The Apostolic Age
*All scriptural references taken from the New King James Version.
For behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly shall be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, that will leave them neither root nor branch.
Malachi chapter 4 contains a deeply probing message for the Church in our day—a message which could not possibly be more pertinent this very hour.
I believe the “burning oven” of which Malachi prophesy’s, has arrived. It is up to us, leaders most critically, to decide just what do as we face this oven. This oven represents a judgment that is coming on some of Gods greatest servants, to cleanse and to purify to depths and degrees like no generation before us.
What may have been acceptable in ages past, will no longer meet with God’s standard in this hour—the hour of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). The heat is being turned up to the degree that no subtleness or hidden caverns of pride within us may endure its flame. It will ultimately burn to stubble!
As we are nearing the time of Jesus’ second coming and the restoration of all things, I find in my personal life that God is turning-up a severe degree of heat, exposing various facets of pride which are still in operation deep within. For those of us who are called in this hour to carry a leadership mantle for God’s redemptive purposes; to speak healing, restoration and reconciliation to the Body of Christ at large; He is demanding implicit and unquestioned obedience.
We are at this time entering the great harvest on the heals of the collective labors of all the generations who have gone before (John 4:37-38). As we engage such the harvest, pride in any measure will be unacceptable in God’s presence, and charred beyond recognition in His “burning oven” of cleansing. Granted free reign in our lives to do so, He will violently burn this curse into ashes before us, leaving neither root nor branch. This must occur if we are to be used to the fullest within His End-Times purposes.
Consider with me for a moment, what pride looks like in relation to other sins and our walk with the Lord in general. I believe all of us would agree that pride was the driving force behind Lucifer’s downfall, and consequently the downfall of mankind through our first parents. Pride does not buffet, nor work in the illicit and more obvious manner in which other sins do. Rather, through the fall, and unlike other sins, we inherit this curse through natural birth. As we mature, we are often wholly unconscious of its residency within. Neither can we readily comprehend how deeply we are stained with such a malignancy. It permeates our entire being. It distorts our thinking, blinds our eyes, controls our demeanor, and governs our conduct.
I have observed over the course of many decades, in my own life as well as in the lives of countless others, that to be born again and to become a child of God does not necessarily mean that the curse of pride is eradicated from our lives—nor is it possible for us to escape the clutches of such in our own strength. I speak to this probing truth not from a position of mental ascent, but rather through that of dawning a posture rooted in Habakkuk 2:1, which reads: I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected.
Lately I find the Holy Spirit with increased frequency bringing correction in my life, especially that within the arena of my personal ambitions. It is a daily challenge and a daily discipline, to walk in the sensitivity-of-spirit required to hear Him. I never cease to be appalled at the depths to which this curse has stained my soul. God in His mercy, at times will lift this veil, granting us full view of our depravity. Otherwise we remain ignorant of its deluding and misleading influence in our lives. We often remain wholly unaware of its presence. This state bares sobering contrast to the posture required to begin treading in the most holy place (Heb. 9:6-8 and 10:19-23). For many, this is an undiscovered realm in God’s Kingdom. To enter the most holy place requires of us that we tread softly, carefully, and with reverence; for this is the hushed place, and the very presence of the Most High. Accordingly, Malachi poses this question in chapter 3 verse 2: Who can endure the day of His coming?
The “day of His coming” speaks to the call to ready ourselves to meet God here and now. Yet it is impossible for us to meet Him, without coming face to face with the condition of our hearts (Ex. 20:18-20). As we wholly contend to meet with God, we will die to self. The “old man” cannot live in His presence (Ex. 33:20). It seems the Lord is often willing to take His time in this process, as He sits over us patiently waiting for the gold within to be purified. This purification spans the course of our lives (Mal. 3:1-3). Ultimately and often suddenly, He will visit His temple and dwell there (we are the temple) to covenant with us. Without this indwelling, as the result of His purification, it is impossible for us to bring Him an offering of righteousness, rendering us ineffectual workers in His Kingdom.
Becoming a born again child of God does not initially grant that we are walking in this level of light and truth (John 3:18-21). Many of us, having been born again, have yet remained in the shadows for much of our lives, the shadows of compromise, which prevents us from acting as conduits of reconciliation and redemption in the body of Christ. There is no power in the shadows. There can be no compromising where God’s presence calls for action—the ongoing act of yielding to His purification (see Acts 5:1-10). As we begin to embrace a lifestyle of discipleship and walk into greater light, the shadows will dissipate. This is accomplished in and through Jesus, who was given all authority in both Heaven and earth to purge these shadows. Here is the key: We facilitate His perfecting work of the cross and resurrection in making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20)—when we first submit to His discipleship within the deepest caverns of our hearts.
Let us pause for a moment and ask this of ourselves: What is the cost of discipleship? It starts with salvation, which is a free gift. This is perhaps where most evangelical movements are presently operating. But discipleship thereafter comes at the cost of our very lives—placed on the continual altar of sacrifice. Let us look at one instance in Paul’s life, where he speaks about this.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in dispair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you (2 Cor. 4:7-12).
We must ask ourselves: Has it become a reality, that death must have its way in our personal lives, so that it may bring life to others? Or, is this still foreign theology to us? Is it yet beyond our comprehension of what it means to die, that our brother might live? (Col.1:24, Rom.15:1-2) How else will we be effective in our ministries, most especially within the apostolic mantles that some carry? The apostolic call does not come by way of our seminars, notable training and commissioning, or in our intellectual abilities, but rather through the pain and anguish of death as we observe in Paul’s life (Luke 14:26-33). Paul was a greatly learned man, but his learning was reduced to an ash heap in comparison to the glory of the cross which he continually preached and embraced (Phil. 3:7-9).
But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.
One of the critical elements needed for an effective ministry in any field, is that of a holy fear of God. As long as we are walking in an area I refer to as that of being “in the shadows,” the fear of God is not fully in operation in our lives. In this state, our obedience is still that out of convenience, rather then being unconditional. The holy fear of God will not allow us to take any shortcuts to our destinies. Obedience is not an option. Obedience must of necessity become a choice, for it will lead us only one way—to that of the cross. The glory of the cross will then perform its perfect work within our personal lives, as exemplified by Jesus Himself, as He led the way (John 13:26-35).
The result of our obedience will be that of the Son of Righteousness dwelling within us with healing in His wings, healing in our souls, healing in our spirits, and healing in our bodies—perfecting us for service in His Kingdom.
Having at one time been a farmer, I know that stall-fed calves epitomize the grand blessing and joy for any farmer as he prepares them for feasting and celebration, not unlike that depicted in Luke 15:23. I believe we need to find ourselves first, in this kind of poverty, as a prodigal son, before the Lord will fully restore us, much less use us. It is while on this journey of restoration and healing from our deep poverty (“blessed are the poor in spirit”) that He will then in secrecy, begin showing us some of His priceless pearls and treasures that are hidden from the eyes of the mediocre (Matt. 13:11, 45-46).
There are untold mysteries and hidden treasures in the Word of God that He jealously guards and selectively releases (Is 45:3). We are told not to cast these pearls or treasures to the dogs or swine (Matt. 7:6). These treasures are reserved for those who have exercised patience and who have proven themselves trustworthy in His sight.
You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this, says the Lord of hosts.
We now find ourselves in a place with God where we are empowered to trample to ashes the wickedness in our own hearts. But it also means that the wickedness surrounding us, or coming against us, must also submit to the power of God that is in operation within us. To the limits the Lord has allowed the soles of our feet to tread—is the same extent to which He will give us the people or nations for His Kingdom (Josh. 1:3 and Ps. 2:8). It seems we are now in this very day, where He is doing these things through those who have sacrificially yielded themselves to His preparation.
Remember the law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
The apostle Peter spoke about this: For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17a). Until God’s statutes and judgments are established within our hearts by His Spirit, it is vain to think we will be used to our fullest in His Kingdom, no matter how many other great qualities or gifts we may possess. There are some who might intimidate or impress us with their superior qualities, eloquent speeches, powerfully prophetic gifts, or with impressive followings; yet these personalities are often those who ignore God’s protocol in their own lives. You may etch this in stone: No one will ever perform Gods “end-times” mandate, unless they have from the beginning, met with and accepted His conditions or protocol.
Consider 1 John 2:24, which reads: Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning, if what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. It is my belief that this is one of the most overlooked passages of scripture in the bible, as it holds a strategic key which will enable us to prevail in our callings. To break this command, means severing our God given mandate. Many, if not all of us, have at times violated this passage in one area or another. This violation always warrants repentance, if we are to be restored. It is at this juncture, that I have observed through the years where many lose their way; not because God does not remind them, but because of the humility it takes to again be restored—humility which requires hearing and heeding His voice. The failure to do so is a terrible tragedy.
We often start the race so well, but then, with but one flick of an unrepentant attitude, we can completely lose site of our course, and blindness sets-in. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you (John 12:35). I know of no other posture that will stand the test of time, than that rooted in one word: Humility. The lack of this precious virtue will insure that all that we set our hands to within the work of the ministry, will ultimately wind up in the refuse pile.
We need to take a retreat for a week somewhere remote, and do nothing but soak in the words of Philippians 2:5-11 (i.e., making ourselves “…of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…”). How do we know when we fall short of His requirements in this regard? The answer is found in 1 John 2:20, 27 (the anointing of the Holy One “…teaches us concerning all things…”). If we do not seek to understand what the Lord really is saying here, I fear we will not be qualified for the long haul, nor understand the requirements of walking in the apostolic call. As long as we are operating from the shadows, we may never have the sensitivity in the Spirit to pick this up. We will invariably overrule what the Spirit is saying to us, in favor of our own personal advantage and agendas. This is why God prompts us to meditate on the phrase, “Remember the law of Moses.”
To meet the requirements of Gods statutes and judgments is a most necessary criterion in this hour. He is redeeming His work in the nations through those who trust and obey Him. To use the phrase, “born again” or Spirit filled,” will by itself no longer cut it, when it comes to unconditional obedience. I speak without apology. If we obey, we will in the end, not only come into His perfect law of liberty, but our work will be stamped with His blessing, for we must not only remember His Word, we must also understand that we may only accomplish it through our obedience (James 1:25).
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
Who was Elijah? We know nothing of his early years or how he achieved his fire and power which he demonstrated throughout his ministry. We only know that he came from the region of Gilead which is in the northern part of Israel, in the shadow of Mt. Hermon. We first meet him as he explodes onto the scene when he confronts King Ahab (1 Kings 17:1). His messages were never filtered through flesh. Rather his words were direct and to the point. He broke through some of Israel’s greatest depravity, inclusive of Baal worship as seen on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:19). He knew the God whom he served (2 Kings 1:9-10). He did not confer with flesh and blood (Gal, 1:15-17). Nor did he see the corruption of death, but was translated into heaven (2 Kings 2:9-14).
This is the power that is coming again in these days through men and women that have been groomed somewhere in the wilderness, away from the limelight. They will explode onto the scene from seemingly nowhere, demonstrating power of untold dimensions. Most of us do not think in terms of already living in the great or dreadful days of the Lord, but I believe we are, in fact (Amos 8:11-12). Agreed, the Church is making great strides, but the famine is nevertheless still reaching from sea to sea, from continent to continent. Untold millions are still perishing in the Muslim world alone. Until we are put on with the spirit of Elijah, we can only helplessly look on with no power to turn the tide in the nations for the Lord. The spirit of Elijah must be facilitated in the nations by the power of the Spirit, in order for our work to be effective. Here the question arises: How shall we go about doing this in a practical manner? Let’s bring this much closer home.
The Spirit of Elijah will commence its work, first of all, in our homes. It will begin with the fathers, who carry the spiritual mantle for their families.
I grew up in a conservative Anabaptist setting (Old Order Amish), where large families are an integral part of their faith and culture. For many years, I continually took notice, that as many families grew up, almost without fail divisions would develop between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. Rarely did I see families remain intact, working together in a peaceful atmosphere. For years this troubled me. For these I observed, were painful situations. In time, as our own family grew up, with five daughters and four sons, I was put to the test in what I had observed in others. It seemed all the teaching I had in raising up a family, and all the books I read on the subject, failed me. Many times in despair, I would implore the Lord for guidance and wisdom. In the end, it seemed I became a complete failure. In the process, I would often use discipline, or negotiation methods which I thought were rooted in great understanding and discernment. Yet, I saw that in most matters, I failed to get to the heart of the matter. As time unfolded however, little by little I discovered that for a family to flow in serenity and in an atmosphere of peace, it must come at the cost of my life being placed on the altar—the altar of sacrifice, that my children might live. This was also an altar of love (no matter what had been committed), an altar of encouragement (even where mistakes were made), an altar of unreserved blessing (whether it was deserved or not). I finally began to see God in every detail as our communication took new turns. Hearts melted, reservations between us disappeared, and innocence in their hearts was restored. Quality time together was spent in outings, fishing, or just the enjoyment of each other’s presence. I still at times weep at my ignorance, and over the times I have so utterly failed them.
Today my four sons own and operate CBS Construction Co. Their primary work is that in the arena of log home construction. In the course of time, they have developed great skill in this field. Over the years, and while observing their team at work, I have discovered that it is virtually an impossibility for family members to flow in harmony, with due respect towards one another, in the absence of a father’s blessing. We fathers must have an enlarged heart. We hold the key to cover conflicts, or to speak life and blessings where disagreements have come. We hold the key to stimulate healing where peace and understanding will flow, overshadowing any conflict. This is where quietness of soul and unity in the heart reigns supreme, when children have this covering by their fathers.
The anguished soul will discover these hidden treasures while in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14). Unless the Spirit of Elijah comes and touches the hearts of us fathers, we may never be able to properly fulfill our call and commission to our sons and daughters. But as we by faith, move towards this goal, it will surprise us as to how easily the sons are entreated in turning their hearts back to we fathers. I believe the Elijah-call on us fathers today is supreme, if we are to prevent the threatened curse that would otherwise come upon us. As we fathers stand-in for our sons and daughters, we cover them from the shame or disgrace that may otherwise overshadow them. In this way they may enter the grand finale of their own calling and destiny and thereby usher-in the promise of the Kingdom (1 John 2:12-14 and Matt. 19:14).
I know that Elijah’s coming has yet a greater significance in the nations. But without the healing and reconciliation of the family structure, how will God use us in the nations? Is my thinking primitive and without basis? I do not think so. If we cannot find the heart of God within our own personal life, families and homes, how will He entrust us for greater things to come? We fathers must carry this personal testimony of overcoming, in our homes and families, to be able to facilitate what is needed in the nations. It is not only by the blood, but also by our testimony, that we will in the end defeat satan. This may come at the cost of our lives. Do not despair however, for that is where true life begins (Rev. 12:11)
*****Ben Girod is an Amish Bishop residing in the outskirts of Libby Montana with his wife Barbara. Ben is team leader of Anabaptist Connections—a ministry devoted to the international healing and reconciliation of the Swiss/German Reformed Church and Anabaptists. Anabaptist Connections is equally devoted to ushering Anabaptists into the fullness of life in the Spirit. For more information, as well as directions for obtaining a copy of Ben’s book, Baptized by Fire—The Gethsemane Way, you may view the following web address: www.anabaptistconnections.org