“…. make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you….” -1 Thess. 4.11
Isn’t it remarkable that the same man who gave us the most transcendent statements about the resurrected and ascended Lord could be found making such earthy statements as this one? The same man who declared that we are “seated with Christ” in heavenly places also instructed the churches in the most menial of matters which pertain to the daily grind of life, and I am convinced that it has everything to do with establishing true foundations in the Church.
There is something crucial about the day-to-day reality of life, and how we function within it, that determines the degree to which we will rule and reign with Christ in the age to come. There is a subtle form of Gnosticism in the Church, which sees all matters unearthly as positive, and all matters earthly as negative. It seems right in the beginning, but it actually negates the ultimate intentions of God, who longs to unite heaven and earth rather than to exchange one for the other. In fact, at the end of the age restoration, both heaven and earth will be reconfigured and made new, and God will manifest Himself fully and permanently, abiding forever in the great reality of that union.
When we think of earthly matters as inherently unspiritual, we confine the faith to religious categories and functions, and before long we have chopped up our hearts into compartments that fail to pulsate with the life of God. We begin comparing ourselves with other men, striving for higher spirituality, more esteemed religious positions, and a type of asceticism creeps in.
The apostle Paul, who likely had more spiritual revelation than any man in his day, was also a very nuts and bolts type of man. He could raise a boy from the dead one day, and get blisters from making a leather tent the next day. He could receive prophetic revelation and powerful gifts in a church gathering, and maintain the spirit of prayer and faith while engaging in tasks that we would consider a drudgery.
Paul knew that this unhealthy idea of spirituality could move into the churches, and from time to time he was required to address it.
One of the last hiding places of our carnal ambition is found in our desire to be considered spiritual by other men. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were guilty of this, and ultimately it comes down to the fact that we have not adequately sought the glory which comes from God. We are looking for recognition in an earthbound way, though it is disguised with a spiritual facade.
I have met many men, usually young like myself, who are filled with anxiety and even depressions over the fact that they desire to be in “full-time ministry,” but no door has opened yet. Very often, they are recently married, or fathers of young children, and very often also, they lack a value for their calling as husbands and fathers, and their devotional lives are inconsistent as well. While the Lord may call and send young men to remarkable works, I am convinced that for most, the Lord would have them to focus firstly on learning to walk with Him in the kinds of tasks that we consider menial.
It doesn’t seem like a heroic ambition to “lead a quiet life,” but perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to the Church’s witness in the earth, is that we are too quick to speak and too slow to listen. We want our ministries to be known, our distinctives to be recognized, our names to be exalted. Paul told the saints to be content to lay low, and to allow the Lord to form Christ in us in the hidden places of life so that our public proclamation would bear the weight of heavenly reality.
It doesn’t seem incredible to “attend to your own business,” but this is a necessity for the life which would be built on a true foundation. If our finances are out of order, our children are not rightly loved and disciplined, our spouses are neglected relationally, our devotional lives are sparse, and our work ethic is dishonoring to the Lord, why should we look for the greener grass on the other side? Do we assume that “full-time” ministry will fix all of these issues? We need to “attend” to our own business, and allow the Lord to bring His government into our lives in the nit and grit of daily decisions and activities, or else we have rejected Paul’s apostolic instruction.
Lastly, he calls us to “work with our hands,” which is something both Jesus and Paul did. Can it be said that the hands of Jesus would not have had such healing effect in His ministry had He failed to abide in the Father during His carpentry days? If Jesus was totally submitted to the Father for His entire earthly life, then His carpentry days were just as ordained as the cross and resurrection themselves, but do we ever see it in this way? We are more likely to highlight the raising of Lazarus or some other dramatic event in Jesus’ life, and that is understandable. But the daily grind of sweat and labor in the carpentry shop was just as much a revelation of God as anything else in Jesus’ life, and He means to bring us into an experience and view of the same kind. When we view our “menial” tasks as unspiritual, we open our souls to a numbness towards sonship, and we are more apt to fall into a spirit of complaining or a depressive attitude. But if we make it our ambition to love the Lord and honor Him in the midst of the monotony and grit of daily events, we will see the glory of it in the same way that Jesus did.
However the Lord calls you to work with your hands, the point is that Paul is calling us to a faithfulness in the practical affairs of life, and if we have been unwilling for that, we are not likely to function as leaders in the Body, nor to rule and reign at higher levels in the age to come. The great majority of believers will not be pastors or prophets, teachers or missionaries by occupation, but will function on grounds that seem unofficial spiritually. But if it is in the intention of the Father it is holy, holy, holy, and He calls us to an intimate union with Himself no matter where we are or how we are positioned.
The purposes of God are served in the formation of His servants when they give themselves to labor that is monotonous and predictable, that lacks any kind of flamboyance or charismatic excitement, but requires a steadfast patience and faithful performance, day after day.
…. we need to serve our apprenticeship in the things that are ordinary, unseen and undistinguished. We need to show ourselves faithful in those places so that we can be faithful in the true works of God. This is the sublime wisdom and requirement of God.
(Art Katz, Apostolic Foundations, Burning Bush Press: Bemidji, MN; 2009, p. 16)
Are you surrendered inwardly to the Lord in the unseen and menial tasks? Do you trust Him in hiddenness? Are you willing simply to honor Him by being responsible and faithful with the work He has before you today, even if no man thinks you are spiritual or worthy of esteem? The way that we maintain communion with the Lord in the daily grind, the way that we steward our money and our work, and the way that we treat people when no immediate reward is in view- all of this determines whether or not we are moving into a true experience and expression of the Kingdom of God.
A man may be neck-deep in the work of modern ministry, engaged in all types of seemingly spiritual labors, yet totally out of touch with God who has called him. This is not what the Lord has intended for you. But if we know Him vitally in the midst of the menial and mundane affairs of life, we have come to know Him indeed.
Bryan Purtle is a firefighter and author that carries a jealousy for historical revival, the salvation of Israel, and the recovery of apostolic proclamation and living through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Visit his website at thoughtsuponrising.com.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Church, full-time ministry, Ministry, mundane, Paul, Revival, spiritual, spirituality
He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables (Mark 4: 11)
I often ask myself: Is there any point of praying for revival if Spirit-movements are doomed to peak, then stall and become mere relics of past glories? Or do we believe that God is always restoring truth and adding something further to His people each time the Spirit comes with power? Spiritual giant, Arthur Wallis, once gave this illustration:
‘A Snail climbing a six foot wall, covered two feet each day and slipped back one foot each night. How long did it take to climb the wall? I fell for the catch and said: “Six days.” I had failed to recognize that on the fifth and last day there was advance, but no slipping back.’
In other words, God’s work in reformation, revival and awakening is always ultimately restorative and will accomplish what it sets out to do even with all the interference of men! Even if it is seemingly cut short, there is enough of the Lord at work to ensure that seeds sown will always bring forth fruit!
Today, I believe that a new move of God’s Spirit is coming to the nations of the world. The hallmarks of a new love of Jesus, repentance, pure living, prayer and the fire of God will and should always be evident. But this time I hope and pray for an added impetus of God’s Spirit for something more than we have seen in living memory, good though those previous moves were. I believe that this ‘something’ more will demonstrate a closeness to the days of the flesh of the Lord Jesus. It will bring the ‘Kingdom of God’ but with it will also come a ‘revelation of the King’. How He moves, how He thinks, ministers and acts.
In Mark’s Gospel, chapters 4 & 5, there is a very unique couple of days in the life and ministry of the Lord where a two-fold aspect of the Kingdom in the life of Christ is shown. Both are essential dynamics of the ministry of King Jesus. Let’s look at what Mark is seeking to portray of Christ in these chapters:
1. Firstly, the Secret of the Kingdom must be taught.
Jesus first tells The parable of the sower – Mark 4: 1 – 9 & 13 – 20. Here, the farmer sows the word of the Kingdom on four types of ground (heart):
The path – where seed is left exposed to birds of the air (satan’s powers)
Rocky ground – where there is an initial response to the word of the Kingdom but no depth of root, and thus trouble causes them to fall away
Thorny ground – where the worldly cares & desires of this life cause a choking of the word and strangle its life
Good soil – the only one ground that bears lasting fruit. It produces a multiplied harvest.
So, this parable is not so much about how the Kingdom moves but rather how hearts respond to it. It has been taught first by Jesus, to prepare the way for the next parables of the Kingdom, which are telling of how the Kingdom works, rather than the kind of hearts that receive or reject the message.
Then, there is The parable of the lamp on a stand – Mark 4: 21 – 25
- The lamp of the Kingdom is Jesus Himself, and He is in fact revealing the presence of the Kingdom in His person.
- He is also calling His followers to reveal the secrets of the Kingdom.
- This is a parable concerning the revelation of the Kingdom in the person of Jesus and His people.
Next, we have The parable of the growing seed – Mark 4: 26 – 29
- The man is faithful in the scattering of the seed but that is all he does.
- He watches how the seed sprouts and grows over days and nights, even during sleep!
- It will bear fruit because there is invisible dimension of life causing it to grow.
- Then after the Kingdom has moved, reap the harvest.
- This is a parable about how the Kingdom works invisibly and is active at all times. Man alone cannot contribute to the Life of the seed, that is the work of the Kingdom alone.
Finally, we are told The parable of the Mustard Seed – Mark 4: 30 – 34
- This parable simply is to illustrate the way the Kingdom works.
- A small mustard seed is planted, it then becomes a large tree.
- It is so large that the birds of the air can find refuge in its branches.
- The Kingdom then, is the dynamic activity of God, manifest in His Son, and known by the Spirit. It can appear in history in the most insignificant ways, but because the Kingdom law and life is at work – it will grow and manifest itself in advancement, enlargement and dominion.
So, to summarize, we have these lessons (secrets) of the Kingdom set before us:
- Jesus is looking for hearts to receive a revelation of His Kingdom
- Jesus is Himself – the Kingdom in its manifestation. Before people, He stands and ministers as King!
- The Kingdom works in the invisible realm, but is real. Its power is supernatural, even though unseen at times.
- The way the Kingdom works starts small, but always achieves its task, and will have ultimate victory.
2. Secondly, the Secret of the Kingdom must be made known.
Here, Mark moves onto an account of Jesus and His disciples in a boat and the storm – Mark 4: 35 – 41. A brief summary of events is this :
In V35, Mark notes that it is ‘that same day‘ that Jesus says – ‘let’s go over to the other side’. Jesus is now about to demonstrate to the disciples what He has just taught in the previous teachings! His secret has been revealed to willing hearts; now they are to see it in action!
Now all in a boat, with other boats, they progress to the other side of the lake. Next, a furious storm breaks out. The disciples are full of fear because the boat is about to go under, but as experienced fishermen surely they are used to such storms. They are gripped with unnatural fear. They have not yet fully understood that the Kingdom is present in the boat! To add to that, the Lord is asleep! Jesus is not just asleep because He is Lord over creation, though that is true. But there is something more incisive at work here. Remember He is demonstrating something of what He has taught on the way the Kingdom works! He is the presence of the Kingdom, with them; advancing His rule in enemy territory. And yet, perfectly at rest in the fight.
Then, in V39 – Jesus rebukes the storm. The Lord’s rebuke – ‘be muzzled’, is a word only used for rebuking evil spirits. NT Scholar William Lane conveys an interesting thought in his commentary:
‘The cosmic overtones in the Gospel account must not be missed. Mark has underlined them by careful choice of terminology which recalls Jesus’ encounter with the demons: Jesus rebuked the wind, the sea is enjoined to obey with the command, “Silence, be muzzled”; the wind subsides and the sea obeys with the result that great calmness ensues. Jesus addressed the raging storm as a force threatening Him and his disciples. The force… was muzzled as Jesus subdued it with His authority’
Finally, the sea is calm and peaceful, and now the fear of the storm turns to a fear of this Man who commands obedience to the elements and the forces behind them. The disciples saw a storm and Man asleep, but in the invisible realm, there was a stronghold that needed removing, and the Lord of Glory on a mission!
As if things weren’t intense enough, Jesus is about to unveil the secret of His teachings further. Jesus enters Decapolis region – Mark 5: 1 – 20
This is a Gentile region predominantly. As Jesus gets out of the boat, it is no coincidence that the demon possessed man is apparently waiting for Jesus at the shore. The man is so captive to satan’s kingdom that no one can stop him. He rules, and has never been threatened. He has the whole region in fear and no one can stop him. Yet now he runs to Jesus and knows His name! The spirit begs Jesus not to send him ‘out of the region’ THIS IS IMPORTANT. Here we must remember the previous parables and the recent opposition through a storm at the lake. Christ is now confronted with a power that not only possesses a poor man, but holds an idolatrous region under its power. It does not want Jesus and His kingdom in that region to take rule. Yet Christ will plant a Seed of the Kingdom in that region that will produce glorious effects.
Proof of this demon’s regional hold is further illustrated by the demon’s request to to go into pigs. Why? The man is not the only issue – the area IS! Hence, the cry comes, ‘Do not send us out of the region!’ Jesus gives permission, knowing that when this happens they will be driven out of that area anyway. Even after the demon leaves, the people are still thinking like their former master – ‘they beg Jesus to leave the region’ V17 (People become like the idols they worship) The formerly possessed man is now clothed in his right mind – His soul is now as still as the lake! The storm has been stilled.
It is vital that we understand why Jesus does not allow the man to come with Him but to stay and tell the family what the Lord has done. Again, we must remember Jesus’ parables earlier. He is planting a seed of the Kingdom in a new territory, by planting it firstly in a man’s heart. IT WILL GROW, and touch the region, because the Seed of the Kingdom must grow! We must never forget the vital importance and potential significance of winning a single soul to Christ.
Afterward, in V20 – The man tells the people of the ‘Decapolis’ region, how much Jesus had done for him. Later on in Mark 7: 31 – 37 – now the people know who He is. He heals them and does all things well.
So, as we started by saying: We must perceive the twofold call of Mark. We must learn how the Kingdom works by seeing and knowing the person, mission and teaching of Jesus. We must demonstrate how the Kingdom is to be experienced in a way faithful to Christ Jesus. Let’s remember the lessons both taught and demonstrated:
1. Jesus is looking for receptive hearts. Only those who have bowed their heart to His reign can receive it.
2. He is the Kingdom of God come in Person. That means we preach Him, and His rule, and the Spirit answers. When we ‘go’ to the place He chooses, He comes with us, even if the storm is furious and He remains quiet for a time. The light is still shining!
3. He is always moving, even when we are not aware by our sight or hearing. Trust the inherent power in the Seed of His Kingdom!
4. Though it start small in manifestation, believe and see what it will become, as God moves in the casting out of satan’s powers, and the establishing of His rule in the earth.
Do we believe in the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom?
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Glory, Holy Spirit, Jesus, key, Kingdom, Mark, Ministry, parables, power, presence, secret, stand, supernatural, William Lane
“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9
Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a kind of preaching and proclamation that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His love. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:
The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”
So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of the favor and love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their plan to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.
Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty, commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes, and the options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even in the religious world, many are jockeying for a position in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries. Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating so many souls who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that fallen desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to give.
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)
Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.
Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?
We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us that a theological category; rather, an abiding experience as our hearts are more and more surrendered to His.
The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.
(D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as quoted in God’s True Love by David Harwood; 2008, p. 22)
The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you still your heart before the Lord, and learn to receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”
Dear believer, you need not to be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not to be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice and receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. And from that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: art katz, beauty, David Harwood, inferiority, love, love of God, Ministry, proclamation, the church
“…. while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” -Ez. 1.1b
For Ezekiel, who functioned as a young priest of Judah, the bank of the river Chebar was hardly the ministry opportunity he would’ve had in mind when he laid his life down for service in the temple. The river Chebar was the territory of Babylon, and he was laboring among a people who had been exiled, and who were under the judgment of God.
It would’ve been a remarkably trying time for him, where all his expectations and ideals for God’s people had been shattered, and his own priestly desires had been walled in and suffocated by the cold reality of exilic experience. He was not where he had hoped to have been, and his people had totally fallen short of that for which he had prayed and labored.
…. the young priest had to pass through a waiting period of agonizing tension in which hope and fear alternated.
(Walther Eichrodt, EZEKIEL; Westminster Press, p. 54)
Ezekiel was likely being tossed to and fro by encouraging days, when a few of his kinsmen would come alive to the Law, and radically discouraging days, when others would curse him and the word he presented. Had God forsaken he and his people altogether? Was there any way to live as His people in the midst of Babylon? Could he bear the light of God in the soul-chilling surrounding of such darkness? Little did Ezekiel know that his own presence by the river Chebar would be the very extension of God Himself to a people in radical need of prophetic reality. Little did Ezekiel know what was coming. God Himself would break into the maze of questions and struggles to reveal the glory of His enthronement. And this is just what Ezekiel needed in such a time of shaking.
The coming of Yahweh to Ezekiel and the sending of the prophet to Israel show that God was still concerned with His mysterious and special purpose for the ‘house of Israel.’
…. God’s coming to keep faith with His people knew no barriers. In the full splendor of His regal glory God met His people in the midst of a heathen land.
(EZEKIEL 1, Walther Zimmerli; Hermeneia, Fortress Press; 1979, p. 140)
Perhaps you are reckoning with the same alternating emotions, going from hope to fear, from encouragement to discouragement. Perhaps you feel trapped in a type of Babylon, and you are wondering if there is any sense to your life and calling. Know this, dear saint: Just as the Lord was “still concerned” for His “special purpose for the house of Israel,” He is intensely concerned for you. He will “keep faith with His people.” Indeed, “He who began a good work in you will complete it, unto the day of Jesus Christ.”
You may be in the midst of a heathen land, but God will meet you even there. He will wash your feet, your hands, and your heart. He will be the balm of healing to your cracked soul. He will purify your lips and restore the praises of God to your mouth. He will mold and commission you, in the unique way He has appointed, to make you a voice in this generation. You need only to lift your eyes away from alternating emotions and distracting thoughts, and to see Him enthroned on high, “in the full splendor of His regal glory.” When the breakers are rolling over you and there seems to be no possibility of breathing, He is still enthroned, and extending His hand to you. He calls you today, even now, to come up above the tossing waves, and into the clear air of fellowship with Him.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Babylon, discouragement, ezekiel, healing, israel, Jesus, judgment, Ministry, Reality, Walther Eichrodt, Walther Zimmerli, Westminster
Ministry today is often viewed as a profession, a career and an occupation. We have been reminded quite often that “the laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7) and that we should not muzzle the ox when he is working (Deut 25:4). When I preach about the call of God into the ministry, the first thing that most people think of is a paid position and the first question that they have is about financial support. It seems that most people automatically connect ministry with a paying full-time job and I wonder sometimes how much interest there would be if there were no possibility of financial reward.
When Malachi was sent by God to Jerusalem shortly after the temple had been rebuilt, he was appalled by the apathy of the people and especially of the “clergy”. He made the observation that the priest seemed to be motivated by what they could get out of their service rather than by sincere love for God and a desire to build His Kingdom. “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nothing?” he asks. “Neither do you kindle fire on my altar for nothing. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts; neither will I accept an offering at your hand.” (Mal 1:10)
I have no problem with ministers who make a living from their work in the ministry…I am one of them in fact. But if financial remuneration is the incentive and motivation for ministry, there is a real problem.
I started preaching when I was 14-years-old and ever since then, in many different capacities I have always worked in “the ministry”. Most of the time I have been in ministry it has been totally volunteer and has even cost me dearly. I have had to work secular jobs to support my family. Even as a senior pastor I took no salary and never felt entitled to anything. If there were no money in ministry I would still be doing it today and for the rest of my life. Why? Because I love Jesus and because it is what He has called me to do. I cannot imagine not ministering. Ministry is not my job…it is my life. I AM a minister…it’s not just what I do. I am amazed sometimes to think that today I am able to make a living doing something that I love so much.
Jesus told his disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34). He was saying, this is my reward…this is my remuneration; to do the will of God” And then he gave this exhortation, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” (John 6:27) As ministers we work not for money or for food, but we work for Jesus. Money will follow ministry and as you seek first the Kingdom of God all these things will be added to you.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Jerusalem, Jesus, Ministry, money, Pastor, preaching, profession, secular