by Fred Pruitt
“And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.” (Acts 15:36)
I was thinking of writing something about our upcoming trip, and came across this one from last winter. I just had to put it out again, with some additions and editing, changed appropriately for our upcoming trip to the northeast. We are visiting fewer places and fewer people this trip. That might seem a little disheartening, since this is the beginning of our ninth travel year for John and me, but the glory now is even more than in the beginning.
It has all been pure glory! For the past eight years, we have found the stirring of the Spirit in our planning to go, and then in the going, and then at each home and in each person, and then in the wider world as these ripples created by all that stirring and movement, spread out slowly into the wide world, each ripple creating further ripples and so on. It is the same for all of us. Let us not think we are ineffective in the world in the cause of Christ, because in Him that is impossible. All of us, either consciously or unconsciously, live Paul’s word in the first chapter of Philippians, 20 and 21:
“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Since this is true for everyone of us in Christ, if we will have it (declare in faith its truth in “me”), we can consider everywhere we are and everyone with whom we meet and interact to be part of the outflow of Christ in our lives in these same ripples. We are everyone of us on the mission field! Of course I don’t mean we all are “teachers” or “speakers” or something like that. I just mean in our everyday lives in whatever we are doing, it is the Spirit by us and it is He magnifying Himself in the world by means of our normal-living-in-the-world lives. And though we may feel and appear completely human in all we do, it is still supremely true that, “to live is Christ,” so that it is a sufficient Christ living in His own sufficiency by means of our weak appearing human lives. This is the truth for us all!
We’re not exactly Paul and Barnabas, but when I thought about announcing our upcoming trip, the scripture quoted from Acts above came to me. It seemed to fit the moment. That is what John Bunting and I are about to do, again, starting October 15th, 2013. This is our 30th trip together since we began in 2005.
As usual, we are only carrying along with us our one-string fiddle, the Divine Word that the key to all life is found in inner union with Christ, so that He has taken the “sin” that we were and condemned it to death in the flesh, and given us His own righteousness within us to be our manifest life in this world. And further, having been taught by the Spirit that we died together with Him in His death, and that we subsequently rose together with Him by the same Spirit, He has also revealed that we have been taken together with Him into “heavenly places,” “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:7)
Do we see this? What He is saying, is that He has brought us together, through His Cross and Resurrection, making us dead to sin and alive unto righteousness, not for that purpose alone, but that in “AGES TO COME,” He might show His exceeding grace, BY MEANS OF US, to all levels and portions of creation. Let us not think that all this that we are living and experiencing is merely for this small span of years on planet Earth! While we live this temporary life to the fullest, nevertheless we are already in Eternal Life, because God Himself, through Jesus Christ, IS our Eternal Life. And being that this life we are now living is indeed already participating in Eternal Life (though for the most part it is hidden to us), we are already living a heavenly life, and the outflow from our lives sends that heaven into our worlds.
To what end? It is to this “end” or result: The Lord has made us a fruitful branch on a Life-Giving Vine. As we grow from spiritual infancy to adulthood, we more and more leave anything “for me,” behind in our walk in Christ, until finally in adulthood we receive the mantle of Christ, and it is no longer Christ for my benefit, but the outgoing Christ whose Life we manifest in our mortal flesh while we “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.”(Col 1:24).
Some might question this statement of Paul’s, thinking it “antithetical” to what people are calling “the finished work of the Cross.” What Paul is describing here is not something “we” do, but what Christ has done, and He has continued doing, in us. Paul several times tells us that “death works” in him, that he might be life to others. He says, in more than one place and more than one way, that we are
“… always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” (2 Cor 4:8-13)
On the surface that might seem grim, almost masochistic. Who would want that? Well, those who are driven by other-love! Don’t get me wrong. We don’t seek suffering. But a life of love has to embrace it from time to time, because love endures anything to achieve its goal, even its own death.
What is love’s goal? That Christ be formed in the object of that Love! And anybody who has lived into adulthood knows that one aspect of love is sadness and sorrow. Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33). Once I realized that the “peace” Jesus gives us is not soul-peace, “outer” emotional peace, but the inner peace of the Spirit which is steadfast and our true inner dwelling-place, I began to live in glory and light even in the midst of hardship and sorrow.
That is the key. If we live in the world and we have anything to do with other people, we are going to experience the sorrows and troubles of this world. When we realize (and sometimes it takes a while to come to this) that EVERYTHING we experience is life-for-others, that is, that our problems and hardships are intercessory in nature, “bread of heaven” for others, we are able to live in the light in joy and glory, instead of in the fire, in the torment and anguish.
From the time I first heard of it over thirty years ago, Jacob Boehme’s “fire and light” analogy for God and “nature” (Boehme’s word for the creation, including us), I have been intrigued by it. My understanding of God and our reality is embedded in the miracle of fire and light. I have talked much of it in my other writings and cannot go into it here. But I am bringing it up because only a few days ago the Spirit showed me another great “key” to everything, that even with studying and meditating on this for over 30 years, I had not seen.
Like all of God’s great truths, it is an ultimate simplicity. I was somewhere where there was an open fire, and began to think of Boehme’s fire and light principle. And though I’d read it countless times, that the light comes from the fire but it does not dwell in the fire, it suddenly came to me how true that is. The fire is the cause of the light, but fire is not light. It emits light, which is sent out and “escapes” the burning wrath of the fire, and once “light is,” instead of the burning and searing property of the flames that created it, its properties are gentleness and enlightenment. Everything is lit up and made visible, by this fire-less light, existing as pure light. So that, imagining a campfire perhaps, we know how close we can be to the fire and still be warmed but not burned, and within a radius around us, according to the size of the fire, everything around the fire experiences light. We can see each other and the tents, etc. The light is the “joy” of the fire, we might say.
And it is the same with us. Every one of us experiences the troubles of life. We all have them. We have the right to fully grasp them and even vent our frustrations, as did the psalmists many times over. But we do not stay there – the venting and our frustrations are lawful – but once we have the inner acknowledgment of our frustrations and unfulfilled desires, we leave the fire of that turmoil and out of that turmoil live in the light of its fire. We live in the light – not the fire. But we experience the fire, over and over and over, that we might continually call light out of darkness, not just for ourselves, but in the lives of those God give us.
When we were babies most of us were scared to death of “tribulation.” Somebody in my first church told me to never pray for patience, because it brought tribulation. I found out it did not matter whether you prayed for patience or not, it found you anyway. We don’t know what to do with “tribulation” then, except fear it, be condemned about it, but somehow get through with “God’s help.”
But now, having been taught and seasoned by the Spirit, we realize these “tribulations” are often the very “deaths” we are experiencing to bring life to others. We begin to embrace what we call the “negatives” of our lives, because God has purposely proven Himself trustworthy to handle and direct them, using the strength and power of those negatives to propel us into new resurrection heights in Him, which bursts out in Life-giving Light into our world.
As Paul said, “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” That’s it. It is our privilege to participate in the ongoing manifesting works of Christ, and to be “grains of wheat that fall into the ground and die, that we might bring forth much fruit.”(John 12:24).
Hebrews said that Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before him.” What was the joy – going back to heavenly bliss with the Father, no pain, no worries, no flesh anymore, all back safe and tidy in heaven saying, “Whew, I’m glad that’s over”? I don’t think there would have been much joy in heaven if He had showed back up alone. He came for US!!!! WE were, and are, the “joy set before Him.”
And now there are others still waiting to be found, other “joys set before us” that have yet to come home, or some who have come home but have not yet found their rest, and these “joys set before us” are the motivation by the Spirit that causes us to get into John’s car and ride around carrying nothing but Jesus with us, on His nickel, and a few extra clothes.
We have a simple schedule. We spend one day, October 15th, briefly in the DC area. The next day, the 16th, we travel to our friends’ Jack and Alice Corcoran in Simsbury CT, where we will meet with those who come and share until the 20th. From there we’ll move on to Joe and Laura Sullivan’s in State College PA for one evening. The next evening, 21st, we’ll be with Neal and Jean Reed in Frederickton OH, and home the 22nd.
Blessings to all. We hope to meet you along the way one day.
Thanks and blessings to all!