Yesterday I joined the One-week Trainees for their church history tour of Cambridge. It was a lovely afternoon, and enjoyable to see in person the sites that are significant to the translation of the Bible and the beginning of the recovery of the truth. Maybe I’ll write more on it another time. For now, here is a modern-day site of significance:
After the tour, we watched a video about Margaret E. Barber, a missionary who went to China simply as a grain of wheat to fall into the ground and die and produce much fruit, just like her precious Lord Jesus (John 12:24). Even though M. E. Barber didn’t do anything great outwardly, her life was full of meaning and significance. I appreciate this quote of hers that was mentioned in the video:
The requirement to work for the Lord is not to work.
Amen, may this also become our experience and testimony, to simply learn to be real priests – those coming into the Lord’s presence to be infused with Him, filled with Him, and overflowing Him.
Someone asked me how my weekend was, and I realised I have to share it with you!
I joined an Amana Trust Weekend Retreat at Bower House and Woodland Camp, in London, and it was awesome. I’m so glad I went! The whole weekend was very pleasant, lots of yummy food (cooked breakfasts and a barbecue – yes, all free), and lots of believers from all over East London and the East of England. Some had been to events like this before and for some this was their first time. But we were all well taken care of :)
The three messages on Saturday were on God’s Eternal Purpose as seen in the Book of Ephesians. We covered Ephesians 1-3 (the second half will be covered the next 4 weekends).
Two key words we were presented with from the very beginning were enjoy and turn. The Lord is so enjoyable in His Word, and we need to keep turning our hearts to Him, not thinking that we know everything, so that we can see, and not just to see but also to experience!
Ephesians 1 – Our rich God wants to dispense Himself into us!
The first message was on Ephesians 1, and the mystery of His will (Eph 1:9), and how God has a purpose, to attain a particular goal. In Genesis 1:26 we see that God wants to be expressed and represented. A good illustration of this is with a hand and a glove, where the hand needs to come into the glove in order for it to be expressed. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and God wants to get into us!
So for this, God made a plan, an economy, an arrangement (Eph 1:10). It is like He has prepared a rich feast for us, and even more than our need to eat, God has a need for us to come and eat!
We have a rich, rich, rich God, and He wants to dispense, dispense, dispense Himself into us!
God created us as vessels to be filled with Him, and not just individually, but corporately – as the church, His Body, the fullness of the one who fills all in all (Eph 1:22-23). The church is Christ in you and me, and in all the believers. So the only way the church can be produced is by God’s economy, His plan and arrangement to dispense Himself into us, to get into us and fill us!
This is why Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:4 to charge certain ones not to give heed to different teachings apart from God’s economy, which is in faith. We just need to be those who are open to the Lord (100% soft and absorbent – like cotton wool!), open to His dispensing, so that we can be filled, soaked, and saturated with Him. Then we will express Him!
And that was just message 1/chapter 1…
Ephesians 2 – A new thing in the universe – God’s masterpiece!
In chapter 2 we saw the church as God’s wonderful masterpiece. The chapter starts with us – “And you” – dead in our offenses and sins (Eph 2:1)… “but God” (Eph 2:4)!
But God, being rich in mercy, even though we were dead in our offenses, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up together with Him, and seated us together with Him (Eph 2:4-6)! Thank You Lord!
This is all past tense, and it is all by grace that we are being produced as His masterpiece to be displayed to the entire universe (Eph 2:7, 10).
The church as the masterpiece of God is absolutely a new item in the universe, and this masterpiece is the mingling of God with man.
And now, in the present tense, we are being fitted together and are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit (Eph 2:21-22).
How wonderful! And did you pick up a key word here? Together!
God is carrying out His dispensing not just to gain us individually, but to gain such a corporate expression in the church. And He has made us all one in Him (Eph 2:13-14) even though we were so far off, with the Gentiles even further than the Jews (and we were given a good illustration of how far we had fallen… but God!).
Ephesians 3 – Our stewardship, and our experience!
And in chapter 3 we saw our stewardship (Eph 3:2). Our receiving is “to me, for you2. On God’s side this is dispensing, and on our this is stewardship.
We also saw the revelation of the mystery (Eph 3:3-5). A mystery something that was hidden but now is made known. For sure, God is a mystery but Christ reveals Him! Christ also is a mystery but the church reveals Christ.
And third, we saw the apostle Paul’s prayer for our experience (Eph 3:14-21). Having this prayer makes everything so far in Ephesians real and practical and possible. And this is what Paul prayed for the Ephesians, and what he prayed for us.
We went through the details of this prayer and the four “thats” which show this experience is progressive. Every day we can pray that we would be strengthened into our inner man, that Christ may make His home in our heart, that we may be full of strength to apprehend with all the saints all the vast dimensions of Christ and His knowledge-surpassing love, and ultimately that we may be filled unto all fullness of God!
We saw a great illustration of how fullness is the overflowing, it is the full expression. And the end of this prayer is, “To Him would be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Eph 3:21). Glory is God expressed, and this glory is in the church in and in Christ Jesus.
Our experience of this prayer, our being under the daily dispensing, resulting in the fullness of God, is how God carries out His eternal purpose!
I especially loved the reminder that when we don’t know what to pray, even when we do know what to pray – we can pray Ephesians 3:16-19 every day for ourselves, and for others:
Oh Lord, strengthen us right now into our inner man, make your home more in our hearts today, root and ground us in Your love, fill us unto all the fullness of God!
I was also encouraged that He is able to do this, and He is able to do superabundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20). The proper context here is not that related to something outward or material, but to God carrying out this within us. Thank You Lord!
Praise the Lord, He has made us part of His eternal purpose. God has a good pleasure, God has a need, and God has a plan – that He would dispense Himself into us, and that we would be filled with God and overflow God to express Him. Thank You Lord!
And there was more, and there is more!
There were also some short fellowship times during the weekend on studying the truth, the burden for the children and how to raise them up as the next generation, spending time with the Lord in the morning, prophesying (speaking for God, as described in 1 Corinthians 14) for the building up of the church, and the Lord’s table and Lord’s supper as a replacement of the Passover.
It was a very full and rich weekend, I can’t believe we did so much in such a short time. It really was like a feast! And like I said, it really was a retreat into my spirit!
This was the fourth retreat covering the first half of Ephesians, and the next four weekends are covering the second half of Ephesians. Don’t miss out! Everyone is invited according to where they live, but of course if you can’t go on a particular weekend, just sign up for another one. And I mentioned they are free, right? More info can be found here: amanatrust.org.uk/weekend-retreats.
PS: I originally wrote this as a long Whatsapp message to respond to “How was the weekend?”, and edited it just slightly to post here, so it may not be quite my usual style of writing. I tried to take out some of the exclamation marks – but I can’t help it, this is pretty exciting stuff! :) Keep enjoying, and keep turning!
Tonight was the first Monday night meeting of the new FTTL term. Praise the Lord for a new beginning and a fresh start!
We enjoyed pray-reading Philippians 3:12-13, and a brother shared how the Christ we enjoy is so all-inclusive and all-extensive. He is so universally spacious and infinitely vast. His dimensions are the dimensions of the universe – the breadth and length and height and depth – always expanding! This is the Christ that we should be deeply rooted in, experiencing and enjoying!
So the encouragement for this term is to not think that we have already obtained, but to be obtaining. Not to consider we have already been perfected, but to be open to being perfected. Not to hold on to anything, even to the previous experiences of Christ, but to be forgetting the things behind. Not lingering in the past, but pressing on. And not being limited in our appreciation of Christ, but pursuing the limitless Christ!
Let the pursuit begin! Let the enjoyment of Christ begin!
(And for those of us not currently in the training, this is an encouragement to us also. Every day is a new beginning to gain more Christ!)
So quickly, a brief introduction to the four first-term and two short-term trainees, so you also can get to know them:
- JH from New Zealand: “There was a tremendous opportunity with a job. But the Lord said, ‘No, you are consecrated to Me.'”
- NH from Australia/NZ: “I gave it to the Lord, and He spoke to me. He knows what to give us when we need it.”
- SS from Norway: “This was the Lord’s sovereignty through the environment…At this time my heart was open to the Lord.”
- RE from Australia: “Are you going to work and do everything before you consecrate fully to Me?”…”Lord, You have to give me the absolute peace.”
- AT from Spain: “I was so afraid to lose the presence of the Lord.”
- D from Slovakia: “When we are willing to give ourselves to the Lord then He will remember it.”
The overall impression I had from the testimonies tonight is that although these dear brothers and sisters come from different backgrounds, their story is the same. God is sovereign, and He arranged all the details in their lives to cause each one to open to Him and to bring them to where they are today.
It is so precious that they all had many specific experiences of contacting the Lord and receiving His personal speaking and clear leading. It is also precious to hear of their fellowship and prayer with the members of the Body. As one brother mentioned, there needed to be the Lord’s leading personally, the way opened practically, and the feeling confirmed in the Body.
May each trainee, both new and returning, have many more sweet and significant experiences with the Lord this term!
I really enjoyed the campus Bible studies this week! On Thursday, we read the footnote for John 19:34, and a few paragraphs from the first message from Life-study of Romans.
But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.
So, I had read this footnote before, and appreciated that the blood is for redemption, the purchasing of the church, and that the water is for imparting life, for the producing of the church. It’s pretty amazing to see that, to realise that it is not random or even just for biological reasons that both blood and water came out of the Jesus’ side, but that both are so significant. But in our fellowship at the Bible study, I saw in a fresh way that the blood was for the purchasing of the church, and that the water was for the producing of the church.
- Yes, He loved the whole world (John 3:16)
- He died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 9:22)
- He died to terminate everything of the old creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), the old man (Romans 6:6), and the flesh (Galatians 5:24), Satan (Hebrews 2:14), the world (John 12:31), sin (John 3:14), and death (2 Timothy 1:10).
(I enjoyed looking up these verses! I hope you enjoy reading them too. :) Hover over the links to read the verses, and click on the links to go to the footnotes in the Recovery Version!)
But He didn’t do this just for us as individuals, He did this to redeem, to purchase the church, and to produce the church. The church is what is on God’s heart!
So, we also looked at the picture of Adam and Eve, and how Eve was built from a rib out from Adam’s side. Adam and Eve had the same source, the same nature, the same life, and even the same living. We also, as the church, have come out of the Lord’s pierced side, we have His life and His nature, and now we are learning to have one living with Him!
This couple is the secret of the universe. The secret of the whole universe is that God and His chosen ones are to be one couple. Hallelujah! We, God’s chosen ones, and God are of one source, of one nature, and have one life. Now we also need to have one living. We are not living by ourselves or for ourselves; we are living with God and for God, and God is living with us and for us. Hallelujah!Life-study of Romans, message 1
What about us? Is the church also on our heart? I realised that I need to see a fresh vision of the church, to see the church as God sees the church, to love the church as Christ loves the church!
Here is a very sweet song that matches this thought. (You can click on the link below to listen to it and sing along!)
1. Don’t you want to know your God?
What’s hidden in His heart for you?
How much He longs for you to come
And open up—
To let Him in to every part
Let Him reveal what’s on His heart
What was the joy set before Him?
It was for her the church—His bride
It was for her, willingly He died
She is the joy deep in His heart
2. The Lord chose you to be a part
Of His great plan, His work of art.
What wonder! What a privilege!
His yearning to share all He is—
Divine, unsearchable riches!
What wisdom, multifarious expressed!
3. As we enjoy and enter in
To all He is then we’ll begin
To understand the feeling in
His heart toward us.
What love that motivated Him
To come to us, despite our sin
Why did He go and sell all that He had?
Lord Jesus, cause my heart to be a duplication of your heart, that I would see the church as You see the church, and love the church as You love the church.
Along with many others here in the UK, I’ve been starting to get into the book of Romans a little this year. If you’d like to join in, you can find a suggested schedule here.
Having said that, in reading the Life-study of Romans, I’ve been finding it a little difficult to get into it. But this portion today really encouraged me:
The more we look at ourselves and examine ourselves, the faster our faith disappears. Faith is not our invention; it can never be initiated by us. It is impossible for us to generate faith. Faith is an aspect of Christ Himself. In fact, faith is Christ. Galatians 2:20 says that we live by the faith of the Son of God. I do not live by my faith—I have no faith of my own—but by the faith of the Son of the living God who has faith and who Himself is faith to me. If you look at yourself, you will never find faith, but if you forget about yourself and say, “O Lord Jesus, I love You,” faith will immediately rise up within you.
We believe in Christ by His faith, not by our own. Christ is our faith. Never say that you cannot believe, for you can believe if you want to. Do not try to believe by yourself, because the more you try the less faith you have. Simply say, “O Lord Jesus, I love You. Lord Jesus, You are so good.” If you do this, you will have faith immediately.
Life-study of Romans, message 5
Amen, thank You Lord! Faith comes out of hearing, and faith is Christ Himself infused into us!
I really liked this point on “Never say that you cannot believe”, and it matches something else we were enjoying earlier in the week:
Christ is the interceding Spirit who joins in to help us in our weakness as we are groaning (Romans 8:27). We probably don’t think that groaning is a very positive thing. Yet this verse doesn’t say we shouldn’t groan, but rather that the Spirit joins in to help us when we are groaning!
And I was reminded that our groaning is similar to our crying out (listen to message 7 from the Winter Training on the Crystallization-study of Exodus). It’s an opening to the Lord!
So our proper response to realising how much of a failure we are shouldn’t be “I can’t do it and will never do it, so forget about it” or “I don’t have faith, I can never believe”… Instead, we should open, groan, and cry out. “Oh Lord! Oh Lord! I can’t do it. I can’t make it. I can’t even believe. But oh Lord, I open!”