Saturday, June 25, 2011

FROM WANDERERS TO WARRIORS

FROM WANDERERS TO WARRIORS
A. Brother

“The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain.
Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.
My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders;
For the Lord Almighty will care for His flock, the house of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle.
From Judah will come the cornerstone,
from Him the tent peg,
from Him the battle bow,
from Him every ruler.
Together they will be like mighty men trampling the muddy streets in battle.
Because the Lord is with them, they will fight and overthrow the horsemen.”
--Zechariah 10:2-5

          The Lord’s people wander like sheep over the hills, unsure of anything, trying to appear as if they are well-fed and healthy.  Their idols, those whom they hold up as their examples, speak about worldly things, lead the sheep down paths that go nowhere, and put them out in pastures that have no grass or water.  The dreamers and prophets spin out dreams and visions for the people of God that have no substance, and there is no comfort or cure for what ails the flock.  The sheep are grouping for protection, and find none.  Even while the enemy circles, riding powerful and swift horses, the weak and young and sick and lame of the flock are being grabbed and taken away to slaughter, while the shepherds continue to try and calm the flock with pretty words and promises, with worship and praise, with books and meetings and buildings and appearances.  The flock is milling about in confusion, and many are beginning to wander out over the hills to be lost forever.

            But the Lord Almighty, God Himself, has set the Cornerstone—Christ Jesus--in place.  While the shepherds please themselves, taking the choice wool, eating off the fattest sheep, lying on beds of soft comfort, they ignore the commands of the Chief Shepherd, the Cornerstone of the House of Judah, and so there is no battle, there is no defense, and the flock is decimated.

            The Father and the Son are preparing tent pegs and battle bows and rulers—new shepherds to lead the flock—equipping battle-hardened men who will speak to the sheep in the voice of their Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, and the true sheep of God’s flock will recognize their voices, as they recognize Jesus’ voice.  These men of God will come together, and bring the flock together, and will not act alone.  These new shepherds will bring the flock together, and prepare them for war.  This new flock, headed by the One Shepherd, will ignore the old flock’s idols, dreamers and false prophets, and listen only to the voice of Jesus, the Word of God, and His Spirit.  They will forsake man-made religion and follow Christ alone, and be His Body, learning to obey every Word of His mouth.

            This Body for Christ will together become mighty men.  They will fight in the streets, on foot, without the world’s fancy armor or technological weapons.  The enemy on horseback, the wolves that circle and grab, will be overthrown by these warriors without worldly means.  There will be no mercy for the self-absorbed shepherds.  They will either kneel to the One Shepherd, or will be tossed from their luxury accommodations and wander over the hills without protection, as they left the weak and sick of God’s flock to fend for themselves.  They will experience the discipline of God, and through it some will come back to rejoin the flock in humility and pure love for God and His people.  Some will never come back, as they will find comfortable position in the enemy ranks.

            Jesus, the loving Shepherd of His flock, the Cornerstone of the House of Judah, will go after His lost and straying sheep through these mighty men of valor who will feed His sheep the truth, and God will strengthen them all together.  They will find their Way, and become an obedient flock, helping one another, giving to one another, living in love like their Shepherd commands.

            There will be redemption from sin, and complete restoration for the sheep of the flock.  Jacob, whose name means “struggles with men”, will become Israel, which means “struggles with God”.  These struggles will lead them back to Gilead, the land where God fulfilled His promises to Abraham through Jacob, who became Israel.  These people who come back will have persevered through deep trial and trouble.

          “I will restore them because I have compassion on them.  They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them…Surely I will redeem them…I will bring them back from Egypt and gather them from Assyria.  I will bring them to Gilead…”  --Zech. 10:6-10

            This flock will be brought together, and will seek the Lord together after going through many hardships.  The sins that overpowered them will be thrown away, and the new life of Christ, including His cross and His daily dying to self, will be put on. 

          “They will pass through the sea of trouble; the surging sea will be subdued and all the depths of the Nile will dry up, Assyria’s pride will be brought down and Egypt’s scepter will pass away.”  --Zech. 10:11

            The flock who comes together to obey will leave the things of Assyria and Egypt behind.  They will be set apart for the Lord God alone, not relying on pagan and worldly means or methods of proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  They will rely only on the strength of the Lord, and will become mighty men as their Older Brother, the Firstborn among many brethren, the Lord Jesus, was the Mighty Man.

            These mighty men will teach in love, live in the love of Christ, and be willing to give up everything to be His.  They will be foot soldiers, not relying on man-made traditions or institutions for provision.  The flock will share provision, and the flock will feed one another, and provide shelter and care for one another.  They will obey their Shepherd, knowing that His sheep give water to the thirsty and food to the hungry, clothe the naked, share their homes with the alien and stranger, find jobs for the jobless, care for the sick, and comfort for those in prison.  

            This One Flock will confess their sins to one another and pray for one another.  The shepherds will rely on their One Shepherd to feed them, and clothe them, and to provide them their living.  There will be no petty laws, such as tithing and Sabbath days, because the flock will live by the Spirit, and give abundantly to one another out of God’s daily provision, and serve the Flock every day, which is true worship, with no motivation but the approval of their beloved Shepherd.

            “I will strengthen them in the Lord and in His Name they will walk…”
                                                                                                                 --Zech. 10:12

          This Flock will by strengthened, not by celebration and feasting, not by comfort and affluence, not by endless books and music, not by fine buildings, soft pews and smooth sermons, but by faith working through love in the muddy streets of their towns, cities and villages. 

            This Flock will be strengthened through many trials, and the Spirit of God will be evident in the Vineyard of the Lord by the clusters of fruit hanging from the vines.  The strength of the sheep will be in the Lord, and they will walk like Jesus did, in obedience to their Shepherd. 

            They will be slaughtered, but not by the wolves and the mounted horsemen.  They will be killed as Jesus predicted, by those who think they are doing God a service.  They will be persecuted by the religious, and hounded by the zealous for man-made tradition.  They will be ridiculed by those who claim Christ, but who prophesy lies in His Name. 

            Not one hair on their heads will be harmed, though they lose their earthly lives, because they will live eternally with their Beloved Shepherd.  Woe to the ones who cause these little ones to stumble, for their angels see the face of God on their behalf every day in Heaven.  May God have mercy on those who oppose the One Flock, which though taking no vengeance for itself, has its Protector, whose power will save them.  He will avenge, and it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands.

            Heed the Word of God through Zechariah, who long ago predicted that these things would take place as we see them now. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

AS A WEANED CHILD

AS A WEANED CHILD
A. Brother

        “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”  --Psalm 63:8

        “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”  --Psalm 131:1,2

        Vivid images come into my mind.  Of a small toddler, no longer being held in the mother’s arms to breast feed, but instead, willingly running to its mother to be held close in times of distress or fear.
          How tightly these little arms hold.  Circled around mom’s neck, he clings with all his strength and receives comfort and a feeling of safety.

          David knew God’s comfort in severe affliction.  He knew how to run to His Father and cling to Him like a weaned child.

          David was King.  Head of a nation.  Yet he says he put aside great matters to cling to God.  He acknowledged that he was a child in spirit, and he took the time to still and quiet his soul and to cling to God.  Why do we not do the same on a daily, hourly, momentary basis?

          Where is my humility?

          Do I trot it out at church gatherings to impress others with my sincerity? Do I live the rest of my moments with the bold confidence of human arrogance, sure in myself that I am capable to deal with the great matters that come my way?
          Have I bought into the world’s way of thinking?  The “just do it” sloganeering?  The “tunnel under, go around, go through” snappy substitute-for-true-faith ideas?  The humanistic philosophies that are well-crafted lies designed by Satan to deceive even the chosen of God into trusting in themselves?
          Do the posters on the walls of our minds reflect the false bravado of the human endeavor, or the humility of the true disciple of Christ, who clings with deep need, and deep love, to the neck of his or her God every moment?
          Brothers and sisters, we are in grave danger.

          We have grown up in an era that has brainwashed us with tripe.  We have heard and been raised on humanistic philosophy that has crept its way into the lexicon of our language, even our language within the Body of Christ.  Some of this has been dispensed in excellent marketing campaigns and officially dispersed by some less-than-humble and very self-confident teachers and leaders within our churches.

          Our hope and confidence are to be in God alone.  The plans and aspirations we hold are to be generated by Him.  Whatever your position in life, and responsibility in that position, you are to be wholly given to God, and your complete trust and confidence are to be in Him—that He will give you His answers, His wisdom, His insight, and that any success in this position will bring glory and honor to Him through your faithfulness.  Your testimony is to witness to His love and power, not your own.

          Our examples are clear in Scripture.  Men like Daniel, David, Moses, Joshua and Joseph.  These men held high positions among the heathen nations, or among God’s people.  They succeeded, but through fiery trials, and had to stand their ground for God in the face of great opposition.  And they suffered for their faith, sometimes died for it.

          You will rise, if it be the Lord’s will, in business or in government, or in medicine, or in law, or in whatever endeavor you obey the Lord to undertake.  Yet you must do it as a man or woman apart.  Not as a compromised, chummy-with-the-world friend of the ruling regime of godless pagans.  Study Daniel and Joseph for examples.

          We must be like David, who, even though weighed down with the affairs of running a country, waited expectantly for the Lord and His Word every day like a child, clinging to God’s neck, listening for His kind and loving Word to Him.  Waiting for those words of encouragement and comfort.

          Brethren, if we truly seek to follow Jesus, we will be as Lot was in Sodom.  His soul was troubled daily by the evil, godless environment in which he lived.  Yet our God will keep us and deliver us.

          Listen to the Word for you today, whether you sit in a lofty penthouse office, or take up your shovel to dig a ditch.

          “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.”
                                                                                         --Psalm 130:5,6

        “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.  He trains my hands for battle…”  --Psalm 18:32-34

          

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ARE YOU CALLED TO BE AN EZEKIEL OR PAUL?

PAUL AND EZEKIEL
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 unyielding and hardened as they are.”
Ezekiel 3:7,8

“I served the Lord with great humility and tears, although
I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.  You know
that I have not hesitated to preach anything that
would be helpful to you…”
Acts 20:19,20

          To preach the whole gospel, the Word of God in its simplicity and power, will require everything of a man.  This calling is high—so high that it requires the utmost in humility and godly stubbornness—which are qualities sorely lacking in most of us.

          This man Ezekiel was called to speak the Words of God to the people of God.  He was not sent out to preach to strangers in a strange land (Ezek. 3:4-6).  He was sent to speak to Israel, which is the spiritual Israel, including all of us who by faith are descendants of Abraham (Romans 9:8).

          And God warned Ezekiel at the beginning.  He said that Israel wouldn’t listen to Ezekiel because they were “hardened and obstinate”.  He was equipping Ezekiel with a quality of character that would help him endure this opposition and hatred, this hardheaded stubbornness.  God was going to give Ezekiel a “forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint.” (Ezek. 3:9)  The command God gave to Ezekiel was that no matter whether the people of God listened or not, he was to speak out the Word he was given.  That was his task.  Give what he was given.  Every Word, every phrase, every truth.

          Paul is our New Covenant example of an Ezekiel.  Paul endured incredible opposition and hatred from those who called themselves Jews.  The plots he refers to here in Acts resulted in many beatings and floggings, long periods of imprisonment, a stoning, the necessity to flee for his life on a number of occasions, and continuous harassment.  Yet Paul, in his humble and persistent way, never stopped preaching and teaching the “full message of this new life”. (Acts 5:20)  This man, with the obstinacy and stubbornness of God’s love in his veins, declared near his death, “that I am innocent of the blood of all men.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” (Acts 20:26,27)

            When you and I talk of the gift of prophecy that comes from the Holy Spirit, we must take Paul and Ezekiel as examples.  Like our Lord Jesus, they endured hostility from those who called themselves religious.  When God calls a man, He gives this man the Spirit of Jesus in him to stand up to these obstinate people.  Make no mistake, brothers, as modern Shepherds, we are under the same commands.  Like David, God will enable you to defeat the lion or the bear that comes after the flock. 

          “I know that after I leave,” Paul said, “savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw disciples away after them.  So be on your guard!”
(Acts 20:29-31) 

          One final important thing about both Ezekiel and Paul, which they share with the Lord Jesus and the host of other prophets God has used throughout history.

          Neither of them were called by men.  They weren’t chosen because of their talents.  They weren’t put forward for ordination in a religious institution.  They didn’t follow some prescribed path to career fulfillment as a minister of the truth.  They didn’t pursue a man-pleasing higher educational goal before they answered the call of their Lord. 

          But they, like Jesus, knew their time had come.  When God calls you, you’ll know.  The Word of God will be like it was for these two men—fire in their bones—that could not be shut in.  They had to obey, because it was God doing the work in them, not them doing a work for God.  The Father was working, and so they were working.

          Obey God rather than men today, all you brothers who know this call on your life.  But remember, let God do the work in you, and let Him speak the Word through you.  It is not about the messenger, but it is about the One who sends him.  What a calling! 

            “Jesus answered, ’My teaching is not my own.  It comes from Him who sent me…He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the One who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”  (John 7:16-18)

            There are many today who speak on their own.  There are many who are called by men, not by God.  There are scores who talk more about themselves, their own ministries, and their own opinions, than they do about Christ.  But you, man of God, be true to the One who sends you.  Speak the simple truth He gives us in His Word.  May we be men who honor the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and may nothing false be found in us. 

           

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NOTHING BUT CHRIST.

Today, we need focus on Christ alone.
There is noise and bustle.  There are people around us.  We work with our hands, our minds, our bodies, speaking and dealing and being part of the fabric of life around us.  We carry things, sweat, strain, and fix things. We do commerce, and go to market, and drive in traffic.  We talk and have meals, and we do the things we must do to live in this world.  We see bad things, and know the sources and sting of sin constantly within our view.  We hate the world, yet we love it, too.  All this is mist, and as generation after generation has passed away, their time gone, their business shut down, their time used up, their bodies dust, Christ remains.
For those who seek Him, He will be there.
For all of us who are focused on Him, He is there.
For His own sheep, He speaks, and we follow.
In the noise and busyness of life, we follow.
We die to all this, and live only to Him.
While we do these things, we love, we hope, we have faith.
This is our calling, to be in the world, but not of it.
Today, listen to your Shepherd's voice, and let Him live in you, through you,
by His resurrection power.
That's all that counts.
All else is dust and mist.

Your brother,
A. Brother

Monday, June 20, 2011

A STROLL IN THE PARK, OR A DIFFICULT, DANGEROUS, NARROW WAY?

THE NARROW WAY IS NOT A STROLL IN THE PARK
A. Brother ©2009

            “If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.  For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with--that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.”   --Rom. 6:5-8

          “If anyone comes after me and does not hate…even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his own cross cannot be my disciple.”
                                                         -Luke 14:26,27

          “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves Me must follow Me and where I am My servant also will be.”                                                         -John 12:24-26

          “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”                          --Rom. 8:10,11

            As I grew up in the churches, I had great confusion in my life about what it meant to “live for Christ”.  Perhaps some of you do, too. 
            Our modern, easy interpretation of what it means to be a “Christian” seems to skip over the narrow gate, Jesus, and His definitions of what it means to be His follower.  And we also skip over the tough things Paul talks about in his letters.
            Jesus explained to His disciples, even before His death and resurrection, that they would follow Him in Hi s dying, as well as His resurrection.  In other words, where He was going, His disciples would go, too. 
          “Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’  Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”    --John 13:36

          Peter didn’t get it right then, but later he understood, along with the rest of the disciples, that Jesus was referring to the death to self they would experience when the Holy Spirit empowered them to become Jesus’ faithful followers.  They would become not only disciples, but would die to themselves, live to Christ, and literally live out His life on earth. 
            We interpret Jesus here as talking about the death by crucifixion that Peter would suffer, as Jesus would suffer crucifixion, but Jesus was also talking about a dying that would come about in Peter’s life before that.  Peter’s first death would be the death to self, which would enable Peter to live a Spirit-filled life in Christ, one full of the fruits of Christ’s character, and then prepare him for that actual, physical crucifixion that would take place, ushering him into the presence of God in heaven.
            In other words, we must die in order to live.  If we want to follow Jesus, He says we must abandon our hopes in this life, and put all our hope in Christ.  We must hate our own life to find Christ’s life.  If we are to be Jesus’ true followers, we will be willing to take up our cross daily, dying to all our selfishness, pride, and other sinful impulses, and be resurrected daily in victory over those sins.

            How do we bring people into the Kingdom these days?
            With tough, strong initiations into the Body of Christ that involve teaching new believers about what will be required of them?  Do we bring our new brothers and sisters in faith through the narrow gate Jesus talked about, telling them the truth about what it means to follow our Lord?
            Do we talk about being kernels of wheat that produce other kernels of wheat only after undergoing death?  Do we talk about carrying our crosses daily, and that the world will hate us for following Jesus?  Do we teach about hating our own lives, being willing to be hated and reviled because of the life we’ll be required to live for Christ?  Do we give the new believer the truth about the difficulties, the temptations, the opposition of the enemy, the death to self, the agony of Gesthemane?  Do we prepare them for their own burial, so that they can rise to new, powerful lives in Christ?  Do we take them through the process of sanctification, as God helps them crucify the old man with its evil desires, and strengthens the new man who lives by the Spirit?  Do we commit ourselves to them personally, as Jesus did for His disciples, and as Paul and the other New Testament leaders did, giving their very lives for their children in the faith so that none would be lost? 
            Not that I have personally witnessed.
            What I have witnessed over the past 50 years of being involved in the churches, is a casual, flippant attitude toward being a follower of Jesus.  In fact, we don’t even use that language today.  We say we are believers in Christ, or Christians, and that we are saved.  We speak of many things, but almost all of it revolves around us, and our “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. 
            We don’t talk about death.  We don’t talk about poverty and pain and suffering among believers.  We don’t talk about the true cost of discipleship, as Jesus did, and as the early followers of the Way did.  We have evolved from that into what we think is a smooth, mature, “aged” process of becoming Christ’s men and women.  Like fine wine, we are mellow, and we like things to go down easily, and that are acceptable to the palate.  So we print our own quick, easy-to-digest materials about salvation, instead of preaching and teaching the simple, powerful, earth-shattering truths of Scripture, which will surely take us “through the valley of the shadow of death.”  --Psalm 23:4
            Brethren, like the Pharisees, we ignore the commands of God to honor our man-made traditions. 
            The altar call, the “sinner’s prayer’, the short counseling session, the booklet we hand people about what to do now that you’re a Christian.  The pat on the back, the hug, the smile.  The joyful song we sing to close the service.  The final hug we give the new Christian, with the farewell phrase, “See you at church on Sunday.”  And the sage advice, “Read the Book of John.  That’s a great introduction to being a Christian.”  Then we leave and go home, content that we’ve done our job of bringing someone new to Jesus.
            And that shows graphically how far we are from the heart of God, and from the truths of His Word in these matters.

            The Word of God, as shown in the Scriptures I’ve listed above, talks about death as being essential to receiving new life in Christ.  We must die to ourselves and our own plans, ambitions, and goals.  We must die to all our sins, the old nature, the old ways, and become a New Creature in Christ, a New Man, powered by the Spirit of God rather than fueled by worldly and sinful motivations. 
            To follow Jesus means you die.  And death is not easy, and death is not fast, and it is very painful.  As Jesus illustrated for us by dying Himself, on a Roman cross, in great pain and heartache.  Left alone by all He loved, except His Father, who never forsook Him.
            So we must die, as He did.  We must follow Him, taking our crosses up daily, willing to give our very lives each day for Jesus and our fellow believers.
            When have  you heard that said to those who were beginning with Jesus?

            We treat the Christian life as if it were a stroll in the park, not a strenuous, narrow path full of danger, adventure and hardship: 

·        We want daisies and tulips, and Jesus gives us talk about “kernels of wheat” falling down and dying. 
·        We want a joyful, fun, easy life, full of good things, and Jesus promises us that we will be shunned and hated, all because we follow Him. 
·        We want sunny days, and music.  Jesus promises us difficulty, trial, tribulation in this world. 
·        We want to be part of a big, glorious movement of successful people.  Jesus promises us a narrow road we travel with the few, and persecution for His sake. 
·        We want beautiful homes, and gorgeous church buildings with comfortable seating.  Jesus says He has no place to lay His head, and that man-made temples will be thrown down, stone by stone. 
·        We want peace.  Jesus promises us a sword. 
·        We want acceptance by the world.  Jesus promises us rejection and opposition. 
·        We want prosperity.  Jesus tells us to give everything we have to Him, and share our income and possessions with those around us so that none will be in need.
·        We want to be at ease, and enjoy our leisure.  Jesus tells us to work with all our time and energy for the Kingdom of God. 
           
            Jesus’ call has never changed.  We may change, but He has not.  His Word stands, and it is against that Rock we will be shattered if we don’t choose to build our lives on it.  Our man-made traditions that set aside the truth will be found wanting, and we will answer for them.  Just as Jesus confronted the religious Jews, so He confronts us today.

            Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s allow the Spirit to put to death the old man or old woman, and let’s be resurrected in Jesus.  Like the kernel of wheat, the seed that dies, we by our dying will produce many more seeds that will result in the Kingdom of God sprouting and growing in the fields of this world.
            Be willing to “hate” your life in this world so that you can love the Lord Jesus enough to follow Him in this dying.  Be willing to suffer rejection with Him, in order to find acceptance with God, and to willingly, joyfully live only for Him on this earth, until He comes again for us.
            What we are talking about here is far more important than whatever other matters you are considering today.





Sunday, June 19, 2011

FAILURE AND SUCCESS: REFLECTIONS ON FATHERHOOD

Brothers and Sisters:


My greeting to you assumes something.  If we're brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of 
God, then we must have a Father.  The Father we have is the pattern for all fathers on earth.  But He is perfect, we are  not.  This morning I reflect on my own fatherhood, and that means pain as well as comfort.


I am Dad to four children of my own and Stepdad to six others.  Over the past 34 years I've had children to think about, provide for, worry over, try to get to know, and in general succeed or fail with.  We each had a father here on earth,and if it was the will of our Father in heaven that father on earth was kind, loving, strong in faith, and taught us and brought us up to be as he is or was.  But remember, for those of us (many! perhaps the majority!) who were brought up by men who were less godly than that, that was also our Sovereign Father's will.


What a hard thing to see.  That a loving, kind, Sovereign God would allow us to have a mean, bad-tempered father.  Or a father who abused us.  Or a father who allowed bad things to happen to us by neglect.  Or a father who we feel never loved us or cared enough to discipline us in love, and teach us the skills we needed to face life.  Or a father who disappeared completely, leaving a void in us that can't be filled on earth.  What a hard thing to admit, that this birth we experienced was not an accident.  That God the Father of all knew what He was doing when He gave us this earthly father.  That He does not make mistakes, and there are specific reasons, to be worked out in our own lives, that He gave us the fathers we have or had.


My father was distant and removed emotionally from me.  He was there in body, but always seemed somewhere else in mind or spirit.  He always seemed angry and irritated, and I was a bother to him.  He grudgingly did the occasional father thing with me at my mother's insistence, but I knew in my little boy's heart, that he'd rather be relaxing in the chair with his newspaper, or watching tv, or at work.  This abandonment has affected me my entire life.  It helped mold me into an angry, detached workaholic who became an angry, detached father, who was not really there with his children most of the time, and who did things with them grudgingly too often.  Was I better than my father?  Yes, I must say I improved on the bad model, but not nearly as much as I should have.


WE DO NOT NEED TO BE BOUND BY THE TRADITIONS OF OUR FATHERS.


Did you hear that?  We have a Sovereign God who breaks all chains.  We have a Lion of Judah who tears apart the bonds of the past, and works in us new things by the Spirit of God.  Throughout Scripture we hear God calling us to leave the empty ways of our godless or pagan or religiously hypocritical forefathers.  Isn't God big enough to help us do that?


So today, I comfort you with these words.


"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons...
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best;
but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness."
Hebrews 12:7,10


It is the hardships brought by God our Father that mold us.  Not the easy times.  We have a Father who loves us enough to train us and coach us constantly.  He will not be lazy or give up on us.  We must remember that the only way to become strong is to have to exercise strength.  There are no armchair activities that bring us to spiritual fitness.


Today, you men who are fathers can rejoice that we don't have to stay as we are.  We can change by the power of the Spirit in us to become more and more like our Father.  And less and less like our father.  We can grieve over past mistakes and sins, and over the results.  But we can also take comfort that our children can overcome our failures in their own lives by the power of God.


My earthly father left me without saying he loved me, and without even saying goodbye.  He will take responsibility for his own life before God.  But as for me, I will choose to tell my children today that I love them.  And confess to them my failures as a father, asking their forgiveness, and telling them what God would have me be from now on.  So can each of us.  We can exhibit the attributes of our Father in increasing measure, by dying to self and living only to Christ.


Christ in you, Dads, to the glory of God!


A. Brother

Saturday, June 18, 2011

IN THE GARDEN ALL ALONE

IN THE GARDEN ALL ALONE
A. Brother ©2010


In the garden all alone,
His friends asleep, Jesus weeps,
praying that His Father will say,
“Son, I’ve found another way.”
But the thicket holds no ram,
the only sacrifice is this Lamb.
Jesus gives up all He is and has,
in the garden all alone.

No way but the cross,
no way but through loss.
All that He held dear,
He dropped with each tear.
Though no crown of thorns
had yet His forehead torn,
He was crucified upon His knees,
in the garden all alone.

In my bedroom all alone,
my friends asleep, here I weep,
praying that My Father will say,
“Son, I’ve found another way.”
But the thicket holds no ram,
I will sacrifice for the Lamb.
Jesus gave up all He is and has,
and so do I, in my bedroom,
in the garden all alone.

No way but the cross,
no way but through loss.
All that I hold dear,
I drop with each tear.
Though no crown of thorns
has my forehead torn,
I am crucified with Christ,
Dying to myself tonight,
in my bedroom,
in the garden all alone.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

NEW MOBILE APP.

Brothers and Sisters:

Not being a "tech" guru, I struggle with new stuff, but I've activated a new Mobile App for this blog so that those of you who tune in via the latest mobile devices will be able to more easily access the latest teachings.

Thanks to the request of my brother A. Bondservant, I took this bold new step for an old guy.

May God be with you today, and may you recognize Him there.

A. Brother

Sunday, June 12, 2011

THIS TINY WORD CONTAINS THE POWER OF A THOUSAND HYDROGEN BOMBS.

Brothers and Sisters,


Are you in the middle of hard times?  Do you wonder when God will act on your behalf?  Has God asked you to put away things that you love, and take up things you don't?  Have you lost your sure path, and wander now in the wilderness, only able to say, "Your will be done?"  Barely able to pray, are you exhausted with weeping, and lonely beyond words?


For you, I share a word.  This word is short, but powerful to the pulling down of Satan's strongholds.  This word is three letters long.  It is seldom thought of, and seldom used.  It is a word fallen out of favor in the English language.  


We are to be people of the Word of God.  And this is one word that we would do well to add to our arsenal of weapons against the enemy and his schemes.


"Though the fig tree does not bud 
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
YET I will rejoice in the Lord
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
Habbakuk 3: 17,18


"Though He slay me,
YET will I hope in Him."
Job 13:15


The word YET is strong and powerful.  It is a declaration.  


When all else fails, YET will I have faith and hope in the Lord.  If the world falls apart around me, YET will I love God and serve Him.  If my friends and family forsake me, YET will I have my Savior.  Though my money is gone, and I am hungry and afraid, YET will I declare the praises of my God.  Though my job disappears, and there is no car in the garage, YET will I hold onto Jesus Christ and His Word.  Even when people stand against me, and abuse me, and watch for my failure with great expectation, YET will I not despair, but stand firm in my faith.  


When those I have counted on for care and mercy are pitiless and hardened.  When my enemies triumph over me, sing songs over me, count me out of the race.  When the worst thing happens, and the best thing is a distant memory.  When the earthquake destroys, and the tsunami rolls in.  When the foundations of the earth are shaken, and my greatest efforts produce nothing.  When evil prevails around me, and sin dominates the society I live in.  When my heart is pounding in fear, and my lungs cannot breathe, and my legs will not move with terror.


YET WILL I!  YET WILL I!  YET WILL I!


The worst happens, YET God is God, and He will not forget me or forsake me.


Oh, storm-tossed children of God, may we know the power of this little, three-letter word that contains the seed of a thousand spiritual hydrogen bombs.


Though ______________ , YET will I trust in the Lord.


Christ died, YET  He was resurrected in power.  So shall we be with Him, if we hold to the same love and faith handed down to us.


YET WILL I HOPE IN HIM.


Your brother,
A. Brother



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