| Breakfast ~|
From the N.Y. State Pastor Brown.
Praise the Lord for this new month. I trust you had a beautiful and blessed weekend. Praise the Lord for the Lord's day, that we can gather in His house with his people to worship the living and loving Lord.
The reading for yesterday was taken from John 12. We have the eye witness account of Mary, who broke and poured out her most treasured perfume before the Lord anointed Him. While Jesus was in Bethany in the vicinity of Jerusalem, some Greeks come seeking Jesus. They approached Phillip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us? Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, Times up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you will be where I am, ready to serve at a moments notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me." Our Lord Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, going onward to confront rejection, betrayal and vicarious death. What a great question these Greeks asked on this day. Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us? Jesus, with jubilant spirit and triumphant note, declared, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." Through much of His earthly ministry, Jesus would often say, My time has not yet come. On this occasion He says, My time has come. Not only had His time come, but He was ready to give a lesson. He used a parable,Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you ll have it forever, real and eternal. The Kingdom principle of the Lord is quite contrary to the ways of this world.
God uses Broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to produce rain, broken grain to give bread and broken bread to give strength. It was a broken perfume box that gave off a fragrance one day in the life of Jesus. It was a broken apostle, Peter, weeping bitterly, who returned to greater power and effectiveness than he ever could have imagined. Brokenness is the surrender of our heart, mind and body to Christ. Brokenness is what we allow God to make of us. God uses broken things: Brokenness Brings Wholeness
I read some tome ago about Dwight Moody, who said that one of the happiest men he ever knew was a man from Dundee, Scotland, who had fallen and broken his back when he was a boy of fifteen. He had lain on his bed for forty years and could not be moved without a good deal of pain. Probably not a day had passed in all those years without acute suffering. But day after day the grace of God had been granted him, and when Mr. Moody was in his room it seemed as if he was as near heaven as he could get on earth. When Mr. Moody saw him, he thought he must be beyond the reach of the tempter, and he asked him, Does nt Satan ever tempt you to doubt God and to think that He is an unfair Master? Oh yes, he replied, he does try to tempt me. I lie here and see my old classmates driving along, and Satan says, if God is so good why has he kept you here all these years? You might have been a rich man. Then I see a man, who was young when I was, walk by in perfect health, and Satan, whispers, if God loved you, could not He have kept you from breaking your back? And what do you do when you are tempted to feel like that? Ah I just take him to the cross and I show him Christ, and I point out the wounds in His hands and feet and side, and say, Doesnt He love me?
The fact was that this bedridden man had found a way to be full of the grace of God. He was made whole. His life was full even though his circumstances left much to be desired.
It is not unusual for people who go through great times of brokenness and suffering to find that they are closer to God than they have been in years. Brokenness empowers. In Discipleship Journal, Navigator staff member Skip Gray writes, "When Joseph Ton was a pastor in Romania he was arrested by the secret police for publishing a sermon calling for the churches to refuse to submit to the communists governments demand for control over their ministries. When an official told him he must renounce his sermon he replied, No sir, I wont do that. The official, surprised that anyone would respond so forcefully to the secret police, said, Arent you aware that I can use force against you?
Sir, let me explain that to you, Ton said. You see, your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. You know that my sermons are spread all over the country on tapes. When you kill me, I only sprinkle them with my blood. They will speak 10 times louder after that, because everybody will say, That preacher meant it because he sealed it with his blood. So go on, sir, kill me. When you kill me, I win the supreme victory. The secret police released him, knowing his martyrdom would be far more of a problem than his sermon.
Brokenness can empower us in ways that we never thought possible. Brokenness helps us identify with others. John Pounds, a tall muscular teenage laborer at the ship docks of Portsmouth England, slipped and plunged from the top of a ships mast, pitching headfirst into the deck below. When fellow workers reached him, he was nothing but a mass of broken bones. For two years he lay in bed as his bones healed crookedly. His pain never ceased. Out of sheer boredom he began to read his Bible. After some time, John crawled from his bed a new man. He began to look for something to do in his broken and horribly twisted condition. A shoemaker hired him to sit a bench and make shoes. Eventually he made enough money to purchase his own little shop. He began making shoes for crippled children and soon his shop became like a little childrens hospital.
His burden for children grew and it wasnt long until he began receiving homeless ones, feeding them, teaching them to read, and telling them about the Lord. His shop became know as the Ragged School.
John would limp around the waterfront, food in his pockets, looking for more children to tend. During his lifetime, John Pounds rescued 500 children from despair. His work became so famous that a Ragged School movement swept England, and a series of laws were passed to establish schools for poor children in Johns honor. Boys' homes, girls' homes, day schools and evening schools were started all over England. One man with a broken body turned his brokenness from bitterness to helping others.
Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, youll have it forever, real and eternal. If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then youll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment's notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.
If your heart is broken, youll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, he will help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still God is there every time. Psalm 34:18-19
| 2006/4/3 5:47|
| Re: ~|
"Still He Walked"
He could hear the crowds screaming "crucify" "crucify"...
He could hear the hatred in their voices,
These were his chosen people.
He loved them,
And they were going to crucify him.
He was beaten, bleeding and weakened...
His heart was broken,
But still He walked.
He could see the crowd as he came from the palace.
He knew each of the faces so well.
He had created them.
He knew every smile, every laugh, and every shed tear,
But now they were contorted with rage and anger
His heart broke,
But still He walked.
Was he scared ? You and I would have been.
So his humanness would have mandated that he was.
He felt alone.
His disciples had left, denied, and even betrayed him.
He searched the crowd for a loving face and he saw very few.
Then he turned his eyes to the only one that mattered
And he knew that he would never be alone.
He looked back at the crowd...
At the people who were spitting at him
Throwing rocks at him and mocking him
And he knew that because of him,
They would never be alone.
So for them, He walked.
The sounds of the hammer striking the spikes echoed through the crowd.
The sounds of his cries echoed even louder,
The cheers of the crowd, as his hands and feet were nailed to the cross,
Intensified with each blow.
Loudest of all was the still small voice
Inside his Heart that whispered "I am with you, my son",
And God's heart broke.
He had let His son walk.
Jesus could have asked God to end his suffering,
But instead he asked God to forgive.
Not to forgive him, but to forgive the ones who were persecuting him.
As he hung on that cross, dying an unimaginable death,
He looked out and saw, not only the faces in the crowd,
But also, the face of every person yet to be,
And his heart filled with love.
As his body was dying, his heart was alive.
Alive with the limitless, unconditional love he feels for each of us.
That is why He walked.
When I forget how much My God loves me,
...I remember his walk.
When I wonder if I can be forgiven,
...I remember his walk.
When I need to be reminded of how to live like Christ,
...I think of his walk.
And to show him how much I love him,
...I wake up each morning; turn my eyes to him,
......And I walk.
| 2006/4/8 2:27|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Forsaken|
Brokenness is what we allow God to make of us.
Thanks Annie, great truths and incredible examples here.
Liked the 'poem' and pardon this but ...
Inside his Heart that whispered "I am with you, my son",
We have attempted in times past here to put our finger on something that likely will forever be impossible to articulate and it came to mind crossing this excerpt above;
Mat 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Maybe it's just in the tension between the two or maybe the former is really not so, as difficult that is to think, let alone say? That moment ... What it cost God, in that moment.
Far beyond me and not a point of contention, just thinking outloud. Another comes to mind;
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Rightly or wrongly have always been under the impression or maybe the assumption that Jesus was left alone on the cross. Another impossible grasping it seems from faliable minds.
Maybe I am trying to articulate it from the perspective of those times when it 'seem's' the Lord's spirit, the Holy Spirit has 'departed' in that rather paradoxical way of understanding...
"There" but "Not there". Those times of testing or by way of "grieving the Holy Spirit" where and I tend to couch it in 'the slight manifest Prescence' of the Lord is ... absent. Those terrible times of deep groanings inwardly ... Failing at this tremendously here... The difficulty is that often times there is no rhyme or reason it seems. Sometimes from repentance, from finding out more of the possible and practical evils that still lurk in the heart. From both commision and omission of things that ought to have been done or not done. From 'dark night's of the soul' and ... 'cold day's in the sun'? From tests and strong temptations where it 'seem's there is no help, though there always be an 'out' as He has promised. From 'Brass Heavens'. From unbelief. From ill will, poor thinking and a hundred other reactionary impulses.
Lack of prayer and even times of prayer itself, the battles waging over letting one's self truly 'die' as well as in intercession for others. A great deal of the time no explanation is given at all, but to just press on regardless.
Sure I could go on endlessly and this could likely sound utterly depressing. The flipside being those times of truly sensing the Lords 'felt Presence', they seem but a rarity thus far, but when He chooses to do so ... there is nothing by way of comparisson, all the sign's and wonders combined could not begin to describe. As personal as that sounds there is another quite similar and even more profound still; Seeing it or being in the same presence of it happening to another... A baptism in sincerity for instance, only mean by that ... something sensed inwardly not by discetion of conditions. That joy, those kinds of tears.
May have only been describing brokeness in one sense earlier and to attribute just the smallest taste of what we tend to go through in this life of promised trouble, what of Jesus in His moment? It does have a great way of pulling things into perspective not to mention to draw our attention towards the persecuted .. in their moments.
Of course there is still one more conundrum to dwell on in all this;
Joh 8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
Even in that moment.
| 2006/4/8 12:37||Profile|
| Re:Forsaking Him in prayer.|
Mike, I think that Pastor Brown's e-message today went along with your post.
He's from India and Pastor's now in N.Y. State as mentioned.
There was an expedition up Mt. Everest, that undertaken in the spring of 1996.
That year, the attempt to reach the summit resulted in the loss of five lives. One of those who died was Andy Harris, one of the expedition leaders. Harris had stayed at the peak past the deadline, and on his descent, he came to be in dire need of oxygen. Harris radioed his predicament to the base camp, telling them of his need and that he had come upon a cache of oxygen canisters left by other climbers, all empty. Those who had passed by the canisters on their own return from the summit knew they were not empty, but full. Even as they pleaded with him on the radio to make use of them, it was to no avail. Already starved for oxygen, Harris continued to argue that the canisters were empty. The problem was that the lack of what he needed so disoriented his mind that though he was surrounded by a restoring supply he continued to complain of its absence. The very thing he held in his hand was absent in his brain and ravaged his capacity to recognize what he was clutching in his grasp.
There are times in our lives when we encounter a crisis, when the bottom falls out of our lives, and the very thing that can address the issue is within our grasp through fervent prayer in the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord who is the Alpha and the Omega.
I love to read about Daniel who had resolved in his heart that he will not sin against God . It is an amazing account how Daniel responded when the bottom dropped out of his life, when he faced a crisis.
It all began when king Nebuchadnezzar had a series of dreams which bothered him so much that he could not sleep. Hence, the king called his advisors to tell him what he had dreamed.
The advisors asked the king to tell them the dream, but the king had already decided he was not going to tell them his dream this time. Anybody could give an interpretation. Instead the king decided to put these men to the test. He wanted them to draw on all their own magical and spiritual resources and actually tell him his dream first, and then interpret it, and if they could not do it, he would have them cut into pieces.
The wise men swallowed hard and then tried again to get the king to tell them the dream so that they could interpret it for him, but Nebuchadnezzar wouldnt budge. He insisted that they tell him the dream as well as the interpretation, or they would die. With their inability to discover the kings dream now exposed, they began trying to defend themselves saying that no-one could do what the king asked. The king became so furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men in Babylon.
Now we must understand that Daniel was one of the wise men of Babylon at this time, so that meant that he too was to be put to death. The bottom had just fallen out for Daniel. When Daniel was seized by Arioch, the commander of the kings guard, he asked what was going on and why the king issued such a harsh decree. Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. Once Daniel understood all the facts, he then went to Nebuchadnezzar and asked him for time, so that he might interpret the dream for the king.
Each one of us has had times in our lives when we have been hit hard and unexpectedly with really bad news, tragic and devastating. These are the times in life when we feel like the bottom has just fallen out. These are times of great testing for everyone, even for those of us who know Jesus Christ.
So what did Daniel do? How did he respond? And what can we learn from this?
Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Simply put, when the bottom fell out, Daniel fell to his knees. Daniel prayed. Although he secured extra time from the king, that reprieve was not to cook up an escape plan. It was so that he might immediately gather those who love the Lord and fervently pray. Daniel understood that a humanly impossible situation can only be resolved with divine intervention.
Someone once said, Were all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations!
When the bottom fell out of Daniels world he saw an opportunity. When Daniel heard the king wanted not only an interpretation of his dream but also the recounting of the dream itself, Daniel thought, Wait a minute, this is a great opportunity for God to work. It was impossible and urgent, and so it contained all the makings for God to do a great work for his own glory!
The truth is that we dont think like that. Instead, we begin to look for a way we can take care of our problems ourselves. So we lie awake at night and toss and turn, saying to ourselves, How am I going to work this one out?, rather than saying, Lord, this is your specialty! Take over and do a work here that will glorify your name!
But there is something else about Daniels response we must not miss here. We find that after Daniel talked to the commander of the kings guard, he then went to his three friends. The word translated friends is from the Hebrew word that means to tie a knot, to join together. Daniels heart was tied in a knot with his three friends.
When a situation is really urgent, its amazing how insignificant all the other things in life are. There are very few fellowships that ever get closer than those fellowships that are tied together with the strings of prayer. When you have a need in your life, dont go it alone. Don't play tough. Instead, learn to share that need with someone else. Tie a knot with a friend. Bind together. Covenant to pray together.
Daniel and his friends set aside the things of this world so that they might, plead for mercy from the God of heaven so that they might not be executed. It probably doesn't strike you as significant that Daniels first response to his crisis was prayer. We all tend to think of Daniel as one of the great Fathers of the faith who is supposed to pray like that, but I want you to realize today that if anybody had a reason to skip prayer as a first option, it was Daniel. He had many other options. For one thing, he was brilliant, ten times wiser than the wisest man in Babylon, so he could have used this extra time to figure out some solution to his predicament. Daniel also had power. He was now in the kings service. He had learned to manage the politics of the royal court. Maybe he could pull some political strings, call in some favors, twist an arm, or use the good old boy network. Yet, in his crisis Daniel chose prayer first!
Too often I'm afraid we fail to follow Daniels example in our crises, no matter how spiritually mature we may think we are.
Gods abilities are beyond our imagining. His ways are beyond our knowing. His solutions are beyond our doing. That is why when the bottom falls out, we must always seek him first in prayer.
So why don't we follow this example of Daniel and seek God in prayer more often? The answer is painfully simple: Because we usually forget how truly helpless we are apart from God.
We continue to believe that our own efforts are what really make things happen. In the business world, in our families, even in the church, we believe our activities and programs and planning are the cause of successes or of failure. So, when the bottom falls out, we all instinctively turn to ourselves. We're so accustomed to depending on our own resources that we neglect seeking Gods supply when we need it the most.
In Tom Peters book In Search of Excellence he mentions a psychological study where adult men were asked to rank themselves on their ability to get along with others. 100% of the men ranked themselves above average. 60% ranked themselves in the top 10% of the population, and 25% of the men humbly thought they were in the top 1% of the population.
What did Tom Peter conclude from all this? He wrote: We all think we're tops. We're exuberantly, wildly irrational about ourselves.
The reason we don't pray is that it costs. We have to be honest with God and say, I am inadequate. I need your help in this situation.
As long as we feel self-sufficient, prayer will have no meaning for us because we think we have got it all together.
Prayer is a declaration of dependence before God. It doesn't mean that we become irresponsible about our duties and plans. Its simply acknowledging our utter and total dependency.
Its saying, God, apart from you, all my actions and plans mean nothing. On my own I can't fix this. I can't put it together again, heal this wound, correct this fault, or clean up this mess. Lord, you must take control if any good is to result. Use me if you will, but you must do what I confess I cannot do alone, despite my position, my intelligence and my connections. Lord God, I trust in you alone.
When the bottom falls out, be very careful not to become so busy taking care of the problem that you forget Gods way outprayer!
Like a river glorious is God's perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest;
Finding, as he promised, perfect peace and rest.
Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879)
English musician and hymn writer
Am I a soldier of the cross?
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause
Or blush to speak His name?
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
English Independent minister, hymn writer
| 2006/4/9 2:02|
| Re: From today's email from Chip.|
[b]Back To The Cross
by Chip Brogden
"For I determined to not know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2)."[/b]
Though Paul had quite a bit of knowledge and many things to say and teach the Corinthians, he determined to become a man of one subject: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
We must become foolish in order to be wise.
We must give up everything in order to get back everything.
We must become weak in order to be strong.
We must die in order to live.
We can quote these teachings of Jesus, seek to imitate Him as our Example, strive to walk the narrow Way, and even accomplish many good deeds in His Name. But apart from the Cross these activities are "wood, hay and stubble". The moment we are challenged or confronted by the opposition we will fall away. Perhaps we can 'appear' to be patient, but a day comes when we lose our patience. Perhaps we can 'appear' to be gentle, but a day comes when our roughness is revealed. Perhaps we can 'appear' to be humble, but a day comes when pride is discovered in us and we fall. Perhaps we can obey the letter of the law and appear outwardly to others as being righteous, but when alone and faced with the secrets of our heart and mind we discover that the inside of the cup is full of uncleanness.
In calling us to come back to the Cross, God is asking us lay down our lives and embrace the Wisdom of death, burial, resurrection, and ascension in order to live as sons and daughters within the Kingdom of God. Apart from the Cross we can neither enter the Kingdom nor live in the Spirit, no matter how great the desire. For apart from the Cross, we do not know what it is to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. Apart from the Cross, we do not know what it is to submit to the will of God, accept suffering, and cast ourselves upon Him.
Apart from the Cross, we do not know what Resurrection is.
Religion seeks to reform a man; the Cross seeks to crucify him. Religion may fail to bring about the desired result, but the Cross never fails to achieve its end. Mankind will pursue morality, virtue, spirituality, even perform religious works and good deeds, in order to avoid death on a Cross. But there are no wounds, no scars, no evidence of having ever died and been made alive unto God. Either a man has never died, or he has died and been raised again. You cannot fake a resurrection.
The Cross is the means by which God reduces us to Christ, that we may be raised to new Life. What cannot be accomplished in a lifetime of self-effort is easily accomplished in God through the Cross. We may take many shortcuts along the way and attempt to escape the inevitable, but the day we cease striving and meekly accept the Cross we find everything is done for us. In fact, death by crucifixion cannot be accomplished by suicide. We cannot crucify ourselves. The instrument of our death is chosen for us, as well as the manner in which it is carried out, the timing and the duration of the execution - all is controlled by Another. There is nothing to be done, for we must submit to the Unseen Hand and cast ourselves completely upon Him.
If we will follow Jesus, we must take up the cross daily, deny ourselves, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
[b]The Cross Is Wisdom Through Foolishness[/b]
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness (I Cor.1:18a)." There is a wisdom which comes from above. This wisdom is counter to the wisdom which is earthly. Our thoughts, reasonings, arguments, rationales, and opinions are worthless in God's sight. We are commanded to have the mind of Christ and seek the Wisdom which comes from God.
Humanly speaking, the Cross makes no sense. If we approach God with our minds only, we will never know Him. If we study the Cross in order to gain a new teaching or doctrine it will make no impression on us. Indeed, we may memorize the appropriate verses of Scripture, even teach others what we have learned, and never experience the reality of it. How easily and freely we may talk about dying to self, taking up the cross, and living the crucified life. But knowledge without experience is nothing. Indeed, knowledge without experience only deceives us into thinking we are living something just because we are able to rehearse a few facts mentally. This counts for nothing in spiritual matters.
We must ask God to empty us of our preconceived ideas and notions and fill us instead with His Mind. We must relinquish our wisdom and receive His Wisdom. His Wisdom is how He sees things. How we see things is irrelevant, and will mislead us. His Ways and His Mind are higher than our ways and our mind. The Cross is the means by which God seeks to destroy the earthly wisdom and the carnal mind. The Cross, then, is wisdom through foolishness.
[b]The Cross Is Gaining Through Losing[/b]
In order to accumulate more, we usually think that we must add to that which we have already. The Wisdom of God teaches us that in order to gain, you must first lose. Think of a child who refuses to let go of his old, broken toy in order to receive new ones from his father. To his mind he is losing something. But by letting go, by giving up, he gains.
Like the child, we stubbornly refuse to relinquish our grip on our spiritual possessions. We tenaciously cling to things as a child would cling to a collection of broken toys. We collect teachings, experiences, and good deeds, pointing to these as proof that we are spiritually endowed. Until we are willing to part with our "riches" we will not be able to receive the true Riches of Christ in us. The Cross demonstrates that we do not gain by trying to get, but by losing in order to gain. We cannot really receive from God until we have learned to give up unto God. It is the spirit which cries, "Not my will, but Thine be done" and "Father, into Thine Hand I commit my spirit."
These words are easily uttered, but we cannot appreciate them or really experience them until we have been through our Gethsemene experiences and our Golgotha experiences. Until that time we are merely reciting some words, but we do not truly know what it means to give ourselves up to God, to be completely consecrated and submitted to Him. The Cross prepares us to receive by first forcing us to give up. Therefore, the Cross is gaining through losing.
[b]The Cross Is Power Through Weakness[/b]
"God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty (I Cor. 1:27b)." To the natural way of thinking, power and weakness are opposites. That is, in order to have power, we must eliminate weakness. The Wisdom of God teaches us differently. This Wisdom tells us that the weak things are chosen to overcome the mighty things, and power works concurrently with weakness.
The Cross is meant to inflict pain, weaken, and slowly kill. It is the ultimate expression of weakness. The victim is stripped naked and nailed to the wood through their hands and feet. Their weight is supported by their legs until they are too tired to stand. When their legs give way their entire weight is supported by their outstretched arms (to speed this process along the legs are sometimes broken). The chest cavity is eventually pulled apart from this stress and the helpless victim slowly dies of suffocation as the lungs collapse.
The crucified one can hardly move, much less struggle. Once the nails are in place there is no way to remove them. You carry nothing with you, and have nothing remaining. You can neither speed up nor slow down your death. The shame of your nakedness is open for all to see. Besides the physical suffering, the soul is stripped of its dignity and pride. There is no escape.
God desires to give you power, but that power only comes through weakness. Any power not obtained through weakness is illegitimate, no matter how spiritual it appears. The only legitimate power is granted to those who have been made weak. Power is birthed in weakness. Many exude a certain "power", but there is not the corresponding weakness. Hence, the power only gives them an occasion for boasting. To remedy this, God has ordained that all who would have His power must first be weakened and made empty - we refer to this as being "broken". The purpose of weakness and suffering is to open the way for His Power. The instrument God uses to weaken us is the Cross. Therefore, the Cross is power through weakness.
[b]The Cross Is Life Through Death[/b]
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Gal.2:20a)." There can be no Resurrection Life without a Crucified Death. Naturally we expect that in order to live we must avoid death at all costs. Yet, the Wisdom of God teaches us that Life is found by embracing Death - that is, as we die to ourselves we are made alive unto Christ.
There is a principle of death that works in us. When we are born, we begin to age and die. For the one in Christ, physical death is not the end, but the beginning. Likewise, a God-ordained death on the Cross is not the end, but the beginning. The Cross works death in us that the Spirit may work life in us. The Cross kills that which needs to be killed in us, whereas the Spirit gives Life to that which has been killed. The Cross beats and tears down, while the Spirit rebuilds that which has been destroyed. Only those who have experienced Death can truly minister Life and speak to dead men.
Now if we have not learned what it is to die daily, we will not experience the life of God daily. In a word, I am dead, yet I am living. I am crucified, yet I am alive. On the one hand I am weakened to the point of death and powerless; on the other hand, I live by the power of God and am strengthened with all might by His Spirit which indwells me. The moment I cease to experience death, however, at that precise moment I cease to experience life, for the cross is life through death.
[b]The Aim of God's Dealings[/b]
"Verily, verily I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdest thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not (John 21:18)." Though our heart attutude should be childlike, God desires us to be men and women of maturity. He desires us to grow spiritually. In order to accomplish this He allows us to meet with many disagreeable circumstances and trials.
When we are young in the Lord we do as we please. We find much pleasure in serving the Lord according to our own thought, and everything is light and gay. We live a life of feeling and sensation. We are easily moved by how we feel. If we are happy we gladly deny ourselves and pour ourselves out in service. But when we are sad or troubled by our circumstances we feel as though we have been deserted. The Lord must then reach forth and draw the little sheep back to Himself again, whereupon our feeling is restored and we renew our devotion with the same vigor as before. This is the way of those who are young: they dress themselves and go where they wish.
But when we are older in the Lord, the life of faith commences as we stretch forth our hands in surrender and allow Another to dress us and carry us where we do not wish to go. We no longer dress ourselves and go our own way. We no longer walk, but we are carried. We may no longer consider our own wishes. We may no longer act according to a will of our own apart from God's will. Instead, we have finally submitted to God's dealings with us. We recognize at last how we have until now been full of ourselves, speaking many words in addition to what God had given us, and performing many acts apart from the ones that God was calling us to perform. Likewise, we see how often we have failed to speak and act on many occasions because we simply loved ourselves more than we loved God.
This transition between a life of feeling and a life of faith, from being self-ruled to being Spirit-ruled, does not happen in a few days. What stands between the experience of the young and the experience of the old? What is it that brings about this maturity? How is this growth achieved? By what means does God accomplish this work of transformation? In speaking to Peter, the Lord is telling him by what death he will die to glorify God (v.19). We know that Peter was eventually crucified upside-down and died a martyr's death. But, the daily cross of self-denial that Peter bore was the means by which God was able to subdue his wild nature and transform him into a man of faith. His was a living sacrifice. The physical cross upon which he died was a testimony to his having already laid down his life a million times prior to that final act.
The death God really seeks in us is not the future laying down of our physical life, but the moment -by-moment laying down of our self. It is not the once-and-for-all martyr's death but the daily dying and living unto God that brings Him the most glory. In fact, those who have not denied themselves in the seemingly insignificant matters of daily life will find it difficult, if not impossible, to lay down their physical lives should that be required of them.
God is calling us to become foolish in order to be wise; to give up everything in order to get back everything; to become weak in order to become strong; to come back to the cross and die that we may live. In these pages we hope to communicate this urgent call. Today, let us ask God to quicken this to our hearts, and grant that we may become People of the Cross, experiencing the Death of the Lord that we may have the Life of the Lord. Let us determine henceforth to know nothing, but Christ and Him crucified: for the disciple is not above the Master, but the disciple shall be as his Master (Luke 6:40).
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