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Archive for October, 2009

Perhaps you may have been asking the Lord for a long time that he will be pleased to use you in such a way as to impart impressions of himself to others.  That prayer is not exactly for the gift of preaching or teaching.  It is rather that you might be able, in your touch with others, to impart God, the presence of God, the sense of God.  Let me tell you, dear friends, you cannot produce such impressions of God upon others without the breaking of everything, even your most precious possessions, at the feet of the Lord Jesus.

But if once that point is reached, you may or may not seem to be much used in an outward way, but God will begin to use you to create a hunger in others.  People will scent Christ in you.  The most unlikely people will detect that.  They will sense that here is one who has gone with the Lord, one who has suffered, one who has not moved freely, independently, but who has known what it is to subject everything to him.  That kind of life creates impressions, and impressions create hunger, and hunger provokes men to go on seeking until they are brought by divine revelation into fullness of life in Christ.

The matter of our impact upon others turns upon one thing, and that is the working of the cross in us with regard to the pleasure of the heart of God.  It demands that I seek his pleasure, that I seek to satisfy Him only, and I do not mind how much it costs me to do so.

There must be something – a willingness to yield, a breaking and a pouring out of everything to Him – which gives release to that fragrance of Christ and produces in other lives an awareness of need, drawing them out and on to know the Lord.  This is what I feel to be the heart of everything.  The Gospel has as its one object the producing in us sinners of a condition that will satisfy the heart of our God.  In order that He may have that, we come to Him with all we have, all we are – yes, even the most cherished things in our spiritual experience – and we make know to Him: “Lord, I am willing to let go all of this for you: not just for your work, not for your children, not for anything else at all, but altogether and only for yourself!”

It is a blessed thing to be wasted for the Lord.  So many who have been prominent in the Christian world know nothing of this.  Many of us have been used to the full – have been used, I would say, too much – but we do not know what it means to be “wasted on God.”  We like to be always “on the go”: the Lord would sometimes prefer to have us in prison.  We think in terms of apostolic journeys: God dares to put his greatest ambassadors in chains.

From Watchman Nee’s “The Normal Christian Life”

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What injustice have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me, have followed idols and have become idolaters?  Jeremiah 2:5

I will begin with the definitions of several of the words in this verse that I found to be interesting:

Idols (Strong’s #1892) – emptiness or vanity; something transitory and unsatisfactory.

Idolaters (Strong’s #1891) – to be vain in act, word of expectation

I wonder what kind of answer Jeremiah received to this question.  I wonder if anyone dared to answer.  Upon serious reflection, the only reasonable conclusion would be that there was no injustice found in God.  They just didn’t follow Him anymore.  They were interested in other things – namely vanities.  Things of no consequence, value or importance.

If you go back and read from the beginning of this chapter, the Lord starts by telling the people that when they followed after Him, they were holiness to the Lord.  But now that they are following after vanities, they have become vain.

Have you ever followed somebody somewhere in your car?  It can take much concentration as you try to keep that one particular vehicle in sight at all times.  They change lanes, you change lanes.  They speed up, you speed up.  Your driving mirrors theirs.  While you are following, conformity develops.  You are becoming like the one you are following.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus when He said “You will know them by their fruit.”  The fruit of our lives will demonstrate who (or what) we are following. 

So…..how’s your fruit these days?

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Confidence

Then said I:  “Ah Lord God!  Behold I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”  But the Lord said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth’, for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 1:6-8

While we don’t know Jeremiah’s exact age at the time of his call into prophetic ministry, we do know that he was a young man.  This is precisely the reason he gave to God for his inability to fulfill the call.

Jeremiah says:

I cannot speak
I am a youth

God says:

Do not say “I am a youth”

This made me laugh, because God says nothing whatsoever to refute his admission that he is unable to speak.   He didn’t try to build up Jeremiah’s confidence in his ability or his gifting.  He also doesn’t seem to give Jeremiah any options for refusing – “for you shall go”, and “you shall speak”.  

I don’t like to do things that I don’t feel comfortable that I have the ability to do.  I guess most people don’t.  Jeremiah didn’t either.  But the Lord’s answer for Jeremiah was not to send him to the Anathoth School of the Prophets for a 4 year training program.  His answer was “I am with you.”

How we underestimate this phrase!  I think that we often prefer to gain confidence in our own abilities rather than to place our confidence in the abiding presence of God as sufficient for us in all of our insufficiencies.

Isn’t it wonderful that the promised presence of God is sufficient for every task, for every situation, for every difficulty?  What wonderful rest that brings to the soul that trusts Him.

 

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If you listen to much Christian media, you will almost certainly come to the conclusion that these are the days Paul warned about when he said, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”  2 Timothy 4:3-4

It’s frightening how much false doctrine and questionable teaching there is out there.  Many times I listen to a sermon over Christian radio and the content sounds eerily similar to a self-help book.

This morning in my Bible reading, I read the following in Jeremiah 23:21-22:  “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran.  I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.  But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.”

And then in verse 29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

What a sacred trust it is to be one who speaks to God’s people on His behalf.  Oh that the Lord would flood our pulpits with messages aflame with fire from heaven that will turn us back to Him.  Lord, give us men who will stand in Your counsel until they have received a real word from God. 

But how shall we respond to such a word?  Are our hearts tender and bendable before Him?  Are we open to the searching work of His Spirit as the Word is preached?  Oh God, let the fire of Your word burn away the dross.  Let the hammer of Your word pound away the hardness of our hearts.

Send us a real word, real repentance and make us real disciples.

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Plank syndrome

“Therefore,  my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 3:12

Over the course of my new life in Christ I have become quite expert at diagnosing and correcting the problems of others in this life of faith.  Even from a distance, I can tell what is wrong with you and determine what needs to be done to fix it.

There’s only one problem…..it would be the plank.  You know, the one that’s in my eye.

While it is scriptural to look after others and be concerned for the state of their soul, I better be sure that I am tending after my own spiritual condition and heeding what the Spirit of God is saying regarding the condition of my own heart. 

The Lord deals with me in a fairly consistent way when I begin to have judgmental thoughts towards another believer.  In a short period of time after I begin to have these thoughts, the Lord will bring me into a situation where I have a conversation with this person, or learn something about them from someone else, regarding the reality of their situation or the depth of their struggle.  In those moments it’s as if a spotlight is shining on me, exposing the hardness and ugliness of my heart, and contrasting it with the humility and brokenness of the other believer. 

I am slowly recovering from plank syndrome.  The medicine God is giving for it is quite effective.

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Where am I to go
When the heavens are as brass
Words, from my lips
Fall to the ground
Unheard it seems
Unheeded

Where am I to go?

Where am I to go
When all seems dark and lonely
When troubles rush
Upon my weary soul
Reaching into the darkness
Do You see my hand?

Do not let me fall
Nor let my heart wander
When questions remain unanswered
When the distance seems tangible
And the promises are distant memories
How can I go on?

Yet where am I to go?

For it is true
That even in the darkest night of the soul
That there remains a hope
Of a life beyond, exceeding and eternal
Where faith becomes sight
And promise becomes reality
Questions answered, distance bridged
Face to face
A day of glory

This promise awaits
Those who endure
I close my eyes and hold on tight

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Don’t be cheated

“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”  Colossians 2:8

The gospel of Jesus Christ, while it is glorious good news, is not as appealing to many as you would think it would be.  While the reasons people will give for not responding to the gospel might be varied, for most I would suspect that we would find this thought lurking somewhere in their minds – I don’t want a religion that requires anything of me.

Multitudes are happy to settle for a meeting once a week where they are told how to tame their flesh and make it act more like a Christian.  The heart of this message is “Try harder to be a good person”.  This is empty deceit, not the gospel.  But to those who want a religion that makes them feel good without requiring anything, this is good enough news.

Does Jesus Christ make any requirements of us?  Absolutely.  Mark 8:34-35 says “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Christ bids a man to come and die.”  Thinking that in death we lose all freedom and happiness, many refuse this requirement of the gospel as being unreasonable and find a more palatable message, complete with stories of how truly good humans can be – stories that inspire them to be good as well.  And for them, this is good enough.

But how good would I have to be, to be good enough?  Better than a serial killer?  Better than my co-worker?  Better than you?  How would I ever know when I am good enough?  The correct answer would be – Never.

The apostle Paul tells us plainly that “in my flesh nothing good dwells” and that “the flesh profits nothing.”  Anyone who has seriously attempted to live by “good person religion” has found that no matter how sincere our efforts or diligent our attempts, there is never any assurance that we are finally good enough.  We cheat ourselves and sentence ourselves to a life of frustration when we try to reform the flesh instead of putting it to death by the Spirit.  The abundant life that Christ offers is truly glorious, but it will never be earned by our own good works.  There is only one work that can ever make us righteous, and Jesus did it 2,000 years ago.

Don’t be cheated.  Don’t be deceived.   Don’t settle for worldly religion when Christ offers joy unspeakable and full of glory.  Refuse to look to your own works, and look instead to the One who “is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him.”

Amen.

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