Sunday, February 27, 2011

THE OVERLOOKED. THE STORY OF JEPHTHAH.

THE STORY OF JEPHTHAH
A. Brother

Text:  Judges 10:6-12:7

Here is a powerful story about an overlooked man of God.  Having lived most of a long life in the churches, I’ve only heard once or twice about this leader of Israel, and have recently come across him again, but this time with the Lord’s urging.

He is one of the men listed in Hebrews 11 as an example of faith for us.  Why don’t we hear about him?

Jephthah’s life was tough.  He was born of a prostitute’s liaison with Gilead, the head of a large clan of Isreal.  He lived as an illegitimate son, and finally his own brothers drove him out of the house and he had to flee.  They refused him an inheritance.  He settled in the “land of Tob”, which means a good land, in fact, equates to wording for the promised land in Hebrew.

Here was a man “despised and rejected of men” like our Lord Jesus.  His own family didn’t believe in him.  His own clan, his own people, rejected him.  He was thrown out on the trash heap.  Yet, in the end, God used Jephthah to save them all.

Like Joseph, the rejected son became the salvation of the people.  Like Christ, our Lord who was taken outside the gates of the city to be crucified, so Jephthah was living in another place, with a band of renegades, when he was called to come home and save His tribe.

This is a dramatic story that illustrates a key truth.  The writer of Hebrews lists Jephthah as an example of saving faith.  So we should listen and learn.

God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.  God uses the rejected men and women to save those who have rejected them.  We must never assume anything.  God can do anything.  He can turn things around, and give our lives meaning and purpose even when we’ve felt that nothing we do will matter to anyone.  We must never give up our hope in Christ, though others reject us, and others deride us, and others ignore us.

Be strengthened by this man and his example.  In the end, when the Ammonites were surrounding his clan and threatening to destroy them, who did they call?  You bet they did.  Jephthah had to come in and save them.  He was a mighty warrior, because he had lived for the Lord outside the gates, among the castaways and mercenaries, and had become mighty in the Lord without their help or acceptance.

So with many of God’s sons and daughters today.  He is teaching them to be strong in Christ, not in the accepted religious and social life of the day.  He is with them, becoming all they need, as they live this “foolishness of the cross” and follow Christ without fanfare.

Be encouraged, brothers and sisters. 

And remember:  JEPHTHAH DIDN’T SEEK LEADERSHIP.  IT CAME TO HIM IN GOD’S TIME.  HE WAS LIVING IN THE PROMISED LAND, SERVING THE LORD, WHEN HIS PEOPLE CAME TO HIM AND NEEDED HIM.  So with us.  Don’t worry, God is in charge, and He will use your life for His Kingdom.  In His own way and in His own time.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WHEN DOES A CHURCH CEASE TO BE GOD'S HOUSEHOLD?

"And we are His house, if we hold onto our courage and hope of which we boast."
Heb. 3:6


There are several important times in this passage when the word IF comes into play.  Many times we who claim Christ as Lord want to ignore the "IF" word in Scripture.  Here is one place that defines why our churches are often dormant, dying or dead.


IF we hold onto our courage, and IF we hold onto the hope we have only in Christ, then we are God's Household, His own People, a Holy Nation, a Body for Christ.  And in these days, many of our so-called Christian churches are weak and afraid, compromising with the world around them in order to avoid conflict.  Many are "weak and sickly, and some have fallen asleep" as Paul says about what had happened to the churches in Corinth, that great center of commerce in his day.


Many of our churches are not only cowardly, but they have left our One and Only Hope, who is Christ the Lord, and have chased after many other "spiritual" things.  They chase after gifts, talents, entertainments, great preaching, big buildings, and comfortable surroundings.  They have abandoned their first love, Christ, who calls them to sacrifice and selflessness, and instead have focused on themselves, and their own religious ideas.  We have more books and shows flowing out of Christendom these days than any time in history, and yet far less power and potency in the Spirit of God.


Has God left the house?  Yes, sadly in many cases.  Yet He has not left His House.  The Household of God is made up of all those who hold onto the courage that is in Christ, and make Him our only Hope.  He is the One and Only of the Father (John 1), and He is Head of His Household.  He will see us through, IF we hold to these things.


Brothers and sisters, today, let's not harden our hearts.  Let's listen and hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  (Rev. 3)


Your Brother,
A. Brother

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BE CAREFUL TO ENTER CHRIST'S REST

One of the greatest truths we miss is that rest is the result of faith.  Today, we must remember the example God gives us of two contrasting outcomes.


First, the Israelites.  In Joshua 21:43-45 we see the end result of God's work in their lives after He delivered them from Egypt.  They received rest on every side. They were protected from their enemies, and they were living in the good land God had promised them.  So God fulfilled every good promise to them He had made.


But in Hebrews 4, we are reminded by the writer of Scripture that there were many Israelites who never made it that far.  They never got to God's resting place.  Their bodies were buried in the deserts that came before the Promised Land.  Why?  Because they didn't accept God's Way of fulfilling His promises.


So for many today.  Their bodies will be strewn about the deserts of disobedience that come from lack of faith.  They will never enter God's rest, it says in this passage in Hebrews, because, like the Israelites in the desert, they persisted in their unbelief.  It is faith that brings us rest.


Today, let's not harden our hearts, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us three times in this passage.  Let's soften our hearts before God and realize that ALL GOD'S PROMISES ARE FULFILLED IN CHRIST.  


CHRIST IS GOD'S PROMISED LAND FOR US TODAY.  God's rest is here, but we must, by faith appropriate the final promise, which is taking Christ's yoke upon us, and learning from Him, for His yoke is not heavy.  His burden is light.  And in Him "you will find rest for your souls", Christ says to us.


Only in Christ, not in religious striving, will we find rest.


Your Brother, 
A. Brother

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WE HAD THE SENTENCE OF DEATH IN OURSELVES

We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)


You know that those who are not the Lord’s people are not alive to the fact that they are dead. Death is not the great reality to them until they come to their body dying. But in their ordinary life when things are going on and there is health and provision, death is no reality to them. But death is brought home to the child of God. Immediately we get into God’s hands this thing begins to be brought home to us — that we are not much good, we cannot stand up to things, we cannot go through. Our natural life and resources do not count here. The course of a true Christian life in the hands of God is that of being more and more brought to the experience of helplessness. Is that not true? Yes, of helplessness, of the impossibility of everything. Do not think things have gone wrong if that is becoming your consciousness. You may take it that you are in an immature spiritual stage if you have not come to that realization that in the realm into which you have been introduced in your relationship with God, you have no resource. You are as a dead man. The death fact is brought home to you, is made real.
Ah, but on the other side, resurrection is taking a certain form over against that. With that background and with that basis, more and more the child of God is being brought to the position where he or she has to say: "That was the Lord, it is the Lord; I cannot account for that, I am not the one who accounts for that, it is all of God," and you know quite well that resurrection is all of God. You can go a long way in many clever things and inventions, but you have not got as far as raising the dead yet. That is God’s prerogative. That is only God. And so in the hands of God the child of God is being brought progressively more and more, and still more, to the place where they have to say, "It is of God, it is all of God" and that is the testimony coming out. The Lord did that, the Lord is doing this. Is that not in Israel’s history in the wilderness? See how again and again they were brought to an end, which did seem to be an end... nothing beyond this, and then they had to come out with a new song — The Lord did it! It is victory over death, it is the power of resurrection Life.
By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Testimony of the Christ - Chapter 6

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

THE ONLY THINGS THAT MATTER: PAUL'S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR US

THE ONLY THINGS THAT MATTER:
PAUL’S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR US
A. Brother

PART ONE.

“Finally, my brothers….”
Phil. 3:1

Paul is close to the end of his life and knows it.  He is writing some of his favorite, dearest friends in Christ—those brothers and sisters he’s known in the City of Philippi—and giving them final instructions.  Paul is under guard in Rome, under house arrest, and living in his own rented apartment there. 

This letter is marked with sadness and joy.  Paul is sad that he may never see any of his beloved brothers and sisters again, and joy that he will soon be with Christ, his first love.  He knows he is going to die, and this letter holds that knowledge close, and so Paul is writing only the most essential, the most important things, the things that matter. 

So he says, getting down to business, “Finally, my brothers…”, which means “Ok, now that we’ve caught up on other matters, and talked in generalities, I’m going to give you the essentials.  I’m going to give you the most important things so that you will remember them after I’m gone.”  He wanted the Philippian Christ-followers to be focused on what would keep them through the fire and flood of their modern lives.  (Yes—all people have lived in modern times—modern to them!)

“It is no trouble for me to write
the same things to you again, and it is a
safeguard for you.”
Phil. 3:1

So Paul is giving his final instructions to them.  He is telling these modern people what will help them to stand firmly in Christ in their futures.  So nothing has changed, and these are the things that matter for us today.  Paul is writing to us, too, and we must heed his words.

“Therefore, my brothers,
you whom I love and long for,
my joy and crown,
that is how you should stand firm
in the Lord, dear friends.”
Phil. 4:1

Paul sums up what he writes in the 3rd chapter of his letter, what we will look at beginning today, with this capstone truth.  The truth he is telling us is this:  if we want to stand firm in Christ, no matter what happens, then we will listen to and follow his instructions in this section of the letter.

 PUT NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH

Paul first warns that putting “confidence in the flesh” (v.3) is a great danger.  He talks about men who will come among us and introduce heresies to draw us away from Christ into religion.  This “confidence in the flesh” comes disguised as religious fervor.  The men who bring new religious systems, and who design new programs and rules and regulations, or who want to take us back into a system of religious principles and creeds to live by such as the Mosaic law are those whom Paul reserves his harshest words for.

“Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil,
those mutilators of the flesh.”
Phil. 3:2

Paul warns against any and all reliance upon the flesh.  All religions are based on fleshly principles.  All devise systems, no matter how benign and harmless we think they are, that put “confidence in the flesh”.  No religion on earth is acceptable in God’s sight.  Not even religious Christianity. 

Christ Himself condemned the religious among His people, and blasted them with the truth that they couldn’t earn a single bit of God’s favor by their religious works.  That included their attendance at meetings, their religious appearances, their giving, their charity, their prayers, their religious festivals and observances, their religious dress, their religious activities of any kind.  None of it mattered to Christ.  So Paul here reminds us that none of it matters, and never will.

“For it is we who are the circumcision,
we who worship by the Spirit of God,
who glory in Christ Jesus,
and who put no confidence in the flesh…”
Phil. 3:3

So Paul reminds us of the great ruth that religion, and religious fervor, and religious works and observances, can never save us.  In fact, religion is direct disobedience to the Word of God.  Circumcision here represents any of our attempts to outwardly mark ourselves as God’s people.

The true marks of a Christ-follower are the ones Paul lists here:

1. We worship by the Spirit of God
2. We glory (boast) only in Christ
3. We put no confidence in the flesh.

Paul makes it absolutely clear.  Christ is the only confidence of a man of God.  The man or woman of God will worship and live by the Spirit of God in them, and put not one shred of confidence in anything else.  Not religious systems, not worldly things, nothing else.  Not even their own accomplishments or talents, nor their own religious ideas and plans.  Not their money, or status, or job, or friends.  Not one other thing will the man of God boast of except His Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is foundational, and so important that it lays down our understanding of Paul’s summation of his own life. 

Paul was an accomplished, educated man.  He had plenty to boast about in the eyes of men.  Much of his accomplishment was religious in nature, and here he lays it out in detail for us.  In chapter 3: 4-6, he lists the reasons he could have confidence in the flesh if he wants to. 

His religious pedigree was impeccable.  He was a “Pharisee of Pharisees”, in other words, a leading religious figure of his day.  He was even a righteous man in terms of keeping the Mosaic law.  He was zealous for God.  In fact, not listed here is the fact that Paul was also a Roman citizen by birth, which means he undoubtedly came with a worldly pedigree, both a leading Jew and a leading citizen of Rome in the City of Tarsus where he was born and raised.  In other words, Paul had more to brag about, if he wished to, than almost anyone he was talking to.  Both from a worldly and a religious standpoint.

Yet we will find out in the next verses that Paul actually gave no value to these things he possessed.  Instead, he’d found someone of far greater worth.  Someone worth living for, and someone worth dying for.

In the next segment of this teaching, we’ll explore who Paul lived and died for, and what this means for you and me.












Saturday, February 19, 2011

A VISION SEALED IN A SCROLL

"For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll."
Isaiah 29:11


Isaiah 29 is a powerful Word from the Lord about His people Israel.  We are those people.  


God tells us here that He brings His people down to the dust with suffering, in order to lift them up to the heights with Him.  God tells us here that He allows us to be "brought low", so low that "out of the dust your speech will whisper."
In other words, we are face down in the dirt, unable to even speak out loud.  We are so down that the bottom looks like up, as the old saying goes. (vs. 1-4)


He allows our enemies to encircle us and to besiege us.  We are taken down by those who oppose us.  Shamed and hurt by those who should be our allies.  Abandoned by those who are supposed to love us.


During this time, we often lack faith, and stumble, and the Lord seems far away.  We are blind and deaf.  We lay in the dust and complain, like Job.
We don't understand.


Yet, in a "very short time", which to us seems long and arduous and terrible,
the Lord will deliver us from our oppressors, and we will see and hear and understand what seems to us a mystery now.

"...in that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the blind will see". (vs. 18).


It is this very humbling that results in growth.  It is being brought low that kills the old man, and crucifies the flesh.  It is the only way to Christ in us.  It is the Narrow Gate, the Narrow Road, the way that only those who truly want Jesus will tread.


For those of us who suffer humiliation today, I pray we will be willing to find the joy in humility.  That we will begin to embrace the pain, as an enabling agent sent to bring us power in Christ.  It is only by the pain of a bloody crucifixion that we experience the power of a resurrected life.


It is by the things we would avoid at all costs if we could, that we benefit.


Christ told His disciples many things when He was with them.  It wasn't until they had gone through their own suffering later that they understood much of it.  They had heard, but they were deaf to the words of the scroll.  It was only through the gloom and darkness of persecution that they became wise and understanding, strong and stable, built on the Rock, who is Christ Himself.


Blessings on those of you who are laid low today.  May we look up from the dust and mumble whatever praises to our Lord we can muster.  May we find joy in our trials, as James talks about.  May we listen and hear, may our eyes be opened to God's faithfulness.  The results are good!


"Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction."  Isaiah 29:24

Friday, February 18, 2011

READ AND FEAST ON GOD'S WORD IN PAST POSTINGS

Today, brothers and sisters, I encourage you to go through the archives and choose one of the postings from past months, this past year, and take it to heart.  See what God will do.  Go into these articles and feast on whatever God gives you.

My prayers are with all of you, all over the world, who love Christ, and who want Him above all.

A. Brother

Thursday, February 17, 2011

HAVING AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

IN these days, I'm having to work far longer and harder than I imaged I would at this age.  However, God's working in me the things He wants.  Nevertheless, not my will but yours, Lord.

That's our prayer every moment.  If I don't post with the same daily frequency as before, it is not because I don't want to, but because it is physically impossible.  Thank you for your faithfulness in reading and sharing the teachings God gives us here.
A. Brother

HAVING AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD

By Zac Poonen

In Song of Solomon 4:12, The Bridegroom calls the bride “a locked garden”  – an exclusive garden, exclusively for the Bridegroom. She doesn’t belong to anyone else. She belongs exclusively to her Lord.

Is your relationship with the Lord like that? Can the Lord say to you, “You are My private garden, exclusively Mine”? There are many things out in the world that can attract us like opportunities to make more money than we need, to get earthly power and fame and to earn a name for ourselves, etc. Such temptations can be compared to other men trying to seduce the bride. But the bride here is not attracted. She is taken up with her Beloved alone. She belongs to her Bridegroom exclusively.

Very few believers live in such a relationship with Christ and that is why they don’t know Him intimately and don’t understand His Word.

The secret of understanding the Bible is to have an intimate relationship with the Lord first of all – who better than He can explain to us what His Word means. Walk with Him like the early disciples did and long to hear Him speak to you. Then your eyes will be opened like theirs and your hearts will be set aflame like theirs. This is what I have discovered in the last more than forty years that I have walked with my Lord.

The bride then invites the north wind and the south wind to come and blow over her garden (Song of Solomon 4:16). The north wind is the cold wind of suffering, adversity and trials; and the south wind is the wind of blessing, encouragement, prosperity and happiness. It doesn’t matter which of these winds blow; the result will be the same – a fragrance wafted abroad. Whether we have a comfortable easy life or have a life full of difficulties and trials, the grace of God can make the aroma of Christ to come forth from us. Thanksgiving, praise and worship to God will come forth from our life, irrespective of our circumstances.

“May my beloved come into his garden and eat its choice fruits” (Song of Solomon 4:16) Everything that is produced in our life (our garden) is for the Lord - not to impress other people with how spiritual we are. When you give a testimony about your life, don’t try to show others what a wonderful person you are. Instead, let them see what a wonderful Saviour you have! Otherwise your fruit will be for men and not for the Lord. Here the bride says, “Everything in my garden is for my beloved alone.”

Did God use you to bring someone to Christ? Don’t rejoice in what you did. Rejoice with the angels that a sinner repented. He is the Lord’s convert not yours. If you made a sacrifice for the Lord, let no one know about it. Why should we advertise our sacrifices? Does a wife who loves her husband deeply tell the world about the sacrifices she makes for him? There are so many loving secrets between a wife and a husband. There should be loving secrets between us and the Lord too. You may be spending time alone with the Lord-Good.  But why should anyone else know about that? A wife who is in love with her husband will not want anyone to know about their times together. That was why Jesus told us to shut the door when we pray. Nobody should know about the times we spend with our Beloved.

But it is rare indeed to find Christians like this. Most of them are eager to let everyone know about their sacrifices and their service for the Lord - in a way that glorifies them! That is the clearest proof that they lack a love-relationship with the Lord. Song of Solomon is an important book for all such Christians. I am deeply thankful to the Lord that He led me to study this book first, when I began my Christian life. This love-relationship with the Lord should be the basis of all our service for the Lord.
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For more information write to: wftw@cfcindia.com

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CHRIST WILL FINISH WHAT HE STARTS

CHRIST WILL FINISH WHAT HE STARTS
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS

Looking to Jesus.... (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

There is a real touch of Paul in this Letter to the Hebrews - "Looking off unto Jesus." Whoever actually wrote this Letter, the shadow of Paul is over it. His influence is everywhere. And certainly he was called upon to look off unto Jesus. Now that is a very vital lesson for us to learn. We have to do that again and again in our Christian life.

If we get our eyes upon anything but the Lord Jesus we just go to pieces.

Have all respect for God's saints. I am not saying that you have to eye every servant of God with suspicion and be saying all the time: "Well, of course, he is not perfect, you know." Give honor to whom honor is due, but never build your faith upon any man, however good he may be.

And as for ourselves - well, I think perhaps we are more tempted to look at ourselves than anything else! This is one of our real Christian exercises. We have continually to remove our eyes from ourselves and everything to do with ourselves. There is nothing more discouraging than this self of ours, and nothing more misleading. Our own judgments are all wrong, and so are our thoughts and ideas. They are not God's thoughts.

We must take our eyes off ourselves, but not look out into space and be vacant. "Look off unto Jesus," and you know how that sentence is finished - "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."

Did you start this thing? Are you a Christian because you decided to be a Christian? Well, the Lord help you if that is so! No, He started this thing.

Are you not glad that you can say: "It was the Lord who found me. It was the Lord who put His hand on me." What He said is very true: "Ye did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16).

He was the author of our faith, and it says that He is the finisher - He will finish it.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The On-High Calling Volume 1 - Chapter 9

Saturday, February 12, 2011

THE PARADE. A PARABLE FOR TODAY'S AFFLUENT CHURCH.

 THE PARADE
A. Brother

            Many of us have been taught a gospel that is no gospel at all.  Those of us who sit in the pews of our comfortable churches and live a life full of the fruits of self-indulgence and selfish goals and dreams.  Those of us who name the Name of Christ as if we are His people, yet who bear none of the fruit of His Spirit, show none of His power, exhibit little of His love and holiness.  We proclaim Christ and yet don’t live Christ.  We seek for Him and yet don’t find Him.  He is a foreigner to us, and a great mystery that we worship from afar, because we have been taught and followed no gospel at all.

            This gospel that is no gospel requires nothing.  It is an easy gospel, full of the desire for a good life, full of desire for happiness and security, and prosperity.  It is a gospel that says we are fine.  That gives us license to enjoy our affluence, and says that when we prosper it shows we are in favor with God and man. 

            This gospel that is no gospel is a gospel that answers every question with a positive affirmation.  It is a gospel that seeks its own good, and its own power, and its own glory.  It is a ‘feel good’ gospel, full of all the right verses, and with a constant need to confirm in its followers that they should feel good about themselves, about the world around them, about their circumstances, about their church, about their leaders, about their families, about their country, about their lives, and about their souls.  It is a smooth, palatable gospel that makes promises of peace and hope and your best life now.

            This gospel that is no gospel has led us down the wide way that leads to destruction.  The vast crowd moves smoothly down the easy, wide boulevard, lined with trees, bright with sun, bands playing, kids holding balloons, clowns cavorting, drummers drumming and baton twirlers performing.  This giant parade is self-propelled, well-orchestrated, and led by a charming group of men and women decked out in the finest uniforms. 

            Behind the scenes there are skilled technicians, making sure every good view reaches the cameras, and every performer in this spectacular event is doing his job, so that the onlookers at home and in person can be entertained.  There are security forces in plain-clothes, ready to quietly deal with any strange behavior or disruption, for the parade must go on, and uninterrupted by anything out of place or unseemly. 

            After all, God is watching, and we are those who must please Him by our faultless parade skills, showing Him how much we care about Him by worshiping in style and with the finest of showmanship.

            This gospel that is no gospel is a spectator sport.  It is a parade that is carefully prepared each week, by the best paid minds in the churches.  Those with the talent to put it all together, and create the best show possible.  They were hired by the attendees, the crowds, to please them and to earn their salaries by making sure that nothing goes wrong or is out of place.  To create flow, and crowd dynamics, and to build everything around a theme that makes a great point.  To achieve a synergy with music and word that works up to a climax that will bring the audience to its feet with new vitality and encouragement for the week ahead, so they can hold onto their gospel until the next parade.

            There are smaller parades on television so that the faithful can get their needed vitality and strength to go on even during the week.  These shows are designed to fill in the gaps between the parade dates in their own hometowns.  They are brightly lit sets with smiling people, and scripts that are full of this gospel that is no gospel.  The viewers can watch people worshiping, and hear the parade music, performed by some of the very people who sing and dance in the real parades.  Once in a while somebody tries to air a show that has another gospel, with some ugly and distasteful things in it, and preaches a lesser faith without as much positive in it, but these shows are quickly extinguished because they don’t attract the viewers like the others.  The ratings take care of that problem for the producers.

            Unfortunately, to their great future embarrassment, Jesus Christ, Lord of His Church, doesn’t have time for parades.  He also doesn’t watch television.  He’s too busy for that.

            For Jesus is on Narrow Road, not Broadway.  He is out along the minor highways and small streets, busy healing the brokenhearted, the sick, the blind and the lame.  He is busy taking care of the lonely and the afflicted.  He is busy spending time with His small groups of disciples, who are in genuine need of Him.  He is with those who suffer, and are in prison, and are in pain, and on their knees in their anguish and need for Him.  He is with those who follow Him every moment, and rely on His love and strength and the power of His Spirit to get them through the day.  He is close to those crushed in spirit, and who have no showmanship or loveliness of their own to parade around. 

            Christ is with those who need Him, not those who don’t. 

            For the faithful are mostly poor, and insignificant in the eyes of the world.  The parade goes by many blocks away in their cities.  They can hear the distant drums, and once in a while one of them ventures toward the parade, but security blocks them before they can ever get a glimpse, because they are not dressed right, and are obviously not part of the target market.  They might turn on the television, and see one of the smaller parade shows, but it only makes them feel worse, as they aren’t participating in that wonderful life, so they turn it off. 

            The poor in spirit have only Jesus to be with them in this age of the parade.  They hunger and thirst after righteousness, not after entertainment.  They long for Christ, and to know the fellowship of His suffering, so they can know the joy and power of His resurrection in their lives.  They carry a cross daily, which is the sign of Jesus’ life in them, but which makes them quite unacceptable and unattractive to the parade participants and crowds watching.  That’s why crosses were banned long ago from parades, though they are allowed as discreet display on buildings along the way. 

            Jesus especially values those who obey Him.  The True Gospel is the Way of Love, and those who love God love their brothers, as He taught.  They share and are generous with one another.  They don’t judge each other by their wealth, or status.  They include one another in their lives, and are together as often as possible.  The obedient know that love is the first and most reliable mark of the Christ-follower.  And they seek to live that love every day toward others, even their enemies.

            Jesus is too busy to go to parades.  He is busy with those who are suffering for His sake all over the world.  The thousands in prison for claiming His Name as their own.  The millions in poverty who worship together without any parade trappings, and who would rather sing themselves, loudly and out of tune, than with the big crowds, bands, and be in disobedience.  He likes to be with those would rather lead than be led.  Those who would rather be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around them than leave their work to hired parade staff.  Jesus likes these little ones, and prays for them, and helps them, walking beside them, living inside them, and He and the Father make their homes with them.  Jesus is near to these strugglers, who can’t seem to get with the parade.

            Of course, Jesus sends Word to the parade leaders often.  Few of them listen, because listening to His Word, and seeing it without parade blinders on, would mean changing everything that they are doing, and admitting they were wrong to join the parade in the first place.  Besides, how would they earn their living?  After all, it’s their livelihood and income He’s talking about. 

            And Jesus talks to many who are in the crowd, and some of the performers in the parade, but it is so hard for them to hear above the din of the bands and the constant entertainment.  Distractions keep them occupied, and they go back to their easy, comforting verses and their easy, comfortable gospel that is no gospel.  Jesus gives up and goes back to His lowly people on Narrow Road.

            The parade continues.  Perhaps only when poverty, or sickness, or the terrors of war, or the tragedies of life strike, will the parade pause; and perhaps, if enough of these things occupy the crowds and the performers and the leaders of this parade, they will be spending too much time on their knees and crying out to God to have the parade one week.  And then, perhaps they will not have it the next week.  And then, Jesus may come by again, and draw near to them in their affliction and loneliness, and they will listen, and hear His voice of love and mercy and He will take them out to Narrow Road to join with others who are on the Way of Love.  And they will be joyful in tribulation, and find power to live through suffering.  And they will experience the Resurrection Power in their own lives, together with the faithful, and give up their parade life.

            Perhaps it is a choice to leave the parade, and to go it with Jesus.  Few will find it, He said.  Will you?  

Friday, February 11, 2011

OUR TRIALS DECLARE GOD'S WISDOM

GOD MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN THROUGH OUR TRIALS
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS


Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great... (1 Timothy 3:16 NIV)


Very often it may seem but poor comfort to us in times of suffering, times of trial, times of adversity, times when Satan is pressing hard, to be told that, while we can see nothing of the meaning of all this, God is instructing angels, and that principalities and powers are deriving the benefit of it all.


We do not draw a great deal of comfort from that, but if we understood I think we would realize that, while we may not at such times be fulfilling a very big ministry on the earth, there is a big ministry going on towards principalities and powers through our instrumentality.


Do not think that running about taking meetings, and doing work for the Lord, is the only kind of ministry that members of the Church can fulfill. Ministry may be equally being fulfilled when these things have been brought to a standstill, and all earthly activities for the Lord stopped, and we are in one of these painful periods of inaction.


Do not conclude that because of such inaction no ministry is being rendered, or that everything of that kind is cut off at such a time.


Here is the word: "...that NOW unto the principalities and the powers in heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God" - not in the coming age, but now.
They are learning from the Lord, by reason of those very difficult and trying experiences through which the Lord is taking us, what He is doing in the Church.


By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Battle for Life - Chapter 4

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TRUE LEADERSHIP AMONG BELIEVERS

 TRUE LEADERSHIP AMONG BELIEVERS
A. Brother

“Follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ.”
1 Cor. 10:33

This simple statement by Paul gives us the standard of true leadership within the Body of Christ.  The people of God must be led by those who follow Christ’s example.

With this statement, Paul is capping off a long section of instruction, and explanation of why he does what he does in his ministry. 

Starting in chapter 9, he teaches us that even though we have rights, (for instance the right to earn a living from the gospel if we preach the gospel), we have the privilege of giving up our rights for Christ. (9:11,12)

Even though he is a free man in Christ, and is the slave of no other man, he willingly gives up those rights to relate to Jews, to lawkeepers, to the Gentiles, to the weak.  He will mirror those people, and live within their comfort zones, in order to win them.  (9:19-23)  Mind you, he does not compromise the truth of the gospel, but he sets aside his personal preferences in order to bring the Word of God to them.

Paul continually threw himself into the battle for Christ’s truth, regardless of the personal consequences.  Like Christ, Paul told the truth, no matter the cost.  This cost him dearly, as many felt free to criticize and judge him throughout his ministry because he was so “radical” and didn’t tone down what he said or did.  He always cared more about others than he did himself, and did everything so that they could be saved. (10:23,24)

He gave us in these passages the true identifying marks of leadership in Christ. 

The leader is like Christ, in the sense he must give up all he is and has, all his rights and privileges, in order to preach Christ and bring Christ to others.  He must not be rigid in the non-essentials, but be willing to become like a people to win a people.  He must do everything with others in mind, giving up his own preferences in order not to offend those with more sensitive spiritual stomachs. (10:31-33)

In all, like Christ, he must give up his own life for his brethren.  As Jesus taught us in John 15, we must give up all we are and be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers, so that they may be saved.  This is what Paul taught, and how he lived.

Today, we must demand of ourselves this same standard of leadership. 

Oh, Father, in Christ Jesus we ask you to raise us up as leaders that emulate Christ in every way.  Please give us the full measure of the Spirit of Jesus so that we will be like Him as we seek to show others who He is.  May we give up our rights and our privileges as He did, may we lay down our lives as He did, all for others.  May we follow Paul’s example, as he follows Christ, and may others learn from us as we learn from our Lord and Master on the narrow road today.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TURNING VICTORY INTO DEFEAT

Text:  Joshua 5:13-7:26


Here we read about ourselves, and our tendency to take a victory and turn it into future defeats!  Read this entire section of Scripture and ask the Spirit of God to illumine it.


Joshua and the children of Israel followed the angel of the Lord's command to encircle the city, march around it, and then to shout the walls down.  This bizarre behavior must have had the people in Jericho laughing at Israel, deriding them from the top of the wall each day.


But God delivered the city into the hands of Joshua and the people of God.  The only additional command that God gave was that the entire city was to be destroyed, and no spoils of victory were to be taken.  All was to be burned, except the gold, silver, bronze and iron, which were to be preserved for the Lord.


God called it "devoted".  All the spoils were to be devoted to the Lord and therefore destroyed.  "Devoted to destruction" was the phrase used.


Achan, just one man, fell to temptation, and took some treasure from the city, dug a hole, and hid it under his tent.


As a result, the entire nation of Israel suffered defeat at the hands of an entirely insignificant small town called Ai, and suddenly, after the flush of victory and deliverance over Jericho, Israel was prostrate before the Lord.  Even Joshua was panicked, knowing that if God abandoned them now, they were no match for even the smallest foe.


In our lives, we must not touch even one thing that God asks us to destroy for His sake.  When we do, we open the door to sin, and this sin weakens us from within.  As God takes more and more of the promised land within our hearts and lives, as He leads us to victory over sin by His Spirit, we must not covet even the smallest portion of what we leave behind.


Achan represents our greed and envy and lust for the things of the flesh--our love for the world.  He is us--that part of us that still holds on to our weak and puny desires for security and safety--and that would disobey the very words of God to provide for ourselves.


Today, brothers and sisters, let us destroy, as God did Achan and everything associated with Achan, all in our lives which we have carried with us forward that is not of God.  Those things He's demanded we devote to destruction.  Our love for the world.  And the things in the world.  Our lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.  These will weigh us down so much that we will be useless to the people of God, and God will not go out with us, even to overcome the smallest foe.


God expects our obedience.  We cannot do less than give our all to Christ.  As I wrote yesterday, it is His power in us that enables us to do the impossible, to give up what we covet from this world.


I pray we'll be able to do this today.  Let us willingly give up our store of paltry treasures we have hidden under the floorboards, instead of waiting for God to have to call us out!


Your Brother,
A. Brother

Monday, February 7, 2011

THE POWER TO OBEY

THE POWER TO OBEY
A. Brother

There is a power shortage among us.  In this critical hour we need God’s power more than ever, and in increasing measure.  So many are hungry for more, thirsty for revelation, anxious to know the Lord in some way that will bring reality, His reality, His Kingdom, into their lives with impact.

Here Paul lays out his desires for us.  Here is his prayer for the Ephesians.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth
derives its name.  I pray that out of His glorious riches
He may strengthen you with power
through His Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Eph. 4:14-16

Paul says to us through this prayer that we are part of a family, one that encompasses heaven and earth.  He prays for power to come into us through the Spirit of God, giving us strength and the ability to have faith. 

You see, we don’t even have the ability to have faith without the power of the Spirit of God doing it within us. 

“…apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

It is Christ in us who does it all.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power together with all the saints
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep
is the love of Christ,
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure
of all the fullness of God.”
Eph. 4:17-19

LOVE.  This is the mark of God’s Spirit within us.  This is the aim of God in Christ, that we would grasp and know and be filled with His love.  This love that together we learn with all the saints.  This love that establishes us, roots us, and enables us through the Spirit of God to stand in fullness of faith and hope every day.

So we have learned that God the Father empowers us by His Spirit within us to have faith, to have love, and to be filled with His fullness in Christ.  Nothing comes from self-effort.  This is a gift, a treasure we receive only by faith, and that faith even comes from the hand of the One who loves us. 

So many of us have learned religious striving.  This sad, hard road of never believing we are worthy of getting power to live joyous, obedient lives in Christ.  Can you feel this pain?  I can, having pursued without profit for many years these spiritual goals, which I could no more attain than to launch myself to the moon while sitting in my car.

It is not our power, it is Christ’s power in us.  He lives now, and we are dead.  Dead to sin and alive to righteousness.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more
than we ask or imagine,
ACCORDING TO HIS POWER THAT IS AT WORK WITHIN US,
to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.”
Eph. 4:20,21

This working of power is to bring about the life of Christ in us, which is the greatest miracle in the universe.  Far greater than we imagine.  Far greater a miracle than those we ask for on a daily basis in our feeble prayers for God to rescue us and help us at every turn.

He has miracles waiting, but they are not the kind we often seek.  They are the inner miracles, the quiet, powerful kind, which make selfish, hardened, sad, lonely, hurting people into loving, kind, strong, faithful, servants of Christ in a sinful world. 

This is His power at work within us. 

This is glory to God in the church and in Christ Jesus.

This is God’s purpose, which shows His power to every ruler and authority in the heavens.

This is the strength and the power to obey Christ, and it comes only from Him.

Today, may we leave our own attempts to live the “Christian life” and let Christ live His life within us, by His power, by His efforts, and turn us into obedient, loving, power-filled servants, filled to fullness with Himself. 






Sunday, February 6, 2011

CHRIST RULES YOUR SITUATION

 CHRIST IS IN CHARGE:
HE RULES THE INVISIBLE
AND THE VISIBLE CREATION
A. Brother

“For by Him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him
all things hold together.”
And He is the head of the body, the church…
Col. 1:16-18

When we read Colossians with the “eyes of our understanding enlightened” we see Christ, exalted, supreme, and ruling the heavens, the earth, and all the “thrones or powers or rulers or authorities”.  This means Christ rules today, not in the future.  He is supreme, and all rulers and authorities, all powers of any kind, are in His hand.

What Paul tells us through the Holy Spirit, is that Christ, the risen Lord, is in charge, and that headship not only encompasses the church, His body on earth, but also includes all earthly kingdoms, all spiritual forces of darkness, and all created beings, whether they are visible or invisible.  Even the demons are subject to Christ.

In our modern cultures, and even in our churches, we have taught ourselves that mankind is in charge of the earth, and that Satan is in charge of men.  It is true, as Scripture says, that the enemy of God has some freedom to roam about, “seeking whom he may devour.”  But that is only limited freedom, and is bound by Christ’s absolute authority. 

Do you know that Christ, this exalted ruler of all, is in you, if indeed you are in Him?

This is not some fanciful wish.  We don’t live by Disney’s philosophy, that if you only “wish upon a star” your dreams will come true.  We live by faith in the Son of God, who created all things, whether seen or unseen, and who dwells in us, as He promised us.

This mighty ruler of all that exists is our friend, our Lord, our companion.  He is working all things toward the end He desires, and that end includes bringing us safely into His heavenly Kingdom.  We are so weak in faith that we believe nothing good can come out of the bad we see around us. 

This is where we go wrong, and why our faith falters.  It is not grounded upon the absolute truth of God’s Word.  We hear so many things from men that are not right.

Today, read Colossians beginning to end.  And contemplate God’s Word to us.  His absolute Sovereignty in the lives of men.  His absolute Sovereignty over Satan and his followers.  His absolute Sovereignty over political figures, and regimes, and earthly happenings.  All of it is beginning and ending for the glory of God in Christ.

We are Christ’s and Christ is ours.  He is not going to let us go.  So long as we cling to Him alone, and are not swayed by the winds of doctrine out there, and do not succumb to the ways of religion and man-made tradition.  Unfortunately, some of have done so, and do so today, and are shipwrecked on the rocks of unbelief.

Hold to Christ today, brothers and sisters.  Listen to Him only.  He is your salvation and your song.  He is your Lord and your eldest brother.  He is your friend and “the author and finisher of your salvation”.  He is your Life, your Truth, your Way.   He is the narrow gate, the door, the shepherd whose voice you know and follow.  He will not allow you to be snatched out of His hand.

No other will suffice.  No other is needed.

His purpose is this.

“…to present to you the Word of God in all its fullness—
the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.  To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is CHRIST IN YOU…”
Col. 1:27

Brothers and sisters, my hearts desire is for Christ to be formed in all of us, in His fullness, and that we would walk with the supreme confidence, love and humility that Christ walked with among us.  We are now Him in this world, and He is in us, and this is the great mystery revealed that Scripture talks about here. 

Bow in humble obedience whatever your circumstances are.  Allow Christ to show you His sufficiency, whether in your life, or in your death.  That’s when we begin to know Christ’s fullness.  That’s when we begin to understand Paul, who said:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things above,
not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life
is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears,
then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Col. 3:1-4




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