Friday, January 18, 2013

DYING ALONE. THE SEED'S CHOICE.


UNLESS A SEED DIES IT REMAINS A SINGLE SEED
A. Brother

“The hour has come for the Son of Man
to be glorified.  I tell you the truth,
unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground
and dies, it remains 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 12:23-26

Are you anxious about your life, and what you will drink, what you’ll eat, what you’ll wear, where you’ll live, when you’ll get that job, how you’ll survive?  Are you constantly worrying?  Are you stressed inside, and can’t seem to find peace?  Are you trying your best to lead a good life in this world, hoping to be successful, hoping to do things just right, hoping that life will go well?  

Today lay all that down.  Quit fighting on your own.  Rest in Christ, who will take care of you.  Die to your own goals and dreams and desires for this life, and invest in His Kingdom.  What is your ultimate investment?  YOUR OWN LIFE IN THIS WORLD IS THE PRICE TO GAIN ETERNAL LIFE.

Jesus speaks to us constantly of death bringing life.  It is a principle in the physical world, and is given us so that we will understand the spiritual realm.

There is no life without death.  Each day when farmers go out to farm, they are dealers in death.  They throw the poor little seeds out onto the earth, cover them with dirt, allow them to be without comfort, without shelter, left alone to die in the soil.  But what happens next is amazing and miraculous. 

The seed dies, and from within its dying, it produces a seedling.  This tiny seedling is alive, and begins to grow.  It draws its nutrients and moisture from the very soil that killed the seed.  It thrives on the rain, the storms, the hot sun, the dew, and the chemicals that it draws from the earth that surrounds it.  This new life bursts out of the soil, seeking the sun, seeking to enlarge its place, its own structure, its stem, its leaves.

Eventually that one plant produces not only food for the sustenance of others like ourselves, but it produces many seeds, sometimes hundreds and thousands per plant, so that these other seeds may die, so that other plants and other edible produce may be realized for the world.

So in the spiritual realm each who follows Christ must die.  Jesus told us here plainly.  If you want to serve Christ you must follow Him.  Where He is, you will be.  Just as He willingly died so that we might live, so you must die so that others might live.

Many of us say we want Christ, yet we are unwilling to follow Him. 

Gethsemane leads to Golgotha.  The prayer garden leads to the hard, ugly cross.  And the ONLY WAY TO THE EMPTY TOMB IS THROUGH THE CROSS. 

Being a seed means being willing to let our great Master Gardener throw you upon the ground, and be cold and wet and hungry and tired, and to experience many difficulties, and go through hardship for Christ’s sake.  If you follow Jesus, you will eventually suffer “many things for His sake”, as Paul was told he would when he came to Christ. 

You will be alone at times, and sad at times, and yet learn the gracious provision of our Gardener God, who allows us to die so that we will know the joys of being the producer of many seeds, much fruit, and a bounty of spiritual blessings for others.

The Kingdom of Heaven is produced this way.  By being like Christ in our dying, we attain to the resurrection of the dead, and live beyond our fears, our hungers, our desires for comfort and security and pleasures in this life.  The worldly man lusts after all these things.  Unfortunately, many of us who claim Christ Jesus are living just like the pagans do, chasing after what Christ forbids us from chasing after.

If you would follow Jesus, you must lay down and die.  What that means in your life, only you and Christ may work out together.  No man can tell you what your dying is to be.  You must enter Christ’s rest (Hebrews 4) in order to know.  You must give up your own life in order to know what Life Christ will give you.

Dying comes before living, brethren.  If we ignore Christ in this matter, He will not know us, we will not know Him, and so on the final day we will be lost.  How wonderful that day will be for some.  How terrible that day will be for many.

Be among those who take Christ seriously, and heed His Words.

Monday, January 14, 2013

In the Garden All Alone





In the Garden All Alone
A. Brother


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.

Friday, January 4, 2013

WHEN GOD DOESN'T PROVIDE A RAM IN THE THICKET.


WHEN GOD DOESN'T PROVIDE A RAM IN THE THICKET.
A. Brother

          “When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.  He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”  --Gen. 22:9,10

          You must read this entire chapter to get the whole story.  But there is one point that is often missed.
            Abraham didn’t know there would be a ram in the thicket.
            Abraham was obedient to God in giving up what God had promised him…even when he had no thought that God would stop him.  The son whom God had promised Abraham would be the fulfillment of the promise to make a great nation was to be sacrificed to the One who had made the promise. 
            There was no avoidance.  No way out. 
            This son was not just a fulfillment of a promise in Abraham’s eyes.  This son was Isaac, his own flesh and blood, his beloved son.  He was his only son, and could not be replaced, as it had taken a miracle from God to produce him in the first place.
            This was not God asking for just something.  This was God asking for everything.  Everything that Abraham held dear.  Everything he lived for.  This was God asking for Abraham to lift the knife and plunge it into his only son’s heart, taking by his own hand the life and joy God had brought him in his old age. 
            This was the sacrifice of all Abraham cared about.  This was the ultimate sacrifice, the cross, the death to self.  This was death to even the good things Abraham thought he would get out of his obedience to God.  This was awful, ugly death, in a remote spot, with nobody to share his grief, or know his pain. 
            This was to be done without the blessing or approval of others, for what would Sarah have done if she knew what God had asked of Abraham?  Would not a mother do everything in her power to protect her child from the knife, even to dying herself?
            Would not Sarah had been like Peter before Christ’s crucifixion, trying to talk him out of the whole absurd thing, trying to grab a sword and fight, rather than submit to this unreasonable request by God?  Would she not have tried to kill Abraham, her husband, rather than let him kill her only son, the only child she ever bore in her life?
            This drama has a happy ending.  God provides a ram caught in the thicket of bushes near the altar, and lets Abraham use the ram instead of Isaac as the
sacrifice.

            But what is the lesson here?  Is it that God will always provide a ram in the thicket when He asks of us everything we hold dear?
            No, otherwise there would not be thousands upon thousands of martyrs in the roll call of heaven.  Jesus would not have demanded everything of his disciples, even unto death.  The Lord would not have required that a man lose his own life to save it, nor would He have asked the rich young ruler to give all he had to the poor before he could follow Jesus.  There would have been no talk of counting the cost, of carrying the cross daily, of hating even our own lives to live for Jesus.
            There are many today, even leading ministries in America, even those in pulpits of prominence who speak before gatherings of thousands in big church buildings, who preach and teach this passage in Abraham’s life as if it were an object lesson about God providing the ram in the thicket when we obey Him.  That all we’re required to do is symbolically be prepared to give up everything for Jesus.  That He’ll not actually make us go through with this hideous request.

            So false, and so pretentious.  So contrary to even the basic understanding God meant us to have here.  So contrary to Jesus’ Words.
            Brethren, if you would follow Christ, you must put everything—all your hopes, aspirations, dreams, goals, agendas, plans—on the altar of sacrifice to Him.   You must raise the knife and plunge it downward, into the heart of all your own thoughts and desires, your own schemes for life. 
            You must actually give up, not just be willing to give up, your life for Christ.
            There is no ram in the thicket for us.
            God gave up His only Son for us, and we are required to give up everything for Him.  The story of Abraham is a story of God testing one man and his willingness to give it all up.  And Abraham hadn’t a clue that that ram was in the thicket, nor that God would allow Isaac to live.  This was no object lesson.  This, to Abraham, was the end of his hopes and his dreams, his plans and aspirations, his agendas and his own life.  There is no doubt if God had not intervened that Abraham would have plunged that knife into Isaac’s chest, killing by his own hand the very thing that he thought would deliver him from his life of loneliness and obscurity.  He was asked to give up the very thing that he thought would make his own life worthwhile.
            There is no ram in the thicket.
            God asks us to sell all we have, to lay it on the altar of sacrifice, to give it all up, for Jesus.  To seek first and with all our beings the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness.  To lay down our lives for Christ and His brothers and sisters, without thought of being relieved of the command by a substitute in the bushes.
            This is the lesson of total obedience, without thought of rescue.
            God’s love is total.  He demands our lives in return.  And this is our love for Him.  This was Abraham’s love for God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  This was Abraham’s ‘faith without works is dead’ test.  This test was Abraham giving 100%, not just a tithe of 10%.   This was Abraham’s Golgotha, His martyrdom.  This was Abraham’s dying to self.  This was his crucifixion, not just Isaac’s.
            Today, it is our test.  We must also offer up all we value, all we hold dear, and take up the knife.  God doesn’t guarantee a ram.  But like Jesus said:

            “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  --Luke 17:33

          We, like Abraham, without thought of the ram in the thicket, must offer up everything we are, everything we have—everything--no matter how dear to us.  Christ must be the one who decides what gets saved and what doesn’t.

          “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice….Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from the dead.”  --Heb. 11:17-19
           
            We know now that God does raise the dead. 
            Those who would follow Him must die to themselves and their own plans and goals and dreams.
            Then, we can experience the resurrection power of Christ, giving us the strength and love to walk the narrow road with Him.  The whole world may pass us by, but God will do what He wants to do in us.  We may be fought against and shunned, even by those who claim to be Christians, but who will answer some day soon for their disobedience to the most basic of Christ’s commands.
            Follow Abraham, who is an example of saving faith.
            This is the true lesson we're to learn.
            Faith expects no ram in the thicket.
            

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