Christ’s Own Peace Has Been Given Unto Us

 

 

 

Phone March 2014 through September 2015 144

Somewhere in Wyoming

 

Where is our focus? To whom are we looking?

In one direction there is nothing but hatred and cruelty; demands and ignorance. In another direction there are nice stories of jobs well done, hope or hopelessness in changed circumstances, and shallow love; we are fair-weathered people who turn on an individual or an organization at the drop of a hat; we use labels and name call to describe human beings based on their actions and/or belief systems. It is written that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, therefore our weapons cannot be carnal. (Ephesians 6:12)

The events of tragedy and crisis and destruction have increased in the last ten years. What is going to hold us during these times and what we cannot know of the days to come? Where is our heart? What has rooted us? To what or to whom are we yielding, the flesh or the Spirit?

It is most certainly returning to and resting in the Lord where we are saved, and in quietness and trusting confidence in Him where we find our strength is (Isaiah 30:15). The world demands action, but we are not of this world. The message of the world is that prayer isn’t enough. The message of the news is double-minded and of no real lasting hope. It is good to be reminded, though, that the world does not know nor recognize Him, so by in large the messages that we are receiving or are privy to are not God’s message to us in Christ. He came into the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him [did not know Him] (John 1:10). And The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart), because it does not see Him or know and recognize Him. But you know and recognize Him, for He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you. (John 14:17).

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] John 16:33

Sparks wrote something poignant that points to our need for spiritual understanding of what Christ overcame. Or as Andrew Murray writes: It is only the full and perfect knowledge of what Christ is and does for us that can bring us to a complete Christian life. 

It is faith which brings into effect spiritual ascendancy and dominion over principalities and powers and world rulers of this darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness and the kingdom of Satan; triumph over it, ascendancy over it. It is faith again. It is faith appropriating all that is true in Him Who is already in the place of power.

Source: T. Austin-Sparks, Faith in Relation to the Heavenlies <—- link

How can we appropriate, or take as our own, that which is true in Christ Who is already in the place of power, if we do not know it ourselves? There is plenty of opinion and religious banter available, but to what end? Life or death?

We cannot simply read John 16:33 and know. We cannot memorize John 16:33 and know. We cannot even meditate on John 16:33 and know. We cannot even offer it to another and have them know. The Spirit must reveal it to our open and willing hearts. This will change everything!  To have revelation is altogether other than to have information. That is where we will find ourselves rooted & grounded during trials of all kinds. Not mere mental knowledge or having received second-hand bible information that may be good and even true in and of itself, but where there is and has been no power of an endless life in and through us. It is for a time such as this, where all other avenues are failing and failing in great numbers and on every level, where we are primed to seek the One who called Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.] (John 14:27)

What is Jesus’ own peace? How does this help us now? And what will it look like?

I have been reading T. Austin-Sparks’ Christ Our All, and just yesterday was in chapter 8 “My Peace I Give Unto You” (<—- Link ) where he writes:

The life of our Lord Jesus was marked by a peacefulness of spirit and a real rest of heart. […] His whole life was marked by rest and peace within. […] He was often pressed to take a wrong course. But He never yielded to the temptation. […] It was a temptation from outside. But it could not disturb His inward peace because He was abandoned to His Father’s will. His loyalty to the Father frustrated the temptations. The secret of His peace was His union with the Father. […] All the temptations He went through were to provoke Him to get away from His Father; to have desires, reasonings, volition which were not altogether of His Father. But such an attitude was out of question for Him. There was no deviation in the least degree from His Father’s will. Behind it all was a perfect faith in His Father and His faithfulness.

Much of the lack of peace in our lives comes from our lack of unity. We are in conflict with our own reasoning, our desires, our will. We are torn in two directions, disturbed because of things at war in us. So often we are like two persons fighting each other, in a state of unrest. The same occurs in our relationship with God. Our thoughts and desires are in conflict with God’s thoughts and desires. How utterly different in the case of the Lord Jesus! He knew the meaning of an inward peace. […]

But how do we get experimentally over our divided nature into such a oneness, such a rest, such a peace? The way is just this: as the Lord Jesus gains the upper hand in our hearts, we become more and more one with Him. As we more and more surrender to Him, all the conflict of mind, heart and will ceases. Christ’s attitude was absolute abandonment to the Father. He was holding back nothing, ready to do all His will. There was no conflict about it. His whole being was one with the Father. As we let go the self-life, letting Christ get the mastery in us, He brings to an end all the inward conflict. A heart wholly the Lord’s is a heart at rest, a heart conformed to the image of Christ. The Lord said: “Take my yoke upon you“, that is, “Be perfectly one with Me.” A yoke makes two beings into one. That is why it was forbidden in the Old Testament to use an unequal yoke, to put an ass and an ox under one yoke, for these two were entirely different beings. The yoke would tear and hurt them. But we are allowed to be under one yoke with the Lord Jesus. The yoke speaks of oneness, fellowship, being governed by one will. Thus we find rest unto our souls. […]

Christ is our peace. Christ is our rest. Rest and liberty always mean strength. If we are without rest we are without effectiveness. Christ is our sufficiency, for all our resources are in Him.

May the Lord lead us into His own peace!

Amen

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Who Is Increasing? Who Is Decreasing?

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John the Baptist is recorded in John 3:30 as saying: He must increase, but I must decrease – He must grow more prominent, I must grow less so.

How often have we seen that scripture used in the sense that Christ must increase, or get the ‘attention’ or ‘focus,’ and, we, as individuals must decrease, or get less ‘attention’ and ‘focus’? This sounds good enough since the natural man demands the attention and focus to be on it.

How often we circle the drain of error, believing and repeating a popular or common thought, that sounds good enough, but is not the actual reality. We become stagnant in our spiritual growth when we do not press on to the meat of the Living Word that the Lord desires to bring us to.

When we are in a New Covenant relationship with God in Christ, when Christ lives in us and the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, we are debtors not to the flesh – we are not obligated to our carnal nature – to live [a life ruled by the standards set up by the dictates] of the flesh (Romans 6:9-13). Our decreasing, or getting less attention and having the focus no longer on ourselves, is a byproduct of His indwelling life. Yet this was still not what John the Baptist was eluding to in John 3:30.

The prophet Isaiah wrote of John the Baptist saying this: A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord [clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God! (Isaiah 40:3)

Earlier in John (1:15) it records John the Baptist as saying: This was He of Whom I said, He Who comes after me has priority over me, for He was before me. [He takes rank above me, for He existed before I did. He has advanced before me, because He is my Chief.]

John spoke the words in John 3:30 after some of his followers were lamenting that Jesus was having many ‘flock to Him’ (John 3:26) As one who prepared the way of the Lord, clearing away the obstacles; making straight and smooth a highway for our God, it was John’s work as preparer in the lives of his followers that was to decrease, it was Christ as the Substance which was to increase. So it was then, it continues to be now. This is the characteristic of anyone who is pointing to Christ, or preparing the way; they must decrease in the heart and as the focus of the follower, and Christ as our Guide should increase in the heart and as the focus of the seeker.

Andrew Murray communicates it more succinctly:

God desires that we come to a close friendship, to an intimate acquaintance, with His beloved Son, that we should be the loving, happy witnesses of how completely He can save. Let us do so. Remembering that angels and prophets could only point to Him who was to come, that the words of Scripture, and even of Christ Himself, only profit as they waken the expectancy of something higher, let us wait on God to speak in His Son to us. God’s speaking in us will be a mighty act of creative power, a birth of His love within us.

It is vital that we get here, brothers and sisters! This is the reason for our lack of spiritual understanding! We stay stagnant under the teaching of those who can only point the way, but are not The Way. We may have loads of biblical information that we are merely assenting to mentally because we have heard it preached. But we have not the risen life of Christ and His power.

Oswald Chamber has a great devotional on this you can read by clicking HERE.

Father, we are so very hungry for Your speaking to us in Your Son. It is, You are, the only way to Life.

tas242

 

Showing Forth Resurrection Life

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Sunrise over Eleven Mile State Park

We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might [habitually] live and behave in newness of life. Romans 6:4 AMPC

Always carrying about in the body the liability and exposure to the same putting to death that the Lord Jesus suffered, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown forth by and in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:10 AMPC

Romans 6 in its entirety is so rich we cannot span its breadth in this lifetime. To be the embodiment of it is far more telling than to merely have the ability to expound on its words, though that is important. In verse 12 where it tells us not to let sin rule as king, making us yield to its cravings, being subject to their lusts and evil passions, this is progressive. As in the beginning of our journey’s the more obvious sins seem to have their hold on us, maybe the more shamed sins like addictions and adultery and the like. These may be the very avenue used to bring us to Christ initially. But what about long after a walk down the narrow road? What is found out in us when we’ve accepted His salvation; when addictions lose their grip and adultery is long gone in the rear view mirror of life; or whatever your particular flavor of sin was? Self is found out, our old creation, the flesh, which demands to be fed and kept alive by any means necessary; pride which defends itself at every turn, yet justifies it’s weaknesses by comparing it to those worse off than us; unbelief in the breadth of this salvation and an unwillingness to learn more because we’ll be found out. Oh, how we’re found out!

Not long ago I had an online friend who, after reading something I had written on love, would remark that: sure, love is all fine and good, but not to the extent of our being a door mat. Dear reader, I must confess that I am being found out presently to the depths of which He has yet to delve, and it is most assuredly, to our flesh, exactly like being a door mat! Our flesh is no longer kept alive by any means necessary, all formerly used roads are now blocked, even to the point where His sovereignty allows the flesh of those around us to press in all the more; the wind in our pride has lost its sails and though our minds may initially think of defensive words to throw, calculating ways to justify ourselves removing the weight we feel, we are silent in our responses, allowing it to be an opportunity for our conduct to be controlled by the Spirit within every relationship we have. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, He opened not His mouth. Sounds like a doormat to the natural world.

T. Austin-Sparks wrote (—> LINK):

So in our relationships, the spirit of the true servant is only possible as there is a deep love. Upon all those who have ideas of serving the Lord and working for Him I would urge this consideration, that the work of the Lord is not some thing which you outwardly and objectively take up. It is (if it is the true thing) the outworking of love for the Lord and for those who are the objects of His love. That is very simple, but it goes to the heart of things. Sooner or later you and I will be brought to the position where the question will be, Have we sufficient love to go on? Can we find enough love in our hearts to get us through this particularly difficult situation? The situation will be constituted by all those factors which resolve us into servants, bondslaves. It would not have become so acute if only we had been esteemed and honoured, and held in high regard. But when the situation is created by a great deal being expected of us, by demands being made upon our generosity, our kindness, calling for an almost inexhaustible fund of patience, and the letting go of personal feeling; when really the main issue in the crisis is this – I am being imposed upon: too much is being expected of me: I am treated as a servant – that is where we are found out. Love alone can support this service. We all need a great deal more love to get through with our servanthood.

Love Includes Humility

Love embraces other things. He took “the form of a bondservant… and… humbled himself”. To be a true servant according to Jesus Christ means humility. The exact opposite of the servant spirit is the spirit of pride, and there is that in most men and women which at some time or other is discovered and manifests itself, which does not like to be regarded as a servant. There is a revolt against being a servant, at everybody’s beck and call. Liberty! Freedom! Do as you like! Be your own master! State your own terms! To let go all such personal rights, to be a servant, is not human nature as we know it. “He humbled himself.” There is no place for pride in a true fellowship with the Lord Jesus, because it is the fellowship of bondslaves. Pride keeps many people out of the kingdom of God. They will not humble themselves to acknowledge that they are needy sinners. They will not come to the place where they would be publicly recognised as one of those Christians! Pride keeps them out. Pride will take them to hell, just as it took Satan from heaven to hell. Pride is the enemy of believers as much as of the unsaved. It robs us of the real value of service. We have such stilted ideas of service. We do not mind being in the Lord’s service if it means something that brings us recognition. There are tremendous dangers about recognised service. The Lord Jesus humbled Himself.

When we are found out, when there is nowhere to be found any esteem or honor or recognition, what then? It is in these dark depths where I must confront the reality of Christ then and even now; looking back also at my own life experience and what His attitude was towards me when I cared not for Him or His ways. Knowing this in my heart, experiencing His humble love in response to my rebellion and pride and sin; knowing He never once shoved His finger in my face, defending Himself, justifying Himself; proving all the ways I had misunderstood Him. This, oh this, finds me out in the daily grind of everyday life.

Let us not forget that, though it is death for our flesh, it is LIFE for us on the other side of that, and for those with whom we are in contact! It can be wrought with unchanging circumstances and people; but this, too, He uses to His glory and our benefit, if we will allow it. This Life is not our self or the old creation with its self-effort and manipulations, it is Christ’s life pouring through these vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be of God and not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:7).

The Voice translation authors added a comment in 2 Corinthians 4 that I’d like to share here: Jesus death is the means to new life for others. Similarly when believers suffer for others as Jesus did, their suffering is an avenue for God’s life to transform situations. 

May we be found living and behaving habitually in newness of life; the resurrection of Christ Jesus being shown forth by and in our bodies, to the glory of God.

The Lord’s Wilderness Expanded, Conclusion

Click HERE for Part 1

Click HERE for what came next

Click HERE for Part 2

W.E. Smith writes:

All of my life I kept looking for Him in other things – people, groups,
movements, trends, systems, you name it. Yet in the end He has brought me to
Himself, quite apart from anything else that may claim or represent Him. This
is the wonderful thing about the wilderness – it reduces everything down to
bare-boned, spirit-touching-flesh reality. It clears away all the haze and
noise that may be preventing you from seeing and hearing God.

This is in total contrast to my experience! Since a young teen I initially ditched Him, followed by my continually ditching Him for other things – men, material things, money. Anything but church. Anything but Christians. Anything but the Bible. This is where it gets murky for me, for my experience is not one of decades of involvement in the organized church, rubbing shoulders with many Christian’s, if not Christians only, year after year after year of religious conditioning, and then being drawn out by Him ‘quite apart from anything else that may claim or represent Him.’ It’s like that whole thing was skipped over and there’s no comfortable niche, so to speak, for me to settle into. And, yet, here I am ‘quite apart from anything else that may claim or represent Him,’ having a life experience where everything is ‘reduced down to bare-boned, spirit-touching-flesh reality…clearing away all the haze and noise that may prevent a heart from seeing and hearing God cleared away.’ This has been a deep struggle and a terrific gift all at once.

He goes on:

And we must know also, and many will admit that so much of what we do
as “church” today keeps us from coming into direct and personal contact with
essential things.

For it is in the essential where the eternal things are found, all the distractions are merely temporary.

He goes on:

Trust is often forged in darkness and silence, when our experience and
expectation of what this new life means appears to be in contradiction. My
friends – this reveals yet another aspect of God’s wilderness.

All of the so-called experts tell us how human beings innately require a
community; yet what happens when the Lord is our only community, when all we
have is Him, when even the ones we love abandon and forsake us? When all of
their words make us feel only guilt and even more bewilderment, when they
cannot seem to comprehend the legitimacy of what is happening to us. So much
easier to pray down God and all His angels to extricate us from our
isolation and hardship. And it is inconceivable to so many believers, not
knowing the Lord or His wilderness, that this very thing could be sanctioned
and even enabled by God Himself, out of His love and mercy for His beloved
children.

As soon as I laid my eyes on “All of the so-called experts tell us how human beings innately require a community; what happens when the Lord is our only community, when all we have is Him…” my heart skipped a beat, my breathing slowed, and I had to set the paper down. This has been such a conundrum for me! To begin, I have been a very social being all of my life, way back to kindergarten where I greeted all my classmates. This aspect of me has been marked up by the Cross, the new creation is coming through much differently than the old. Which sounds so obvious and needless of saying, but it’s quite remarkable to me, really. Christ has not made me anti-social, but the need for others is not the desperation it once was; to fill a hole, to counter balance an insecurity. I require more time alone than I ever have before, and noise exhausts me. Some might say that’s merely age, but Christ in us changes us.

I suppose it depends on what a person believes community is, because it’s not that I have no one, living off the grid somewhere in complete isolation.  But as for Christian community, no, that is not something I have. Without going into every detail over these last ten years, it is something I have attempted in various ways and to varying degrees, to no avail. It’s almost comical if it weren’t such a conundrum. I fluctuate between feeling great condemnation over it, and deep contentment.  In the days prior to my reading The Lord’s Wilderness I was soaking up John chapter 16 in the Amplified when I came across verse 7 that hit me in a whole new way:

However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say it is profitable (good, expedient, advantageous) for you that I go away. Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you [into close fellowship with you]; but if I go away, I will send Him to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. Emphasis mine

I have been struggling greatly over my not having fellowship and it almost seeming as if I am being kept from it – though the masses would not understand that, even I don’t understand it – and the many voices telling me I should have fellowship and right here I’m convicted that the truest fellowship a human can have is something already given me (not just me, but this is my heart in the moment). I hung my head and asked forgiveness for not being content with Him alone. To experience such long and sordid heart issues over God as Father, to trust He has drawn me to Himself both is and continues to be healing in my inner most parts.

He goes on:

We like to be busy don’t we? We almost have an inborn, driving need to
advance, to move forward, to do great things for the Lord. Results and
numbers and growth are the gilded idols of our day, and they have penetrated
the church of Jesus Christ.

[…]

My brethren – there really is so much the Lord does not allow us to see, in
terms of His larger plan, isn’t there? To our carnal nature, and to all that
we are as men and even Americans, this wilderness makes absolutely no sense
at all. We want to get into the game desperately, and yet the Lord wants us
on the sidelines, or maybe even outside the arena and cut off entirely from
all the action. He wants us to Himself. He wants to know if He is enough all
by Himself, independent of His gifts and blessings, and all of the noise and
trappings of religion and community.

Cut off entirely from all the action, all to Himself. All the while, our flesh remains unable to function in its old ways. But, oh, the things He has shown me outside of it all. Not only about my self, my flesh, but about Him! This journey isn’t about dying to ourselves and lying down dead in misery for ever. Step back from the Story for a minute, what do you see? Jesus died on the Cross, yes. But is Jesus still dead? No! He has risen, and this is where we will come to eventually and literally/physically one day. But here and now, spiritually, in our spirits, we can experience this resurrection life. Reckoning ourselves, our flesh, having been crucified with Christ, but alive to God. That is not misery. It’s a whole new way of life! It is the new & living way He opened for us. Aside from the distractions and non-essentials that keep us floating in the shallow waters, the wilderness removes the dross of pride and self-effort, which can be terrifying when that’s the foundation we’ve built; when that’s what we see everywhere we look, others pushing through with their ideas and creativity and self-effort and pure willpower, and we’re over here seemingly cast aside unable to do all we once did without thought or concern – ahh, but this is where the rubber meets the road, and I am still here…it is often a roller coaster which is undoubtedly dependent entirely on where my focus is.

This is getting long, my apologies. I will end with this:

Yet the Lord and His angels are there too, ministering to us, teaching us, tearing us down and binding us up, comforting and communing with us, revealing His glory to us in quiet
revelation and intimate miracles. It is the place where a still small voice
can always be heard, where the grandest and god-sized things are reduced
down that we might grasp them and go with them. It is the barren and rugged
terrain of the prophet not the priest; where created things are laid naked
before the great “I Am”- that Awesome, Uncreated One who broods over all the
earth, seeking merely one who will prove faithful.

Tearing us down in the flesh and binding us up in the Spirit. It is crucial we ask His view on the old and familiar. He breathes new life into the mundane that has lost its luster and quite probably its original meaning. The wilderness is absolutely a place where He reveals His glory to us in quiet revelation and intimate miracles – oh, what a sweet truth that is for us walking this narrow road. Quiet is without noise. Intimate is without the many others.

For all the questions it has created, for all the doubts that still linger, for all the closed doors that remain closed, for all the contradictions that echo their mockery, for the lack of community and/or fellowship, I am left with just one thing to say from the depths of my heart:

He is faithful & true. 

HERE is the link to W.E. Smith’s The Lord’s Wilderness.

The Lord’s Wilderness Expanded, Part 2

Click HERE for Part 1

Click HERE for what came next

The decision has been made to go forward with this short series based on W.E. Smith’s The Lord’s Wilderness. Compared to what used to be the reason for my blogging; gathering an audience and speaking to them in particular, it would seem something has shifted and the purpose is altogether beyond me and is for whosoever will come, whether that be now or for a time yet to come – that is no longer for me to decide or manipulate. Compared to what used to be the motive behind my writing; finding my people and writing to them alone, highly concerned with whether the reader acknowledged and/or understood my words, it would seem something has shifted and the purpose is altogether beyond me and is for whosoever will come that is hungry and thirsty that they may find Christ – not that this author is anything special, but because that is to Whom I am pointing. No longer me, myself, and I as my particular tastes and ideas and thoughts go, but to Him alone.

Without any further adieu, let us continue.

W.E. Smith writes:

Perhaps you reading this now are in what you might consider a wilderness,
alone with God, cut off in large measure from all you have ever trusted or
known. Nothing now seems to make sense, even your religion or relationship
with God. Everything appears dark and the way forward seems unfamiliar. Your
faith is challenged like never before. The ground beneath your feet is
shifting like loose sand. You turn to fellow saints for help and
encouragement, but they just don’t seem to understand. All they seem to have
is an argument or proof text trying to convince you that you are either in
sin or rebellion.

[…]

To begin, it is a new and strange place – a circumstance or condition that
is foreign to all we know. Consider Abraham and Moses leaving the
familiarity and security of their home and family and all they have ever
known to venture out into a new and strange land. For the most part they are
alone in the wilderness. They often don’t know exactly where they are being
led. There is little to no explanation. God Himself has called them out,
drawing them to Himself that they might follow Him in simple faith and
trust. He is their way, and they must look to Him in perfect confidence that
His guidance and provision will lead only to blessing

The Lord, in drawing us to Himself often brings us through the wilderness.
Here we learn not to trust in ourselves, but in Him alone. He draws us out
of wherever we are that we might learn to lean on Him for everything. He is
now our way, and our provision. It is a time of total and absolute
dependence on Him. He draws us away from all of the props and dependencies,
our friends and family, our everyday structures and support mechanisms, that
He might be the All that holds us up, and maintains our lives. We must learn
to trust God rather than circumstances or people. We must look for the bread
that comes from heaven and the water that comes from the rock. We must turn
our backs on all we know, even those we love, so that He might know that we
love him first and most, that He is enough if everything and everyone else
is stripped from us.

Just think of the ramifications of this! I do not believe we can even fathom it without first being drawn, and having walked some narrow and foreign and dusty paths in the wilderness ourselves. For we never know what we have falsely trusted until it is stripped from us.

“Cut off in large measure from all you have ever trusted or known.” That would be an understatement. This varies with each of us, for what one has trusted and known is different from what another has trusted and known. That statement covers the last ten years of my life to one degree or another. When the foundation’s we have built crumble and our lives now shake and tremble, it is hard to know which end is up. Christ stands stable in a time like this. Our only hope is to take hold of his outstretched hand; to allow Him to let all the false fall off as He stands Faithful & True.

“It is a time of total and absolute dependence on Him.”  This will challenge our faith. For He is not tangible and seen with our natural eyes like all we once depended on. To walk the narrow way that learns to trust God rather than circumstance or people will test every single belief we have. What we have clung to, even if it is an outright lie and not of God at all, though religious and sounds good, will feel like a punch in the proverbial gut when it is challenged. But, again, Christ stands stable in a time like this. It is Christ we must focus on.

Where W.E. Smith writes,

“He draws us away from all of the props and dependencies, our friends and family, our everyday structures and support mechanisms, that He might be the All that holds us up, and maintains our lives.”

T. Austin-Sparks (<—link) writes this:

“The Cross is necessary for our breaking. It is not a pleasant note, I know, but in all faithfulness it must be said. This is the Lord’s word to you: that if you are not broken by the Cross, if you have not gone through an experience of real brokenness under the hand of God, all that the Lord means in you and through you will still be suspended, it will be impossible. If the Cross means one thing, it does mean that the Cross is the way to the glory and to heavenly fullness. It is the way of an inward breaking. Let me be very precise, because I know of different kinds of brokenness. I know the brokenness of disappointments, of disappointed hopes and expectations, but the kind of brokenness I am talking about is the brokenness of the self-hood, the strength of Self that holds its position and holds its ground and that will not let go. That is the kind of brokenness. This self-strength, whether it be intellectual and mental or whether it be emotional or whether it be in the will, that strength of the natural life has got to be broken as truly as the sinew of Jacob’s thigh had to be touched and withered. Something like that has to happen in us that we carry through the rest of our days. God has done something in the realm of our self-hood and we are broken men and women so far as self-sufficiency, self-assertiveness, self-confidence and every other form of Self is concerned.”

Dear readers, that gets right to the marrow of things for me. It is not a ‘pleasant note,’ for sure! The Christianity I have seen and heard in my 48 years, and I readily admit my perspective has been shallow at best and largely skewed, has been a religion of self; self-sufficiency, self-assertiveness and self-confidence with Jesus tacked on. I mean no disrespect. I also must confess that the strength of this self has done a bang up job of holding its position and its ground, not being willing to let go. The Cross has cut that self off at the knees, she is no longer able to function. This has been hard, scary, unknown to me in experience and by watching others. A man or woman broken of the strength of self is a rarity. So to find oneself here there is MUCH to create doubt and wreak havoc, the enemy’s playground. BUT…

If I may quote Sparks (<—link) again: “Again and again we are brought to the point where situations are quite impossible where man is concerned. We find we cannot solve the problem ourselves, or change that situation. If we were people of this world we might be able to do it, but somehow or other, because we are the Lord’s people, it just does not work. All our cleverness fails. Naturally there is no reason why would should not go on, but the fact is that we just do not. We try everything and are greatly perplexed.” Sparks is speaking my experience to me from a time long before I was even born. I receive it with a deep sigh of relief. Not because perplexity is fun for us, but because God is here, He is present, He is breaking in, and God breaking in doesn’t end in death…it ends in LIFE!

Staying With and In Christ

After my last post where I shared bits & pieces of W.E. Smith’s The Lord’s Wilderness I learned that in the years since that writing (2009) the author denounced Christianity. I do not claim to know the story, but the struggle he began having is one I too have known in my lifetime. I am also keenly aware that our stories are as varied as we are, and nothing is as black and white as it may appear on the surface. Though there was nothing in my initial or second reading of The Lord’s Wilderness that caused concern other than one statement which I was going to share, today I am unsure of the Lord’s guidance on how He would like for me to go forward, so I must not do anything until that way is made clear.

This is one of two stories which have found their way to my ears in the last week which are potent reminders of, not only the importance of our focus, but the ease with which the thoughts we allow to linger and grow become our life and lead us down the wrong path. My heart is burdened.

What is our focus? Are we consumed with looking to a person; a teacher, a preacher, an author or a loved one, to build us up, to hold us together, to give us life and light? Just last week I saw a clip of a preacher speaking against the actions and words of a select few who are spreading hate and using the Bible to back up their claims. This preacher was fired up, as they say, and offered a lot of emotionally charged words which sounded good, though there was no mention of Christ. As I watched and listened I was unmoved, yet saddened at the same time. The stream of comments on the video were of love for this preacher; no one mentioned Christ; one comment even excited how they could see this preacher’s anointing. Oh, what a grave misunderstanding we have of anointing. I digress. Is our focus on all that Christendom as a culture has done to reek havoc, and we pounce on all the negativity of that to prove to others that we aren’t them, that we have been ‘enlightened’? Oh, I have been there. The Lord save us from that!

This morning as I continued to seek counsel on how to move forward Hebrews 12: 1-2 came to mind:

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].

Stripping off and throwing aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily clings to and entangles us will be drastic to our flesh, our lives.

Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith. I imagine the author of the letter to the Hebrews could not fathom the distractions we have come to know in our world today. Undoubtedly there is plenty in the scope of Christendom that is distracting us.

Jesus Christ is the Leader and the Source of our faith!

One sentence on the back of Andrew Murray’s book The Holiest of All continues to permeate my heart: It is only the full and perfect knowledge of what Christ is and does for us that can bring us to a complete Christian life. 

And then in T. Austin-Sparks book The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus ChristWhy are so many of the Lord’s people just beaten and harassed and tormented by the Accuser causing them always to have their eyes turned inward in self-analysis, self-conscious introspection, occupied with themselves all the time; so tied up with themselves that they are useless to God and to other people? Why? Because they have not clearly recognized the implications of Christ; that Christ has answered to God on their behalf in all that God ever requires of them; they have not grasped that by faith. That is the way of deliverance from ourselves. That is deliverance from self into Christ. But still they are in an ill-defined way trying to provide God with satisfaction, and it is an awful struggle. They have not seen the clear features of Christ. Christ is not formed in them. He is (if you will suffer it) an unformed, ill-defined indweller. It is rather a difficult thing to explain, but probably you see what I mean. Immediately we grasp the clear implications of Christ dwelling in the heart, we have come to a settled place, we have come to a strong place, we have come to the place where no legalisers can come along and sweep us off our feet. (Link —-> HERE.)

Let us not fall into despair. May we be reminded of what Colossians 1 tells us:

verses 13-14: [The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in Whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins.

And verses 21-23:  And although you at one time were estranged and alienated from Him and were of hostile attitude of mind in your wicked activities, Yet now has [Christ, the Messiah] reconciled [you to God] in the body of His flesh through death, in order to present you holy and faultless and irreproachable in His [the Father’s] presence. [And this He will do] provided that you continue to stay with and in the faith [in Christ], well-grounded and settled and steadfast, not shifting or moving away from the hope [which rests on and is inspired by] the glad tidings (the Gospel), which you heard and which has been preached [as being designed for and offered without restrictions] to every person under heaven […]

 

The Lord’s Wilderness Expanded, Part 1

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Last week I was skimming a blog I used to follow and came across something they had shared back in 2009 from another blog that seems to no longer be in existence. It’s a shot of divine nourishment in a spiritually famine land; it settles the craw that has resided under the saddle of my soul for some time now. I know there are many others out there and I wanted to share pertinent excerpts along with my own personal commentary for my own processing as well as the encouragement and edification of other wilderness-dwellers. This will probably be in 1 or 2 parts, 3 maybe. The article was written by W.E. Smith and is titled The Lord’s Wilderness. Since I am only sharing portions of it here, when I am all finished I will add a link to its entirety for those interested.

W.E. Smith begins:

For students of the Bible, the concept of the wilderness should be most
familiar. Abraham left his homeland and family to venture forth into an
unknown land of promise. Moses left the palatial comforts of Egypt to dwell
among the rocks and wild beasts. The tribes of Israel wandered 40 years in
the wilderness prior to occupying the land of Canaan. Job lost everything
that He might glimpse the Eternal One at the edge of the valley of death.
David fled from Saul and spent years eluding him in the pathless wilderness.
Most, if not all of the Lord’s holy and faithful prophets abandoned all they
knew and loved to live alone with the Lord in His company and care. John the
Baptist conducted his prophetic ministry as one “crying in the wilderness”.
Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness forty days and forty
nights, tempted of the devil and ministered to by angels. The Apostle Paul
spent much of His life and ministry imprisoned, isolated, imperiled and
alone. And the woman of Revelations 12 is sheltered and nourished in the
wilderness immediately prior to our Lord’s return to this earth.

My friends, this wilderness theme runs all through the Scriptures, and
through the varied lives and experience of God’s children. It has always
been an essential concept to be grasped, yet I believe this may be even more
true today. It is vital that we understand what it teaches us about how our
Heavenly Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit bring us to true faithfulness
and blessing.

Now the concept of the wilderness as it affects others is one thing – yet
the actual experience of the wilderness as it impacts our own life and faith
is quite another. It is a very intimate matter you see, challenging
everything we think we know about God and the Christian life, the church and
community, the actual and the superficial. It is wrought with difficult
questions and seemingly few answers. It is typically invested with profound
emotion, loneliness and even confusion. And it is more of a valley than a
mountain-top, with again, seemingly little evidence that heaven is still
there, and that Our Lord is still caring for His sheep.

Yes! The actual experience of the wilderness as it impacts our own life and faith is something else entirely, rather than merely reading biblical accounts of it that are held at arm’s length. Living in the intimate wilderness that begins to press in on every side, challenging everything we thought we knew about God and the Christian life; touching every single thing we’ve held dear, God’s consuming fire raging through all that is temporal and superficial, is not the wide path of the masses. We feel alone and misunderstood most of the time, as we lose our footing on the faulty foundation we built. And if you’re anything like me maybe you’ve questioned more than once if you’ve gotten it all wrong, slipped off track somewhere.

I dove into Revelation 12 and was comforted to see the spiritual reality of the present for His bride across the world. I do not pretend to understand the depth and width of this chapter, but I trust we, like the woman in verse 6 and 14, have fled to the wilderness where we are kept safe and fed by the Bread of Life.

W.E. Smith continues:

To understand the wilderness we must go deeper and further into the very
heart and mind of our Heavenly Father, as He loves and nurtures His
children. We must look beyond our teachers and books, for they – by and
large – don’t really understand it. We must divest ourselves of any fluffy
religious notions that really don’t get to the heart of a man or what really
happened in that garden. We must also resist the theological urge to
generalize and systematize, as God’s wilderness is as varied as His people,
and as unlimited as His vast, creative mind.

We are addressing this topic generally, in order that we might understand it
better. We are also more specifically hoping to edify and encourage those,
who like ourselves, find themselves outside and apart from the traditional
church organization, having left it behind in order to more perfectly hear
and follow the Lord.

The Exodus from the Organized Church
Today we are witnessing an interesting phenomenon where many – God knows the
numbers – are leaving the relative structure and security of organized
churches, denominations and memberships, to follow hard after their God, to
a wilderness of sorts, a strange and unfamiliar place little understood by
establishment Christianity. Perhaps the Lord is calling His remnant to
Himself in simplicity and purity at the end of this age? Perhaps the
prophetic ministry from outside the walls has begun, or at the very least is
being perpetuated at this time? Perhaps a time of final testing for the
church and Israel is poised to begin? Whatever the ultimate reason, many are
coming out, and almost immediately they will need to adapt to this new and
strange environment where the Lord alone is all that they have.

I want to camp just a minute on the “We must look beyond our teachers and books, for they – by and large – don’t really understand it.” In recent weeks, oh probably months, and in all reality even longer than that, I have looked to other’s to make sense of my life. If you’ve ever tried this you know the feeling; it’s like beating your head against a brick wall. Two weeks ago I was reading in Peter Whyte’s, The King and His Kingdom, and was relieved to read at the bottom of one page: “God joins us to PEOPLE; not to denominations or organizations. We cannot choose those people to whom we wish to be closely related. God decides this. We must learn to see who God has connected to us. We can only be directly joined to a small number of other people. They must have access to us and we to them, and there must be ongoing communication. How do we know who they are? By the revelation of the Holy Spirit and the practical realities of our life situations. They have to be people with whom we live or work or have continuing fellowship.” Some of you may know that I am surrounded by the unsaved, these are the people with whom the Spirit and the practical realities of my life situations have shown me. Time and time again, almost divinely comical if it weren’t for a deep and sordid struggle connected with it. For on the very next page of Peter’s book (which I highly recommend, by the way), he begins to describe the fellowship of the Body of Christ, the other disciples we are connected to, etc. And the spiritual bubble around my ‘unchristian’ life burst; in the margin I ask: How would You have me resolve these words and what I believe to be our experience, and what is on the following page? Later that night, or maybe the next day, as I washed dishes, I recalled hearing a word of the Lord personally in February 2016. I had to stand and face it: Was He lying and all this was out of His hands? Or was He telling the truth and it is all divinely coordinated beyond the grasp of my experience and it is to be accepted by faith? Well, obviously God cannot lie. So that was the end of that. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing it is all in His hands, though completely foreign to me and most Christian’s I’ve known and/or spoken to.

I share all of that to get to what has been on the back of my mind as I read some of these ‘old timers,’ who on a large scale speak things of the Spirit that is vastly missing in today’s modern authors: We are living in different times. Something has shifted, we are closer to the end than they were; the toxic mixture is rampant like never before, we have access to all of it all the time, and it is critical that we learn the Spirit’s voice to understand not just the times in which we live, but God’s movement in our lives in these times. What is God doing today? What is He saying? I do not want to know what the New York Times bestselling author has to say. I do not want to know what the trendy and popular preacher has to say either. I want to know what God has to say. And that, brothers and sisters, is going to lead us away from much!

It most certainly is a new and strange environment, whether you have left the organized church or were never a part of it, such as myself. When we leave that which we have known to follow the King’s call…it’s gonna be strange. It becomes less and less what we ever thought it was supposed to be or ought to be, and the vistas are ever broadening as we soak up the glory of God in Christ in our spirits.

I will stop now. Look for part 2 tomorrow.

This post has been opened for comments if anyone wishes to share their wilderness experience.

The Son

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I am the Son.

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The Life that is in Me is the Light of men.

My light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness can never eclipse Me.

Christ Alone

There is a slew of opinion and commentary available, both religious and irreligious, to anyone with an internet connection. We are living in desperate times. We can tell by the measures taken in response to seemingly small acts one human to another; one human to a crowd; one nation to another.  As the infamous saying goes: Desperate times call for desperate measures. But what is it all unto? Are the religious opinions and commentaries, even citing Bible verses to validate what is being said, ushering in anything different? Better? Or is it merely more of the same just to the other extreme to an onlooking and mostly indifferent world? So many adjectives and labels used to describe one human or a group of people; both sides of the spectrum littered with desperation and confusion; the desire to overpower and dominate reeks in our nostrils as death and darkness loom ever closer to our very way of life. The call and draw of the spirit of this world is a powerful one; the waters are quite capable of swiftly carrying us away onto the platform where we echo whatever side’s opinion and commentary, feelings of self righteous indignation as we tell them what they need to know whoever they are and whatever it is.

Christ is altogether other from all of that. Christ isn’t one end of the spectrum or the other; Christ isn’t one extreme or another; Christ isn’t on this side or the other side. Christ is altogether outside of this world’s spirit. Christ is God’s voice and life and power. We do not need more opinion or commentary. We need Christ alone. The Kingdom does not consist of food or drink or protest or extremes or even labels, but of righteousness and peace and joy; the Kingdom is not in word but in power.

Righteousness. Peace. Joy. Power. 

It is the voice of God in Christ which the dead hear and live; the spiritually dead, those who are dead to God which manifests itself in relationships and finances and love. Is God’s voice in Christ the voice we’re hearkening to? The message of God in Christ to mankind? Not religion, even Christianity’s, soapbox or traditional message, but the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ that is offered free without restriction? Or are we the spiritually unfaithful, pretending to be the Bride of Christ but sleeping with the enemy that tickles our flesh, but numbs us to the Spirit of life which has freed us from the law of sin and death?

It is the life of God in Christ that brings us a glimpse of His resurrection life here; the power of an endless life, Christ’s life, to and in and finally through us; on earth as it is in heaven. Down through the ages, in whatever way the world spirit happened to be manifesting itself, it was no other thing that saved than the voice and life and power of God in Christ. Today, it isn’t that we need to go backwards to a simpler time, in order for us to know righteousness, peace, joy, and power – God’s power, not our power; humble and merciful power; filled with truth and grace and authority, not millstones and rituals of bondage. It isn’t that we must seclude and isolate ourselves for fear of what is coming. Down through the ages and today it is God’s sustaining life in Christ that becomes our sustenance in malnourished times; our manna from heaven; the light of mankind which the darkness cannot overcome.

Bringing this to a close, let me end with an excerpt from a book I just finished with, The Way Into The Holiest by F. B. Meyer:

“We receive a Kingdom which cannot be shaken. Amid all our revolutions and political changes that Kingdom is coming. It is assuming body, and shape, and power. It is now in mystery, but it shall soon be revealed. And it cannot be touched by any sudden attack or revolt of human passion…the Church herself is founded on a rock, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against her.”

We are founded on God the Father in Christ Jesus. This is the truth that our faith grasps. May our hearts be one which tunes itself to God’s voice in Christ.

His Mysterious Ways With Us

 

Maybe it is a friendship of grace with unbelievers which centers not around Christian talk and/or activity. Not to come apart from them, separating ourselves from their filthy things, but to enter in with the Light of mankind which darkness cannot overcome.

Maybe it is a rebellious child who has wandered far from God (or our idea of God and the Christian life).  Not to lecture and be disappointed with, using Scripture as a means to conform them to tradition, but to allow the Lord to soften our hearts so that we may hear what He would have them (and us) know.

To hold tight to our notions of this life of faith is to limit a limitless God. When we humble ourselves before Him, allowing His Life and Light to penetrate our hard hearts, He can use anything or anybody to further His purpose in us. He knows precisely what we need to be conformed to the image of His Son. We limit Him when we prefer the status quo or our uncrucified flesh to be our standard, rather than the will of the Father. It requires humility and quiet fellowship with Him; removing ourselves from the noise and the crowd and the unending voices, choosing instead to learn Him and Him alone.

Dear ones, wherever the Lord has us, it is good to be always open to what He desires through it; not to change the circumstance but to change us more and more into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.