How Can The Corporate Church Help in the Current World Climate

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38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but few things are needed—or indeed only one.f Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, NIV).

For many years this touching story has been relayed to us as an encouragement or word of instruction to be more taken up with an intimate relationship with Jesus like Mary was and not to be distracted and pre-occupied with many things like Martha was.  However,  I believe that in this story, the Lord is also speaking a vital message to the corporate church today.

We know that the church is the entire body of believers in Christ, don’t we? That is, the members of Christ’s own body, collectively the entire world of genuine believers.I don’t have to point out that the church is not the building on the street corner that Christians gather in for a church ‘service’.  So with that in mind, let’s be honest and take a good look at her, the church, us corporately, in our/her current state.

Let’s for a moment, broaden our thoughts and vision of the church way beyond our local church community or ekklesia, though that is not to be ignored in this matter because even in what we call ‘organic’ church life, we can still have a Martha spirit. We can be more concerned with how we meet, than Who we meet.

A Martha spirit is concerned with the How and Why. A Mary Spirit is concerned with the Who and Where.

So what is the corporate church, and perhaps even your local church community, busy with in this current time? I’ll list a few things that come to my mind and you can no doubt ad to the list.

  • Terrorism
  • World peace
  • Refugees
  • Gay marriage
  • Religious tolerance
  • Israel
  • Jerusalem
  • Politics
  • Abortion
  • Missions
  • End Time Prophecy
  • Miracles
  • The poor

To quote our Lord Jesus “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things…but only one thing is needed…(Luke 10:41)

I believe the Lord is saying this to His church right now in this current climate we are in. We are worried and upset about many things…

This is a Martha spirit.

Jesus continued…”Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42).

Church, the Spirit of the Lord is encouraging us to choose what is better just as Mary did. What was she doing that Jesus would say that of her? She was at His feet, captivated by Him, surrendered and taken up with Him, humbled before Him. This is the better part, this is the one thing that is needed.

Did we hear that just then? Jesus said “…but only one thing is needed…”.  This is our need at this hour, church. For the church to be humbled at the feet of her Lord, to be captivated and solely given up to Him, is the Mary spirit and this is what is needed!

Church, we need to be fixated and captivated by Jesus Christ alone. We are not to be taken up with all the many things, upsets and worries of this world. This is the Lord’s very own words to Martha and to Mary, as a corporate word to the whole body of Christ.

Many Christians today are worried and upset, getting busy with their own ideas of how to tackle the world problems and set things right, wanting to infiltrate the political play with a touch of Christian values, agonising over moral issues and dilemmas the world is frothing up to the surface. But Jesus says in effect, that none of our activity in any of this is needed!

What is needed however, is that corporately we are found at Jesus’ feet, gazing into His eyes, hanging on every word, so close to Him that we can feel His breath blowing on our cheek as He speaks. This is the good part, this is what is needed. And this is to be a corporate matter, not just an individual matter as we had once thought. The Lord has one body, not many, though His one body is made up of many parts.  He is calling to His corporate church to fix her eyes upon Him, and this is the good part, the part that is needed and that will not be taken away from her.

To the church of Ephesus in the book of Revelation chapter 2, Jesus says they had forgotten their first love. Martha had forgotten her first love. Mary had not. And what is the image we have of Mary in that moment? We see her relaxed, at peace, in rest and joy, exhilarated by and enraptured with her Lord.

May we the church, God’s representative of His Son on earth, have a Mary spirit in this very hour.

“No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer…” 2 Timothy 2:4

 

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Just Because God Can Be Silent Sometimes…

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“Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, and have neither remembered me nor pondered this in your hearts? Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me?”  Isaiah 57:11

Wow. Them’s scary words. In other words, God is saying “Who have you honoured and revered more than me? Is it simply because I have been silent that you think you can forget about me and put someone else above me? No!”

Again. Scary words.

I remember when I was at a cross roads in my life and was confronted with a choice to choose my friends or God. I remember considering my circle of friends at that time and thinking to myself “Who of you have ever died for me? None of you have ever died for me, none of you have sacrificed anything for me and you never would. Why am I choosing to follow you over Jesus who has actually already died on the cross for me?” It was a poignant moment in my life.

As I shared this memory with my mother today, 18 year later, she said to me “that was the Lord speaking to you”. She’s right. That was the Lord speaking to me. He talks to us in amazing ways. Not all our thoughts are ours . That was one of those thoughts that really wasn’t mine. It wasn’t in my capacity to think that way. That was the Lord in me, revealing Himself in me, calling me home.

As I read through the Old Testament (and I’m reading through the book of Isaiah at the moment) I’m astounded at the resounding story of God’s love, mercy and faithfulness to a rebellious nation/people whose natural inclination was always toward sin and against God. Yet He was forever restoring them, longing to lavish them with all that He was and still is and always will be. He was forever restoring them, drawing them back to Himself, redeeming them, with eternal compassion.

Just look at these verses;

Isaiah 54:7,8 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

Isaiah 30:18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.

Isaiah 16:5  In love, a throne will be established…

Isaiah 1:16-20 “Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! “…”Come now, let us reason together” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 43:4 “Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, …”

I see the Lord’s unquenchable compassionate and loving heart in all these scriptures.

If ever there was a time on this planet that people needed to know of a God that loves, it’s now.

Let these words spoken by God be shouted from the roof tops –

“…Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed – I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses, ” declares the Lord, “that I am God. Yes, and from the ancient days I am he…” (Isaiah 43:10-13)

I pray that today dear friend, the eyes of all our hearts are enlightened to know Him more, that is the One who loves us and longs to be gracious to us, always willing to forgive us and pour out His kindness upon us.

He is God, the Lord Almighty!

How to Love Others Perfectly

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Psalm 16:2

 

Dear Reader

I am happy to say, that I cannot love you.

Please hear me out. I have finally come to realise that I cannot love anybody as they deserve to be loved, not anyone. I’ve finally come to truly see the FACT that nothing good dwells in my flesh (Romans 7:18).

In my ‘self’ – I am so full of flesh and the capacities of the flesh which are profoundly faulty and lacking, no matter how hard I try, what counselling training and courses I do, studies, reading, the company I keep, no matter how much I pray and read the bible. My flesh will always be just that, flesh.

For so long I have bought the lie from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that if I did all these things above, coupled with being raised by a loving Christian family, that I automatically have the capacity to love. It is definitely living from the wrong tree.

When I’ve been confronted by your quirks and perks, the things about you that rub me up the wrong way, I’ve only just tried to love you more. But this has failed and turned into frustration and offense, offending you and me being offended.  In my efforts to resolve this I’ve turned to my own resources to do the right thing. I’ve stayed in touch, I’ve continued to pray for you, I’ve kept up ‘godly’ behaviour of “do unto others” in your company, at times silently confessing my un-forgiveness and then my forgiveness. All the while I have thought this was good. I have thought this was loving you, how I should.

Sure, I could laugh and smile with you, genuinely enjoy your company, listen to your stories, enquire of your wellbeing and make small talk, perhaps even pray with you or engage on a deeper level of communication with you. Still, judgement, criticism, self-righteousness, pride, prejudices, stubbornness and offense have remained in my heart to varying degrees and at different times. I have to admit this if I’m to be brutally honest.

I started off saying that I was happy to say that I cannot love you. Well, you see at one time, all of this would have been confessed to my utter shame. However, in recent times, I’ve learned to turn to the Lord and ask Him to love through me because I was beginning to see I wasn’t able to love well. My true belief was that I just wasn’t all that good at it, not that I actually couldn’t! Therein, lay the problem and in the answer to this problem, lies my happiness.

You see, I thought having to turn to the Lord for Him to love through me and instead of me, was to my shame. I thought it was an admission of weakness, slackness and defeat. I believed that by doing this, I was admitting that I wasn’t a good enough Christian, all of which I now see is completely and ironically, liberatingly true.

On one hand such an admission seemed to me that I was buying into Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren’s, lies. To believe I wasn’t a good enough Christian and couldn’t love people properly seemed a dreadful accusation. I saw it as condemnation from the enemy for the purpose of keeping me naval gazing into my own failure and sin. So I consciously rejected the thoroughness of this admission.

However, I instinctively knew (and they say that one’s spirit is the place of intuition) there was some truth in this but at that point any truth was to my shame. For me to feel shame over this, indicated I wasn’t yet convinced of my total inability. There remained still some self-belief that I was able to love but that I was not living up to my abilities, hence the shame. That is, until today.

When I prayed today and asked the Lord to help me to see others through His eyes, I discerned this sense of admission of weakness rise in me from deep within and I didn’t like it. Then I didn’t like the ‘not liking’ it. So the Lord was beginning to show me that I still held some portion of belief in my self to be able to love. Yet my experience was telling me the opposite. My experience was that I nursed judgements, criticisms, anxiety and offense. However, my core belief was that I should and could overcome these negatives but my experience proved that I could not.

I cannot. I can’t.

These are not popular phrases in the pop culture environment of many believers today. Yet they are words that are completely theologically and biblically sound and are in fact the words spoken by this Jesus of ours, Himself. The very One who was showing me my incapacity and revealing to me the subtleties of the enemy’s lies, this very One, this same Jesus, said those same words about Himself! How can this be?

Jesus said “By myself I can do nothing” – John 5:30

And Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does”. – John 5:19

To us, Jesus said “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” –  John 15:5

Paul said “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” –  Romans 7:18

But then Paul also said “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” –  Philippians 4:13

T. Austin Sparks writes;

In the case of the Lord Jesus there was all the time an underworking to get Him to adopt the contrary course, to act without inquiry of His Father, without direct leading from His Father; to act in His individual capacity as though He were His own Master, as though He had not to make appeal elsewhere. (By T. Austin-Sparks from: Excerpt from The Risen Lord and the Things Which Cannot Be Shaken – Chapter 3).

I see this same underworking in my life, to try and convince me that I don’t need to make appeal elsewhere. Yet, Jesus Himself had to make appeal elsewhere, to His Father. What a fool to believe otherwise of myself. It seems pretty clear and to be said on the highest authority that exists, that outside of Christ, I cannot love.

So why does this make me happy? Do I offend you by this? Perhaps, if we only know one another according to the flesh and not in accordance with the Spirit, this will indeed offend you. Perhaps also, it is because of only knowing you according to the flesh that I have tried to keep my lack hidden from you and to keep up appearances in what I now recognise as something utterly impossible.

But does all this mean that I do not love you? Of course not! I simply can’t! I don’t have the capacity. My love fails. But, I want to… I want to love you and this is why I’m so happy. You see now, I can love you perfectly! – that is, through the One who IS Perfect Love. It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). 

You see, I no longer have to strive in my incapacities and weakness or my anxieties over my failing efforts and works. I can now simply abide in Him who IS Love and therefore He gets the room and the expression in my life to love you perfectly, as you deserve, with His love which does not fail.

For His love is…

patient, His love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. His love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

See, I can’t love you like that, but Christ in me can. Christ in me, Christ in you, Christ in us, we in Christ. In Christ. Christ is the key.

That makes me happy.

Knowing Him ( knowing me, knowing you)

No, this post is not about an Abba song (though I am a big fan).

Have you ever heard the expression ‘walk-a-while‘? This is an expression used by the Australian aboriginal people to describe how to get to know one another and I think it is a most excellent image of how we get to know our Lord!

You see, you can tell me anything and everything you want to about yourself, (even leaving out the bits you don’t want me to know) and this will help me to know about you, but it won’t make me know you. However, if I share life with you, walk-a-while with you, I observe you in all sorts of  circumstances and I get to know your character, the essence of who you are. I can rightly weigh up what I know to be true of you in various situations. If someone speaks something contrary to what I know of you, I can say with full confidence “No, that’s not Susan, I know her and that’s not her heart.” (That’s if your name is Susan, of-course 🙂 ).

In the same way, we might read the bible cover to cover, listen to sermons and conversations about Jesus, even attend bible/theological college, read book after book, study commentaries and languages to interpret scripture, and talk about Jesus as much as we possibly can.  Does this however, mean we really know the Person of Jesus Christ?

How many of us have trekked through years of traditional church life and have thought we had a real relationship with Jesus, only to later be confronted with the reality that we hardly know this Lord of ours at all? Oh, we know about Him, but do we know Him!

Jesus walked-a-while with His disciples for 3 years on earth, so they could get to know Him. Clearly, this walk-a-while experience of getting to know one another, takes a lot longer than a few weeks, months, even years. And these guys lived in each others’ pockets! They didn’t just meet once or twice a week for a couple of hours and think that’s how you get to know someone. They lived, ate, worked, slept and traveled together.

Jesus certainly wants us to know Him and the Father, too. It is in fact so important to Him that He prayed about it when He said……..

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:26)

This next verse of scripture seems to really capture just how important it is to God, that we know Him….

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he has understanding, and knoweth me” (Jeremiah 4:23,24 ARV).

If you’re really taking the time to ‘walk-a-while’ with Christ (which of-course has no end) this has most likely come about through a revelation of Christ being your All, in your personal pursuit of Him.  In addition, perhaps you have set out on a journey to detox from all the old spiritual and religious programming and are now getting to ‘really’ know Jesus, the Person.

It’s possibly come about through your corporate pursuit of Him by living body-life with other believers who share the same vision of letting Jesus Christ take His position as Head of His Church. In doing this, Christ has allowed Himself to be known among you, as you walk-a-while together.

Ah, the richest of all! A corporate pursuit of Christ! Christ being made known among us corporately as we walk-a-while together with Him! In Him! How glorious! How we long for this Lord Jesus! Teach us Your ways!

The Tree

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The tree needs branches to bear fruit

A head needs a body to express itself

God wants the church to express Himself

Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

He is the Tree of life –

The Vine tree.

Jesus is the Head of His church.

The church is the Body of Christ.

Jesus said “I am the Vine, you are the branches”,

unless you remain in the vine you cannot bear fruit.

Until Christ Is Formed In You – (A poem by my husband)

Until Christ is Formed in You

There is a Christmas morn

Celebrated each an’ every day

When Christ the Saviour is born

Not in feeding trough or hay

But in hearts who choose believing

Having seen the Son of God

Through faith in hearing receiving

The Life that comes from above

That Life grows daily increasing

In hearts of those now changed

Ever fuller deeper and wider

None will ever be the same

A will of our own no longer

Our life surrendered from view

A decreasing of one for the other

Until Christ is formed in you

One heart one mind one purpose

Given to His will from above

To surrender all for our Master

His Life expressed through Love

As one this Christ is revealed

Not a single part left out

We need each one to see the Son

Full measure full stature full clout

He’s revealed to all His timeless plan

To unveil His ageless story

His Victory over death ‘n’ Devil

Christ in us the Hope of Glory

All Praise the King of Life

He’s done with shame and loss

He’s restored to Him the Fullness

Who entrusted to Him the lot

His Love is never failing

Eternally none shall ever fall

From Grace complete and saving

His Life that is All in All.

Jesus – The One Who Wills and The One Who Does

Just yesterday the Lord showed me one of the most important stages in my Christian growth that I’ve not understood until now, through Andrew Murray’s book “Absolute Surrender”.  I have understood the point we as believers get to, when we share with Paul’s cry “oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

I thought even getting to this point was a spiritual leap of significance. What I didn’t understand is that we can so easily stay at this point and that is not the place of victory. The Lord showed me the importance of growth beyond that step, and moving through the journey with Paul and joining with him when beyond that point he says “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) and “…through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death!” (Romans 8:1). Hallelujah!

This is the most significant step – to move beyond realising my inability to live this Christian life to then see through the Lord’s eyes, that He truly is the one who actually does it.  The words that God “works to will and to do in me” now mean something more.  He is the one who wills it in me and this I have come to experience and understand. But more than that, He is the one to ‘do’ it in me. I cannot do the doing no matter how willing I have become. My willingness does not enable me to ‘do’. Jesus is the one who wills and the one who does the doing. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) – even changing our hearts – the hardest thing of all in my estimation!

Today I have seen this revelation lived out before me through a loved one, as the Lord led my prayers where I could not pray. In realising I could not even pray I was able to call upon Him to do all the ‘doing’ and He led my prayer into a place I couldn’t see on my own. And only half an hour after, I received a call from my loved one who had received breakthrough into the very understanding and sight that the Lord had brought into my prayers. God is so willing and God is so able to do.

I am forever indebted to You my Jesus. My Lord. My Sovereign King. You are the one who wills and does. And I will love You forever, through Your love.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death!” (Romans 7:25-8:1).

The Spiritual Condition That God Blesses

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

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I am witnessing somebody walking a deeper walk in Jesus than this person has ever before. I am seeing that it is leading this precious saint to some very unfamiliar and disconcerting experiences. You, yourself, may be walking in those places at this present time, or relate to it completely. If so, I am so glad for you. You are blessed indeed!

This morning I felt the Lord lead me to read what we call “The Beatitudes” (Matthew 5:3-10) and I saw these words of Jesus’ in a whole new light, as never before.  I saw Jesus, having all knowledge of what His disciples (that includes you and me) are called to, speaking to them on the mountain (significant in itself) as ones already abandoned to Christ.

Jesus speaks to His disciples then, and today, of a spiritual condition ………..

That dear soul who is abandoned to Christ is BLESSED because he becomes;

One who is poor in spirit – emptied in his own spirit, empty of all else but a longing for a deeper knowing of Christ, even a sense of dryness as the Lord appears to hide Himself for the sake of being sought after earnestly.  Such a one finds himself empty except for what the Lord Himself brings forth into and from his spirit. To this one, the kingdom of heaven belongs – they walk in the reality of their ‘now’ place, seated in Christ, in heavenly places, being in Christ from eternity past to eternity future.  How truly blessed is this one.

One who mourns – mourns and laments for the abandonment of the entire church to God through His glorious Son alone, for the reigning and ruling of Jesus Christ to be made manifest in the lives of others, for the life of Christ the person to be the primary obsession of God’s people.  Such a one finds the comfort of God, He walks with this one and encourages him in his mourning, keeping His faith strong, assuring and comforting Him to believe against all belief that this is the will of God and is fulfilled through the prayers of such a one who bears this burden of the Lord. He is blessed to know the Lord’s heart and know Him so intimately.

One who is meek – holds no sense of self-importance or ambition, has given up on self, no longer defends self, has been subdued and quietened by the Holy Spirit in his life, seeing himself as ‘nothing’ but Christ as ‘everything’. This one inherits the earth, the Lord directs his path and provides him with greater responsibility in this life, to him is given the authority of the name of Jesus to subdue the earth under him. He is truly blessed to walk in such reverence of the Lord and for him, He will experience the new earth spoken about in the book of Revelation.

One who hungers and thirsts after righteousness – strives yet rests in the grace of God, to offer his life as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord, as is pleasing to God.  To such a one, transformation comes and his heart is satisfied with the righteousness of the Lord. He is blessed indeed and knows it to be true!

One who is merciful – is willing to bear the cross with others, is prepared to lay down his own soul-life, preferences, for the sake of another from a heart of compassion and grace, seeing them through the eyes of the Lord, even if such another is unkind and undeserving of such grace.  To this one, the Lord is also merciful, full of compassion and slow to anger, sustaining him in His grace, mercy and love, even when undeserved. This one counts himself blessed to share in the character of Christ.

One who is pure in heart – seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, is single-eyed in the purpose of God being fulfilled, sold out to the purpose of God, forsaking all other distractions. To this one, God reveals Himself in the here and now, He makes Himself known to this child, and it is His great delight to do so. This one will see the Lord’s eternal purpose and be given revelation into the heart of God. He is blessed abundantly by the life of God in him and he seeks no other.

One who is a peacemaker – does all within his capacity to live at peace with others, has the courage to be vulnerable in order to bring peace where there is no peace, knows the Prince of Peace and allows the Lord’s peace to rule in his heart, imparting peace to the lives of others by the Holy Spirit. He has walked through trials in his life that have forged the peace of God into his character. This one is called the son of God, as he is a joint-heir with Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace. This one has become like his Father and The Son.

One who is persecuted because of righteousness – righteousness is not popular in the world of Satan, and the one who seeks after it is promised a cost indeed. He will suffer rejection, loss of all kinds and persecution even from fellow believers and those closest to him. But to this one, the kingdom of heaven belongs, because he will see it and live in it, he is blinded by its glory, in the here-and-now, in the spirit, in-time and out-of time, and eternity to come.  How blessed he is to be counted among those who have suffered for the sake of righteousness, he joins the many who have gone before him, a great cloud of witnesses.  

If this is where you are, dear brother or sister, know that you are most blessed.