Pondering Truth In Christ

Feb. 10, 2019

From T. Austin Sparks, a recent email: "Why must Christians who have the knowledge of the Scriptures in the letter, run about here and there to seek advice from others on matters which vitally affect their own spiritual knowledge? I do not mean that it is wrong to get counsel, wrong to know what other children of God of experience think or feel about matters. But if we are going to build our position upon their conclusions, we are in great danger. The final authority and arbiter in all matters is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the anointing."

My thought on this is, it depends on who you're going to for advice. And do you know the Voice of the Shepherd well enough to not get the wool pulled over your eyes by deceiving religious spirits? 

This brought to mind Ecclesiastes 12:11-13. "The words of the wise are like goads, and the anthologies of the masters are like firmly embedded nails driven by a single Shepherd. But beyond these, my son, be warned: There is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man." 

This is certainly the case, but there needs to be some balance in this. I've seen people go off in their own direction, thinking that all they need is "Jesus and me," (yours truly being one case) and wind up more or less shipwrecked and off course, leaving behind the Scriptures. 

There is also a place for being in the body of Christ, with access to the wisdom of the truly wise such as the ancient Fathers, and those manifesting saintliness (Christlikeness) who have long walked in the Lord - which we should respect, cherish, and seek. That's because this is no cake walk and we need all the knowledgeable help we can get. 

Today everybody writes books, makes DVDs, has a You Tube channel, and so forth. But how much of that is life sustaining Wisdom? These are 21st century forms of the "many books," in other words, as Ecclesiastes mentions. Everybody is thinking he has something to say, when the wiser course might be to watch, pray, and learn to listen - the "Right to remain silent."

I see this as the balance of having the Scriptures as our map, and the Holy Spirit within as the "HGPS", the "Holy Ghost Positioning System." Both should agree and confirm each other, providing discernment and direction. And we should welcome those who became holy and wise long before us, and seek such counsel, since it's easy to become tripped up by personal pride, and fall headlong into error, especially in today's spiritual climate where just about anything goes.

"Now these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall."  1 Corinthians 10:11,12.

Feb. 7, 2019

Psalm 57:1-3

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until  these calamities be over past. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.”

Sometimes God will draw our attention to the most amazing truth while in His Presence in prayer and meditation on His Word. There are times - sometimes long stretches of time - where we wonder if God is really involved at all in our life or in the outrageous affairs of humanity. We drift along on edgy faith, when all of a sudden, He will let us know He’s right here right now - because we simply need to know it.

The foregoing was the focus of prayer and meditation time this morning, yet rather than going into any sort of deep exploration of it, my attention was drawn to a pattern in the Psalms of the King who was after God’s own heart. There are three things present in the Psalms: Supplication - bringing our issues before the Lord; Affirmation - where the supplicant affirms, based on God’s promises and his experiences with them, that the Lord will answer and intervene; and Praise - a continual flow of gratitude and thanksgiving in the confident tone of the psalmist’s prayerful songs - no matter what the circumstances, and before the needed divine intervention occurs.

It was then that I realized that the first letters of these words make up an acronym: “SAP”: Supplication. Affirmation. Praise. I also felt strongly prompted to do a search on the word “sap,” in terms of maple trees and how they produce the sap that is made into sweet, delicious maple syrup.

This begs the question, that if I’m “frozen” in circumstances, but I’d really like to be a prayer warrior like the King was, and have victory, how do I “get the SAP running”, so to speak?

As I read along I was profoundly delighted at what was revealed. It became obvious that God has always used nature to reveal His ways. But before we get to that, we may want to notice that as David cried out to the Lord about his very real and very serious problems, we see him always affirming right behind that, without a doubt, that the Lord would answer and save. In faith he got the SAP running and never doubted that God would move on his behalf - as Soon As Possible (SAP again!) - from God’s perspective, timing, and at His leading.

Likewise we upon whom the culmination of the ages has come in Jesus Christ, the Messiah the Son of God, ought therefore all the more confidently call out and draw near to God, as we affirm His answer even before it materializes, giving Him the praise and glory due His name. 

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds throughChrist Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7 

We can rejoice in His ever present presiding over all things. In so doing - and then in gratefulness moving with the Holy Spirit by faith (our “sacrifice" of praise!) - we confidently and successfully not only resist the evil one, but send him packing. Out with the bad, in with the good! (And a note of caution: faith is often not about feelings.)

According to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, temperatures above 32℉ cause positive pressure within the wood of the maple tree. It is the pressure within that makes the SAP flow!

When we are under pressure, that’s the time to stop pouting and start praying. In fact, we should get into the pattern of praying without ceasing whether or not we’re under pressure. That way we’re in the habit when the going gets rough. May the Holy Spirit cause us to see the pressures of our life in this light of prayer at all times - sometimes pressures are the wakeup call from God to get the SAP flowing. Now there’s a lesson about King David’s kind of praying! 

Did he have pressure? The Psalms are his prayer hymnal about that very thing. We can also read his story in 1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2:11.

The Psalms are still the very best and most relevant “prayer hymnal” for the people of God under pressure to pray today as they were then. Especially when we may feel tongue tied in our praying - the “frozen chosen.” So we can bring on the SAP through Supplication, Affirmation, and Praise - in concert with Israel’s foremost king and songwriter!

This is just my thought, but it seems like the Sugar Maple might be a very good Tree of Life symbol. We can rejoice that His intention toward us is “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

How sweet it is! “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.” Psalm 34:8,9.(

You can read all about maple trees and sap here: https://www.massmaple.org/about-maple-syrup/how-sugar-maple-trees-work/ )

Jan. 25, 2019

These are some of the most mind and life transforming truths ever communicated by God our heavenly Father through His Apostle Paul: Ephesians 2:4-10 and Colossians 3:1-5. This is the truth that will set us free. Free to be what God would make of us.

What do these passages show us? 

We died to transgressions in which we were once dead. Ponder that. A reality. 

We are spiritually with Christ in the heavenly places, seated there by God the Father himself. A reality. 

We are His workmanship, created anew through Christ’s incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension. A reality.

He created us new in Christ Jesus to walk in His good works. A reality.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." Ephesians 2:4-10.

Since this is so, we keep seeking the things above where we are raised up in Him. Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. 

The promise: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:9-13

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11.

Look up, learn by heart, and pray according to Ephesians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21! The Holy Spirit answers these prayers by implanting in our inner being the vision God has for us in Christ Jesus. As He answers, we can begin to see, to perceive, to comprehend. 

It’s what we must have - His vision for us

“Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. A servant cannot be corrected by words alone; though he understands, he will not respond.” Proverbs 29:18,19. Book learning of religious facts or history - even though we understand and give mental assent to it - is insufficient to bring any lasting change; words alone do not correct God’s servants. There must be a divine vision - a revelation - to the inner being, supernaturally imparted by the Holy Spirit, to commence this work of making real on earth what is in Heaven.

We set our mind on the truth that is above - not on the earth, in spite of what goes on here on earth. We are in the world but not of it, radically so. 

We have already died in Christ and our new life is hidden with Christ in God! So our business is to be about manifesting on earth, through faith, what already is in heaven. 

Not only are we in Christ, but He is in us - “the mystery that was hidden for ages and generations but is now revealed to His saints. to whom God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” Colossians 1:26-28.

When Christ our very life appears, we too will be revealed with Him in glory.

Therefore we are to regard ourselves and our bodies dead to sin - immorality, passion, evil desire, and greed. These are idolatry.

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.  Col 3:1-5.

We are dead to the old Adam nature which has been supplanted by that of the new Adam Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh, is available to all. Praise God for this magnificent plan, vision, and gift of salvation. 

“It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. “Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28,29.

See Acts 2. This is how it looks when what is in Heaven is made real on earth!

 

Jan. 25, 2019

The title of this writing refers back to entertainer Peggy Lee and her hit from the 1950s - You Gotta Have Heart. It’s basically the typical pep talk song from that era. And the theme of the meme has not changed much since then. Certainly it’s a cute, peppy little song of self encouragement and self reliance. But…

Follow your heart? Trust your heart? Over and over this meme is tossed out into the consciousness of the world. Many who say they follow Christ buy into this idea. But is this the truth from God's Word? Let's take a look. 

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure - who can understand it? " Jeremiah 17:9. 

"But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander." Matthew 15:18,19.

Can such a heart be trusted?

Really, there's only one cure for our natural (fallen, corrupt) heart condition, a "spiritual heart transplant" by the Holy Spirit. Keep on asking, seeking, knocking. Seek His cure! King David realized how his heart led him down the path of destruction. He needed a turn around that he could not generate. So he prayed, not only for forgiveness, but - "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10. (This entire Psalm makes an excellent daily prayer, by the way.) 

God's promise: 

"When they return to it, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow My statutes, keep My ordinances, and practice them. Then they will be My people, and I will be their God." Ezekiel 11:18-20. (This heart exchange was to take place after a considerable captivity, where a purge took place. Then God’s people returned to their homeland.)

"I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD. They will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with all their heart." Jeremiah 24:7.

“This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord. I will put My Laws in their hearts and inscribe them on their minds.” Hebrews 10:16.

There’s significant participation in this for us if we wish to have this new heart. And it comes by way of the Holy Spirit’s continuing intervention in our life.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:9-13.

The foregoing means a continual asking, seeking, and knocking. Unless we can connect with the need for a new clean heart and a right spirit, there's no practice of ongoing repentance, because there is no sense of need. We need to perceive how greatly we need this, so we keep on asking, seeking, knocking, and repenting of reliance on our foolish, fallen, fickle heart!

At the end of the day, the natural heart cannot be trusted and is always in need of divine intervention and transformation. It therefore must be surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ, uncompromisingly and consistently - each and every day of our life, so that Christ may be formed in us. His heart in place of our heart.

The heart is the center and core of our being. It’s not a physical organ, although there seems to be some correspondence between the spiritual heart and the blood pumping organ, since joy or discord seem to register in the physical heart, and we can become “heartsick.” We could call the spiritual heart the throne room of our life. Who sits enthroned there is questionable in the natural human being, living his or her life without the transforming work and direction of the Holy Spirit - each and every day! 

Who sits on your heart throne? The cares and concerns of this world and all that is passing away seem to be “reigning” with most people. This is not anything new. Jesus directs us to deal with it this way: “For the pagans strive after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them, But SEEK FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

How seriously do we take Him?

It’s not dependent on us telling ourselves “You gotta have heart.” It’s about surrendering our cares to the One Who invites us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29,30. 

The foregoing has been like a bullet point sketch, but it can be used for some honest pondering, seeking, and self evaluation - elicited by the question, Have I bought into the “follow your heart” meme, or am I going to surrender myself “wholeheartedly” to God’s plan for my heart and the rest of my life? What’s required is that I surrender my natural and corrupt heart to Him and let Him replace it with the pure Heart of the Lord Jesus Christ. Daily. Continually. Then His heart becomes my heart! His is the only heart worthy to guide my life on the Heavenly Way.

PS: It is advised that all the foregoing Scripture Passages be studied, contemplated, and prayed over in their context and many cross references, against the backdrop of the whole counsel of God’s Word.

Dec. 8, 2018

"You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” Dt. 12:8.

The article below (highlighted section my focus) troubles me - not by what it actually says, but by the way such things are often perceived and then promoted - as there is thinking among Christians today that pits them against one another, further still than all the divisions already present. 

Those who have become "unchurched" (in the sense of no longer "going to church") seem to have a low regard for people who still attend a brick and mortar church. And vice versa. There’s condescension in both camps, and the former seem to regard themselves as "spiritual" while others beneath them (in their opinion) are regarded as merely “religious.” I’ve been around both.

It's the either/or mindset out there today that troubles me. Hopefully there will come a day when the household of God will be that in which its "children of all ages" will realize that they all have a place at the table in the House of the Lord.

Maybe those who see themselves as “mature sons" might need to consider sticking around and be examples to, rather than critics of, those they regard as “children,” rather than making a run for it, or running away from home, since they are so obviously enlightened. What kind of household, after all, is it where its "older" mature children condemn and pick on the "younger", or decide that because "they are not mature, so I will leave them"?

My conclusion: Get over the semantics and the antics. Be yourself mature. Love and listen to one another; you just might learn something. Find value in ancient tradition, liturgy, and the beautiful old hymns, and appreciate them; honor them. In a sense this is much like adherence to the commandment to "Honor your father and mother, that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.”

And so very often, those who are quick to condemn those who “go to church” and what the Bible has to say are very frequently those whose shadows never darken a church doorway, nor do they read or study the Bible, which they also criticize, but instead “look within” for what they call "light". 

This would not be their view if they actually read and understood what the Bible says about the “heart” they advocate for following: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. These are what defile a man…” Mt 15:19,20. And “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Jer 17:9.

Believe me, I was in this “follow your heart” camp myself for quite awhile. So I’m not speaking from mere opinion.

This begs the question, who is the more mature after all - those who think themselves spiritual and regard the others as immature and religious, or the other way around? If the Apostles were to look down from heaven and see what is going on today among the churches, one wonders what sort of eye rolling and face palming there would be, even amidst the joys on high, amongst those who've actually been perfected in Christ?

(PS / Afterthought: I'm not advocating for "unity" at the cost of truth.)

 ***

Remarks above based on highlighted underlined remarks from T. Austin-Sparks article below from:

Christ the Power of God - Chapter 4 

 http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002159.html

“The Holy Spirit points out that the way into the true Holy of Holies is not yet thrown open as long as the former tabernacle remains a recognized institution and is still standing... For Christ (the Messiah) has not entered into a sanctuary made with human hands, only a copy and pattern and type of the true one, but He has entered into heaven itself. (Hebrews 9:8,24 AMP) Fellowship with God must be of that kind, that whether we can go to meetings or not, we still have the Lord; whether we have nice soulish music or not, we still have the Lord. You are not in that realm: "Neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem...." Bricks and mortar cannot communicate with spirit. Man's soul can communicate with God only through the vehicle of his spirit in union with God. That is what Calvary has done. You can understand now, of course, why the message of the Cross is unacceptable... and that, because of this strong cleaving to a historic, traditional inheritance, you will be outside the camp if you are going to proclaim it and stand for it. And, too, the awful thing is this – that Satan has taken hold of the Divine representation, or typical system, to appropriate it, when God has done away with it, and that what God brought in for a temporary purpose he has captured for himself in order to obscure the real nature of fellowship with God.

Now no one will think that I am saying that there are no spiritual people in that system of things. I am not saying that; but I am saying that if that represents for them their spiritual life – if they must have that, if that is the realm in which they live... that they do not see beyond that and are not free from that as a thing in itself – then they have missed the meaning of Calvary, and they are bound to miss all the meaning of Christ crucified – the wisdom and the power of God. 

Wrestling with principalities and powers wants something more than a system of external things. You see, we are up against a terrific business; we are up against a spiritual opposition which is colossal, and only a spiritual position is adequate to that – nothing less. We do not want to be in any position less than the Lord's first and best for us. The toys, the picture books, the illustrations, the symbols, the types are for children who have little intelligence; they are taken away at a certain time when God is out to have, not children but sons; and there is all the difference between the two. And so Calvary dismisses the kindergarten of external things in relation to God and brings in the fullness of heavenly order so as to make of us full-grown sons of God. May we be so!”

Yes, spiritual wrestling does want something more than “a system of external things,” Mr. Sparks. It requires life within the body of Christ, not a life of unscriptural thinking and being a stand alone, dining on a smorgasbord religion pieced together from Eastern mysticism, indigenous traditions, New Age, New Thought, and every other popular thing out there and calling yourself a Christian - which is where the “homeless Christian” viewpoint will almost inevitably wind up, because it is not grounded in anything but faith in itself, which is not the faith of Jesus Christ.