes by obedience to the Lord in all things—in the midst of suffering or plenty.

THIS PECULIAR KNOWLEDGE
By
T. Austin-Sparks

"The city has no need of sun or moon,
for the glory of God illuminates the city,
and the Lamb is its light."
Revelation 21:23

Light is not a mental thing: that is to say, it is not just a matter of having a store of mental knowledge. That is not light.

It is possible to have an enormous amount of doctrine and truth and never be luminaries, that is, never register impact upon darkness. Real light is experimental: that is to say, it is the fruit of experience, the experience of suffering.

How have you children of God come to know what you do know of the Lord, that real kind of knowledge of the Lord which is so precious to us, which means so much and which makes you, in that measure, of value to others? It is through suffering, it is through the difficult way the Lord has led you, it is through the work of the Cross that He has wrought in you.

“The Lamb is the lamp” — suffering leading to knowledge, to light, to understanding. It is the only way. These people at the end will be the recipients of a great and wonderful revelation which has come by their fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. It is very true.

It may not be too comforting from one standpoint, but it is true; and it ought to help us to realise this: that the Lord, in the way in which He is dealing with us, in the sufferings which He allows to come upon us, is really seeking our education, that we may have a knowledge of Himself which can only come that way, and which is a peculiar kind of knowledge of tremendous value to us and through us to others.

We do not learn in any other way. It is the Lamb, always the Lamb-principle, the way of suffering and sacrifice and self-emptying, that brings us into the knowledge of the Lord. “The Lamb is the lamp thereof”; and, just as it is deeper death unto fuller life, so it may often be deeper darkness unto fuller light.

The Lord seems to lead us in a way where we are less and less able naturally to understand Him. He gets us altogether out of our natural capacity, beyond our capacity for interpreting His ways.

We just do not know what the Lord is doing, or why He is doing what He is doing; yet it is the way by which we come to a very real kind of inward knowledge of Himself.

It may not be capable of explanation in words to anybody, but we know, somehow or other we know, and that is a mighty thing, a mighty power of knowledge. It is light through the Cross.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

THE FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF THE BODY OF CHRIST

NOTE:  I love the teachings of Zac Poonen, who is Senior Pastor
of this active Body for Christ in Bangalore, India.

THE FUNDAMENTAL LAW
OF THE BODY OF CHRIST

By Zac Poonen
Christian Fellowship Church
Bangalore, India

Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment just before He went to the cross. They were to love one another as He had loved them (Jn. 13:34). It is this last phrase that makes Jesus' command impossible to fulfill without God's grace.

What is the distinctive feature of the love of Christ? Surely, it is the cross on which He died for us. So when He tells me to love my brother as He loved me, it is a call to follow His example and to die to self in my relationship with my brother. Self-denial is to characterize my relationship with other members in Christ's Body. This and nothing less than this is true Christian love. When we are told that "we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 Jn. 3:16), it is not a reference to physical death, but to something far more difficult. It is easier to die once as a martyr than to lay down our self-life many times every day in our relationship with our fellow-believers. But it is to the latter that Jesus calls us.

Such sacrificial, unselfish love is the fundamental law of the body of Christ. One who does not carry the cross and choose the way of self-denial cannot fulfill his function in Christ's Body.

Why are we offended and irritated with other Christians? Surely, because Self is still on the throne of our lives. We consider ourselves so important, that we feel we must be respected and consulted by others. We feel that others must behave and order their affairs as we want them to. We expect others to be kind and considerate to us, to `make much' of us and praise us. Such feelings and expectations are clear evidence of the fact that we know nothing of the cross experientially. Our lives are still dominated by selfishness and revolve exclusively around Self and it’s interests.

True Christian fellowship can never be experienced among believers, if the love of the cross is not made the fundamental rule in the conduct of their relationships. Apart from such love, whatever goes by the name "fellowship" will only be social friendship and not the true communion of the Body of Christ. Such social friendship exists in worldly clubs too. Sadly, many Christian churches and groups are no better than clubs!

The members of a Christian fellowship should be closely interlocked, one with the other. God has not called us to be an assortment of dismembered limbs thrown together as in an anatomy laboratory, but to be united one with the other as parts of a living organism like the human body. But there is a price to be paid if this is to become a reality - the price of each member denying himself for the sake of others. Blessed indeed is that Christian group where all the members are willing to live by this rule.
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For more information write to: wftw@cfcindia.com

Sunday, September 19, 2010

STARTING AT ZERO


NOTE:  Another powerful word from the Word by T. Austin-Sparks.
We need God to raise up brothers like this today, to make us
accountable to truths like these at the beginning.  We must
teach one another these solid starting points.



STARTING AT ZERO
by
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS

What do you have that God hasn’t given you?
And if everything you have is from God,
why boast as though it were not a gift?
1 Corinthians 4:7

There are still a lot of people in this world who think that there is something in man that can contribute to the glory of God and that Christianity is only the bringing up out of man of something that is for the glory of God.

That is a long, long-standing fallacy and lie. It is not true. Call it what you like; it goes by various names, such as 'the inner light' or 'the vital spark'.

The Word of God all the way through is coming down tremendously on this thing. I start at zero, and zero for me means that I can contribute nothing. Everything has to come from God. The very fact that the gift of God is eternal life means that you have not got it until it is given to you. You are blind until God gives you the faculty of sight. You are dead until God gives you life. You are a hopeless cripple until God does something for you and in you which you can never do.

Unless God does this thing, unless this act takes place, well, there you lie. Spiritually, that is how you are. You can contribute nothing...

This is one of the great lessons that you and I have to learn in the School of Christ, that God begins for His glory at zero, and God will take pains through the Holy Spirit to make us to know that it is zero; that is, to bring us consciously to zero, and make us realize it is all with Him...

Have we got settled on this? We take so long to learn these basic elementary lessons. We do still cling to some sort of idea that we can produce something, and all our miserable days are simply the result of still hoping that we can in some way provide the Lord with something. Not being able to find it, but breaking down all the time, we get miserable, perfectly miserable.

It takes us so long to come to the place where we do fully and finally settle this matter, that if we lived as long as ever man lived on this earth, we shall not be able to contribute one iota which can be acceptable to God, and which He can take and use for our salvation, for our sanctification, for our glorification, not a bit.

All that He can use is His Son, and the measure of our ultimate glory will be the measure of Christ in us, just that.

OUR SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY, PART TWO

OUR SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“We are fools for Christ,
but you are so wise in Christ!
We are weak,
but you are strong!
You are honored,
we are dishonored!”
1 Cor. 4:10

         
As I read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian believers, my thoughts center on the Christian churches in America in which I’ve spent my entire life.  I think of the situation we are in now, with report after report about the churches detailing the hidden sexual sins of leaders and laity alike, the divisions, the controversies, the immorality, the high divorce rate, the legal problems, the idolatry of money and greed.

Paul’s letter deals with all these things.  The Corinthian church problems and sins parallel what we’re going through today.  So this letter also gives us great light on why we are experiencing this great surge of sin and compromise with the world.

Paul identifies the root problem.  These churches were…

“…worldly—mere infants in Christ…you are still worldly.”
1 Cor. 3:1-3

The root problem was infancy in Christ.  They had not grown up at all.  They were acting immaturely, fighting and quarreling, following their sinful impulses, still revealing the old man’s pride, stubbornness, rebellion, and unwillingness to yield to the Holy Spirit.

Yet this church had the visible signs that we hold up with pride in the churches today—

“…in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—
…therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift…”
1 Cor. 1:5-7

In other words, this church had great speaking, great knowledge of the Scriptures and the gospel, and the manifestations of many of the spiritual gifts, especially the ones that showed publicly, like teaching, preaching, and tongues. (see Chapter 12) 

It was a church that outwardly was flourishing, and growing in numbers, riches and status, yet inwardly was in turmoil, with many problems.  Sound familiar?

As babies, we think only of ourselves.  That is natural.  We are only consumed with eating, sleeping, and trying to get our bearings in the world.  We want to be held, loved, hugged, and stimulated constantly.  When we are tired, we cry until someone lets us sleep.  When we are hungry, we cry until someone lets us eat.  When we are uncomfortable, we fuss until someone makes us comfortable.  When we are cold or hot, we fuss or cry until someone takes care of that problem.

The Corinthians, as we are today in many of our churches, were consumed with themselves.  They were centered on outward things, and didn’t have the mind of Christ.  Like Peter Pan, like us, they said, “I don’t want to grow up!” 

“But we have the mind of Christ.”
1 Cor. 2:16 

Paul was contrasting their worldly, infantile spiritual minds with the mind of Christ they were supposed to have.

These men and women were fighting among themselves about who was the greatest teacher to follow.  They were fighting for position and prominence.  They were jealous of one another.  They were fighting to appear wise and they were exhibiting pride instead of love, head knowledge instead of heart knowledge, and they were in general judging things wrongly, instead of having the Spirit’s viewpoint, and the mind of Christ.

These Corinthians were wise and strong achievers in their own eyes, which had made them arrogant. (4:18)  Many of them now looked down on Paul, who was nothing in the world’s eyes, because they had been influenced by some smooth, talented leaders into the world’s ways of thinking.  They were upside down in their thinking, not right side up. 

Paul was in the trenches, an everyday guy, who came to them and fathered them in the Good News of Christ, but was not an eloquent man.  He was simple and to the point, and had brought them into Christ that way.  As he said:

“My message and my preaching
were not with wise and persuasive words,
but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,
so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom,
but on the power of God.” 
1 Cor. 2:4,5

They had succumbed to worldly ways, believing that the eloquence, the education, the outward shape, the special gifts, the things that made for drama and entertainment, were the important things.  Paul points out that these perpetuate immaturity, not maturity.

So with us today.  We have all the problems we’re having, the sins that prevail in our churches and among those who call themselves believers, because we are upside down in our thinking.  We value the outward.  We want to look good, and feel good, and be entertained. 

We want God to see our beautiful worship, hear our beautiful songs, and look down on us in benevolence and bless us.  We want to be healthy, wealthy and wise, to quote Benjamin Franklin.  We want to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the Constitution guarantees us.

And because of this same thinking, Paul threatens to come with a whip to the Corinthians, to take down these arrogant leaders, and to show them that the power of God is what is important.  To show what right-side-up thinking is, and how eloquence and superior wisdom are not necessary, but that the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives is. 

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.”
1 Cor. 4:20

For a number of lengthy sections of his letter, Paul describes and details the gross sins of the flesh that this elegant, educated, polished group of Christians had allowed inside their fellowship.  It is a list of our sins today.  The often hidden sins we don’t show one another or the world.  This list should, if we have the mind and heart of Christ Jesus, make us weep with sadness over our own sins, and the sins of our brothers. 

God’s judgment of all these things was being shown.  His discipline was taking the form of spiritual weakness and sickness among the Body, with even some deaths, which might have been spiritual, or might have also been physical. (11:30-32)

After all this, Paul addresses the spiritual gifts.  He emphasizes that “each one…is given for the common good.”  (12:7)  This is a purposeful statement, telling the Corinthians, and us, that truly spiritual men and women exercise the gifts of the Spirit of God, whether preaching and teaching, or giving, or service, or prophecy, or tongues, not for their own glory and edification, but for the glory of Christ and the edification of their brothers.

In Chapter 13, Paul caps this teaching off, with a beautiful and powerful reminder of what the Corinthians had completely forgotten and ignored.

“And now I will show you the most excellent way…
Follow the way of love…”
1 Cor. 12:30-14:1

This ignored and forgotten basis for all Christ-like living is also the basis for all spiritual maturity.  Paul makes it the foundation of all behavior that is acceptable for a Christian, reiterating what he taught in Romans and all his other epistles, and what Jesus taught in John Chapters 13-17. 

For a contrast in churches, see Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonian churches.  They weren’t perfect, but they were practicing the command of Christ to love, and therefore, had few of the problems of the Corinthian churches.

To summarize, the problems and sins that the Corinthian Christians experienced in the first century are very similar to ours in the affluent churches of America today.  We must look to Scripture to root them out, and take teachings like the Apostle Paul’s and begin exhorting ourselves with these truths.  We must take heed to the warnings in them.

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers,
that our forefathers …all ate the same spiritual food,
and drank the same spiritual drink;
for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them,
and that rock was Christ. 
Nevertheless, God was not pleased with them;
their bodies were scattered over the desert. 
Now these things occurred as examples to us…”
1 Cor. 10:1-6

Today we must heed the same warnings.  God is giving us warning today to repent from these gross sins.  He will not tolerate our ways.  We must go His Way, which is to live in love, to live in Christ, to forsake the world, to hold to His Word.  We must obey, and not be lost as that entire generation was in the desert of Sinai.  They were lost because of their disobedience, and so will we be lost if we don’t obey, though we look good, and we seem wise; though we rejoice in our own strength, and honor ourselves.

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