Sunday, October 31, 2010

DANCING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

A. BROTHER


"How long will you waver 
(literally, 'continue this wild and futile religious dance')
between two opinions?  
If the Lord is God, follow Him; 
but if Baal is God, follow him."
1 Kings 18:21


This morning I am convicted in myself of my sin.  When I am steadfast, I hold to God and His Word, and am convinced of His love and His truth.  Jesus and I walk in fellowship, and I bask in the warmth of His Word, and even the difficulties.


But when I am hard hit by certain things, and certain situations, I falter, and sometimes waver to the point of despair.  I lash out at others, at God, and feel desperately alone.  I dance around seeking some kind of resolution, suddenly unsure of everything, and hurt myself and those close to me by my unfaithfulness.  


This sin of 'wavering' and 'dancing between two opinions' is my struggle.  God is working in me to eradicate my doubt and fear, but it is a hard, deep work, and involves extrusion of my flesh through small openings that approximate the size of a needle's eye.  Very painful, and for me, at times excruciating.  The impossibility speaks to the power of God being our only possible means of success, and I don't even believe in the power of God at times.


When Elijah stood before Israel on Mount Carmel and spoke these words above, he was not speaking to heathen.  He was speaking to those who had the truth, who knew the truth of God, who had the Word.  It is important we understand this.  God's challenge to us today is to you and me, those who know about Jesus Christ, who claim His Name, who label themselves Christians.


What will we do?  Will we continue in our 'dance' between the world and the Lord?  Will we continue to be wholehearted in good times, and dancing the dance of fear and anger in bad?


Only Christ, and His power, can deliver us from this.


"What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
Romans 7:24


Paul answer immediately, having been through much pain and suffering, the crucifying of the flesh by cross, the daily dying he experienced for his love of Christ.  


"Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Romans 7:25


It is only Christ.  He only can deliver, and make whole.  It is His Spirit in us that leads and guides us away from sin, that empowers us to live holy lives.  This unholiness in me, my tendencies to sin that I hate, cannot be eradicated by my hatred of it.  No matter how badly I feel after I fall, I cannot rise into new strength and courage by my anger toward my own sin.  It is only Christ's power that will deliver me.


Even Jesus, my Lord, Lord of all creation, and Lord of heaven, learned obedience by the same process through which He takes us now.


"Although He was a Son, 
He learned obedience from what He suffered
and once made perfect, 
He became the source of eternal salvation for all..."
Hebrews 5:8


It is my only comfort this morning that Christ is with me in this.  He went through it all, and became my all-sufficient, perfect Savior through the things He suffered.  His perfection means my perfection is possible in Him.  When Peter says, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" he meant that Christ in us will kill the wavering, dancing old man, and make us into strong, steadfast, powerfully holy men and women, if we only understand and persevere.


Yet we are called, as Elijah called Israel, to make the choice every day.  


We must wake and make the choice each new morning.  Will we dance around with the world, from fear, from greed, from lust, from anger?  Or will we stand with Christ, letting Him do His work in us, letting Him be the answer for us?


Brethren, I pray for you and for myself this morning.  Help, Lord Jesus.  Many of us waver and dance between two worlds.  Many of us haven't died to ourselves, our own dreams, our own goals, our own comforts and precious worldly things.  We must have your power to step across that line, forsake sin today, and be Yours completely.


Forgive me for my grave sins of doubt, of fear, of uncertainty.  These are at the core of all my stupid and senseless actions.  Forgive me and cleanse me, Lord Jesus, and give me Your heart, soul, mind and strength to love and to go on to perfection.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

FOREHEAD TO FOREHEAD WITH CHRISTIANITY


FOREHEAD TO FOREHEAD WITH CHRISTIANITY
A. Brother

“But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you
because they are not willing to listen to Me,
for the whole house of Israel is hardened
and obstinate.  But I will make you as hardened
and obstinate as they are.  I will make your
forehead like the hardest stone,
harder than flint.”
Ezekiel 3:7-9

There are different callings for different men under the administration of the Holy Spirit among the people of God.  God made each of us unique.  He creates the New Man in Christ we become, and we are still unique.  This incredible diversity, God’s mark upon all His creation, marks also the Body of Christ.

Unfortunately, religious Christianity creates a sameness, not a uniqueness among God’s people.  Men and women are urged to conform to current religious standards, the structure and standards that are handed down through generations, which standards are generally, just because they have become standards, bound by tradition, impeding the work of the Holy Spirit.  They are not the fluid, powerful workings of a creative God, but the ideas, forms, and staid functions of a bound religious system, which does not allow anything unusual or uncomfortable into its sanctuaries.

These bound systems of Christianity include the so-called evangelical and charismatic traditions.  I grew up in a church that prided itself on its supposed non-conformity, and where regularly the “traditional churches” like the big denominations were skewered from the pulpit by preachers.  Yet our charismatic traditions were set in stone just as surely as the so-called “dead denominations” out there we derided.  We were defending and securing ground for our own traditions, not for the change the Lord requires of us.  We had pride, not in Christ, but in ourselves and our own “new” religious ways.

Today, we are being called out.  Today, the Lord is raising up Ezekiels and Jeremiahs.  God is calling those who will listen.  And God is giving them the hardest task He can, which is to speak to the house of Israel, the spiritual Israel, His people who claim the Name of Jesus.

Our hardness and obstinacy has brought God to this point.  We have ignored His Word, preaching and teaching weak and powerless versions of our own religious thoughts.  We have not clung to the faith handed down to us by Paul, Peter, John, James and the other apostles.  In fact, we have woven beautiful tapestries of our own choosing, lovely garments to wear which are made up of bits and pieces of the Truth, mixed in with the colors that strike our religious fancies.

For those whom God is calling, you will know the hardness of God’s people.  You will experience their anger, their censure, even their direct opposition.  You will be judged for speaking what you have been given to say.  Reference every man or woman who had a prophetic gift in Scripture, in both Old and New Testaments.

Jesus had few who stuck with Him, and many who dropped away when He began teaching harder truths.  He was bucking the religious system, the house of Israel’s traditions.  He was not what they wanted, and when they saw that, they began to turn away and go home.

Those who speak for the Lord will speak from the Word of God, and from the Truth, without defending themselves.  We are not the Word, we are the messengers called out to declare it.  We are not ourselves the Truth, we are only the ‘earthen vessels’ given the honor of speaking it to God’s people.  Never does defense need to be made for speaking out what the Word of God says, nor should we hold back what God gives us to say to accommodate the religious sensibilities of others. 

The whole system of man-made Christianity will be shaken down to the foundations in the coming floods and fires.  Even the foundation will be uprooted, wherever it is not Christ.  The simple Christ-life, devoid of religious trappings and sentimental foolishness, is what Christ is working in His people around the world.  It’s always been His Way.  We have been the ones who’ve strayed into false positions, and now find ourselves without a worthy ship, clinging to the wreckage of the religious system we thought would take us through the storm.

“But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth
and you shall say to them,
‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  Whoever
will listen let him listen,
and whoever will refuse will refuse;
for they are a rebellious house.”
Ezekiel 3:27

God’s message is always positive in Christ Jesus.  Those who cling to Christ alone now, and leave behind the religious ways, all that is not foundational in Christ, all that is of the old man, and the old man’s comforts, will be found standing in Christ when all is shaken around them and under them.

In the early centuries of Christ on the earth, when the Romans and other pagan cultures dominated, it was routine for those who followed Jesus to follow Him in His crucifixion.  Today, it is still routine for many in cultures other than our affluent, western societies.

Where will you be when the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed, stone by stone, pulled down by the enemies of your Christian religion?  What will you be left with?  Will you be prepared for the coming tribulations?  Are you today facing trials you never expected or wanted to face?

If you build your life now on Christ, if you spend your time with Him, living in the Spirit, walking by the Spirit, embracing the difficulties and hardships as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, you will be ready for prison.  You will be ready for torture and pain.  You will be battle-hardened, tough-minded in Christ, able to withstand all the slings and arrows that the enemy throws at you.

Rejoice, for your Lord counts you worthy of His Kingdom, and would have you ready, lamp lit, when He comes.  Spend all your time seeking Him.  Work only for your daily bread, which He will provide, not for worldly things.  Let us seek together to become the Body Christ has prepared for Himself, full of His Spirit, rich in good works.  Let’s leave our weak and silly traditions behind, and give ourselves fully, as the martyrs have throughout history, to Christ now, so that we will be prepared when all the foundations are shaken, when all the stones crafted by man are pulled apart.

Friday, October 29, 2010

LET GOD ALONE MOVE YOU. DON'T LET MEN MOVE YOU.

 LET GOD ALONE MOVE YOU. 
DON’T LET MEN MOVE YOU.

By Zac Poonen

In Genesis 12:1, we see the beginning of the building of the true Jerusalem. This began with Abraham through whom came the nation of Israel, the capital of which was Jerusalem. There would have been no Jerusalem if there had been no Abraham.

We observe in Abraham something completely different from what we see in Babylon. It says, “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land which I will show you.’ ”

Abraham didn’t suddenly get a bright idea one day like the people in Babel, and say, “I think I have lived long enough in Ur. Let me move to Canaan and do something there.” No. His move was totally dictated by God.

Abraham was 75 years old. It is good to wait for even 75 years to hear God and then move. Moses waited for 40 years as a shepherd and then moved, when God spoke to him. And think of what he accomplished! I am not saying we must wait for 75 or 80 years. All I am saying is that we must wait until we hear from God and then move. But, do you think busy 20th-century-man has time for that? No.

I am thankful that when I was a young man of 20 years, God taught me one lesson: “Don’t let men move you. Let God alone move you.” Many men have urged me to do various things - good men, including my co-workers. I listen to their advice, but I don’t move until God also speaks to me. I wait until I hear God, because I know I will end up disastrously, if I listen to the opinions of men.

I am not saying we should not consider the opinions of our co-workers. All I’m saying is that the final voice we hear should be God’s. God told Abraham to “Go,” and he went. God told Moses to “Go,” and he went. God told Paul to “Go,” and he went. These are the people who accomplished something with their lives.

Today people run around trying to do something or the other for God. But they accomplish nothing of eternal value. Statistics-wise, what they do may be impressive. But it’s Babylon, not Jerusalem. 

“Come, let’s move. Let’s do something for the Lord. Let’s make bricks, let’s make mortar, let’s do something.” You can impress men. “Let us make us a name.” And you may make a great name for yourself building Babylon - like Nebuchadnezzar did. This is happening today in Christian work and that is the message in Revelation 17 and 18. But Abraham waited for God’s “Go.”

Notice that whenever Abraham moved without the leading of God, he got into trouble.

For example: We read that God had told Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees and to go where He would lead him. But in Genesis 11:31 we read that it was Terah (Abraham’s father) who took Abraham and moved out of Ur.

But what had God told Abraham? “Leave your relatives and leave your father’s house.” But here we see the 75-year-old Abraham holding his Daddy’s hand and moving out! That was how Abraham started!! 

The ones who will hinder you from doing the will of God will be your relatives first of all - your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your wife and your children. Jesus said, “If any man comes to Me, and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, wife and children, he cannot be My disciple.” (Lk.14:26).  You may want to follow the Lord. But your father or your wife may say “No”!

So Terah took Abraham, and they came as far as Haran (Gen.11:31) and settled there. That was not God’s will. Why did they settle there?  That was Terah’s idea. Haran perhaps had good pasture-land for the flocks. But it was not God’s place. And Abraham settled down there with his Daddy!

Abraham was a man who made mistakes - and the first mistake he made was to listen to his father, when God had already told him to do something else. So what did God do? God can easily deal with such situations. He took away Terah through death! ( Gen.11:32). Then “Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him.” (Gen.12:4).

Do you have to wait until God does something drastic like that before you move on?

If God loves you, He will do something drastic like that. But if God sees that you yourself are a compromiser, He may allow you to stay on in Haran all your life and miss the will of God totally.

Learn to move with God. Don’t listen to relatives who do not know God. By all means, learn from a father if he is a godly man, who knows God - but not from a father who is worldly (I’m referring to spiritual principles here). Finally when Abraham reached Canaan, “the Lord appeared to him and said ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ ” (Gen.12:5,7).

And then God tested Abraham again. God tested Adam and He tested Abraham, and He will test you and me too.

This time the test was through a famine in the land (Gen.12:10). What do you do when God has told you to go to Canaan and there is a famine in Canaan?  You either live by the witness of your senses or you live by what God has told you through His Spirit.

There is a lovely verse that says about Jesus that “He would not make a judgment either by what His eyes saw or His ears heard.” ( Isa.11:3,4).

But that is not the way man lives. If we hear about or see a famine in Canaan, we make a decision immediately, by what our eyes and ears and our clever brain tell us. We decide that Canaan is certainly not the place to be in now. We need to move on. We don’t have to consult God, because we are living by our senses! That was what Abraham did: “So Abram went down to Egypt” (Gen.12:10). Who told him to go to Egypt? Not God, but his senses!

Can’t God preserve a man during a time of famine? Certainly. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. He will not be barren even in time of famine” (Jer.17:5-8). The man who trusts in the Lord will not move until God tells him to.

That was what our Lord told Satan in the wilderness when He was tempted. Satan told Jesus to turn the stones into bread. There was a famine there in the wilderness and there were no food stores around. But Jesus replied, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt.4:4).

But Abraham did not live like that. He decided to live by bread alone. So, since there was bread in Egypt, he went there. That is how a lot of Christian work is done today too. Most Christian workers don’t go where the Lord tells them to go. They go where they can get a good salary, where bread is available in plenty. They join organizations where there is no famine of money. Egypt may be a comfortable place to be in, in time of famine. But the question is whether that is the place that God wants you to be in.

I quit my earthly job to serve the Lord full-time in 1966, and since then I have seen quite a bit of what is called “Christian work”. And what I have seen in the past 44 years is that when there is a famine in Canaan, most Christian workers move to Egypt!!

If you don’t hear what God is saying to you right now, you may do the same thing when you are tested. Live by the words that come from the mouth of God, like Jesus did. His attitude was, “Yes. Bread is necessary for life. But to obey God is more necessary for life.”
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For more information write to: wftw@cfcindia.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PAGAN-INSPIRED "CHRISTIAN" HOLIDAYS

PAGAN-INSPIRED “CHRISTIAN” HOLIDAYS
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

          God is sick of our partying, and our self-seeking entertainments.  Our holiday mentality has nothing of Him in it, but everything of ourselves.
          Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. 
          These are ostensibly Christian holidays or celebrations.  In reality, they are open reasons to party, and stuff ourselves with food, and reward our self-focused lives with gifts to ourselves and our loved ones, and take time off work for having fun.  And let’s make no mistake about it, fun is what they are for, though we stamp our fun with the obligatory church service with hymns, and a quick moment or two with the family about the “meaning” of these special seasons.
          We have degraded ourselves and the Kingdom of God, by hijacking pagan ideas about how to celebrate Christian events, and then morphing them into some version of our own that will fit into our lives without making us feel guilty.
          We have adopted religious celebrations, and have forgotten what it means to live the Truths behind them.
           
          We are to be the heart and mind of Christ in this troubled world, and stand against its self-focused, ‘party-hearty for tomorrow we die’ pursuits.  We are to be the antithesis of self-absorption, and be absorbed in the life of the Spirit and the lives of others--doing good all around us every day, seeking the Kingdom of God first, loving God and His Son and our brothers and sisters--and celebrating these things with great joy.
          Yet here we are, showing the world that Christians can be just as self-absorbed as they are.   
          We think God is with us in these things.  How wrong we are.  He is not there, and He is not silent about our disobedience.  His Word speaks adamantly about all this, yet we choose to ignore it.

          Scripture does not tell us to show the world Living Christmas Trees, and wonderful productions of Biblical scenes at a certain season! 
          Scripture does tell us to be during all seasons a Living Body for Christ, a Living Temple full of the Holy Spirit, not made with human hands, but made up of Living Stones, mortared together with love, and working together in love to do the work of Christ every day, even if it means giving up our own ambitions and dreams and entertainments.
 
          Scripture does not tell us to show the world the Resurrection’s importance once a year. 
          Scripture does tell us to example the resurrection life of Christ to those around us every day, celebrating the love and power and simplicity of Christ by our actions toward one another and toward the world.
 
          Scripture does not tell us to stuff ourselves full of turkey, dressing and gravy one day a year to let God know how thankful we are for our political and economic freedoms. 
          Scripture does teach us to show our thankfulness for God’s provision in Christ every day by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, caring for the sick and the weak, helping the orphans, widows and those brothers and sisters in need around us.
 
          We ignore the commands of God for the traditions of men, and pat ourselves on the back for being able to celebrate special days so well, and in such style.
          God’s hand will not pat us on the back.  He is ready to discipline us for this misrepresentation of His Son’s Name, and His Son’s life.
          God help us to repent of our self-focused, self-absorbed party-going ways.
          God calls us to leave these pagan-prompted holidays, and to live every day of the year as a special day, and every season of the year as a special season, all to the glory and honor of God, borne out by our obedience to the Living Word, Jesus Christ.

          If you choose to celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, celebrate them quietly, and do things for others.  Feed and clothe others who have no reason to celebrate.  Share the resurrection life with others who are lost.  Be thankful for Jesus and your brother and sisters, and share with them the bounty of God’s table set in Christ, given us in the Word.  Use these times as a chance to show the world how true Christ-followers focus on Him, and on doing good for others!
          

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RELIGION IS THE BEST DECEPTION

 RELIGION IS THE BEST DECEPTION
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS

 Note:  Think about this...if the enemies of Christ came today, hauled us away and put us in prison cells, alone, far away from our particular music, tone, atmosphere, rituals, buildings, etc., what would we be left with?  If we didn't have our activities and our particular blend of religious comforts, we would have to learn Christ in a real way, without all the trappings of Christendom.  This teaching by T. Austin-Sparks is right on the mark.
A. Brother

“The Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands.”
 Acts 7:48

Christendom is largely constituted by this sense—its architecture, its ritual, its music, its adornment, its lighting (or lack of it), its tone, its atmosphere, its vestments and so forth. All are of the soul...

[NOTE:  think about our modern evangelical churches, even the ‘charismatic’ churches, and the rituals and particular music, tone, atmosphere, and how they are also of the soul, not the Spirit of God…A. Brother.]

Spiritual death marks that realm, and while there may be intense emotions which make for resolves, 'high' thoughts and desires, there is no genuine change in the nature of those concerned, and repeated doses of this must be taken to maintain any measure of soul-self-satisfaction which makes them feel good.

All religions have this soulish feature in common, more or less, and it is here that the fatal blunder has been made by many religious people who contend that other religions, which are undoubtedly devout and sincere, should not be interfered with, but the good in them should be recognized and accepted.

It is the confusing of religion with what the Bible means by being spiritual. Religion can rise to high levels and sink to terrible depths. It is the same thing which does both.

But that thing never rises above the human level; it never really reaches God.

Religion can be the greatest enemy of God's true thought, because it is Satan's best deception.

Asceticism is no more truly spiritual than aestheticism. There is no more a brief with God for rigours, denials, fastings, puritanic iciness, etc., as such, than for the opposite. Simplicity may give God a chance, but it is not necessarily spiritual. It may be a matter of taste...

How near to the truth in perception and interpretation can the mystical go! What wonderful things can the imagination see, even in the Bible!

What thrills of awe, amazement, ecstasy, can be shot through an audience or congregation by a master soul! But it may all be a false world with no Divine and eternal issues. It may all go to make up this life here, and relieve it of its drabness, but it ends there.

What an artificial world we live in! When the music is progressing and the romantic elements are in evidence—the dress and tinsel—and human personalities are parading, see how pride and rivalry assert themselves, and what a power of make believe enters the atmosphere! Yes, an artificial world...

The tragedy in this melodrama is that it is 'real life' to so many. This soul-world is the devil's imitation. It is all false, wherever we may find it, whether associated with religion or not...

'The Christian Faith' embraced as a religion, a philosophy, or as a system of truth, a moral or ethical doctrine, may carry the temporary stimulus of a great ideal; but this will not result in the regeneration of the life, or the new birth of the spirit. There are multitudes of such 'Christians' in the world today, but their spiritual effectiveness is nil.

Monday, October 25, 2010

FASTING OR FEASTING: IT'S STILL ABOUT US

FASTING OR FEASTING: IT’S STILL ABOUT US

A. Brother
(c)2010 Narrowgate Publishing

WE MUST HEAR THESE WORDS TODAY.  THE LORD SPEAKS, 
WILL WE LISTEN, OR CONTINUE TO IGNORE HIM?

“Ask all the people of the land and the priests,
‘When you fasted and mourned in the
fifth and seventh months for the past seventy
years, was it really for Me you fasted?
And when you were eating and drinking,
were you not just feasting for yourselves?’”
Zech. 7:5,6

Our religious ways put us in the center of things.  God becomes peripheral.  His Son Jesus becomes peripheral.  The Holy Spirit becomes peripheral.  We are the pivot point of all we do, and others, even our brethren in Christ, come second.

God is fed up with our feasting and our fasting.  The Father has called and we have ignored Him.  Too busy with religious activity to hear Him, we have been focused on ourselves, and it didn’t matter whether that activity was eating and drinking or not eating and drinking.  It’s all been self-focused.

Israel was in exile.  They were in Babylon.  Like the churches today, evil surrounded them.  Pagan society flourished, and the people of God were concerned.

However, then, as today, the people of God focused on their religious rituals, their comfortable routines.  They wished and hoped to go back to their own country, Israel, and their own city, Jerusalem.  They pined for the good old days when prosperity had been theirs, and they had been free to pursue their own agendas.

Now, as those many years ago, God is saying to us:

“When I called, they did not listen;
so when they called, I would not listen,’
says the Lord Almighty.”
Zech. 7:13

God is letting His people cry out without answering, because He cried out to us for so long and we didn’t answer.  In our affluence, we showed our indifference.  In His love, God will discipline.

God’s heart has not grown hard, our hearts have become cold.  Even our Christian meetings and church activities are all focused on ourselves.  Our entertainments have bored the Lord for so long He is sick of them. 

“This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.”
Zech. 7:14

The desolation we see today is a result of our religious ways.  Fasting or feasting, it matters not to God.  He sees our self-focus, our desire for prosperity, our need for recognition, our pride in worldly things.  He sees our hard hearts, our vanity, our coldness toward one another in the Body of Christ.  He sees us as we are, not as we wish Him to see us.

Like the Picture of Dorian Gray, our portrait is slowly changing, into the true reflection of what we are as Christians.  Selfish, proud, haughty, indifferent, happy to do the religious things, but loathe to bend our knees to the Lord and wash anyone’s feet.  Our portrait is hideous, ugly in the extreme, because of our sins.  God for many years kept our real character in the churches covered up so that the world might not see our true face.  But now, He is pulling back the curtain, and our faults and real visages are exposed for everyone to see. 

We have made the pleasant land desolate.  God’s people have ignored Him, and so our society is descending into paganism and idolatry.  It is our sins that have separated us from the Father, and the Son we say we worship. 

Many cry out, “Give us pleasant words, calmness, a safe haven against the rising tides of trouble and pain.” 

Yet God will not relent until His people obey Him, no matter the cost to our pride, our comfort, our ease.

“This is what the Lord Almight says,
‘Administer true justice;
show mercy and compassion to one another.
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
the alien or the poor.
In your hearts do not think evil
of one another.’”
Zech. 7:9,10

The discipline of God is among us, and He will only comfort those who turn to Him in true repentance and seek His Kingdom first.  His people have gloried in the wrong things, and found their solace in their own places, instead of in true humility and the Way of the Cross, with their Savior Jesus.  This is why He has turned his back, and why so many are deceived, so many are running after this and that new Christian movement. 

It is simple.  We claim to know God, yet what we do denies that we know Him.  We know religion, we know our own passions, our own business, our own goals and dreams and self-focused ways, yet we do not know the Lord or His Way.

“They claim to know God,
but by their actions deny Him.”
Titus 1:16

Our focus must be on repentance for our sins, and walking in fellowship with the Father and the Son, and that will put us in fellowship with our brothers who truly love God.  Then we will affirm our faith by our actions, and the Lord will listen.  When we become peripheral, suddenly God becomes the center, and the Kingdom of God comes. 

Will we listen today, or continue toward disaster?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

CAN THE LORD DO HIS OWN WORK?

 NOTE: Brothers, do we see the truth here, and it’s impact on us?  If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, in God’s ability, not our own, how will that affect everything we do?  If we believe, truly believe, that God can do His own work, and that His power is sufficient for anything, what does that do to our concept of doing God’s work for Him?  Read and look into the Scripture with T. Austin-Sparks.

CAN THE LORD DO HIS OWN WORK?
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS

“I know that everything God does will endure forever;
nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”
Ecclesiastes 3:14

Organised Christianity as it is today cannot understand anything that is not organised, that is not advertised, that is not run. It must have names that carry weight, that mean influence. If you can get people with some title you are going to have the guarantee of success for your Christian enterprise. And so the letters and the titles strung on are a necessary requisite for the success of the Lord’s work.

You must write it up in the press, you must give a report of it, you must be able to make some kind of return that people can read, and say, This is a successful thing. If you cannot do that the whole thing is doomed to failure. They say, you must advertise, you must have publicity, you must organise, you must bring in all these things to support it, to carry it on.

If you did none of those; if you were never heard of in the press; if you never had a report; if you never had any names; if there was nothing at all that came out in a public way for people to take account of, what is the verdict of organised Christianity?

Nothing is being done.

You are doing nothing. Is that true? What must we say about that?

There was a striking absence of all that in the beginning, and a marvellous manifestation of power, of progress, of effectiveness, so that nothing could stand in the way. We must only conclude, we are driven to this extremity, that the Lord can do His own work.

Evidently the risen Lord is able to carry on His own work, the Holy Spirit knows how to manage things. What a surprising discovery! Forgive my irony. I say, this is that upon which Hebrews 12:26-28 is fixed. “I will shake the earth and the heavens”; that which can be shaken will be shaken; that which cannot be shaken will remain; and what is that? It is what God has done. “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever.” What God does is done in a spiritual way, is spiritual, is heavenly, is eternal.

That may leave you perhaps in a vague, perplexed position, not knowing where you are, but I have no doubt about the truth of the message.

If you do not feel you can accept it; if you disagree; if you revolt; if you feel it cuts clean across all your training, all your acceptance; if you feel that it runs counter to all that you know, all I ask of you is honesty with God.

I ask you to come and ask Him to open to you the meaning of the letter to the Hebrews, why it was written, what its significance is, why God has preserved it, what its application is now. Have honest dealings with the Lord. Please do not go away hot in spirit, antagonistic; do not lay this at the door of any man. At least give God a chance... May the Lord give us His own interpretation, give us honesty of heart, and show us His meaning in having brought us to this consideration.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

MASQUERADE

MASQUERADE
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived
by the serpent’s cunning, your minds
may somehow be led astray
from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 
Or if someone comes to you
and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached…
you put up with it easily enough.” 
2 Cor. 11:3,4

“…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 
It is not surprising, then, if his servants
masquerade as servants of righteousness.” 
2 Cor. 11:14,15

            Since Christ came, there have been those who knew Him, and preached Him truly and faithfully.  These men, like Paul, suffered much to follow Christ, and were examples of his love and sacrifice.  They lived the “sincere and pure devotion” which Paul talks about here to the people they brought into the Kingdom of God. 
          They were examples to the flock of Christ’s compassion, humility, and generosity, giving of themselves without thought of being paid back, and desiring only that men and women find Christ for themselves, and that they be taught the truth consistent with Scripture and the life of Jesus.  From the apostles on down, these men and women are our examples for life and service in Christ.

          But today, as always, we have many who do not preach and teach the Jesus of the Bible.  They are fakers and deceivers, deceiving and being deceived, and take many with them down the path of disobedience and confusion.  Our churches in affluent America have gone down this path with alarming speed over the past decades, growing fat and complacent, leaving the elementary truths of God’s Word behind in their love affair with the world and its ways.
          Our leaders, the so-called shepherds of the flock, have led the way in being deceived, and in accepting the wages of the world.
          The vast majority of our church traditions, practiced daily, weekly and monthly among the churches calling themselves by Christ’s Name, are weak and faulted, based upon the traditions of men rather than on the revealed will of God in His Word.
          The traditional church service.  The Sunday School.  The tithe.  The sacred days, like the Sabbath, Christmas, Easter.   The role of pastors.  The clergy/laity division.  All are dangerously removed from Biblical teaching, and must be examined as man-made traditions, much like those gradually adopted by the Jews over the centuries, which Jesus our Lord spoke against, and still speaks against in His Word.  Our desire to have religion and its trappings has resulted in a maze of religious tradition that entraps people who would know Christ from finding the way to Him.
          God abhors religion.  He hates man-created religious tradition, pomp and ceremony.  He despises our attempts to rein in the Holy Spirit and put Him in the confines of liturgy and rigid conformity to comfortable schedules and staid religious structures.
          Who are we to stand against the Word of God?  To ignore His clear Ways?  To replace His power with our placid, powerless religion?  To preach a gospel other than that which Paul and the other apostles preached?  Who are we to disobey the God of Heaven, who reached down in Christ to pluck us out of dead religion, and grabbed us away from the world and its basic principles?  Who are we to mold ourselves after the weak and miserable traditions of men, instead of holding fast to the Truth that is the power of God in us?

          As Paul told the Corinthian ekklesia of God in the passage quoted above, they were already being led astray by smooth-talking professional preachers and teachers who were more interested in securing lucrative and steady employment than in serving Christ by taking up their cross of pain and suffering.  So today, we have a professional clergy that is dedicated to continuing the puny traditions of men, so that they can thrive in steady, salaried, comfortable positions of prominence.
          If Paul were preaching today, he’d be standing against this unholy system of paid prophets and secure shepherds, because he stood against it in his day.
          The tithe we preach and teach today has absolutely no place in the teaching of the New Covenant.  The teaching of the New Covenant in Christ is giving, without reference or basis in tithing.  Generosity, love, sharing, and giving up all one has is the new standard.  Love for the brethren is the key concept in giving, and support for those who preach and teach God’s Word among us is expected, not in worldly business paradigms, but in spontaneous, abundant, loving provision out of hearts full of gratitude to Christ.  Our giving to Christ is not counted in percentages, but in possibilities.
          The church services we hold have no resemblance to those held among the scattered ekklesia of God in New Testament days.  Their coming together was marked by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and though done in orderly fashion, was marked by the enthusiastic input of all in the Body that were present, with songs and teachings being brought by many, and confession of sin and prayer for healing of those sins being a regular part of their gatherings.  The music was spontaneous and came from the heart.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit were allowed to be manifest among the brethren as He led, and the unfettered growth of the Body in love and strength and encouragement was the result.  There was mourning and grieving, repentance and confession as well as joy and praise.  There was no “professional” staff hired to plan and develop sophisticated service traditions, and to do all the leading and teaching and preaching and music themselves.
          Leaders were expected to shepherd the flock, down in the trenches, loving and working individually with their sheep.  They knew their sheep as Jesus knows them, doing the difficult work of feeding and caring for them, as Jesus did.  Every sheep was expected to grow and contribute, and the leaders were charged with teaching and preaching, making sure the flock learned how to follow Jesus, and going after the strays personally, as Jesus would.  The leaders were charged also with training others to lead, and growing up others into the maturity in Christ that would allow them to teach others how to follow Christ.
          There were no special days, because the birth of Christ, His death, and His resurrection were celebrated in the daily life of the Body.  They were in the process of dying to self, and being resurrected to new life, and it wasn’t a once a year thing.  It was daily.  That’s why they met together often, as often as they could, because they loved to be together, and didn’t need special days and special events to make it worthwhile. 
          There were no staid traditions.  It was each day with Christ, each day by faith and not by sight, each day in danger and difficulty on the Narrow Road with their Savior.  They, like many Christians in the non-affluent countries today, knew that following Christ meant exposure to mistreatment, and hardship.  As it would for us in America if we truly followed Christ, instead of playing dead religious games.

          We must fall on our knees and repent, asking the Lord God for forgiveness, and for His will in His Word to be revealed to us in freshness by His Spirit.  We must weep and mourn and wail as James says, seeking God’s forgiveness for our apostasy and comfortable disobedience.  We ask God for the wrong things, and we ask Him with wrong motives, to spend them on our own spiritual comforts and pleasures.

          Woe to those who lead the flock of God into the wrong pastures!  You who eat of the best, and sit at the seats of honor at the banqueting tables, and hold the pulpits away from the Lord’s people so that you can have the preeminence.
          Woe to you who treat the Lord’s holy offices of leadership as a career, and your positions as secure ways of income!
          Woe to you leaders who lead with unexamined and untested lives, emulating not Paul and the other apostles, not the Lord Jesus Himself, but the worldly leaders around you.  Woe to you who rely on worldy management principles to govern the One Holy Nation of God!

“Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come…
You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.” 
Amos 6:1-7

            Listen to the Word of God, kneel and repent of your wickedness, before He comes and removes you from your exalted and comfortable position.  Grieve over the ruin of the churches, put aside your self-absorption and insistence upon your security, and become like the Lord Jesus, the Servant, and like the apostles and prophets who are given us as examples in Scripture. 
          Abandon Broadway, and take the Narrow Roads with Christ, and find true fulfillment in your calling, or suffer the loss of all you have worked for!
          Sheep of the One Flock, heed your One Shepherd’s voice, and leave the dead religious traditions of men.  Follow Christ, your Lord and find His joy, His peace, His love, His Way.  Leave the men and women who “masquerade as servants of righteousness” but preach a Jesus other than the Jesus preached by the Word of God.  Leave them and follow Christ, for in the final Day, you will have no excuse!

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