Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE LAZARUS FACTOR: WHEN YOU BECOME A TARGET



THE LAZARUS FACTOR
A. Brother

“Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’
The dead man came out…”
-John 11:43-46

“So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”
-John 11:53

“Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there
and came, not only because of Him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom He had raised from the dead.
So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,
for on account of him many of the Jews were going over
to Jesus and putting their faith in Him.”
-John 12:9-11

          In this stunning passage, we find out things we’ve never considered.  In all our reading about Lazarus and Jesus, have we never considered the Lazarus Factor?  We’ve known that Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead was a prominent miracle.  But has the Holy Spirit illumined in our hearts the deeper meaning here?
          Jesus had to be killed.  This was the crucial conclusion the Jewish High Council, called the Sanhedrin, came to after this great miracle had occurred.  Opening the eyes of the blind, straightening lame limbs, and healing hundreds of their various diseases at a touch was one thing.  But now, the people were at a boil about this man who raised another man from the dead.  Most knew only God could do this, and even many of the Sanhedrin were beginning to believe in Jesus.

          The Lazarus Factor is this:
          The enemies of God will ignore preaching, and teaching, and all kinds of noise from those who follow Christ.  But when any man, in this case Lazarus, dies to himself and his own life and gets resurrected as a New Creation in Christ, then he becomes a deadly threat to those who oppose the Lord Jesus.

          When we have correct doctrine, and a Bible in our hand, and say and do all the right things, and are faithfully religious in our duties to Christ, showing the world an example of
what they accept as a normal “Christian”, then those who oppose Christ shrug their shoulders and go about their business.
          When Jesus gets hold of a man, and this man becomes a true disciple, dying to himself, and living by the resurrection power of Christ within him, then God’s enemies
tremble in fear.  That’s when the enemies of the Cross of Christ panic. 
          For the Kingdom of God is not words, but in power.

          Paul would say later on, about Christ, “He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power.”  -2 Cor. 13:4.

            This is the Lazarus Factor, and it is the difference between weak and ineffectual religious ‘Christianity’, and the dynamic, powerful testimony of lives transformed in Christ.  After Lazarus experienced resurrection by the power of God, he was a living, breathing testimony of the power of God.  The absolute, Sovereign power of God, because Lazarus had done nothing, and Jesus had done it all.
          The enemies of Christ cared nothing about this country boy Lazarus until he came out of that grave and began living resurrection power. 
          Suddenly, Lazarus was a target, just as dangerous as Jesus Christ, because he was that living, breathing reminder to others that Jesus was God, and that His Word was true.
          Lazarus didn’t have to say anything.  He just lived, and people said, “Wow, look at what the power of God has done!”  And they believed.

          This is our calling.  As true believers in Jesus we are called to die, to fall to the ground and die like kernels of wheat, so that resurrection power may be called forth by the voice of Jesus.  Where was Lazarus when Jesus called his name?  In the tomb, bound hand and foot and head by grave clothes.
          Lazarus couldn’t raise himself, nor could he free himself from the grave clothes.  Jesus ordered those around to help.
          So when Christ calls us forth from our tombs we must help one another take off the old, and put on the new, this New Life in Christ that is all Christ, and none of us.
         
          So, like Lazarus, we become targets of those who are enemies of Christ. Because our lives will finally call others to Christ, and we are living, breathing testimonies of His power, not some doctrine, or belief system, or way of life.

          Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus says the most wonderful thing to us today.  He calls us to become part of the Lazarus Factor:

          “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.”  -John 15:19

            Resurrection power, not pedantic, unremarkable modern Christianity.  Jesus stands outside the tomb today, calling your name.  Will you come out?

Monday, August 29, 2011

WE DO NOT COME TO BRING PEACE ON EARTH


DIVIDING WITH JESUS
A. Brother

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?
No, I tell you, but division. 
From now on, there will be five in one family
divided against each other…”
--Luke 12:51,52

          A great dividing began with Christ, and continues unabated today.  His work was to do what He saw His Father doing, no matter what the religious establishment thought about Him, or told Him, or taught the people.
          So with true disciples of Christ throughout the centuries since.
          God’s called out people become Jesus to the world.  By the Spirit of God living in us, we become the Plumb Line, and we become Living Stones over whom the people stumble.  We, as true, obedient followers of the Lord, cause division wherever we go.  As we live out the Word of God, we each become a double-edged sword that divides men soul from spirit, and causes them discomfort, if only by the lives we lead that run counter to theirs.
          Like Jesus, His true disciples will be persecuted by both the pagan and religious worlds.  The God-haters will be united over only one issue—that of hating Christ and His followers.
         
          “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also…If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin…”
                                                                                                  --John 15:20-22

            Our obedient lives become the dividing line between men.  Notice I said, “obedient lives”.  As long as we live with one foot in the world, and the other in the Kingdom of God, we will not divide anyone.  We are serving Satan, and his purposes.
          Once we decide that Jesus is All, and that we will obey Him completely, then we become an asset to the Kingdom, and a liability to the worlds of paganism and religion.  We are a danger to both systems, and therefore, will be hated by each.
          Then, when we speak, Christ is speaking.  When we act, Christ is acting.  When we become Christ to the world, and stop playing in the religious sandbox with those who are content to remain in that sheltered place, then we are Christ, and we will be hated and persecuted because of His Word.

          I am saying these things for one purpose, the same purpose Jesus had when He taught these things to His disciples:

          “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.”  --John 16:1

            If we think that following Jesus is going to make us popular, we are mistaken.  If we think that life is going to be easy, and that we will live lives of uninterrupted peace, and that our purpose is to live a pleasing, religious, calm, unifying life, then we will certainly be led astray from the Truth.  Jesus prepared the original disciples for the conflict and division that lay ahead. 
          So must we prepare, brothers, or we will be pulled away from the Way.

         
            

Sunday, August 21, 2011

REMAIN IN CHRIST. HE WILL REMAIN IN YOU.


HELL IS AT WORK TO KEEP US OUT OF CHRIST
T. Austin Sparks

Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. (John 15:4 NIV)

He has chosen us from the foundation of the world in Christ. He has selected One in whom we shall find Him, and in whom alone we shall find Him. 

All the forces of hell will be at work, in the first place, to keep us out of Christ. They rage to prevent people coming into Christ, and when once they have come in, these forces are unceasing and relentless in their efforts to get them off the ground of Christ, on to things possibly, or on to any other ground. 

There is an immense meaning in Christ's word: "Abide in Me... except ye abide in Me..."(John 15:4). It is a warning, governing word. Where and how shall we find the Lord? Only on the line of Christ, where Christ's interests are the object of our being here, where it is true "For me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). You find the Lord there. 

Get off that ground, be driven off, be allured off, and you lose the Lord. It is there, on that ground, that the explanation of the Christ-life is found. It is on that line that the very purpose for which we are created will have its out-working. It is on that line that we shall find Divine guidance.

This Divine law of God's way has many practical applications in the life of the Christian. 

How many spiritual tragedies we have known brought about by human selectiveness apart from the first and supreme interest of Christ. It might be the choice of residence, location, for instance, for reasons of convenience, pleasure, escape, or seeming necessity, as in the case of Abraham to which we have referred (read Genesis 20).

No less a question than having the Lord with us is bound up with such choices and decisions. We cannot move off the Lord's ground without the consequence of spiritual disaster. How costly it was in the case of Abimelech! 

If Christ is the Way, the Directive; then He is the Example. How meticulously careful He was not to move, or be moved by any consideration but the directive of the Father! Many motives were put to Him for action and movement, but He abided in the Father, and, often at great cost, refused other considerations.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Line of Christ - Chapter 2

Thursday, August 18, 2011

WATCH OUT FOR THOSE DOGS

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

There are days when God speaks clearly, without doubt as to what He means.  This morning I write with that sense of purpose.  This morning there are many dogs circling the camp of Christ's true disciples.  These dogs, these ugly, mangy curs hold to various teachings that emphasize the flesh.  These teachings center around what we can do to ourselves to build things up in the Kingdom, to make ourselves more successful in life, what we can do to make things better in the churches.

God speaks to us through Philippians as clearly as He did when He gave these words to Paul the Apostle.  Circumcision here represents those who try, by religious means, by the cutting of flesh, by surgery to the flesh, by man-made ideas, rules, or regulations, to make us more "godly".  They are called dogs, evil men who mutilate us.  Strong words, and ones we should heed.

Some of us are tempted every day to join this or that group.  We are told by other Christians that if we want to grow in Christ we must do this, or that.  There are certain things we can do to become better Christians, to earn something more from God.  These are the dogs, and we must resist them, and tell them to go to Scripture and be delivered from their dependence on the flesh.

These religious people are the dogs.  Religious people tempt you to be religious.  They keep people from finding Christ.

Yesterday a man I work with, and whom I had no idea had ever thought of Christ, privately shared with me that he and his wife had been trying to find churches they could go to for years.  He was raised Roman Catholic, he said, and had enough of religion, and wanted to just learn about Christ.  They tried several local churches, and went to each one for weeks.  These were evangelical denominations.  All they heard was preaching against the evils of our society, and pleas for  money.  Pastor after pastor asked for money.  Pastors tried to talk with them about coming to their churches, but my friend said he lost all interest, and hadn't tried again for years.  I told him my wife and I will have nothing to do with religion, because religion is all about man, and nothing about Christ.  I said we love God and Christ, and follow Christ, and are not interested in all these things of the fleshly man, which is what religion is all about.  He seemed to brighten up, just knowing that you don't have to be religious to seek Christ.

When will we learn that anything we do, anything we craft, or build, or say, or demand, or put into systems, or codify, or make into a method--when will learn that this fleshly act is actually changing the gospel--and therefore will keep men from the purity of seeking Christ?

A couple of years ago my wife and I were in Bali, Indonesia.  This is a land enslaved by religion.  It is 88% Hindu.  And in this beautiful island paradise, the people live poorly, among garbage, and let hundreds of thousands of wild dogs roam their cities and towns, living off the heaps of garbage that are burned at night.
They won't touch the dogs, because they have some religious significance, and they believe they should be left alive, to wander, to live off trash, and to scratch and scrape their diseased skin against trees, siring and birthing more wild dogs to obliterate the beauty of the island.  This reminds me of the bondages religion puts on all people.  Those dogs, those sacred stupidities that we cultivate to make ourselves feel more religious, are roaming around, dominating God's landscape, and obscuring Christ in the process.

God the Father demands that we watch out for those dogs.  Those people who want us to add to our faith some fleshly sign, some fleshly act, some fleshly method that will  bring us "closer to Christ".  What would you do if approached outside your home by a clearly ravenous, dangerous, drooling, snapping, snarling dog?  Would you stick around to talk?  Would you try to pet that dog, and become its friend?  No.  You would flee, or fight, if you had the weapons to fight.  And the fight is the Lord's, through His Word.

Know these passages that speak of seeking Christ, and see and understand the simplicity, the non-religious simplicity, that God demands.  There is nothing we can bring, or create, or do, that will bring us closer to Christ.  Only He can do it.  It is His power in us, through our dying to the flesh, and His Spirit abiding in us more and more each day.  Nothing else matters.

In Christ, and against those dogs,
A. Brother

Sunday, August 14, 2011

THE REAL PURPOSE OF MIRACLES



THE REAL PURPOSE OF MIRACLES
A. Brother

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said
to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven…
…Which is easier: to say to the paralytic,
“Your sins are forgiven,” or to say,
‘Get up, take up your mat, and walk’?
‘But that you may know
that the Son of God has authority on earth
to forgive sins…’ He said to the paralytic,
“I tell you, get up, take up your mat and go home.”
Mark 2:5-11

Many today seek miracles.  They want signs and wonders and “all things following”.  They look for great portents, and the fulfillment of prophecy in world events.  They want powerful and important things to happen so that they can be convinced, in front of their own eyes, that Christ is God, that the Kingdom of God is real.  They seek the outward to be convinced of inward truth.

Our Lord Jesus had a simple lesson for us, and for the people of the town of Capernaum. 

There was a houseful of neighbors and a large crowd out in the street surrounding him.  Those who were sick or infirm couldn’t even get to Jesus.  Notice that the teachers of the law were taking up room in the house, when there were needy people left out in the street.  (What a picture of our churches today.  While thousands languish without the Word of God, those who have all they need, the religious, take up the best places, and don’t even think about helping the lame and blind and diseased into the house of God.)

But there was a group of men who were determined to help a young man who was paralyzed and couldn’t walk to Jesus himself.  They ignored the crowd, climbed on the roof, and dug a hole through the clay and straw material until they could lower the sick boy down through it to Jesus.

Meanwhile, the teachers of the law were sitting there, ready to analyze Jesus’ every move.  They were judging everyone and everything in light of their own religious rules and regulations.

Jesus, however, was looking beyond the circumstances.  He saw faith in these men who were lowering the paralytic through the roof.  He saw that their need for a miracle went beyond wanting to see some sign or wonder.  They had faith in Christ that He would do what was right for this paralyzed young friend of theirs.  They were hoping for a miracle, because they had faith, and because they loved this young man.  These are the right reasons to come to Jesus!

So what did Jesus do?

He forgave the young man’s sins.  “Son, your sins are forgiven,” He said.

What a shock to the crowd.  I’m sure they sat there puzzled.  So, when is the miracle going to occur?  When is this miracle-worker going to work the miracle?  When will be get to be amazed?  When will our hearts get to leap at another spectacular event?  The people were waiting, wanting and eagerly anticipating the show—the outward sign—that would cap off the evening.

Instead, Jesus simply forgave the boys sins.  What a letdown.

Now the teachers of the law, the religious, were on a different but similar track in their thinking.  Jesus knew their hearts.  They were analyzing what Jesus had said, realizing that the forgiving of sins was an act only God could get away with.  They were stunned at this man’s audacity.  They had seen him do plenty of miracles, but this…this was huge.  This meant, if Jesus went around forgiving sins, that He was God.  Only God could forgive sins.

It was actually the religious leaders who got what was really going on! 

When Jesus went around healing and curing, they were fine.  It was an outward thing, and made the people happy.  The people were following Jesus because He healed them, and gave them outward miracles.  As soon as Jesus was gone, and they were plotting his demise already, they people would forget him, because their faith in him was based on outward things.

But this…this was another matter.  This huge, vastly important act, though lost on the crowd, was not lost on these men.  They knew what this meant.  If people began following Jesus because He forgave their sins, then they would never stop following Him.  If people began to see that the real miracle was inside a man, and what happened when Jesus got hold of him inside, then this thing would never stop.  If Jesus could forgive sins, then He was claiming to be God, and that just wouldn’t do.

The crowd wanted a miracle.  They got the biggest miracle of all, and didn’t even see it.

But Jesus knew them.  He knew the hardness of their hearts, their need for outward signs, and so He provided the outward miracle to prove that the inward miracle was possible.

Do we understand today why the Spirit of Christ does outward miracles?  So that we will believe the inward miracle, the really big miracle. 

Today, is our faith based on feelings, on outward circumstances, on God doing what we ask?
Or do we have true, saving faith, which is Hebrews 11 faith?

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see?”
Heb. 11:1

Must you always get everything you want in order to have faith?  Or, like the ancients here, will Jesus commend you for your faith, even when you don’t receive what you’ve waited for?
Will you hold to Christ alone, without outward miracles?  Will you stand when you are not delivered from outward trials?  Will you stand with Jesus, no matter if when you awaken in the morning the enemy’s armies are still alive outside your gates?  No matter if you still have that debilitating disease?  No matter if you still must work in that hostile office?  No matter if you still suffer poverty?  No matter if you must wait for that for which you pray?

Take this lesson from our Lord.  The huge, universe-shaking miracle is faith.  Faith in Christ that changes a man inwardly into the image of God.  Faith that ushers in the Kingdom in ways that might not be outwardly spectacular, but that cause the angels to rejoice in Heaven, and men to come to Christ for the right reasons.


Friday, August 12, 2011

IF THE DEAD ARE NOT RAISED...

IF THE DEAD ARE NOT RAISED
A. Brother

"Now if there is no resurrection...
why do we endanger ourselves every hour?
I die every day--I mean that, brothers--
just as surely as I glory over you in
Christ Jesus our Lord...
If the dead are not raised, 
'Let us eat and drink, for
tomorrow we die.'  
1 Cor. 29-32

Many of us who claim Christ live as if there is no resurrection.  We live as if there is no tomorrow, and all we have is today.  Many of us live as if Christ was not resurrected, never called us, and has no eternal Kingdom we are to be part of.  Sadly, many of us who claim Christ are living exactly as the world lives, chasing food and drink, fun, entertainments today, instead of dying to self and living the life of danger and difficulty on the narrow road with Christ Jesus.

This is the root of the decline of our so-called "Christian subculture" in America.  It has become really a copy of the world, with its own ways of entertaining itself, and its own worldly distractions.  We have lost our understanding of the resurrection of Christ, and what it means.

If Christ is not raised, then we are not raised.  If we do not go through the daily dying to self of being a disciple of Christ, then we will not experience resurrection power in our lives.  If we do not experience Christ in us, the only hope of glory, we might as well eat, drink and party like the pagans, because we have no more than they do.

Bow before the Lord Jesus today and ask Him to reveal Himself.  You will find that He points you to His example of daily dying to self, and resurrection by the power of His Spirit in your life.  If you are looking to leave the world, or pagan fleshianity (that much of the Christian world revels in) and really know Christ, He will look you in the eye today and say, "Come with me to Gethsemane and Golgotha, and die to the things of this world. Then you can begin to live, then I can begin to fill you with Myself.  Then can you do the will of My Father in Heaven, as I do His will."

Encourage one another today!  Christ is risen, and so are we, if we cling only to Him, and don't rely on the things of religion, or of this world.  He will keep us, He will bring us through.  Danger and difficulty are but part and  parcel of this resurrection life, and Christ within us is sufficient for all we face.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

FLESHIANITY KILLS HOPE

FLESHIANITY KILLS HOPE
A. Brother

This letter was written to comment on another blog, where the subject of "hope" was raised, and some were talking back and forth about it.  I felt compelled, because the blog readers are much younger than me, and very eager to know Christ, to write this letter, which I've amended to fit here.  It's pretty much a testimony of how hope came to my life, recently, and in uncomfortable ways.

Brothers and Sisters:

We've been raised in what I call "fleshianity", which is the bill of goods that keeps us hoping in a better life now.  By that better life now, I mean rewards for righteousness on the earth--better jobs, better finances, better families, better church life, better standards of living, better social life, better vacations, better....you get the idea.  This flesh-centered Christian walk keeps us walking on Broadway, instead of the narrow Way with Christ. 

Speaking to the issue of "HOPE" this kills hope immediately.  So long as one shred of our hope is in this world, in whichever society we live in, whichever political system we live in, whichever neighborhood we live in, whichever job we have, and even how perfect our families are doing, or how "cool" and "trendsetting" our church is, we are hanging on that thread of hope instead of Christ alone.

My challenge in love to us is this.  There is no hope apart from Christ.  Billboards of the world trumpet that if we only do this, or only give that, we can give hope.  Charities are all about hope.  Yet there is no hope for me apart from Christ.  And nothing I hope in can bring me to Christ.  It is hard-edged, threshing floor, narrow road Christ-life that brings me hope. 

Unfortunately, most of us must have the world's hope taken away before we experience Christ in His fullness.  That's me.  Had to lose it to gain hope in Christ.  I was full of Christian zeal when younger, as a single, as a married man with kids, as my kids grew into adults, and as I was busy being a "fat, fleshy Christian" when I thought I was ok.  I was busy doing the things we were supposed to do.  Being a leader in the churches, active, focused, working pretty successfully in business, doing the right things and providing nice homes and cars for my family.

YET CHRIST WAS NOT PLEASED WITH ME.  I took time to read and study the word.  I led Bible studies and home groups.  I read Scripture to my kids.  But my heart and mind were all the time screaming, "Why am I doing this?"  "Where is the life I see among those narrow gate people in Scripture?"  And I was sinning secretly the whole time.  Doing things we don't talk about at church.  And when I approached my trusted pastors and brothers with my pain, they shied away, or gave me pat answers and prayed with me, then left me on my own.  I know why now.  Because half of them were struggling with the same sins, and the other half were just as dissatisfied with the "busy modern Christian life" as I was.  By looking at my transparency, they were looking in a mirror, and it was very uncomfortable.  Besides, they had no idea how to get free of their bondages any more than I did.

THEN CHRIST ACTED.  I lost, in a series of life incidents, pretty much everything I'd been working for.  I gained a woman as my wife who loved God, and I left my sins of the past.  However, the fruit of my sins were making themselves known.  Over the next 18 years or so my life became like a slow train wreck, and the twisting and grinding sounds, the pain and frustration, brought me to the end of myself gradually.  I still tried to get it back, but Christ stood in the way of my worldly ambitions.

And now I am finding (process) the Christ-life.  I am on the narrow road with the few who will find it.  Christ Himself said it would be few, and now I understand why.  It requires absolute obedience, and the acceptance of every discipline God brings into your life.  It requires taking nothing with you on the journey, not even a cloak or coin purse.  It requires everything.  And most will walk away like the rich young ruler when Christ braces them with the "everything" requirement.

Until we are willing to give up "everything" on the altar of sacrifice (Abraham with Isaac, without any idea there's a ram in the thicket), we are still lost in the world.  Now God let me keep my incredibly patient wife, and over time we gained back an apartment, a car that runs, most of our furniture, food on the table, and some dialogue with our grown children.  He says if we seek Him first, He will add the basics to us: like food, clothing and shelter.  We are working through the losses, and hope that Christ alone satisfies us enough to keep our hands off the world.  But it is His power that keeps us, and His love that provides the fuel.  Sometimes we despair momentarily, but He is there, and we continue with Him.

Unfortunately, it is a lonely road, without much fellowship.  To talk about this "Christ-life" brings polite smiles, and knowing nods, and a change of subject as quickly as possible with most Christians.  They're just fine with Broadway and Egypt's treasures, and a smattering of Christ before breakfast or at lunch.

But I now feel a hope growing, free of the day's events, that is powerful and undeniable.  To your subject of hope I had to respond.  Because you all have the chance to do this right, to disciple with Christ, to come in through the Narrow Gate, and know the Christ-life in a way I never knew until later.  You must hope in Christ alone, not just saying it, but learning it by giving up anything that keeps you from it.  Remember this--Christ came to bring a sword into your life--not peace.  And you can only learn His inner peace by letting that Sword flay your flesh from your soul, your worldly needs from your wants, your "fleshy" expectations from your true spiritual Life in Christ.

Blessings on you all--
A. Brother

THE GOLD STANDARD OF CHRIST

THE GOLD STANDARD
A. Brother

“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam,
Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem.
He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord
and the treasures of the royal palace.
He took everything, including all the gold shields
Solomon had made.  So King Rehoboam made
bronze shields to replace them and assigned these
to the commanders of the guard on duty
at the entrance of the royal palace.
Whenever the king went to the Lord’s temple,
the guards bore the shields, and afterward
they returned them to the guardroom.”
1 Kings 14:25-28

          This is the picture God gives us today of our spiritual condition. 

          Most who claim to be “Christians” have become captured and carried off by the world and are part of this earthly and carnal kingdom.  As Shishak here carried off the gold God had created through Solomon, His chosen King (the type of Christ in this example) so our enemy, Satan, has stolen into the Temple and carried off God’s gold, His chosen people, and carried them to Egypt.  Their hearts are in Egypt.  Their lives are entwined with the world, and they are in love with the culture and their place in it.

          All day, every day, God’s chosen seek the peace and prosperity of the culture of Egypt, padding their nests, fortifying their own places, and hoping to stay safe within its borders.

          In the meantime, the leaders of God’s people (represented here by King Rehoboam of Judah) pretend nothing is different.  They have crafted bronze shields, which are but fake, flimsy, worthless imitations of the gold shields wrought at God’s direction.  The temple functions go on, but the Spirit that God put in the gold shields is gone.  His presence is not in the bronze.  It is a sham, like this embarrassing sham carried on by King Rehoboam.

          Do we think that God is fooled by our pretense?  Is He a man, that we can disguise ourselves and gain what we want without obedience to His Word?

          We claim Scripture, and quote Scripture, as if it is a pagan incantation, whose power can be waved like a wand and used to conjure up what we want and need.  We speak peace, hoping to create peace where there is no peace.  We claim this and that promise, hoping God will fulfill our dreams to become rich in this world, or at least to be comfortable and at ease on our couches.  The gold we want is here in Egypt, but God’s gold standard for us, the rich life of Christ in our hearts and lives, is gone.  We don’t even miss it, because we are so busy chasing after Egypt’s favor. 

          Brothers, God’s gold is here.  He is Christ.  The gold standard of God is life in Christ, set apart from this world.  But it is only for those who would follow Jesus, our Lord, on the narrow road of true salvation. 

          Are you willing to die to your own place in this world today?  Are you willing to go outside the walls of Egypt, across the burning deserts of Sinai, to gain the Promised Land of new life in Christ?  Are you willing to give up trying to save your life here, in order to gain Christ?  Will you lose your life in order to find it? 

          God’s basic gold standard has never changed and never will. God requires that we enter through the narrow gate, who is Christ, and He never allows anyone to bring anything through the gate that is not of Him. 

          Bronze is not acceptable.  Christ offers us His gold today.

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined
in the fire, so you can become rich;
and white clothes to wear, so you can
cover your shameful nakedness;
and salve to put on your eyes
so you can see.
Those whom I love
I rebuke and discipline.
So be earnest and repent.”
Rev. 3:18,19

          These words were spoken by Christ to His churches, not to the world.  In this prophetic word, we see ourselves today.  Trying to appear rich and wonderful, as if we are carrying on the temple worship as it has always been decreed.  Yet it is a sham.  Our huge and televised services, our loud worship, our full calendars that keep us busy with activities, these are all for ourselves.

          Like the church in Laodicea we are “wretched, poor, pitiful, blind and naked.”
Rev. 3:17

          God will discipline us because He loves us too much to allow this to continue.  Be earnest today, and repent, He says, because He is coming, and His coming will not be delayed.  Be ready to meet Him with golden lamps burning, which are fueled by the Spirit of God in us, and the white robes of a pure Christ-life adorning our bodies, and our eyes fully open to the riches of Christ through the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

          Egypt has nothing to offer.  The tombs of the Pharaohs testify to that.  Dry, sad, desiccated, lifeless; their treasures lying with their dead bodies under tons of sand.  The promises of Egypt lie with them.  Do not be led astray by the enemy.

          Christ in us is the hope of glory.  He is our gold standard.  In Him we are heirs of a Kingdom that cannot and will not die or be shaken.  Do not be fooled by imitations.

         

          

Saturday, August 6, 2011

THE NESTING DOLL SHOWS US THE CHRIST LIFE.

To the faithful in Christ, and those who seek Him with a pure heart:

The "Christ-life" as I like to call it, can only be lived in the power of the Lord Jesus.  And there is a simple little item we can look to for a good picture of this.

In Russia and other cultures of eastern Europe, I have seen and we have brought home from the markets what are called 'nesting dolls'.  As I was reading Jesus' Word to us in John 15, 16, and 17 again today, these dolls came to mind.

These are clever creations, that are thin wooden shells shaped like chubby dolls, hand-painted on the outside with a human figure, and slit in half at the middle.  When you lift off the top half, suddenly another doll is revealed inside, slightly smaller, which is made exactly the same and painted in the same motif as the outer doll, and when you lift off the top half of that doll, there is another exact in every detail, but slightly smaller, and so on.  Often there are seven or even more dolls that grow increasingly smaller as you keep opening them.  A very delightful gift, and unusually clever, and they've been made for many centuries.

As Christ Jesus revealed to His disciples the secret of the Christ-life He in essence showed them a life that is created by God, each person being completely unique, hand-painted and shaped.  But each child is born hollow, and we will be filled with something as we live.  Christ shows us that the Father designed us to be filled with Christ, through His Spirit.  So, when people lift off our outward being, and see inside, they should see Christ.  And when they lift off the outward being of Christ, they would see the Father inside Him.

The mystery deepens, however, and the analogy fails me at this point.  Because Christ also told us that we will be in Christ, and Christ will be in the Father.  So there is a "doll image" we can see that is reversed.  When people look at the Father, and lift off His outward shell, they will find Christ, and inside Christ, they will find us.  So we are also sheltered simultaneously within the Father and Son, and filled by the Spirit, our lives thus being "hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3) and only revealed to all at the end of time.

So we are in Christ, and He is in us, and we are in the Father, and the Father is in us.  All by the power of the Spirit of God in us. What a wonderful, rich mystery, and one that ensures no amount of religiosity will bring us the Christ-life.  It is purely and simply the working of the great power of God in us.

This is the life Christ describes to us in John.  This is what He spent so much time on before His death and resurrection with his disciples, to lay the groundwork for the Spirit to build on after He was physically gone.

"Father, just as You are in Me, and I am in You.  May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You sent Me."  John 17:20,21

When we come to Christ, this outward shell becomes a temple of God, and He dwells among men within us.  The Father, the Son, and the Spirit live within us.  And we live within them.  But in order to have this happen, we must be taught the simplicity of it.  We must understand that this is not done by our own religious work, or our own striving.  Only God can fill us with Christ, and put us into Christ.  That comes through dying to self, and living increasingly only for the Father and the Son. 

Jesus told His disciples those last days that this Christ-life was beyond them at that point.  

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears....He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you."
John 16:12-14

So the man without the Spirit cannot discern this Christ-life.  Even the disciples could not discern it until filled with the Spirit, and out in the world living it.  That is where God revealed more to them.  We were given the rest of the New Testament Scripture to show us more, as Jesus said He would.  They couldn't bear it before the cross and the resurrection.  They ran away, and were weak and afraid.

After the resurrection, and Pentecost, where the Spirit came to dwell within them, and the 'nesting doll' of God the Father, God the Son and the Spirit living within us began, then the disciples understood what their Lord had been saying that night before His resurrection.  Then they saw what He meant.  And so they turned the world upside down, living that Life.

Paul gives us rich detail in his letters about this life.  The Christ-life he talked about is just the Spirit's further giving to us of what is in Christ's rich storehouse.  Now we have this life available, this great 'mystery of godliness'.

I am on this narrow road with others who long for the Christ-life, and are weary of trying to live the "Christian life" as given us today.  Are you?  Will you join us?

My prayer is for all of us to experience this Christ-life.  I hope the 'nesting doll' will help us think rightly about where the power to live it comes from.  We are in Christ, and He is in us. 

The Christ-life changes everything.

Your brother,
A. Brother

Thursday, August 4, 2011

WOE TO YOU, TEACHERS AND HYPOCRITES!

SONS OF HELL
A. Brother

          “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
          Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”  --Matt. 23:13-15

          Sons of hell, this is for you.
            I rebuke you for your hypocrisy with these words of Jesus.
            There is a special place reserved in hell for those who make others stumble, and keep others out of the Kingdom of God, through their haughty and prideful religion.  Those who claim to be Christians, and to know the way, and to be a guide to the blind, but instead, are more lost than the ones they claim to guide.
            Better for you to choose a millstone now, or a rope to hang yourself, than to lead another poor soul into hell with you!
            Do you understand the gravity of your situation?  Do you not know that the worst punishment is reserved for those who lead others astray?  That God so cares about even the smallest, the least, of people, that He will judge with special severity those who make them stumble? 
            These teachers of the law and Pharisees were the most highly regarded religious people in their day in Israel.  When Jesus taught, these men would come around and judge what He said.  These were the leaders, the so-called proclaimers of truth to the common people.  They had the Scripture, and stood up and read it every Sabbath in the synagogues.  They were the ones who prayed very fervently on street corners, and led the processions to the house of God.  They were the ones who taught the young, and claimed to be holders of the keys to getting into heaven.  They were the ones who presided over marriages and funerals, and every major occasion of life among God’s people.
            Yet Jesus here rebukes them and tells them they’re not only going to end up in hell, but are taking others with them.  They are keeping men and women and children out of the Kingdom of God, not bringing them into it!
            Does this shake you, brother?  It should. 
            For many in the churches today are as much sons of hell as the teachers of the law and the Pharisees were in Jesus’ day.

            I rebuke in the Name of Jesus those of you who claim to be the keepers of the keys to the Kingdom, yet who yourselves are blind, impotent, sinful, disobedient, and full of deceit.
            I rebuke in the powerful Name of the One who came as Light in the darkness, this spiritual darkness you perpetuate by enslaving men and women to your self-declared leadership. 
            You who seek prominence, and position.  You who seek to stand in front so your egos and your self-worth are fed by the respect of your congregations.  You who speak words pleasing to the ears of your hearers, while letting them be taken to hell with the rest of the world.  You who treat the Word of God as if it is your private reserve of wine, to be doled out in small glasses as you wish to favor those who come to hear you.  You who care more about your programs and your church growth than you do about any individual man, woman or child around you.  You who have found a secure niche in the hierarchy, who favor us with your pronouncements, and your profound opinions, and your carefully-worded press releases.  You who speak from the seats of scholarship, safely dispensing your wisdom while the world dies for lack of knowledge.  You who wear the suits, and make the gestures, and intone the correct phrases, and pray the right prayers.  You who create whole industries around yourselves, and your ministries, and yet who do not speak the plain, simple, hard truths of God’s Word.  You who claim to be leaders, but are followers only—followers of your spreadsheets, and your financial advisors, or your denominational pronouncements, or your boards of directors.  You who claim to be free and claim to lead others to freedom, but who instead are the worst kind of slaves--slaves to pride and rebelliousness, slaves to self, slaves to religious convention and man-made tradition—who lead others into the same enslaving bonds, and sit on your couches in your comfortable homes and offices content and secure while your readers or listeners go to hell with you.
            Jesus would have a Word with you.
            He would like you to stop what you’re doing, and find Him.  To become true disciples before you speak another word in His Name. 
            His greatest condemnation is reserved for those who claim to be what they are not.  His fearsome condemnation sits heavy upon the hypocrites of our day, just as surely as it did when He spoke these Words to the religious leaders of His day.
           
            “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will be clean.”  --Matt. 23:25,26

          You must first learn to listen to the Word of God, and to obey it.  You must  bear the fruit of the Spirit in your own life, learning the difficult and costly lessons of the narrow road with Jesus, before others can drink from your cup.  Clean your cup and dish, take the plank out of your own eye, sit in humility and be nobody before the world, and then, perhaps you will be worthy to share this Good News with others.  Then perhaps God will honor you with the great responsibility of speaking His Word to His people.
            Jesus tells us we are not to be called “Rabbi” or “Father” or “Teacher”, and I would extend that in our day to “Pastor” and “Reverend” and “Doctor” and “President”.  Within the Body of Christ, we are all brothers.

            “For you have one Teacher, the Christ.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  --Matt. 23:8-12

          Repent today of your hypocrisy, sons of hell, before the humbling comes!

           

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

AN ENCOURAGING WORD FROM THE FATHER TODAY.

Someone needs this today.  There in your desert experience, when you've rebelled and are angry beyond words at God.  When your plans have failed, and your heart is cold and hard.  Where you have cast your golden idol, and worshiped at the shrines of the world.  Down deep, you know that God waits for you.

"But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.  Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, 'This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt', or when they committed awful blasphemies."  Nehemiah 9:17,18

God has not deserted you.  Even if you've blasphemed, and worshiped the golden calf.  Even though you are far away, He is near.  Only bow before Him and let Him love you today.

A. Brother

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