“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
James 1:2-3, ESV
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.
Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.
This reveals their brilliance and value. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.
God’s special nearness is available to each believer, especially those in the heat of the furnace. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father. Your faith must be purified, and this is never optional.
Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.
Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you. He delights to see your faith becoming solid and real.
We never choose to suffer, rather we choose His will. We must do so whether we suffer or not.
“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
On a dirt road in the middle of a wide field stood a beautiful carriage, something on the order of a stagecoach but all edged in gold and with beautiful carvings. It was pulled by six large chestnut horses: two in the lead, two in the middle and two in the rear. But they were not moving, they were not pulling the carriage, and I wondered why. Then I saw the driver underneath the carriage on the ground on his back just behind the last two horses’ heels working on something between the front wheels on the carriage. I thought, “My, he is in a dangerous place; for if one of those horses kicked or stepped back, they could kill him, or if they decided to go forward, or got frightened somehow, they would pull the carriage right over him.”
But he didn’t seem afraid for he knew that those horses were disciplined and would not move till he told them to move. The horses were not stamping their feet nor acting restless, and though there were bells on their feet, the bells were not tinkling. There were pom-poms on their harness over their heads but the pom-poms were not moving. They were simply standing still and quiet waiting for the voice of the Master.
THERE WERE TWO YOUNG COLTS IN THE FIELD
As I watched the harnessed horses I noticed two young colts coming out of the open field and they approached the carriage and seemed to say to the horses: “Come and play with us, we have many fine games, we will race with you, come catch us.” And with that the colts kicked up their heels flicked their tails and raced across the open field. But when they looked back and saw the horses were not following they were puzzled. They knew nothing of the harnesses and could not understand why the horses did not want to play. So they called to them: “Why do you not race with us? Are you tired? Are you too weak? Do you not have strength to run? You are much too solemn, you need more joy in life.” But the horses answered not a word nor did they stamp their feet or toss their heads.
But they stood, quiet and still, waiting for the voice of the Master.
Again the colts called to them: “Why do you stand so in the hot sun? Come over here in the shade of this nice tree. See how green the grass is? You must be hungry, come and feed with us, it is so green and so good. You look thirsty, come drink of one of our many streams of cool clear water.” But the horses answered them not so much as a glance but stood still waiting for the command to go forward with the King.
COLTS IN THE MASTER’S CORRAL
And then the scene changed and I saw lariat nooses fall around the necks of the two colts and they were led off to the Master’s corral for training and discipline. How sad they were as the lovely green fields disappeared and they were put into the confinement of the corral with its brown dirt and high fence. The colts ran from fence to fence seeking freedom but found that they were confined to this place of training. And then the Trainer began to work on them with His whip and His bridle. What a death for those who had been all their lives accustomed to such a freedom!
They could not understand the reason for this torture, this terrible discipline. What crime had they done to deserve this? Little did they know of the responsibility that was to be theirs when they had submitted to the discipline, learned to perfectly obey the Master and finished their training. All they knew was that this processing was the most horrible thing they had ever known.
SUBMISSION AND REBELLION
One of the colts rebelled under the training and said, “This is not for me. I like my freedom, my green hills, my flowing streams of fresh water. I will not take any more of this confinement, this terrible training.” So he found a way out jumped the fence and ran happily back to the meadows of grass. I was astonished that the Master let him go and went not after him. But He devoted His attention to the remaining colt. This colt though he had the same opportunity to escape decided to submit his own will and learn the ways of the Master. The training got harder than ever but he was rapidly learning more and more how to obey the slightest wish of the Master and to respond to even the quietness of His voice. And I saw that had there been no training, no testing, there would have been neither submission nor rebellion from either of the colts. For in the field they did not have the choice to rebel or submit, they were sinless in their innocence. But when brought to the place of testing and training and discipline, then was made manifest the obedience of one and the rebellion of the other. And though it seemed safer not to come to the place of discipline because of the risk of being found rebellious, yet I saw that without this there could be no sharing of His glory, no Sonship.
INTO THE HARNESS
Finally this period of training was over. Was he now rewarded with his freedom and sent back to the fields? Oh no. But a greater confinement than ever now took place as a harness dropped about his shoulders. Now he found there was not even the freedom to run about the small corral for in the harness he could only move where and when his Master spoke. And unless the Master spoke he stood still.
The scene changed and I saw the other colt standing on the side of a hill nibbling at some grass. Then across the fields, down the road came the King’s carriage drawn by six horses. With amazement he saw that in the lead, on the right side, was his brother colt now made strong and mature on the good corn in the Master’s stable. He saw the lovely pom-poms shaking in the wind, noticed the glittering gold bordered harness about his brother, heard the beautiful tinkling of the bells on his feet — and envy came into his heart. Thus he complained to himself: “Why has my brother been so honored, and I am neglected? They have not put bells on MY feet nor pom-poms on MY head. The Master has not given ME the wonderful responsibility of pulling His carriage, has not put about ME the gold harness. Why have they chosen my brother instead of me?” And by the Spirit the answer came back to me as I watched: “Because one submitted to the will and discipline of the Master and one rebelled, thus has one been chosen and the other set aside.”
A FAMINE IN THE LAND
Then I saw a great drought sweep across the countryside and the green grass became dead, dry, brown and brittle. The little streams of water dried up, stopped flowing, and there was only a small muddy puddle here and there. I saw the little colt (I was amazed that it never seemed to grow or mature) as he ran here and there across the fields looking for fresh streams and green pastures finding none. Still he ran, seemingly in circles, always looking for something to feed his famished spirit. But there was a famine in the land and the rich green pastures and flowing streams of yesterday were not to be had. And one day the colt stood on the hillside on weak and wobbly legs wondering where to go next to find food and how to get strength to go. It seemed like there was no use, for good food and flowing streams were a thing of the past and all the efforts to find more only taxed his waning strength.
Suddenly he saw the King’s carriage coming down the road pulled by six great horses. And he saw his brother, fat and strong, muscles rippling, sleek and beautiful with much grooming. His heart was amazed and perplexed, and he cried out: “My brother where do you find the food to keep you strong and fat in these days of famine? I have run everywhere in my freedom, searching for food, and I find none. Where do you in your awful confinement find food in this time of drought? Tell me, please, for I must know!” And then the answer came back from a voice filled with victory and praise: “In my Master’s House there is a secret place in the confining limitations of His stables where He feeds me by His own hand and His granaries never run empty and His well never runs dry.” And with this the Lord made me to know that in the day when people are weak and famished in their spirits in the time of spiritual famine that those who have lost their own wills and have come into the secret place of the most High into the utter confinement of His perfect will shall have plenty of the corn of Heaven and a never ending flow of fresh streams of revelation by His Spirit. Thus the vision ended.
INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION
“Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” (Habakkuk 2:2). “Harness the horses; and get up, ye horseman,” (Jeremiah 46:4). I am sure that many of you who can hear what the Spirit saith to the Church have already seen what God was showing in the vision. But let me make it plain. Being born into the Family of God feeding in the green pastures and drinking of the many streams of the unfolding revelation of His purposes is fine and wonderful. But it is not enough. While we were children, young and undisciplined, limited only by the outer fence of the Law that ran around the limits of the pastures (that kept us from getting into the dark pastures of poison weeds) He was content to watch us develop and grow into young manhood, spiritually speaking.
But the time came to those who fed in His pastures and drank at His streams, when they were to be brought into discipline or “child-training” for the purpose of making them mature Sons. Many of the children today cannot understand why some of those who have put on the harness of God cannot get excited by the many religious games and the playful antics of the immature. They wonder why the disciplined ones run not after every new revelation or feed on every opportunity to engage in seemingly “good and profitable” religious activities. They wonder why some will not race with them in their frantic efforts to build great works and great and notable ministries. They cannot understand the simple fact that this Company of saints is waiting for the voice of the Master and they do not hear God in all this outward activity.
They will move in their time when the Master speaks. But not before, though many temptations come from the playful colts. And the colts cannot understand why those who seemingly appear to have great abilities and strength are not putting it to good use. “Get the carriage on the road,” they say, but the disciplined ones, those in God’s harness, know better than to move before they hear the voice of the Master. They will move in their time with purpose and great responsibility.
And the Lord made me to know that there were many whom He had brought into training who had rebelled against the discipline, the chastising of the Father. They could not be trusted with the great responsibility of mature Sonship so He let them go back to their freedom, back to their religious activities and revelations and gifts. They are still His people, still feeding in His pastures, but He has set them aside from the great purposes for this end of the age. So they revel in their freedom feeling that they were the Chosen Ones with the many streams of living water not knowing that they have been set aside as unfit for His great work in this end of the age.
He showed me that though the chastising seemeth grievous for the time and the discipline hard to endure yet the result with all the glory of Sonship is worth it all and the glory to follow far exceeds the suffering we endure. And though some lose even their lives in this training yet they will share alike in the glory of His eternal purposes. So faint not saints of God for it is the Lord that doth bring thee into confinement and not thine enemy. It is for thy good and for His glory so endure all things with praises and thanksgiving that He hath counted thee worthy to share His glory!
Fear thou not the whip in His hand for it is not to punish thee but to correct and train thee that thou mightest come into submission to His will and be found in His likeness in that hour. Rejoice thou in thy trials in all thy tribulations and glory thou in His cross and in the confining limitations of His harness for He hath chosen thee and He hath taken upon Himself the responsibility of keeping thee strong and well fed. So lean thou upon Him and trust not in thine own ability and thine own understanding. So shalt thou be fed and His hand shall be upon thee and His glory shall overshadow thee and shall flow through thee as it goes forth to cover the earth. Glory to God! Bless the Lord! He’s wonderful! Let Him be Lord of your life, friends, and complain not at that which He bringeth to pass in your life.
Bill Britton served as Vice President of Pinecrest Bible Training Center for the first three years of its existence and was a great blessing in helping to establish the work at Pinecrest.
I first connected with this message in 1984, by a man named, Bob Mumford. As a young Christian, the allegory “nailed” me. What did I want for my life? I had to make some decisions. I sincerely wanted to follow the Father through this process. And this hasn’t changed in almost 40 years.
For more of these and other messages: Bill Britton P.O. Box 707 Springfield, Missouri 65801-0707. This is a faith ministry, made possible by members of the Body of Christ. Not copyrighted, may be translated or reprinted without further permission. All messages are free as the Lord provides.
I have to admit, I never really appreciated the depth of Psalm 23:5. I supposed that “He anoints my head with oil” was simply just figurative language for something nice. Poetic. I never knew this definite parallel until recently. But David completely understood and was able to understand the full ministry of the Shepherd.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Psalm 23:5, ESV
“Sheep can get their head caught in briers and die trying to get untangled. There are horrid little flies that like to torment sheep by laying eggs in their nostrils which turn into worms and drive the sheep to beat their head against a rock, sometimes to death. Their ears and eyes are also susceptible to tormenting insects.”
So the shepherd anoints their whole head with oil.
“Then there is peace. That oil forms a barrier of protection against the evil that tries to destroy the sheep. Do you have times of mental torment? Do the worrisome thoughts invade your mind over and over? Do you beat your head against a wall trying to stop them? Have you ever asked God to anoint your head with oil?”
He has an endless supply!
His oil protects and makes it possible for you to fix your heart, mind, and eyes on Him today and always! There is peace in the valley! May our good good Father anoint your head with oil today so that your cup overflows with blessings! God is good and He is faithful!!”
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
As believers, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty. We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But to pass out a guilty sentence is God’s exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly. We don’t.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to pronounce a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger.)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, isn’t strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (These are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes.)
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this dark night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in a position to judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore.
I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
John 20:21-23 (19-23)
This is the second “peace be with you” in this passage. Why the duplication of this peace proclamation? The disciples are sequestered and scared in the upper room (v. 19; and Luke 24:36. Having peace is being emphasized–the disciples were afraid of the Pharisees, but they also were undone by Jesus’ surprise visit.
Peace was definitely precious and necessary.
Jesus gives his disciples a mission to do, and they must be as ‘familiar’ with Jesus just as Jesus is with God. The disciples had followed him for three years–seeing incredible miracles, and hearing profound teaching, they’re ready, but they need power.
In track and field, there’s a relay race where a baton is passed from runner to runner, and maybe that’s how it’s working here? We see the same idea in John 17:18.
The baton has now been passed to the disciples.
The breath of the risen Jesus is necessary (and yes, he’s still breathing.) What went down here, I don’t know exactly. But Jesus recognizes that his 12 followers will need this to do his work. Also, we might consider Adam in Genesis 2:7 where God’s breath brought him to life, which is pretty awesome when you think of the parallels.
The Holy Spirit is the energizing factor to do this new work.
The disciples were pretty much observers, but now they are to take up the ‘mantle’ of Jesus’ work. This is a definite duplication, which connects with the idea of one seed producing many others (John 12:24.) That’s how the Kingdom comes to people.
Verse 23 intrigues me. It seems that our life comes from the breath of Jesus. And it’s the Holy Spirit that gives both power and the authority that’s needed to function like Jesus. We also now have the ability to pronounce forgiveness to the new believer, and yet that doesn’t seem a function of the Church today.
I wonder why this is so?
This entire passage is a doozy. It clearly declares the church’s new role as we follow in his footsteps. Disciples are to do exactly what Jesus does–with his breath and authority–filled with the Holy Spirit. If we neglect these things (it seems anyway) we’re going to fall flat on our faces.
“The work of Jesus for His disciples on resurrection Sunday gives an ongoing pattern for His work among His people. Jesus wants to continue this fourfold ministry of assurance, mission, the Holy Spirit and authority to His people today.”
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus[g] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
There’s to be no whitewashing the way of discipleship–there’s no glamour, no special recognition–no acclaim in it. I guess this is the “real” way of being His follower. The path Jesus has for me demands I give Him my whole heart. Heart enough to turn it all to Him. Heart enough to give Him total commitment.
Jesus seems to make it hard–we can see this in His responses to each prospective disciple. His statements to these possible followers seem harsh, difficult, and a bit “unreasonable,” but He doesn’t receive these men unless they do what He says.
Discipleship demands that we give up what we hold dearest.
What happened to these three “would-be” followers? Did they return home dejected and frustrated? To follow in Jesus’ footprints means we have to give up our personal agendas and turn our backs on what is closest and dearest. We must renounce everything, and give Him preeminence over all.
He must be our Lord, or we can’t follow Him.
These are hard verses with profound implications. But this passage is given to us for a reason. We dare not minimize what it means to be a disciple. We must grasp the plow with both hands, and we can’t look back. The plowman can never look back if he wants to make a straight furrow, and that’s the way the Kingdom works.
Those who follow Jesus realize that they fall woefully short. They start to realize that this path is going to take the grace of God. Every day we must take up the cross, and we must embrace that we’re loved. To be a disciple we need to become intimate friends with the Holy Spirit; He is both our ‘fuel’ and our guide.
“Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.”
1 John 2:6, MSG
We must obey our Lord. We’re to be intimately close to Him.
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”
“And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.”
Matthew 4:21, ESV
“And immediately they left theirnets and followed him.”
To mend nets was tedious but necessary. You would take your net and spread it on the ground in an open space. Every knot would be carefully examined. All holes would be repaired. Nothing was overlooked. Fishing nets were painstakingly maintained. Every day, without fail.
Fish would school, and if your gear was right, and you were in a prime place, you could catch a lot. But simultaneously, you could let hundreds of fish escape through a hole in your net. Each fish that escaped meant money lost.
Jesus walking along the beach surveyed the boats and crews. Since most of these guys had worked through the night, they were tired and maybe a bit “punchy.” Some had gotten lucky, while others had little to show for working so hard. I suppose the different crews teased each other as they unloaded.
Jesus walked through the bunches of fishermen. He looked at their hauls to see what they had caught. But it wasn’t the catch He was looking at, it was the men. It was from these laboring fishermen that He would choose. These men were rough-and-tumble rednecks. If they had chewing tobacco back then, they would use it.
He looks, sees, and commands.
Now if you are looking for disciples– future apostles and leaders, the seashore is not the best place to recruit. They really have a rudimentary education. No theology, and just a meager understanding of Jewish ritual and religion. Essentially there was no time for them to think outside their occupation. Sure there just might be one, or two that possessed more, but that would be the exception.
But Jesus had no desire to interview them, and take the best of the lot. He didn’t have a Human Resources Department, and there were no tests and no forms that had to list references. He simply commanded, and those who understood followed. Only after they left it all did He get their names and addresses. I think that it is the same today.
Will we leave our boat, with your nets?
Really, you can keep mending or follow Him– it’s your choice. Most of the time though, decisions have a tendency to be irrevocable. Perhaps you have a moment, an instant of time to decide.
Sometimes mending nets can be back-breaking and tedious. But following the Lord Jesus is an unknown; too many choose to keep fixing their nets. Others though are launched into something new, and eternally significant.
The glaring truth is the necessity of obedience to Jesus’ command. There is no other voice we must hear. As a matter of fact, hearing (and really apprehending) is the only foundation we can trust to make our obedience true.
You can keep mending your nets and preparing for another night on the water. That is always your prerogative. But if you decide to follow you will need to leave what you know behind.
That is authentic discipleship.
“Rest in this – it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you.”
Once I was punched in the face while preaching. I served as a full-time evangelist with SOS Ministries in 1987. I was leading a group to Haight/Ashbury St. in San Francisco. I remember it was really busy, and the it was a good team, and they were excited to take their church to the streets.
Haight/Ashbury was the place the “summer of love” kicked off, it peaked in 1968. It has a certain sense of notoriety, and even in 1983 it still had a dubious reputation as a center of the counter-culture. “A cult a day is born in San Francisco,” a pastor friend once shared with me.
Normally the neighborhood where I took a team would direct me on how to preach. Tonight I focused on God’s love for sinful people.
That message seemed appropriate for this place, and especially on this street. God loves these people very much.
A young man came forward. He told me that he was a backslidden Christian, and his father was an Assembly of God pastor. He had run away from home. Suddenly he began to weep. The entire team seemed to lean forward and I know they were praying earnestly for him. It seemed to me that he was teetering on the brink.
The punch came unexpectedly.
His fist hit me square in the nose. My eyes began to water. Oddly enough he took a step back and began to really cry out. My team wasn’t quite sure how to respond, but I hoped they prayed even harder. I sort of gasped and tried to shake it off. Someone must have called the police.
The Holy Spirit was very much present, both convicting and comforting each of us.
One or two minutes went by and suddenly he stopped sobbing and he became really angry. He took a step and then tried to kick me in the stomach, but I dropped the mic and caught his foot. I was ready for him this time.
About 20 minutes went by before SFPD showed up and asked if I wanted to press charges. I thought for a bit, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the will of my Father. Maybe I should of, I don’t know. But I thought about my own sin and couldn’t judge no one.
The Father was reaching him while teaching me!
God loves His prodigal children very much, He understands the guilt and shame (and frustration) they feel. The Father however is always watching and waiting. He works through life’s circumstances to lead them home. Each belongs to Him. He continues far past what we think is possible. He will never give up.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16
I suddenly saw a “wounded” brother, very confused and quite angry. Not with me, the team, or the music–but with God who created him, and died for him.
At that moment I just happened to be God’s love for this prodigal.
“How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12 He said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wound in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin a bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should even “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).”
“How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12 He said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wound in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin a bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should and even “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).”
“May the patience and encouragement that come from God allow you to live in harmony with each other the way Christ Jesus wants.”
“Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person.”
The science and method of calibration provide us with a way to bring two, or more things into harmony. It’s done frequently on diverse things such as scientific instruments, avionics, or music. Without this need for ‘blending’ things degrade into a symphony of confusion.
A piano is tuned, and the worship leader then tunes into that piano.
The worship team is blending simultaneous sounds of different pitch or qualities, making chords. This takes practice and a gift. This principle is enhanced when we think of several gears that mesh and turn together. There is a certain congruity or symmetry that makes it successful. Beautiful music can happen only if the musicians have been calibrated with each other.
We need a calibration of our spirit with God’s Holy Spirit. We tune in to Him. His Word is a little bit like a tech manual, showing us, and helping us. He helps us adjust so that we are harmoniously flowing with Him and with others. Sometimes this takes time.
Have you ever met a believer and they were no longer in harmony?
I bet you have. They may have a belief that is out of balance. It may be health or sickness. That is quite common today. A common issue is the area of politics. Lately, it’s become a danger for many believers. Be very careful.
I served in San Francisco in the 1980s with SOS Ministries. There was a small church down in Pacifica that would drive up to ‘worship on the street’ with us. They were incredible. They had a sensitivity and anointing that other groups didn’t have. They loved Jesus very much and loved each other, and it showed.
Within six months they disbanded and went their own ways. I was told that their meetings were essentially gutted out. They became fanatical about the ‘anti-abortion’ message to such an extreme they didn’t even have a church service anymore. It was now nothing more than a political rally, and they were not even reading the Word or worshiping together.
They were no longer calibrated to the Spirit or the Church. They were no longer aligned with the truth.
I have to be regularly adjusted to harmony with the promises of God. I need my gauges to be consistent with the Word. Not to be ‘heavy’ on certain things or ‘light’ on others. I can easily err on emphasis. That’s a real possibility. If I’m not calibrated, I become a spiritual danger to others, my family, and to myself.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
Quarantines are a real possibility, even to this day. A quarantine is imposed when a disease is contagious enough that it would harm a society: Measles, Smallpox, and the recent COVID-19 are just a few physical diseases where isolation must be imposed.
It can be severe— an epidemic, with desperate consequences if not adhered to; in some rare cases, the use of deadly force has been authorized to maintain a quarantine until the disease is no longer communicable.
This may surprise you, but there are examples of ‘quarantines’ in the Bible.
The term ‘unclean’ was used for ‘leprosy.’ Those afflicted had to isolate themselves; they had to ‘announce’ their presence when in contact with society. Lepers lived in groups away from the general populace, as a result of their disease.
In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he addresses another kind of ‘quarantine.’ The situation was dire; the church had advocated a Christian living with his father’s wife.
“I have already passed judgment on this man4 in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus.5 Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lordreturns.”
1 Corinthians 5:3-5, NLT
Understanding the Principle of Usefulness
“Now in a large house, there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.”
2 Timothy 2:20, NASB
Found in God’s pantry are lots of pots and pans of various uses. Paul writes Timothy about the ‘large house’ which is the Church inclusive. Look around Timothy, there are gold ones, and there are silver ones. They have a noble purpose fitting for such a great house. These are the ones the guests will use; they befit the significance of the Lord himself. These vessels have great value for they are made of precious metals.
There are vessels of different categories. These are the ones made of wood, and of clay. These are part of the household, make no mistake about it. But their use is one of function, they’re utilized in common and ignoble ways. (A clay ‘bed-pan’ perhaps?!)
21 “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”
2 Timothy 2:21
Paul, the author of the New Testament doctrine of grace emphasizes the place of personal holiness. We are to ‘cleanse’ ourselves to become a vessel of honor. There is good news here:
All are vessels in the Father’s house. Each of us belongs to Him. He alone determines their use.
Things are not yet in their final state. Changes in status can be experienced. In God’s economy, clay pots can become ‘golden.’ Silver can become ‘wood.’
Some sin is contagious.
It affects believers, and the Church becomes compromised by what we’ve done. And then sometimes we are quarantined by the Holy Spirit–until the contagion passes. This spiritual disease must not be permitted.
I have experienced this several times in my own discipleship. These are not pleasant times, but there is no condemnation. I’m still His servant, His love for me stays outrageously constant. He has never turned away a sinning child who repents of their sin.
“Yes, I am His servant, but I must wait out in the hall. I haven’t been faithful. So I sit in His waiting room, waiting for His call. This is for my good. And my Father knows what is best.”