Beloved in Christ,
May this note finds you well and strengthen in faith with all perseverance of the same.
This letter is an encouragement to step forward into a life and ministry you sense within your heart, but for lack of opportunity, feeling of unpreparedness, unworthiness, inadequacies, or full understanding you presently find yourself just “standing within the gates,” which is kind of an idle mode, sensing a calling but not moving forward, just maintaining the status quo.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, these are very difficult times for the Church and for the believers therein. The enemy of our Lord and God is clearly seen attacking on all sides. Government responses to COVID19 is to shut down the churches and limit gatherings. People are isolated and worship is reduced to TV programs at worse and Zoom or other online meetings at best. World governments are becoming even more “unsympathetic” towards the conservative Christian church with increasing legislation against them, promoting promiscuous legislation, and turning a blind eye and deaf ear to their persecution. Families are having difficult times surviving due to loss of income and focus is turned to survival and physical needs. The faith and patience of many are being tested. Many who are able to listen to sermons hear a repeat of the most fundamental Gospel, of a fanciful promising after-life, or promises of health and prosperity in this life…if, they say, your faith is strong enough to believe for it. Society, on all sides, is becoming increasingly hostile, ungodly and unchristian—even anti-god and anti-Christian. Meanwhile there is a weakening of faith as focus is turned from the spiritual nature of the Church with the inward working of the Spirit of Christ, to the outward, to the distractions and desires of the physical—those things that surround that bring comfort and pleasure to our natural man. So much of the Church leadership is caught up with religious formalities, with growth in numbers and finances and the material church, and in maintaining a comfortable place where the people simply survive as a Christian sub-culture within society.
There is much, much darkness in the earth, but it is not all doom and despair. Even in the midst of this Satanic havoc a glorious church is being formed. God’s purposes are not being thwarted, He will have a holy dwelling place in the earth, He will certainly have a family of sons and daughters, and the Son will have a bride prepared for His return. It is time now for true leaders, who can hear or sense the call of the Spirit, to rise up in the faith allotted to them, and be a voice of encouragement and edification. Yes, words of comfort and hope are needed, but even more so, words that bring spiritual strengthening and stability and maturity to the believer and the Church. To build up the Church, not just to survive in today’s dark environment, nor just to grow in numbers or material things. The Church is to actually become a holy habitation of God in the Spirit and in which lives are being transformed as believers are introduced, in a new way, to the living God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ; a spiritual place where the strength and cunningness of man is lost in the presence and transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you hear such a call of the Spirit in your heart, as one being pulled by the Spirit? This is the order of the Lord: first of all He calls, then He anoints, He sends into mission, He sets into place in the Body of Christ. It is not a matter of ambition and earthly training. It is a matter of soberly receiving the calling as if it is the word of God Himself for you. Respond to the calling in all submission and humility. Be broken before the Lord in prayer. Seek the fellowship of spiritual “elders” in the Church. And, above all, set the focus where it should be…away from religious practices to the living Christ; away from the routine and traditional (care must be taken not to be confined by a modern view of an organized religious church) but to a living way. And doing so as if you are embarking on a life’s journey never to return to the spot in which you’re are presently standing.
The Church today needs leaders (not necessarily more pastors). Not leaders that are put into position by some hierarchy of authority over believers, but leaders, raised up by the Spirit of Christ, that will go before the people; leaders that are willing to step their foot into untested waters so others may pass through (see Joshua 3); leaders cognitive of the fact that they must go before the people, and encounter and experience the workings of the Spirit first, if they are ever to lead others into such a walk. These leaders need to set their focus on that “upward call” of God, become fixed in their vision and passion, and strive with all, yes all there is within toward it, not to be deterred by circumstances, comfort zones, or doubts. The people do not need a “commander”, a “cheerleader,” a “puller” or a “pusher,” they just need leaders, true leaders with a vision—someone to whom they may join themselves (along-side) and press forward and upward. The apostle Paul was a great example of such a leader, but our greatest example is Christ, Himself: It is written,
“And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly (turn resolutely) set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.” Lk. 9. 51-53
Both the apostle Paul and Christ were chosen, called, anointed, and sent on a mission by the Father—just as every ministry is, or should be today. At this point in this quoted scripture Christ’s focus was on a distant hill in Jerusalem called Golgotha, the place of His suffering and crucifixion…the culmination of His earthly mission. He didn’t encourage His disciples to come along, nor beg or threaten them, or pump them up with false hopes. He just went on and true disciples followed. They did not want to be left behind. To the Samaritans He was passing by He was going the wrong way, to a place and destiny contrary to their religion and culture. They rejected His words. What a pity. Yet Jesus deposited His word and pressed on His journey with a prayer of a spiritual impartation into the hearts that “whosoever” would believe. Once a deposit is made it remains resident, waiting to receive the spark of life. Do not be surprised if you are so rejected as well. It comes hand in hand with the mission, for your mission will certainly run contrary to the current “religion,” tradition, and culture of the day. Remember, you are not called to be “successful” in your eyes, your estimates, or in what mankind deems successful… which generally involves numbers, finances, material things, recognition and power. Your calling is to be faithful in your calling, to be patient, persistent, and unrelenting in it. It is of no consequence if you do not see the fruit of your ministry. The question is, “Are you faithful in your calling?”
Christ Himself saw little fruit in the natural for His life and great sacrifice upon this earth, but He satisfied the heart of the Father and sowed an eternal spiritual seed in the earth that abides yet today, in your heart and in mine. The apostle Paul labored virtually unto death in his calling. In spite of his efforts we see the religious organization Catholicism rise up out of Rome. We see the complete demise of many city churches established throughout his missionary travels. But we have today his teachings kept alive for our comfort and edification, yet anointed and empowering as all the Word of God. Their mission was to sow the true spiritual seed, lay the spiritual foundation, so that we may now build upon it. And build we will by whatever grace allotted to us.
Psalm 122 begins, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD. Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.’” Ps. 122.1-2
In this psalm there are two groups of believers. The first group is those “standing within the gates,” acknowledging that there must be something more to their faith. They stand knee deep in religious practices, but something within their hearts causes a yearning for something higher, a yearning that does not pass. They find themselves consumed with religious activity but also know something is missing. They are standing there, biding their time, waiting. Then they hear a voice of the second group of believers, to which I believe you belong. These are those with their eyes and hearts fixed upon something higher, within whom is an unrelenting passion to enter the very “heavenly” house of God, where religion is consumed by “life:” “Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”Jn. 17.3
Many years ago I was in the group of believers, standing within the gates. And, I distinctly remember the call of God. It was not a call to come out, or go through, but to come up. Arise like an eagle and soar in the heavens. Oh how I thank and praise the Lord, every day of my life, for sending those who, in passing by, said to me, “Come let us go into the house of the Lord….let us come to know and find fellowship with God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ. Let us leave the earthly realm of religion and present understanding.” There was no clear picture of what laid ahead, only this yearning within of being apprehended by the Lord for something higher and greater in Christ. By His glorious grace and love I have never looked back, nor has my focus or vision changed, only coming into greater clarity and opportunity.
Today, I thank God for those who have come alongside of me in this pursuit of God. They have become my strength, my encouragement, my true bond in Christ—these are those fellow-journeyers in this walk—how precious they are.
Until next time!