Ice Cube Tray and the Ladder:
Perceiving God's Will Between Conflicting Old & New Revelations
May 14, 1988
Dear Friends and Relatives in Christ,
Greetings in Jesus from S. Carolina where it seems right for me to write you again. Part of my calling and gifting is to share with you in writing that which the Lord gives me. Much of what God gives me arises in response to personal encounters and correspondence I have with certain of you. Sometimes what He gives me from one of you I feel would benefit many of you. Such is the case today.
One of our brothers in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, wrote me in response to my first circular letter last month, specifically desiring to know and be known by all of you. So that you can develop relationship with him, I will quote an excerpt from his letter to me—and then, after comments, will quote from my response to him—things which I believe will profit you all:
Now this next thing I am going to tell you will probably confuse you, so get ready for this one. It seems that the Lord has made a way for us to build a house on a piece of land that my father gave me. It is about ten miles from Dartmouth near the beach. The construction would be of stone causing the structure to be inexpensive to build and with very little maintenance (also no money borrowed to do it.)
This is very strong on my heart, so I would like you to pray that the Lord will move our hearts in the right direction concerning this. I do not want to be wasting my time doing something to satisfy myself at the expense of my calling. As I was saying earlier, this would be a step to enable us to travel and not have money tied up in a place to live…
So Chris, feel free to speak into our lives what you see about these things I’ve written.
P.S. This house would be being built with the intent to accommodate traveling Christians, and ministering in the area.
In our brother’s letter, he mentioned that I might be confused because the Lord was telling him to build a house. He said this because he knows I have been given the message from the Lord that world human rebellion began when man started building with brick and mortar, and God’s general word to the church in North America today is that we ought to be looking for ways to abandon fixed ways of living and prepare for life-styles of mobility so we can fulfil the Great Commission.
This creates a seeming contradiction between God’s Word to me for the overall body, and God’s personal word to him. The following is an excerpt from my letter to him where I deal with this apparent contradiction. I believe this will also help you in dealing with any situation where you know what God’s general will for the Church is, yet you feel God is telling you personally to move in a direction that seems to contradict his broader will for the Church. Here then is my letter to him (with additions for clarity):
If I don’t write you anything else in this letter, I want to write you about your house-building situation. Here is what I want to tell you:
1. The bottom line of all we do is determined by what God is telling us to do personally and specifically, whether it lines up with our framework of understanding God’s general pattern or not. but…
2. God has a general pattern, a general will, a general progression and direction of His purpose for His People ministered through a broad revelatory word by His prophets.
The general revelation serves as a framework against which the more “fluid” personal revelation can be tested, established, carried out (even as living flesh and blood is established on a skeleton). The general word provides discipline for establishing God’s personal, specific word to you.
Otherwise, our personal revelation only reinforces our overall lawless ignorance concerning the purposes of God for His People. We will use personal revelation to reinforce our place in the world instead of thrusting forward into God if we don’t test it against the general word.
The Ice Cube Tray
Let me illustrate: To make ice cubes, you need an ice cube tray. The tray provides the shape for the cubes until the water freezes and can stand on its own as a cube. Now, if you just dump water into the freezer without the tray—it will still freeze, but it will be in a useless mass, conformed only to the shape of the bottom of the freezer. You can’t put it in your drink.
Now—the water represents God’s specific, personal, living will for you of the Spirit.
The ice cube tray represents the general revelation that provides the framework of God’s forward purposes for His People for supporting His personal will until His personal will can solidify in our lives according to the shape of His purposes for His Body.
The freezer represents the world and our ties to it. It is in the context of the world’s atmosphere that God molds us by His revelation—the freezing. But in speaking to us amidst the world’s atmosphere, He intends for us to become shaped according to the form of His Purposes for His People (the ice cube tray), not according to the shape of the world itself (the freezer)!
Here’s the application: I have issued a general revelation for the disciplining of the body of Christ. In lawlessness, the world says, “Build houses and settle in for a long stay. Make yourself permanent here.” (This is the shape of the freezer).
But the general revelation says “No! Do Not Settle! Do not make houses to yourself to reside permanently here.” This is the general word to the body (the shape of the ice-cube tray.)
Now comes the water—the specific word and will of God to each person. Some are told to build, others to move—all in specific seasons. No one settles forever, no one moves forever. There are fluid seasons of both.
But the issue is—to which shape is our specific word conforming us? To the tray, or to the freezer itself? Without “ice cube tray revelation” that says “Do not settle,” those who receive the living fluid word from God to build a house will build it according to the world’s call to “make yourself permanent.” They will reinforce their basic evil tendency to settle with the world.
But— if you pour God’s word to you for building into the tray that says “Don’t settle”—if you test your fluid word against the disciplinary word, and it still remains in your heart—then you know it is from God—you know you are not satisfying your worldly lust to settle like the world, and you can be confident that your house will be a useful ice cube in the plan of God to set others free from their disobedient settling! That is how God works.
Sometimes we employ the things of the world to gain freedom from the world system itself. Under such conditions, it is all right to be involved with something of the world—but only under such conditions.
The general revelation I have issued about forsaking brick and mortar is a hard word. It is given to a disobedient Body-at-large who is building to settle in the world.
But to those who are obedient already—whose hearts are not settled in the world—but who use the things of the world to get free from it—this lawful revelation has no application. (Remember—the law is only for lawbreakers, I Tim. 1:9).
So if they build, it is out of higher obedience to the will of God for them—their hearts are not attached to the house, they’re ready to leave it at a moment’s word. Their only purpose in building is to help someone else get free from building or settling. But they are not reinforcing their lust to settle.
Most of the Church (99.9%) is lawless and disobedient concerning this word Do not settle. That’s why the word has been issued—to set before the body a standard that may expose their disobedience.
But once they act to change their hearts, to confess their sin, renounce their settling—then they are obedient. The word of law no longer applies. Should God yet tell them to build, they can be sure it is God, not them—for now, for them to build is governed by their awareness that they are not to settle and it is no longer a reinforcement of their lust to settle…. (Review the secttion about Law and Grace in my manuscript Labour Not for the Meat That Perishes).
Does this help you understand your relationship to whether you should build a house? I hope so. Although this word against settling is directed to the disobediently settled body of Christ in N. America, if you know in your heart that your desire is to be obedient to this word form God, yet you have tested it and still heard God telling you to build a house, and you have established as your motive for building the purpose of setting others free from disobedient settling—then BUILD!—
And when you build—do so discreetly, ie, do so with regard to the word you know against settling. Build in such a way that prepares you to leave it at a moment’s notice. Be not seduced out of your pure motivation for building.
And if it is an area of struggle for you, expect God to test you in this as you go. (Expect spiritual fire drills!) He will challenge you to lay it down like Isaac to be sure it is really of Him. Then, in all other things, build in such a way as to hear testimony to all who see your house that it is a place that does not promote settling! (One good way to see to this is to be sure your house is always open to traveling pilgrims! He. 13:2)…
Everything I’ve had to say here really boils down to one principle. It is not that having or not having something in this world is inherently right or wrong—but that in all things, our goal in whatever we do have is to get free from our heart attachments in the world and to free others. Whatever we do have, we are to use toward the goal of freeing ourselves from having to have anything.
Let me give you another illustration. To get from the ground to the roof of a high building, we need two things: 1. a ladder, 2. force of upward energy to climb it. The ladder is not an end in itself, but a means to a higher end. At the same time, energy alone without the latter is not enough. The building is too high to jump. We need the ladder’s help.
Application: The ground represents our fleshly attachments to the world. The roof represents our complete perfection in God—totally free from all earthly attachments. The ladder represents our continuing involvement with earthly things in this life. It represents our use of them (but not attachment to them.) Our inner physical energy to climb represents our faith. Our upward progress represents our faithful forsaking of earthly attachments to come up into God Himself—living by faith.
Now here’s the point. To get to the roof, we still need the ladder of involvement with earthly things. Our faith isn’t strong enough to leap to the top, but must be exercised up the ladder of involvement with earthly things. That’s why we are left in earthly bodies to deal with earthly possessions—until our faith is developed to the point we can break out of these earthly bodies altogether and indeed come into God.
At the same time, though, the ladder of earthly things is no end in itself. But by our involvement, we find that each rung helps us leave the ground behind—ie, our attachment to anything. Each rung provides a point for upward thrust, helping us leave earth itself behind.
Earthly ladder rungs serve to nullify our relationship to earth altogether! They serve to their own undoing. But they are necessary. They help our developing faith. But we don’t use the ladder to reinforce our attachment to the ground. We don’t use earthly possessions to reinforce our attachment to earth. We don’t “camp out” on any rung. In reaching for a higher rung, we are already determined to leave it before we get there.
We use each rung just long enough to gain stability and then we push off it with our faith. So we climb ever upward.
All this is to show the true place of possessions and involvements in this life as we pursue God—not to clutch them, not to build for ourselves a more secure place in this life—but as helps to our faith to be disposed of eventually until we finally “attain unto the resurrection”—our high calling (Phil 3:11-14). This is the ultimate goal of all our faith and prayer for earthly things. Without them, we can’t get there. But they are not the end toward which we strive.
So again—it’s not wrong to have certain things or build a house. These are necessary in their season to set us free from other dependencies—But just so long as we remember what they are for!
The big problem in the Church is that we camp our on certain rungs of the ladder. We insist we have to have certain things, taking the blessings God meant for our liberation from the world to reinforce our slavery to the world! And of course, in this part of the world where material life is good, the Church has the greatest problem with this. Instead of using what we have as a means to get free, we use it to retrench our commitment to building the world’s systems and our own personal empires—all in the Name of Jesus.
(By the way, everything I have said here about earthly possessions also applies to spiritual knowledge and understanding. All we understand of doctrine or revelational knowledge by any means is as rungs on this same ladder. We use it only to get free from our dependence on understanding and come into the Lord’s personal fullness! It is not for us to camp on our knowledge and exalt ourselves through our books.)
The Simplicity of Church
These are the things I wanted to share with you. I hope they make enough sense to set you free from them! As for your comments on George Warnock’s book “Feed My Sheep”—I concur. His words are well put and worth meditating over. How simple Jesus meant Church life to be. The first apostles started with life and then gave definition to it as they went—giving us understanding of offices and callings, etc. But we do the opposite. We try to start with their definitions and then produce life —and it doesn’t work. We major on defining offices and callings and ministry and then try to bring about life.
If we want to truly be New Testament, we need to start with life wherever we have it and then let it define itself through us.
All of us have specific calling from God. Our job should be to come into our calling and thereby help others come into their calling. But what do we have? We discover our calling, then we build a big house of organized wood, hay and stubble around it—then we try to get everybody else into our house! (This is how all television ministry functions).
What would happen if we instead devoted what we have learned of our calling to invest it in helping others find their calling? Then you would really see the grassroots Church catch fire and come alive all over N. America. Well-mark it down. The end of the big-time centralized ministry is at hand. No more getting everybody else to build our calling (Through their checks and Visa/Mastercard pledges!)
We’re going to get back to simplicity. I will be me—and you will be you—and I will take what I learn of my calling to help you find yours. Simple relationship—no more emphasis on offices, etc…. And that is what the next revival will be all about. That is the stuff it will be made of. No more faces of big name preachers prostituted over magazine covers, glossy literature, and public airwaves. The real fame that will come to anybody will be as it was with Jesus—by word of mouth, ie, testimony, according to the personal works of the Spirit through them.
[end of excerpt]
And now in closing, I turn to all of you to say: Don’t miss the two lessons you have just read about in my letter to our friend—the “ice cube tray: and also “the ladder.” If you didn’t understand them the first time, go back and study them til you do, for they are universal and you will be learning to live by them as long as you remain in your present body.
Don’t forget the “ice cube tray.” There are two kinds of revelation over a varying spectrum. There is “hard” revelation and “soft” or “fluid” revelation.
Hard revelation represents all revelation that has gone before you (like Scripture), revelation that applies to you generally (like a general prophetic word to the church), or any other soft revelation that has already become part of your being (like God’s earlier revealed persona will for you).
Soft revelation is the immediate personal revelation of God to you today—His living Word to you (“daily bread”). It may or may not appear to agree with hard revelation of some form, but in any case needs to be established by it. If it agrees right away, good.
If the soft revelation appears to disagree with the hard revelation, be sure first of your obedient spirit to the hard revelation. That spirit releases you from the requirement of the hard revelation (“law”) so you can move by faith according to the soft revelation, insuring you are moving by the higher obedience of grace, not in rebellion against the hard revelation. (Study acts 10)
And don’t miss the lesson of the “ladder.” All your life you will be dealing with created things (inside you and outside you). But the end of your dealing with them all is to lead you into the Creator Himself. None of them are ends in themselves.
Now you do need them. You can’t come to God without coming over your successful dealing with these things. (He’s just too high!) But God is the end, not the things, not the vision, not the ministry, not the answered prayer and manifestation of your faith.
Never use the creation to reinforce your heart’s ties to this world with its systems, Never to settle. Its purpose is to undo your relationship to natural life and bring you in to union with the Father.
Everything from building a house to God’s mystical revelation for your life is a means, not and end—it is a means to bring you into God Himself. Use it that way! (I Cor. 7:31) You must use it (There’s no “holier” way around it). But only use it. And so fulfil John’s admonition, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Every time you embark upon and engage a new turn in your life here, whether to build a house like our friend, or to leave a house; whether to enter a Spirit-anointed miracle ministry, or to leave one—Remember this word, and you will survive to stand before the Lord and obtain His Praise!
Let’s make every mortally-perceived awareness count!
written from Greenville, South Carolina
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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