April, 2004 - It is the Lord
There are a lot of people today who think they know the Lord and they don’t. They know ABOUT Him. They can relate to you His life history, His words, His deeds. They can tell you all about Biblical history and how far it is from Samaria to Jerusalem. They can even describe Solomon’s Temple in all its majesty, giving you a rundown on its spiritual symbolism as relating to Jesus Christ. But all this isn’t knowing the Lord.
You get to know the Lord by “unlearning” yourself. God in His goodness begins to use our circumstances to give us a good idea that He is God and we are but men. We all know that from the moment we are born into this world we begin to build an “identity.” Of course this is necessary for survival or we wouldn’t know who we are, and God doesn’t hold it against us. We must be someone, or we would live in a void. And it is this identity that makes us know who we are.
First, we learn who we are through association. A baby begins to learn to recognize its mother’s voice, or her touch. He begins to know that when she comes he is going to be fed, or rocked, or comforted. His very first knowledge of who he is comes through his mother. Later on he begins to build his identity through his association with his father or other relatives and he becomes an individual. He knows who he is because the people around him tell him who he is.
Later on, he steps outside the family and into society and if he is fortunate he again is able to learn who he is through his social relationships. This is called survival.
And this happens to all of us. We are born into a world where we must build an identity entirely upon our associations with people, with places, and with things. But when we are born again, we are born into a new world where the identity we have so carefully built and preserved over the years must be broken down and a new identity established - an identity with the Son of God. It is an overwhelming experience and most devastating to the order of our old lives. Things are simply never the “same” again when we heed the call the Jesus.
I am sure that the Lord has deep compassion on us when we are born again. He knows how very difficult it is to “unlearn” ourselves and to get to know who we are through spiritual relationships in the family of God. Sometimes I feel that there are few families left in this world where a child of God could even begin to get the right associations and become a mature Christian. But if we determine to let the Lord rule us, then He will carefully tear up all our own plans and place us in such bewildering circumstances that our only recourse is to seek Him, and thus get to know ourselves in and through Him.
Therefore, the Christian life is not easy. Some people might argue that point and quote the Word about the “burden being light.” Well, a burden can be light, but if a person is mountain
climbing that doesn’t help much. The climb is hard and the going is tough and only the good climber will stick it out. So it is with the Christian life.
Certainly my history with God does not indicate easy living. For the first six years of my Christian life I had nothing except naked faith in the living God to keep me going. For one thing, there was never enough money. During these times I often sat in mission halls and listened to the testimonies of believers who tried to convince his or her listeners that if they would just get saved then the Lord would fill their purses, set them up in a mansion and give them the best of health and happiness.
I don’t believe this, nor did I believe it then. If that is all we are saved for - to receive health, wealth, and happiness from the hands of God - then the death of Jesus wouldn’t count for very much in lives today. Jesus Christ died for more than temporal blessings. He died for men’s souls to be saved from the guilt and penalty and power of sin. And He died that men might be sanctified - made holy - and become like Him. And we don’t usually become like Jesus Christ by the gratification of all our fleshly desires. We have to die to them - die to their grip on our souls - before we can ever begin to want to be like Jesus.
God doesn’t set us up in any grand manner in order to undo all the harm that was done to our nature through the rule of satan before our salvation. He certainly did not set me up in any grand manner. I wore shoes with cardboard in their soles; I drove a car that didn’t run (but it did, miraculously, even when I had no money to buy gas and drove it for days on “EMPTY”); I spent half my time lying flat on my back (I was so sickly) and the other half wishing I could. My home was one room in a basement with tiny windows that would never have opened had there been a fire; and no kitchen or bathroom of my own. The furniture I had was given to me by Christian friends who called and said that if I could beat the garbage man to their house I could pick it up and have it. So I hurried and beat him and got it! I also wore clothes from a mission and was so grateful for them. I had no “recreation” of any kind - no magazines, no TV or anything else. And I freely admit that there were many times when I was truly hungry. Once at a cafeteria in downtown Chicago I seriously considered going in and picking up a tray full of food that had hardly been touched and was lying on a table by the window. Of course I didn’t but I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind!
Now these were the “foundation years” of my new life in Christ. Strange that the Lord should give me such years. But not so strange. I thank Him for them. I thank Him for every blow that sent me reeling to my knees with the knowledge that I was a rebellious, sniveling, self centered individual with no thought of anyone except myself.
For I hadn’t really known who I was before I was born again. I thought I did. I admitted I was a sinner but somewhere in the caverns of my mind was the thought that I had a “few redeeming qualities.” I thought I didn’t lie, but I did. My life was one big horrible lie. I thought I didn’t steal, but I did. If nothing else, I stole God’s glory by putting His glory to shame and claiming it for myself. I told myself that I never stole a thing except one Magnolia blossom from a lady’s garden where I attended college. And I took great pride in confessing this to her. But I stole affections.
God, in love, had to do something drastic to make me realize that “ALL my ‘righteousnesses’ were as filthy rags. . .” I had to be made to see that I needed a new nature. I needed a new righteousness and that righteousness was possible through the mastery of His Son’s Spirit who had come to indwell in my heart.
And so God struck at my pride, my ego, my flesh by “putting me down.” This is the only way He can put us down. He doesn’t even save us to “reach others.” I never have felt His purpose in saving me was so that I could reach others. This doctrine is blown up out of all proportion by believers just so they can boost their spiritual egos and point to all the souls they have “led to Christ.” I know if God never had one person to testify of His Son He would somehow reveal His Son to a seeking heart, or else He wouldn’t be God. I believe that God’s purpose in saving us is to make us conformable to the image of His Son. If we are members of the Lord’s Body then we must become like the Lord. And being like Jesus doesn’t always “win people” to Him. I don’t think I go around winning people to Him simply because in such an age there are few that are even looking for Him. He isn’t what the world wants. So the world doesn’t look!
No, God’s purpose in saving us is not to have us go out and win the world to Him. The world isn’t going to be won to Him. According to Scripture it is going the other way as fast as it can. But God’s purpose is to let us know who we are - to make us like His Son. And the only way He can do it is to knock the stuffing out of us. Oh, when He does this we do howl. I did a lot of howling in the beginning. I felt sorry for myself; I went about thinking how badly I was treated; I disliked my “quarters”; I even fretted because I did not have the price of a “MacDonald’s” hamburger, and the whole bit. But as each rebellion arose the Lord reminded me that I did not have to serve Him. I did not have to follow Him. I could go my way. I could build again the things in my life that He was trying to destroy - ego, pride, and all the rest of the filth of a nature ruled by satan. But He also reminded me that if I did go my way then I need not come crying back to Him and recrucify the Son of God afresh! It didn’t take long for me to get the victory when these truths were imparted to my spirit. Very early in these beginning days I knelt in my basement room and committed myself wholly to doing God’s will, thus becoming a bondslave of Jesus Christ.
The result has been that when I get up in the morning I can face the day because I know that it is God’s day. When things get tough (and they still do) I can say with confidence, “It is the Lord.” When heartbreak comes (as it inevitably does, time and again in this life) I can accept it and live with it. When people disappoint God’s love in me I can go on without them and not become bitter. All this I can do because Jesus Christ has revealed Himself to me and so I know Him and I call Him Lord.
In conclusion, let me say that there are various interpretations for the word, “Lord,” in the Greek Lexicon.
When Jesus stood on the seashore and told His disciples (who had not recognized Him as the Master) where to find the fish they obeyed Him. They took His advice and caught so many fish the
nets broke. Then they said - or rather, John said, “It is the Lord.” I looked up the meaning of the word Lord in this sentence and it means, “One in absolute authority.”
But in another Scripture a man asked for healing, calling Jesus Lord. And the meaning here implies only a term of respect.
And so we must be very sure when we say Lord that we know what we are saying. There is a vast difference between the two meanings. . . the difference between Heaven and hell. No matter how hard believers have tried to explain it away, the “Lord” I know must have absolute authority or none at all. I can’t find any Scripture that would give me liberty to treat the Lord only as an honored guest in my heart. He must be Master.
The wonderful thing about it all is that now I know who I am. By carefully working away at it, the Lord made me quit thinking of myself in relation to people - for the first birth was of the earth and earthly. And the second birth is of the Spirit, and heavenly. I sometimes look back upon the person I used to be and am amazed that this person is now a “stranger” to me. I can’t imagine thinking the thoughts I did, or doing the things I did. I wasn’t forced to quit them. I was simply made to see that I did not need to be that kind of person anymore. I had inherited something far more wonderful and I would be very foolish if I did not reach out and gladly receive my new identity. I feel very, very safe because I know that I am me - I belong to Someone forever. And I have eternity to enjoy my brand new life.
I wish all of you could know Him and thus know yourselves. He is here today, in power and authority and ever willing to make Himself known to you, even as you are already known to Him. He will pick you up, cleanse you with His own blood, settle your inheritance in Heaven and then begin the work of sanctification so that you will eventually know how much He loves you and who you really are. I pray that you will become a recipient of this marvelous grace. And when He comes you can say, “It is the LORD.”
From: Vol. XXVI, No. IV - April, 1992
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Something from Billie's Journals
The following is from one of Billie’s Journals. She often told me that she hoped people would read her Diaries and Journals some day, and she made me promise that if I was left behind that I would. And so I am.....even though I’ve barely scratched the surface. She wrote so much and so often. Her life is virtually documented in these writings.
This bit is especially striking; for in it she makes it clear that it was her wish that someone find and read her journals some day. This is a very special piece and so we thought we would share these thoughts with you that she jotted down sometime in early 1983. This particular page was not dated, however it appears to have been from January or February of that year. We have a lot more where this came from, and as we can we will share some of it.
Rodney, Brian & Gail, Ed & Shirley, Margaret
I pray that my story will count one day. I don’t believe the universe is made up of atoms, either - but of stories. . . people’s lives that make sense in a world that has lost all direction. I sort of “watch for Jesus.” There is no other meaning to life. My story is so very simple. No one would bother to read it, EXCEPT it is full of Jesus; and yet, only to people who look for HIM. The world is filled with stories, exciting ones......tired ones, happy ones. But there will never be a story that equals the one that was told on a starry night in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. THAT story embraces our hearts, excites our imaginations, draws us right into glory where we catch a glimpse of the Great Heart of God. All other stories are so meaningless, so empty, so tawdry. Only God’s Love makes any story real. Maybe some day someone will find my journals and say, “just read this - her story makes God REAL.” That is what the universe is all about - a story. A story of a life that makes God real. And that is all, really, that will matter to me.
- Billie Marie Zal
From one of her journals
Undated - probably written in early 1983
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
- Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)
Prayer Requests for April, 2004
For: Timothy Haynes and all the inmates in the Ottawa County Jail at Miami, Oklahoma.
For: Katheren Peters of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who needs prayer for her health.
For: William (Billy) Johnson) at OSP, who hurt his arm playing basketball.
For: Pete Kerns’ (who is at Lawton, Oklahoma) Grandmother, Fada King, who needs a healing from depression.
For: Connie and her family......Connie is the sister of Rudy Sisneros, who is at Buena Vista, Colorado. Rudy asks that we all keep her and her family in our prayers.
For: Tommy Hayes and for everyone at the Robertson Unit in Abiline, Texas; and for Tommy’s family in Lufkin, Texas.
For: William McAllister at Danville, Illinois, who just informed us that he has a heart condition. For: Francis Nolan Holland at Tucker, Arkansas. His younger sister just passed away and He needs our prayers for his strength and continued faith. Also, Nolan’s Clemency Application has not been decided yet and he asks for continual prayer until the outcome is certain.
For: Randy Demello at Graterford, Pennsylvania. He lost one of his legs in an accident in prison. He suffers physically and mentally and needs prayer.
For Dewey Moore on Death Row at McAlester. Pray that the DNA testing which is now being done in his case will prove Dewey’s innocence.
For Theodore Ricks at OSP, McAlester, Oklahoma. He wants to claim peace from God and be free of lonliness, depression and confusion.
For Willie Scott at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He was denied Clemency recently but he did receive a “Letter of Reconsideration,” so he asks that we continue to pray.
For: Judy Oakley........her Leukemia is now in remission. Pray that it stays that way and thank God for what He’s already done for her.
For: Anthony Grayson at Fallsburg, New York. Anthony said to keep him on the prayer list until his habeas efforts are exhausted. So we will.
For: For Sister Ann and our sisters in Little Rock who encourage us and pray for all of you and for us daily.
For: Our neighbor, Sandra, who is undergoing more chemo treatment.
For: Tony Collier at Dixon, Illinois, who wants prayer for his family to be healthy, safe and blessed.
For: Marcos Zavala at Lubbock, Texas..........He is still waiting to see a doctor about his hip and leg pain. Pray for his healing.
For: Eve Maytubby. Eve is a friend of Cantrell Watts who as at OSR at Granite, Oklahoma. She has pain in her hands and Cantrell wants us to pray that whatever causes this will be healed.
For: Ronnie Chaney at Brickeys, Arkansas. His older brother just passed away and he asks that we pray for his Mother, Ella Chaney, as she has to go to Mexico to tend to her late son’s business. Ronnie also asks for prayer for his sister. And pray for Ronnie, too, for his health.
For: All of our brothers on death row in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
And pray for all of us at Wingspread.
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