OUR FIRST LOVE – Published 12/18/2016

part 51

EMBRACING THE REALITY OF OUR SPIRITUAL METAMORPHOSIS

  

“Father God of heaven and earth, we bow before you in humility and reverential awe. We believe you are the authority of heaven and earth and that no one can question you. Teach us your perfect way and help us to know that you are the meaning of life. We are truth seekers and cry out to you to please help us understand your will and the revelation of your wisdom, amen.”

We have always been taught there is nothing God cannot do and rightfully so. We will always teach and are not ashamed to proclaim there is only one true God and He is the God that has no creator. Every other idol and belief system comes is not from heaven and that automatically makes them all imposters. The one true God has the authority and ability to do anything He wants because the spiritual realm, the natural realm and the entire cosmos are His creation. He is from the beginning and has no end. He is the divine creator of all things and no one can deal with Him about anything. In this light of God’s Omniscience I want us to look at something that few bother to see. Just because God is sovereign and CAN do anything, it does not mean that He will. He does not make people believe.

Let us contemplate about a popular verse of scripture found in Mark chapter 10 and verse 27, “And Jesus looking upon them said, with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God ALL things are possible.”  The context of this scripture was actually a continuation of Him teaching about how difficult it was for wealthy people to function purely within the kingdom of God. The crowd was complaining about who could be saved and He was giving them His response. Jesus is making the point that people cannot save themselves and that it is literally impossible for a human to be the master of their own soul without tragic consequences. However, the point we are trying to observe is the word “possible” and again, just because something is “possible” with God does not mean that He WILL do it! The Lord has certain laws and orders that He operates within His perfect judgment and He does not compromise His way of doing things. In particular, The Holy Spirit convicts the human conscience but Jesus also allows everyone to “choose” whom they will serve in this life. So, does this mean there are people that God cannot save? He could save them against their will but that is not how His plan of salvation works. He “invites” people to come and embrace His plan of redemption but He will not force them. Remember the young ruler that wanted to know the way to eternal life but had no interest in surrendering his will. The bond of covenant is not enjoyed by the flesh but is exactly what separates the religious from those have relationship.

So, does that mean that people can hinder and even prevent God from saving them? I know it sounds strange, but I believe this is true. There is no doubt that God could have automatically saved everyone. As a matter of fact, there are millions of things that God has wanted to do throughout the centuries but rebellious men and women never allowed God to accomplished His perfect blueprint in their lives. He says that He is willing that none perish but the wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction. These masses simply turned their nose up at Him and said NO! And may I ask, how many times during our day do we choose our flesh over His Spirit? More than we like to admit. We do not fail because God is not constantly speaking and trying to get our attention – it is because we are not interested in what He is doing or saying.

In the natural realm we are growing older and less able to maintain. In the spirit realm we are actually (hopefully) progressing and advancing. One day this body will take its last breath and will have accomplished its purpose. Like the cocoon that houses the caterpillar, the body is a shell that was given as a temporary dwelling while we are learning and developing in our relationship with God. If we do not listen or follow His master plan for our life, we will face the worse thing that can happen which is to die twice. The devastating failure to not only waste this life but to miss out on the chance to live forever with God is beyond words. On judgment day, we will all stand on the same common ground that either we are with Him or against Him.

The basic building blocks of life are contained in each human and have the same opportunity to manifest given the opportunity to live and have a sound mind. We spend most of our life trying to enjoy the seasons and stages we are in and look forward to the next chapter but what about the last page? Someday if we live long enough, life will return to where we started. We will cry about messing in our diaper and when we are hungry. We will once again have our own bib and be fed by someone more coordinated than us and be applauded for a toilet success. In spite of our desires, we may not be able to give ourselves a bath for the same reasons we were not able as a baby. We will not be able to live alone and will desperately need a constant babysitter to watch and make sure we do not hurt ourselves. Eventually our problems and worries that always kept us on edge and a nervous wreck will fade into the distance until they are forgotten. We will learn to be humble again and to once again enjoy the simple, basic pleasures of life like sleeping. Once again we will laugh, and dream the whole day away as we enjoy being free from responsibility. May we see the return of being like a child as a blessing in the eyes of God and realize the significance of surrendering our control and exchanging it for helplessness.

Yes, God could make us strong and healthy at 100 years old and let us pass away quietly and painlessly in our sleep. He could have made a plan of reconciliation and worked out a deal to eventually give everyone a place in heaven. He could have invented a system where we live in different stages and levels of heaven based on how bad or good we were. He could have not sent Jesus to die on the cross and just based our salvation on a scale of good works. However, the gift of Grace through faith was the perfect way to use our hopelessness in order to give Him all the glory. We can achieve many things in this life but if our spiritual metamorphosis is not our highest priority, our life was lived in vain. It is not how much we gained but how much we surrendered. If in the end, we are not changed into that which He has hoped for, we will have missed the rewards and blessings of demonstrating His will. His presence is our greatest treasure.

“Lord, I am lost without you. Thank you for your Word which is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. This journey is difficult and many times discouraging, but it is your love and mercy for me that keeps me going. It is knowing in my soul that you are calling me and that you care about me that gives me hope. Thank you for inspiring me and giving me love for others. I forgive all those who have trespassed against me and I ask that you cleanse my heart today. Teach me to let go of this world. Draw me closer to you and help me to become transformed into your image, in the holy name of Jesus I pray, amen”

 

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – Published 12/10/2016

PART 50

BEING AWARE OF OUR TRADITIONS

I admit there is a world of topics to talk about that are more, let us say…important and I am sure – less controversial. I just think it’s interesting how aggressively we guard our holiday traditions. I know people that disrespectfully take God’s name in vain and yet would be ready to fight over a negative comment about Santa or an Easter basket.

If anyone were to mention that maybe we should take a serious look at what these traditions represent, it would no doubt bring a negative response from many of our friends and family. Some of us have traveled such a long distance in our spiritual journey that it would be a shame to compromise with the world over some silly traditions just because we like the warm fuzzy feelings of a holiday celebration. I would be the first person to confess how this time of the year brings brings sentimental emotions and I realize no one wants to be known as a grumpy old scrooge. I do love the thought of our heavenly Father sending His only Son Jesus to the earth to save us, but I am trying to untangle all of the other “junk” that tries to disguise itself as “peace on earth – goodwill toward men.” I do not enjoy nor is it my intention to offend others but rather to simply present something to for us all to consider. I remember working with a young Christian fellow that decided to lead his young family away from the pagan traditions of Christmas. He had been heavily influenced through the leaders of his church and had trusted their spiritual leadership. When confronted by people at work (who did not take the Holy Spirit into consideration), he would openly describe the scenario of his Christmas mornings without a tree or presents and how his small children would cry, (which was not a good idea). Of course, this irritated a nerve with these men as they saw this as some type of cultish abuse and would constantly criticize and accuse him of having mental problems. So, I have personally witnessed the persecution when someone makes a decision to swim “upstream” as they usually become a target for aggressive anger, rejection and judgment.

We all have daily opportunities to voice our opinions and then there are times when we are pressed into a corner to justify our views about certain topics. We cannot be a YES person all the time with everything and everyone or it will seem that we have no thoughts or convictions of our own. Sadly, it is common to harness our opinions because we fear rejection or that it might damage our relationships with others which may have other personal consequences. For example, I heard a story about a husband that turned away from celebrating holiday traditions but his wife had no intention of letting them go. To make a long story short, they are no longer together. Some may say, now brother, there had to more to this story, but after much reflection it was concluded that the world can have a much stronger effect over our emotions than we ever dreamed. Whether it is a social issue, politics or a theological persuasion, I think it is fair to consider that many times these areas measure our commitment to one another as well as our spiritual devotion to Jesus Christ. These areas are small compared to us one day being faced with the “mark of the beast” and suffering a life of persecution without the ability to buy or sell, however, it gives us a glimpse of how many will choose their flesh over God’s Spirit. In other words, if the peer pressure from a fictional holiday can cause us that much anxiety and rebellion now, imagine how difficult it will be in the future when we will all be faced with having to make life or death decisions.

Is there a way to participate in pagan practices without actually worshiping idols in our heart? For example, can a person put up a Christmas tree in their home simply as a decoration and not literally worship it? Can we take part in things that are directly connected with evil and not be found guilty of idolatry? This is a sobering question that will be answered by each person. Surely we can agree that the more we learn about “why” we do things, the more accountable we are to God. I would hope that everyone realizes that much of our holidays are not what they seem. Many of the traditions that have been passed along for centuries are rituals that are associated with specific individuals and events. Yes, some are from the Bible and some from fables while others have come directly from the witchcraft of pagans and heathens in connection with idol worship. Especially Christmas and Easter (which by the way, the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection are THE MOST holiest events within the Christian faith) have been mixed and contaminated ON PURPOSE by Satan. His intention is to blend all types of lies and evil practices into one huge pot of deception so the life-changing gospel of God’s love becomes lost in the chaos of Santa Clause, eggs, bunnies, and over indulgence. The sparkling lights, the sugary delights and the wrapped packages all appeal to the carnal imagination of our flesh. There are loads of resources that can be found to enlighten our understanding and help shape our belief system toward God’s truth, but who will care enough to research the facts? Some will say, “it is only fun” however we are reminded in chapter seven of the book of Joshua about Achan and the valley of Achor. Now brother, what has this to do with the holidays? It has to do with obedience. If God is telling us to not be involved with things that are unclean and associated with demons, we should heed His warning because it will bring curses upon us and our household. We also recall how some of the wives of King Solomon were allowed to bring statues of idols into his house and eventually his heart grew cold and fell away from God. This is not cute or a joke, but rather is very serious to the Lord who sees everything in a spiritual context. One more example of insanity would be for a Christian to celebrate Halloween or “all hallows eve” which is the highest respected days among the world of witchcraft and devil worship. Why would anyone dress their child in a Satan, demon or witch costume? Are they proud to represent the world of darkness and open the portals of opportunity for demons to enter freely or are they tempting and making fun of the spiritual world? Do people not realize that John 10:10 is not kidding? People participate in witchcraft and then wonder how Satan came into their home and destroyed their family. “Destroy” means that Satan hates us and will try to do everything he can exactly like he did with Job. God can protect us but He also demands for us to pray for His wisdom and live pure and holy.

I believe we can all agree that pagan traditions are just another snare trap to bring us into a state of sin which leads to a separation between us and our Lord. It is very similar to watching television programs that offer just a few repulsive nasty words or just a touch of erotica, nudity and lust into an otherwise good story. Satan is NOT unleashing the floodgates of sin upon the masses all at once, but just one spoonful at a time until they become slowly poisoned. The idea is for those who once hated the taste of sin to slowly compromise until eventually they acquire a tolerance when given small amounts everyday. Social issues that years ago would have not been considered or hardly discussed have now become accepted as valid reasons for the numerous, bizarre, twisted and corrupt lifestyles. Secular humanism has taken complete control of the media and is now boldly preaching their demonic confusion! “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Allow me to ask you a question: would you rather be simple minded and left alone to believe the traditions and doctrines you have been told, or would it be better if you sought the Holy Spirit so that you can know the truth? Let’s look at it like this: what if you were a nutritional scientist that studied the effects of food to the body and let’s say that you adored a certain snack that you ate several times a day. But in your research you discovered that your favorite treat caused a ravaging, fast growing cancer. Would you be sad that you stumbled across this knowledge that can now possibly save your life or would you wish that you had remained ignorant so you could keep enjoying your treats? Deception is when we DO NOT know the truth – Denial is when we identify it but refuse to deal with it! God desires that we be aware of His warnings and all that is going on around us. “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:9).

I do not consider myself a party-pooper about Christmas though some may see it that way. I have nothing against people who read or watch the fantasy or fiction as most movies, plays, songs and books are based on the imagination. Personally, if you see me in the library I will most likely be in the non-fiction section as my interest falls in the areas of theology, history, world events, philosophy and human behavior. Personalities are different and that is not a bad thing in itself – we need creativity. I was raised along with most other American children who enjoyed the familiar holiday traditions of Easter, Halloween, and Christmas and I experienced much of the same emotions as everyone else and as far as I can see, it did not damage me as a productive adult neither have I been admitted to a psyche ward. However, I am also not convinced that a “little” paganism can be planted without reaping some type or degree of negative harvest. The “reverential fear” of the Lord is not just part of a religious jargon collection – it is the highest act of respect. It is common for religious people to compromise a little here and there because they do not walk in the awareness of God’s presence. It is the remnant disciple that has surrendered their will and who is committed to following God’s general will along with His specific blueprint that are spiritually discerning to know right from wrong and sensitive enough to avoid anything that has a hint of evil.

All over the world we can see how folk legends and traditions have become a sacred part of certain cultures and each society will strongly defend them. In America, I am amazed at how aggressive people will become over an opposition to their traditions compared to their allegiance for God and His Word. Whoever coined the phrase, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” was not thinking about the consequences or dangers that are connected many times with things that are cute and seemingly harmless. Allow me to say, that explosive devices made in the shapes of “cute” teddy bears do not lessen the unpleasant reality of their destructive consequences! “For certain men are false apostles [spurious, counterfeits], deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles [special messengers] of Christ. And it is no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:13-14). Satan is an experienced pharmacist that loves to fill prescriptions of influences in plain bottles that have no warning labels about dangerous “side-effects.” One of the most popular recreational persuasions of the kingdom of darkness is that every human has a “right” to freely think, speak and act however they want without any responsibilities or remorse. This is halfway correct. Everyone does have free-will – but it is God’s perfect desire that everyone ABANDON this old nature of selfishness and take up their cross and follow Him. Satan’s false teaching is simple: If he can convince the world that all spiritual teachings and convictions lead to the same destination and that everyone must respect every theory and concept as being equal in truth under the umbrella of God’s divine reality, then all individuals and all belief systems will be accepted without condemnation. His clever idea is to blend God’s absolute truth with a world of error and within this diabolical concoction everyone will love and respect each other in a state of utopia. This strategy is to secretly but intentionally demolish TRUE truth in order that evil and chaos may succeed. Yes, we are to be open-minded but we are also called to speak up against the lies of Satan.

The modern thought of social psychology is to relax and accept the agnostic way of thinking. Of course the agnostic embraces the law of secular humanism because one gives legal authority to enable the other. This is what is being taught today to the young people of this world. All of this is trying to establish the coming system of anti-christ and it will not be as difficult as we would think. What does all this have to do with holiday tradition? Pagan practices are just another subtle way to distract and erode spiritual truth. If Satan can indoctrinate our children’s education with lies, counsel them with secular humanism, entertain them with lust and violence and influence them to embrace moral relativism we will have a New World Order which will fulfill the prophecy that has been written about an evil world at the end of the age. The spiritual condition of a lost person is to function throughout life with a dead conscience. This state of living in the lower, fallen nature can rightly be recognized as the living or walking dead. Satan would love to dumb-down the inhabitants of this world to a mental state of unconsciousness. This was the condition of the world before the great flood as civilization became infected with their own carnality to the point of being not much higher than beast. You see, beast do not care what other beast believe they only want what they can get. Beast love to be free and do whatever they desire and in this kingdom there is plenty of prejudice, politics, violence and death. A beast does not care what other beast do as long as it does not affect them. They have no sense of conviction or compassion because they do not know the Holy Spirit. Satan is bringing out the big guns of psychological teachings such as tolerance and moral relativism because he knows his time is short and he has many souls to destroy.

In the psychological realm it is very common to see children embrace the patterns of their heritage. When a child absorbs the sights and sounds of family traditions, ceremonies and rituals these patterns become embedded in the mind as seeds that most likely will germinate and reproduce the cycle. These ideas and interpretations grow into personal worldviews, which shape the convictions and actions called a belief system. As a Christian from the Western Hemisphere I cannot help but see the drastic difference between the imaginative world of our holiday culture and the spiritual truth of God’s Divine reality. Those who claim to be a Christian have checked on their “salvation application” they will follow God’s truth with ALL of their heart. But, when it comes to being emptied of our social garbage, they are not excited about learning how our holidays have been altered and adapted from heathen cultures. We must admit there is no place for pantheist lies and the deception of heresy in the life of a true follower of Christ especially when it comes to deceiving small children. Would it really be that disappointing to a child if they were told the truth about the difference between a fable and reality from the beginning? To embrace and teach a make believe story to the young and naive about how a human figure can perform great magical miracles that directly affect every human on the planet is nothing short of pagan worship. Here is a short list of what is actually being taught as real events concerning the image of Santa Clause, spiritual idolatry and the symbols of Christmas.

The only human in the history of the world that can change his body (and solid inanimate objects) into any shape or form.

It is taught that Santa Clause has the power to disappear and become invisible.

Santa Clause supposedly has the power to fly.

It is taught that Santa has the super-natural ability to be omnipresent and omniscient. This means he shares the divine power to know and watch every person on earth, where they live and to remember every deed whether good or bad all at the same time. This constant observation and recording of individual actions is a direct imitation to the idea that God is “all knowing” and the ONLY one who judges sin and rewards obedience. This alone proves that Santa Clause is a spirit of anti-christ.

It is taught that Santa has the power to know the thoughts and hidden desires of every person on earth. The Bible teaches that God is the only one who can discern the thoughts, motives and intents of the conscience.

We can see the types and parallels of the true God and this impostor who tries to steal the glory and attention from the Lord Jesus Christ. The North Pole, which is the permanent dwelling of Santa, represents God living in the eternal kingdom of heaven on His throne. The elves that are magical servants of Santa represent the angels who were created to serve God day and night. The sleigh and reindeer are a type of the white horse that Christ will ride when he appears in the air. The gifts in the sleigh represent the rewards and crowns that will be given to the saints when they are home at last and stand before the Almighty God. Santa comes in the night when everyone is asleep, just as Christ has said that he will return when everyone least expects as a thief in the night.

It is told that Santa has the authority to give animals the magical ability to talk and fly. God is the only one that has ever empowered animals to speak in a human voice and he gifted only certain animals to fly when He created them.

The spiritual idea of giving gifts first of all comes from the ultimate giving of Jesus to the world from the heavenly Father. The human example of giving came from the Magi or travelers from the East that brought treasures for Jesus and left them with Mary and Joseph as a form of respect and worship for the promised Messiah and King of all Kings. The modern idea of exchanging presents is completely distorted from the original concept of worshiping and adoring God. This corruption of a holy and pure love for God has been perverted into a carnal act of selfish commercialism and paganism. Our human nature is self centered and filled with envy, which is always on the lookout for a “give and get” idea and Satan did not need to work very hard to twist this reverential respect for God into a holiday about our own desires. In what way does the concept of our modern gift exchange program cause us to truly worship God?

The Christmas tree is not a modern decoration associated with a Santa Clause holiday. “Thus say’s the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers that it move not”. (Jeremiah 10:2-4) Sounds like a Christmas tree, so why do we do it?

The foundation of our responsibility as followers of Christ is to teach the gospel and how to trust this good news. Yet Christians proclaim to their own children how to have faith that Santa is real, that he will magically appear each year and that he can be depended on to always bring wonderful blessings. When the child is finally told this entire story is a lie, they are left with feelings of betrayal and distrust. Non-Christian parents shrug it off while Christian parents proceed to tell a completely different story about God that is very similar but this time – it really is true. The problem with this image replacement for the child is the damaging psychological conception that it might seem impossible to give credence to ANY spiritual stories or mythological personalities. We are told from birth that Santa never fails and Jesus never fails, but in real life we discover that we do not always get what we ask for and sometimes we suffer and fail. However, if you notice carefully, the negative discouragements and disappointments are NOT associated with Santa while in the subconscious mind God can be thought of as actually less reliable especially with a non-Christian atmosphere. Again, just the idea of having another person trying to impersonate God is an evil spirit of anti-christ.

These are just a few of the obvious signs of heresy and there are many more. It doesn’t matter if the St. Nicholas idea came from Germany or the Netherlands 800 years ago, the point is we have blended it in with what we should set aside as holy. I encourage everyone to read the story of Nimrod and his wife who was called the queen of heaven and their son Tamuz who was worshiped as the god of the sun. People literally sacrificed their children to these gods and celebrated them throughout the year because they loved and trusted them with all of their heart. So, why would we want to continue these rituals within our own lives? We should not allow biblical truth to become mixed with fairy tales, fables and legends for the sake of enjoying an artificial sense of magical illusion. This craving for fantasy can grow into an addiction that could cause an individual to not only shun reality but bring curses upon their life. This deception could be one reason that so many have a distorted view of the seriousness of spiritual consequences. Most people do not want to deal the suffering and pain of bearing the cross of Christ and living in the land of magic and superstition eases the conviction of the conscience. It is not my intention to offend but rather to provide an alternative thought provoking view of the bigger spiritual picture. I am reminded of the Christmas card I saw in the store recently that said; “Merry-excess.” Again, this is not really funny but is a mockery to mans greed and foolishness. Satan is the author of confusion and you can discern this spirit of chaos even while walking through the stores because you are actually sensing the spirits of darkness and distraction. This is the spirit of the devil that opposes the truth that God is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life.

OUR FIRST LOVE – published 12/3/2016

PART 49

PRAISE GOD WE HAVE BEEN MADE RIGHTEOUS

“But IF we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from ALL sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. IF WE CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us” (I John 1:7-10).

How often do we think about what an honor and miracle we have been given concerning us becoming righteous? Our salvation has different components but the fact that we have been MADE righteous is the best news we could have ever received. When God looks at us, He sees Christ IN US which allows us to be connected with Him. It is true, the bride is the remnant of believers that have taken God’s Word seriously and have become committed to following His voice but they do not receive the glory for their own goodness – this work has been accomplished in their spirit as a miracle of redemption, propitiation and reconciliation through the blood of Christ Jesus. I compare our Christian life to a land owner who has been called to business in another country and leaves his farm to the care of a friend. The crops are very close to being harvested and it is very important that everything be done diligently and responsibly. When the owner comes back home, he finds the crops are still in the field wasting and rotting. When he confronts his friend, the man shrugs his shoulders and says Oh well; I had other things to do and was too busy to do any work. Even though we would never admit this is our attitude toward God, I am sad to say that many times that sometimes this is how things really are. The beauty of grace is that God does not destroy us or take back His gift of eternal security just because we fail. The above scripture is saying that if we have guilt, remorse and a broken heart from our trespasses and sincerely repent, that God will forgive us, but for the sins that we commit and have no remorse for, that is a completely different situation. Nonetheless, we can praise God forever for His righteousness that covers us and allows us to continue being His child and a joint heir according to His covenant.

Not caring to obey God or being concerned for others is a lack of love which the Bible clearly explains as not really being anything more than a tinkling cymbal. Let us remember that walking in His Spirit is not developed over-night but at the same time becoming automatically righteous does not mean that we ignore our responsibility to avoid sin and grow in our faith. But just how do we live holy and become what He wants us to be? Many agree the first step is gaining a revelation that being pure IS God’s will. Next, we would need to pray without ceasing and ask Him to help us and show us what we need to do in order for our mind to be renewed and transformed. By abandoning our will and letting go of our desires and the precious treasures (and pleasures) that we serve, we are allowing Him to bring His refining fire into our life and purge out the dross that is preventing us from living in holiness. We know the mind is the breeding ground for sin but unless we put our knowledge into action and understand the importance of spiritual awareness, we will continue to live in the bondage of carnal slavery! When we receive a gift, it is mature and appreciative to consider what it cost the one who gave it to us. Gifts are always free to the receiver otherwise it would not be a gift at all but we should stop and think about the great price that paid for our gift of righteousness. It is pointless to give expensive gifts to small children because cost means nothing to them. They would be just as happy with a cheap piece of junk from the dollar store than a top-of-the-line handcrafted toy. In fact, many times they would be happier with the box it came in. Sometimes it seems we are not concerned about the great sacrifice that Christ made and to be honest maybe even take it for granted. We have heard about it so much in our life that if we are not careful we can become insensitive because of familiarity. After we have learned divine truth, we cannot use the excuse that we are toddlers and do not understand the meaning of “value” and while we cannot grasp the entirety of what Jesus went through, we can certainly keep seeking and growing.

We have some understanding of what our gift of salvation cost and we know about the work and pain (emotional and physical) that went into making it available to us. However, to choose to live in sin after being redeemed causes us to look like the immature, ungrateful spoiled brat. Living in sin while under grace is like someone else getting convicted for a crime we committed and responding by committing that same crime over and over again. And even when we say we are sorry, repentance is not just about saying “thanks” but about being determined to NOT let it happen again. The next time we are faced with temptation and we are considering sin, may we think on the fact that for whatever we are about to do, Jesus was scourged, beaten, humiliated, hung on a cross, and left to die – to pay for it. If this is OK with us, then we have a serious problem. It is sickening to think that the sacrifice of Jesus allows us to live in sin and not even feel a deep sense of guilt. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6). His plan was for us to live on earth for Him now so that we could live with Him in heaven! Salvation is a free gift, but it was not without cost; God paid dearly to make that gift available and we have been called to live holy out of the reverential respect and fear of who He is.

Imputation is one of the principle doctrines of Biblical Christianity. It means to; write down in a record or ledger, and signifies setting to one’s account or reckoning something to someone. The verb “to impute” occurs frequently in the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul assumed the debt of Onesimus when he wrote, “If he hath wronged thee, or owes you anything, put that on my account” (Philemon 18). “Charge that to my account” is used in the Bible with spiritual/legal reference to our sin and salvation. God imputes or accredits the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ to the believing sinner while he is still in his sinning state. For He (Father) hath made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21). God has manifested His righteousness apart from the law “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:21-22). The reason for this judicial standing before a righteous God is because we have “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The foundation upon which God can justify the believing sinner who is still in his sinning state is because this justification is a gift! “Being justified FREELY by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through FAITH in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God”(Romans 3:24-25). From God’s perspective, righteousness is transferred into the believers personal account which makes them clean and acceptable to God.

Romans chapter 5 teaches the imputing or charging of Adam’s sin to the entire human race. Because Adam sinned as the federal head of humanity, God considers all men as sinners. We are possessed of Adam’s nature and the sentence of death is imposed on us. The effect of Adam’s fall is universal as we do not become sinful by sinning; we sin because we are sinful by nature. We are born lost and we sin because we are corrupt. As Adam’s disobedience is set to the account of every member of the human family, every person participates in the guilt and penalty of the original sin. The judgment of God rests upon all men outside of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ because of imputed sin, our inherited sin nature and our own personal failures. The guilt and penalty of Adam’s sin was directly imputed to his descendants, so that all give way to death. In I Corinthians 15:22 we see, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Since we are born in this sin nature, we stand guilty before God and deserve the “death penalty” until we come to Christ alone for a right standing before God. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

Romans five affirms that just as Adam’s act of disobedience brought spiritual ruin for mankind, so Christ’s obedient submission to death on the cross brought righteousness and eternal life to all who believe on Him. Praise His Name forever! “For He has made Him to be sin FOR US, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21) Thus we realize the sin of man is imputed to the sinless Savior, Jesus Christ. There was a judicial transfer of the sins of man to Jesus Christ, God’s Sin-Bearer as is recorded in Isaiah 53 and in I Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare OUR sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness: whose stripes you were healed.” The sin and guilt of the human race was imputed to the spotless and pure Lamb of God when He became the sin offering and bore the penalty for the whole world. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins: and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2: 1-2).

Let it be clear that Jesus Christ did not die for any personal sin that He had committed because He knew no personal sin in His entire life. He was the only person who ever lived on the earth that was sinless and pure. This is what qualified Him to die as the perfect sacrificial substitute for sinners. We remember that the imputation of sin to Jesus Christ was typified in the Old Testament sacrificial system, where the sins of the guilty were symbolically transferred to the innocent animal victim. The scapegoat of the Day of Atonement graphically symbolized the transfer of human sin and guilt to the divine substitute. When the high priest laid his hands on the head of the goat and confessed the sins of the people he in effect transferred the guilt of the people on to the animal. “And he shall go out unto the alter that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the alter round about. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger sever times, and cleanse it, and hallow it (only for God) from the uncleanness of the children of Israel” (Leviticus 16: 18-19). This is where we find the meaning of “scapegoat” as the idea is someone who takes the blame or is sacrificed so that others can go free. “He was crushed for my iniquities. The chastening for my well-being fell upon Jesus Christ and by His scourging I am healed” Isaiah 53:5). Isaiah used the strongest words possible to describe a violent and agonizing death. It was the divine stroke of judgment when Christ “was pierced through for our transgressions.” Our sins were imputed to Jesus, and He went to the cross and died so that we could live. Furthermore, God imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to the believing sinner while he is still in his sinning state. As a result of His atoning sacrifice, Christ’s righteousness is set to the believer’s account. The imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the sinner lies at the heart of the Biblical teaching on salvation. “The righteousness of God” is credited to the person who puts his trust in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is what makes a person saved. This was true of Abraham and is true of every believer in Christ. All of our sins were charged (imputed) to the account of Christ, and His righteous standing with the Father has been deposited to our account. There is a judicial transfer of the righteousness of the Almighty to the believer because there could be no other grounds of acceptance with a holy God. The Lord is the author and finisher of our righteousness. Paul said, “But the things that were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is of the law, but that which through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3: 7-9). Amen.

OUR FIRST LOVE – Published 11/27/2016

PART 48

RELIGION DOES NOT REALLY WANT REVIVAL

I have been involved in the church world most all of my life and the word revival is universally recognized as a common expression within the Christian world. Revival has always been known to be an exciting experience where everyone openly shouts and the atmosphere is filled with fresh and fervent spiritual energy. All Christians will acknowledge this concept is ingrained within their religious background and is used to inspire us and help us get back on track with the mission we have been called to do. The idea is to “re-light” our fire again, to challenge and provoke us to get back to God’s business! However, the problem with just sitting around waiting for someone to beg and plead with us to do what we should be doing already gives reason to be concerned. Cheering someone while they tell us the thrilling truth about God’s Word is wonderful but if you think about it, this is nothing we have not already heard a hundred times. And I believe the most important question would be if we really have the sincere intention to act on the message? Well brother, what are you trying to say? Are you implying we should not plan revivals or invite ministers to come and bring their messages? No, I am simply saying that going to church is not the same as being filled with the Holy Spirit and truly “walking” with Christ.

I was talking to an older man the other day and he was emphasizing how going to church was the most important activity in the Christian life. I am not saying it is wrong to attend or be a member of a certain group in fact, I think it is perfectly fine if that is what God is telling you to do. People and society has changed so much especially in the last 50 years that it is more difficult to become involved with others without being drawn into worldly situations. We may assume that congregations are filled with holy individuals but they are not. Sadly, most churches are thriving with carnality and fleshly attitudes of every type. We should be cautious when entering into a group of people that are not walking in the presence of God. I am not pointing my finger at anyone in particular but just observing how many church members come to a point of comfortable satisfaction. In what? Free-will allows us to become satisfied with certain levels of spiritual contentment and reject the idea of changing their life and surrendering their will. The danger of not allowing God to continue stretching us will result in stagnation and lukewarmness and when this happens in the church, the services will become more like a Moose lodge meeting than a place where we commune with God. Sadly, it seems that most church folk are not really serious about becoming a remnant disciple but are more interested in the idea of going through the motions and attending the meetings in order to earn a gold star reward from Jesus.

I am not sure people understand what revival is about. The idea is not to make us feel good but to make us feel ashamed of our sin. Revival comes to expose our cold way of living and bring life into our deadness. This is a time when our rebellion is melted and the alters become tear stained as a result of our repentance and Godly sorrow. Allow me to present a quote from A.W. Tozer. “There seems to be a notion abroad that if we talk enough and meet enough, revival will set in like a stock market boom or a winning streak on a baseball club. We appear to be waiting for some sweet chariot to swing low and carry us into the Big Rock Candy Mountain of religious experience… a kind of benign miracle, a feverish renaissance of religious activity that will come upon us, leaving us morally as we are now, except that we will be a lot happier and there will be a great many more of us….” The truth is that a Christian should never come a point in their life where they believe that someone else always needs to re-light their spiritual fire. Yes, God can use His messengers to encourage us as an extension of His power, but one human cannot save nor convince another human to live in God’s presence. Each person is accountable for their own salvation and this includes the accountability to maintain a constant fellowship with Christ. Our prayer life is our lifeline to God’s presence and no amount of going to church can take its place.

Most churches today say the right things but much of the agenda is based on control. Many have no intention of letting God manage the service, in fact they would be shocked and astounded if they were to witness a true move of God. Very few pastors fall before God and seek direction for the services and invite the Holy Spirit to have His way and without this they are missing the point completely. Any person that has been called to speak for God should humbly realize their responsibility to represent heaven. It is the anointing of the Holy Spirit that can turn words into a life-changing experience! If Satan is not afraid of the message, then it will have little effect on the hearts and conscience of the listener. No one comes unto the Father unless He is drawn and this is only accomplished through the convicting power of God’s Spirit. It’s not the charismatic personality that convinces others to surrender their will; it is the divine power that is contained within the Word of God which is living and active. Until all pastors take hold of this mantle of their spiritual calling instead of seeing their religious service as just another way to make an honest living, the majority of churches will remain weak, wishy-washy and powerless.

We should not look to anyone as the source of our spiritual nourishment because God lives in us and we are perfectly capable of studying, working and praying on our own. We can become as close to God we desire and we can pray with confidence in the holy of holies knowing that He is listening and will respond on our behalf. I have visited several churches lately and on Sunday mornings they all have provided coffee and donuts and its common for the crowd to be engaged in conversations about sports, politics and other interest. While there is laughing, joking and opinions being exchanged, let us also consider that coming into the presence of the Almighty was described when Isaiah said the Lord’s presence filled the temple and the walls and pillars shook and the smoke of His glory filled the sanctuary. Allow me to say that I am not implying that we are not to fellowship with the saints but it is the attitude, motives, holiness and the expectation within our heart that should be focused on His Majesty. Do people really want revival that exposes their carnality? Do they cry out for God to change them? What does entertainment, blessings, comfort, eating and raising money have to do with repentance and reverential fear?

OUR FIRST LOVE

part 47 – Published 11/20/2016

WHERE WILL WE DRAW THE LINE WITH JESUS?

How many will discover the revelation of seeing themselves in the telescope of the “big picture” instead of focusing in the microscope of self? People who are convinced that everything revolves around them, who are self-centered and always only concerned about their feelings usually have a pocket full of tickets to ride the roller coaster of disappointment and negativity. At times I have been one of these people and it is amazing how I could not see it. Serving the god of “SELF” is a sin of idolatry just as much as worshiping any other person or thing. Everyone needs a revelation of Jesus Christ along with a revelation of their own heart in order to realize the meaning of salvation. We must become empty of ourselves so that we can be filled with God. We must desire to see this reality within our conscience and then be willing to pay the price to be transformed. It is unpopular to acknowledge but many times our frustrations are the result of not cooperating with God’s intervention. One of the best ways to snap out of feeling sorry for ourselves is to get up and go somewhere with the intent of helping someone. Pull yourself away from the mirror long enough to see how others are living and your problems and anxieties will begin to fade. Walk through a children’s cancer ward at a hospital or read foxes book of martyr’s and all of a sudden you may think your life is not really as bad as you thought it was. Go out and buy some cards and send them to those you know with no hidden motives. Donate food to a God’s pantry or buy a needy child a toy and give it to them in the name of the Lord. Give a donation to the Bible league so that people around the world can know Jesus or maybe spend some time with someone in a nursing home. There is so much need all around us, so many people that need to feel the touch of God, to hear about how much He loves them. I encourage you to simply take a pen and paper, and write down as many of your blessings you can think of and within no time at all you will begin to see yourself the way God see’s you which is the true reality!

If we do not learn from our trials then our distress has been a waste. Crisis situations are opportunities to put our faith and patience to work! How can we be defeated when God is for us and working constantly on our behalf? He was even involved in the middle of Job’s trial. Maybe the reason we struggle is because we are fighting Him for the steering wheel. If we let Him drive I believe we would be more likely to enjoy the ride, don’t you? Is there such a thing as counting it all joy when the blacksmith is holding us to the fire and shaping us with His hammer? I’m not saying it is easy but actually, yes. If we KNOW that God is making us into what He has called us to be – we can count it all joy! We may suffer trauma, turmoil or even persecution and no doubt it is all uncomfortable but we must eventually get back up and dust ourselves off in order to get back into the race. Remember, when the blacksmith is finished with his piece he does not throw it in the corner and forget about it. He has worked hard to produce his vision because he intends to use it for his specific purpose. God knew you and planned you before the foundation of the world and has been taking care of all the fine details to bring you to this place and has every intention to use you NOW more than ever before! He is trying day and night to polish you and challenge you to be a strong and effective instrument to accomplish His purposes. Sure, the world is falling apart because of sin but that is exactly why we cannot afford to throw in the towel. Do not allow unforgiveness, bitterness or being offended to render you powerless. “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” (Mark 3:27) You and I represent the strong man and whenever we become discouraged, our pity binds us and holds us captive to the enemy that desires to control our life. True healing is all about forgiveness, letting go, turning the page and continuing to move forward. To remain wounded and bitter is to be plagued with the ongoing torture of emotional and spiritual infection. If we have sinned then it is time to ask God to forgive us. We do not need to LIVE in the misery of rebellion. Many times people are going through severe trials that are actually chastisement from the Lord. If we are truly His children, God will intervene into our lives and bring discipline if we are not listening to His instructions. As soon as we repent with sincere sorrow and humility, He is gracious to cleanse us and restore the joy of our salvation. It is time to advance to the next level of maturity and let the wounds turn to scars (from the inside out) that remind us how God is our Jehovah Rapha THE God that HEALS! No matter what someone has done to you, God’s grace can fill your heart and allow you to see others the way He sees them. The deeper the pain the more valuable the lesson and as you learn from your trials, allow them to build your character and wisdom so you can teach and help others from your experiences. May we step back and realize that our life is all about becoming what Jesus died for us to be and how effective we can be used to help others IF we really want to. To God you are a masterpiece! Pray for awareness and understanding. Watch carefully for His unseen hand and listen intently for His still small whisper. You are God’s instrument and He is waiting to arrange divine appointments so that you can continue being a vessel of honor. “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction” (Proverbs 3:11).

I have been noticing lately how that many printing and advertising companies are providing the ability to provide graphic skins on for the exterior of vehicles. These computer images are an option to proclaim a message for companies and supposedly do not damage the finish on the paint. I have been considering having it done to my vehicle with a theme of the crucifixion with scriptures and have actually mentioned it lately to a few people I know. The response so far has been surprisingly negative because it is presumed that no one would want everyone staring at them. Some have said that it would damage someone’s credibility with having a “Jesus mobile” and that everyone would snicker and roll their eyes to such a kooky idea. Everyone said that people would think I have lost my mind and it would damage my reputation. Really? I thought it had the potential to reach out to thousands of people and possibly could be used as a powerful witness that could bring conviction and salvation to those who see it. I am surprised that I have not seen anything like this already and evidently it is because others have been advised to can the idea. We do not feel ashamed to wear a shirt with our church name on it or maybe a scripture and many people place small bumper stickers or emblems on the back of their vehicles that contain spiritual messages however, I guess that covering your car completely with the gospel would be a little “extreme” but is that not what we have been called to be? How much courage would it take for someone to stand on the corner of the street with their Bible and begin to share the gospel? Now brother, people would think you have lost your mind! Do you not have any pride or concern about your integrity and are you not caring that people will laugh and make fun of you? Oh, I get it; we are embarrassed to be seen being a fool for God! We are afraid that people will not respect us anymore because they will think we are an out of control, unstable, weird, scary, religious extremist. Even though it is perfectly normal to paint our faces, jump, scream, dance and do back flips at a ball-game! I realize that we do not really need to do anything to show that we are Christians except to actually live like one, but it does make you think about just how much more we could do to tell the world about Jesus if were not so self-conscious.

I have mentioned this before, but what if we knew Jesus was coming this coming Monday at 2:00? Would we do anything more than we would normally do? Shouldn’t we be living like this? If we are ever going to do something for God, I believe now would be the time to do it. Jesus perfectly understood what His mission was and He also knew the hopeless condition of the world. He did not have any time to waste and realized that the more He preached and performed miracles the more people would be able to reach out to God in faith and be given access to cross the bridge into heaven. This is why He taught in the temples, on the hillsides and from boats that were docked on the shore. He was completely absorbed with His mission and did not care what people said or thought of Him. He was never intimidated and did not allow the mocking unbelievers to intimidate or scare Him away from doing His Fathers will. This has caused me to wonder just how far we are willing to go with our witness. Are we a person who thinks that having a cross on our key-chain is about as far as we want to go or are we building courage to become a “sold-out” radical that will let go of this world for His cause? Are we going to have such a burden for souls that we will do anything to reach them? The same reason we are afraid to be a radical witness for Jesus is the same reason we are not interested in worshiping Him. We have not become desperate – we just want enough of God to get by! Even though we can have all we want, it is obvious that most of us only allow ourselves a comfortable amount!

My Mother-in-law Mary Pritchett was a great Christian lady and we were very close through the years because we went to church together and spent a lot of time talking about God and the Christian life. She was always listening to sermons and praise music and read the Bible and spiritual books constantly. Jesus was all she wanted to talk about. Four and a half years ago she had a devastating stroke that left her in a terrible condition and we all hated to see her suffer in pain and the agonizing discouragement of having to be confined to a nursing home. The stroke affected her body and her mind and she was never the same especially the last year when hospice intervened and provided pain medication which caused her to sleep most of the time. She quietly passed away this past week and was laid to rest Friday the 18th of November. I was reminded when writing her eulogy, that she had written letters to several family members over the years as a way of reaching out to them concerning salvation. She loved her family and was very concerned about their soul and this was a way of telling them how she felt and what God desires. She was known to be a Jesus fanatic and sometimes her aggressive approach to evangelism made people uncomfortable, but the idea here is that she sincerely cared so much and did not worry about what people thought of her. To make a long story story short, she loved everyone and wanted them to go to heaven. She wanted each person in the family to know Jesus so that we could all be together someday. I respect her for that and believe this is the way God wants us all to be. She was not perfect by any means and made some mistakes, but who hasn’t? How many times have you and I damaged our testimony by doing something weird? It’s true that people are watching the bad things we do, but praise God they are also sensing how much we care and this is how the Holy Spirit draws them to the Father. In the end, it will always come down to love and will be the focus when we stand before God. It is wonderful news that she has been set free from the bondage of this life. No more suffering, pain or agony, she is free at last – free at last! Mary is praising God around His throne and is filled with joy, peace and rest. We love you and will miss you, but we are so happy for you and will be with you soon.

Have you ever been driving down the road and saw an individual carrying a large wooden cross? A couple of times in my life I have actually seen someone doing this and I have to admit I was awestruck. As I passed by, my heart was pierced with emotion and in my shock I was immediately reminded of Christ and convicted that I did not have the courage to do something like this. Why not? Why would I be embarrassed to demonstrate something so visible? Am I afraid that people would point and laugh, honk their horns and shout insults toward me? So, what causes someone to build a large cross, put it on their shoulder, and carry it through town? It’s simple; Jesus has become so personal to this person that the burden for souls has become a “life-changing” revelation and they have determined they will do whatever it takes to be used as a light unto the world. There are levels of desire and concern and when our love becomes a burning passion WE WILL do something highly out of the ordinary! We will not care how outrageous, how foolish or how much it will COST us! It is NOT knowledge that causes us to become a radical disciple – it is being filled with the Holy Ghost and set on fire! We are supposed to be a “peculiar” people and I believe that includes being willing lay down our pride and not caring about our reputation but more concerned about being a representative of Him! This level of spiritual living is the foundation that builds the freedom and joys of worshiping God in Spirit and truth and until we come to this place, we may never understand the depths of His presence. Who will stand and sing God’s praises? Who will lift their hands and clap and shout unto the God above all gods? Who will sacrifice their time by becoming an intercessor for lost souls? Who will abandon their will so that God can lead them and anoint them with His power and the character of His nature? The testimony of the overcomers is that they loved God and lived for Him with ALL of their heart! They have been empowered and washed clean by the blood of the Lamb and will walk holy before Him in this life and the life to come. The remnant warrior does not draw a line with God. They walk into the flood and the fire because they are confident He will always be there with them.

OUR FIRST LOVE

PART 46 – Published 11/13/2016

GIVING HIM OUR “HIGHEST” PRAISE

Most Christians have been raised in a church environment and naturally associate praise and worship in the context of a corporate setting. To some, it has never occurred to worship God beyond the four walls and this is a perfect example of religious confusion. When God does not capture the imagination, it is easy to see how anyone can just go through the motions and become numb to what is said and done within the church and in their everyday life. This way of thinking can sadly extend into the habit of believing everything is alright and only turning to God when we need help. Spiritually this may seem elementary, but it seems that many Christians have never understood the concept of having a personal relationship with Christ. I have been in many services throughout the years and it is not unusual to notice people, (no doubt daydreaming) just standing there rolling their eyes as if they are bored to tears yet, these are the same people who the night before was screaming, jumping and crying for their favorite sports team. How could that be? How could a Christian be so enthusiastic and aggressive with something that has very little meaning, then yawn at the opportunity to proclaim Jesus as the Almighty, Eternal King that will reign forever? There are several reasons besides not liking the music.

Let us begin with the fact that in the natural realm humans can actually SEE and know what is happening and in turn they emotionally “respond” to it. Whether it is waxing a vintage automobile, or displaying a cabinet of trophies or lusting after the opposite sex, it is the VISUAL that tempts our ego, drives our lust and captivates our attention. In most cases, it is not even our possessions or accomplishments that bring us great satisfaction. The old saying is true: it is not the destination but rather the journey. Nevertheless, in a “normal” church setting, we usually do not see the manifestations and demonstrations of the super-natural, (when is the last time you talked to someone that has literally “seen” God?) and in this modern age of “techno church” it seems that many have simply lost the passion of their first love. The normal church routine is that we sing some songs, listen to a prayer and a sermon and then go out to eat and there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but if we are convinced that Sunday morning church is the same as taking up our cross – Houston, we have a problem. The dilemma with an immature mentality is not having a developed spiritual “vision” of what God desires in our personal relationship with Him which causes the individual to be more of a spectator instead of a participator. The Christian that is serious about their walk with God will NOT be satisfied with a religious facade but will be drawn to learn and know the specific details of their mission on earth. Focused disciples have a passionate desire to HEAR with their spiritual ears and to SEE with their spiritual eyes (every moment). There must be a deep hunger and thirst for truth far beyond the church community and must include the awareness of Jesus in all of Christian living!

Worship needs no songs, instruments, music or beautiful stained glass buildings. Worship does not even need a voice if the voice is unable to speak for it is within the heart that God can recognize and know the intentions. Worship is simple and all that is added to help demonstrate our worship are only enhancements for our communication to sound more enhanced or more beautiful. Worship is never a performance because having excessive pride in our ability gives glory to our flesh. Many have used their gifts and talents to help them gain fame and popularity which has only swelled their ego’s which by the way is vanity and pride is is very deceptive. The dark fruits of arrogance have diminished the spiritual anointing of many who began their callings and ministries with right motives but they learned to love the attention to self and started to believe the applause was for them. There is a danger warning for all who enter into the realm of watching others praise God as the enemy of our soul is always ready to teach us how to worship ourselves. Another aspect of worship is that praising and adoring our heavenly Father in Spirit and truth is very simple and similar to prayer, but also like prayer it is commonly faced with VERY strong resistance. Spiritual warfare is real and will challenge just how serious we are and what a value we have placed on abiding with God. Until our desire to worship our Lord becomes greater than our apathy to ignore Him we will never do it! As an example of this simplicity, allow me to say there is no higher expression of worship than to tell God – “I love you.” Allow me to say that more singers or more instruments cannot make these three words any more powerful than they already are. God does not care about how professional or elaborate we say it, He is just deeply moved when somebody says it and means it. Do you remember the story of the little drummer boy that played a simple beat on his drum as the only gift he had for baby Jesus? What could he give to the creator of the universe? What can any of us give? Our heart is ALL that we have and the most difficult to let go of because it contains our will. When Jesus was on the cross, He was establishing a blood covenant between God and “whosoever will” believe. This miracle established the reality that everything He has is ours – and all that we have (our heart) is His. Our songs, books, poems, artwork, sermons and labors are just millions of individually unique ways to say I love You and I am devoted to You forever.

It is such peace and a feeling of awe to recognize the power of His person and the love and beauty of His presence. However, within the thoughts and dreams of heavenly bliss and the glorious mysteries of the spiritual realm as true as they are – they are not without stipulations. Of course, God is love and desires that everyone reach out with childlike faith and embrace Him but His principals and character cannot compromise His perfection and included in His infinite truth is His holiness. The more pure and holy we are – the closer we can be to Him. On the other hand, the more filled with carnality we choose to be, the more distant we find ourselves from Him. So, I would not be revealing the entire truth if I did not mention that the life of freedom and joy in His presence is conditional upon our sanctification. It is sin that keeps our spiritual eyes blinded and our heart distant, darkened, restless and heavy. Until we abandon our will and let go of our independence and carnal fantasies, our intentional rebellion will continue to be exposed to God. This is sin and can lead us into empty religious attitudes and becoming lukewarm which He will never be pleased with. If we are so heavily “drugged” and deceived by the control of our flesh, it will not be possible to enjoy the blessings that come with walking in His Spirit. When we allow our heart to become hard and dry with worldly lusts, we lose the sensitivity that is needed to hear His voice and discern His wisdom but if we will surrender to His love, His mercy and grace will empower, persuade and convict us to repent and in turn He will wash us clean so that we can be made presentable to Him. If we remain determined to continue in this relationship and allow His Word to become saturated into our thoughts, our mind has the potential to be renewed and God can completely change the way we think and act. Transforming us in every way is “total salvation” and the reason why Jesus came and died! Our promise has everything to do with obedience to this covenant agreement and our sacrifice is to surrender our old nature (will) to Him. This is the heart of the New Testament he made with whosoever would believe in Him and is the eternal foundation of our faith. Within this concept of Him becoming our Master is the realization of our responsibility as His servants. This is where the Christian life goes from doing whatever WE want to doing whatever HE wants and this reveals some of “why” we worship! (and also reveals why only a remnant are interested.) Jesus told the Father, “not my will but thy will be done” and this is the most profound example of what being born again is all about.

Allow me to ask you a question; have you ever been in the presence of God? Well, brother I think so, I’m not sure, how would I know? Well, if you have been born again, your spirit is from Him and directly connected to Him. Whenever a person receives Christ, there is a definite bond between the spirit of the child and the Spirit of the Father but the potential of how close they become depends on how much the person responds. When we pray, meditate and confess His Word and worship Him as our Lord, we can sense the presence of His person because we are washed in the blood of His Son and now we have His DNA identification. It is awesome to know that since He lives “IN US” we can walk through the forest or along the beach, and feel His presence because He is there! We may not be able to see Him but when we are truly born-again, He not only transforms our spirit but literally desires to sit on the throne of our heart and is looking forward to leading and controlling our life. In this thought, we realize that it is easy for Him to speak to us and influence our mind from the “INSIDE” but unfortunately this is where free-will comes into play and most of the time our old nature is so strong it will not permit our mind to listen to His voice. If it was only up to our mind and old nature to decide when to worship God – we never would! It is only the determination of those who are allowing their mind to be renewed that receives the message from the new born spirit that it wants to be with God and is ready to obey whatever He is saying. We are always hearing about being “filled” with God’s Holy Spirit, but in order for that to happen we must empty our heart of all the garbage, lies, excuses and sin and most importantly – we must remove ourselves from being in control. There is only room for one King upon the throne.

Until a person receives the revelation of learning how to walk and abide in God’s Spirit, they will step right past Jesus and never recognize Him. It takes spiritual antennas that are up and the transmitter must be dialed on the right station in order to pick up the channel clearly. Many have NOT been motivated to read, study, intercede, worship, develop faith, do His works or speak positive confessions, in order to get on the same page with God’s will. Most have not been taught or “challenged” to even pray before they go to church so they we can receive God’s Word and be anointed in a divine appointment with someone who may need help. How many pray for the pastor, the worship leader, the musicians, or the teachers before they even enter into the church door? For that matter, how many Christians pray each morning that God will guide their own life in the sensitivity of His voice throughout the day? The same is true with how many Christians have never learned the importance of “living” in the awareness of God’s presence. How many live with an expectation that God is going to perform a miracle and believe that souls will be saved? And how many pray that faith will ARISE within the congregation so that a Holy Ghost fire of repentance, renewal, zeal and dedication will burst forth? How many actually know that God is going to heal and deliver those who come to us for prayer? For those who are not connected with a local assembly, the same is true with having faith that God is going to use us in divine appointments on a regular basis and for us to be instant in season and out in order to do His will. We certainly do not need to be a member of a religious organization to live mightily for the Lord Jesus Christ. His people ARE the church! If we live without a bold confidence and positive EXPECTATION that God is going to move, we are getting exactly what we are anticipating! We will receive the return according to what we believe! One of the largest obstacles in evangelism is the failure of Christians to realize that God wants to use US to help rescue the lost. He gave all of His heart to us so that we could give all of our heart to Him and in this beautiful exchange we become empowered as a servant to accomplish His will.

Allow me to ask you, if Jesus Himself miraculously appeared and stood at the podium on a Sunday morning, how would you react? Would you just sit there, would you applaud Him, would you go up and shake His hand? Just to stretch our imagination, what is going to be your response when this life is over and you meet Him face to face? Will you embrace Him, will you fall at His feet and tell Him how wonderful he is and how worthy He is to receive all worship, love and glory? Number one; Actually, HE IS all around us all the time but evidently we are not aware of Him. Number two; if we are not really interested in bowing before Him now, what makes us presume we are going to desire to do it then? Do we really think there will be complaining in heaven because it will be tiring to stand up so long? Do we think that some will gripe about the music being too loud or not their style and then whisper that they are going to leave early so they can get a good seat at a restaurant? Allow me to say again, some of our lethargic attitude is because we are just not interested and have not placed Him at the highest priority of our life. Many are not thinking about Him at all. Why? Because our free-will is constantly absorbed in planning and enjoying our own plans. I have always thought that NOTHING should be more important than our relationship with God. I believe that if we worship or love anything above God that we are already back-sliding. Maybe this could be a sobering indication that we really do not want to be completely dedicated to Him and are NOT as much in love with Him as we think.

OUR FIRST LOVE 

PART 45 – Published 11/6/2016

THE AGONY OF DISRESPECT

Do you have certain goals for your life that have not come to pass? Do you often wonder whenor if these dreams will ever be manifested? Do you sometimes speculate that maybe you have done something to prevent your destiny from growing and being more effective? Have you ever felt that no one respects you or what you are doing? Before we go any further, if we have made mistakes and feel discouraged and not worthy to fulfill our destiny, we are being condemned by the dark side in hopes that we will forget the idea altogether. Christ will always forgive us and He will stand against anyone in our defense. He loves us so much and He wants us to understand that if we want others to respect us, we need to treat others the way we are longing to be treated and that includes sincerely encouraging them in the things they are involved in. I realize this can be difficult because we are so focused on our own needs, but it would be wise to apply self-discipline and consider the principal of sowing and reaping as it will never fail to produce results.

Great news! God is trying to get in touch with you! Sometimes it seems that we are like ships that pass in the night but make no mistake – it is NOT God that has taken His attention away from you. Most of the time we say we are waiting for Him – not realizing that He is waiting on us! In these wilderness occasions it is important to ask for divine appointments and sensitive discernment in order to become more aware of how He is trying to intervene. You do NOT need the respect of man to PROVE your ministry! The only thing you need to establish your gift as valid, is to be confident that God has called you, endorsed you, equipped you and is commissioning you! When you are confident of this, your level of anointing will depend on how serious you are about obedience and prayer. If you truly desire to be all that you believe He is calling you to be, but are constantly running into obstacles and discouragement, there are solid points we can rest on and KNOW that God has not forgotten His plans for you or the abilities and anointing HE has put within you! Actually, if you study the leaders of the faith (especially Christ) you will see their life was empowered yet did not always have an easy path. Even in the world, the ones that have eventually become successful may have had a long history of disappointment, but they also had a key quality called perseverance. God uses the ones that have failed and fallen because when they heal and learn from their mistakes and finally “get it right” they are stronger than ever and ready to accomplish His will and reap a good harvest. Experience does not always make one wiser, but if we give Jesus our wounded life there is no limit to what He can do through us! Just because you are having a season of resistance and rejection does not mean that you are destined for defeat – it just means that you are in the “fine-tuning” stages of His perfecting process. Those who overcome seemingly impossible obstacles realize the dynamics of determination (nothing is impossible with God) and place ALL of their trust in knowing that Christ IS their victory no matter how violent and dark the storm! “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Number one: EVERYONE has a gift from God! The ones who say they have nothing to contribute are usually just trying to wiggle out of the commitment and responsibility to serve. Since this life is a training ground for the next life, it would be a good idea to recognize your gift and begin to find places where you can use it! You may be thinking that you do not want to get involved with other people or all the headaches that goes along with being a part of a team but allow me to remind you that you will be working in heaven and you will be involved with the entire assembly of heaven. The more we give of ourselves NOW the more God will bless us with later because we have earned His trust and followed His commands. In the parable of the talents, we must remember that Jesus Himself is teaching and was very serious about this issue. He was trying to focus and drive home the point about how what we do with what we have will be seen as a measuring tool of our thoughts and desires about our love for Him. If we respect His Word and the glory of His being, we will be intense about obeying His voice because we KNOW we will face Him one day and give an account of our attitude. Those who pray for wisdom and divine appointments and develop sensitivity of the Spirit will be watching and waiting for opportunities to do His will. Through the symbolism of this story, these over-comers (you and I) have been promised that in the next life we will be given authority to reign with Him. “His lord said unto him, well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Mathew 25:23) The reason I mentioned the fervency that Christ was emphasizing here is that we notice at the end of this story, He does not compromise or fail to deal with the consequences of laziness and rebellion. I am not sure the church has taught the importance of being actively involved with our calling and how much God is expecting from what He has given to us. Often it seems the politics of church government does not want the people to become overly involved with demonstrating their calling because it would expose how there is no need for paid ministry. Let us continue reading in verses 28 and 29, “Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” In other words, if someone becomes lazy or refuses to develop their spiritual gift, they will lose the ability to use that gift. However, for those who give their life into serving God and doing all they can to obey Him, they may end up gaining more resources, a stronger anointing and doing more than they ever imagined. The organized church through the years has taken much of its style of government from the traditions of men and this representation of ministry causes many to rely on the compensated clergy to do the work of the Lord instead of Christians examining their own heart to discover their own callings. God’s children will be held accountable for not listening to His voice as the sins of omission include refusing to obey and embrace our responsibilities! The spiritual life is a gradual progression of training and development into an experienced warrior that serves faithfully on the front-lines for the sake of all that is precious in God’s sight. The pastor has a specific office but every saint has also been commissioned to be a minister of the gospel and filled with the miracle power of the Holy Spirit.

Number two: Everyone says they want to do God’s will – but many are just hoping that He will bless their own blueprints? These are the kind of statements that need repeating so they can be slowly absorbed into our conscience. Actually this must become a “revelation” of wisdom or it cannot be truly realized. You see, we can do many things in God’s name and lots of Christians are very bust with religious activity but the question remains are they doing what God said to do? Of course it is much easier to do the things we “like” to do or that we find familiar to us, but what about when we are asked to go out of our comfort zone? What do we do when we are faced with the decision to obey Him or try to think of everything we can to avoid Him? I believe that God is not as nearly impressed with “what” we do as much as He is with our willingness to obey. How many that were called to be missionaries have never stopped running away from what they know is true? How many that had the calling to be a minister yet have never yielded their heart to God’s service because they were afraid of what it might cost them? In fact, this is partly the reason why Christians in general live in denial because they fear what people might say and are not willing to abandon the things they hold dear. I keep going back to the rich young ruler but until this becomes a life changing reality within the very depths of our soul, we will only believe this was something just between Jesus and this man. Christ said that he had done well and was no doubt a respected man of the community but if he thought that he had attained the plateau of the Christian life – he was mistaken. Jesus was trying to explain how this man had designed the Christian life “around” all the things he loved so that everything fit perfectly into his imagination and plans for a comfortable life. Even though the young leader had done marvelous works – he had never really surrendered his will. And allow me to say that until we also come to terms with this wisdom and become enlightened to this same truth, our lives will never enlarge beyond how this man lived. God is not happy for His people to walk around“proud” of their religion or who they are in the eyes of the world, He is touched when He knows that someone has presented themselves completely to Him and is sincerely ready to dowhatever He says! This is the highest level of spiritual living unto the Father. “And He [Jesus]was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.”(Luke 22:41-42)

Number three: Be ready to be rejected. If anyone thinks that laboring in God’s Kingdom or spreading the gospel is like passing out twenty dollar bills – they have never tried it! I would say one of the most discouraging aspects of the ministry is the seemingly endless lethargic attitudes from those who know you are a Christian and are trying to avoid what you have been called to do. It is shocking, but many times you will find those you thought were brothers and sisters in the faith are actually the ones rolling their eyes as an obvious way of NOT wanting to be associated with you along with trying to discredit you to others. Please listen, no one will ever be as excited about your ministry or anything that you are doing as much or more than you! If you have a gift and have been sent by God to use it, then hallelujah, praise God – go as hard as you can! BUT, do not forget that everyone else also has other interest they are focused on and to tell you the truth they are not that absorbed with what you are doing. I can honestly say that as I have been writing and singing the music the Lord gives to me, it is very seldom that anyone even makes a comment about it. It is common for me to give someone a disc of songs and never hear about it again. You would think that someone would say something, but does this keep me from making more? Of course not. Yes, I am discouraged, but I know that the Lord is giving me the material and the gift and I will keep doing it until He tells me to stop. Rejection is very hard on the ego (and that may be a good thing) but as long as Jesus enjoys it let us be content, happy and grateful. We remember that when Christ was arrested and a young girl accused Peter of being “one of His disciples” like he was contaminated with some type of plague. As the crowd became focused on this accusation, Peter fell apart with fear and lost his courage to stand boldly with Christ. In his embarrassment and anxiety of the moment, he angrily cursed and denied that He was a follower of Jesus in order to save his own skin. Of course he later regretted what he had done and wept bitterly because he knew he had failed, but the point is that we must be prepared for the rejection and lack of enthusiasm toward us – and the God we serve. Remember; we follow the Lord because we love Him! And we pray and labor for everyone because we love them! If anything else is added, we may lose our pure motives, our passion and become vulnerable to discouragement or even giving up entirely.

Allow me to say that in most cases across the board, the way people react to you and your calling is nothing “personal” – it is spiritual. Remember the old saying, “birds of a feather – flock together?” Everyone is an individual and has different desires, specific interest and hobbies that they usually try to make time for because people are captivated by what they love. Even Christians can easily have their priorities out of order and cherish several “idols” that take preference over being obedient to the Lord. For example, you would think those who follow Jesus would enjoy reading Christian books and articles about their faith or listening to Christian music that edifies and encourages their spirit – but that is not always the case. Many who call themselves Christians do not even read or study their Bible or worship God at all. So, if you write, sing, teach or create any type of spiritual contribution to the body of Christ and expect those fellow Christians around you to be jumping up and down excited about your gifts and talents – you will probably be disappointed. I can say from experience, that it is discouraging to put a lot of effort into leading worship or teaching at church and have no one say anything. Why does that bother us? Because everyone wants respect and we hope that someone will appreciate what we are doing. We want to make a difference in this life and we want to reach as many as we can because we have a burden for souls. This is a normal emotional thought, but we must learn to be content by remembering that Jesus respects us whether anyone else even notices or remembers us! It is NOT because people do not like you or believe your ministry is not a quality and worthy cause, they are just NOT interested in it! We cannot afford to be offended at them just because they do not appreciate us. Just stand back and see the big picture and realize that people are about as enthused about what you are doing as they are about praying and yielding their will! There are so many distractions and the enemy is working night and day to steal away their attention from God. By the time they read the newspaper, magazines, surfing the net, texting, e-mailing, face-booking and watching TV in the evenings etc… there is no time left. People are allowing the devil to bind the strong man” (their will) and ultimately distort and diminish their spiritual life! We do not just pray for them to listen to us because we cannot change their heart or make them rearrange their desires; but we can pray that God will intervene with “whatever it takes” so they will return to their FIRST LOVE.

OUR FIRST LOVE

PART 44 – Published 10/29/16

THE WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE

Human rights is a topic that has gained in popularity over the years and today is the cause of much division and strife within our religion and politics. I will admit that I am not an expert when it comes to this subject and realize I should know more than I do. I also include that sadly I am convinced that many average people like myself are also lacking an understanding of this subject. Instead of basing my worldviews on the philosophies of worldly imaginations, as a Christian I choose to use the Bible as the basis of my thoughts and convictions because I believe it is the road-map that guides us into His perfect plan. There are two major issues we are facing today in our society and after much thought I realize there is a huge difference between homosexuality and abortion. Let us begin with being gay. Most Christians have been under the impression this is a Christian Nation and behavior that is contrary to their interpretation of the Bible is unacceptable. What many have forgotten is that being gay falls into the category of free-will which means that everyone has the choice to do whatever they want as the expression of sexual identity is not only legal but it is a spiritual decision the same as any other lifestyle. We know this is true and is a cornerstone of the foundation concerning salvation and judgment. The Lord Himself has designed the world and included within the conscience of the human race, the CHOICE to accept His way OR to walk away! We cannot stop this behavior no more than trying to prevent someone from eating ice cream. Our mission is to reflect Jesus in our life which allows the Holy Spirit to convict and draw the lost to God. He is the only one that can reveal His truth into their life and give them the desire and courage to become spiritually transformed along with the renewing of their mind.

Many are saying that Christians should not act like the moral police and I see where they are coming from because the problems within this situation is actually about those who are NOT led by the Holy Spirit but rather who act in the emotional realm of ignorance. We cannot change anyone and we are to be very sensitive to how we approach every person. If God is not saying to intervene, we should demonstrate love and fervently pray. This can make the difference between ruining a divine appointment and being used as a catalyst within the change process. The law has been given to punish the perpetrators, enforce social stability and protect those from harm but we have still been called to love and visit those who have made terrible mistakes. It is NOT against the law to be gay and thus no one has the right to abuse someone who is. Yes, there are many today that view this type of behavior as offensive because they do not believe this is God’s way to live and it may not be, but Christians have been called to love people and not be prejudiced no matter what type of life they have chosen. People are not the enemy – SIN is the enemy and we must always remember the power and influence that is behind sin is what drives the individual into being who they are. Alcohol and drugs for example are devices that are used by individuals and while they are under the influence there is much sin and damage that is done. However, Christians are not to HATE these people for falling into the snare-traps of wickedness and rebellion, but rather have been called to love them and help them be set free from sin.

Now, let us spend a moment with abortion. Let me begin by saying this also legal within the government of man. Many are opposed to abortion because they are convinced that God hates the slaughter of innocent children and that the unborn child’s right to live trumps the mothers right to kill it. However, the majority of the masses have elected their representatives and these law makers created an opportunity for women to decide whether they want to have a baby or to discard it. It is true, there are many different scenarios where aborting a child may be the best decision, like for example if the doctors are convinced the mother will die while in childbirth. The mother is always given the consideration to live because among other obvious reasons, she can have other children in the future. There are many other different situations such as the child being diagnosed as brain dead or will be a permanently disabled or rape and incest situations that are decisions which the mother can make and again are completely legal. Let us not be so insensitive as to remember these choices are very painful and should not be criticized with hate and condemnation. Those who judge harshly have obviously never been faced with these gut-wrenching circumstances. However, the issue that is hardly mentioned concerns the freedom to destroy life simply because the mother does not want the responsibility. Having sex is an act that requires accountability and just because it is legal to abort an unborn child does not mean this is the right idea. I believe it is a sin to destroy a healthy baby if the ONLY reason is because it is not wanted and is nothing less than murder. If a drunk driver kills a mother while she is pregnant they are charged with two counts of manslaughter. Why? Because they are two different people. We cannot have a double standard with this issue. If the mother decides she does not want this human being that is growing inside of her, she should deliver the child and allow someone else to love it and raise it. In these particular occurrences where there is a lack of responsibility between a man and a woman creating a life, and their idea is to eliminate the “problem” this is not God’s way. This is mans way of justifying selfishness and attempting to live in denial. Of course, there are multitudes that disagree and are the same people who envision a society where we all can do whatever we want. God calls this a rebellious and heathen environment and we have the great flood in the days of Noah to remind us of how He feels about our disobedience and intentional sin. If we think for one moment that God is not angry with how we have acted in this country we are deceived. The prophecies have already been written and we are on the edge of tribulation such as the world has never seen. The secular humanist are mocking and laughing at those who believe in God and it is sad to imagine that judgment will not soften their heart of stone or open their blinded eyes. Only the gospel truth has the power unto salvation! Only the power of the Holy Ghost can penetrate the hardest conscience and awaken their wicked mind. The world is saturated with evil and God is ready to give them what they deserve. He is not surprised because He knows everything. He is not panicked or worried – He is in total control. He is sad because He is willing that none would perish but at the same time He realizes that broad is the way that leads to eternal destruction and narrow is the way that leads to the joys of everlasting life but there will be few who will find it.

There are two different types of people in the world, Christians and non-Christians. The followers of Christ have been saved by God’s grace and are forgiven and redeemed by the precious blood that Jesus shed on the cross. This does not make them sinless but rather are seen as righteous because of their new spiritual identity. They still sin but their spiritual eyes have the potential to see and they now have the opportunity to grow strong in faith but this does not necessarily mean they will accomplish what God has planned for them to do. Many Christians are lazy and disobedient and one reason why the masses think the Christian idea is a joke. But mostly, the world is dark because they have not surrendered their life to God and are spiritually blind and absolutely lost in their sin. They are harsh and uncaring because they are functioning with their default spirit and carnal mind. These individuals will never be able to comprehend right and wrong because they do not have the author of all truth living within them. It is like a radio that is dialed to the wrong station and until they are connected with Christ they will never be able to know truth or understand the meaning of life. Can a person be gay and a Christian at the same time? I believe so, the same as a person can be an alcoholic, addicted to drugs and or pornography. Christians sin all the time. They are supposed to be learning, growing and developing in their faith and relationship with Jesus Christ, but many times they also choose to hold onto the sin that they love. With all of us, it will come down to choices and how serious we are about pleasing the Lord and being a good and faithful servant.

Friends, I say this as lovingly as I know how, but we live in a violent and evil world. The reverential, holy fear of an Almighty God is difficult to find in this last hour. The aggressive and violent nature of the beast has filled this world with hate and darkness. There are many among us that have NO conscious or compassion for anyone. Recently, I walked into an armed robbery that was in progress and even though I my weapon was in my vehicle, I chose to not run back and get it. Instead I was calm and allowed them to take the money and run out the door and thank God no one was hurt. Of course all I heard since from those I know who are police and firemen, was that I should have killed them both. They seemed very young and dumb and I am not saying we should not defend ourselves, but would you take a life over $218.00 of Family Dollars money? I was surprised with how many people looked at me with hatred in their eyes and seemed to take pleasure at any opportunity to kill another person. I know that I would have felt terrible to have killed someone and I honestly hope I never have to. I actually believe there are more people who are literally possessed by demons than we realize. The ones who are committing crimes along with those who are chomping at the bit to kill them. I do believe in punishment but that we should also feel sadness that people are going to an eternal hell. Jesus died on the cross because He had compassion on a lost world. He knew we were all evil but He loved our soul and did everything He could to save us. Have you ever walked through a graveyard and became burdened and grieving for those who are lost forever?

I was reading a website the other night where someone had written an essay on abortion trying to explain the mothers rights and all that goes along with this subject. So, as I try to be open-minded to learn about things I do not know, I spent a considerable amount of time reading hundreds of comments, and finally stopped because I was so discouraged and sad with the attitude of the masses. I turned off the computer and prayed that God would have mercy on their souls. Folks, the evil and coldness of those comments reminded me of what a conversation would be like in hell where a group of demons would be sitting around laughing and mocking everything that is holy and precious in God’s sight. People were saying that unborn children were just lumps of tissue and that it was no big deal to throw them in the garbage. They said if a woman did not want it, they had every right to kill it. They were cheering women for saving the planet by reducing the population and agreed that she had to answer to no one about this “thing” growing inside of her. Some compared the baby to wart or mole that can easily be cut off and others said in some incidences it was actually reducing the crime rate. They all agreed that until this group of cells could live on its own, it was NOT a human person but rather was referred to as a “parasite.” This went on and on with hundreds of people spewing out cruel and disturbing comments that sounded like uncivilized barbarians and yet no one mentioned the rights of an innocent child. Why? Doesn’t the unborn child who is an innocent human being, have the same human rights as everyone else? Who could look at a garbage can of dead babies and walk away laughing and saying how the world is better off without them? What if that was your brother? What if that was you? The selfishness and zombie-like attitude is a sobering reminder of what is to come. If people are this violent and calloused within their mind, how bad will it be when the world falls flat on its face? The people down the street that seem normal will suddenly turn into the type of monster that you have never dreamed was possible. There will be individuals that will lose all perspective of decency and will not consider the Word of the Lord in their decisions. Survival at any cost will be the battle cry and any and all violence will be justified in their reasoning.

Brothers and sisters, do we realize the extent of how vicious human nature is? People are very much like a stalking predator, a beast that is partially civilized but who still carries a mentality of violence and death. Most humans have never made the choice to restrain themselves from being a carnal animal and this default way of thinking and living is much darker than is seen with a first impression. The human race lives with a beast mentality but most have learned how to hide it and keep it on a short leash. Only by the grace of God are any of us partly decent and caring. If there is anything good that comes from us, it is from heaven and all the glory goes to God. Jesus was God and He knew what the world had become. We are FALLEN – there none good no not one! He realized that humans hate truth because it exposes their failures and haunts them about changing how they act. Big news! People do not want to change how they act because this old nature has established an enjoyable lifestyle within the conscience of the soul and NO ONE is going to force them into surrendering their will. This is true as God does not make anyone love Him or accept His ways into their heart and mind. He convicts us and offers us a new way of living but FREE-WILL is a part of His glorious plan and explains why the world is still groping and wandering in the darkness of spiritual ignorance. I was a part of a car accident re-enactment this week at both of our High Schools as this demonstration was intended to remind teenagers about the dangers of texting and driving. I was asked to come and discuss with the classes and was shocked at the dark attitude of these young people. I listened as they cursed and disrespected authority. I could sense a strong rebellion along with an aggressive social agenda that included hostility and a warped representation of arrogance. I finally walked away with a deep concern about these future leaders of our world and realize we are in trouble. This next generation is a result of terrible neglect from parents who did NOT invest Godly values into their children. It is not that humans lack intelligence because many are very smart with natural and fundamental knowledge, but they are void of divine wisdom as God cannot pour His new wine (Spirit) into an old wineskin. Each of us must have a new processing system installed within our being in order to translate His voice and understand what He is saying. This happens by grace – period. No one searches for God on their own – they are drawn.

OUR FIRST LOVE

Published 10/22/16 – PART 43

APATHY – A DEADLY SPIRITUAL INFECTION

But ye have NOT so learned Christ. If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your MIND; And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:20-24).

The blood covenant of Jesus Christ is the greatest event that has ever happened in the history of mankind! It has everything to do with our worship now and forever. We will never be able to tell Him enough how much we love Him or thank Him enough for His endless mercy. It is strange that hardly anyone would disagree with these statements but very few would feel enough gratitude to praise Him for this reality. Why? Because the spirits of slumber and apathy are an oppression of the mind and heart that is much stronger than most people have ever dreamed. These negative attitudes are aggressive and dominating spiritual influences that build strongholds and fortresses of doubt and fear within our conscience. They are subtle and pose as personalities and character traits of laziness and a mellow, laid back demeanor, but in reality they are a demonic deception. We speak about the many reasons why God’s people do not want to praise Him and are uncomfortable to express their feelings toward Him – APATHY is a deadly spiritual infection and is one of the fiercest enemies against God and His people.

Being a person of joy and peace is a result and reflection of a FERVENT personal relationship with Jesus. When we are first “birthed” into God’s Kingdom, we experience a very exciting and joyful time because the weight of sin and guilt has been lifted and the new feeling of freedom and purity is such a happy occasion. Like a bird that has been released from its cage we fly around and are amazed at how everything seems fresh and appears optimistic and hopeful. The bubbly, “lightness” of being clean causes us to float around in a euphoric dream-state that cannot be explained. Then sadly, we get used to our new “suit” and eventually the new begins to wear off. We are still spiritual infants and have not come to realize that we are leaky containers that can go from being filled to empty in a matter of hours or even less. It is a hard lesson to learn but we are told how we need to keep allowing God to “fill” us every day and how we need to guard our joy with a very sensitive spiritual security system. It is like we are toddlers, still crawling some, pulling up on things, nursing a bottle and stumbling around. But, what we are trying to achieve in our “spiritual” journey is to come to the place where we can put on some sturdy spiritual shoes and become an “asset” to His Kingdom. Unfortunately, many saints become comfortable with their immaturity and choose to stay in the playpen. On the flip side the disciples who are determined to go all the way with Jesus and live according to His gospel have made the CHOICE to endure the painful growing pains and are committed to make the responsibility of developing into a mature follower of Christ their highest priority.

In God’s perfect blueprint, the older we become the more spiritually wise we should be, but sadly, age does not necessarily have anything to do with maturity because it’s easy to be old and unlearned. No wonder people avoid Bible study because the more we know – the more responsibility we have! In this light, we can accept the possibility that many Christians are spiritually uninformed because they intentionally desire it to be that way. Being used in God’s plan does not come automatically any more than Gold medals and Doctorate degrees are accomplished lying on the couch. We as Christians have a major opponent that is “dead serious” to make sure a victorious manifestation does NOT occur in our life. I know it may seem surprising but it is not necessarily the devil – Our enemy is APATHY! It is such a strange little word but it carries the weight of the world – and beyond. It is a MENTAL attitude and state of MIND that is directly connected to our WILL. Human nature is a part of our old default system and reminds me of the old hound dog lying on the front porch. It’s not that the dog can’t run – it just does not want to! The dictionary explains it as meaning: “indifference, the absence of interest, the lack of passion, desire or emotion.” Moreover, as we look around we can literally see that much of the church has adopted apathy as a personal “pet”! It is more like apathy is the original residence and we have chosen not to evict it! Instead of the religious church world being asleep, I would say it is more like this type of church has never been awakened. When contentment and compromise is given the liberty to dictate the atmosphere of the mind, the flesh prevents the joy of the Lord and the power of the Spirit from manifesting. So, I believe we can conclude that if we cannot control our flesh, we can hardly be used to serve God at all.

Our flesh loves to hear about what it can “receive” from God but has no interest in what it will take to walk in it! How many Christian parents are NOT raising their children with Godly wisdom, spiritual integrity or Biblical principles? How many Christians do not walk in the awareness of God’s presence or have ever led anyone to Christ? It’s simple; because they do not have any interest in it! When someone has a burning conviction for something, it will become their highest priority. When apathy dominates the conscience it convinces the mind to only be in love with itself and will not allow God’s love to come in. This spiritual coldness creates a bondage of carnal selfishness that affects everything and everyone in their life. True disciples of Christ have been called, commissioned and commanded to love others as they love themselves and without love, there is no conviction, without conviction, there is no prayer and without prayer it is like a man trying to walk that has no legs. Christians are passionate about their beautiful homes and their luxury cars. They are proud of their jobs, education, furnishings, clothes, jewelry, and bank accounts but have blocked out the idea of surrendering their most precious possession (their will) to Christ. Somehow, our thinking has been distorted to believe that being successful and “religious” is the same thing as walking in God’s Divine reality when the truth is the reason why people are leaning on their false security is because they do not know the difference between real gold and fool’s gold.

Apathy is becoming a highly contagious virus that is causing many members of God’s army to take off their armor to find a comfortable recliner. We hear so much about people who are giving up, it has become like a broken record and until we overcome this subtle deceiver called apathy, we cannot advance any further in our spiritual development. How can we succeed in the daily battle if we are not paying any attention to what we are doing, what is happening or the strategies and forces that are trying to stop us? How can we relay the message of being “sold out” to others if we resist God’s consuming fire in our own life? The day any Christian starts wearing the prideful mask of “religiosity” – will be the day they become an official prisoner of war to the devil! Let us look at the word “indifference” that was associated with the definition of apathy. “Having or showing no preference; neutral; no motivation; of no importance or meaning; inactive; without concern.” This is it! This is the blindness that has blanketed the organized church and has become America’s greatest danger! Being indifferent is being lukewarm! The idea that all churches, doctrines and religions are the same is being accepted by the younger generations. Many believe in a doctrine called “the total restoration of all things” as it teaches that it does not matter what we do because all will be saved in the end. People are more worried about the stock market than their souls and many will be unprepared to face the persecution and devastation of a collapsed economy and the coming New World Order of anti-Christ. Why aren’t pastors blowing the trumpet of truth? Because they are AFRAID and have not studied God’s Word for themselves! The fire from many pulpits have been reduced to a cold, secular “lullaby” as the hearts of the masses have become as white washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. Living in a neutral state of being uninterested and without concern is stumbling as a half-hearted, blind, and confused religious “zombie.”

Many Christians feel they have already met the basic necessary requirements of salvation and just need to relax and wait for the next train headed to heaven. Powder puff preachers are telling the masses how wonderful they are and there is no need to worry about yielding their will because Jesus may come tonight and rescue them from their troubles. Others have lost the vision of their destiny and are tired because they have allowed their eyes to turn from the face of Jesus to the pleasures of the flesh. Multitudes are depressed because things have not worked out as they planned and many have become afraid, have lost all confidence, and do not trust anyone. Yet, people spend more time watching the news and believing what man is saying than watching God’s Word and praying in faith! Their passion and Intensity has turned to sporting events and entertainment and it is very evident in their daily spiritual walk. The body of Christ must awaken and arise! It is time for God’s people to put on their armor and stand on the unfailing promises of God’s Word! It is time to dust off our shield and sword and CHOOSE to be filled with His victory! Let me ask a personal question; Would you be “into” Christ if He did not offer the blessings of love, money, health, wisdom, peace, joy, miracles, favor, rewards, eternal life, victory, etc…? Would you follow the Lord and love him unconditionally even in the face of death if He told you there was no heaven? Do you feel that many people put their “hope” in heaven simply because they long to go to the most beautiful place in the universe and fear a place of eternal torment? Of course our human nature thinks this way, but this is not necessarily true salvation! Let me ask another question; would you still want to go to heaven if God lived somewhere else? Do we long to see HIM – or what He has for us? If heaven was a hot windy desert, filled with pain, without peace, no riches, where we live in a tent, fighting enemies and struggling to survive – BUT God was there – would you still be just as excited about going? Do you thirst after God’s Word that helps you know him better or do you spend all your prayers asking him for things? He is asking today, “Am I (alone) enough to satisfy you forever?

Thy WORDS were found, and I did eat them; and Thy WORD was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

He ONLY is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall NOT be greatly moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength and my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times; ye people POUR OUT YOUR HEART before Him: God is a refuge for us”(Psalm 62:2, 7, and 8).

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – Published 10/15/16 – PART 42

CHRISTIANITY IN POLITICS AND SOCIAL ISSUES – V

WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

This is the last part of this series, but when we stand back and listen and think about this election, it brings a deep disappointment and sadness. Those of us that are older, can remember the corruption and greed of most all politicians that have ever served and this causes an automatic distrust in everyone that steps up to a platform to make campaign promises. It seems over the years we have developed a paranoia about people who represent power and authority because we have witnessed so many lies and failures. Yet every election we watch the entire country once again rally behind their candidate hoping that this time things will be different. This is either a devout faith in the political system or an expression of mental and emotional desperation. Whatever the case, I believe another reason why this election is so sad, is because as Christians we can sense that we are near the end of our time as a nation and for that matter the world. We realize that if we keep heading down this path of making all the wrong choices, the consequences of sin will bring severe judgment and suffering that can hardly be described. We are sad that our political system has become so entangled with deception and corruption and realize that ONLY GOD can fix it, but at the same time we also comprehend that He will never be invited to do so. He is coming back soon to deal with an evil world.

Our Nation has enjoyed being recognized as a world leader, but it is time we also become prepared to accept that in most every area, we are rapidly dissolving into ruin. Some will say, brother you are being very pessimistic and negative about the future but actually I am only relaying the reality of the divine prophesies that have already been recorded in the Bible. For those who know and trust God’s Word, we have already read the end of the book and evidently we as Christians did NOT succeed in “winning the world” for Jesus. On the contrary, the Lord said the masses would hate Him and how that Godly love and compassion would become nearly extinct in the last days. The picture of the world before Jesus returns is a hostile and cruel environment of barbaric tribulation where the anti-christ rules and declares hatred against God. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are heading toward a direction that is more like a downward spiral than a progressive development. Do not allow modern technology deceive you into thinking we are building a better or more intelligent world. The choice that will be given under the New World Order which is planning to control every person under the global system of the beast, is to submit to the dark-side or be eliminated. Is there any Christian that can declare this is a wrong interpretation of what is to come?

BRINGING CURSES UPON OURSELVES

There is nothing new to the fact that people have always complained about their leaders. In today’s modern world of news communication, persuasion of emotions is a large part of the overall media that is the perfect tool to control the thinking of the masses. It is obvious that Satan has been allowed to control the media and use it as a tool for his own purposes, and by the way allow me to say, this is the most powerful instrument he has. Complaining and arguing has become an industry within itself with television and radio talk shows, magazines and newspapers, websites devoted to criticism, hatred and conspiracy, and countless independent social groups dedicated to the mission of seeing who can have the highest rated shock factor. The problem is that most people have never considered the fact that failures and disappointments are a part of everyone’s human nature but of course this is rarely noticed. It seems to always come down to who can expose and smear someone else to the point of no return. We are all filthy sinners and have no righteousness of our own but it is amazing how moral and arrogant we can become when our intention is to look down upon and destroy someone else. I am reminded of the time when a presidential candidate was accused of smoking pot when he was young and when confronted he sheepishly confessed he did not inhale. Later in life, this same person was accused of sexual misconduct and once again came up with the clever response that he did not actually have intercourse which in his mind justified sexually “related” activities as harmless. I am sure that if we could go back into everyone’s life far enough, we could drag out all kinds of sinful deeds and some that might be shocking to those who know us. Maybe the best thing a person could do if attempting to run for office, would be to make a comprehensive list of everything bad they have done, and just go ahead and confess right from the beginning in order to remove the potential ammunition for future attacks on their character.

History reveals that God uses human rulers as instruments of judgment upon the masses and particularly as they relate to his own people. By the way, we will see this again at the end of the world when God allows Satan to dictate the wicked masses of the world. God’s people are NOT exempt from this judgment if they are disobedient and rebellious, He will also allow them to be subjected to cruel and evil rulers. So we see that it’s like a dog chasing its own tail. When the masses revolt against the leaders instead of praying for them – God actually increases the judgment, but if the people repent for their own critical attitude, God may bring a positive change by both removing an evil ruler and replacing them with a good one; or by changing the heart of the one in authority. It would do us all good to take an inventory of our thoughts and words. Every word that comes out of our mouth that is not a prayer has the potential to be a murmur and complaint against God himself. This includes being critical, complaining, mocking, anger, gossiping, bearing false witness, spreading rumors, protesting, cursing and judging just to name a few. Two of the most sobering examples of the dangers of murmuring against the political and spiritual leadership are found in the book of Numbers. The first one is in chapter 12 with Miriam being given leprosy for challenging the authority of Moses. In chapter 16 we see the nation of Israel voicing their complaints against the way Moses and Aaron were directing the people. God became very angry and brought a geological earth quake disaster when the earth cracked open and swallowed up the ones who were outwardly criticizing the decisions being made. After this display of God’s displeasure there were still others who continued to complain and this time they were struck down with a biological virus or plague that was fast acting and very deadly. In both instances the prayers and intercession of the leadership held back the anger of God from completely destroying the entire nation but allow me to ask, are there enough true Christians today that can discern or even care about what is happening and are spiritually strong enough to stand in the gap with intercessory prayer and fasting? The Christian would be much more spiritually effective to speak less negativity and invest that level of passion and enthusiasm into the power of prayer.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS LUKEWARMNESS

 It is very important to remember that if you proclaim to be a Christian, every ear is listening and every eye is watching to catch a glimpse of Jesus or the devil. Our attitude about world events, philosophy and theology can encourage the observer toward God or push them further away from Him. Our responsibility is attached to our free-will to maintain a good, positive attitude and to be sensitive how we behave in front of others. The way we act and what comes out of our mouth is our witness and testimony and we will discover on judgment day how many people we hurt and possibly caused to become hardened toward the Lord just by our actions. We cannot put on a holy show at church and go to work and be mean, cruel, and hateful just because we feel like it. We cannot sing about the love of God on Sunday and be prejudice throughout the week! If Jesus lives in us we need to manifest him ALL the time. We cannot afford to laugh with the dirty, offensive or insulting jokes and we should not agree with mocking or criticizing anyone because one way or another it is going to come back on us in an embarrassing way. Luke 12: 2 and 3, gives us a powerful promise directly from Jesus. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid that shall not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which you have spoken in the ear in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops.”

As Christians, we are called to stand strong against peer pressure and to not compromise with the filth and carnality of a dark, blind and sin-filled world. This does not mean that holiness is being passive, but should simply cause us to develop a much stronger personal discipline and self-control. Meekness is not weakness and sanctification does not imply that we isolate ourselves from the needs of others, but it is a mental and spiritual determination to walk pure and clean before God and those around us. We still have the accountability to stand against sin and not be afraid to relay God’s heart on social and spiritual issues but it must be done in His love, wisdom and timing.

For example, marriage between one man and one woman is not only a human opinion but is a spiritual truth from a Godly perspective that relays HIS way to be a family. It is not natural in God’s creation for a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman, neither is it natural for a man to be transformed into a woman or the other way around. Since these relationships are unnatural and a perverted twist to the created intention to satisfy the desires of the flesh, they are seen as a rebellion against His perfect will. I recently heard a sermon from a young man that is gay and he actually gave his interpretations within the holy scriptures that mention homosexuality, and explained that God was being mis-represented. His point was to prove that God was fine with all types of sexual desires and that freedom to be whatever feels good was the correct path toward being healthy and happy. What he failed to realize is that God has given humanity the freewill to believe whatever they want but He does not appreciate anyone that tries to use His words to justify sin in order to gain God’s or mans approval. He is NOT going to compromise or bless anyone for their intelligence or eloquent speaking ability in presenting their case to overturn His established will. Life is not a courtroom where we are encouraged to argue against God to prove that WE are right! Can we be a Christian and be gay? Yes, we can be saved by grace while we are living in sin (all of us are) but until we are convicted and understand that our sin is causing Him pain and sorrow, we are deceived by our arrogance and are waiting in line for serious discipline.

If we are an alcoholic, drug addict, thief, a glutton, liar, a greedy hoarder, a pedophile, addicted to pornography or whatever is the focus of our adoration, we can only remain in this condition for a certain amount of time before we feel the interruption of God’s intervention. If Jesus Christ is truly our Lord, we will NOT be able to willfully sin without feeling the guilt from His Holy Spirit and the chastening of His loving judgment. There is NO such thing as living content and happy in sin while having a sincere intimate relationship with Jesus! At best we can exist in a lukewarm religious state of hypocrisy while we are managing our own affairs but this is not true joy or peace. The world is saying that living in carnality is NOT a sin and that it is alright to do whatever we desire in our flesh, however this can only be taught and activated within the humanistic worldview that believes God and His Word is not the absolute truth. One of the most sensitive topics in our society today is having rights and being free to live however you want, while anyone that disagrees is typically considered to be close-minded if they speak negatively about certain social issues and the trend continues to grow stronger everyday.

For example, if a person is a boy but they want to be recognized as a girl, the world wants everyone to accept and respect them as a girl. Is this a big deal? Yes – this is a mental and spiritual problem. Are they going to date men, and if so does that make them gay? Or, are they going to date girls which brings us full circle back to why are doing this in the first place? Many believe the world is improving because the ignorant is being educated about what is socially acceptable and politically correct and in some cases this could be true. But, the question I present is simple; should God’s Word be considered as man’s moral compass or not? I believe yes! The world says no! When the barriers of God’s Word are torn down, man is left to go “full sail” with the winds and currents of his own visions. As sheep are helpless without a shepherd to guide them, man quickly becomes confused and vulnerable to destruction when they wander off into the darkness alone. What is there to be afraid of? The savage beast that lurks in the darkness waiting to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable.

I realize there has always been attraction to the same sex and that taboo relationships of every possible perversion have been going on in secret since creation. Though being gay was quite common thousands of years ago, I also know there has been a general “across the board” opposition against unnatural affections. But in today’s modern culture we see changes in thinking around the world like a unified, one world adoption of a political correct philosophy and if anyone opposes, they are labeled as having some type of hatred phobia. I have observed the growing political power of this agenda to force the world to embrace this alternative lifestyle and believe this will continue to aggressively challenge the remnant of Jesus Christ. Christians will never embrace sin and should NOT be forced to accept these changes against their conscience! Yes, it is also true that homosexuality or abortion should not be singled out but rather included in the group of everyday intentional sins the church cannot compromise with. Allowing legal barriers to be broken should not be a license to bring an acceptance of sin into the Christians life or eventually, there will be NO lines drawn and NO standards or limitations at all which is exactly the subtle strategies of Satan to water down holiness and reverential fear toward God. I still cannot understand how being a child-molester is against the law (and it should be) but it is perfectly fine to brutally murder a full term baby just because the mother want to. Just because a certain sin becomes “loved and legal” does not have anything to do with God’s strict enforcement of absolute truth.

I am not saying to stand on corners and hold signs against abortion or the LGBT community, but at the same time, we as God’s people are not to endorse this behavior just because we are afraid someone might become offended or upset. For example, Let us acknowledge that you are born-again and have a red-hot spiritual burden to go to a third world country to help a group of people that have no knowledge of God or His Word. You are welcomed with open arms and begin to teach the doctrines of Christ and the wisdom of God’s absolute truth. As you are leading them into receiving Christ as their Lord, you are troubled about their customs of idol worship. You learn that in their culture, incest is accepted, along with pedophilia, adultery, and free sex with anyone. You are told about the violent acts of rape and the attitudes from the men that women are little more than slaves. You learn that many are involved with same sex relationships and that everyone worships carved wooden idols that represent fertility, prosperity, health and protection from the under-world. Now allow me to ask you a simple question: Since you have a divine opportunity to teach these people a new way of living in God’s Spirit, would you not use this open door to denounce their sinful traditions and establish God’s perfect design of spiritual reality? Or would you be politically correct in the name of humanistic tolerance and encourage them to remain in bondage to their culture because it is their “human right” to express their political, religious and cultural freedom? To be politically correct according to the world’s view would be to teach them there is NO absolute truth, only interpretations that become a personal truth to each individual. Instead of telling him or her, that what they are doing is WRONG and to abandon their sinful lifestyle, the liberal free thinker believes that right and wrong is not decided by a living God who has all authority, but rather is subject to each person’s choice to live as they choose. This is what is happening within our world this hour and the masses have become so intoxicated with the pleasures of the flesh; they have decided to not disagree with this direction. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the EVIL DAY, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with TRUTH, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” (Ephesians 6:13-14) Let us not become distracted and forget that our mission is to love and pray for those in our network. We have been put there for a purpose and that is to minister life to those who need it. If we do not have a reputation for being a Christian, something is wrong. If we are not having a positive impact on those around us we have become dim and our salt has lost its power to alter flavor.

THE CHALLENGE TO LET GO

 We can build, create and accomplish many things in life but the most difficult task is deciding that we are going to change. The battle cry of needing to change is the most common platform of politics. However, the change that God desires is the restructuring of our mind to align with God’s Word and His Holy Spirit. I do not mean to be negative or paint a hopeless picture of the future of American politics, but my opinion is that very little will improve for the rest of our time on earth. The only things that will actually “change” are the administrations and the faces and voices of worldviews. Political gridlock has always plagued the ideas and enthusiasm of change within our government and there is no sign of improvement. Realistically, there are solid indications that the tentacles of gridlock are growing stronger and our system will continue to become entangled with discord and diversity. It is sad but most people live their entire lives without caring about social change or desiring personal transformation. Why? Because they just do not want it! Our human nature is programmed to hold on tight and not let go of the “death grip” on staying the course that feels good. This is one of the reasons people have stopped working – it feels much better to sit at home and draw a check. But for those who have a higher calling from the next dimension the conviction to change may come with a stronger persuasion than we thought. Sometimes God wants a certain person to perform a certain mission and will pursue that person as far as it takes to get their attention. He may need to literally pry our fingers loose one at a time until we realize that we are no longer in control and believe me this would be an act of grace and love. When we finally let go of the steering wheel it gives God the chance to step in and guide us where HE wants us to go, but how many will do this? When we become helpless, and realize what true faith is, then God can raise us up and set us on the path He has chosen for us.

Christians are like iron that faces the ‘hammer and fire” from the master blacksmith. It is not only difficult to endure the heat and “shaping” from God but sometimes Satan takes advantage of our frustration and gets a good jab in from our blindside. The spirits of darkness are declaring war as they attempt to discourage and fill our thoughts with lies and discouragement. Today, it’s important to recognize truth and remember that staying under the shadow of the Almighty can shelter us from the storm but sometimes we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, in order to allow suffering to do a life-changing work in us. Let us be more grateful and humble because our life is hanging by a thread of grace and mercy and something could happen the next minute that could change us forever. We confess and believe everyday for all things to work together for our good but beautiful statues are not just found – they are chiseled. Yes, we can change after years of bad habits and being set in our ways but it will not be easy. In the realm of spiritual transformation old dogs can be taught new tricks but only with the miracle power of God. Why do people like the prosperity message? Because they want all of the blessings without having to work for it, to be responsible with it or even understand it. Remember that taking a step in the direction of personal change is like volunteering to walk and live in a red hot furnace – which is exactly why a message like this is not popular. May we never forget that the sacrifices we make in this life will be worth it one day when we are living with God in eternity. Some things we consider dear are as Solomon said, “vanity” and have no true or eternal value which is why our main focus is on Christ. We are NOT fleshly, carnal beings trying to live spiritual – we are spiritual beings trying to victoriously live on this planet by crucifying our flesh. May God continue to give you His wisdom and understanding. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or to the left; Remove your feet from evil” Proverbs 4:23-27.

OUR FIRST LOVE – Published 10/8/16

PART 41

CHRISTIANITY IN POLITICS AND SOCIAL ISSUES – IV

Many people are afraid of what is coming and do NOT want to talk about it. They do not understand all of this complicated prophecy and are convinced it is all based on everyone’s opinions. Many Christians want to be optimistic and believe that Social Security will be there to help pay their bills in the future. They want to leave inheritances to their children and draw their retirements. People dream of their golden years of traveling and vacationing and enjoying the happiness of relaxing and there is nothing wrong with positive thinking but should we not also be bracing ourselves for what we know is coming? The National debt is at the door of 20 trillion dollars but even many Christians do NOT want to hear about the darkness of coming judgment or the tribulation associated with the economy collapsing. I hear people say, how can I tell my children the future does not look promising? Others are asking if they should even plan to have children at all if the coming world is going to be filled with violence, poverty, desperation and bloodshed? Many are choosing to bury their head in the sand and think “happy” thoughts of having money in the bank, their home paid for, their grandchildren, eating out, new cars, their beautiful furniture and everything that comes with the blessings of prosperity. This is alright, but they hardly even think about the sin that rages all around them or being surrounded by lost souls that stagger around in the darkness of ignorance, as long as THEIR dreams are not interfered with. However, is this our spiritual mission? Have we been called to a life of quiet isolation that blends in with the crowd? Has prosperity spoiled us to the point of denial? Maybe the reason why Christians do not live what they believe is because their belief system has become confused and weakened.

I am truly amazed at how gullible humans can be. I realize that God compared us to sheep and for a good reason. Sheep are simple minded, think about their own needs, easily influenced and are very easily deceived. We have witnessed politics all of our lives and we hear the same old promises every time. You would think that people would finally see that politicians do not really know more than the average person does, but only have learned how to sell their ideas. Running for office is a science of saying the right things at the right time. It is based on the perception that most people have a strong need to follow someone. This revelation of opportunity opens the door to those who are driven with ambition and the confidence to be in control. There have been successful leaders that have accomplished certain things but generally, the idea of changing things for the better is not as slick as their campaign slogans. If you have been listening lately to this election, it is enough to make you sick at your stomach. Both sides represent their fare share of lies and distorting the facts to the point it is difficult to know if there was ever any integrity or truth in the first place. These leaders talk non-stop and cleverly say very little and without God’s anointing – it is ALL smoke and mirrors!

This country is in a state of alarm and the candidates do not have a clue what to do. We are coming to a point where the big “machine” is going to come to a grinding halt and our economy will collapse, sending a domino effect of panic and fear around the world. We are already on life support so to speak, as our National debt is like a gang-green infection that grows worse each day. Of course, within our collapse will come the “golden opportunity” to be restructured within the New World Order of Satan’s power and authority. This is just one area of concern among the many others such as: the rise of terrorism, open borders without a solid identification process, multiculturalism at the expense of naturalized citizens, violence and murder against law enforcement, despair and poverty in the inner cities, disrespect for the middle class and our veterans, faltering educational system, badly needed repair of our infrastructure, and of course the rampant widespread corruption of our political system.    To be honest, we are exhausted from hearing about the problems and like the average American I would love to hear an intelligent plan about some possible solutions. However, as I have mentioned before, I have yet to hear anyone cry out to Almighty God and declare a total dedication to His voice. I am not sure the political visions of our leaders are dedicated to fixing anything but rather are more focused on their own personal careers, achievements and the power and pride that comes from being President. God will allow Satan to enforce his agenda as the ruling anti-christ, as he presents a “clinic” of political savvy that most will consider a modern day genius. In our present system, there are so many people involved with government that in order to create a bill that everyone accepts would be nothing short of a miracle but that is exactly what the devil has planned. Moreover, by the time the original idea is twisted and modified, it usually does not even resemble the intended vision. This is why politics usually boils down to constant fighting with everyone else in authority that has an opposing opinion. In addition, as we all know it is difficult to find any degree of unity and agreement at work, school, with family or even in church. The idea of democracy is for the majority to rule, but when man is controlled by the thoughts of his own carnality the result is always chaos which is another reason the devil will be temporarily successful. On the other hand, the Monarch government of Jesus is perfect peace and order because all hearts and minds have yielded their will and embraced God’s thoughts. This spiritual unity is the beauty and holiness of heaven’s eternal state of existence and the reality of God’s Kingdom authority. This will be the state of affairs when Christ reigns in the millennium dispensation and in heaven for all eternity.

I finally see that my conscience can become like a trashcan that collects rumors and opinions until my mind and heart is filled with garbage! In this age of information, I absorb much more than I should and sifting through the negativity with my ears and eyes I recycle it in the form of my own conscious version of reality. How much of what we hear is only opinion that we could do without or should I say, “better” without? It is true, the power of communication can be an effective channel of encouragement or it can be a sewer pipe filled with death and depression as the bible say’s in Proverbs 18:21, that “life and death is in the power of the tongue.” Many people are raised in homes filled with prejudice, jealousy, criticism and arrogance because these are the building blocks of our “wonderful” human nature.  Unless a person has been through the Refiner’s fire they still have a long way to go in their transformation process and have not learned this most important revelation about the mind and mouth. They are suffering the consequences of the lack of holy knowledge and sadly are passing it on to the next generation. This ignorance and the curses that go along with it will continue to cycle until the curse is broken with the power of God’s Word, the blood of Jesus and the self-discipline of a serious saint.

How important is knowing what to believe? Proverbs 23:7 say’s, “For as a person thinks in their heart, so is he.” We become what we think as our internal thoughts become our external spiritual fruit. We will never move beyond the basic fundamentals that thoughts are like seeds which grow and manifest into words and actions. No matter how grown-up we think we are, we still have problems with our tongue and is why the transformation of our mind into the mind of Christ is so crucial. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For to be carnally MINDED is death; but to be spiritually MINDED is life and peace.”(Romans 8:5-6)

Everyone has opinions about politics and religion and I’m sure we’ve all heard lots of dialogue from many of our closest friends and family members lately. Yes, it’s important to be informed and to be ready to respond but there is a balance in God as we pray for His wisdom and guard our conscience from vanity and strife. As unpopular as it may be, God’s people must embrace a truth about God’s sovereignty before we can realize our error. Many are convinced that elections provide the people with the power to choose their own rulers but the Bible portrays God as the one who establishes governments and places kings in authority for his own purposes – not man. Psalm 75 verses 6 and 7 say’s, “For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he lowers down one, and elevates another.” In this light, it is The Lord who arranges circumstances of destiny, then turns to the people to support these “chosen ones” in the attitude of thanksgiving and humility. The power of our freewill is found in OUR responsibility to PRAY for those whom GOD has established. In the second chapter of Daniel verse 21 we see, “And God changes the times and the seasons: He removes kings, and sets up kings: He gives wisdom unto the wise and knowledge to them that know understanding” and the fourth chapter verse 25 we see Daniel interpreting king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that proclaimed how God makes plans and has the sovereignty to manifest His will so the world will know His supreme authority, “They shall drive you from men and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you to eat grass as an ox and they shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, until you realize that the MOST HIGH rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whoever he desires.” God wants all people to know that He is the ultimate supreme ruler over all earthly affairs and that earthly rulers are raised up and brought down by HIS decree. Free-will comes into play when men and women decide whether or not they want Him to govern their personal affairs. In the case of America, it is obvious that world leaders are deceived because they actually believe they are in control. This is the same arrogant attitude that has historically caused every kingdom to fall and whether we want to talk about it or not, this nation will be no different.

OUR FIRST LOVE – published 10/1/16

Part 40

CHRISTIANITY IN POLITICS AND SOCIAL ISSUES – III

Compromise is one of the most used tools in the devils toolbox. Think back to the movies we have seen where the older generation was trying to hold to the principals of truth while the younger generation was planning how to break free and live the way they want. Rebellion and disobedience was cheered and considered the hero and everyone thought, “what a great story!” Why? Whenever someone in the Bible was rebellious and disobedient there was horrible suffering and judgment and no one thought that was wonderful. Our society is laughing and enjoying right now but soon the consequences of compromise will not be funny. Slowly but surely over the last 100 years, the old ways of purity, self-discipline and holiness have been cast out in the name of pleasure and the freedom to do whatever feels good. Sacrifice, love and humility have been replaced with greed, selfishness and arrogance. Rebellion is always looking for a way to bend the rules, but God does not compromise. There is no such thing as partial obedience or not being too bad. Sin is wrong and in God’s eyes does not go unnoticed. Christians becoming numb to sin is one of the major reasons why our country is a twisted mess.

For those who believe the Bible is true, the world did not begin with a huge explosion where everything magically fell into place and man did not evolve from a “tadpole.” The God that spoke the universe into existence and formed Adam and Eve is the same Creator that established the first society and the laws that controlled the original generations of earth people. Humans were fully developed and were born just as they are today and have not changed from the original design. To believe that our bodies and minds evolved from a lower life form or that the universe and our planet emerged from the mysteries of chance – is an insult to The Great I Am and to His people. His Word has always been the perfect law, and it was by HIS grace that he also included the “free-will” clause for man to choose whom he would serve. This was an act of tolerance that allows all men to decide what they believe and how they will live.

Allow me to ask; when did God change His mind about His Word being the absolute truth? He never has! Since His Word is the ONLY truth – then can we agree that every other religious or political idea that opposes God’s Word is wrong! Objection your honor – overruled! Only when man discards God’s Word does he need to establish his own legal system of right and wrong. As time has progressed, politics has watered down God’s Word, broken it down, dissected it, denied it, transformed it, distorted it and now finally has eliminated it from the options of possibility. It does not matter whether someone is Republican or Democrat; both sides have written their own views of right and wrong and are sadly embarrassed to be associated with an outdated, archaic form of divine government. Even the Christian that desires to build a Godly nation, does not understand the big picture of what they have really been called to do or the outline of God’s will. I used to rise in the middle of the night to go to work and over the course of 35 years, I have watched the sun rise thousands of times as I am outside most of the time. A sunrise is usually encouraging because it declares a new, fresh beginning. I would stop and think about what I would like to see happen in my life and in the lives of others. I considered that God prepares our destiny each day with the events that HE would like to see happen and unfortunately, I believe He is not very pleased with most of His creation. We are not called to be conformed to this world or to obey our selfish flesh – we are commanded to simply listen to His voice and obey. Most of what we dream about and think about has to do with our own personal pleasures and securities and He is asking: when will you lay down your life long enough to do what I want you to do?

It seems we do not really think things through many times. People hire sports coaches and hope they can recruit good players and come up with great plays to win games. People hire executives to run companies or pastors to lead churches but when it comes to leading an entire nation, do we really understand what we are asking? This position has become much larger than a CEO sitting in an oval office, riding around in a jet while trying to facilitate an entire government. It is all about power. More powerful than the Supreme Court, the Senate or Congress all put together and certain individuals crave to be in this position. Many do not care about the masses, the suffering or the needy but are only trying to make deals that will help them to become even more powerful and popular.

What really leads a free nation are the thoughts, actions and attitudes of the people. If the masses desire to be corrupt, there will be debauchery and perversion. If the people want to riot and make war against their neighbor, that nation will experience a violent uprising of murder, gangs, stealing and chaos. Likewise, if any country of individuals will humble their heart unto Jesus Christ and repent of their sins, they will experience spiritual revival and blessing from the hand of The Almighty. The leaders of politics are supposed to be servants of the masses to carry out their desires. The leaders in a democratic society are not to enforce their own agenda upon those who elect them or abuse their authority for personal gain. They are only there as servants to REPRESENT the views of the people. You may ask, then why is our government creating a nation that we do not agree with? Because there are more people than you would ever dream that are serving Satan and voting according to his strategy to destroy God’s plans! The ungodly elect leaders that will open the doors to more carnality and even when good people are elected, the influence of hell is much stronger than they expected. The deals and compromises that happen behind closed doors would probably shock and discourage us even more than we are now. Christians are just a tiny voice in the big picture and we forget this fallen world is NOT “Christian friendly.” You see, in order to build a Christian Nation there would have to be a merging of Church and State where Christianity would be the ONLY religion allowed to exist. Now, do not misunderstand me. I believe the Bible and Jesus is the correct belief system but I do not trust a government to be able to interpret and enforce God’s ways into law.

Many nations around the world have a national religion and strictly enforce the allegiance to that faith. Most people in the United States are not in favor of having this because they have fought and died to live in a country where you can worship whatever you want. Even if the country did establish Christianity as the National Religion there would be so much chaos as to “WHICH FLAVOR” of doctrines and creeds are enforced that it would cause numerous holy wars. It is rare to find a church that can agree much less an entire government system. God is not saying to His people that He wants a Christian nation because He knows the kind of mess this would cause. He is calling His people to simply walk in His Spirit and follow His instructions. He is the ONLY one that will be able to rule perfectly and control His Kingdom but this will not literally happen until the millennial reign. This present world will not be converted into a Christian allegiance but rather will grow darker and more violent. The love of many will grow cold and the light of peoples compassion and mercy will lose its brightness. I am not trying to be negative but only to face the truth and relay the written prophecy that has already been declared.

Politics on earth are given to men on the balanced principals of free will and the grace of God’s love. He allows humans to choose their own ideas and implement them according to their convictions. In order for there to be a Christian nation, there would need to be a MAJORITY of people that are genuine Christians – AND a Holy Ghost inspired unity that would be one of the greatest miracles ever. Houston, we have a problem! I am sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but there are not many true Christians in the world period! There are masses of religious people but if you remember, Jesus encountered a dominant religious culture that was merged with the legal system and we all know what happened. They believed they were correct in their convictions and that Christ was possessed with the devil – so they killed Him for blasphemy. This proves that trying to maintain a Christian nation would be a bad idea. Satan has always controlled and deceived the religious system and will continue to use the seared conscience of the blind to rule in the coming New World Order. The religious crowd of today will be controlled under the same spirit that betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver or like the ones that screamed, “Crucify Him and let His blood be upon us and our children.” However, the true remnant of Jesus Christ will continue to stand for God and of course will experience more rejection and persecution. If we become afraid to declare what we believe, we will live a miserable existence because we will know we are NOT living in His will. Now is the time to let go of the world and embrace His presence. Our destiny is to be His faithful messenger, to love others as ourselves and become aware of His divine appointments.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – Published 9/24

PART 39

CHRISTIANITY IN POLITICS AND SOCIAL ISSUES – II

ABORTION – A MODERN DAY AMERICAN HOLOCAUST – Michael Spielman

            ADDRESSING THE SILENCE

If you read the Bible from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, you will come across more than 14,000 different words, but you will never come across the word abortion. Scripture says exactly nothing on the subject, and yet here you are, reading A Biblical mandate to do Something about abortion. Is that presumptuous? Is it possible to articulate a biblical mandate about something that the Bible never even mentions? I would argue that it is both possible and necessary. If Scripture did deal with abortion directly, we wouldn’t have to wrestle through what the biblical response should be. Since it doesn’t, we do. We must take all that the Bible does tell us, so that we can faithfully apply it to all that it doesn’t.

For those of us who believe the Bible, and do our best to live by it, the most significant question regarding abortion is not whether it is right or wrong, but whether God expects us to do anything about it. I say that because any honest query into the act of abortion reveals it to be nothing less than the deliberate execution of a living, growing, genetically-distinct human being. Since the Bible expressly condemns the shedding of innocent blood, recognizing the injustice of abortion is fairly easy. Figuring out what our response should be is decidedly harder. On the one hand, abortion kills more than 3,000 helpless human beings every single day (and that’s just in the U.S.). On the other hand, abortion is the natural fallout of an increasingly godless and self-serving society. Abortion, in fact, is deserving of God’s wrath, and may well be a manifestation of God’s wrath. Some have argued that actively opposing abortion takes crucial resources away from the primary call of the church. Others believe that opposing abortion is the primary call of the church. What is a Biblical-minded person to do?

At the outset of my Christian life, I was fairly convinced that abortion was a relatively insignificant “side issue,” one that could easily divert the church from more important matters. I have since come to a very different conclusion. To demonstrate why I believe God’s people have a responsibility to actively defend those whose lives are threatened by abortion, I will direct your attention to five biblical texts. Though they don’t deal with abortion directly, they introduce a variety of scenarios which parallel abortion in striking ways, and provide valuable insights into the character and expectations of God.

PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION

The book of James is a practical book about the importance of meeting practical needs. It even provides a practical definition of true religion. We find it in James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This remarkably concise definition makes it clear that helping those in desperate circumstances is a primary component of pure and undefiled religion. Orphans and widows are the examples James gives, but it is unlikely that he has only these two groups of people in mind. In the very next chapter, he warns against neglecting the poor; so we must surmise that the application of James’ charge goes beyond orphans and widows alone. They are simply representative of those in severe distress. And lest we wrongly assume that James’ emphasis on practical deeds of love is out of step with the rest of Scripture, consider the prophet Jeremiah’s command in Jeremiah 22:3: “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” In the patriarchal society in which James and Jeremiah wrote, without the safety net of state-funded social services, the prospects for orphans and widows were extremely bleak. With their natural providers gone, orphans and widows would not likely survive apart from the intervention of God’s people. As daunting and desperate as their circumstances were, children facing abortion are even worse off. John Piper argues that since God commands believers to care for children whose parents have been killed, he would also have us care for children whose parents want them killed. By explicitly commanding us to care for those whose livelihood is in jeopardy (orphans and widows) God is implicitly commanding us to care for those whose lives are in jeopardy (abortion-vulnerable children). Reaching out to those in distress is an essential component of pure and undefiled religion, and since abortion-vulnerable children are in distress, it is essential that we reach out to them as well. While orphans, widows, and abortion-vulnerable children are all “in distress”—and generally “unwanted” by society at large—the circumstances surrounding their distress are very different. It is one thing to provide food and shelter for people in need, and quite another to actively intervene for people who are about to be killed.

Perhaps you wonder if the Bible actually mandates our involvement in these more extreme circumstances, where the price of engagement is generally much higher, and the level of opposition is far more significant. Here enters Proverbs 24:11-12: “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay each man according to his work?” Like almost all Biblical proverbs, the text gives us no indication as to what specific injustice, if any, the author has in mind. It serves as a general guideline for what God’s people are called to do in the face of violent injustice. If innocent human beings are in danger, God-fearing people are to come to their rescue. This proverb becomes even more poignant in light of verse 12. The author anticipates circumstances in which injustice will be cloaked to such an extent that people, with some plausibility, will be able to deny that they had any knowledge of it. We are warned against taking up such an excuse and reminded that God knows our every thought. False claims of ignorance will do us no good on the day of judgment. Let us ask ourselves then, are there people among us, right here in America, who are stumbling towards the slaughter? Are there injustices in our day that God would have us raise our voices against? Yes, and yes. Abortions occur thousands of times a day, affecting nearly every community in the nation, yet most Christians barely give it a thought. We know it’s happening; we know it’s bad; but we seem content to remain as uninformed as possible, as if a general ignorance on the subject will somehow clear us of moral responsibility. According to Proverbs 24, this is a very dangerous line of reasoning to take. God knows our hearts, and he will repay each of us according to the work we’re doing (or not doing) to rescue those who would otherwise be slaughtered. And just in case you feel the word “slaughter” is too severe to apply to abortion, think again. “Slaughter” is defined as either “the brutal or violent killing of a person,” or “the killing of great numbers of people.” Abortion fits both definitions. It’s hard to imagine a death more brutal or violent than having your body literally torn to pieces. And if the more than 50 million American children who have already lost their lives to legal abortion don’t qualify as “great numbers of people,” then the term is meaningless.

Can any of us point to another injustice, happening in America today, for which Proverbs 24 would be more applicable? While Proverbs 24 gives us the general command to intervene on behalf of those who are being killed, Exodus 1 provides a very specific example of this command in practice. A new king has come to power in Egypt. Fearful that Israel’s phenomenal growth will threaten Egypt’s security, he commands that every newborn Hebrew boy be put to death. To ensure that his command is followed through with, he tasks the Hebrew midwives to carry out the decree. We learn in Exodus 1:17-21 that his plan did not succeed: “But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them. Therefore, God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that he provided households for them.” The implication of this passage is that those who fear God will do what they can to keep mothers from killing their babies. Some might read the command in Proverbs 24 and argue that it doesn’t apply to babies in the womb. Don’t count on it.

Exodus 1 explicitly demonstrates that those who fear God rescue babies from death, and the only differences between babies before and after birth are differences that don’t matter. Babies in the womb are smaller, more dependent, and less developed than newborns, but these are all quantitative differences, not qualitative. Newborns are smaller, more dependent and less developed than three-year-old’s, but that doesn’t make them any less human or any less worthy of protection. If we know that God is pleased with those who help spare the lives of babies after they’re born, we can infer that he is also pleased with those who spare the lives of babies before they’re born. Psalm 82:3-4 is a passage which parallels Proverbs 24:11-12 in many ways: “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” Through passages like these, God is calling his people to intervene whenever the vulnerable are threatened, be it an individual or an entire group. Masses of German Christians should have come to the active defense of their Jewish countrymen, and a much larger portion of the American church should have joined the fight against slavery and segregation. Why didn’t this happen? Why don’t more Christians today follow these passages into the active defense of unborn children? I would suggest that most of us, myself included, have too narrow a view of who our neighbor is and too narrow a view of what it means to love him. Regarding widespread oppression and injustice, we tend to confuse opposition in principle, with opposition in practice. We content ourselves with the idea that we’re not participating in injustice, failing to consider the fact that we’re often doing nothing to stop it either. Martin Niemöller, a German pastor imprisoned for his opposition to Hitler, made the following statement in 1946, “Christianity in Germany bears a greater responsibility before God [for the Holocaust] than the National Socialists, the SS and the Gestapo.” How could he say this? Because he recognized that those who have been rescued unto salvation are far more accountable to God than those who remain mired in blindness and unbelief. If we don’t get a better grasp of what it means to love our neighbor, history will again look back on the church with the same indictment: “Where were all the Christians while innocent babies were being killed?” We would do well to turn our attention to the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10, a certain lawyer tests Jesus with the quintessential gospel question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus points the man to the law. “Whoever loves God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind; and whoever loves their neighbor as themselves will have eternal life.” The lawyer, however, wanting to know exactly who he is obligated to love, asks Jesus a follow-up question, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds to this second query with the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

The Good Samaritan was a man who, at significant cost to himself, cared for a dying stranger who was being ignored by everyone else around him. Making his service even more remarkable is the fact that Jews and Samaritans generally despised each other, yet the Good Samaritan rescued his Jewish neighbor anyway. He is the hero of the story, the model of biblical love. His actions are commendable, but they should not be seen as extraordinary. This is the kind of love God expects from all of us! The villains in this tale are the religious leaders who passed the stranger by. It’s easy to heap scorn on such callous disregard, but we may have fared no better. These men probably felt badly for the victim. They may have even prayed for him as they passed by. Getting involved, though, wasn’t their calling, wasn’t their responsibility, or wasn’t a wise use of their time. Maybe they were late for an important religious engagement; maybe they weren’t trained in CPR. Whatever their reasons, Jesus condemns them, not for wrong thinking, but for wrongdoing. To love their neighbor, at that moment, required rescuing and caring for him, and that is something they deemed either too costly or too insignificant. God, through the Good Samaritan, is calling his people to the real and practical and often painful ministry of meeting physical needs in a dying world. Right thinking is not enough. James says as much in James 2:15-16: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” What good is it if you say you’re opposed to abortion, but don’t actually do anything to help those who are dying? When Jesus says in Matthew 25:45 that whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for Me, he makes it even clearer that meeting physical needs is crucial. Yes, we are called to more than this, but we are not called to less. The people in this passage are sent into eternal damnation because they failed to care for the “least of these.” And if unwanted, unborn children do not fit the bill as the “least of these” in today’s America, then who does? Whatever we do not do for them, we do not do for the Lord.

Leviticus 20:1-5 is our final text to consider: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.” Lest there be any confusion, “giving” a child to Molech does not refer to some form of indentured servitude. Leviticus 18:21 makes it explicitly clear that God is talking about child sacrifice, the heathen ritual of offering living babies as burnt offerings to pagan gods. After reading this passage, does it appear that God has much patience for this barbaric practice? Notice that God isn’t just commanding Israel to not sacrifice their own children; he also expects them to intervene for the children of the strangers among them. If God’s people “close their eyes” and fail to drive child sacrifice from their midst, God will set his face against them!

We read in Jeremiah 19:4-6 a statement that is perhaps even more shocking: “Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind, therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.” God, through the prophet Jeremiah, tells us that the act of child sacrifice is so wicked that it never even entered his mind that his people could do something so despicable. This is a stunning statement to come from the mouth of a sovereign and all-knowing God! Read it again to make sure you feel the weight of what God is saying. “Nor did it come into my mind” that my people would “burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal.” The domestication of abortion has made it tragically commonplace, so much so that we seem to have lost our ability to be outraged by it. How is it that even we who oppose abortion are not more overwhelmed by the fact that it is legal, in the United States of America, to tear apart the tiny bodies of helpless unborn children? The Old Testament accounts of child sacrifice give us as close a parallel to abortion as anything we’ll find in Scripture. Though the nature of the idols has changed, the sacrifice is virtually the same. The false gods of today are not Molech or Baal, but wealth, freedom, and autonomy. These modern idols drive most abortions. It is unthinkable that God’s people would sacrifice the lives of their own children, but it is also unthinkable that God’s people would do nothing while other children are being sacrificed all around them!

It is fairly easy to become indignant over the sin of abortion, but it is very difficult to become sufficiently indignant over our own sin. Some years back, I heard John MacArthur publicly identify the “greatest” sin in the world. Guess what. It isn’t abortion. The greatest sin in the world is nothing less than the violation of the greatest commandment in the world—which means that every second that we fail to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are guilty of the greatest sin! No one among us has ever committed a good deed for which we didn’t owe repentance. Everything we do is mired by imperfection. I say this because the defining characteristic of Christian zeal should not be arrogance. It should be love. If we focus only on the sins around us, we’ll become angry and self-righteous. If we focus only on the sins within us, we’ll become detached and unresponsive to the needs of those surrounding us. We must keep an eye on both, which brings us back to James 1:27. You may have noticed that I only dealt with the first half of James’ definition of “pure and undefiled” religion. Now is a good time to bring in the second: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Pure and undefiled religion consists of two things. Visit those in need, and keep yourself unstained from the world. It is a combination of doing and being, a union of meeting needs and walking in purity. The first aspect is “visiting.” Visit the widows. Visit the orphans. Get up. Get out. Do something in the service of love to alleviate suffering in the lives of those around you. Ephesians 5:11 tells us to “not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness,” but it doesn’t end there! It also commands us to “expose” those deeds of darkness. Refraining from having an abortion is only half of our Christian duty! The second aspect of pure and undefiled religion is, “keep yourselves unstained from the world.” Be holy. Be sanctified. Renew your mind. Live a life of humility. Be above reproach. In other words, it isn’t enough to just help those in need.

There are some in the church who are so focused on being “unstained from the world” that they isolate themselves almost completely from the suffering of those around them. They may read the Bible and pray, but they stay far away from the ugly and messy needs of the downtrodden (like orphans, widows and unborn children). There are others in the church whose commitment to meeting social needs is unwavering, and they hit the streets—caring for the homeless, feeding the hungry, protesting at the abortion mill—but perhaps have too little concern for personal holiness, and too little regard for the centrality of the gospel. Devotion to God has been replaced with devotion to cause. It is crucial that we neither become so “spiritual” in our Christian life that we write off the daily slaughter of 3,000+ innocent human beings as a political issue beyond our jurisdiction, nor become so “worldly” in intervening for these children that we lose sight of the bigger picture – reconciling people to Christ through holiness and love. Erwin Lutzer expresses the balance in these terms: “In our desperate moment in history we face two dangers. The first is to say that we must retreat from our cultural and spiritual battles to be true to the supremacy of the Cross. This viewpoint is right in emphasizing that our primary mission is to preach the gospel, but it fails because we end up preaching to ourselves… The second danger is that we become so overburdened with social/political agendas that our message is lost… When the gospel is made secondary to a cultural agenda, Christians have exposure to the culture, but the Cross does not.” Even more to the point, John Piper proclaims: “The root cause of abortion is the failure to be satisfied in God as our supreme love. And, for all the effort that needs to be made to protect human life, the greatest work that needs to be done is to spread a passion – a satisfaction for the supremacy of God in all things. That’s our calling.”

As believers, we are not called to “either/or” Christianity. We are called both to live a life of holy devotion to Jesus Christ and to reach out to those in distress. For a number of years, I maintained that the most biblical way to combat abortion was to simply preach the gospel. Getting someone to condemn abortion, without seeing them united to Christ, does them no good in the long run. They will simply go to hell as a more moral person. While such logic may work as it applies to the parent, it wholly neglects the unborn child and wholly ignores the myriad of scriptural mandates we’ve already considered. Changing someone’s mind about abortion has nothing to do with creating a more moral person; it has everything to do with saving children. If you convince a pregnant woman not to abort, it won’t gain her access to heaven, but it will certainly gain her child access to life, and that is of no small significance! Though the “evangelism-only” approach may sound spiritual, I can see, now, that it was just an excuse. My refusal to engage wasn’t just built on a “passion” for evangelism. It was also built on ignorance and fear. I was ignorant of what abortion actually is and does, and I was fearful of what opposing it might cost me. Let’s face it. There may not be a more unpopular cause to take up in all of America. I’ve certainly never faced as much animosity sharing the gospel as I have expressing the opinion that abortion is unjust. Many famous people will cheer the church’s efforts to combat AIDS, poverty, or traditional forms of genocide, but Hollywood isn’t lining up to shake the hands of abortion opponents. Abortion is a uniquely neglected phenomenon. In the secular community, it is endorsed by many of the same people who are so sensitive to injustice on other fronts. In the religious community, it is ignored by many of the same people who are so familiar with the commandment to love their neighbor.

There are all sorts of excuses we can make to justify inaction. I’ve probably used them all. The abortion issue turns people off to the gospel. It distracts people from what is most important. Social activism doesn’t save anybody. It’s a very one-legged approach to the Christian life. Ostensibly, I was trying to exalt the gospel, but I was actually neglecting half my witness. Emphasizing verbal proclamation, at the expense of tangible acts of love, is like trying to walk on one leg. It doesn’t work well. It’s basically saying, I’ll tell you how to get to heaven, but I won’t waste my time feeding, clothing, or protecting you. Not only is such an approach to evangelism incomplete, it is also less effective. The credibility of the message increases when accompanied by acts of love. If children are dying in our midst, God isn’t looking for pious excuses, he’s looking for us to come to their aid! Imagine if you were to witness the kidnapping or assault of a small child, especially your own child. You certainly wouldn’t stand there and debate your calling, nor would you think for a moment that evangelism was the only legitimate means of changing the attacker’s behavior. You might physically confront him; you might call the police; you might ask for help from someone nearby; but you would never rationalize that the only “biblical” way to save your daughter would be to share the gospel with her assailant so that he would repent and let her go. Such an “evangelistic” approach would be in violation of so many of the biblical principles we’ve already covered that it would be an absurdly non-Biblical path to take. Obviously, there are some huge differences between a child attacked on the street and a child attacked in the womb. I am NOT suggesting that violent confrontation is an effective or appropriate way to combat abortion, but I am suggesting that there are certain life and death situations for which evangelism is not a particularly effective first response. If we only rely on salvation as an indirect means of keeping people from killing their children, then all those people who do not repent and believe (which is the vast majority) will continue to put their children to death.

Some people minimize this tragedy by declaring that aborted babies go straight to heaven anyway. While this seems a reasonable assumption to make, the Bible never tells us for sure. There are a few inferences, but nothing concrete. We can trust in God’s goodness, his mercy, and his justice, but we cannot say with absolute authority that children who die before a certain “age of accountability” wind up in heaven. At the very least, this assumption must never serve to justify an indifference towards abortion. If there is an age of accountability, such thinking could just as easily breed nonchalance towards the killing of children after they’re born. We must hold such speculations very loosely and content ourselves with what we do know. God calls his people to intervene on behalf of threatened people no matter what the condition of their eternal soul. For almost 40 years, all manner of pro-life energies has been invested on the legislative front, and for almost 40 years, close to nothing has changed. Since 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was a constitutionally protected act, it has been legal in all fifty states to abort a pregnancy, through all nine months, for virtually any reason at all. Abortion-related cases have reached the Supreme Court a handful of times since Roe vs. Wade, and in each case, Roe has been affirmed. States are free to “restrict” abortion on the fringes, so long as a woman’s “right” to easy access isn’t compromised. With all of the lobbying, all of the rallying, and all of the petitioning, why do legislative efforts continue to fail? The fact is, most people just don’t care about abortion. Until a much greater number of people do care, legislative efforts will continue to fail. The real question is; why don’t people care about abortion? That’s an easy one. They don’t care because they don’t know. People have a sense that abortion is “bad,” but they have no idea how bad.

For too long we’ve put the cart before the horse. Widespread education must precede widespread legislation. Even if Roe vs. Wade were overturned tomorrow, abortion would still be legal in most states. The public would still need to be educated for abortion to ever go away. Of course, before we can adequately educate the world, we must educate ourselves. When I first started researching abortion, I was stunned by how clear-cut the secular case against it actually is. We need not worry about preaching people into a “new” morality; we only need educate them towards a more consistent application of the morality they already have in place. Most Americans already believe that child-killing is wretched and immoral. They just haven’t been sufficiently convinced that abortion is child killing. The primary obstacle keeping people on the wrong side of this issue is not so much moral as educational. Abortion is legal in America because it slithered in through the back door. It has never stood the test of full-disclosure, nor could it. The most powerful human weapon we have against abortion is the massive body of evidence that condemns it on every front. We must present this evidence as broadly, as comprehensively, and as compellingly as possible. We must evaluate what are the most effective ways to do this and what aren’t. Expressing an opinion is one thing. Demonstrating the reliability of that opinion is quite another. Each of us has a responsibility, not just to act, but to act wisely. This is no less true as it relates to abortion. Yes, we should invest our money in pro-life efforts, but we should not invest haphazardly. Before you give, figure out where your money will go and what it will be used for. Be convinced that it couldn’t be better invested somewhere else. One of the most dangerous comments you’ll hear sounds very noble on the surface. It goes like this: If even one life is saved, then it’s all worth it! While it is certainly right to value each and every life, such thinking subtly introduces the idea that we need not bother with any critical examination of our strategy. As long as some good is done, nothing else matters, but maybe a lot more could be done by simply embracing a more strategic approach! Doesn’t Christ tell us to be innocent as doves and shrewd as serpents (Mathew 10:16)? Doesn’t God commend the servant who yields the highest return on what was given him (Matthew 25:14-28)? If we have a certain amount of time or money to invest in combating abortion, wouldn’t God be more pleased with an approach that saves ten, twenty or a hundred lives, instead of just one? We must think critically, not just about abortion itself, but about how we can best combat it.

Abortion by no means has the market cornered on institutional injustice, particularly as you move beyond the borders of the U.S. It is only through the diversity of the body of Christ that the church can move in so many directions, to meet so many needs. Not everyone can be a missionary to the Middle East, and not everyone can make a vocation of combating abortion. Having said that, there is a danger in assuming too much upon the “diversity of the church.” Malcolm Gladwell notes in his remarkable book, “The Tipping Point” says, “When people are in a group… responsibility for acting is diffused. They assume that someone else will solve the problem, or they assume that because no one else is acting, the apparent problem… isn’t really a problem.” It is much the same in the church, where it can be very easy to assume that someone else is handling things. Everyone is not going to devote their life to this, but some could at least be concerned enough to do something.

OUR FIRST LOVE – published 9/17/16

PART 38

CHRISTIANITY IN POLITICS AND SOCIAL ISSUES – I

Those of you that have acquired a little wisdom along with your years, can relate to the concept of graduating into reality. It would be nice, as we grow older, if everyone could also become more mature but this does not always evolve. Even experience does not guarantee that we are growing smarter because some (I’m sure you know of a few) will go to their graves just as immature and ignorant as they ever were. As little children, it was so exciting to go to Disney Land and see presents under the tree but as we grew older, our sense of fantasy seemed to fade away. There is still joy in giving and receiving but the imaginations of mystery and magic are slowly replaced with the reality of responsibility and disappointment. The occasions are not quite as thrilling when we are the ones doing the shopping, planning and spending. Remember as a child, we just stood around and waited for things to happen but as adults we became the ones in the background who made it happen. When we realized that hard work and serious thought was now required, we slowly removed our rose-colored glasses and began to see everyday life in a completely different way.

A child never worries or even considers how much things cost or the degree of sacrifice their parents give to provide for them and you know, it seems to be the same way when it comes to life in the spiritual world. When we are young in the Lord, we believe that God can do anything and we are filled with excitement, trust and hope. However, as we grow older we learn that people are not what they seem to be, as we drift into being more cautious, hardened and discouraged. We become so bogged down with excuses, conditions, reasons and failures, that the supernatural loses its mystery and the expectation of miracles become more difficult to hold on to. We see so many things that are wrong and yet cannot explain why God would allow them to happen. We begin to realize that our world is entangled with politics and sadly we learn to compromise and play the games. Oh, the beauty and peace of living like a child in the presence of God and the freedom of a clear conscience. So my question is why did we allow our innocence to be stolen away?

Politics are worldviews that can be seen in the realm of maturity as an extension of holy wisdom OR opinions that originate from the flesh. The bible says the “fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom and in this light, I believe that a person cannot fully understand politics until they begin to understand who God is. Of course, people can study the issues and have loads of personal ideas, but the perfect thoughts of justice and fairness comes from the mind of God. Only when He is incorporated into the heart and mind of the masses can He be acknowledged in our society, our government, laws, business and family. When the people begin to worship Him and respect Him as the ruler of all things, they will begin to walk in the principals of the highest judge of the universe. Anyone who would consider his or her ability to rule as a more superior way than God Himself – is being controlled and deceived by the spirit of anti-christ. This is not intended to be an arrogant insult but rather as a humble statement of Biblical truth, that applies to every nation and every human being, past or future. I realize the New World Order hates this kind of talk and they strongly believe that anyone who would make such an intolerant, phobic, hateful statement is so far out of touch with reality they should be committed to a nursing home. But nonetheless, it needs to be said.

The new generations always believe they are smarter and have arrived at a better way of understanding how to live. The “old school” conservative thinkers are commonly labeled out of touch, old fashioned and not relevant to modern issues. It is true the old timers have seen the world evolve but just because it changes does not mean it is better. For example, technology can make life easier but it can also have negative side effects. Electronics can do things faster without the need for human labor but at the same time, it can also cause laziness and unemployment. Another model would be television or the internet that can entertain and help inform us but also steal our precious time and produce filth. Humanist build their views on the foundation of tolerance in the idea they may not agree but believe that everything is acceptable in the name of freedom. Pro-choice for example is a huge issue in today’s world and takes this particular political stand but in the divine reality of God’s nature and character, there is no such thing because He has never given humanity the option to kill an innocent child. The fetus is a human being with as much right to live as any person and to terminate its life for no reason other than not wanting it to live is murder in God’s eyes. It is just another way to say that I do not care or believe that God is the ultimate judge, that my private affairs are MY business and I will do as I please. Christians are not trying to “hold back” the progress of a better world – they are holding on to the foundational principals of God’s intended world. Those who know God are trying to convey the message that Jesus is not only the best way – but also the only way! In addition, they do not care how much persecution a true statement like this can generate because – they are already crucified with Him.

I cannot understand how the world believes it would be wrong for anyone to put a litter of kittens or puppies in a bag and throw them in the river while standing and holding a sign saying that it is perfectly alright to kill a baby and throw it in the trash can. Of course it’s wrong to kill any animal unless it is for food but how much more cruel and wrong is it to discard a human life just because the mother or father does not want to take care of it. There must come a place in the Christians life where they step back and consider social issues through the eyes of Jesus and not the flesh. The sins of pride, hatred and greed is why the world is a mess. People that choose to fornicate, commit adultery or are irresponsible married couples, want the pleasure and freedom to make a baby but do not have the maturity or accountability to do what is right. Society has cried out to the legal system begging to make a way for them to be able to do whatever they want and the government responded by saying, go ahead and get pregnant all you want and we will pay the butchers to help you take care of your mess. Do not worry about a thing, you have the right to choose life or death. Does anyone actually think that God who is the creator of life, would not mind if a doctor took a scalpel and cut a child into pieces or used a vacuum to suck a baby out of the womb? If the mothers life was in danger that is one thing but just to eliminate it for the sake of not wanting to be bothered with it is beyond words. The same way the Lord did not intend for man to destroy His beautiful earth with pollution or genetically modify the food supply. God did not want man to be filled with prejudice and hate and kill each other in wars. He wanted man to walk in HIS love, humility, generosity, forgiveness, compassion and kindness. This happens when mankind surrenders their carnal will and chooses to embrace the one who loved and created them and was crucified for them.

 

 OUR FIRST LOVE – published 9/10/2016

PART 37

LET US EXALT HIS NAME TOGETHER

 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3).

Our concept of exalting the Lord is usually built around the idea of music, but we are discovering that expressing our love to Him goes far beyond singing songs; it is how we live each moment. When adoration and thanksgiving become a state of mind, we will begin to abandon our thoughts and be more connected with His. Embracing this level of personal intimacy with our Creator establishes a beautiful communication exchange which evolves into an awareness of loving Him with all of our soul, mind, and strength. This revelation may be sudden, but learning how to develop a lifestyle of worship will take a lifetime of training our minds to concentrate on God.

Every song that has ever been sung and every book that has been written can only scratch the surface in describing His endless mercy and glorious Majesty and how worthy He is of our worship. Brother Lawrence, whose seventeenth century work, The Practice of the Presence of God, details his determination to re-train his conscience and to become so discerning that he considered everything as an opportunity to serve Christ. By allowing this concept of perception to transform who we are, we not only have a wonderful opportunity, but a responsibility to mature into a higher level of spiritual sensitivity. We are learning that the Christian lifestyle is about establishing and maintaining a bond of holy devotion with Christ, as we allow our conscience to be changed into a reflection of His image. It is not about the world watching us worship Jesus; it is about them sensing God’s presence in our lives! People are tired of talk; they want to witness the love of heaven, as it is true the most powerful sermons are without words.

If you want more of God, you must choose to deliberately pursue Him! As we become more intense in this love relationship, worshipping who He is will become as natural as breathing. Spending time with Him is how we get to know Him, and this is exactly what He desires from us. It is enlightening to discover that bringing our sacrifice of praise to God is not limited to an act, but the more He is on our minds the more our lives become the living sacrifice. When all is said and done, and we stand before His throne, the amount of our conscience we allowed Him to occupy will reveal what meant the most to us. Jesus can truly become our Lord when we remove our carnality and allow Him to sit on the throne of our hearts, and this is when worshipping in Spirit and Truth becomes a lifestyle.Give unto the Lord, O ye kindred’s of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name: bring an offering, and come into His courts. O worship The Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:7-9).

Within these pages I am not trying to imply that I have cornered the market on understanding worship or the mysteries and secrets of heaven; this is just a collection of my thoughts and experiences along with God’s Word that I hope will bring encouragement and a fresh purpose-driven insight into what a privilege it is to worship Jesus Christ. I do not believe we can necessarily train people how to worship God because we must avoid drifting into a legalistic ritual. However, concepts and illustrations about Christian living can reveal spiritual principles and components that can help us develop a more meaningful personal relationship with Christ. Each person has the free-will to experience the depths of His presence as much as they want, and for those who are longing to go to heaven after this life is over, it would go without saying that we are also looking forward to the glorious worship around His throne for all eternity.

It is true that many are not taking their spiritual life seriously, neither have they obtained the revelation that God is giving us the opportunity to take advantage of this life as a temporary “worship practice” so that when we enter into the gates of eternal life we will blend into the most powerful worship service time has ever known. I realize it is awkward to worship someone we cannot see, but that is the point of living by faith. The covenant life is all about having a passionate desire to be with Jesus in the secret place of our hearts, and as we draw nearer to Him, He will open the eyes of our spirits so that we can see and know Him more personally. These lines and precepts of spiritual levels expose the vast difference between living a default religious existence and becoming a remnant disciple of our living Lord and Savior.

God is calling us today to spend more time with Him and fall in love with Him so deeply that nothing in this world can interfere with this bond of holy intimacy. Is this what you want today? Do you long to be loved with the most fervent affection in heaven and earth? If this is what you are seeking today, then you have found the meaning of life! But there is only one thing that can prevent you from becoming what Jesus died for you to be – your will. When we are truly in love with someone, nothing can keep us from them. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:1-5).

Worship is a unique and widely misunderstood term that humans seem to avoid thinking about, yet actually practice it constantly. Our fallen nature shrinks away from thinking about or openly praising God but boldly exalts the other idols in our life. It is amazing how many people focus their attention toward a special interest but would never consider worship as the simple act of personal adoration. There is an old saying “Everybody serves somebody,” and I believe we can conclude that whatever has captured our imagination receives our highest worship. Of course, the human race comes fully equipped with this ability to be infatuated and controlled within the free-will of the conscience and is more than willing to bow down to whatever we love. We deny that many times we have actually crowned ourselves as lord and king, which explains why human nature rarely considers the fact that idolatry has more to do with the one we see in the mirror than an outside influence or temptation. The gospel summarizes the concept of worship as either going through life in the default mode of serving our own wills or making the decision to be spiritually re-born to serve and worship God in His divine reality. Let it be said that He will compel but does not force anyone to worship Him; and according to His spiritual principles, the dark side also abides by the same law. In other words, you and I are constantly being influenced and choosing whom we will serve and obey.

Together let us take a serious look at the definition of worship: “A homage or reverence paid to a thing or person; the acts, rites, or ceremonies of worship; adoration or devotion comparable to religious homage shown toward a person or principle (like the worship of wealth), honor, respect, veneration, reverence, esteem, exaltation, admiration, to extol, admire, glorify, magnify, and praise” (The Oxford Dictionary – American Edition). Our hymns and worship songs are filled with appreciation as we attempt to relay our deepest love and devotion to the God of the universe but in our limited human ability to understand, many times we are left speechless in glory of His presence. He draws us with His love, and we respond with gratitude and reverential awe. “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord” (Psalm 104:33-34).

The school of Christian living is our daily classroom and within our daily prayers should be the request to understand what we are learning. Without wisdom, knowledge is just a beautiful collection of facts, and in the Christian life it is not how much we know – but how much we apply. God views our spiritual voyage not as a religious parade that is filled with programs and ceremonies but as a holy communion that nurtures a covenant relationship that includes a continual exchange of thoughts and expressions. We worship Him not because of what He can do or how much He will give, but simply because we are infatuated with His person. Our joy overflows when we weep at His altar as our broken and contrite hearts release a sweet-smelling aroma around His throne and in the secret place of His presence. It is with trusting innocence that we can snuggle into the lap of a loving Father and allow Him to put His arms around us as He gently rocks us to sleep in His peace that passes all understanding. In the essence of His glory we become supernaturally entwined with the ruler of the universe, who longs to mold us as soft clay on the potter’s wheel. This miracle begins to happen when we abandon our old nature and embrace Him as the Master of our destiny. Only then can our lives finally begin their humble descent so that Christ can be formed and displayed within us. When He becomes the meaning of our lives, His presence will become as natural as breathing. To know Him is the purpose of living, to love Him is our most precious gift, and to worship Him is our greatest honor and privilege.

Wherever you are in this journey, God desires to fill you with His love and teach you everything you will need to know concerning the divine realities of His abundant life. May you receive the illumination of God’s Word as a vital stepping stone in your pathway toward knowing Him more intimately, and I pray that you will continue to be filled with the joys of worshipping Him as your Lord and Redeemer – The King of glory.

I am sorry Lord for all of the times I was too busy trying to blaze a trail for you without stopping to smell the flowers. You were there all along, and I was just too distracted to see you. Thank you for speaking to my heart with your kindness and mercy. It is so easy for us to become confused with deception, and I pray for all who are asking, knocking, and seeking your truth. Stir my heart Lord that I might understand how important it is to spend time with you. We do not know it all, and when we think we do, we are already caught in a snare trap of deception and denial. I repent of my sins today, and ask you to cleanse me and purify me with your holy refining fire. Teach me how to love you and how to worship you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Take me DEEPER and HIGHER into your ways and your thoughts. Thank you for provoking me, inspiring me, and encouraging my heart as I am now determined to deliberately pursue you. Prepare and plow my heart that I may receive the engrafted Word that is able to save my soul. I am hungry and thirsty for your presence. Have mercy on me O God; I am desperately needy for you, I love you, I worship you. Amen.”

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Psalm 95:6).

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – published 9/3/2016

Part 36

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MESSENGER

I was reading an article by Art Katz recently and it inspired me to think about what is going on in our modern religious scene today. There are truly many voices and we are in a time when deception is seductive. It would be very easy to be influenced by certain ideas that seem right and logical. The Bible mentions that if it were possible, the very elect would be deceived and this warning is to awaken us from our slumber that we might stand guard with our eyes and our ears. I wanted to share with you some of his thoughts along with my commentary and I do have his permission to share. I have paraphrased and rearranged some of his message and want to give him credit for the basic idea. I do believe this is an important and timely word for us in this hour.

In Jeremiah chapter 23, God gives us a powerful statement about true and false prophets. Talk about an accusation! It is one thing to have an indictment against Israel, but when you begin to blame the prophets of Israel, when the loftiest and the best and the noblest thing has become the most profane, then that must be a symbol or a statement of the low condition of a nation prior to its judgment. There is a conjunction between prophet and priest: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and my people love it so!” (Jeremiah 5:31a). I guess we should try to understand whether a pastor is a prophet. Is an evangelist, writer, singer and any teacher that proclaims God’s message a prophet? Consider this as we continue.

It is remarkable how self-serving this reciprocal thing is between heads of movements or fellowships and the false prophets, and how comfortable they are with one another and how they affirm one another. Many people are in an unspoken agreement with their ministers by thinking: “You present a biblical message. We will pay the bills and have a Sunday service that will leave our lives free from any kind of demand that would really touch our true vested interest and value. We don’t want a message that is going to challenge where our heart really is because that would make us uncomfortable. We want to be able to say, “Amen” and have the good feeling that we’ve done what is right and this applies to the pastor as well as the members. As the pastor/preacher goes so also goes the congregation and this includes the sobering reality of judgment for all.

“Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, they will be driven away into the gloom and fall in it; for I shall bring calamity upon them, the year of their punishment, declares the LORD.” (v.12). This implies that there may not be an immediate judgment, but rather an appointed time in which God judges those that profane His house and this includes those who originally had authentic and holy callings. That may explain why the Lord is allowing this religious parade to continue which is so popular among those who are trying to build a name for themselves. However, for them as with the priests and prophets of old, there will be a year of visitation or a certain time when God calls a halt because He has seen enough.

There is a consequence for false prophecy. It will affect the entire nation and therefore the entire church by the same principle. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you…” (vs. 15-16a). Notice that God still calls them prophets. It is maybe because the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. They still retain their official title, but what they are performing under that title is in God’s sight an abomination. There is nothing more profane than when the sacred is no longer authentically sacred. When we take the sacred phrase, ‘Thus says the Lord’ and merely employ it as a device to win the attention of our hearers, then we are desecrating the sacred. We are making the sacred profane and once we have done that, what else can be hoped for? If we are not as a priestly people setting forth the distinction between the profane and the sacred, what can be hoped for in the world? The ramifications of what we are talking about are beyond any full grasp. “They keep saying to those who despise Me, the LORD has said, you will have peace and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, calamity will not come upon you” (vs. 16b-17).

This must be the very quintessence of what a false prophet is, namely, the giving of a false comfort and a false assurance of peace that does not regard the truth of the conditions that need to be faced. It is an unwillingness to bring a hard word. The things that are prophesied are normally flattering and encouraging to the flesh, rather than challenging or threatening. False prophets have historically prophesied peace when there is no peace. They say things like, no calamity will not come upon you and by the way is the kind of statements that are coming forth today. They are giving a false comfort to those who are not even properly aligned to God. Humanly speaking, we would not see these people as those who despise God but as trying to bring calm and peace. God sees them, however, as despising Him and we need to see it as He sees it. The false prophets are actually bringing an emotional encouragement to those people who are already out of right relationship with God and then giving them a false assurance that their relationship with God is in order. This sounds more like the devil than God.

“But who has stood in the council of the LORD…?” Moses, who wrote the five books of Moses, could say of himself that he was the humblest man on the face of the earth. That is true humility, where we are devoid of any sense of spiritual self-consciousness. We can merely state the fact of something without any effect upon ourselves, because the humility is not a statement to our honor. Humility is not something that man can work up by himself on the earth and develop as a character trait. Humility is what God is in Himself, and the only one who will display and exhibit it, is that one who has been consistently in the presence of God. It is humbling to be there and that is why Moses could state it not as a credit to himself, but to God, out of whose presence that humility was established. God requires still that His prophetic men be in His presence. God wants His messengers to live holy! I want to say that there is nothing more difficult for anyone than this requirement. Everything contends against it including the dinner bell, the faucet is dripping, the light bulb needs to be changed, the dogs need to be fed and so on that are continually nipping at us that require attention. Even if that were not so, there is something about the pulse of the flesh itself that is strongly opposed to praying and obeying. Seeking the Lord is an extraordinarily difficult thing and few have sufficient incentive. It is a suffering, and in fact, just to be more ruthlessly honest, it is a dying in order to live what God has always intended. Living on the earth, in the flesh, in the world and in time, and to confide and to commune with God, is an extraordinary and ultimate attainment. If you attain it, then maintain it, because you do not want to have to do it all over again. Can you be a minister and still go to last night’s party, with dancing, and hooting, and singing, and stomping and not lose it or be jarred from your sensitive spiritual place by what seems to be just a time of fun? We are talking about something very critical. I would not expect in the earth today many men who are in this place. What then shall we say for the whole rash of prophets that have arisen in recent years (for there are many men professing to be prophets), but are we really hearing the council of God? God’s judgment concerning the FAILURE to declare His word in this world should concern us.

We can know when the word is out of the council of God because it has a blah effect. Anointed truth will persuade the listener in turning toward God and away from from their evil ways and their practices. I can remember a full gospel breakfast where the speaker was from Sweden, a leading evangelical personality, but it could have been anywhere. He was wearing a Gucci shirt and tie and a silk-type suit, and he began by saying, “The Lord has spoken to me this morning and given me a word for you.” I leaned forward to catch every syllable that had come from the heart of God. As I listened however, it was nothing from God at all, the clichés and evangelical phrases sounded nice but he spoke a strange fire. The men who were hearing the message that morning, nodded their heads, applauded and affirmed and yet I would say most of them did not realize they were being schmoozed. We realize people are not always on cue, but we also need to know there are consequences when we allow that kind of deception to be expressed and are afraid to contradict. This tolerance will dull our sensitivity so that the next time we will be an even greater candidate for game playing and vulnerable for anything that comes down the pike.

There needed to be someone in that audience that morning to get up and say, “I am sorry for whatever pain and dislocation I am going to cause, but I cannot allow that phrase and that statement to be made in our hearing without being contested. That was not the Word of God and we dare not allow that kind of terminology to be employed merely to sanctify or to give a kind of credibility to what is otherwise just an ordinary statement.” How often is that being done and to what extent has our failure to do so had a negative effect on the church today? We have paid much for cheap, casual references to God, as if we could invoke Him at pleasure or say, “God gave or did” when He did not. The same ones who will dismiss God rudely are the same ones who will invoke Him lightly. Prophets are called to come boldly into that scenario, and bring the sword of the Lord, the fear of the Lord, and the truth of the Lord to people who have been long spoiled by such cheap things as I am now describing, and as every one of us at one time or another, (more than we would admit), have experienced. This is why we have anguished and God is calling a halt! Why there are false prophets? Because they love being the center of attention, they love financial gain and the idea of starting a movement with their name out front! They crave the excitement, and the control, but evade the cross and the necessity for suffering out of which the Spirit of God is given as solace, comfort and power. We come back again and again to the cross. The false prophet speaks words of comfort when God would NOT have His people to be comforted, but to be agitated. True prophets can bear the reprisal, the rejection and the conviction of that word and receive it with humility and the reverential fear for God.

Prophetic anguish is to bring the Word of God and then to have it refused and it come right back into your teeth. On the contrary, it is a sense of joy, praise and gratefulness that comes when the Word of God flows out of you and into a hungry people who are receiving it. That is like tonic for your soul. We have to be as willing for the one as the other, or we will not speak the other. The call to the prophet is the call to the cross. It is a frequent, if not continual form of suffering of an exquisite and ultimate kind. Can we say, “Thus says the Lord” without actually articulating those words or remodeling them to please everyone? In our statement, are our words coming through the cross? It is life out of a death. It is not your own word, but His, which can only come from that cross-centered place. That was true for the prophets before the advent of the cross. Elijah preceded the cross, but he knew the death of it when he said, “…there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Jesus knew the sacrifice before He knew the cross which exemplified and made visible the thing to which His life was all along submitted.

As most of you know, I am a newspaper faith columnist and write for publications around the country. As a minister, I have been communicating for years and my message has at times been very straight forward and some have even thought a little too aggressive. I must admit, my lack of popularity has hindered the effectiveness of the ministry as many have walked away, tuned me out and turned me off. I have been discouraged at times because I took it personally but now I realize that human nature will always reject spiritual truth. The more carnal people are, the less interested they are in the things of God. I am not worried about the articles and books I write or the songs I sing and record because they are for the Kingdom of God, but rather my challenge today as my audience grows larger, is to follow the voice of the Lord in a PUBLIC media forum and to make sure that I am not afraid to relay exactly what HE wants me to say.

I have been attacked this year by everything from atheist to disgruntled religious people who declare that I am too harsh. On the other hand, I’ve received some positive feedback lately from messages that have to do with encouragement, hope and peace – and that is fine. My point is that I do not want to bring a false security to those who need to be saved and filled with God’s Spirit. I do not want to “walk through the tulips” in order to not hurt anyone’s feelings. Since a stern message draws attackers and a chocolate cake message draws praise, it would be tempting to produce weak and watery content that strokes the ego and comforts the savage beast. But is this not blood on my hands that will require judgment? Today, as I observe the ministry in general, I can see why the religious masses have fallen asleep and are satisfied with the way things are.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – published 8/27/2016

PART 35

TRUSTING JESUS – THE GREAT PHYSICIAN

Sometimes life is difficult but we always knew it would be. If we did not realize this at first, I’m sure we know it now. In the times when we are knocked down and certain aspects of our life are just not working out and are disappointing, we do not need philosophy – we need trust. We cannot change the past but we do have the choice to turn inward and ask God to help us with damage control. TRUST is a common yet very important decision that can keep us safe in God’s peace but it will require letting go of our emotions and surrendering our will to Him.

There have been times I have prayed for someone who was very sick and felt very positive about their recovery and did see a miracle of healing that left me in awe. Then on the other hand, I have prayed and believed but things did not turn out like I thought they would and they did not make it. I recently lost my father to a disease that had been slowly squeezing the life out of him for a long time. His family and friends had prayed for years and Praise God I am sure this helped more than we will ever know. He did not receive an instantaneous healing like is described when Jesus would touch someone but thank the Lord he is finally released from a body of torment and is at peace and rest with Christ. I conduct church services in nursing homes each week and I always promise those who are in Christ, they will definitely be healed. If for some reason they are not healed in this life that only Jesus knows, they will be completely healed in the next life! One way or another in a short amount of time, all of God’s children will be perfectly healed and delivered from every problem, pain and worry for all eternity – amen.

I cannot explain why sometimes people are healed and at other times some are not but this does not discourage me from believing that Jesus not only has total authority but is filled with compassion and desires to heal His people. Yes, sometimes there may be a lack of faith on our part, and we might not pray and fast like we are called to but this should only cause us to to become more diligent and passionate about going deeper with God. We read where the disciples were given power to do miracles and many today teach this power passed away when these men died. This is not true because Christ Himself declared that future generations of disciples would continue the good work that He started. Instead of trying to find excuses for our lack of spiritual devotion we should face the truth that reveals how we should be doing even more than was done when the church began. We have been given the written record of the New Testament and the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, empower and help us accomplish God’s will.

Do not allow anyone to tell you that healing is not real for today because Jesus shed His blood on the cross to give us TOTAL salvation which includes any type of problem. Whatever type of need or problem we might have, we can go to Him in prayer and have faith that He listens and intervenes in the affairs of men and women who are called according to His purpose. We are invited to always come before His throne in faith and to believe He will deliver us. We do not have to wonder or guess what He wants or how He thinks because we have His Word to help us understand. We want the best for our children and how much more does He feel the same way. Once again, let us recall this wonderful true story of how God has given us the privilege and invitation to call upon Him and reach out by faith and connect with His endless compassion.

“And a certain woman which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was still not healed, but rather grew worse. When she heard of Jesus, she pressed into the crowd and reached behind Him and touched His garment. For she said, if I could only touch His clothes, I shall be made whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that problem. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him, turned around within the crowd and said, who touched my clothes? His disciples said unto Him, you are standing in the middle of a huge multitude where everyone is trying to touch you and you are asking – who touched me?  And He looked round about to see who had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling realizing what had happened within her, fell down before Him and told Him all the truth. And He said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be free of thy plague” (Mark 5: 25 – 34).

It has never been recorded by any other individual, group, or religion in history where someone healed ALL sickness, disease, or infirmity. We have a world of religions that worship many different people but none of them had the power to heal, resurrect from the dead or transform a spirit from being lost into the miracle of salvation. This is why the God of the Bible is the only true God. In the Gospels there are many eye witness accounts that record Jesus holding mass healing events and in EVERY situation he totally healed everyone that reached out to Him. It is never mentioned that He selected certain ones to heal and left others to remain in their condition or cases that were too difficult for Him. The scriptures also reveal that God does not pick and choose certain ones and does not show partiality or favoritism – then or now.

“Then Peter opened his mouth and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that fears the Lord and practices righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts10:34-35).

“And they brought unto Jesus one that was deaf, and also had a speech impediment; and they asked him if he would lay his hands upon him. And Jesus took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers in his ears and he spit and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, Eph – pha – tha which means be opened. And immediately his ears were opened and the string of his tongue was loosed and he spoke plain. And they were ASTONISHED beyond measure, saying, He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak” (Mark 7:32-35,37).

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). This scripture declares that Jesus does not CHANGE. Since Jesus was the healer in the New Testament, then he is the healer today. Since Jesus healed ALL that came to him for physical healing in the Bible, He will heal ALL that come to Him now. The only resistance that is trying to cause us to deny and doubt this spiritual reality is the devil and our own carnality. “And behold, there was a man whose hand was withered, and the church leaders asked Jesus, saying, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? They were trying to accuse Him of breaking the law. And Jesus said unto them, what man shall there be among you that shall have one sheep, and if it falls into a hole in the ground, will he not reach down and lift it out? How much then is a person better than a sheep? Wherefore IT IS lawful to do good on the Sabbath days. Then Jesus said to the man, stretch forth thine hand and he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees had a private meeting about how they might destroy him. But when Jesus found out about this, he withdrew himself from that place: and a great multitude followed him, and he HEALED them ALL” (Matthew 12:9-15).

“And when the apostles returned, they told Jesus all they had done, and he took them aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. When the people found out where he was they followed him and he received them and taught about the Kingdom of God and healed them that had need of healing” (Luke 9:10-11).

Jesus is SEATED in Heaven far ABOVE all principalities and powers and might and dominion, and EVERY NAME that is named and the believer is SEATED in heavenly places with Him. Cancer is a name and Jesus has the authority to destroy its ability to harm us. Luke 1:37 says, “For with God NOTHING shall be impossible” and it is crucial for us to remain in this state of mind or the darkness of doubt will try to sneak in through the back door. Sometimes it is difficult to keep going when we have several disappointing events happen and there will be times when we feel the Lord has not heard us or that He is busy doing something else. My brothers and sisters I can promise you according to God’s absolute truth that He has heard every word and known every thought. He is aware of how you feel and is very concerned. Do you believe this? Just because we have doubt does not mean His Word has failed. He has never failed and will never make a mistake. He is perfect in all things.

“May the Father of glory and our Lord Jesus Christ give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. May the eyes of your understanding be enlightened that you might know what is the hope of his calling and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe according to the working of his mighty power. Which the Father carefully produced in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers and might and dominion and EVERY NAME that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come: and has put ALL THINGS under his feet and gave him to be the head over ALL things to the church which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:17-23).

This is why we pray and cry out to Him because we know that he is the only one that has the power to heal. All things have been put under his feet including sickness, disease, poverty, oppression, and evil. “Wherefore God also has given highly exalted Jesus and given him a name which is above every name. That at the name of Jesus EVERY knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things in the earth and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

God is our great physician! “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord thy God, and will agree to do what is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you which I brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that HEALETH THEE” (Exodus 15:26).

The medicine He prescribes is his Holy Word. “My son attend to MY WORDS; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are LIFE unto those that find them, and HEALTH to all their flesh” (Proverbs 4:20-22)

Jesus is the Bread of life – The Word of God. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written that no man knew but he himself. And he was clothed with a garment dipped in blood: and his name is called THE WORD OF GOD” (Revelation 19:11-13). God’s will for our life has already been revealed in his Word. He has prescribed and sent His Word (Jesus Christ) to heal us and deliver us out of all our problems and trials. If God had not promised to come to our rescue when we were in trouble then there would be no reason to call upon Him for help. His blood that He shed on the cross provides total salvation (deliverance) and that includes ANYTHING we might need! “When they cry unto the Lord in times of trouble, he saves them from their distress. He sent his WORD, and healed them and delivered them from their destruction” (Psalm 107:19-20).

“Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with various diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and he healed them” (Luke 4:40).

“When Jesus came near to the sea of Galilee, he went up into a mountain and sat down. And great multitudes came unto him, helping those who were crippled, blind, unable to speak, handicapped and many others. They brought them before Jesus and he healed them. The miracles were so powerful that the multitude were amazed when they saw the dumb speak and the maimed became whole, the lame to walk and the blind to see; and they glorified the God of Israel” (Matthew 15: 29-31).

Do not lose heart children of God. This life contains many victories and blessings but there will also be times of sadness and tears. My son and his wife cannot have children on their own and have been going through a long and drawn out medical process of trying to have a child which on top of extreme emotional stress is also very expensive. My wife and I have been praying, hoping and waiting all summer to see if this was going to work and we just received news yesterday that it failed. We have no grandchildren and were excited but also realized there was much risk involved. Of course they will try again and there is still a great chance that it will eventually happen but it just seems to deflate us when we invest our heart and soul into something and we are left standing speechless. It is hard to praise the Lord when we are disappointed but that is exactly what we need to do. For example, the Bible says rejoice at a funeral and weep at a birth but our emotions are just not wired that way. We must take control of our emotions that have every intention of influencing us away from God’s truth. No matter how we feel, we must hold tightly to the fact that He loves us more than anything.

We will probably not understand all the things the wonder about. We can speculate about things until we are frustrated and exhausted. Someday we will know all the things that God desires for us to know and if these things are not included then I am sure we not remember them anyway. The important thing is that we not allow ourselves to become hurt and bitter to the point of giving up. When we feel that we have been wounded, we have a tendency to step away and this is the first step toward backsliding from His presence. Being offended at God and having deep resentment against Him is a terrible root of darkness that can ruin our life from the inside out. May we learn to let go of our burdens and cast our cares upon Him for He cares for us. May we let it go and set our focus on Jesus. This is the path toward learning how to love Him with all of our mind, heart, strength and soul which is the greatest of all commandments. Loving God is the beauty of our life. Trusting God is the foundation of our life. Knowing God is the meaning of our life – now and forevermore.

“And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret and drew to the shore. And when they came out of the ship, the people immediately knew who Jesus was. As this news traveled throughout the region, the people began to carry the sick to wherever he was. When Jesus would come into the villages and cities, the people would lay the sick in the streets and begged him that they might be allowed to at least touch the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole” (Mark 53-56).

“As they went out, behold man was brought to Jesus that could not speak and was possessed with a demon. And when Jesus cast the demon out, he could speak; and the multitudes marveled saying, a miracle like this has never been seen before. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing EVERY disease among the people” (Matthew 9: 32-35).  

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – PUBLISHED 8/20/2016

PART 34

TRUE LOVE WILL NEVER COMPROMISE

It is amazing how drastic world views can change in one generation. In our busy daily lives, we rarely take time to consider how subtle views can gain momentum right in front of our nose as we can become so easily distracted with the “little foxes.” It is common to be so focused on what we are doing than what we need to be remembering. For example, the church world is always discussing helping needy children in a foreign land but often ignoring the little ones running around down the street. This is not being critical considering what is at stake but just pointing out that we do not need to look far to see where we can minister.

“The future of preserving God’s truth on earth depends on the deliberate and fearless actions of each generation to demonstrate it! Anybody can – everybody won’t – but somebody will!”

Of course the Lord is watching over His Kingdom but when one generation goes to sleep and fails in their responsibilities to pass on to their children God’s divine reality, the entire culture suffers loss and becomes more distorted. It only takes ONE generation to change the world and we may very well be witnessing this spiritual alteration right now. As children absorb knowledge they begin to process this information as a type of “laying a foundation” of their own personal worldviews. For those who seek God’s truth, the renewed mind is continually being developed and shaped into powerful convictions that solidify values such as integrity, love, generosity, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, respect and honor. However, for those whose young minds and pliable conscience are being targeted with the humanistic philosophies of the world – we must realize this flood of darkness and lies has every intention of taking as many prisoners as possible.

Influencing and molding the mind of a child is a serious deed. It has always been a normal part of nature whether we agree or not, for children all over the world to be taught and many times forced to adopt interpretations of someone’s truth. Especially when it comes to either the religious views of parents, the government or the religious authorities, children are molded and expected to carry on the sacred traditions of familiar culture. Of course we believe that most of the world is in severe error but we also can be very confident the world believes the same thing about us. Allow me to say; there IS such a thing as absolute truth but the question remains as to how many people are actually on the path to divine wisdom and understanding?

“Never allow anyone to tell you there is no such thing as absolute truth!”

When it comes to God’s absolute truth, what else can we as Christians do but seek and pray and then TEACH what we KNOW is right and be strong and determined to NOT compromise what we have learned! Yes, brother but isn’t all truth relative? Well, relative to what? If anyone were to seriously trace where this type of foolish thinking originated they may not be excited to endorse it as reliable. Satan is the author of confusion and the father of all lies. He knows all about absolute truth and his mission is NOT really that complicated; it is to prevent God’s perfect wisdom from transforming the minds of the “earthlings.” The devil understands that since we humans are born with a rebellious nature against God, we are weak and automatically gullible to philosophical opinions and it doesn’t take much an argument to convince us humans about anything. For heaven’s sake, look around at all of the bizarre things people believe and you can see how easy Satan’s job actually is.

“The old song says, “I’ve got some Ocean front property in Arizona” and I’m sure there would be a waiting line with those wanting to buy it!”

The flesh nature is very vulnerable to deception which makes the devil’s mission of herding the masses over the ravine to hell fairly simple and sadly he has done a good job of keeping divine truth “top secret.” But, praise God! I want to share a simple and beautiful revelation with you today; God’s Kingdom IS advancing because it CANNOT be stopped! Darkness CANNOT prevent the seeker who becomes determined to love and know God from accomplishing and fulfilling their heavenly destiny!

I believe there have been some breakdowns in the general church-world over the last one hundred years and I also feel in my spirit there are strange and deceptive spirits that are operating in some of our major denominations today. Do not misunderstand me, there are pockets of sincere remnant disciples scattered out over the earth that are trying hard to walk for God, but generally speaking many churches have become more worldly minded than Christ centered. In this light, there is a huge representation of socially acceptable religion and a very small remnant of true disciples that are filled with the Holy Ghost! Our focus today as Christians should be to reflect God’s divine reality and this is something the modern “seeker friendly” congregations need to be teaching instead of spending all their energy trying to be politically correct.

“The last hour church will not be known for its SIZE but for its passion to reflect the love of Jesus and embrace His Holy Word at any cost!” 

So when did the religious church begin to lose its purpose and identity? Well, that is a good question and it might make more sense to admit that the church actually has NEVER been the spiritual force in the world like it should have been. Yes, religion has always been in the headlines with all their pomp and ceremony while God’s remnant has been in their prayer closets pouring out their hearts on the alters of heaven! Jesus confronted the religious world and told them they did not have a clue and while this deceptive religious spirit has continued to appear respectful to the community, many people have spiritually starved to death. As the generations of children developed in their minds what they observed from the lethargic church that was led by compromising parents along with weak pastors and religious facilitators, this lukewarm lifestyle molded an undesirable view of God and deteriorated the entire idea of absolute truth. I personally believe the modern version of the religious system took a heavy hit in the 1960’s and 70’s because the enemy brought out many different types and calibers of social change with an even more aggressive demonic intensity against the family than ever before. Could much of this have been stopped by faithful and courageous Christians? How can carnal free-will be stopped?

Can we stop it now? I fail to see it and do not believe the Bible teaches that our world was transformed into a happy Christian world.”

Christians have become outnumbered to the point of losing their influence and in our type of republic – the majority rules. After being asleep for the last 50 years it would be very difficult to arise and become a strong and significant voice. If the people had wanted this to be a Christian nation it might have been. Should it have been? Well, as a Christian who believes the Bible is God’s inerrant Word and that trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, I would need to support this view. BUT – that was NOT the choice of the masses and God allows the people to choose the type of life they want. Yes, we can begin to make a huge impact in our own network by becoming determined to ACT and SAY exactly what He is speaking to us! Prayer changes things according to God’s perfect plans. He may not be telling us that we can change the world but He is telling His people to have OBEDIENCE as their highest priority!

When we think about how life is woven together and what makes sense, we begin to notice that as complicated as the world may seem, the basic fundamentals of life are quite simple. God’s ways are precise and strict, yet they are also filled with love and forgiveness. Since humans are so simple-minded, we are faced with the hard fact that most people think like a child and act like a child and children do not like discipline and a rebellious spirit hates to be told what to do.

“Concerning our carnal nature, we can say with embarrassment and shame that resisting spiritual authority is usually “in season.”

In our persistent carnal way of thinking, it does not really take a lot of effort for the enemy of our soul to drive a huge wedge between us and our Creator – he just needs to influence and whisper a few of his ideas here and there to sadly keep the fires of insubordination burning. Yahweh has known this from the beginning and realized from the beginning of time that He would need to send His Son the Messiah to restore our relationship with Him. He also added a wonderful instruction manual for us to live by and a power-filled personality of the Trinity to help comfort and guide us throughout our journey. The blood covenant of Christ explains that all we have is His and all that He has is ours, so why in the world are we not ruling the earth as a royal priesthood and a holy nation? Good question. It just seems to me that somewhere down the line we have not lived up to God’s hopes or expectations. This observation is not to make us feel bad and depressed – it should make us want to arise and do better!

When it comes to our sin, we hate to admit our failures because it makes us pity ourselves. We are like the child that tells the big story about how the cookie jar was broken and then forced to watch how the hidden camera captured the way it really happened. When we became a Christian, we were told to follow His divine blueprint in obedience and in turn we would be given the awesome opportunity and gracious blessing of Him sitting on the throne of our heart and leading our life as our Lord. Simple right? I wish I could tell you this journey is one big exciting adventure where we all ride into the sunset singing “Oh happy day”, BUT our road does have its share of serious potholes, winding turns and times of suffering and disappointment. And yes, this is why our conversations are always so loaded with talk about faith and trusting God.

“You see, pure faith is dangerous to the dark kingdom which is why the atheist and scoffers are so strongly attempting to discredit the Bible.”

The devil has realized that if the concept of absolute truth can be removed from the list of legitimate theories – the floodgates of heresy can control the minds, hearts and souls of the entire world. Seeing this military strategy to damn the entire world to an everlasting hell SHOULD BE a sobering wake-up call for God’s people to arise and enter into spiritual warfare. But when love grows cold, the fervent prayers and burdens for lost souls fades away and the Bible quietly turns into a center piece for a coffee table instead of a passionate lifestyle. When anyone becomes spoiled with the pleasures and comforts of a warm home, delicious meals, non-stop entertainment and surrenders to the spirit of slumber, I can promise that going out into a harsh world to tell people about Jesus is easily postponed for another time. Here is another problem; there are many that NOT only failed to learn about the importance of study and intercession but they have also never witnessed the life changing, miracle power of God with their own eyes.

“How could anyone be excited about miracles or convicted about lost souls that are at stake, if all they know is a lifeless church service?”

What good have all of the millions of church services been to the world when the Christians have NOT witnessed the presence and power of God’s Spirit? What are Christians accomplishing within the church when they willingly send their children to a public education system that is teaching the Bible is a joke? When people go to church but do not LIVE the Christian life and allow sin to desensitize their mind, the children run out the backdoor and play with demons because they do not know the difference! This is why our world is sliding downward!                

Allow me to present a quote from A.W. Tozer. “If Christianity is to receive rejuvenation, it must be by other means than any now being used. If the Church in the last half century is to recover from the injuries she has suffered, there must appear a new type of leader. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting. Another kind of spiritual leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray to God there will be many), they will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear.” A nation founded by pilgrims who came here to worship the God of the Bible freely without interference and persecution from greedy, ruling elites and those opposed to Christianity’s influence on the culture, has now come to the proverbial fork in the road. After years of attempting to balance traditional Americana with political correctness, those pushing the new “my way or the highway” definition of tolerance has decided that accommodating our differences of opinion is defeat. Irrefutable history documents that the Bible and its teachings contained the highest influence on those that founded the most free and prosperous nation in human history. Yet in today’s world, if you believe that same Bible is true you will either silence your beliefs because you are afraid – or you will be silenced by the world ruining your credibility. The church is facing a strong uprising against what is true and the battle which lies ahead is NOT for the faint-hardhearted. We are entering into a time when our government believes it has the power to FORCE a Christian to accept the dictates of its system agenda and yes, there is coming a time when we will no doubt have our opportunity to stand or run. The sad truth is the attitude of most American Christians would prefer to leave people in their sin provided they are left alone to their own pleasures. In God’s holy plan, that is a sin of omission, total disobedience to the Gospel and a huge reason why the culture is suffering.

“Every true remnant disciple of Jesus Christ will have to choose between the Bible or the world. We can no longer love and serve both, and the truth is we really never could. It was always going to end this way; we just didn’t want to believe it.”

We look around and can see how aggressive society is becoming toward those who follow Jesus. I published a newspaper column this year about how we need to ask and invite God into our government affairs so that hopefully He can help untangle the mess we have made. This is not controversial for a Christian because we believe that He is welcome to guide us into His will concerning everything. Even the idea of separation of church and state would never allow us to lock the door and refuse the wisdom of our Lord or the blessings of His presence. I was surprised at the hatred I received from those who demand that God NOT be allowed to intervene. Obviously this attitude is why we are faltering in every area. I am not sure how much longer the media will allow me to express my spiritual convictions but I will continue as long as I can. May we pray for one another and remember the greatest commandments ever given were for us to be filled with determination and perseverance to NEVER compromise our love. Amen.

OUR FIRST LOVE – posted 8/14/2016

PART 33

A TIME FOR EVERYTHING

I’ve always heard about life being compared to the four seasons. We know that certain individuals do not finish all the stages but are taken away by the mysteries that cannot be explained in this realm. There are the ones who never had the chance to feel the rain because they were not wanted, while some experienced spring and summer, others were aggressively attacked and could not escape from becoming a victim. Many were allowed to “taste and see” the sweet victories of mountain plateaus along with the bitterness of dark and agonizing valleys but this is how life was designed in order for us to comprehend how to live. We would not appreciate the years of blue skies and the white puffy clouds of happiness and contentment without the times when we were huddled under a shelter to save us from the lightning and wind of a ferocious thunderstorm. Understanding that life is more about the journey than the destination is the entrance to wisdom. Learning and incorporating His higher thoughts and ways which are generously given to those who are passionately searching for truth allows us to proceed into spiritual fulfillment. Not so that we can selfishly absorb all the goodness and peace of a loving Lord, but that we might with His mercy allow Him to pour us out into the world so that others who are thirsty can freely drink. We are not the source of purpose or the origin of reason, we are merely the vessel that God uses to distribute the presence of His character. Similar to a light bulb which is only a thin glass housing that must remain clear so the illumination can be projected from within for all to see.

We begin in the bounding beauty of spring where everything is new and fresh. The sun reveals a clear and gentle warmth like it is yawning after hibernation as the atmosphere is electrified with hope, excitement and enthusiasm. Can anyone describe the softness of a babies skin as the entire dimension of spring is likewise filled with tenderness? In the forest, tiny sprouts and shoots give way to stems and leaves that rise from the earth like Ezekiel s story of dead bones. There is a silent song in the air, an unspoken sense of life and the need to begin construction as the unknown calls to the soul in a quiet whisper of faith. We are divinely infused with generous amounts of courage that infuses strength to reach out and take hold of things we cannot see with our young eyes while yet the drawings and plans of our destiny are already written and clearly visible from within for those who ask, knock and seek. As we grow, we become aware of other souls and the different seasons they are experiencing which gives us a deeper perspective of the cycle of life. We realize we are only peeking through cracks in the cosmic fence of the universe and have limited access to spiritual enlightenment which is an important step of maturity that demands we put away childish things and prepare to embrace and endure the adventurous journey that is coming. This encouragement to choose life and press forward is a crucial ingredient within the correct mixture and balance of progress and development of our destiny.

Summer is the season where we learn quickly and much is accomplished in a short amount of time. The idea of the long span of daylight that can allow us to work many productive hours is an illustration of making haste while we are charged and flowing with positive energy. The body has grown strong along with a mentality that has sprouted many challenging visions and now the heart and conscience is revving at maximum rpm with unharnessed enthusiasm. The types and shadows of wood being chopped and stacked, planting crops, gathering, storing and saving, building and expanding are all pertaining to our four human dimensions being at its peak performance with high levels of hormones fueling physical endurance and mental creativity. This is the season for completing education, entering marriage, producing children and while raising them in the midst of rapid-fire activity, they become an eye witness to what it takes to thrive in a cruel and unforgiving world. They need to see the sacrifices, the pain, courage, stamina, perseverance and determination that it takes to succeed so they can know what is coming when they reach their season of summer. This is where respect is earned and memories are made that will greatly influence the next generation. Much of what is built in the summer will last a lifetime and is commonly realized as the season of accountability and the foundation for most everything that is added thereafter. In each of our seasons there are crossroads where we find ourselves standing in the middle trying to make crucial and correct decisions. It is within these choices that define who we are and what we will be accountable unto. We hear so much about our legacy and this common crossroad has much to do with accountability and destiny. There is only one true voice for us to follow when making decisions and someday we will be given the opportunity to explain them all.

Fall is commonly agreed to be one of the most beautiful seasons. Personally, I have always loved the fall of the year as the air becomes crisp and yet the sun is still bright. Fall is associated with harvest which means that dreams that were sown with much hard work are about to be reaped, stored and used for security, safety and contentment. The idea is to begin slowing down from running around the clock and release the stress of trying to juggle everything at once and finally begin to enjoy the fruits and rewards of our labors. Children have now grown and are entering into their summer season while we stop and smell the roses with our mate and enjoy the shrinking window of health and strength that we have left. This is a time of making sure tasks are being completed, imaginations are being fulfilled and finishing touches are being placed on things of importance. Fall is a time of final preparation for what is coming as we realize there will soon be a weakening of the eyes and the gradual loss of mind and mobility. Now is the time to do whatever needs to be done because we might not be able to do it later. Fall is filled with a sense of urgency to accomplish. It is a time of concern and responsibility so there can be peace and rest in knowing that important arrangements and decisions are all taken care of. It is a wonderful feeling in the fall to take a walk in the drizzling rain while red, orange and yellow leaves are falling, breathing in the air and gazing at the dreary sky while knowing that all is well with our soul.

The beginning of winter is deceptive because when we look into the mirror, we do not see what everyone else sees. We are not alarmed at the extra pounds, the layers of wrinkles, the loss of hair or the slowness of our step. For some reason we think the fall will never end and that it will continue being extended forever. We are not old we are just slowing down. The winter of life reminds us of the coming snow and it is no coincidence the color of our hair begins to turn a frosty white. This is a subtle reminder that falling snow means cold which leads to freezing everything and eventually the coldness of death. Gazing out over a barren corn field in the middle of winter stirs sad emotions of loneliness and a sense of finality like a cruel tyrant that holds the landscape in bondage, depriving a starving community of provision. On the other hand, winter can be a wonderland when the sleet sticks to the trees and they become as majestic sculptures that glisten and reflect like a galaxy of stars. As we lie in bed we can hear the bitter wind that howls like a lonely wolf and as the bright moon shines on the ragged frozen landscape it reminds us this is our last season. It is a revolving cycle for the earth but a one way ticket for all living creatures. We are born and after our four seasons we die. That is the way it is designed and that is the way it will be. The Bible says we have an appointment with death and whether God makes some of the appointments or sometimes we make our own, if we are trusting in Him we have nothing to fear. How we lived throughout our seasons is recorded and activating a truth called faith will give us assurance to know where we will spend eternity when the final roll is called.

So, here we are somewhere within our seasons as we consider a few closing thoughts. Our winter season does not need to be focused completely on surviving but can be filled with a hope of thriving. If we spend all of our attention on preservation we will not have time to live. Some may say that in winter, life is over and there is nothing productive they can do but that is not true. Just because we cannot run, carry and build does not mean we cannot generate the power needed to accomplish God’s work. The power is not in flipping a light switch but in the water that turns the generator which produces electricity. Likewise in the spiritual realm, God is the water and the generator but He can use us to flip a lot of miracle switches when we choose to pray. Yes, I have seen much loneliness and suffering in the winter season but it’s important to be filled with the Holy Spirit and a positive minded trust that God will always take care of His children. Many believe the season cycles repeat and that all of us have the chance to walk through the seasons over and over. This would be wonderful but only if we could remember everything in our previous lives so we could learn how to improve. In reality, it appears to me that we only have one opportunity to live on this earth and that it is a tremendous responsibility to make sure we do the best we can while we are here. God is filled with endless mercy, patience and compassion but He is especially willing to help those who help themselves. He is waiting to move closer toward those who sincerely reach out to Him which is why we can accomplish much when we allow Him to be our Lord. Embrace the winter as faith sees through the eyes of God.

Let us not be afraid of the short days of winter and all the uncertainly that it brings but rather may we be more concerned with the wrong decisions and un-repented sins from the earlier seasons and days of our youth. It is true that what we reap we will sow and there will be consequences from mistakes but there is also a tremendous amount of peace and rest in asking for forgiveness and knowing we have received it. Pride is associated with rebellion and being hardhearted toward what we have done. Many feel they are justified and deserve to retain hatred and resentment against those who have hurt them but this is not God’s way. Jesus died on the cross to forgive us and now we are called by Him to forgive all those who have trespassed against us. A positive truth about our winter season is that hopefully we have learned a few things along the way and now we will exercise holiness by demonstrating wisdom and love. We should have been a person of humility but especially now that we have a chance to teach others. Humility is the attitude of forgiveness as meekness is not weakness but strength under control. Being filled with the peace of God is worth more than the world itself and it is in this state of mind and spirit that will enable us to prepare for our eternal homecoming. The only thing to fear is if we are not ready for our departure. We should be rejoicing that our name is written in the Lambs book of life and that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Winter may look bleak and dreary but we do not trust fleshly emotions or earthly circumstances – we place our trust in what He has promised.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – posted 8/7/2016

part 32

THE CIRCLE WILL BE UNBROKEN

The memories of love are a beautiful thing and yet can also be a painful reminder of a time and place that cannot be lived again. The quiet contemplation of the past when days were exciting and everything seemed clearer can haunt us with sentimental and melancholy feelings that run deep within the soul. Turning the pages of our thoughts, we view the past like an old movie screen when it seems the sun was brighter and the nights were darker and filled with adventure and enthusiasm along with our share of challenges and disappointments. The last six weeks had been a blur as she sat alone in her small and dimly lit apartment and intentionally closed her eyes to reminiscence. It was an escape where she could travel through time without leaving the recliner to look back on a life that had gone by like a flock of wild geese against an overcast sky late in the fall. Where had the time gone? She could hardly believe as it seemed like only yesterday she was a young and pretty girl who had rarely ventured out from a disheartening childhood to now being so alone and sad in the latter part of her twilight years.

She was in her late teens when she met a young man at a church meeting who was also her age. After a brief and innocent romance, they were married in the living room where she lived with her parents as a few old pictures reveal a small and simple service with family and a few friends. They started out with very little but were filled with boundless determination to do secure a place to live and begin planning their wonderful future. She can remember the happy times when her handsome husband was strong and filled with endless energy and the sparkle in his eye when he would talk about the freedom and joys of managing his own business. He had started out working for a factory but soon grew restless and frustrated like a wild horse being used in a circus act. He joined his father in the construction trade where they specialized in pouring concrete and eventually were consistently providing a good living for both of them. She had watched him over the years work so hard and knew that he loved every minute of his new found independence and the personal satisfaction this gave him. He was a perfectionist when it came to his craft and soon developed a solid reputation of being a skilled and honest man.

She was proud of him and actually had become spoiled for the lack of a better word because he had treated her like his queen and provided for her a lifestyle of ease and contentment. Over the years they had three healthy children, a boy and two girls that were born 7 years apart and they all were a normal happy family. She had not needed to work a job outside of the home and never had to worry about finances. In fact, after years of him being a successful subcontractor for new construction projects, he eventually became a custom home-builder and performed the work on his own homes. This gave him the opportunity to literally build houses that he designed and every now and then they would move into one of them. They lived the American dream with new cars and trucks, took fun-filled vacations and did whatever they wanted and everything was going great until one day, he accidentally fell off the back of a box truck as he was moving into another one of his beautiful new homes and with a brief medical examination he was diagnosed with an aggressive and debilitating kidney disease.

His family had been dealing with hereditary health issues for years but he had not shown any serious symptoms and had just been too busy to worry about it. The medical world at that time really did not know a lot about PKD which is short for Polycystic Kidney Disease and honestly did not know how to treat it. Later on, a transplant was offered as a possibility but he was not interested because he thought the surgery would be devastating and the anti-rejection medicine would prove to be too much for his entire system. His primary doctor actually told him to get his house in order so to speak and begin preparing to die and this negative advice was definitely a mental and emotional strain. So, everything from that point forward changed drastically and being the serious thinker that he was, he took the bull by the horns and began to back away from his dreams and pulled the plug on his growing company.

Being afraid that he would leave her in a financial disaster, he sold out and downsized from their large quality home to a more modest dwelling while filing for disability. The deterioration of his kidneys began to progress and what once was a happy and carefree life that had few limitations was now a steady series of doctor appointments, treatments, diet restrictions, a world of different types of medications and of course the main event – kidney dialysis. Most people are vaguely familiar with dialysis treatment but it is a modern technology that extends the life of those who lose their kidney function. Basically the machine receives the blood from the patient, runs it through a system of filters and delivers the blood back into the individual within a process of about 4 hours and is needed 3 times per week in order to keep the toxins and fluids under control within the circulatory system. It is common that people do not last long on dialysis because they usually have several other problems that are causing the kidneys to fail and generally they pass away months or a couple of years after they begin. He was a model patient and did everything exactly right so that he could live and after all was said and done he lasted a month over 20 years on the machine. He passed away suddenly on a Friday afternoon after undergoing a routine flushing of his fistula which is a plastic tube inserted under the skin in the arm that connects the veins and arteries so the needle sticks can be done more easily.

The basic conclusion was that a blood-clot had moved into his system and he died very quickly. The doctors tried feverishly to restart his heart but it was just more than they could do. He had promised her that after the simple procedure was completed they would go out for lunch at their favorite restaurant. She remembers sitting in the waiting room reading a magazine when a young nurse came out and told her that for some reason his heart had stopped and they were doing all they could to try and get it started again. She was left in shock trying to process what had just been said. Twenty minutes later, the nurse came out again and said they were still working on him and that is when she realized he was gone and was not coming back. How could this be? He was fine when he walked in and now her stare was penetrating on the doors leading to where he entered. She felt her heart beating wildly and like a huge Ocean wave she could sense the flood of fear and anxiety. Alone in that room, helpless to do anything, speechless, confused and not being able to comprehend this whirlwind of emotions. This cannot be true, there must be a mistake, maybe he will be revived, this is not the way it is supposed to end.

Yes, life had been a hard road and he endured a lot of suffering and misery but he was not the type of personality that lived in a pity party. In the midst of constant discomfort he chose to be a gentle and kind person of integrity, a tender-hearted warrior. He would force a smile and grit his teeth to seem joyful and excited but if you looked closely you could see in his eyes that he was held in the bondage of constant sickness, pain, weakness and agony. Through the years he would daily push himself to keep going because he loved his family. He was an affectionate people person that loved to hug and have lengthy conversations. His deeply cared about his children and his grandchildren as each one fondly remembers the safety and security of sitting in his lap with his loving arms around them. He acknowledged that he had a blessed life and wanted to live as long as he could for them and it is no secret that he was chained to that machine but he was also a man who loved God and it was obvious that Jesus was his actual personal life support system. He took on the enthusiastic responsibility to develop an awareness of his food and liquid intake and closely monitored the delicate balance of certain chemicals that needed to be kept in check. It is common for many patients to not care about this and suffer the consequences but he was driven to follow instructions to the best of his ability and this contributed to his success. He was a man that was filled with love and this will remain as his legacy.

Life partners who are bonded together in God’s great charity embrace what the other one is going through like it is their own and are so close that when one is happy the other is glad and when one is going through a difficult time, the other one literally grieves in sorrow. That is the way of true love as our wedding vows of holy matrimony declare that all who are truly committed to one another other will be there in sickness and in health until death separates them. Yes, it is true that throughout the last 40 years of a 58 year marriage, the disease took a toll on him but many people do not realize that she was also a victim. Most of the time she stood in the shadows because the sickness seemed to always play the lead role and had a tendency to steal every scene. It was not really anyone’s fault that it loomed large but rather it was just a part of the sad reality. How many had prayed for her or discussed the agony of a caregiver that walks every step along beside the one who is afflicted? She was there every minute and watched in horror as a ruthless and devastating disease stole away her knight in shining armor and turned him into a shell of a man that he once was. The tears she cried, the nights of being by herself, the places they could not go, the things they did not do, all because he was too weak. Is this not suffering and is this not also losing a part of life very similar to the one who has been stricken?

It has been eerily strange now that she is by herself. The shock is still fresh and she is amazed at how quickly time is passing. There was the first week anniversary, then the second week milestone, the one month and just recently the first family gathering without him. It was awkward and uncomfortable not having him there. As much as everyone tried to be festive, there was a somber feeling of sadness in the atmosphere. It seemed the family did not really know what to talk about and it was definitely not the same without his hugs and traditional prayer over the food. He is no longer there to sit and talk with her in the evenings, to go out and get a hamburger, to pray with, or to say goodnight. She sits quietly, trying to find a solid anchor to which she can learn the art of independence and for some reason finds it difficult to even connect with God. She is afraid and does not have her husbands advice and wisdom, his balance of reason or judgment and is overwhelmed with a sense of worry and abandonment.

Yesterday was her birthday and she told the story of how every year since they had been married that he had always placed a birthday card on the kitchen table for her to find. When she woke up and went into the kitchen she looked to the table and realized there would be no more cards from him. The harsh and cruel truth had reared its ugly head and reminded her that she will be alone for the rest of her life. From now on she will need to draw from her inner strength and lean heavily upon her Lord. The thoughts of her own mortality are ever present and every letter and legal document that comes in the mail reminds her that life is fragile and soon she will also be leaving this world on her quest to find the peace that passes all understanding. Life is fleeting like the sun that rises early in the morning and in a short time dries the dew on the grass. Ecclesiastes talks about a time for everything and how our days are scattered with special moments that will rearrange our hopes and plans, some for the better and some for the worse. At one time or another we will face an event that can be compared to dropping a porcelain dish on a ceramic tile floor and no matter how we try to glue our world back together, it will never be the same. This is the pain that comes with loss and the realization that life keeps rolling on in spite of our tears and misery. She is now the survivor facing a future where she will need to manage on her own. She is left with her thoughts about heaven and earth and trying to make sense of things that are much too high to understand. Resting now in the recliner where he always sat, she returns back to the archives of precious memories, back to a time when life was filled with promise.

She is grateful for the blessings but at the same time she fights against resentment as she feels like they were not allowed to fulfill their destiny. Most of the time it seemed more like the disease was a fierce enemy who was fighting against them so aggressively until they were exhausted from the battle and now she tries to resist believing the disease finally won and is laughing at her. She wonders if maybe they did not have enough faith, or fought hard enough or if maybe they could have made better decisions and paid an expensive price for crucial mistakes. She is second guessing and now bombarded with voices of the past from teams of doctors and so many different suggestions and opinions. Together they prayed to God and gave their situation over into His hands and now she must for the sake of her own sanity believe that this is all anyone could have done. She must now realize that death comes to everyone and the most important aspect is how we lived and where we are going in the next life. She can find contentment in knowing that our journey was never intended to be heaven but rather a series of decisions where we surrender our will and embrace His sovereign will with all of our mind, strength and soul. It is all about trusting our creator and allowing Him to be the author and finisher of our faith.

Nearly eighty years has passed like the proverbial water under the bridge and now she actually stands on that bridge. As she looks downstream she is perfectly aware that most of her life is gone and then turns and gazes upstream and has difficulty trying to see what is coming. Will she be able to take care of her own affairs and survive or live in a nursing home? Did her life make a difference in the world? Did she accomplish her mission? Was she a good wife and mother and faithful soldier of Christ? Her thoughts drift like a ship upon the sea as she tries to desperately hold onto things that are true, honest, just, pure and lovely. She has not really had to focus on how to live because he was the decision maker and she just followed. She was happy with this arrangement because it was easy but now she finds that learning is more difficult than she thought and much of it has to do with attitude. At the end of a long day, she locks the door and turns out the lights as she heads toward the bedroom. She dreads going to sleep because this is when she is haunted with fears of the unknown. The apartment is quiet tonight except for an occasional bump on the ceiling from the lady upstairs who has a couple of young children. Have mercy on her Lord, and give her comfort as once again she closes her eyes and tries to resist the temptation to dream and imagine about all the possibilities of what their life could have been. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

OUR FIRST LOVE – posted 7/31/2016

PART 31

KNOWING THAT WE KNOW

There is a question that is coming up more frequently within the Christian world and it has to do with individuals doubting their personal salvation experience. When trying to comfort and reassure, it is similar to evangelism in the way it is much easier to teach and communicate with those who do not have a lifetime of religiosity than those who know more about God than most people in the world. It would be difficult for me to tell many lifelong Christians something they have not already heard but I pray the Holy Spirit can give us a fresh hope and a new zeal to continue in our journey. Allow me to say that first I believe we need to to find our anchor so to speak and go back in time and think carefully about the details of our original born-again experience. I remember my induction into God’s family was powerful and truly life-changing, however we must also be careful to not just depend on goosebump feelings alone. I will never forget taking the phone book and randomly calling and asking people if they were saved. I did this for days as I was exploding with excitement and joy and wanted everyone in the world to hear the gospel of Jesus and to ask Him into their heart. Whatever our experience, we just need to “know that we know” deep down in our soul that our conversion was and is real and that all is well with our soul.

If we can settle this issue and are convinced we have been saved without a shadow of a doubt – this is a wonderful start in the right direction. Now here is a very important doctrinal pillar that is a huge part of our salvation. I personally believe that when we are born into God’s family that we cannot become “unborn.” I believe just like a natural birth, there is nothing we can do that can cause us to “lose” our transformation and NOT be our heavenly Father’s child once we have become a new creature. Yes, there will be dark valleys and times of sadness and discouragement, but thank God we are still saved. If we are saved one day and lost the other, it would be terrifying. Of course the enemy is always trying to influence us in a negative way in order to paralyze our emotions and hinder our spiritual advancement but this is where faith becomes our most powerful asset. We can rebuke Satan and then publicly declare in the name of Jesus that we are truly a “joint heir” with Christ! Sometimes we all need a confirmation, re-dedication or a private revival within our mind and soul to rejuvenate and rekindle the once blazing fire that has now diminished. Fasting is a wonderful way to grab the attention of our senses and bring focus to our intimate relationship with Jesus. This will always stimulate and reveal the power of His presence and allow us to KNOW He is real within us.

If we are unsure and have had doubts for a long time about our personal moment of transformation, we can take care of this today. We can simply realize that it is a good probability we have not been born-again which perfectly explains why we have never really felt saved. You see, if the miracle of redemption has truly taken place there will be noticeable changes in the way we think and act. When we sincerely surrender our life to Christ, the same Holy Spirit that convicted us to repent with Godly sorrow is the same constant presence that will convict us within our daily life. Those who are God’s children will NOT be able to live in habitual sin without being haunted they are doing wrong. Yes, it is true we can still sin because we have free-will but before we were saved we simply did not care. When Jesus lives in our heart, our conscience is awakened and is now directly connected to His Spirit because our spiritual eyes have been opened. Sadly, many are convinced they are saved but in reality they are in very serious danger. BUT – the good news is that it’s never too late to make things right. Why risk eternity when we can just take a relaxing walk or go into a quiet room and close the door and tell Him exactly how we feel. We can honestly and sincerely ask Him to come into our life and save us and fill us with His Spirit. This is not silly at all – in fact, it is the most important decision we will ever make and the true meaning of our existence.

It is true, there is a fine line between our emotions and our spirit but we can KNOW we are spiritually saved because God has designed us to recognize and relate with Him. The old song says, “My God is real for I can FEEL Him in my soul” and sums it up very well. Yes, there are many different levels of spirituality and those who live in the shallows of religion are heavily led by their flesh and mental faculties. However, those who decide to venture out by faith into the depths of His presence are learning more about who He is and what He desires. These are called the remnant disciples that do not care what others say but are focused on learning what life “In Christ” is all about. Most people laugh and think they are fanatics and Jesus extremist but they have developed a determination to truly discover and become devoted to the author of their salvation. Blessed assurance can be found as we include screening, filtering and blocking out the world and then focusing on the Lord with all of our mind, strength and soul until we sense the security and safety of His truth. There is no other way.

The amount of satisfaction and contentment you find with Him depends on the amount of seeking, patience and passion you are willing to invest. If you will find a secret place where you can pour your heart out to God and ask Him all the hard questions and complex thoughts you are having, I guarantee He will respond. The Lord is so concerned with what we are thinking that He died just so He could live with us and help us. Beyond this we have the Holy Spirit and angels that we can ask for additional help. Jesus is just as concerned with you today as He is with anything in the universe and beyond and this is very exciting! I know I am saved because I can feel Him. I can hear Him speak. I can see Him at work. And when I ask Him something before long, He will come to my rescue one way or another. I stand in awe of how much He loves to intervene and the more I see this the more my faith grows to continue my intimacy with Him. I wrote a book last year about living with God as a lifestyle and learning how to become aware of His presence. It has much to do with repentance, humility, staying pure, confessing His Word in faith and asking Him to change our will from what we want – to what He wants.

The road to knowing we are saved will not be without hard work and self-discipline. I was sharing with a person the other day who was upset because they felt a distance with God. They just could not understand why they felt so spiritually cold and lonely. I asked if they had been reading their Bible and praying and they said no. I asked if they had been meditating on the Lord or doing anything for Him and again the answer was no. I realize that deception is rampant in this world and God’s spiritual principals are not popular but we need to return to the fundamental basics of Christianity. Either people have forgotten or maybe they were never taught but living as a remnant disciple for Jesus takes more work and concentration than anything we can put our mind and hand to. We spend our life investing time in the things we love and our gifts and talents but many neglect their time with the Lord. We will receive from our investment in proportion to what we have given. We can go down the line and see the law of reaping and sowing is as real as gravity and especially as it pertains to the spiritual world. There is no way we can ignore our personal relationship with Jesus and yet expect to be filled with compassion, energy, hope, love and zeal. Neglecting God will always cause the flames of our enthusiasm and our spiritual burdens to falter and fade into flickering embers. Spiritual excitement, vision, passion, giving and sensitivity will never just fall out of the air and overtake us. Only those who diligently and persistently seek, ask and knock will be clothed with the garments of praise, desire to serve and His anointing. I am amazed at how many believe that raising our hand to receive Christ is all we need to do in this life. I was preaching the other day at the Veterans Center and I said, asking Jesus to come into our life is relatively easy. We listen to His gospel and then respond from the conviction of His infinite love and according to the Bible we are saved. BUT – it is from that moment forward that is the difficult portion of our mission because we are now held accountable for our participation. As we realize what God wants us to be, we are then faced with deciding just how much we will do!

Religion seems to convey the message that we visit God on Sunday but this also tends to plant an assumption that we can do whatever we want the rest of the time. This is a terrible and deceptive state of mind and the reason why many churches are dull and why the world has lost confidence in Christians in general. Whatever we love and hold dear to our heart is exactly where we will spend our time and energy as the Bible affirms that we are servants to whom we obey. If we choose to think about ourselves and focus on pleasing our flesh, we will progress into a selfish, miserable and depressed person. If we make time to study, read and pray every day, we will draw closer to God and as we slowly develop our relationship we will eventually come to know that we are in Christ and that Christ is in us. This “denial” and “yielding” of our will is what helps us turn our eyes toward Jesus and allows Him to change us into an image of Himself. If we are not being transformed into His character and people are not able to see “Christ in us the hope of glory” – something is wrong. Inviting Jesus into our life takes just a few minutes, learning how to walk with Him in excitement and power takes a lifetime.

It comes down to desire. If we are seeking to give our life completely to Him – we can have as much of Him as we want. If we only want the blessings and His wonderful promises without the sacrifices and responsibilities, we are deceiving ourselves. We must understand that our spiritual life is much like the natural life in that we have been called to make positive decisions and these choices will have a direct impact on our failure or success. If we want to lose weight, we do not just ask the Lord to make us skinny without becoming disciplined to cut down on our calorie consumption. God will continue to help those who help themselves and will draw near to those who (by faith) reach out to Him but living haphazardly without direction or perseverance will NOT bring victory into our life. The glories of His presence is found in dedication, commitment, faith, worship and loving Him for who He is with ALL of our heart, strength, mind and soul. Be encouraged this day and become bold in your faith by knowing that Jesus loved you so much that He was tortured for you. He has proved His love to us and now it is time we proved our love to Him. How? By giving Him all of our heart. Redeemed and purchased is a revelation word for all of us today as it is the foundation of our personal relationship with Jesus. He is the substance of things hoped for AND the evidence of things not seen! The Bible promises that if we will reach out to Him, that He will save us, fill us with His Spirit, heal us, transform us, deliver us and embrace us in His presence now and forever. God’s Word cannot fail! Today is the day of TOTAL salvation! Try Him and test Him and see if He will not prove Himself to you. Reach out to Him this hour and prepare to be amazed at how quickly and compassionately He will respond. Amen.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – Posted 7/24/2016

Part 30

QUITTING IS OUT OF THE QUESTION

When we think of a person’s gift or calling, we usually have ideas like a profession or something we are good at and for some this may very well be the case, but it seems only a few ever find it or for that matter even search for it. Even if someone does have a vision of what they want to do, they usually end up controlling it instead of letting God guide them. The normal way of thinking is to give the Lord His PORTION but our spiritual calling is to drop our nets and follow Him COMPLETELY and of course this includes our personal affairs. The question is not only who knows what this means but how many really want to understand what a personal relationship with Jesus is all about? Many are confused about spirituality. They are convinced that God lives at church and they are free to allow their emotions, conscience and mind to deal with life away from religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. God lives inside of His people and wants to be engaged with all of their thoughts, worries and problems. If the world could ever understand that Jesus suffered on the cross to be their best friend and live within them, it would open the eyes of many to want to know more about the wonders of salvation.

Have you ever been at work or at a social gathering and watched how people act and listen to what they say? Then wonder about where they have been and where they are now in their journey. I have been with large groups of people that were downcast and outspoken about how much they hate what they are doing and how bad their life is in general. Many appear as if they are entangled in a miserable existence like a prisoner that cannot find a way out of their circumstances and in most cases this may be true. The helpless feeling of failure can infect the conscience and the mind with emotional negativity that haunts the soul like a dark cloud of depression. If anyone has ever been there, it is like you are in a deep hole and as you look up to the sky you cannot figure out how to climb out. Allow me to say, there is no hole so deep that God cannot reach you! There is no island so remote that He cannot hear your cries! There is no place so dark that God’s light cannot find you and rescue you! The Lord of all creation wants you to be filled with His power and joy but it all depends on your perception of reality. The three Hebrew children were in the fiery furnace BUT SO WAS GOD!  Remember; it is never WHERE you are that establishes your victory – it is WHO YOU ARE WITH! You and God are a majority and the only thing stopping you from being rescued by His love is you! He is waiting for you to reach out to Him today.

I have been to the valley of despair and it is the most miserable place anyone could ever be. I do not enjoy anything about it and though I have never seen or felt a literal hell – I would cast my vote that depression is earth’s version of it. Have you ever noticed how discouragement paralyzes while encouragement motivates? I know what it is like to suffer emotionally and to be consumed with the torture that comes from being offended, hurt, neglected, back-stabbed, deceived, unappreciated and disappointed. I realize that many have had it much worse than me and my problems have been small compared to others that have suffered a great deal, nonetheless this life is filled with our share of troubles and most of them is more than we can handle on our own. In these times of discouragement, the last thing we desire to do is to praise God, but allow me to say that praising Him is EXACTLY what we need to do when we are in these valleys of despair. At times we all wrestle with different demons and trials that cause torment within our mind and soul as they are either targeting us as victims or taunting us with our own mistakes. And while we are walking over these hot coals of pity it usually does not make us feel any better to hear the old saying, “it is not the crisis but our reaction” however, beyond the blinding pain there is a divine truth in that statement which actually holds the key that can unlock the door to our healing. Jesus stands on the other side of this door and if we can stop crying long enough and let Him in, then maybe we can take baby steps of faith and allow Him to fix what is broken. Quitting is not an option! There is no place TOO LOW where God cannot deliver!

Some might say, “it seems you are taking the misery lightly and implying that the pain is not real.” I am not implying the pain is imaginary or just in your head because I realize it is very real, but I would be wrong to not mention how much of it can be cast down and replaced with joy by simply making some decisions. Easy for you to say but how can words heal a human being? The greatest mystery has been unveiled and given to whosoever can invite and receive Jesus into their heart. He is THE WORD of truth that is much more than ink and paper and is the only authority that can save the lost. When we ingest His Word into our life, His power is released within us to create whatever miracle we need! The good news is that when we make the conscious effort to look BEYOND the misery just for a moment, we will see within our spirit a light of HOPE at the end of the tunnel which is the hand of a merciful God reaching out to us in compassion. His love can open our spiritual eyes so that we can realize how crucial it is to let go of this realm and embrace the Savior of our soul. When He holds us in His arms of grace we are overwhelmed in His perfect peace and strengthened with His counsel. “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness: He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.” (Psalm 112: 4) The Holy Spirit was sent to help us so that we can turn to Him in times of need.

I realize there are chemical imbalances and psychological disorders in these fragile temples and times when we are genuinely attacked and wounded but strong soldiers cannot curl up in a fetal position in the foxhole and pull the blanket over their head. Pity parties are where the weak and fearful tie a handkerchief to their gun and begin to wave it to the darkness as a message of surrender. Battles will NOT be won when we give up on our trust and confidence in God! There is so much work for us to do in these last hours, so many souls that are watching us, so many young ones that need Jesus and so much of God’s Word that needs to be spoken. The only surrender we should ever yield to is to YIELD our will to an Almighty Lord! Giving up is not the nature of Jesus because He never bailed out on His road to Calvary. People are depending on us, they need our prayers, our time, our help and our encouragement. Yes, there will be hard times when we are punched right in the mouth and there will be seasons when we have done everything we know to do and it still seems like we have failed. But in those dry and windy places that feel like the Desert we must become desperately serious about shutting ourselves in the secret place of our prayer closet and be determined to not come out until our mind is renewed and our spirit has been refreshed. After a season of mourning and grieving for our weakness there must also be a time to arise, wash our face and put our armor back on and return to the battlefield in the confidence that God wants to work through us and be seen in us for HIS glory!

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – Posted 7/17/16

PART 29

MILESTONES AND MILLSTONES

You know, I have never bragged about how smart I am. In fact, the more I learn the more I realize I do not know. I have not spent my life researching in the world of science and I guess in the opinions of the world that makes my thoughts insignificant. I also realize that I’m growing older and while I’ve had my head stuck in the Bible the last 35 years, the world has drastically changed. It appears there has been a steady but sure changing of the guard so to speak where the older traditional views of Christian conservatism has slowly faded and the new face of religious and political correctness has emerged. The atheist and agnostics have grown rapidly with the help of an education system that has turned away from God and are now becoming an overwhelmingly acceptable voice. Our public school system which at one time seemed comfortable with openly praying to the Christian God, reading Bible passages and hanging them on the walls, has decided this was terribly wrong. God’s original idea of evangelizing the masses with the gospel about His Son coming to die for the lost is now described as a dangerous influence to an innocent mind and its obvious today’s rising army of atheist are basking in delight.

A part of the world’s strategy to establish a Godless education system is to release a relentless attack on the Bible to disprove it. There are many articles published everyday through the help of the secular media empires that explain how only an uneducated fool would believe in spiritual fairy tales about an omnipotent deity. This of course is heart-breaking because Christians realize the reason why the world is growing in its hatred against the Lord is because of spiritual blindness. Once a persons eyes are opened and they receive Christ within their conscience they will never be convinced otherwise. There have been masses of Christians that have been burned alive for their faith but I cannot think of any scientist that have done the same. This is because much of science is a theory and no one in their right mind would die for an opinion. When a person is born-again they have become a new creation and knowing God personally is totally convincing similar to knowing that ice is cold or that fire is hot. Christians do not base their faith on what someone else says because God is alive and intervenes with us intimately. Christian’s trust the Bible by faith and know first-hand that it is God’s holy Word.

I have never heard where science has written books about things like creating a tree. All I have seen science accomplish is to take pictures of what has already been created. Mankind thinks he is so much smarter than some silly Bible and yet all I ever heard them do is stand in awe of the complexity and wonders of life. Instead of humility ans admiration for the designer of all things, they spend their entire lives in frustration trying to disprove Him. Has man ever created anything from nothing? Sure, they have modified and altered things but in spite of their rebellion and pride they must admit they do not have any true capability to create something from nothing. One of the most reliable responses from science is that everything we see is very old. I think this rebellion and hatred for the one who spoke the earth and the universe into existence produces the dark attitudes jealousy and envy especially when they ponder how tiny and powerless man really is. To satisfy their hard work to explain life without God, they give prizes to each other. If anyone deserves the praise and glory it should be the one who created it – not the one trying to teach against Him. It offends the world to think they would have to someday bow their knee to this Almighty God who knows everything and can do anything.

If the stories and accounts in the Bible are not true as the scientist say, then why in the world would anyone waste their time reading it? How could we know which parts are true and what stories are fictional and exaggerated tales? If it is not a reliable source of spiritual truth then we might as well remove it from our shelf and our thinking. It is clear the strategy of the world is to laugh and discredit the absolute truth of God to the hearts and minds of the future generations and replace it with the philosophies of humanism that declares how the universe evolved completely on its own and that humans also evolved from the elements and compounds that “magically” developed throughout this process. God is being completely eliminated from possibility and anyone who believes in Him is considered a person of ignorance. The problem is that people are not being allowed to believe what they want but the Christian worldview is being replaced. This is a trick that tries to make everyone believe they are being saved from the coercion of Christianity and then they see nothing wrong with doing the same thing by establishing science as being the absolute truth! I am not saying the world is only 6000 years old and I am not going to argue about how old a rock might be. God might have taken 100 million years in between each of His historic six days of creation and if there was a big-bang then it was Him who did it, but actually this is not what all of this is really about. Science is dedicated to cast down God’s integrity because they serve Satan who leads the destruction of our culture!

What is going to happen? Well, I do not mean to sound negative and I do not want to promote discouragement but I am afraid the writing is on the wall. The river is running at a swift current and I do not see it changing course. Each day that passes, new milestones are crossed and the aggressive progression is gaining momentum. We have crossed a line that will never be regained and this perfectly coincides with the world growing darker and more evil right before Christ returns to destroy it. I am sorry to say, the Christians did NOT change the world. They are outnumbered and fail when it comes to prayer and demonstrating their faith. Yes, there is a remnant of believers and they will suffer persecution simply because they love Jesus with all of their heart. This is sad but we must face reality. I know the positive preachers avoid this subject and I do believe we need to be encouraging but we also cannot stick our head in the sand every time a controversial subject comes along.

I truly believe that churches have already been experiencing a reduction in numbers and will continue to decline because parents are being questioned by their children about the lies being taught in Sunday school. How are parents going to be able to continue sending their kids to public school all day then spend the rest of the night trying to convince their children the teachers are deceived? Come to think of it, how many parents actually care about this at all? What are the children going to think when this controversy is raging all around them especially those who know their parents are not educated themselves? Will non-Christian parents side with the Bible or will they support science? Will Christian parents bow down to the education system and turn their back on their faith? Of course, sin has always held people away from what is holy and church has always been an uncomfortable place for the lost but now we have a very serious situation that I would have never dreamed would rise so rapidly. For all parents of school children that are enrolled in the public education system there is now a crossroad that must be addressed and the pressure from the world is going to take its toll. It is time we all must decide what we are going to do. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:4-5). Recently, there has been completed a replica of Noah’s Ark in Northern Kentucky and as a tourist attraction is drawing much criticism from the scientific world and the those who are opposed to what the founders of this Christian organization believe. The freedom from religion organization has sent letters to 1000 school districts in several surrounding states warning them of the laws regarding the separation of church and state and aggressively discouraging them from allowing field trips to this presentation. They are demanding this be explained and taught to all children that the Bible is in direct opposition with what is literally true and how it brings confusion to these children who need to know that God is NOT real. We know the young mind is impressionable which is why God stressed the importance of teaching all children about His absolute truth while they are young. However, what many fail to realize are how these little children all around us today are being fed a steady diet of lies and will also become a product of what they have learned. The same principal works both ways. This evil influence is the highest form of offense to God and because of this pride filled hatred toward Him, we are preparing to witness the devastating wrath of His holy judgment.

Mark 9:42, Matthew 18:6, and Luke 17:2 repeats the judgment warning from a God that is filled with mercy but also very serious about crossing certain lines and this is one of them. If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Ladies and gentlemen, do we think for a moment that God is kidding about this? I am so concerned today and feel such an urgency in my spirit that I cannot keep quiet! Where are the Christians that care about what is happening? How can we protect the children? We are not to hide in the closet because we are embarrassed – but we need to stay on our knees in the closet because this is the ONLY way we can become empowered by divine truth and the anointing of the Holy Spirit! It is coming to the point where if we are vocal about our relationship with Jesus and how we agree with the Bible, we are going to lose our jobs, our credibility, our integrity in society and are going to be disregarded by family and friends. If people discover we are serious about our Christian faith we are going to face serious hostility and persecution from everyone! For heavens sake, I write for 22 newspapers in 7 states and I cannot and will not apologize for what I believe and I am not going to play a politically correct game just so I can satisfy the media and keep my public forum platform. Of course I love the souls of the lost and have a burden for them to be saved, but I cannot agree with them just so they will accept me. James chapter 4, says, “Do you not understand that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a “friend” of the world is the enemy of God.” Enmity means: “the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.” This is not a game or a harmless option that we can get away with. God is NOT joking about this. Just because God loves the world does not mean He is letting everything slide and giving permission to be rebellious and live however we want. If we go to church on Sunday and embrace the ways of the world on Monday, we are living in dangerous deception! Today there is NO more walking in the middle of the road. Either we are standing with Him or standing against Him! “Love not the world (system or lusts), neither the THINGS that are in the world. If any man love the world (habitual sin), the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15).

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – Posted 7/10/16

Part 28

WHAT IS THE MINISTRY – PART 2

Many would never admit it, but the religious world has become highly competitive where underlying carnal attitudes have played right into the hands of the enemy. We might as well be honest and make a sad but true statement; much of the organized church is filled with sin to the point where it is difficult to see or sense the Spirit of God. Of course we have enthusiastic sermons and professional singing but is this the only reason why we attend? I always thought that church was a place where we sense the Lord’s presence, to discover what He wants and how we can do it. I praise God there are still places that take this seriously but we must admit that every church that provides a weekly service is not necessarily following the direction of the Holy Spirit. I am not trying to be negative about the church world but just reminding us that all that glitters is not gold and that God wants our ministry to be more than just a politically correct and socially acceptable formality that has been watered down to the point where if it was a cure for a disease it would not be potent enough to help anyone. There is more pressure on us each day to say and do what the world has decided is right. If any of us step outside the boundaries of what is considered acceptable then we are immediately labeled as a hate monger. Allow me to say today that standing for the absolute truth of God has much more to do with love than hate!

I read an article the other day where a pastor was speaking to a large gay pride festival and she was quoted as relaying how God supports and loves every type of lifestyle and wanted to bless all people no matter what they believe or do. This causes me to wonder just what many religious leaders are teaching and how the world is rapidly moving away from the idea that God is very strict when it comes to holiness. The true and balanced ministry of God includes speaking a message that will not be popular with the world. No matter how you slice it or dice it, the world of carnal sin has flooded the religious system of man and completely distorted the original intent of God’s Word. There is nothing new under the sun as mankind has always wanted to twist and manipulate the message of God to satisfy his burning lust to do whatever he wants. Many times we forget that the high priest in the Tabernacle of Moses were required to tie a rope around their ankle because if he had un-repented sin in his life, he would fall dead and they would literally have to drag him out. The reverential fear of God is rarely being taught and has been replaced with an imaginary dream that however you live is alright because God is love. Somehow the new way of thinking embraces the understanding of God while discarding His promises of judgment. Let us not mistake His long-suffering and mercy for a free license to sin.

We are coming to the point where the world believes that nothing is wrong! Tearing down the walls of absolutes and building the towers of tolerance is not just an intellectual philosophy. It is a carefully planned strategy to open the floodgates of deception in order to seal the fate of a blind and lost world. I will declare with my last breath that God desires to save everyone and in this glorious offer of eternal salvation there is a covenant that establishes the truth that through redemption we are bought with the price of Jesus blood and we are no longer our own. Just this wonderful revelation alone allows for the sane mind to know that we CANNOT live however we want and those who choose to ignore this absolute truth and live within the independence of pride and rebellion will most certainly face the consequences of a righteous and holy judgment. Some will say, there is nothing wrong with only preaching love and blessings but we need to stop and think clearly. If I told a child there was no danger to play with a rattlesnake and how it was such a beautiful creature I would be responsible for their death. The same is true when we choose to not warn the world of the judgment that is soon coming. We have been given not only the medicine that can save them but we are filled with the Holy Spirit and have the ability to receive instructions about exactly what we need to say and do in order to connect the lost with the only one who can save and redeem. If we are under the impression that the ministry is somehow about us and is for increasing our fame or to bring us more popularity and respect – we have missed the point and have become more of the problem instead of a help. Those who have a secret selfish agenda and launch programs that appease the desires of the flesh instead of following God’s instructions will stand accountable. The fields are white with harvest today with many souls at stake and if you and I believe we are called to the ministry this should be our highest concern. If you are attending a church that will NOT allow the Holy Spirit to move however He wants – leave! You will not be able to change the direction of an assembly that has become satisfied with a comfortable religious service. Unless the Spirit of God is received into heart and allowed complete control there will be no conviction and no change. The Spirit of TRUTH can bring weeping and repentance within the conscience and God can transform the thoughts of the calloused but only if the individual cries out to God in sincere repentance and brokenness.

There is another very important aspect to ministry and that is trying to find out what God wants us to do and where He wants us to go. We become weary to hear how important faith is when walking in a dark world and I have never doubted that God has anointed me and given me gifts to share with the body of Christ but through the years it has been a mystery to see where all of this is going. Maybe that is the problem. It might be that I have always presumed it is all going to turn out a certain way and have not been able to comprehend what God intends. The idea of open doors is more than just interesting, they are crucial to being able to find where God is calling us to be. The more a person tries to analyze their steps the more complex it becomes and maybe this is because most of our life is like trying to see when we are in a cave hundreds of feet below the ground. I know God’s Word is to be a lamp and a light unto our path but His general will many times does not include the specific “road signs” we are searching for. I would love to have the sensitivity and discernment to automatically know when God says yes and no but I am not quite there yet. Since retiring from my job and now with my days and nights free, strangely the ministry has not become easier but rather more complicated. When I worked, it seemed every ministry related activity took a backseat to my job and I arranged my outreach and writing time around my employment. This has been an emotional adjustment and once again I am standing in the middle of a four way intersection wondering what He has planned.

Have you ever decided that you are going to spend a week fasting and praying in order to get closer to God and hopefully be able to hear more clearly what He is saying? I am sure that we all have done this at one time or another. I do not have to tell you how intense the spiritual warfare becomes. This is a very noble and courageous deed to care enough about one’s spiritual health and it reveals the passion and seriousness of our walk with God but doing this one time will not be enough to sustain us for long. After our fast is over we find ourselves three weeks later needing new wisdom about a new opportunity and confirmation about other situations which is why staying near to God is more of a “lifestyle” instead of a periodical act. Learning how to live in a constant awareness of His presence would be the premium way to function and I am sure the way God intended for us to live but again, I seem to be failing in this area. I mentioned earlier that I feel that I am in a crossroad and the daily expectation of something happening is wearing thin. What am I anticipating? I am expecting the ministry that I have been involved with for many years to evolve into a more formal, professional position of respect and success? I do not mind sharing my own personal testimony because this way I can become a therapist to my own problems while at the same time hopefully helping others going through similar circumstances. I have spent a lot of time studying God’s Word and trying to understand the mind of the Lord while expressing and relaying what I have felt He was teaching me. I have thought in the back of my mind that God was preparing me for something – but what? To be a humble servant. That’s all.

I believe that all of God’s children are drawn to learn and sharpen their abilities so they can be used in the glorious design of God’s Kingdom. The divine order of God’s principals includes the advancement and development of who we are and what Christ died for us to be. The character of God is to be manifested in our lives if truly we have been born-again, and we are called to walk in faith and confidence that our labor will eventually be a part of God’s specific divine blueprint. It was prophesied to me years ago that I would have to walk out all the things that I write and truly the journey has been difficult as there has been given to me much accountability with what I have learned. I realize that development takes time and a novice is not instantly given great positions of authority. Such applies to all of us who are still evolving and waiting for our next assignment. The Lord realizes who He can trust and most of what is hindering our advancement comes from within our own lack of spiritual discipline and maturity. There is nothing necessarily wrong with praying, asking and seeking for doors to open but we must be careful not to confuse our ideas and goals with the destiny He has planned for us. The gifts He has given to His people are not canceled by the Lord but can become entangled and prohibited with the choices we make. He promised the good work He started that He would see it through, but He has a certain time, place and way to use us. It will be His way – or no way! Spiritual meekness and humility does not think about what is in it for me – but is always concerned with HIS perfect will.

Is the world a discouraging place? Yes – but this is not the time to stop serving and retreat to the mountains. We look around and see a lot of need and many times the more we “know” about the situation, the more we begin to realize this person is to blame for their own problems. If we continue to investigate we will end up walking away. It is better to OBEY God and let it go instead of playing judge and jury. You know, I have learned a little about volunteering and if I do not maintain my own relationship with Jesus, I become of no use to others. I feel excited and enthused about what I am doing when I have spent time with the Lord and sense a direction He wants me to go. We should be filled with His joy and peace even when things are not going well because if we are always dealing with fear, jealousy, misery, sadness and discouragement, I think we can agree that something is wrong IN US! Of course, our old nature loves to complain that life is filled with disappointment and everyone else is discouraging us but that is NOT always true. Listen, if we are waiting for someone to have a ticker tape parade and smother us with appreciation or gratitude – the ministry is not the place for us. Let us remember, when we reach out to those who are in need, they are going through a hard time and are so absorbed in their own pain they are NOT thinking about stroking our ego and neither is anyone else! If knowing that Jesus is pleased with us is NOT enough we need to go back to the drawing board and start all over. I have led worship through the years and I gave it all that I had – and to be honest there was very little response. Many times I would forget that possibly the congregation was suffering under the burdens and cares of life and were hurting deeply and were struggling to concentrate. Just because they did not congratulate me after the service did not mean they were not encouraged and uplifted. Or maybe I had selected the songs that I liked instead of the ones the Holy Spirit wanted me to sing and they were not anointed for that particular hour. Whatever the case, there are times when we all wonder if we are being effective because the enemy is constantly trying to beat us down and tell us that no one cares, but it is crucial to remember that God is the only one we are trying to please.

Do not compare your calling with everyone else or begin to measure or be envious of what other people are doing. God is calling you to do specifically what He wants and He is giving them their own orders. Competition is an attribute of the world and if we are not careful we will forget WHY we are working and end up drifting away from our mission completely. There will be times when we are sad and feel sorry for those who are suffering and this is a part of our emotional compassion. I travel each week to share God’s Word and sing His praises in the most forgotten places I have ever seen. There are very few visitors in nursing homes where family members and friends avoid those with sickness and disease and yet in these places I feel the power of God’s presence. I am deeply moved when I see the deterioration from old age and those who are hanging on to life by a thread. I have walked the halls at 3:00am praying with those who are taking their last breath. As you pass by the rooms the world seems silent except for the low moans and those crying in agony. These are the “waiting rooms” for the forgotten ones who are attached to electronic beeping devices and where oxygen machines hum around the clock. Do any of us really have to pray and ask God whether or not we should visit someone or be a friend to a person living like this? Do we really need to ponder about whether or not God wants us to help the hungry or to spread the gospel? His Word which is His general will has already commissioned us to be a “full-time” minister when it comes to caring, comforting and being all things to all people. It is hard to accept but these sins of omission is a part of what we will be held accountable for.

For I was hungry and you gave me meat: I was thirsty and you gave me drink: I was a stranger and you took me in: Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer Him saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and we fed you? Or thirsty and we gave you drink? When did we see you as a stranger and took you in? Or you were naked and we clothed you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-40) If we could realize that our ministry is serving Christ Himself then hopefully we would no longer justify our thoughts on how we feel or the reactions of others whether good or bad. It only matters what God thinks! When we step out in faith and demonstrate what we believe – we will KNOW that God’s divine destiny is being activated within us and that HIS vision and purpose is being accomplished in our life. Is this not what being a Christian is all about?

 

OUR FIRST LOVE – Posted 7/3/16

PART 27

FOR WHAT ARE WE CALLED?

The world is in a fallen spiritual state and the small groups of remnant Christians do NOT have a calling to restore or “flip everything upside down” according to their opinions or interpretations. We are called to be filled with God and spill over to a world that desperately needs a Savior. We are called to listen and follow the Holy Spirit. We are called to trust and obey the God of truth and love and then by faith allow Him to accomplish His perfect will. The system of the world is based on an evil darkness of pride and spiritually blind humans function and indulge within it because they are also depraved. Birds of a feather flock together and those who have not been born-again and transformed from their state of carnality are “naturally” drawn and content with a world of sin. The difference between the saved and the lost is that God gives the mercy of salvation and forgiveness to the ones who reach out to Him in faith while He has no spiritual connection with those who have not accepted Him as their Lord. We are either His child or a stranger. When someone becomes a child of God they still sin and fall short but they now have a covenant between them and God that transforms them into the royal family. The blood of Jesus washes and purifies the heart of a saint that sincerely calls upon Him in repentance and is calling out to those who are lost because He is willing that none would perish.. Thank God, this is a part of our redemption that goes far beyond the temporary covering of an animal sacrifice. Jesus became the Lamb of God that was offered as the ONLY payment that could forgive our sin but to wash it away forever and He is worthy to receive all glory, honor, love and worship forever.

I am sad to say the world will continue decomposing until Jesus splits the Eastern skies and destroys the armies of the world at the battle of Armageddon. When this country was started, a few brave ones had fled Europe because they did not want to live under the stress of political and religious bondage. They imagined what it would be like to establish Biblical laws and set in place a government that was completely based on God’s truth. They prayed and dreamed of a land where they could have the liberty to live free according to a “Spirit led” discernment and interpretation of right and wrong. They were experiencing bondage as there was much suffering under the heavy hand of the State controlled Church in Europe but the opportunity finally came. It was over 250 years from the beginning of the Protestant Reformation till the U.S. Constitution was formed and America became a nation.

During these dark years, Martin Luther’s ideas were still being studied and inspiring faith in a few adventurous Christians who deemed them to be important to all mankind. His ideas helped to make America a place where religious tolerance and freedom was to be accepted. No longer would one particular religious ideology dominate a country and force people to serve under its rule whether they believed in it or not. Luther might not have influenced the entire ideological framework for the Western religious views but it certainly brought up some important questions. This exodus from tyranny was very similar to Old Testament Israel leaving Egypt and heading for the Promised Land. However, the lesson that has hardly been noticed is that freedom has very little to do with time, culture or earthly location, but everything to do with the spiritual condition of the heart. We cannot run anywhere to escape the lies and influences of evil. There is no place of perfect Utopia on this planet except within the souls of those who have abandoned this world and gladly received the revelation of God’s truth and the contentment of His presence.

It was not North America that was the answer to a perfect society or the problems of sin, because sin comes from people. No matter where we would begin a compound or community, it would only be a matter of time before evil would emerge and ruin the dreams of a perfect world. The United States was and is a beautiful place on earth but evil humans are born and develop in their dark imaginations have nearly destroyed it just like everywhere else since the beginning of the world. America as a new, fresh country where Biblical principles and right and wrong would be established was a great vision but as long as there is flesh there will be the adoption of the lies of Satan and likewise followers unto the corruption and debauchery of this realms system. There was NO way this was going to be “heaven on earth” because God knew that men and women are filled with carnality just like they were in the days of Noah and the days of Sodom. There is only ONE heaven and within that dimension of God’s judgment and holiness and only this is where we will finally enjoy the divine monarchy of His Kingdom that will last forever.

We have a tendency to become emotional in everything we do and there is nothing more likely to get our blood boiling than politics. Our values and our convictions can hardly be separated from our spiritual beliefs and doctrines however, we forget that the lost are ONLY operating within their feelings. Since they CANNOT understand God’s Word – they cannot be trusted to know what they are talking about. I do not want to listen to someone who is completely drawing from the well of their opinions and emotions. Many times we forget that we are casting our pearls before swine by expecting the lost to comprehend God’s truth. If we could convert people into following Jesus with our gift to communicate, we would not need the Holy Spirit. The lost do not care about anything that has to do with the Bible but rather just want to argue in the area of logic and intelligence. This is why fighting, arguing and debating against someones political and or religious views is a waste of energy. Our investment would be much more profitable if the same  amount of enthusiasm and passion we spend on thinking and talking was channeled into prayer.

Many have become distracted from our mission by spending all their time watching the news, reading the paper and the internet about things that mean nothing! It is so obvious this is a strategy from hell to attack and entangle God’s people with frustration and anger so they will spend all their time either escaping reality or fighting shadow figures. On top of all this, we are reaping nothing but hatred from the very people we are called to reach. The modern “politicized” religious church of flag-waving, hyper-patriots need to make sure they are standing for Jesus intends. This is a BOLD statement but many are preaching another gospel and another Christianity altogether. If we are not careful, we will be pulled into a worldview that is different from what we should have. Much of what is being declared is morphing into a fleshly, legalistic man-made gospel of hatred, prejudice, violence and selfishness. Ignorance is dangerous and we should stop and ask the question, “how can Christians believe this way when Jesus taught the opposite?

Christ hated sin but said to love everyone because this is the most important thing. I thought what He displayed on the cross was to offer salvation and be an example of surrendering our will. He willingly gave Himself because He loved. Many seemingly good people with good intentions are offering “strange fire” to God and He is not impressed with these twisted sacrifices. It appears the modern conservative movement is not concerned about what Jesus would do but what THEY feel is right. There is a huge difference between acting according to the HOLY SPIRIT and acting according to our emotions! Christ has always been against false governments AND the religious false church and He still is today! Did you ever read about him running for political office or pleading for His followers to become active in the government system? No. It seems every time He faced the authority of this world in politics or religion He exposed their ignorance and in turn they always became offended and angry. Why? Because the world will never embrace the truth of God. The world’s system will always have their own agenda and aggressively desire to control the earth WITHOUT God’s direction or intervention.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE

PART 26

AVERAGE ORDINARY PEOPLE

I would like for you to meet John and Mary Doe. They are respectable members of their community and are well known in their local area. They have 2 children that have graduated college and are living on their own. I guess you could say that from a distance they are a typical normal American family. John is a businessman that sells real estate, conducts auctions, and operates a “buy here pay here” car lot along with a successful pawn shop and always has his ears and eyes open to take advantage of someone for a monetary gain. Mary is a housewife that is really into taking care of the family and works hard to keep the home running smoothly. She quietly listens to her husband’s business deals and realizes that much of what he does is wrong but has learned how to play the game of living in the generic contentment of denial within a modern day fantasy world.

John was raised with a humanistic philosophy that believed a person makes their own way in this world and that accomplishments will depend completely on physical and mental ability. When he was growing up his family went to church once or twice a year as religious topics were rarely mentioned except maybe at Christmas when the church in town would have a nativity scene on display. He remembered celebrating Easter that had everything to do with searching for eggs and finding chocolate instead of the real meaning associated with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. And of course Thanksgiving was all about the turkey and Halloween was a scary night to celebrate the demons and monsters of the nether world. Now as an adult his life had become a pattern of his parent’s political, moral and social world views and everything seemed fine.

John’s father was known to make some shady business deals in his life and now John had also developed an even worse reputation of being a greedy scrooge always looking to make a buck. His integrity was on the lower end of the scale that included telling lies, buying stolen property, taking advantage of the elderly, and an overall unethical character that could not be trusted. There were rumors that several of his renters were single women and you can figure that one out on your own. In other words there was never a moral line he would not cross in order to add one more sweet deal to his seemingly successful empire that he had proudly accumulated over the years. John and Mary live in a beautiful home on a large farm and drive new expensive vehicles that flaunt his prosperous and flourishing lifestyle. He owns several properties and warehouses of antiques and merchandise, is a loan shark with vaults of jewelry, gold, collectables, and guns to the point where it is difficult to keep up with it all. He has people who work for him and help operate his business adventures and has the reputation of having the “Midas” touch.

You see, in Johns way of thinking life is a game and cheating, lying and stealing are included in the rules so that smart and aggressive people like him can enjoy unlimited pleasures. However though it seems he has all that anyone would desire when he is alone there is a deep sadness and a sense of emptiness in his soul. He just cannot find happiness. He never shares his thoughts with anyone even his wife because his haughtiness is too macho to consider such silliness. He hates silence because he’s afraid of being haunted by guilt and cannot be still because he does not want to think about anything that is not related to making or spending money. He’s developed a type of hyper personality that is always going places and doing things to the point where his wife considers him a hopeless workaholic. His ego embraces his authority and the emotional charge he gets when he walks in everyone greets him like a celebrity and shakes his hand (even though most people have negative thoughts about him). Ah, the personal satisfaction of hearing others say he has made it on his own! He vainly brags about making crafty decisions and how his brain and personality are awesome. On one hand he radiates vanity to the world that he is truly a winner in the game but on the other hand he is secretly puzzled as to why he feels so unfulfilled.

One day an associate died suddenly of a heart attack and he felt obligated to attend the funeral. The minister slowly approached the podium as John nervously looked at his watch and thought about the errands he had lined up that afternoon. After a prayer the preacher paused and looked out over the crowd and began to talk about what is truly important. He went on to say that life is divided into two ways of living; one way is to live in what he called the “default” in which we make all the decisions. He said this is the easy way because all we need to do is follow our own will and do exactly whatever we want but the bad part is that this way never has a good ending.

The other way (God’s way) is to lay our thoughts, desires, hopes and dreams at the feet of Jesus and surrender all of our plans to Him. This is very sacrificial but can happen when we accept the invitation to allow Jesus Christ to save us from ourselves and allow Him to become the Lord of our life. True, it is not easy to hand over our life to God and give Him the authority to make all of our decisions for us but it is the only way to have peace and joy with the security of knowing that all is well with our soul now and in the next life. The minister called this the “divine reality” and how this transformation from the way we were into the way God wants us to be is the meaning and purpose of our existence. He closed with the passage in Matthew chapter 16 that asked, “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” He sat down and the room became very still.

Walking out of the funeral home, John kept thinking privately about what the preacher had said and wondered if this message had anything to do with the misery and loneliness he felt in his own heart. Human nature does not like to relinquish control and his sharp mind inspired by carnality wasted no time bringing a full blown defense for his lifestyle to justify and remind him that he had come too far now to turn around for something weak and ridiculous such as this. He had done great things! He was an achiever and financially secure and did not need to worry about anything! He had climbed to the top of the mountain in his own strength and everything was going perfect. There was so much more money to be made, more warehouses to fill, more material possessions, more lands, vacations, gold and cars and whatever. He did not have the time to worry about the next life because there was so much to do in this one and besides he was sure that somehow someway everything will all work out in the end. As he was heading to his vehicle his phone rang and it was one of his managers saying that an elderly woman had called the office and needed to sell her home as she had become unable to manage her affairs and had no family. He stopped and stared into the gray winter sky with a sigh said, I’m on my way.

This story came to me in a dream last night and strangely all the details were a part of what I clearly remember. I do not usually have these types of experiences or visions and can only presume that God is giving this as a parable to teach me and whoever reads this a sobering truth. All I know to do is to relay the message and let Him use it however He wants. There are certain details of this story that stood out to me and I believe they are important to consider.

We become aware at the beginning that the family appears “normal.” These are the types of people that we see in the stores, sporting events, parties, organizational meetings, leaders in the community and churches or even family members that seem to be fine on the outside with no problems at all. In fact many people like this are respected and admired for their achievements.

Next we see that the wife knows much of the truth about her husband but also enjoys the security he gives her. It reminds me of families of the mafia and organized crime where dark deeds are not mentioned or brought to light because of the financial security and power that is at stake. Another example is the deep South when slavery was considered a normal way of life and horrible abuse came from the same people who went to church every Sunday.

John seems to have the tiger by the tail by worldly standards but he also is not allowing God to have any real place in his life. He is a spiritually lost man that is deceived into thinking he is the king of his own kingdom and has no intention of yielding of surrendering his will.

He knows deep down that something is wrong because he cannot find real satisfaction or peace. He is restless because he thinks that more accomplishments will bring more happiness but no matter how much he accumulates the joy never comes. He believes that just over the next mountain or after he finishes this next big deal he will be happy but it’s only a vicious cycle of disappointment.

John is selfish and only thinks about himself. He is driven by the love of money and control. The Bible says these people literally serve the idols and temptations of mammon and are consumed and possessed with its evil influence. This reminds me of the story of the man who was in a boat and accidentally dropped a bag of gold into the water. He dives in and swims down to the bottom of the river and grabs the bag but its weight will not allow him to rise to the surface. He is torn between letting go and living or to continue struggling and drowning. His body was never found.

John is attending a funeral of a person that tragically passed away from a sudden heart attack but tries to avoid thinking this could be him because deep down he realizes he is not ready to face his maker. His attitude is that everything will work out but this is only a mask of denial – the most dangerous deceptions of them all. He lives as if he is playing a game of cards and is willing to gamble all that he has – even his soul – that he will not lose.

The message from the minister is relaying the voice of God to John as a warning. Even the scripture is a direct bulls-eye intended to bring conviction (which it does) as he ponders the calling from the Holy Spirit but, as always he allows his old nature to influence his decision similar to the rich young ruler who came to Jesus with confidence and then left in discouragement. Walking away from God is more common than we know.

At the end of the story, it is not a coincidence that a new business deal presents itself as he is seriously contemplating. He is being distracted and tempted all at the same time with the thought of ripping someone off and getting away with it. This is right down his alley and he is actually tickled with the opportunity but at the same time this type of living is emotionally exhausting.

When John hangs up the phone, he says, “I’m on my way” and this is significant because in God’s eyes he certainly is. He is on his way to one day standing before an Almighty God that will judge the way he has lived and make a decision that will have a permanent impact on John’s future. People like to hear about heaven especially at funerals but become restless and uncomfortable when the topic turns to the reality of a devil’s hell that will be a place of eternal torment. This place is just as real as is reserved for all those who walk through life ignoring the call of God to accept Jesus and this truth should remind everyone to pray without ceasing and live humbly before the Lord with fear and trembling.

Many will spend eternity without God but not necessarily because they have sinned but because they refused to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. Like Frank Sinatra who sang a popular song that brags about living exactly like he wanted we see that John is also making the same bold declaration that he did it, “His Way.” The ending leaves us hanging as to what finally happens but we can see a perfect example of the powerful battle being waged within the hearts and minds of ordinary average people. Even Christians do not live on mountain tops and float around on clouds all day, they are faced with laying down their life to God or to just continue and play the game. John may seem like a bad person and in reality he is, but is he that much different from many who justify their lifestyle because they believe they are being smart to survive and who may even consider themselves Christians? Have you ever known a person that declares to be a Christian and yet their life is not a reflection of Jesus? This parable seems to be asking seemingly average, normal people if living in the default system is worth losing our soul? I realize we all sin but our journey also contains a tremendous amount of decisions that are very important.

I officiated a funeral one time and as I was gathering personal information about the deceased I realized there was not a whole lot of positive things I could talk about. This person had already preached their own funeral by the way they had lived. Were they saved? Only God knows. Did they live a holy life filled with the character of Christ? No. Does the way we live have anything to do with it? I believe it does. I would think that our way of living would be directly connected to what we are thinking about. If God is not on our mind –  we are probably not worried about loving Him or serving Him. And if we live an average ordinary life without acknowledging or considering Him, or loving Him, then how can we be an heir to God’s covenant promises?

 

OUR FIRST LOVE

PART 25

LIVING ANSWERS FOR A DYING WORLD

You know, “change” is an awesome word and when it comes to human behavior it must become more than a conversation, more than ink and paper or listening to a lecture – it must become a personal revelation or we will never fulfill our spiritual destiny. It is true, we are affected by our childhood and influenced by all the things we have learned and experienced in our past as these imprints no doubt have a huge emotional impact that contribute how we think. However, in the middle of our established world-views we must admit that for God to even get our attention is amazing but for us to actually hear what He is saying and then make the decision to follow His request is nothing short of a miracle. In this light, we can agree that the amount we choose to listen and the extent we decide to obey is all we will have to show for our life as we stand before Him one day.

It seems the more people step forward and parade their sins like an open festival of debauchery, the more it inspires and motivates others to step forward to “test the waters.” The strategy of Satan is to convince the world that sin is a human “right” and that everyone should be encouraged and proud to be whatever you want and everyone (including God) should accept it as the joys of freedom. Of course the rage today is all about tolerance and the guidelines are being drawn to keep everyone functioning within political correctness. We are seeing the world becoming more combative and hostile in their quest to desensitize the heart and mind which is leading the downward spiral of morality. More nudity and sexual content, more violence, blood-shed, killing and destruction and there is no doubt the conscience of anyone that watches television, internet, movies or reads worldly literature has already been negatively affected. Someone I know recently pulled the plug on their cable and said they would rather have peace and quiet in the evenings than to be bombarded with electronic filth. The question remains: how much trash and negative influence will we endure before we stand and say, “no more!”

The idea of the dark kingdom for mankind is to continuously shock our mind with horrific, insulting images and evil scenarios and then once the information has been processed, it is shocked again. This relentless repetition of pounding our mind day and night produces the same result to our conscience as shoveling dirt would have on our hands. When we end up with blisters because of friction on our skin the result is developing callouses. Likewise when we willingly expose our heart to the arrogant and aggressive bombardment of sin – what do we expect? Why do people toss and turn all night with fear, worries, turmoil and nightmares? Would watching hours of dark, violent images have anything to do with it? The daily grind of trying to live in this world is difficult enough so why would anyone (especially Christians) make the spiritual warfare even harder by soaking in more negativity?

Presenting sin is all about marketing. The devil was not born yesterday but rather has had lots of time to figure out what kind of bait really works. In order to “sell” an idea there must be a strong and wise sales “pitch.” His plan is to gently lead Christians into seemingly harmless baby steps of compromise until they gradually accept sin as a normal part of everyday life. Sadly, what used to make God’s people blush with holy conviction is now considered nightly entertainment for the whole family. A few years ago, television shows had husbands and wives sleeping in separate beds and now we are bombarded with Viagra commercials that talk about the most intimate details of sex possible. Everyday millions of little girls are being exposed to subjects and situations like this with all the filthy sitcoms and foul language movies as the father who is responsible as the head of the home watches and approves. We wonder why the little girls are wearing provocative clothing and contributing to the atmosphere of lust in our society – because this is how they are being raised! Seriously, would you have ever thought there would be razor commercials showing practically naked women trimming their pubic hair? Even the churches are filled with these types of relaxed attitudes and perverted imaginations which has lowered the standards of holiness and sanctification down to the point where it is difficult to sense God’s Spirit at all. I believe when there is intentional sin in the camp within the church, there will not be a holy move of God in the midst. The alarming conclusion is that very few will even notice.

The reason why sin was embarrassing in times past is because there was more of a reverential fear of God and a reasonable understanding of His thoughts and laws. Every human has a certain amount of recognition when it comes to right and wrong and each person can both nurture this wisdom and allow it to develop or they can allow the justification to sin to become the dominating decision maker. Once the individual knows the difference between good and bad they have the free-will choice to follow the path they desire and of course our human nature automatically draws us into the default way of thinking. Until the determination to follow Jesus and “CHANGE” becomes stronger than the temptation to live in rebellion, we will strive to do whatever we want and dare anyone to question us.

We hear constantly about how tolerant everyone must become to accept sin and all that is wrong against God, but we are threatened to not mention how the lost world needs to accept God’s truth as being the only perfect way to live. If the blind and defiant world has the audacity to build a new world of shameless sin and expects everyone to bow down to its agenda, then the same message of tolerance and respect needs to be exercised toward those who stand for God! Actually, the message is not for tolerance at all because this is only used to “unlock” the door of an order that desires to control and enforce the darkness and lies of Satan. Once this door is unlocked, the next step is to begin to open other doors into higher levels of dominance where the itinerary includes progressing from the freedom to make choices to the laws of dictatorship. The freedom of speech and liberty of expression gives way to spiritual incarceration when the will of mankind is allowed to sit on the throne as king. This country was a dream to those who wanted religious freedom but has now ended up a cultural nightmare and has become spiritually dysfunctional because the misunderstanding associated with freedom allowed Satan an opportunity to spread the infection of sin. Today without the legal right to denounce sin and preach boldly against anything and everything that is wrong in God’s eyes – we are truly oppressed. Of all of the messages in the universe that has the power and potential to change the condition of souls, the GOSPEL is the ONLY hope for mankind. I was told last year at an American Cancer Center facility that I needed to STOP proclaiming Jesus and His Word as the absolute truth and our only hope for salvation. They said I might “offend someone.” The devil knows God is TRUE and this is exactly why he is desperately trying to close the mouths of those who have LIVING answers for a DYING world.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE

PART 24

WHAT ARE CHRISTIANS REFLECTING?

“If it be possible as much as within you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:8)

In recent years, particularly in the USA, Christians have become more and more drawn into political and social issues. The problem is, this seems to be making the Christian faith more and more hated – not for the gospel’s sake, but rather for taking emotional stands that Jesus never said to take. Christians are now known for controversial topics they are bitterly against instead of for their love. They lash out angrily against taxes, against the president, congress, against immigrants, the legal system and against other political parties. They launch into aggressive attacks on issues such as birth control, abortion, gay marriage and gun control as though they would gladly blow away anyone who disagrees. They portray themselves as the biggest supporters of armies and killing and big business and would celebrate if our country would bring a nuclear holocaust on most of the world even though Christ said, I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” What does this mean? You tell me! If we just stop for a moment and listen carefully to Christians talk, we can clearly see that it is about as far from Jesus as you can possibly imagine. When playing on this field, we need to remember that politics is the devil’s arena because he LOVES destruction, hatred, unforgiveness and every dark and vile imagination. Its dirty, malicious, dishonorable and divisive – and we are called to keep out.
But brother, we have to stand up for what is right! (If you want to see a sickening glimpse of how wicked this country has become, do a web search of what the “good ole boy” red-neck philosophies believe). Please listen to me carefully or you will misinterpret what I am saying. I am not implying that we should not stand up for what we know is right – I am saying we have not been called to spend ALL of our time trying to force others to believe the way we do. What are both sides praying? That God would change the minds and hearts of those who oppose them and to convert them to believe the way they do? This year’s writings are called “OUR FIRST LOVE” and is a reminder of how easy it is to fall away from the one who loved us AND the very reason He saved us (which was to be a reflection of His love, mercy and compassion).

We are all unique as individuals and most of us have definite convictions and opinions about what we believe is the correct way of thinking. There is nothing wrong with this. We absorb knowledge and we shape this information into views and how passionate we become depends on how serious and concerned we allow them to be. The Lord Jesus was very passionate about what He believed in and was willing to die for it. This is the ultimate sacrifice because it is giving our ALL for the cause that we have placed as our highest priority. So we realize that God is also calling His followers to know what they believe and be willing to stand for it. However, let us consider just what this is saying as well as what it is NOT saying. It is one thing to know what you believe and to not budge or compromise an inch – but its another thing to impose, enforce, demand or decree your views upon someone else. Only God is totally perfect and correct in all things and we are to be constantly trying to learn His will, but we must also remember to walk in humility with “how” we handle His truth. Can we tolerate others even though we do not believe they are right? Jesus tolerated the sinners and knew they were not right and was a light of hope for them to see. How much more effective we could be for the cause of Christ if we could “demonstrate” the love of Jesus without trying to convince them and persuade them with our own arguments. People are either going to be convicted by the Holy Spirit from being around us or they are going to walk away with a negative feeling of disappointment. How are people responding to your presentation of Jesus and God’s Word?

It used to be that liberal journalists would at least tolerate the Christian faith – even if begrudgingly. Now the world tends to see Christianity as the “enemy” because we have taken political stances against them instead of loving and praying for them. Christianity as a faith is no longer renowned for “healing the broken-hearted and setting the captives free” or for the gospel of love that we proclaim. Yes, I know the lost will hate the truth as Jesus has already warned us they would but there are also many that are seeking the peace that only He can give. Instead of us being the catalyst for divine appointments we are now known for our aggressive attacks where we agitate strife and bitterness and bring suspicion and distrust. One reason why many have lost all confidence in electing candidates is because when you put them all together we cannot see any difference between the good and bad. This is because when anyone steps into an evil system and agrees to lobby and “play” by its rules they will become contaminated! There are no such thing as compromising in a dozen different areas just so we can help in a couple of other places! Jesus refused to have anything to do with politics because He does NOT compromise with Satan on “anything” and never will! He said, “My kingdom is NOT of this world” and the body of Christ needs to learn this revelation. Where does it say the early church was trying to establish a new government or rebel against Rome? Never! They were too busy praying and preaching the gospel and this is exactly what we should be doing now! Today’s believers are inviting widespread hatred of the Christian faith – not for spiritual reasons but rather with emotional tirades and this attitude is growing worse every day. We have needlessly made ourselves the enemies of so many that we are called to reach and have burned these bridges of opportunity.

Many religious endorsers have wrapped the Bible in the American flag so tight that the world is thinking that God and “country” is the same thing. This land is beautiful but the conditions of the people’s hearts have turned cold against Him and not only has He backed away from this plague of sin, He is ready to bring judgment upon it. These self-righteous individuals are actually preaching “another gospel” where there is much more emphasis on nationalism instead of bowing before God in spiritual humility and reverence. The so-called conservative movement needs to avoid being embroiled in the partisan issues of the day as they angrily snarl at any who dare disagree. Let us be careful to not worship what the flag stands for as many have never learned that our country is not a Christian nation. Our flag actually represents a corrupt government, a corrupt legal system and a corrupt media that is embarrassed to acknowledge the Bible as the absolute truth for mankind. Even the statue of liberty is the image of a pagan goddess that represents sexual perversion and harlotry – (no wonder America is the worlds leading producer of pornography). So why would a Christian embrace an evil system of liars, thieves and heathens? Yes, it’s true that many have died for this country for what they believed was right but that does NOT mean the government was right! For example, the war in Iraq was a horrible decision that reveals how sincere brave soldiers can serve a government that is sincerely wrong. It is common knowledge that wars are directly connected to the political sins of hatred, strife, greed, power, revenge and bitterness. Over 450,000 of our own citizens killed each other in the Civil war over political and social issues! Unbelievable! This is wrestling with flesh and blood which the Lord warned us to avoid because we are not citizens of this world but rather missionaries to represent Jesus. The world has its own government and we are supposed to understand that the “lost” will follow and support this system because they are a part of it. We who are remnant disciples of Christ have been called to be filled with Holy Spirit so that God can change hearts through the gospel we are demonstrating! That is the only power that can deliver a human from the spiritual bondage of sin and set them free. But if we are more upset with how “wrong” they are instead of having a burden for their soul and interceding for them, we have reduced the potential for God to do a super-natural miracle to save them from hell into a philosophical theory where we attempt to figuratively beat them into submission.

Many believe they have a responsibility to “make” people do what is right – but we cannot. Throughout the ages we see empires and kingdoms that have ruled with an iron fist of tyranny and dictatorship and of course this is looked down upon as cruel and unjust. The vision of freedom is an environment where people can do and say what they want without fear of being punished or discriminated against and this idea of liberty among Christians has been to construct a political view that includes bringing the church and state together in the name of God’s truth. What do you mean? Christians want this to be a Christian nation and believe this was the point of boarding the Mayflower. They were willing to fight against what they believed was wrong so that our country could be established upon what was right. However, this idea of national freedom has different components than spiritual freedom and these dreams of heaven on earth that many envisioned has now blossomed into a monstrous nightmare. How? You see, many would not admit they desire for the State to be joined with the Church but actually this is exactly what they have in mind. Christians wanted (and still do) the government to “enforce” their interpretations of God’s Word into LAW in order to make everyone abide to their interpretations of how to live. To the church members this sounds like paradise but hold on a minute. To be honest, this is the same view as a dictator would have in a communist country and the reason why we should NOT want Church and State to join together. On the other hand, we know those who desire the separation of church and state also enjoys being able to do whatever they want and for the church to keep their noses out of it – but the problem is we cannot have it both ways.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE

PART 23

DRAWING THE LINE WITH OUR COMMITMENT

I notice when talking with certain people about the Christian life, it’s common for them to lose eye contact as they search how to change the subject. Actually this is perfectly understandable! Why? Because if a person (even if they are somewhat religious) has not made the commitment to seriously embrace God’s presence, they feel uncomfortable thinking and talking about it. Our natural mind and the Spirit of the Lord are like oil and water as the old nature wants nothing to do with being accountable or surrendering control to anyone – especially to God.

The average person does not mind listening to a Bible story, and might even enjoy a cute Christmas play where the children dress up and re-enact the account of when baby Jesus was born but when the subject turns to abandoning and yielding our will – let’s not get crazy! We know there is quite a bit of religious activity around because we see lots of churches, but it’s the personal relationship that each individual has with Jesus that is what its really about. Just because a person attends a church does not necessarily mean they are sincerely committed to Christ. We do not like to admit this but it’s actually possible (and much easier) to custom design our association with God instead of allowing Him to change us. We humans are experts with deception and denial which explains why many live in a world that is affiliated with a form of religion without the responsibility of doing what He says.

The plan of salvation was for Jesus to rescue us from a hopeless existence. Every human is born lost in their sin because when Adam and Eve dis-obeyed in the garden mankind became spiritually separated from God. There was only one way that anyone could be saved from spending a miserable life on earth and most importantly suffering forever in the next life and that was to be redeemed and ransomed. The only payment that had the power and authority to save us was the blood of a perfect lamb and this sacrifice was Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God. We can now understand why this gospel is called the good-news. It’s the greatest love story of all time that describes the great price that Jesus willingly paid when He went to the cross, was tortured, suffered, died and rose from the dead. His love provided the invitation for us to accept His amazing grace so that we can be free from sin! When we hear this story we are deeply moved in our conscience by the Holy Spirit and our spiritual eyes are opened to see our desperate need to reach out in faith toward this merciful Savior. As we call upon Him to save us, He transforms our lost spiritual condition into a brand new spirit so we can become a member of His family forever. As John 3:16 so beautifully explains, if you choose to believe – He will save you today.

Repentance is not only a major pillar of this transition but also an ongoing awareness of His presence. If we truly ask Jesus to forgive us He will hear our cry. All we have to offer Him is our heart which is exactly all He has ever wanted. This is the deepest part of our being that makes every decision right or wrong and the very place we have been called to give Him total control. When our old spirit is replaced by our new spirit, there is an agreement, a holy vow of covenant where we promise to serve and follow God which means we are no longer living how we want but have allowed Christ to be our personal Lord and King. Contact: billyhollandministries.com

OUR FIRST LOVE

PART 22

THE FINANCIAL SIDE OF MINISTRY

Money in ministry is sometimes awkward but usually a very needed combination. There is a fine line between having faith that God will provide financial blessings for a spiritual vision or service and coming up with an idea to raise it ourselves. It’s common to see ministries plead for financial support with advertising little trinkets for donations and of course we have all been passed an offering plate in church. This is not an attack or dispute that it takes money to accomplish seemingly worthy goals, but to me the difficult part is just making sure we are doing what God is saying and not just coming up with things that sound good. Like with any type of project, much of the money raised to build or support goes to the “behind the scenes” expenses which usually includes salaries and costly overhead. And of course this is also where many givers become discouraged and turned-off. We could talk all day about examples of situations that have been negatively exposed but again it is simply everyone’s personal responsibility to pray and know where and to whom God is telling us to give.

The seed faith principal has been around a long time and many evangelists still use this as a way to teach giving. I remember years ago, a dear elderly friend of mine was very much into this concept of giving. There is nothing necessarily wrong with embracing this view because it is based on the spiritual principal of sowing and reaping. However, as with every pure and holy truth the enemy is always ready to slightly modify God’s original intention. My friend went a little overboard with actually mailing jewelry in envelopes hoping for a financial breakthrough that by the way never came. Basically, The seed faith idea is that whatever you give will be multiplied back to you and I can go along with that as long as we are following God’s instructions. When we plant one kernel of corn, it grows into a stalk that has several ears and these ears have hundreds of kernels which gets everyone excited especially if you start calculating how much return you are going to receive. The part that starts to drift off course is when someone promises if you give them your money (by faith of course) you will receive a massive return on your investment. When listening closely, you will discover that rarely does a person teach this idea in a general way with encouraging the masses to give “wherever” they feel led. Most of the time they are trying to persuade everyone to just focus on giving to them.

Many people throughout their lives have tried to think of something that could generate some extra money and there is nothing wrong with this. But when it comes to religion and issues pertaining to God and His ministry, every person is particularly accountable. Selling a loaf of bread is not the same as someone trying to sell the “bread of life” and it would be wise for them to consider their actions. When Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple, He was angry because the motives of business and profit had crossed over into the holy place of God’s presence. You see, approaching God is all about purity and humility. This is why it is crucial to recognize when our carnality causes us to become desensitized to the point we are not aware of our need for reverential fear. We are not fooling God when we come up with the idea of making a profit for what He has given freely. It would be a shame to stand before Him and explain why we were more concerned with making a dollar than we were to see a soul saved by the blood of Jesus. The concept of taking up our cross also includes the laying down of our vain imaginations.

Sadly, we have future pastors who entertain the idea that ministry   is an easy job to make a decent living. My advice to a seminary student would be to volunteer your time serving others and make sure that you are truly called to be a servant. If you are always complaining that you should be paid for your labors and are constantly angry and hurt because you feel you are being taken advantage of, then I suggest a sabbatical so you might discover what God is saying about your calling. His Word promises that if we will seek – we will find and I am sure He has something very profound to share with you about this. The reason I can talk about this is because I have been there. Yes, I have driven many miles to sing and preach and have even officiated large weddings without receiving a penny (and I am not afraid to tell you that I did some serious thinking on the way back home). On the other hand, I also have some wonderful testimonies of how Jesus came through with financial miracles that exceeded my highest expectations! The point is that God may not give you everything you want when you want it – but if you obey Him, He will supply your needs when you really need it! He is not obligated to instantly give a big paycheck to everyone who does something spiritual but everything will work out perfectly for all those involved when it is done in the right way! There is an old saying, “WHERE GOD GUIDES – HE PROVIDES” and is a very good nugget of wisdom to remember. I cannot see the Lord calling anyone to do a task and then not be present to help them with whatever they may need to accomplish it. When God spoke to Noah about building a structure that seemed impossible, I believe we can all agree this was definitely done with God’s help. Jesus promised that we would be compensated in “heaven” for our obedience and this should fill our heart with joy and contentment much more than money.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE

part 21

ARE WE ALL GIVEN THORNS?

The Apostle Paul was a very interesting man and important figure within the New Testament but his “thorn” for the most part can be summed up to be a mystery. We can read many opinions and commentaries that try to explain exactly what Paul was talking about, but we must admit that since so many details are left out, we are faced with sorting through the generalities and piecing together our own conclusions. It reminds me of how we can be in a room of people that are listening to someone relay a story, and somehow each listener ends up with their own version of the account. Nevertheless, in the exposition of Paul, I am convinced there is enough evidence to at least see some basic insights to consider.

I am not intentionally trying to delve into the most difficult Bible passages I can find but also do NOT believe we should avoid any portion of scripture simply because we cannot figure it out. God promises to reveal His wisdom for those who seek, ask and knock. While writing about this specific situation, I began to wonder if this was a one time circumstance with only Paul or if these “thorns” are used by God from time to time in all of us. Could it be that some of the difficulties we face are being used to help us understand who we are and what God wants us to be? I am not a scholar that has the answers to everything but in this teaching I am more like a facilitator trying to gather everyone’s thoughts and insights about this intriguing true story.

We are just scratching the surface in these three pages, but hopefully this is enough to stimulate us to think more about the spiritual realm and all the possibilities of what may be going on all around us. I am starting with just four points so if you have any additional insight about this you would like to share, please send it and I will post it next week. Our capacity to learn is in direct correlation to our thirst for knowledge. I was asking someone the other day about their conclusions with this story and they said they had no desire to even think about it. For those who only want the chocolate cake while turning away from the asparagus, their understanding of God’s character and nature is definitely limited. Rightly dividing the Word of God is important if we want to have a broader comprehension of who He is. There are TWO edges with His sword of truth and life for the serious follower of Christ is a continual classroom.

Number one: Paul was intelligent in the earthly realm and then when he gained revelation knowledge about God it was probably be very easy to continue his tendency to be arrogant. Pride is a negative attribute that is associated with the flesh and the kingdom of darkness and according to the principles of God’s divine order – it is sin. If this thorn was a consequence of pride than we must recognize his need (and ours) to live in humility so that we can live in peace and victory.

Number two: Paul is convinced that in order for him to remain humble, he has been assigned a demon from Satan to torment him so that he can stay focused on the matter of working for God and giving Him all the glory. I am not sure how he knows this unless the Lord revealed it to him as we read in second Corinthians chapter 12 that he was caught up into some type of higher spiritual dimension and marvelous revelations were revealed to him. Paul discloses his frustration as a “thorn in the flesh” but does not mention specific details except the word “buffet” is used which means to bruise. Is this associated with continual confrontations and physical altercations or emotional brokenness as a part of personal sadness and discouragement? This mysterious affliction has caused much speculation yet no one seems to know for certain. Of course there have been doctrinal disagreements over these interpretations but it is silly to argue over something we do not understand. If it was a sickness or disease, he surely would have asked the church to anoint him with oil and pray for his healing. If it was demonic oppression, we presume he would have likewise prayed against this and received deliverance.

Some have mentioned that it could have been the constant battle of accusations and the severe persecutions that continually targeted him. Even the new Christians were afraid he was a spying deceiver and his agony of not being trusted was surely discouraging. This is added to the continuing rejection and condemnation from those who resented him for the damage he had done in his past against their family members, friends and the Kingdom of God. In other words, it would be difficult for a community to warmly embrace him while trying to get over how cruel he had been imprisoning, torturing and killing those who were devoted and faithful to the Lord.

Number 3: I believe we can all agree the devil hated Paul because at one time he was one of Satan’s most effective enemies against the church. Since his defection, it is no surprise that the devil was furious and wanted revenge for Paul’s defection. In fact, every child of God who walks in the power of the Holy Spirit has a bulls-eye on their back. As an intelligent man, Paul was familiar with spiritual authority and never afraid of the opposition from the enemy so I wonder why he did not submit his will and follow the humility process that would have stopped the temptation of pride that was trying to influence him. I would say he knew he was a target and had possibly been assigned a demon to make his life difficult. Do you believe that all of God’s people who serve on the front line are also targets and constantly involved with intense warfare?

Number 4: He asked the Lord three times to take care of this problem so that he could have more popularity, endurance and effectiveness in his ministry of preaching the gospel. So again, was this hindrance a bodily problem, mental or spiritual? If this is truly a pride problem, why doesn’t he repent and receive the miracle of deliverance? If he just needed to develop humility it would seem this could have been learned and the problem would have been removed. I would hope that after only 3 times we would NOT stop asking but it appears that with God speaking such a stern and piercing message that He gladly accepts this burden and continues on. When the Lord replied to Paul’s prayers, what exactly do you think He was saying?

Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” There was nothing that could be done that could “fix” the damage that Paul had done before he knew Christ. The same principal is true with anyone. For example, if someone is captured after robbing a bank they will receive a prison sentence. And if they kill a security guard in the process, that family suffers the loss and the tragedy cannot be reversed. Now, here is the interesting part, if the individual who committed this crime receives Jesus while in prison the miracle of salvation does not give them a parole. It delivers them in the sense their “spirit” is transformed and their name is written in heaven but they still must endure their punishment. The consequences of sin are REAL and there is forgiveness but nothing could erase what happened. I believe the testimony of Paul was huge because it allows all of us to see that no matter what we have done – God can and desires to forgive! Paul had scars of a bad life but it gave God glory.

Paul was whining and crying about what a difficult road he is on but much of it was his own making. Thank God that we finally see the truth as the Lord has a way of using “mysterious ways” to draw people to repentance but the “wages” of sin remind us of our depravity and how much we need to be rescued. The devil knows all about the weaknesses of mankind and was zeroing in on Paul’s tendency to play the big-shot which had been a part of his old personality which in turn made him vulnerable to carnality. Satan will NOT stop trying to attack our weakest links because these places always work! Until we become determined to “deal” with our “soft spots” we will continually be buffeted by the dark side. Now the question remains whether God actually uses Satan and his demons to accomplish His perfect will. Another true story that we could also have a lengthy conversation about that also leans toward this concept is when Job was  aggressively assaulted by Satan. He too was a good man serving the Lord and became a target.

In closing, we can see that God was telling Paul (and us) that we can be forgiven for our past sins – no matter how bad they are, but he will not remove the scars because they are a reminder of how lost we are without Him. Of course living in the attitude of brokenness and humility is the character of Christ but (to inject another question to think about) do you believe that God was considering the eventual removal of Paul’s thorn? Maybe when we recognize the truth and become determined to allow Him be our Lord, He may step in and know that we do not need the plague of our thorn any longer. But if we continue walking (after we are born-again) with the same old thinking process He will have no choice but to only use us sparingly. The Lord allowed Job with his own free-will to stand against the attack and because of his obedience God called off the assault and restored his life and even made it better then ever.

Remembering how far we have come and the work that Jesus is trying to do within us is a beautiful example of living in the awareness of His presence. Whatever we may experience, let us be reminded that as long as our heart is clean and pure and we are following His voice that we will eventually be given relief. Holding on in faith DURING the storm is the hard part but knowing that God is worthy of all that we can endure will bring peace to our soul. We can never overemphasize obedience and attitude as they are two huge pillars of truth in our journey.

 

OUR FIRST LOVE

part 20

SPIRITUAL INTEGRITY

We realize that all Christians serve as ministers of the gospel and are being carefully observed, but especially those who are recognized as instructing and leading others in the faith. It becomes very noticeable (to those straining their eyes and ears) when leaders are not living the Christian life! In other words, we do not want to appear as a nutritionist that constantly eats Twinkies all day. If we are pleading with people to pray with more intensity and to worship more intimately and yet are not following our own words of spiritual wisdom, then we have become nothing more than a worn-out advertisement. A religious “salesperson” goes through the motions of explaining the message – but the spiritual salesperson not only endorses the product but actually incorporates it into their personal life.

There are selling points and rules in the world of sales that are meant to promote success in the business world and likewise at the heart of the Christian we notice that evangelism is at the heart of the great commission as Jesus instructed His followers in Mathew 28:19, to “go and make disciples of all nations.” This has never been an option of our spiritual responsibility but rather a direct command to all who proclaim to be born again. In second Timothy 4:1-2, we see Paul teaching that evangelism would be one of the greatest challenges to the church yet necessary to communicate God’s truth clearly in order to build hope and faith in God’s Word. Second Corinthians 5:18-20, “And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. That is to say, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Him, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” The great commission not only calls us to go into the entire world and preach the gospel but also to walk in spiritual sensitivity as The Lord leads us in divine appointments to touch the lives of the lost and hurting. Cold calls are alright but the awareness of His divine appointments are much better.

Every spiritual “salesperson” (for better or worse), has a distinct selling or ministry style. The most successful sales people (witnesses) are the ones who are aware of their gifts and the anointing of their calling. They know what they’re doing because they listen to God’s voice and obey Him. They prepare their presentation and use the strong points of their personality as a tool for the Lord to use. “Study to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (accurately handling and skillfully teaching) the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15) Let us do what God has specifically anointed us to do. A mature, seasoned witness learns that trials are a part of the Christian life. Like an effective salesperson they have determination and are not a quitter. They can endure evil arrows, negative comments, and any form of rejection and somehow use it to their advantage. The true follower of Christ does not shrink with intimidation, run in fear or surrender in defeat when they are scorned and have learned how to encourage themselves with God’s Word. Sure, we may have a bad day like everyone else but we know where to run to re-charge our batteries. Amen! We know who we are and who God is and as we recognize the spiritual warfare we immediately take the conflict to our secret place of fervent prayer. We realize that being a witness is a daily lifestyle and as bystanders observe our reaction to persecution (it may take a while for the scoffers to be convinced) these lost souls become potential candidates to the conviction of God’s love. Praise God!

Witnesses for Jesus understand they are a sacrifice for the cause and have learned that as knowledge is the most valuable asset in the business world for success – it is also crucial in the spiritual world. The business world believes that if you “know” your subject inside and out that you have an advantage on everyone else in the room. Likewise if we KNOW God and His Word and cooperate with the Holy Spirit, we will be anointed and equipped to discern and respond in the flow of God’s perfect will – “In season and out with every situation and circumstance.

One more principal in the world of selling is there are two ways to convince people that your idea is valuable. You can tell them about it, or you can show them. Telling them is associated with a “sales pitch” which puts people on guard. Showing them is what everyone is looking for because it is the proof that backs a claim. When the spiritual witness does a lot of talking about the product and service of Christianity but fails to prove the claim, it is a disappointment to the ones who need Jesus. The time has come when Christians are growing weary of the traveling carnivals and side shows from those who blow in and blow out trying to sell the gospel and take in as much money as possible. God is speaking to certain ones who are listening and they are pulling away from the religious games and actually doing His ministry by faith. People are hurting and wounded and want to see sincerity and a pure life from someone that really cares. They long to be prayed for and have someone to apply the right medicine for their sickness. There are many wounded and hurting souls all around us that need someone that can remember their names and their problems and will take the time to visit them. For too long we have depended on pastors to do the work of the ministry and we have been disappointed. The labor for the harvest fields are calling for each individual that has been born-again – NOT a man-made social group!

It is time to focus on JESUS! Disciples want leaders that really want to know them and how they feel and can sense what God is doing in their lives. They want a dedicated remnant warrior who will seek God’s face until He hears from heaven (but may we also realize that God is also calling us to do the same thing for others!) True followers of Christ will fast and pray instead of watching television all night. Amen. Pastors should not become so involved with their own life that they do not have time to think or care about the flock. The last day church will not look anything like many churches we see today. Powerful ministries will not be on television or have world headquarters but will be individuals that follow the voice of the Holy Spirit. The true churches will be smaller gatherings of serious believers that have come away from the empty religious organizations and have found the real meaning of LOVE and genuine servant-hood. They will house the homeless and with food pantries they will supply and feed the hungry in the Name of Jesus. They will teach the Kingdom gospel and share ALL their resources because they have laid down their own life for the cause of Christ. They do not care about houses, careers, money or materialism because they are seeing, walking and living in the spiritual realm where God lives. They will trust each other, work together and worship together with a spirit of sacrifice and humility – just like the original disciples. May we seek the Lord with all of our heart and listen carefully as He teaches us what spiritual integrity really means. Amen.

OUR FIRST LOVE

part 19

FALLING AWAY FROM WORSHIP

Maintaining a close relationship with our first love takes determination. There are so many things that are trying to distract us and pull us away from Jesus. We must become serious about our spiritual intimacy with Christ or we will drift into a lukewarm state. Being diligent with our Bible reading and our prayer journal will definitely help keep us on the right path. It is all about developing an awareness of His presence so that we can become sensitive to our own spiritual condition as well as reaching out to others. May we take time this week to tell the Lord how we feel. He knows and is concerned about our problems but He does not always want to acknowledged as only a “fixer” of what is broken. Every now and then He would like for us to just come to Him and say, I love you just for who you are. The concept that I have thought about for years is that we realize what He accomplished for us but what have we done for Him and why do we not wonder about this more? Obeying Him and worshiping Him should be at the top of our priority list but it seems that we would rather receive – than give.

We have read and studied about the concept of praise and worship but let us go deeper into “how” we express our feelings to Him. How do we worship? Is it only with music? Well, many have been raised in a church environment and naturally associate praise and worship in the context of singing songs in a corporate setting. This is one way to worship God but many have never considered that our worship to God is not limited to a church service and this is a perfect example of the deception of religion. When God’s presence is not acknowledged in the everyday life of the believer it is easy to see they have little interest in worship. This is the reason people can just go through the religious motions of church activities and not really connect to the Holy Spirit. Spiritually this may seem elementary, but I honestly believe that though many Christians have heard about having a personal relationship with Christ, they have never really thought that much about giving Him praise and adoration. I have been in many services throughout the years and it is not unusual to notice people, (no doubt daydreaming) just standing there rolling their eyes as if they are bored to tears yet, these are the same people who the night before was screaming, jumping and crying for their favorite sports team. How could that be? How could a Christian be so enthusiastic, intense and aggressive with something that has very little meaning, then yawn at the opportunity to proclaim Jesus as the Almighty, Eternal King that will reign forever? There are several reasons but one is that in the natural realm humans can actually SEE and know what is happening and in turn we emotionally “respond” to it. Whether it is waxing a vintage automobile, or displaying a cabinet of trophies or lusting after the opposite sex, it is the VISUAL and the IMAGINATION that tempts our ego, drives our lust and captivates our attention. In most cases it is not even our “possessions” or destination that brings us great satisfaction but rather the excitement within the journey.

We find the same basic fundamentals in church. In today’s world of legalistic religiosity, we do not “see” the manifestations and demonstrations of the super-natural, (when is the last time you talked to someone that has literally witnessed the eyes of the blind opened?). Instead of the holy power of God’s presence filling the church, the people would rather be fed and entertained and being painfully blunt it seems that many have simply lost the passion of their “first love.” The normal church routine is that we sing a couple of songs, listen to a prayer and a politically correct sermon and go home. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this but if we are convinced that attending a Sunday morning meeting is the same as taking up our cross – we have a serious problem. The dilemma with being spiritually immature is not having a developed “vision” of what God desires in our personal relationship with Him. A religious individual observes life as a “spectator” and has fallen into a content mindset that all is well. The remnant disciple that is serious about their walk with God will NOT be satisfied with this type of meaningless lifestyle but will be drawn to learn and know the specific details of their mission and will feel the conviction from the Holy Ghost to accomplish it. A true Christian will have a passionate desire to HEAR with their spiritual ears and to SEE with their spiritual eyes (every moment) in order to become an active “participator” in God’s Kingdom. God’s children are NOT waiting on the church or depending on the religious world to encourage or accept them. They realize that true spirituality and the religion are TWO different paths.

The religious world has never understood worship and believe it is singing a song. Actually true worship needs no songs, instruments, music or beautiful stained glass buildings. Worship does not even need a voice if the voice is unable to speak for it is within the heart that God can recognize and know the intentions. Worship is simple and all that man can add are only enhancements. Worship is walking along the beach and weeping because we are overwhelmed at the compassion within His presence. Worship is an attitude of appreciation from the deepest part of our being. Worship is never a performance because having pride in our ability gives glory to our flesh. Many have used the anointing of their gifts and talents to help them gain fame and popularity which has only swelled their egotistical vanity. The dark fruits of arrogance have diminished the spiritual potential of many who began their callings and ministries with right motives but they learned to love the attention and started to believe the applause was for them. The enemy of our soul has taught us how to worship ourselves which our old nature eagerly accepts. Worship is very much like prayer as they are both relatively easy but both are commonly faced with very strong resistance. Spiritual warfare is real and will challenge just how serious we are and what a value we have placed on abiding with God. Until our desire to worship our Lord becomes greater than our apathy to ignore Him we will never do it! As an example of this simplicity, allow me to say there is no higher expression of worship than to humbly come before Jesus and say – “I love you.” I encourage you today, to take a walk or find somewhere quiet and tell Him how much you love Him. These three words are the essence of holy worship.

OUR FIRST LOVE

This week’s article sounds like I do not appreciate this Nation or the good life it has provided for me. This is not the case. I consider myself blessed to be able to live the way I have but we also cannot ignore the darkness behind the scenes that has always been a disgrace to God. I believe there have been a remnant of good people in the history of this country and it has been their fervent prayers that has spared us from devastating judgment. We cannot be sure how much longer the Lord will continue to hold back His anger but we are committed to doing all we can to spread the gospel in this hour of grace. A prayer warrior in her eighties called me this morning weeping over lost souls. It is when people cry out to God that reminds us of His promise to forgive our sin and heal our land. Spiritual warfare grows in intensity when we pray because of this truth.

It is time to open our spiritual eyes and see what is really happening all around us. This election and our government is definitely not going to bring God into the picture. In fact, when is the last time you heard any of the candidates mention the Holy Spirit? We need to prepare now for what is coming and draw near to Jesus while we can. His Spirit inspired me to write a newspaper column this morning about how important it is to be close to God today. Those who wait until the bottom falls out will NOT have time to develop a personal relationship with Him because the pain of loss will overwhelm them and be the focus. It is the years of spiritual intimacy, fellowship, communication and building trust with God that will allow us to humbly lean upon Him when the days become difficult. Praise His Holy Name, when crisis is upon us we will not need to search for Him because we will already be with Him. May the Lord of all wisdom give you peace and joy now and forever. 

part 18

WHAT DOES BEING “GREAT” REALLY MEAN?

“But God that chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. That according as it is written, he that glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:27, 31)

“We can make America great again” is probably one of the most worn-out slogans in all of politics. Every election we hear the same criticism about those who have previously served to the ones who aspire to take their place. No one ever built a campaign platform bragging and applauding the performance of those they are running against. The battle cry “We need change” should cause us to realize that things rarely do change just because fresh faces are elected and that we are evidently experiencing a long skid of repeated disappointments. I personally believe the heart and soul of politics has always been to gain power and control that feeds personal pride and ego. Sadly, after the elections, new opportunities become so overwhelming that the original issues become secondary which explains why the process has become a mockery and disgrace.

I want to look at a couple things that are bothering me and the first is going back to the first sentence about America being great. By saying that we can make this country great “again” implies there was a time when we were great and causes me to wonder what does “great” really mean. To begin with, people are not great and neither are their ideas! Only God is Great and according to the scriptures we should be careful to whom and what we glorify. It is only through His mercy and grace that any good thing could be said about anyone. The United States is just another nation with a name and you would have a hard time finding anything really glorious about it even though many would fight over this statement. Any group of people that would establish a nation by violently destroying another culture because they wanted the land sounds more like barbaric Vikings than followers of Jesus and is certainly nothing to be proud of.

The amount of freemasonry alone that helped develop the foundation of our nation allows us to see clearly that flowery words can be used as a smokescreen to deceive the masses while allowing an entirely different agenda to operate behind the scenes. If anyone wonders about the doctrines of freemasonry there are resources that reveal its true identity. We want to believe that our “sweet land of liberty” has been governed by founding fathers that followed God because this gives us a sense of pride but the danger with earthly patriotism is that when we pledge our allegiance to manmade kingdoms, our emotions can give us a false security. As a Christian our spiritual citizenship is in heaven and our focus should be centered on KING Jesus Christ.

Any country can be good if the people desire to follow God but I do not see where this nation’s government has followed Christ. Our currency bears the slogan “in God we trust” but is also blended with many other symbols that reveal things are not always what they seem. When justice and social morality is based upon the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is allowed to influence decisions we can agree a nation is going in the right direction. However, in the case of our country, just because there are religious references scattered in our founding documents this does not mean the government has followed God’s instructions. The separation of church and state gave the ruling leaders the perfect excuse to discard God’s laws and direct the country according to their own humanistic philosophies. Many will say the country has been driven by the majority of the people but the electoral votes should give us a clear indication this is not necessarily true. If we are so naïve to think that the rulers of the world would allow the masses to choose our leaders, we really need to look more closely. Candidates are painted whatever colors the people like in order to keep the voters thinking they are an active part of the democratic process. We realize the lost cannot understand spiritual truth but the Christians are also for the most part confused. Let us go through a short refresher course and notice in Revelation 12: 9, “And the great dragon was cast out that old serpent called the devil and Satan which DECEIVES the whole world: he was cast out into the EARTH and his angels were cast out with him.”  This allows us to see that he is now operating in the earth with the intention of leading mankind away from God and nothing is off limits including stealing, lying, killing and destruction. In the second chapter of Job we discover that Satan is patrolling the planet wreaking havoc but thank God is under the close watch and authority of God’s control. You see, it is true that the Lord made the world and is ultimately guiding according to His will but this does not mean He is predestinating every move. He has given free-will to the kings of this world which means they can devise and scheme all they want and this applies to political elections. If the people are wicked and want to elect evil people to lead them then God allows it because in the end we see that as Christians we DID NOT change the world into a better place The world is sadly heading toward a devastating judgment that is already recorded because the people chose evil.

Next we see the devil has been given the title as “Prince and power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2, “Wherein times past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the “prince and power of the air” the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” And is mentioned in II Corinthians 4:4 as “the god of this world,” “In whom the “god of this world” has blinded the minds of them which do NOT believe unless the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God should shine unto them.” So, we know there is a GLOBAL principality in high places led by the devil and his demons for the purpose stealing souls. Do we really think that we are going to elect someone to be president and they are going to be able to change the course of this world? Do we actually believe that Satan will allow any person or political party to disrupt his agenda? Did we forget about the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and the Moon hoax? Those who are elected will continue to be influenced by the kingdom of darkness along with the anti-christ and false prophet that is waiting behind stage so the serpents purpose can be fulfilled. This power of the airwaves is one of the most significant revelations that we can draw from in this last hour. We must realize that most all of what we drink into our mind comes from the airwaves and these are owned and controlled by Satan. It would not take a genius to know that we are being constantly bombarded by propaganda that is designed as a military weapon against us. This fact should cause us to realize how important it is to NOT allow our sensitivity to be dulled to the point we cannot recognize deception.

So, going back to being great, were we great during the civil war when we killed each other over the right to own slaves among other issues? Was it something to be proud of when we would not allow black people to vote, ride public transportation, drink from a public water fountain or use a public restroom? Is it great to fight wars around the world and let our young people be killed and maimed so that certain powerful leaders could become wealthier? Were we a great nation when the government decided that women could openly and legally kill their babies just because they did not want them to which now over 50 million have been butchered? Were we great when our government banned the Bible and prayer from our public education system and now the hallways are filled with violence and perversion? The Roman Empire and others that are considered “great” kingdoms were ALL ruined by Satan. Maybe there were times in our history when things were great but I cannot pinpoint exactly when this was. The freedoms and liberties that are held in high regard has actually caused the fall of this nation because it gave the freedom to SIN! When people are allowed to freely demonstrate the darkness of their heart – society implodes!

Jesus came to rescue the world and the United States is a perfect example of a blind and lost civilization. We have suffered poverty and depressions yet many have worked hard trying to make an honest living. As we have experienced growth and development, the opportunities of wealth have been distributed but along with the advancement of technology we have also unfortunately seen a decline in morality and spiritual sensitivity. Politicians realize that people love money and most of their promises are pointed toward increasing and protecting wealth that is a huge part of the American dream. The masses are gullible in this area and will many times follow whoever will promise them the most gain no matter what the candidate’s character, belief system or track record. I have heard people say (even Christians) they do not care about who the candidate is as long as they will help them become wealthier under their administration. I am confident that people would vote for Satan if they thought it would give them more pleasure and the description of the anti-christ proves this will actually happen. This is not praying or being led by God in our voting but is carnal selfishness which is why our country is in the mess it is in!

The Laodicean model found in Revelation chapter three applies to anyone in general but we can definitely use this country as an example of what happens when people love their flesh more than they respect God. It would seem that since they are so focused on themselves they would be able to SEE the obvious truth but actually it is the opposite because there are two different types of vision – the natural eyes and the spiritual eyes. The person who only uses their natural eyes is limited to the material world and how GREAT they are or can be. Verse 17 declares that God’s true reality sees them as wretched, miserable, poor, naked and blind. Those whose spiritual eyes have been opened realize that God is calling His people to COME OUT from the world’s system and become focused on His business. Politics is a hopeless entanglement with the dark chaos of demon persuasions and will never be the solution to the real cause of our problem – SIN!

OUR FIRST LOVE

PART 17

WE WILL REAP WHAT WE HAVE SOWN

Our gracious Lord is always filled with genius ways of trying to get His point across – this is another reason we know He is the infinitely wise God. Human nature has a tendency to “float down the river” so to speak, when it comes to our everyday life and when things are going well we seldom find ourselves crying out to Him in desperation. It is in the times of frustration, crisis and discouragement that we wander around feeling sorry for ourselves and after we have exhausted everything and everyone we can think of, we finally turn to God and ask; “what is wrong and why is this happening?” This is also the place where things can become tricky. There is a huge difference between wanting God to “fix” our problems so that we can get back on track and quite another to willingly volunteer to take a thorough inventory of our heart and allow Him to change the way we are. Most of the time we feel that “WE” have been rejected and wounded and that surely He feels sorry for us especially with how cruel and uncaring everyone is toward us (boo-hoo). However, if we are determined to seriously find the truth no matter how painful it may be – our conclusions might not turn out the way we imagined.

You see, it does not really matter how we are wired or even our generational curses, these are just facts about the way we are – so what? Jesus said that we all must become transformed and changed by having our minds renewed and if we choose to live in rebellion we will suffer the consequences. If we have “major” problems this just means, we have lots of praying and changing to do! This does not mean that God will give us a free-pass or take into consideration that we were influenced to participate in a dysfunctional mess – He knows all about it! The life of a remnant disciple was never to be easy because it requires us to “invite” Him to empty all of our distorted thoughts, reasons, ideas, excuses, arguments, and sinful negative attitudes into the garbage and be re-filled with HIS desires, ideas and plans. In short, this is called surrendering our will – and accepting His will. (That is a tall order) AND, it does not matter how much we do or how good we can do it, if our foundation is not built with humility, love, sincerity and holiness – our labor is in vain. Every time I get all worked up about being rejected and not respected, I end up grinding to a halt, crying and falling on my face with doubt and discouragement. Then, (in agony) He and I go through the reasons one more time. Evidently He is hoping that repetition will bring revelation and eventually I will “get it!”

I am reminded of Moses and how the people continued in a vicious cycle of rebellion and disobedience all those years and then I look in the mirror and sadly see the same thing happening in my life. I realize once again that within my hard-headed carnality, I am my own worst enemy. After years of learning and preparing I have been more concerned with telling others how to live instead of applying the messages to my own life. God avoids the proud and until I can get over myself, I will remain sitting at my desk writing about spiritual information more than actually exercising or experiencing it. Here is a sobering passage that all of us could tape to our desk, “Ever learning, yet never able to come to the knowledge (revelation) of the truth.” (II Timothy 3:7) Even more sad than me not incorporating His truth into my life is the realization that unless the religious world begins to cry out for revival, the churches will remain stagnant and cold.

As we have mentioned many times, we know there are masses of people out there who consider themselves Christians because they have read some Bible verses. I am sorry to say, the idea is not how many you have read but how many you have incorporated into your life! There are pastors, teachers, deacons, song leaders and musicians that are lost and do not know it. Yes, the Bible is alive and active but like an electrical appliance it has to be plugged in to work. God’s Word must become more than ink and paper to our heart and soul or it will be just another religious history book.

There is something I have been wanting to share lately and it has been on my heart. As many of you know, I have been going into nursing homes on a regular basis for a while. I have participated in prison and other outreach ministries throughout my life but in the last few years since I have retired, I have been going several times per week. I am a volunteer chaplain at a Veterans center and I also visit other facilities each week and provide Bible studies and music. I love to make new friends and spend time with those who are lonely. One thing I have noticed in my experiences is that things are not always the way they seem. I have listened to these individuals as they pour out their life stories and many times I am confused because many of them have no visitors. However, if you listen carefully you will begin to understand that though they appear innocent in their frailty, they have not always been the kind of person you would have expected.

In many cases, the ones that have been loving are appreciated and honored and those that have been “mean” in their life are now being avoided. As you walk down the halls and see the misery of human suffering, it is upsetting but also wise to remember that loved ones who have been crushed and deeply wounded by these individuals are not as forgiving as maybe they should be. God does everything He can to help us be the person we need to be but if we live a carnal life and do it our way, which includes burning a lot of bridges – we will suffer loss. (Sometimes loneliness is reaping bad seed). I try to relay to older people that even though it may be too late to repair a damaged past, it is never too late to ask God to forgive us and get right with Him. The consequences of our actions can bring much comfort and joy OR they can come back and haunt us and even in forgiveness and healing, the “scars” remind us of the wages of sin. The true person we are today – will be the person that is always remembered.

OUR FIRST LOVE   4/18/16

PART 16

THE CROSS AND THE THRONE

My message this week is short but to the point. I feel within my soul a great urgency. I sense that many Christians are being herded like cattle and must wake up now! The political scene should be an indicator of how strong the world is trying to influence the way we think. The sad part about politics is that much of the time the enemy plays on our emotions and Christians easily forget who they are and what God is saying. Humans are easily distracted and just because they go to church does not mean they are representatives of God’s Kingdom. The average so called Christian is so filled with carnality and sin they would not recognize the Holy Spirit if He was right in front of them. We wonder why the world is in such a chaotic shape – it’s because there are only a handful of remnant disciples that want to know God.

You know, I really do not enjoy being critical of the church because I realize it is very difficult and the problems are on both sides of the fence. Many ministers do not hear from God and this suits the backslidden members just fine. Pop psychology and a politically correct video presentation might draw a crowd but is it what God is saying? Is what we are seeing and hearing – what God wants? It is HIS church and He demands to have liberty to act and speak. Many pastors are convinced it is their church and they choose to control it the way they desire but there are consequences to NOT listening to the Holy Spirit. God pulls away from such places and is angry and offended at these arrogant attitudes. We do not sense His presence because He is not there and He is not impressed with our clever comfortable programs.

As a worship leader myself, I know the difference between singing songs and true worship and much of the time it is more of a concert than worship. It is difficult to be comforted or to give thanks to God if the band only wants to play songs to show how good they can perform. True worship is becoming a broken vessel that follows the direction of the Holy Spirit (even if it is strange) which releases God’s power and anointing. It is NOT about delivering sound – it is being His instrument! There are only a few people that I know who understand what I am saying and it is a growing sadness to realize the religious world does not know the difference.

Churches without the Holy Spirit have become a deadly plague. We read about men of God who would preach and you could feel God’s presence. People were saved and the church prayed at the alters but when is the last time you have seen people stirred and weeping at church? Instead of burning messages about the gospel or having a burden for the lost, in today’s culture it’s all about making people “feel good” and telling them its OK to live however they want. When heathens and hypocrites can come into a church and feel relaxed – something is terribly wrong. Obviously humans are not threatened by religion because churches are everywhere, however when the subject turns to sacrificing the will, the people grumble and complain about the lifestyle being too difficult and the next thing you know they are going to the church down the street that does NOT talk about the presence of the Holy Ghost! If you want to see who really has a personal relationship with Jesus just start a sermon series about intercessory prayer and becoming involved with outreach ministry. A remnant means a “piece” as in a small section of material and it is a fact that in the midst of a huge amount of spectators there are only a handful of participators. Everyone in the religious world is willing! The five percent are willing to be obedient to God and do His will – and the ninety five percent are willing to let them do it! The broad way of destruction that is mentioned in Matthew 7:13 is not only talking about the evil people who are possessed by demons. It is also referring to the religious folk who think they are saved but have never been born-again.

The Holy Spirit is the fire of God’s holiness for the purpose of burning away sin and “purifying” the conscience so that Christ can live within our temple. Do you really believe Jesus is going to live in a dark and sin-filled heart? There is a cross and a throne in the deepest part of our being and we cannot be in both places at the same time. When we take up our cross we surrender our throne which allows Jesus to be seated in our life as Lord and King. How easy it is to remain seated as the independent decision maker. We can talk about the cross all day long and never become personally attached to it. I have wrote about this many times because it is the most important decision of our life. We will never become what Christ died for us to be until we embrace the truth about surrendering our will. It is NOT about how cruel and ruthless Satan attacks us. It is NOT about what a hard life we have experienced and the bad fortune we have encountered. It is about obedience and being faithful to His Word. Amen!

Our will is very fierce and ready to fight against anyone who threatens our control. What is being avoided from the pulpits are the consequences of Christians who deny Christ to be the Lord of their life. When we refuse the cross we also refuse the covenant vow to present our bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto the Lord. We cannot skip over the reality that salvation is based on the blood covenant which not only rescues us from sin but also guides us into a new way of thinking. With our spirit being transformed into a brand new creation we become a child of God and accountable to obey His voice. When Jesus repeatedly said to the Father, “not My will but Thy will be done” He was showing us that if we are not surrendering our will – we do not understand about being saved. We are purchased with the price that Christ paid on the cross in order to believe and receive this awesome opportunity to live for God. Presuming the Almighty is only “suggesting” a total dedication and commitment to His commands is bluntly disrespecting Him and playing ourselves as a fool.

Yes, we are NOT going to be perfect and unfortunately we make a lot of mistakes. And it’s true we are weak humans that fail but by God’s grace and long-suffering, He helps us to learn and develop in this journey. The point is that as we discover what He wants us to be, we are also faced with deciding just how much we will do! The consequences for ignoring the Holy Spirit is a holy truth that is being considered old-fashioned and sadly becoming extinct.

OUR FIRST LOVE   4/11/16

PART 15

PRAYING LIKE WE MEAN IT

Prayer and faith are two of the most popular subjects in the life of a Christian and are crucial lines of communication with Him. These are pillars within our theological view that categorize us as a unique brand of Monotheism. This is a word that means we believe in one God and that He monitors and is closely involved in our affairs. Deism on the other hand believes there is at least one God and there is no divine intervention with creation but rather everything is left to chance (or what some call providence) which definitely cancels the idea of spending a lot of time in prayer. Deism is NOT found in the Bible and is contrary to the “personal relationship” concept that allows God and man to walk together in constant communion. This view leans heavily toward humanism that solely depends on rational ways of solving human problems. I have heard people present their arguments that there is no such thing as absolute truth but thank God that He has given understanding to those who seek Him and has revealed that absolute truth does exist especially about topics such as this. We can “know” today through His Word that the Lord lives inside of us, is all around us and very interested in our thoughts, lifestyles and situations.

The general consensus within the Christian world is that spiritual people pray the most and those who are on the outside looking in, are not really interested that much. What I have always found amazing is that people who are church members are not always your most spiritual individuals. Religiously simply means something we do on a regular basis and this can include anything from mowing the yard to attending a local assembly. Many have never realized that the CHURCH is the universal body of Christ that includes every born-again person on earth. The name of the local assembly has very little to do with how they stand with God’s truth. Some believe they are the only ones that are true and that everyone else is hopelessly doomed which is arrogance and blindness. The good news is that since THE CHURCH IS THE BELIEVER, truth or error is judged within each individual – not an organization. Going to a local assembly is wonderful if the Holy Spirit is there and the Word of God is being taught however, it was never intended to be a substitute for our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I keep returning to the local assembly because I am convinced that much of what has been taught has distorted and confused the people and has done much damage to the cause of Christ.

Since many Christians do not read the Bible but rather depend on others to teach them, we can clearly see why many are walking around without a clue about what is true. Now brother, how do you know that? Because I am around them and listen to them every day and whether we choose to believe it or not this is a tragic reality and the main reason our nation is in the shape it is. You see, there is a huge difference between building your life around God and squeezing Him into your busy schedule. Many run to church and get their squirt of gospel and run out the door to do all the other things they have planned because their lives are FILLED from morning to bedtime. The same way that Mary and Joseph were turned away and not given a room in Bethlehem because it was so CROWDED likewise our life can become so heavy laden with OUR plans that we have no time for God. Many church goers today do not really think about Jesus again until the next week and sometimes will not hesitate to skip several weeks. I’m not sure what this is but it’s NOT the Lords idea of being a disciple. Do we need revival? Lord please help us! But brother, at least I get ready and make the effort to go once a week. You could also walk into a horse barn every day but that would not make you a horse. Here is a timely quote by Billy Sunday; “A revival does two things. First, it returns the people from backsliding and second, it ignites the conversations of men and women and always includes the conviction of sin. What a spell the devil seems to have over the church today!”

When we talk about prayer, most people think of asking for things we want or need. It would be interesting to know the percentage of petitions that are spoken concerning OUR desires versus how much we pray for others. Love, which is the strongest pillar of our foundation, is the basis of prayer. Going back to the absolute truths, we can say there is no prayer without love. Jesus prayed to the Father because He loved Him and loved us and now we pray to God because we love Him and love others. When there is a shortage of prayer there is automatically a shortage of love and wherever love falls down the priority list, we know from I Corinthians chapter 13 that the anointing and power has been removed. Yes, God will remove His presence from an assembly if they have lost their first love and turned away from His holiness. If you want to know if a local assembly is on fire with the passion and zeal of God, you can observe the time and attention they are applying to prayer. Local assemblies that emphasize music, entertainment, activities and food have fallen into the deception of turning God’s war-room into a lethargic social gathering. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple because they had turned His Father’s house of prayer into a den of thieves. It is not being critical of the assemblies when we judge what they are doing and why they are doing it. Judgment begins at the house of God because His people have been called and commissioned to be extremely serious about living according to His ways, “For the time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it begins with us, what shall happen to them that do not obey the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (I Peter 4:17-18).

We can go through the formalities of prayer and we can bring out our journals and our lists of confessions but I say to you this day that God is not obligated in any way whatsoever to grant us our petitions just because we raise our voices to Him. Many have been taught how to say the words but have never been enlightened to the revelation of living holy before Him. Going through the motions of prayer while having major offenses imbedded within our conscience is a waste of time because God will not hear us. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will NOT hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) Where are the teachers and preachers that have been sent to feed the sheep and reveal the truths of God’s message? Why is this message not being preached? How many Christians realize that holiness and sanctification are the pillars for accepted and effective prayer? The reverence and holy fear of God’s presence has faded away from the local assemblies and has been replaced with laughing and joking and outrageous disrespect. Where is the modest apparel and moral decency for heaven’s sake? Why would the leadership of these assemblies allow the sanctuary of God’s designated place of worship to be shamed with lewd and improper behavior? Because sin is a plague that has infected the body of Christ in general. Since the masses have grown into a more liberal and casual view of God, they have lowered their standards of living for Him. The enemy has whispered his lies to the people that it does not matter what you look like, what you think, what you say or how you act – it’s all good. We must sound an alarm in God’s Holy Mountain with the message that it is NOT all good! A true Christian acts, thinks and talks like one and if they do not – something is wrong. All of the lukewarmness and humanism that has filled the hearts of the church members is the very problem that has ruined the assemblies.

We do not put the roof on before we build the walls and the same is true when it comes to prayer. We must become a Christian first before we start asking God for blessings or our prayers will go no further than the ceiling. Why? Prayer is about covenant and is a part of the gift of salvation. If God was like a genie in a magical lamp, then anyone could rub the lamp and receive their wish but this is NOT how God operates. The lost do not know how to pray or what to pray for. God is very sensitive to what he hears and how He responds. Listen to a quote from David Jeremiah, “Prayer is the way to defeat the devil, reach the lost, restore a backslider, strengthen the saints, send missionaries out, heal the sick, accomplish the impossible and know the will of God.”It is only the remnant disciple that has the connection with God’s Spirit and knows His will.

Yes, we all sin with failures and mistakes and these type of “heart infections” separate us from God and break our fellowship but a Christian is a child of God and has the privilege and right to ask their heavenly Father to forgive us and create in them a clean heart. This is different from a lost person who is blind and do not have a clue to who God is. And there are many who believe they are saved but have never been transformed which is how they can continue to have intentional, deliberate sin and not be broken with guilt by the Holy Spirit. If someone has never stopped living in intentional sin, this is a defiant rebellion that reveals a serious problem. Truthfully, many who call themselves a follower of Christ – need to be born-again.

Prayer is not just to ask for things but is an agreement to listen, submit and cooperate with what God is trying to do within us! If we have our own plans and desires and attempt to use prayer as a way to force God to accept and activate our request – we are sadly mistaken. Prayer is all about surrender – not telling God what to do. I close with this quote from Clovis G. Chappel, “Whenever we make up our mind to refuse to go where God wants us to go and do whatever He wants us to do, we must also realize that we are renouncing His friendship. We cannot walk with Him and at the same time be in rebellion against Him. It is offensive and a mockery to say “Lord, Lord” and then blatantly refuse to do the things He is commanding us to do.”

OUR FIRST LOVE   4/3/16

PART 14

FOLLOWERS ARE MINISTERS

When a person feels the call to ministry, there are many questions that arise. This statement is not really all that strange until one begins to consider just who we are talking about. It has never been completely realized or accepted among the religious masses that every Christian has been called into full time service for the Lord but it makes no sense to be a devoted follower and yet not acknowledge the responsibility to serve. When we are born-again we are given a destiny filled with gifts and callings that are used by God to accomplish His will and to ignore His plan for our life is blatant rebellion. Our old nature has been more than willing to shape and reaffirm the idea that all “official” ministry is the job of hired clergy (?). This excuse (among several others) has caused much deception and has ultimately hindered the body of Christ from becoming what Jesus intends for it to be.

Christians that are still led by their flesh are always looking for ways to escape work and when faced with accountability they are known to slip out the back door quietly. Sadly, our lack of solid spiritual education along with the lack of self-discipline has produced a church model that is all about looking good on the outside but tragically anemic when it comes to walking in God’s Spirit. This is all too familiar as we are reminded that Jesus rebuked the religious world when He walked the earth for exactly the same attitude. Yes, there are layers and levels of spiritual development and each individual can be uniquely measured in a way that only God knows and this is fine as long as we are advancing and progressing toward a purpose. However, most Christians do not sense the urgent need to learn and be trained how to become a minister. They believe it is perfectly alright to rest in the security of knowing that their seat in heaven has been paid for and the idea of dropping a few dollars in the offering plate to help finance someone else to do the work of the ministry is in their view being a “team player.” How alarming and yet we realize this is the reality of the way Christians think. What would it take to wake up the sleeping giant and create a spiritual awareness within the church?

Let us return to our original statement and focus on those who are being convicted by the Holy Spirit to step out by faith and fulfill their spiritual destiny. It is true there are specific callings and offices within the church and the Kingdom of God. There are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers and the charismatic and evangelical Christian church believes these specific positions are given by God to certain individuals to perform His work and are often called the 5-fold ministry. It is true that some of these can overlap as for example it is common for a pastor to teach and be evangelical and some may also function as an apostle and prophet. While it is true that every Christian has not been called to be a pastor, this does not mean that each born-again child of God should not understand the true meaning of ministry and their particular calling. Salvation is not just a “one way street” where we are rescued and redeemed and then we go back to living the way we want. The blood covenant of Jesus is the “contract” that explains the true definition of a disciple. It is all about knowing what God is trying to teach us and then becoming accountable to do what He says.

An example of our twisted thoughts about ministry can be seen within the idea of soul-winning and evangelism. A church member might give a few dollars to a missionary in Brazil and never consider the idea that they have also been called as a full-time missionary every where they go. When I say “full-time” many people think on the terms of quitting their job and only concentrating on mission work. This may be one way to look at it and their certainly are people who do this but the truth is that every Christian should be constantly aware of God’s voice and the possibility of encountering a divine appointment any moment. A divine appointment is when God arranges situations behind the scenes that allow His people to be used by Him as an instrument to do His will. This includes making sure that Jesus is being seen in our life and for us to be sensitive about sharing God’s love with anyone we meet. You see, there are many things we have been commanded to do! Being a disciple is not optional…God is waiting for us to pray without ceasing and to love others as much as we love ourselves but our flesh is usually so much in control that we hardly think about it. These are examples of the sin of omission.

OK, let’s say you are a Christian and you feel that God has chosen you to do some type of ministry for His Kingdom. Many times when we are young and feel the Lord pulling on our heart we begin to ponder about how we can become prepared to serve. It seems in our society that going to Seminary is a traditional way of declaring that we are serious about this direction and most people do accept the idea that training or a degree opens doors and proves that we know what we are talking about. I admit that learning is a wonderful way to obtain knowledge as long as we realize that knowledge without spiritual wisdom is just a collection of facts. I do not condemn going to College and Seminary but there are many highly effective ministers that do not have any degrees at all. Praise God! They have been taught directly by the Holy Spirit and have sacrificially made the vital spiritual connection between their mind and the mind of God. Pray and ask the Lord if He is the one who is leading you to Seminary or is this something “you” desire for recognition, respect or money? A degree is NOT necessary to preach, give or help others! Amen! It would be better for you to NOT go to Seminary and live humble so that your anointing would be strong than for you to become so proud of your degrees that your ministry is powerless and ineffective! But the anointing which you have received of Him (God) abides IN YOU, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you and is truth, and is no lie and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in Him.” (I John 2:27)

I interviewed a very nice couple today that organizes a ministry that feeds the hungry every Saturday here in my hometown. They are allowed to use the church facilities and have a heart for serving all people in the name of Jesus. I am going to write a column for the newspaper about this wonderful outreach as I know and have seen this is a great work for God. Last week they served 348 meals and the food is home-cooked and of the highest quality. They do not preach or try to force people to become a church member, they are just trying to love people and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. They are not being paid and the church is not supporting this, they operate with volunteers from all over and donations from those who hear the call of God to give. In this day and age it is good to see laborers willing to get off the couch and obey the still small voice of Christ. If all of God’s people would just simply do what He has called them to do it would change the world. May we realize that in God’s eyes that if we claim to be a full-time follower we are also considered a full time minister.

OUR FIRST LOVE   3/27/16

part 13

THE WONDERS OF HIS PRESENCE

It is such peace and a feeling of awe to recognize the power of our Lord Jesus and the love and beauty of His presence. However, within the thoughts and dreams of heavenly bliss and the glorious mysteries of the spiritual realm as true as they are – they are not without stipulations. Of course God is love and desires that everyone reach out with childlike faith and embrace Him but on the other hand His principals and character cannot compromise His perfection. God is infinite truth within His holiness and the more pure and holy we are – the closer we can be to Him. The more filled with carnality we choose to be, the more distant we find ourselves from Him. So, I would not be revealing the entire truth if I failed to mention that the life of freedom and joy in His presence is conditional upon our sanctification. It is sin that keeps our spiritual eyes blinded and our heart distant, darkened, restless and heavy. Until we abandon our will and let go of our independence and humanistic agenda, our intentional rebellion will continue to make us miserable and subject to His judgment. Our sin will lead us into empty religious attitudes and becoming lukewarm which He will never pleased with. If we are so heavily “drugged” and deceived by the control of our flesh it will not be possible to enjoy the blessings that come with walking in His Spirit. When we allow our heart to become hard and dry with worldly lusts, we lose the sensitivity that is needed to hear His voice and discern His wisdom. However, if we will yield to His love, His mercy and grace will empower, persuade and convict us to repent and in turn He will forgive and restore us so that we can be made presentable to Him. If we remain determined to continue in this relationship and allow His Word to become saturated into our thoughts, our mind will become renewed and will absolutely change who we are.

Allow me to ask you a question; have you ever been in the presence of God? Well, brother I think so, I’m not sure, how would I know? Well, if you have been born again, your spirit has been birthed from Him and now you are directly connected to Him. Whenever a person receives Christ, there is a blood-line bond between the spirit of the child and the Spirit of the Father but the “potential” of how close they become depends on how willing the child responds. When we pray, meditate and confess His Word and worship Him as our Lord on a daily basis, we can sense the presence of His person because we have His “DNA” identification. It is awesome to know that since He lives “IN US” we can walk through the forest or along the beach, and feel His presence because He is there! We may not be able to actually see Him but we can feel His presence all over us and inside of us and this is truly the best feeling on earth.

When we are born-again He not only transforms our spirit but literally moves into our heart and if given the OK by our will, He sits on the throne of our conscience where He desires to lead and have authority over our life. In this thought, we realize that it is easy for Him to speak to us and influence our mind from the “INSIDE” but unfortunately this is where the old free-will continues to hang around and argue about who is in control. Most of the time our carnal nature is so strong it will attack our mind with a fierce resistance trying to influence us to turn away from God’s voice. If it was up to our mind and carnality to decide when to worship God or pray – we never would! It is only the determination of the transformed spirit and renewed mind working in cooperation together that decides to be with God and is ready to obey whatever He is saying. We are always hearing about being “filled” with God’s Holy Spirit, but in order for that to happen we must empty our heart of all the garbage, lies, excuses and sin and most importantly – we must remove ourselves from being the master as there is only room for one king upon our throne.

Until a person receives the revelation of learning how to walk and abide in God’s Spirit, they will step right past Jesus and never recognize Him. It takes spiritual antennas that are up and the transmitter must be dialed on the right station in order to pick up the channel clearly. Many have NOT been motivated to read, study, intercede, worship, develop faith, do His works or speak positive confessions, in order to get on the same page with God’s will. Most have not been taught or “challenged” about simple things like praying before they go to church so they we can receive God’s Word or to pray every day that they might be anointed in a divine appointment with someone who may need help. How many pray for the pastor, the worship leader, the musicians, or the teachers before they even enter into the church? For that matter how many Christians pray each morning that God will guide them in the sensitivity of His voice throughout the day? The same is true with how many Christians have never learned the importance of “living” in a awareness of worship. How many live with an expectation for God to perform a miracle or that souls would be saved and how many pray that faith will ARISE within the congregation so that a Holy Ghost fire of repentance, renewal, zeal and dedication will burst forth? If we live without a bold confidence and positive expectation that God is going to move, we are getting exactly what we are anticipating! Amen! No wonder the churches are stagnant. There is not enough prayer!

One of the largest obstacles in evangelism is the failure of Christians to realize that God wants to use US to help the needy and preach the gospel of repentance. Jesus gave all of His heart to us so that we could give all of our heart to Him. Transforming us in every way is “total salvation” and the reason why Jesus came and died! In obedience to this testament agreement, our sacrifice is to surrender our old nature so that He can fill us with His nature. This is the heart of the covenant he made with whosoever would believe in Him and is the beautiful foundation of our faith. Within the concept of Him becoming our Master and LORD is the realization of our responsibility as His servants. This is where the Christian life goes from doing whatever WE want to doing whatever HE wants and reveals the true meaning of worship! Sadly, this also explains why hardly anyone is interested.

OUR FIRST LOVE  3/19/16

PART 12

EASTER – JESUS – OR BOTH?

Throughout my life I can remember that Easter has been heavily influenced by the nice acceptable thoughts of new clothes, delicious feasts, rabbits, baskets of candy and the innocence of children searching for painted eggs. However, within the mission of Jesus Christ we realize that His destiny was to be tortured and brutally killed and how this sobering story is focused on blood and suffering so I can understand why loving, caring parents attempt to disguise and soften the occasion. It is not my intention to criticize how families celebrate their festivities but rather to observe how easy it is to miss the reason for the season. Our holidays are such a mixture of various cultural traditions that I would hope Christians remain focused on the true meaning of this most important event. By the way, I often wonder why many have the attitude about the cross being offensive and disturbing but do not seem to care about protecting their children from the violence of brutal movies and video games.

I believe that most people have a general understanding about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus but not everyone has accepted this demonstration of love and mercy into their life. Even non-Christians celebrate some form of this spiritual event but similar to Christmas again we find that a person does not have to be a follower of Christ to participate in the merriment. Not to keep harping on the pagan rituals but this is why it is important to point out the strategies behind these enjoyable additions to our holidays and expose how their intentions are to distract people away from the spiritual examination of their own heart which is the entire point. Oh brother Billy, you are being hyper fanatical! Well, would it not be a shame for someone to openly celebrate how God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and yet never actually receive Him or accept Him as the Lord of their life?

In the Bible, we discover many names and titles for Jesus Christ like Messiah, Light of the world, Rabbi and Emmanuel but when it comes to acknowledging what He accomplished on the cross we are introduced to the “Lamb of God.” Since most of us are not Jewish and very few are familiar with the significance of this symbolism we discover how the people of that day identified and understood the relationship with a lamb because their world was filled with blood sacrifices. The killing of innocent animals for the covering of sin was very common and began when Adam and Eve sinned and continued with the pass-over when each house painted the doorways with blood all the way up to when Jesus became the ultimate offering once and for all. But instead of temporarily covering the sins of the people Jesus as the Lamb that was slain, opened the door of forgiveness that can wash away our sins forever.

It is difficult to comprehend the miraculous details of salvation because of our limited mortal understanding but we can see that Jesus willingly gave Himself to be tortured for us as He looked beyond our fault and saw our need. But even within this great mystery of the endless compassion of God, we should at least pause and consider the details of the big picture of life and what He is offering to us. First of all, we are born in sin and hopelessly lost. Yes, God created us because He loved us and wanted to be with us but even if we are healthy and live a long life we are only talking about 100 years tops. You see, Our heavenly Father knew that without Jesus giving His perfect life as a sacrifice for our sins that people like us would die and go to hell. So, since the eternal destination of every soul is at stake, Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead is the most important subject we can discuss.

The gates of heaven have now been opened and Jesus has become the bridge so that whosoever will believe can cross over and have eternal life! Jesus paid for the sins of all those who would respond to this wonderful invitation and took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved. How important is it to accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life? Our eternal destination is at stake! Jesus hung on the cross while the judgment and wrath of God was poured out on Him (instead of us) and when we invite Christ into our heart by faith we become redeemed and set free from sin and can rejoice in knowing we are born-again and can live in heaven with Him forever. His love can change the world and His grace can save anyone who chooses to believe.

Everyone has an opinion about everything and I have one about the occasion we have been taught to call Easter. The name is taken from Ishtar who was a pagan goddess of fertility and who was celebrated during the spring solstice, the time of year when everything begins to grow and multiply. So, instead of participating in the traditional holiday, maybe we could have a day set aside called “chocolate bunny festival” where all those who want to celebrate spring could just focus on that along with the various pagan rituals that go along with it. And then there could be a crucifixion/resurrection week where Christians could concentrate, teach and remember the greatest event in the history of mankind. Blending them together causes me to have a strange feeling in my spirit and I believe Christ does not appreciate it either. We could do the same thing at Christmas time with having a Santa Clause festival for those who want that and a separate “incarnation” holy week that removes Jesus away from the lies about a man in a red suit that has powers like God. It just seems the ancient Israelite’s who celebrated the annual holy days that God consecrated would not allow other strange characters or influences to enter into the stories or to accept sharing the attention away from the purity and holiness of the original meanings. This is just an idea. May the Lord continue to give us wisdom and sensitivity in these troubling times.

OUR FIRST LOVE  3/12/16

PART 11

THE GREAT COMMISSION

What is an effective ministry? Is it a nice clean church facility with people who are dressed up and go out of their way to be friendly? Is it a minister that is a very good speaker, charismatic, confident, precise, and intellectual? Is it a worship band that is so talented that if you close your eyes you think you are listening to Christian radio? Well, all of these things could certainly be a part of a successful ministry but it can also slip into a routine of being technically perfect and artificially “plastic.” In today’s world there are companies that offer marketing and advertising ideas to congregations to implement church growth along with books on, “how to grow a mega church” with seeker friendly programs and videos about how to bring in more resources. I’m sure we all have room to improve but we also must not forget that Jesus is in charge of construction and is more concerned with quality than quantity. Man wants to polish the outside so that he can look good but God builds HIS Kingdom from the inside out! Bigger is not always better and when we stop leaning on the Holy Spirit and start depending on man-made ideas our programs will continue becoming even more artificial than already are! Why are many of today’s church leaders not interested in seeking God? It is very simple – because they do want to obey His voice! Sadly, many modern churches have become no more than elegant and impressive social clubs. Why? because they have ignored the vital ingredient that brings it to life – God Himself. When a church transforms from compassionate to corporate we might as well lock the doors and gather under a shade tree because God wants sincerity and a genuine sensitivity found only in those who desire to serve and know Jesus personally.

The individual who claims to be a witness and a living testimony for Christ is a representative that defends His Word and His cause. In the Christian faith, the walk must prove the talk or thoughts and opinions of hypocrisy will be concluded and in this light, the character and actions of the one who declares allegiance to Christ has the responsibility to live according to their convictions or face the consequence of being a detriment to the cause. Many would object the comparing of evangelism to “selling” a product or services but in all things we must examine the basic fundamentals and skills needed to be effective. Of course the Holy Spirit brings the power and dynamics to the connection but it is up to the individual to present themselves as a focused and sensitive instrument that is in the spiritual and practical position to be divinely used. Whether we like it or not when we willingly step into the arena to stand for the name of Christ we are immediately scrutinized and challenged just like if we were going door to door with a vacuum cleaner or a set of encyclopedias – and by the way – we need to know our product.

We realize that all Christians serve as ministers of the gospel and are being carefully observed, but especially those who are recognized as instructing others how to live. It becomes very noticeable (to those straining their eyes and ears) when leaders are not living the Christian life! In other words, we do not want to appear as a nutritionist that constantly eats Twinkies all day. If we are pleading with people to pray with more intensity and to worship more intimately and yet are not following our own words of wisdom, then we have become nothing more than a worn-out advertisement. A religious “salesperson” goes through the motions of explaining the message – but the spiritual disciple not only endorses the product but actually incorporates it into their personal life.

There are selling points and rules in the world of sales that are meant to promote success in the business world and at the heart of the Christian we would notice that evangelism would have to be the heart of the great commission as Jesus instructed His followers in Mathew 28:19, to “go and make disciples of all nations”. This has never been an option of our spiritual responsibility but rather a direct command to all who proclaim to be born again. In second Timothy 4:1-2, we see Paul teaching that evangelism would be one of the great challenges to God’s people and how necessary it will be to communicate God’s truth clearly in order to build hope and faith in God’s Word. Second Corinthians 5:18-20, “And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. That is to say, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Him, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”

So, when we look at the word reconciliation we see similar words to help explain the meaning like; harmonize, rectify, resolve, reunite, arbitrate, intercede, mediate and bring together. We get the basic idea that the Father sent Jesus to be the bridge between Him and His creation so they could once more be bonded together in a personal relationship. This great commission not only calls us to go into the entire world and preach the gospel but also to walk in sensitivity as the Lord leads us in divine appointments to touch the lives of the lost and hurting. Cold calls are alright but divine appointments are much better. Every spiritual “salesperson”, for better or

worse, has a distinct selling or ministry style. The most successful sales people (witnesses) are the ones who are aware of their gifts and the anointing of their calling. They know what they’re doing because they listen to God’s voice and obey Him. They prepare their presentation and use the strong points of their personality as a tool for the Lord to use. “Study to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (accurately handling and skillfully teaching) the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15) Let us do what God has specifically anointed us to do.

A strong, seasoned witness learns that trials are a part of the Christian life. Like an effective salesperson they have determination and are not a quitter. They can take any shot, any negative comment, any form of rejection and somehow use it to their advantage. The true follower of Christ does not shrink with intimidation, run in fear or surrender in defeat when they are scorned and have learned how to encourage themselves with God’s Word. Sure, they may have a bad day like everyone else but they know where to run to re-charge their batteries. They know who they are and who God is and as they recognize the spiritual realities they immediately take the conflict to the secret place of prayer. They realize that being a witness is a daily lifestyle and as the world observes their reaction to persecution (it may take a while for the scoffers to be convinced) their hearts become candidates to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Witnesses understand they are a sacrifice for the cause and have learned that as knowledge is the most valuable asset in the business world for success – it is also crucial in the spiritual world. The business world believes that if you know your subject inside and out that you have an advantage on everyone else in the room. Likewise if we know God and His Word along with the help of the Spirit’s anointing we will be equipped to discern and respond in the flow of God’s perfect will – “in season and out” of every situation and circumstance..

One more principal in the world of selling is there are two ways to convince people that your idea is valuable. You can tell them about it, or you can show them. Telling them is associated with a “sales pitch” which puts people on guard. Showing them is what everyone is looking for because it is the proof that backs a claim. When the Christian does a lot of talking about the product and service but fails to prove the claim, it is such a heart-breaking disappointment to the ones who believe and the ones who need Jesus. True disciples are growing weary of the traveling carnivals and side shows from those who blow in and blow out trying to take in as much money as possible. God is speaking to His messengers and they are the ones actually doing His ministry. People are hurting and wounded and long to be prayed for and have someone to apply the right medicine for their sickness. There are many souls all around us that need someone that can remember their names and their problems and will take the time to visit them. For too long we have depended on pastors to do the work of the ministry and we have been disappointed because it was not their job to do all of the ministry. It was every believers responsibility to be a minister and contribute to the work. The time of playing a religious church game is over! It is time to focus on JESUS! Disciples need leaders that really want to know them and how they feel and can sense what God is doing in their lives. They need a pastor who will seek God’s face until He hears from heaven but may they also realize that God is also calling them to do the same thing for others! The last day church will not be a religious assembly like we see today but will be smaller gatherings of serious believers that have come away from the empty organizations and have found the real meaning of of LOVE, compassion and genuine servant-hood.

Sincere believers will house the homeless, pray for the sick and with food pantries they will feed the hungry in the Name of Jesus. They will teach the Kingdom gospel and share ALL their resources because they have decided to lay down their life for the cause of Christ. They do not care about houses, careers, money or materialism because they are seeing, walking and living in the spiritual realm where God lives. They will trust each other, work together and worship in unity with a spirit of sacrifice and humility – just like the original disciples. May we seek the Lord today with all of our heart and listen carefully as He directs our path for tomorrow. Amen.

OUR FIRST LOVE   3/5/16

PART 10

GOSPEL BEFORE POLITICS

Politics: The activities associated with governing authority, especially within the arena of conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”

I am saddened by the attitudes of many Christians. Society is changing so rapidly and unfortunately the religious crowd is becoming so worldly it is easy to see how the anti-christ will gain popularity. Elections will not deliver or transform the lost condition of this nation because people love sin and candidates are more concerned with fame than prayer. There is much more to be concerned about than who sits in the oval office! Amen! Instead of trying to convince the government to believe our views, lets pray and ask God to help us do what He’s called us to do.

Should Christians support or endorse anyone that is not devoted to Jesus? I have always been under the impression that a Christian should not follow a person that is not a Christian. Why? Because people that do not follow Christ are following something other than divine truth. Whatever type of influence or even if it is our own brain, it would seem unwise to follow someone who is not following the Lord. God is perfect truth and always knows the answers so following Him would always be the correct decision. Maybe we should examine the word “follow” and instead use the word “acknowledge” when referring to recognizing and obeying human authority. For example; if there were 3 candidates for president and none of them believed in God would you still vote for the one that you thought was the most trusting or would you not vote at all? Good question but I would still vote. Why? The Bible says to obey the laws of the land within reason and respect the authority of those over us whether they are Godly people or not. For example, do we ignore a law enforcement officer that is trying to pull us over because we know he is not a Christian? No. People that are not a Christian are not necessarily evil in fact many are decent and intelligent, they are just spiritually blind. As a Christian, I lean toward someone who appears to know God but the bottom line is to always listen and obey the Lord’s voice. Are we to be friends with people that are not Christians? Well, how can the world see Christ in us if we are not around them? We read that Jesus was criticized for spending time and associating with the types of people the religious crowd stayed away from because He loved everyone and realized that He had come to save those who were lost – not to be prejudiced against them.

So, what about within the church when we discover that people are not living like we think they should? Here is an interesting and true story; I recently heard about a couple that has been visiting a church. They were friendly, appeared to be successful, normal and decent. After a few visits the man asked the pastor some questions about joining the church and in the conversation said that he owned a bar in the next town and evidently it was a profitable enterprise. In a private meeting with the church leadership this issue was brought up and it was agreed the couple could NOT join the church. The pastor told the man the verdict and yet he still attends and even gives money. So, this opens up some questions for me; if this person is not allowed to join the church then how could any of the members vote for a presidential candidate that owns a casino? Hmmm…furthermore, if alcohol association is the only reason to deny fellowship with someone, what about those who work the cash registers at grocery stores, drugstores and gas stations or who work in restaurants that serve alcohol? What about those who work in distilleries, distribution warehouses or who drive big rigs that transport liquor all over the country? I worked in the freight industry for 35 years and have probably handled millions of pounds of alcohol but does this mean I was wrong because I was a link in the availability chain? The same situation is noticed in the conservative churches where barley farmers grow and sell tobacco for cigarettes yet, the churches do not reject the tithes from the farmers and neither do they revoke their membership. Why? Hopefully because they realize it is wrong to play judge and jury with another person’s conscience. So, does the church have the right to excommunicate or withhold fellowship from someone? Maybe in some extreme cases, but I believe that God’s Word tempered with His love can accomplish His perfect will. Knowing what levels or degrees of sin deserve correction is a touchy subject but when judging and legalism becomes more important than the great commission any group can easily fall into political corruption. This is where the wealthy receive preferential treatment and secret sins of favoritism enable religious hypocrisy.

Have you listened carefully to all the political speeches and promises lately? The priorities of the candidates are up-side down and clearly expose the intentions and motives behind their plans. They want to discuss how THEY are going to solve the problems of this nation without ever mentioning receiving guidance from the Holy Spirit or giving God any glory at all. When anyone gets up and talks about how great THEY are, we can know the position of power and authority is all about them. There are plenty of ideas but very few solutions because all man can do in his weakness is sit and spin around in circles like the children of Israel did thousands of years ago trying to find the land of milk and honey. For some reason the masses are convinced that changing administrations is going to magically fix all the problems and give everyone exactly what they want. The problem is that most people do not KNOW what is best for them and do not even understand what they are talking about! For those who believe the propaganda that mankind can save himself allow me include that I have a wheelbarrow of cheap moon-rocks for sale!

Have you noticed that mankind and his genius way of leading the world into a utopian society have absolutely nothing to brag about so far? He fell from the Garden of Eden, has caused the world to be flooded with water by God’s wrath, and the reason why the cities of Sodom had to be destroyed by fire. He has polluted the Oceans, destroyed the animal kingdom, cut down the rain forest and aborted millions of innocent unborn children. Man has been evil in his hatred and prejudice against nationalities and religions and has been a war monger within the entire world slaughtering and destroying each other since time has begun. What on earth gives us hope that mankind knows what he is doing and can lead the earth into a New World Order that is filled with peace and love? Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing demon possessed leaders are leading the world into a fiery furnace of molten lava that will torture the lost spirit in the eternities of hell.

Today, the elusive Promised Land that everyone is dreaming about actually is not a literal land but rather is found within the heart of every person that has King Jesus as their Lord. Forget the American dream and embrace the holy of holies that is filled with the light and love of God’s eternal glory! The secret place of spiritual peace and rest is at the center of a personal, intimate relationship with the maker of all things and He is waiting for us in His private chambers. There is no such thing as a wonderful and glorious earthly kingdom where we all will agree and respect each other in peace and harmony. Why? Because the carnal conscience of humans are depraved and evil and the only thing that can even begin to transform anyone into a decent person is when they allow God to change their thinking! Would I be ridiculed and threatened for saying such things? Of course! This is the message the world hates because they do not know the living God! The world believes it can become great and powerful without needing any outside forces especially the God of the Bible because they are deceived and cannot see divine truth. When anyone operates from their own fleshly understanding they are immediately headed down a dead-end road toward failure and disappointment. Arrogance is the foundation of darkness and the world has always been saturated with sin and in need of the saving light of God’s grace.

As Christians we must stop diluting the truth of God. If we do not stop watering down what God is saying and allowing truth to be converted over into social correctness the world will not be able to know or see what His truth is. When we serve a glass of iced tea at least people can identify the flavor when they taste it. But if we pour it into a 55 gallon drum of water, the tea is dissolved. The enemy of our souls has a brilliant strategy to continue deceiving the lost by rounding the edges of spiritual communication until the meanings are vague. Instead of accepting the absolutes of God’s Word there is now a more politically correct explanation and justification that takes everything and everyone into special consideration. However, there is nowhere in the Bible that exposes Jesus as a politician that tried to compromise reality just to make everyone happy. He spoke the word plainly and bluntly and allowed the individual to embrace it or walk away. In today’s world the truth has been so corrected and modified in order to weaken its meaning there is not enough truth to bring conviction. There MUST be a pure (full-strength) message in order to produce a holy reverential fear of the Almighty! When we are sick, do we want a medicine that has been so diluted that it has no power to heal? The world is infected with sin, but how can there be repentance when the message is so flimsy and apologetic that it does not even keep their attention? It is sobering to realize that if the message of God is not activated within the life of any individual – they will NOT care if it is being preached or not! Until the Word is operating in the Christian they will NOT be concerned with the gospel. It is the power of the gospel generating within the person that increases the love and burden for others! Amen!

So, are we to overpower the system with our presentation of God’s will? If He tells us to! But if He does not give us these instructions, may we simply walk each moment in the sensitivity of His Spirit. Let us realize is the lost world can only understand the gospel – anything deeper is a foreign language. Why would we waste our time trying to explain to someone about divine truth when they do NOT have the ears to hear? It must be gospel BEFORE politics!

 

OUR FIRST LOVE   2/27/16

PART 9

HE IS WORTHY

 “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands; saying with a LOUD voice, worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12).

The love of God allows us to see a powerful story told in Luke chapter 19 when Jesus used a simple act of riding a colt into Jerusalem to paint a spiritual picture of one of the most important events in human history. His followers were excited with His teachings about the Kingdom of God and the supernatural manifestations they had witnessed. This small gathering in a tiny town was actually revealing Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and a type and shadow of His future return as the triumphant King of all Kings. Let us pick up the story in verse 32. “And they that were sent went their way, and found everything as He had said unto them. And as they were untying the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, why do you loose the colt? And they said, the Lord has need of him. And they brought him to Jesus: and they put their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as He went, they spread their clothes in the way” (verses 32-36).

Laying palm branches and their garments down on the ground as a path for Jesus as He rode into the city would be the equivalent of rolling out the red carpet so to speak for the arrival of a world-renowned dignitary. Verse 37 says, “And when He was come near, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the WHOLE multitude of the disciples began to REJOICE and praise God with a LOUD voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.” Can you picture the excitement, expectation, and exuberance? They are cheering just like people do when Prince William or the President of the United States comes around to shake hands. I can see bright eyes and smiling faces because their King is coming, and they are not ashamed to shout, jump, dance, and release their enthusiasm. So why are we not doing it now? Has anything changed? Absolutely NOT! He is the same as He has always been so obviously the problem is within our heart. What has happened to the excitement about the coming King? Where is the anticipation of His presence now? In verse 38 we notice what they were shouting: “Saying, blessed is the King that comes in the Name of the Lord: peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” What a perfect example of what an exhilarating worship service should be! Psalm 118, verse 28 says, “Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: Thou art my God, I will exalt thee.” These people were NOT ashamed to be identified with their Lord and Master. They did not care about who was watching (neighbors, bosses, storekeepers, friends, family); they were uninhibited, fearless, and overflowing with the kind of joy that all of us experienced when we first came to know Jesus. Amen! However, as we keep reading, we notice the supposedly wise elders of the religious world were watching from a distance and talking negatively among themselves. Verse 39, “And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Master, REBUKE your disciples.” It appears these leaders were insulted and maybe even embarrassed with the commotion and all the attention this gathering was causing over an independent, radical Bible teacher. Their arrogance is causing them to become very uncomfortable just like many church leaders feel today when someone gets too emotional in worship or too fanatical in their love for Jesus. Have you ever noticed when individuals become lost in the freedom and joy of adoring God and do not care what anyone thinks about them, that many who are NOT focused on the Lord will stare and make critical judgments against them?

Have you ever thought that Jesus could have played the role of a diplomat and responded to the Pharisees like this: “Yes you are right, this is an excitable bunch of extremists, and I do apologize for drawing so much attention to myself, and I agree that the laying down of clothes and palm branches was out of the ordinary, and I do realize it must be a bit awkward to hear them connect me with all those Messianic prophesies. Let me see if I can calm them down from acting so silly.” But of course He does nothing of the sort. Jesus knew the religious leaders were blind and did not comprehend and proceeded to declare a profound statement of truth that touches me deeply every time I think about it. Instead of trying to quench the excitement He affirms the crowd’s gestures of heartfelt respect and worship. He understood more than anyone else that the next few days were going to change the course of the world and open the bridge to heaven for all who would believe! Verse 40 says, “And he [Jesus] answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” All glory to His name forever! What an awesome vision of the power and Omniscience of The Almighty God who is worthy of all praise! Christ will be adored and exalted throughout all eternity as every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord!

Heaven never ceases to exalt and worship the God of infinite power and glory – and as citizens of heaven neither should we! May we never be influenced nor be persuaded by pride and the fear of man’s persecution that would prevent us from expressing our joy to the God of our salvation! Let us SHOUT His glorious attributes from the housetops because we love Him! He is worthy of all honor, allegiance, devotion, and reverence as we will praise Him with a timeless, imperishable, and unceasing love. “Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever amen” (Revelation chapter 7:12). “Lord, may I never be ashamed of you but join in the awareness of your constant presence as the seas and earth and sky bow before you. The mighty rushing of the wind roars with Your words of judgment, as the gentle breeze whispers Your peace. The lightning flashes Your awesome power and the thunder echoes Your omnipotence. The trees raise their branches to the heavens as they praise You and the waters like the voices of many choirs sing of Your endless authority and holiness. The warmness of the sun reminds us of Your eternal security, and the moon and stars like a trillion lit candles chase away the fear and darkness of the night. Help me to become bold in my love and fearless in my worship, amen.”

OUR FIRST LOVE   2/20/16

PART 8

GOD IS WITH US EVERY STEP OF THE WAY

Many have heard of Corrie Ten Boom the precious lady who loved Jesus and her powerful testimony about the agony she suffered. As a Dutch survivor of the Nazi Concentration Camps, and a lifelong missionary Corrie was a believer in facing tribulation. She was one of the many who were persecuted in the holocaust during World War II and as her Christian family was murdered before her eyes for trying to protect others, God led her through a series of tragedies that is difficult to imagine. This week I want to share a letter that she wrote in 1974 about how much of the Christian world is convinced that we are going to be excused from living by faith in times of future tribulation. I realize that her personal experiences have influenced her greatly but it is not only her life we are looking at. All through the ages we have seen Christians suffer and they are dying NOW in the name of the Jesus! Are we any better than they? Are not the souls gathered around God’s throne those who were martyred during the great tribulation? I know this is frightening to our emotions but why are we convinced in our spirit this will not be us?

There is much talk about the rapture and the coming tribulation. Many believe they have figured out all the details about these prophetic events but what if some of the calculations are not correct? I was raised under the teachings of a pre-tribulation rapture and I have listened to many friends and family over the years proclaiming that we could be caught away any second. This tickles our ears and causes us to look for the sky unfold like a scroll and reveal Christ coming to rescue His saints. However, if the timeline happens to fall later into the age and God’s people are allowed to experience the harsh violence of a world gone mad, we should also be PREPARED to walk in His presence and learn how to trust Him in the storm. I believe this letter is a word from God to us today. May we receive His us peace and understanding.

“The world is deathly ill. It is dying. The Great Physician has already signed the death certificate. Yet there is still a great work for Christians to do. They are to be streams of living water, channels of mercy to those who are still in the world. It is possible for them to do this because they are overcomers. Christians are ambassadors for Christ. They are representatives from Heaven to this dying world. And because of our presence here, things will change. My sister, Betsy, and I were in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck because we committed the crime of loving Jews. Seven hundred of us from Holland, France, Russia, Poland and Belgium were herded into a room built for two hundred. As far as I knew, Betsy and I were the only two representatives of Heaven in that room. We may have been the Lord’s only representatives in that place of hatred, yet because of our presence there, things changed. Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  We too, are to be overcomers – bringing the light of Jesus into a world filled with darkness and hate.

Sometimes I get frightened as I read the Bible, and as I look in this world and see all of the tribulation and persecution promised by the Bible coming true. Now I can tell you, though, if you too are afraid, that I have just read the last pages. I can now come to shouting “Hallelujah!” for I have found where it is written that Jesus said, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things: and I will be His God, and he shall be my son.” This is the future and hope of this world. Not that the world will survive – but that we shall be overcomers in the midst of a dying world. In the concentration camp, Betsy and I prayed that God would heal Betsy who was so weak and sick. “Yes, the Lord will heal me,” Betsy said with confidence. She died the next day and I could not understand it. They laid her thin body on the cold concrete floor along with all the other corpses of the women who died that day. It was hard for me to understand, to believe that God had a purpose for all that. Yet because of Betsy’s sacrifice and unwavering faith, today I am traveling all over the world telling people about Jesus.

There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution. In China, the Christians were told, “Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated – raptured.”  Then there came terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly, “We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes – to stand and not faint.”

I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it. We are next. Since I have already gone through prison for Jesus’ sake, and since I met the Bishop in China, now every time I read a good Bible scripture I think, “Hey, I can use that in the time of tribulation.” Then I write it down and learn it by heart.

When I was in the concentration camp, a place where only twenty percent of the women came out alive we tried to cheer each other up by saying, “Nothing could be any worse than today.” But we would find the next day was even worse. During this time a Bible verse that I had committed to memory gave me great hope and joy. “But and if you suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (I Peter 3:14). I found myself saying, “Hallelujah! Because I am suffering, Jesus is glorified!” In America, the churches sing, “Let the congregation escape tribulation” but in China and Africa the tribulation has already arrived. This last year alone more than two hundred thousand Christians were martyred in Africa. Now things like that never get into the newspapers because they cause bad political relations. But I know. I have been there. We need to think about that when we sit down in our nice houses with our nice clothes to eat our steak dinners. Many members of the Body of Christ are being tortured to death at this very moment, yet we continue right on as though we are all going to escape the tribulation.

Several years ago I was in Africa in a nation where a new government had come into power. The first night I was there some of the Christians were commanded to come to the police station to register. When they arrived they were arrested and that same night they were executed. The next day the same thing happened with other Christians. The third day it was the same. All the Christians in the district were being systematically murdered. The fourth day I was to speak in a little church. The people came, but they were filled with fear and tension. All during the service they were looking at each other, their eyes asking, “Will this one I am sitting beside be the next one killed? Will I be the next one?” The room was hot and stuffy with insects that came through the screen-less windows and swirled around the naked bulbs over the bare wooden benches. I told them a story out of my childhood. When I was a little girl, I went to my father and said, “Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Christ” Tell me, said father, when you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before? “No daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.” That is right, my father said, and so it is with God’s strength. Our heavenly Father knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will always supply all you need – just in time.”

My African friends were nodding and smiling. Suddenly a spirit of joy descended upon that church and the people began singing, “In the sweet, by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.” Later that week, half the congregation of that church was executed. I heard later that the other half was killed some months ago. But I must tell you something. I was so happy that the Lord used me to encourage these people, for unlike many of their leaders, I had the Word of God. I had been to the Bible and discovered that Jesus said He had not only overcome the world, but to all those who remained faithful to the end, He would give a crown of life.

How can we get ready for the persecution? First we need to feed on the Word of God, digest it, and make it a part of our being. This will mean disciplined Bible study each day as we not only memorize long passages of scripture, but put the principles to work in our lives. Next we need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not just the Jesus of yesterday, the Jesus of History, but the life-changing Jesus of today who is still alive and sitting at the right hand of God. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is no optional command of the Bible, it is absolutely necessary. Those early disciples could never have stood up under the persecution of the Jews and Romans had they not waited for Pentecost. Each of us needs our own personal Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We will never be able to stand in the tribulation without it.

In the coming persecution we must be ready to help each other and encourage each other. But we must not wait until the tribulation comes before starting. The fruit of the Spirit should be the dominant force of every Christian’s life. Many are fearful of the coming tribulation, they want to run. I, too, am a little bit afraid when I think that after all my eighty years, including the horrible Nazi concentration camp that I might have to go through the tribulation also. But then I read the Bible and I am glad. When I am weak, then I shall be strong, the Bible says. Betsy and I were prisoners for the Lord, we were so weak, but we received power because the Holy Spirit was on us. That mighty inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit helped us through. No, you will not be strong in yourself when the tribulation comes. Rather, you will be strong in the power of Him who will not forsake you. For seventy-six years I have known the Lord Jesus and not once has He ever left me, or let me down. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” for I know that to all who overcome, He shall give the crown of life. Praise His name forever!”

Amen! I am very touched and moved within my soul and appreciate her heart. I have also read her book “The hiding Place” as she gives a small glimpse into the world she has seen and experienced. She passed away in 1983 and lived a humble life under the mighty hand of God’s mercy and love and believed He opened her eyes to a deeper spiritual perspective. I was thinking that even though this letter is pointed toward the seven years of tribulation that is prophesied in Biblical eschatology, we can also apply the basic meaning of trials and challenging situations to other types of tribulations. I realize that sickness and disease can be a very scary valley to walk through because death has its share of concerns and sadness. The fears of having dementia as we grow older and if provisions became difficult to obtain could also be other issues to worry about. Whatever the cause for being anxious or the level of difficulty involved I believe as she explained that being close to God is our refuge and His Word as the anchor for our soul.

I refer back to the exchange between her and her father and the train ticket. The powerful illustration was that God knows what we will need before we even ask and will supply them as we have need of them. I believe this is how the martyrs have always been able to endure intense suffering as they crossed over from this life into the arms of Jesus. I trust with all of my heart that whatever happens from this time forward we will remember we are in the palms of His hands and will be with Him forever. If we are raptured tonight – Praise God! If we are called to help others in the times of violence and terrible sorrow, then let us roll up our sleeves and work for Him until He calls us home. I close with this promise of hope and encouragement.

“For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit choose to mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have NOT received the spirit of bondage again to fear but you have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him that we also be glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:13-18)

OUR FIRST LOVE    2/13/16

PART 7

WHAT ARE CHRISTIANS REFLECTING?

“If it be possible as much as within you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:8)

Christians are drawn to political issues because they believe they are the ones that should control the way people think. Unfortunately this is making the Christian faith more and more hated – not for the gospel’s sake, but rather for becoming more political than spiritual. Those who identify themselves as Christians are now known for dealing with social issues in a nasty way instead of what Jesus would do. They lash out angrily against taxes, the president, congress and anyone that does not share their world-views. They launch into aggressive attacks on issues such as immigration, gay marriage, health care and gun control as though they would gladly blow away anyone who disagrees. They portray themselves as the biggest supporters of war machines and corporate power and would celebrate if our country would bring a nuclear holocaust on much of the world even though Christ said, I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” What does this mean? You tell me! If we just stop for a moment and listen carefully to Christians talk, we can clearly see that their philosophies are about as far from Jesus as you can possibly imagine. (If you want to see a sickening glimpse of how wicked this country has become, do a web search of what the masses of good old boy, uneducated red-necks believe).

Once we start playing on the political field we need to remember it is the devil’s arena because he loves violence, destruction, hatred, lust, greed, unforgiveness and every dark and vile thought. Politics are notorious for being dirty, malicious, dishonorable and divisive which is why no one can trust it (and why we are called to keep out). But brother, we have to make laws and stand up for what is right! I’m not saying that laws are bad but have you noticed that somehow through the political process laws are manipulated from their original intent? Why? Because those in authority become possessed by the power of darkness in order to participate in the system of the beast. Do you believe there would be a supreme court if the devil did not allow it? Please listen to me carefully or you will misinterpret what I am saying. I am not implying that we should not stand up for what we know is right – I am saying we have not been called to spend ALL of our time trying to force others to believe the way we do. The theme of this year’s writings is called “our first love” and is a reminder that is it easy to fall away from what HE is calling us to do.

We are all unique individuals and most of us have definite convictions and opinions that we believe are the correct way of thinking. There is nothing wrong with this because it is the normal process of absorbing knowledge and making conclusions. However, our levels of passion about these views depend on how serious and concerned we allow them to be. The Lord Jesus was very passionate about what He believed and was willing to invest His life into it. This is the ultimate sacrifice because it is giving our ALL for the cause that we have placed as our highest priority. This allows us to SEE that God is calling His followers to know what they believe and also be willing to stand for it even unto death. But let us consider just what this is saying as well as what it is NOT saying. It is one thing to know what you believe and to not budge or compromise an inch – however it is another thing to impose, enforce, demand or decree your views upon someone else. Only God is perfect truth and we are to be constantly trying to be more like Him remembering to walk in humility and allowing Him to reflect HIS truth within us – not our own!

Can we tolerate others even though we do not believe they are right? Jesus tolerated the sinners and knew they were blind, yet he was being a light of truth for them to see. How much more effective we could be for the cause of Christ if we could “project” the love of Jesus without trying to convince them and persuade them with our arguments. Why can’t we just walk in His Spirit and let God teach everyone HIS way instead of us always trying to “prove” we are right? We are going to affect everyone one way or another and people are either going to be convicted by the Holy Spirit or they are going to walk away with a negative feeling of disappointment.

It used to be that the liberal media would at least tolerate the Christian faith – even if begrudgingly. Now the world tends to see Christianity as mentally ill because we are trying to fight them on a neutral platform – the flesh. Christianity as a faith is no longer renowned for “healing the broken-hearted and setting the captives free” or for the gospel of love that we proclaim. Yes, I know the lost will hate the truth as Jesus has already warned us they would but the world today desperately needs see an example of a GENUINE disciple of Christ. Instead of us being the catalyst for divine appointments we are now known for being angry, violent, agitating strife and bitterness which brings suspicion and distrust. One reason why many have lost confidence in electing candidates is because when you put them all together we cannot see any difference between them. This is what happens when anyone steps into an evil system and agrees to play by its rules – they will either be forced to become contaminated with sin and serve the system or be black-balled by the powers that control the process and be eliminated!

There is no such thing as compromising in secret deals and pass bills that are wrong just so we can try to help in other areas! How in the world could someone vote for something they disagree with just so they can have someone else vote for something they want? This is the heartbeat of politics and it is the definition of wearing a mask of deception and hypocrisy. Jesus refused to have anything to do with politics because He does NOT compromise with Satan and never will. He said, “My kingdom is NOT of this world” and His followers need to learn this revelation. Where does it say the early church was rebelling against Rome to establish a new government? Where does it say that Jesus was running for public office? Never! He was too busy preaching the gospel and this is exactly what we should be doing now! The world cannot be saved but those within our network can be influenced by how we live. Let us not become ineffective enemies toward the ones we are called to reach for the sake of trying to prove how smart we are.

OUR FIRST LOVE   2/7/16

PART 6

GUEST WRITER CONTRIBUTIONS

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you an expected end. Then ye shall call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hear you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I feel led to do something a little different this week, and share some thoughts from two different guest writers. The first one is a letter I received from my Uncle whom I love dearly and is a constant source of encouragement to me. We share our heart with one another regularly through email and discuss the Lord and the condition of the world and we are committed to each other in prayer. This recent letter spoke to me and was so filled with piercing truth that when I finished, I just sat and pondered for a while about how far we have fallen as a nation. He is in his seventies and I am in my fifties and sadly much of the decline that is mentioned here has happened in our lifetimes. Sometimes we forget how much has happened in such a short period of time because we are like the frog sitting in the pan on the stove. We have been so constantly bombarded with information that we become numb to how our country is slipping away from God. I wanted to share it with you so that it could minister to your spirit as truly there is much to pray for in this hour. The other article is from Leonard Ravenhill, a preacher and writer from Great Britain who moved to the U.S. in the 1950’s and held revival meetings around the country for many years.

THE EVOLUTION OF SIN – by R.C. Holland

“Today, America spends billions of dollars on space travel to the Moon, Mars and other planets for one primary reason…an ungodly attempt to disprove that God created the earth and the heavens.  Just imagine what these billions of wasted tax dollars could be doing to feed the impoverished, treat the disease-stricken, purify our air, water and soil, create jobs, educate our children, and balance our national debt. We teach the satanic theory of evolution in all our classrooms, but will not allow the truth of God’s creation inside our school doors.  We allow professors in our colleges to teach radical Islamic doctrine to our students, but the life of Christ and His plan of salvation are forbidden. We allow the Koran to be used as a teacher’s aide, but the Bible cannot be taught or explained. We use the name of Prophet Mohammed in the teaching of our children, but rarely mention the name of Jesus Christ. We allow every kind of sin imaginable to be printed inside the pages of our top ten best-selling books, but the Ten Commandments cannot be presented or displayed.

We allow the medium of television to indoctrinate the thoughts of our teenagers with filth, but rarely see wholesome programming that teaches them right from wrong. We allow the movie industry to perpetuate profanity, nudity and drugs, but we rarely see true historical films educating people on biblical stories. We allow Satan and sin to dominate the Internet that controls our young people’s lives, but we won’t allow prayer in the classroom. We allow sex to be displayed openly twenty-four hours per day, but we forbid giving away protective devices that could prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and spare teen-agers from disease. We complain about the horrors of abortion while refusing to overhaul and improve our adoption laws. We have changed our Constitution (originally based on God’s Holy Word) into a framework of deceit, greed and power that our founding fathers wouldn’t recognize.

Our nation once protected the natural resources and beauty that God provided, but has become a country that drills, pollutes and destroys in the name of progress. Our nation once had millions of family farms protecting our soil and providing fresh food, but has become a country where corporate farms control and contaminate our food supply for profit. America once had mom-and-pop grocery, service and retail stores, but has become a country where a monopoly of super giants controls our buying and spending habits. Our country once paid for everything they purchased with hard-earned cash, but has become a society of credit cards and debt. Our nation once had a system where everyone paid their fair share of the taxes, but has become a country where tax cuts, loopholes and corruption is commonplace for millionaires and huge corporations. At one time we encouraged savings accounts at small hometown banks, but now we have become a country that forces its citizens (directly or indirectly) into the Babylonian enterprises of Wall Street.

Our nation once had a large percentage of its citizens who voted and politicians won elections based on their platforms, but has become a country where a small percentage of the citizens vote and politicians who have the most money from large contributors win. There was a time we elected politicians who represented the citizens, but now we have become a country of power-hungry crooks and money-driven lobbyists. Our nation once had an abundance of plants, factories and mills that manufactured its own products, but has become a country that ships its production capabilities overseas (along with millions of jobs) and has become a low paying, fast food, service-oriented monstrosity. Our country once believed that individual ideas, honest disagreements and freedom of speech were patriotic, but we’ve become a place where the citizens are sheep and their voices and thoughts controlled by shepherding pastors and demon-possessed politicians. We once demanded fair and equal trade around the world, but have now become a country that imports cheap trinkets, junk and gadgets while exporting computers, laser equipment, and other high technology. Our nation once killed wildlife either for food or to thin an overcrowded population, but has become a society that shrugs and laughs when one of God’s creatures becomes extinct.

Our nation once was a friendly-hearted society where neighbors helped neighbors, but has become a dog-eat-dog society of greedy privateers. Our nation once proudly embraced prayer-filled, Holy Spirit-guided tent and church revivals and fire-and-brimstone preachers who were not afraid to extol God’s punishments for sin, but has become a country of million dollar church buildings and politically-driven preachers who selectively talk about sin for fear of insulting their congregations. We have gone from a humble, Christian, God-fearing nation to a society of ruthless, worldly, over-indulgent, money-grubbing hypocrites.  I love America but I hate what it has become…and God will surely punish us for it!

THE ELIJAH’S OF GOD – by Leonard Ravenhill (from the book “Why Revival Tarries”)

“To the question, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” we answer, “Where He has always been-on the throne!” But where is the Elijah’s of God? We know Elijah was a man of like passions as we are, but alas! We are not men of like prayer as he was. One praying man stands as a majority with God! Today God is bypassing men – not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient. Brethren, our abilities are our handicaps, and our talents our stumbling blocks!

Out of obscurity, Elijah came on to the Old Testament stage, a full-grown man. Queen Jezebel, that daughter of hell, had routed the priests of God and replaced them with groves to false deities. Darkness covered the land and gross darkness the people, and they were drinking iniquity like water. Every day the land, fouled with heathen temples and idolatrous rites, saw smoke curling from a thousand cruel altars. Elijah lived with God. He thought about the nation’s sin like God; he grieved over sin like God; he spoke against sin like God. He was all passion in his prayers and passionate in his denunciation of evil in the land. He had no smooth preaching. Passion fired his preaching, and his words were on the hearts of men as molten metal on their flesh.

Brethren, if we will do God’s work in God’s way, at God’s time, with God’s power, we shall have God’s blessing and the devil’s curses. When God opens the windows of heaven to bless us, the devil will open the doors of hell to blast us. God’s smile means the devil’s frown!

Mere preachers may help anybody and hurt nobody; but prophets will stir everybody and madden somebody. The preacher may go with the crowd; the prophet goes against it. A man freed, fired, and filled with God will be branded unpatriotic because he speaks against his nation’s sins; unkind because his tongue is a two-edged sword; unbalanced because the weight of preaching opinion is against him. Preachers make pulpits famous; prophets make prisons famous. The preacher will be heralded; the prophet hounded.

Ah! Brother preachers, we love the old saints, missionaries, martyrs, reformers: our Luther’s, Bunyan’s, Wesley’s, Asbury’s, etc. We will write their biographies, reverence their memories, frame their epitaphs, and build their monuments. We will do anything except imitate them. We cherish the last drop of their blood, but watch carefully the first drop of our own!”

OUR FIRST LOVE   1/31/16

PART 5

DEALING WITH TERROR II

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (I Corinthians 13:1)

In Matthew 10:16 we read where Jesus says that He is sending us out as sheep in the midst of wolves and that we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. I believe this calling is filled with heavenly wisdom and one thing we must beware of is getting this turned around backwards. We are NOT to be as wise as doves or as harmless as serpents because doves have never been known to be smart and snakes can be dangerous. Doves are NOT known to be aggressive or to look for a fight. They are associated with “peace” and a symbol of the Holy Spirit as gentle, comforting, calm and pure. Snakes also have a tendency to avoid conflict and usually look for a way to escape. They do not go looking to attack people and are known to study each confrontation very carefully and wisely. So, we can see the perfect balance of purity and prudence with doves as being easy going and have a temperament of adaptation and serpents that choose their battles according to each situation including striking with deadly force if threatened.

Learning to deal with terror is not an easy task. Many are saying to “lock and load” and defend ourselves until our dying breath while also trying to figure out where to hide and protect our families. We do not want to think about dying a violent death which is why it is rarely discussed however, just because we are afraid does not mean we should avoid talking about it. Christians are being killed in different parts of the world on a daily basis and the goal of terrorism is to turn America into a place of terror. Yes, we can be prepared and have a gun in every room but we also must face a very important question; can we live in the presence of God and enjoy the intimacy of His peace if we are harboring hatred in our heart for our enemies?

I was talking with my uncle the other day and I mentioned that terrorism can be exposed in all shapes and sizes and Islamic jihad may actually not be our most dangerous threat. We have discussed several times in the past about how the imploding of our economic system seems to be more than just speculation. We realize that our debt is growing out of control every second and to the logical mind this cannot continue forever. Without trying to untangle all the details, let’s just say that prophetically we can see that America could very well be identified as the nation who falls hard and is technically eliminated from being a major factor in the end times. Many are saying this is because of civil unrest, violence, a falling away from God and of course a financial collapse. So, with all of this in mind we may need to shift our focus from being worried about Islamic extremist and be more concerned with our neighbor across the street. These seem to be two different types of enemies but the alarm and concern for our well-being is the same. One has the intention of creating a kingdom of God’s people here on earth by establishing Islam as the New World Order of international church and state. While the other group of unrestrained barbarians allow hunger and desperation to justify killing anyone over a bologna sandwich. So in either case we have a reason to keep in constant prayer and have a loaded gun in our nightstand.

Last week we noticed the scripture about praying for our enemies and how we are to love those who are trying to kill us but let’s be honest – this is difficult. The idea of war is to not only avoid being shot – but to aim and shoot to kill. There have been many Christians that have fought in wars and killed many of the enemy and there are others who oppose any kind of fighting and killing and everyone is entitled to their opinion. King David was a mighty man of war and was given one of the greatest compliments in history as being a man after God’s own heart. At the same time we are reminded that Jesus said to turn the other cheek and keep our emotions in check when considering retaliation. This leaves us scratching our head and wondering which path to take. It is my opinion that the Holy Spirit will whisper God’s direction according to each specific situation which reveals how crucially important it is to know God’s voice.

So what is the difference between going to war in an organized military combat and fighting against someone that is threatening the safety of our family? Most wars are fought because it is decided that NOT fighting will allow the threat to grow larger. I admit that I hate war because it is the result of sin and most of the time mankind is not following God’s will but rather his own demons of greed. Our modern war machine is a thriving business where human suffering comes at the hands of the wealthy elite and this makes me sick to my stomach. If we knew all of the “behind the scenes” facts about the past wars we would need to go lie down and calm ourselves to keep from having a heart attack. But going back to our safety being threatened, my personal opinion is that if someone is trying to break into our home we have the green-light from God to leave them lying in the foyer. Now brother that does not seem very Christian. Well, if we research the Old Testament again we will find that the death penalty was a common consequence that GOD established as a part of HIS law. So, if He commanded to cut off someone’s hand because they are a thief it would be safe to say that if someone is breaking our door down to harm us that we would have the legal and spiritual right to stop them with deadly force.

I have never killed anyone and can only speculate if you could kill someone without hate in your heart. I would think that it is possible to be in such a high adrenalin mental state that we could kill someone and then feel sorry for them later especially if they were young or we discovered they were mentally ill or possessed. I believe that a self-defense attitude could overshadow hatred in many circumstances and this brings up thoughts about how we feel toward the devil. We have been trained to hate sin but love the person however does this include Satan and his demons? I have a difficult time separating the father of all sin – from sin. If we hate the devil then it makes it a challenge to not have negative feelings toward those who serve him. War has trained young people to hate their enemy and to see the opposition as an evil that deserves to be destroyed. I have to admit it would be odd to say the least to become a trained sniper and pray for each person’s soul right before you squeezed the trigger. Truthfully, I do not want to take anyone’s life and I hope that I will not have to but for the sake of my loved ones I will.

We notice how there is much confusion concerning immigration, border security, and refugee programs but we have always opened our borders to whoever wanted to go through the proper channels and legally become a citizen of our nation. For many years we have experienced the constant flow of people from Mexico trying to escape the poverty of their homeland in hopes of finding a better life. Again, we had no problem with individuals who are willing to do it the right way because freedom should be for everyone. If a person is not a criminal and has no intention of doing harm and is willing to do what is right – we have welcomed them to become an American. One reason for being registered with the government is so that everyone can pay their fair share of taxes and of course if anyone is desires to participate in the “system” then it only makes good sense for the system to be able to keep track of them. The legal structure has a hard enough time trying to catch registered offenders let alone those who sneak in without identification but this is exactly how the terrorist are trying to slip through the cracks and become undercover “spies” in order to carry out their missions of death and destruction. And who are these demons? Well, of course the top topic of our headlines today is associated with Islam. Yes, there are other evil people from other nationalities but in our current society the word “terrorist” automatically causes us to think of Muslims. Many are saying that only the radical extremist Muslims are responsible for these unspeakable atrocities and this may be somewhat true but the reality that many do not realize is that violence is built into their spiritual commitment and is confirmed through the creeds, doctrines and laws associated with this religion.

We understand that within the Christian faith we have many different sects that disagree with the general assemblies or mainline groups of believers, but even in these minor differences there are definite pillars of truth that are used to identify and unify all that falls under the basic fundamentals of our faith. We could safely say that all Christians use the Bible and believe in JESUS as Messiah and generally agree with the gospel of John 3:16. Churches commonly post their statements of faith in order to publically reveal what they believe. But, when we study Islam we not only see that Muslims have their own book of teachings called the Koran or Quran, they also obey something else that many are not familiar with. It is called Sharia Law and is used as a standard LEGAL SYSTEM of practical living that works hand in hand with the religious writings and devotions found within this religion. Sharia Law (which includes the act of jihad) is a very strict list of responsibilities that all committed Muslims use as a guide to live by and even though many today accuse outsiders of exaggerations and misinterpretations it plainly includes the commands to aggressively kill and destroy those who are considered an enemy to their cause.

Just like lukewarm Christians who enjoy the chocolate cake parts of Christianity and do not have a clue what true salvation means, moderate Muslims that play social games with Islam also do not understand what their faith really demands. Let it be said that extreme Christians become more loving while extreme Muslims become more violent. We must remember that we are only truly devout (whatever the spiritual persuasion) according to how serious we are to its teachings.

OUR FIRST LOVE   1/24/16

PART 4

DEALING WITH TERROR I

“You have heard that it has been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 43-44)

There have been many religious wars and millions have died because they believed with all of their heart they were right. The world today is very stressed and filled with tension over lands, territories, oil, political and social views, and yes over who is truly GOD! It is not enough for some groups to worship who they declare is their personal deity and carry-on a quiet peaceful existence for these particular religions and sects want everyone to believe the way they do and according to their extreme convictions “all that do not – must die.” This is now what we are facing in our world and unfortunately it is NOT going away. So how will we deal with this?

I have been hesitant to write about Islamic terrorism (not necessarily because I am afraid) but rather I feel I am not knowledgeable enough to understand the subject. Many will say how can you know the intentions of anyone? Well, number one we are seeing live demonstrations which reveal the motives of certain terrorist groups and it is public knowledge what these groups teach and live by. If you knew that a group of people were being trained to kill you, how would you prepare to defend yourself against them? Have you seriously thought how you will react against  this growing movement that is focused on killing everyone that will not worship their views? I am reminded of the 3 Hebrew men that were commanded to bow down to a false idol or DIE and after they refused to worship no one other than the God of Abraham they were thrown into a red-hot furnace. God was with them IN THE FIRE and we know that He is also with us. We can hope the Lord of glory will deliver us and protect us but we also must realize that many will perish (and already have) from those that are demented with hatred from their father Satan.

Brother, I do not want to talk about dying for my faith because it is depressing. Can’t we talk about something joyful? Well, I understand about being positive and encouraging and this is quite frightening but we cannot survive on candy bars and cokes without eating some vegetables every now and then. If we pick and choose scriptures and only want to hear about things that make us feel good we become distorted and unbalanced in our perspective of life. We cannot skip over issues like eternal hell, suffering, judgment, obedience, sacrifice, the consequences of sin, chastisement or our spiritual responsibilities and obligations just because they make us feel uncomfortable. I believe we have come to a point where we must become better educated to the realities of what is going on around us and seek the Lord for HIS wisdom and discernment about how we should prepare as we make sure we are living in the right type of spiritual attitude.

Living in a small town and not having the opportunity to travel around the world limits our education of distant cultures to only what we see on the internet, the news or read in books. For example, when I was growing up, I only read and thought about war as places America would go – defeat the enemy and return home. I never dreamed that one day evil demons would come to our land with the intentions to destroy us. I hear conversations all around and people asking, “Do all Muslims believe the same way” and “does the Muslim faith teach that killing others is a good thing?” Well the passages in the Koran and the clear teachings in Sharia Law are proof this is a dangerous plague of deadly violence that is spreading like wildfire. The agenda for these radicals is very similar to the doctrines that Hitler followed in that both believe they were and are helping God purify the earth by eliminating what they consider are infidels. The idea behind this devilish cleansing theory is to either destroy or convert everyone except those who submit and embrace their view of what is true. They are both highly focused on pure blood-lines, superiority, fear, domination, justification, and both are devoted to core philosophies focused on total annihilation.

“Brother, many Muslims do not know what you are talking about and declare they are filled with peace and love for all people.” Well, if this is true, why are they not protesting that Islam and Sharia Law have no agenda to purify the earth by killing everyone? As in every religion including Christianity we see that many could really care less one way or another. With Islam those who are not committed are afraid to speak out against it and those who are disciples already know the true agenda is filled with violence and bloodshed. The Bible emphasizes total commitment and is strong about the requirements and commandments from God to sacrifice our will and take up our cross and follow Him even unto our own death if need be however, the  teachings of Jesus strongly emphasize humility and love as the way to evangelize His gospel. It would seem when examining the Muslim faith that some that have joined because they thought it was trendy or they found a place where they could feel secure or important but really have no idea about doctrines or expectations from what they are pledging allegiance to. The point is the deeper anyone desires to learn about a certain subject the more they will study and learn about it and every Muslim needs to do their homework! The ones who research and ACCEPT the core values and revelations within their faith are the ones that eventually are considered religious fanatics and dedicated to what they believe. So, we have two groups of Muslims; one group is confused as they do not really understand the true teachings of the faith and the other group is completely convinced what is required and realizes that killing is a part of their spiritual loyalty.

In this light we can see that Muslims who accept the interpretations of the Koran as one hundred percent literal and are committed to doing whatever it takes to accomplish the will of Allah are not to be trusted. It is one thing for someone to follow a religious view but another thing when it includes destroying everyone that does not believe like you. To say the least this makes it very awkward for us to evangelize someone like this or reach out to them with compassion. I believe that most if not all those who are loyal to Sharia Law are possessed with Satan and have a seared conscience that makes them unable to receive the conviction from the gospel. As with all people that have given their heart and soul to a demonic entity, it is very difficult for someone to be born-again that has been raised and indoctrinated with these types of instructions, traditions, and personal experiences. How can we approach someone that has been saturated in lies and deception and are more than willing to be used as an instrument to kill, steal and destroy as many as possible in order to supposedly gain glorious spiritual rewards in heaven? Yes, God can change anyone and we can and should pray for them as this is their only hope for salvation.

I do believe we should be careful to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and NOT other people’s interpretations or our trigger-happy emotions when trying to find the true reality of what we are heading toward. So, why am I bringing up this subject now? Because it is becoming a part of the fabric of our life! It is not IF we will ever confront this enemy – it is when. We cannot shrug it off any longer or believe it is only a problem that happens in large cities or in isolated incidents. The Middle East has always been an active area because this is where God has focused His attention so it should not be a surprise this area will continue being the center of events from now until Jesus returns. We should become knowledgeable and informed in these last days so that we can be spiritually prepared and equipped to minister wisely. The problem in this hour is that many are doing much more talking than praying! The scripture that comes to me is II Timothy chapter 4 and verse 2 that says, “Preach the WORD; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” Does this mean even with those who want to harm us? Well, if we trace the trail of Christian blood throughout the centuries I do not see any other answer but – yes. Martyrs obviously did not run and hide but preached God’s Word until they were silenced. The passage goes on to talk about how that as time progresses the masses will not pay attention to God’s truth nor have respect for His wisdom but instead will make up their own political ideas about what our civilization should believe.

Christians have been commissioned by GOD – not by man! “Go ye into ALL the world” was never intended to be a suggestion. Faith is all about trusting God when we are doing His will. How do we love those who are evil? Have we not been called to love the souls of those who are possessed? Yes! I have mentioned before about how Christians should avoid becoming heavily involved in politics and how we have not been called to change the world’s system, but “IF” we are asked to explain our views about a subject we should be ready to give HIS answer. Being LED by the Holy Spirit is how we “press toward the mark” in this life and this includes how we deal with those who have every intention of taking our life. If God’s Spirit says run – we will run and if He says fight – we will fight! We will stand for His truth boldly in faith and LOVE and NOT be ashamed or afraid because The LORD has the perfect answer and plan for all situations.

“Father I admit I am weak and ignorant when it comes to knowing how to love and pray for those who hate me. I hardly understand anything about serious spiritual warfare – please teach me. The heathen are willing to die for what they believe and many times I have to question my own heart about whether I am or not. Please help me Lord to become sincere about praying for this world and more serious about commitment to follow your will. My peace and strength is found in the joy of knowing you and may I be completely devoted to this great privilege. We worship and adore you and in the holy name of Jesus Christ we pray, amen.”

OUR FIRST LOVE   1/17/16

PART 3

UNTIL WE BECOME GOD CONSCIOUS

“For it is written, as I live saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11-12)

Everyone should know they are important and have been given the gift of life as an opportunity to accomplish a mission. Christians especially, should realize that their life has a divine “PURPOSE” and to keep investigating this destiny until they finally understand what it is. In our daily classroom of learning how to be what Jesus wants us to be, it is crucial to KNOW what our spiritual calling is and how to cooperate and when we decide to start paying attention to what God expects from us, we can then move into the “PROCESS” stage of our spiritual evolution. Thus we have the tag-team of purpose and process that provide the foundation for living. I was reading an article the other day about the new Star Wars movie coming out and the staggering numbers of cost and expected sales figures expected. With 3 hundred million in cost and a projected 2 billion in total return including all merchandising, it is nothing short of mind boggling. I even heard the director himself say the other day that many people are so devoted to this make-believe world that it has become a “religion” to them. Now, I do not want to go overboard on this or to judge one way or another, but it does make one seriously wonder about whether certain achievements have been ordained by God as a part of His perfect will or if they are just an expensive example of human imagination. Of course we can say that many needy people could have been helped with all of that money but once again we realize this is another case of supplying entertainment for the demand of the masses. Many camped out to get a ticket yet do not even acknowledge the God who created the galaxies they are so fascinated about.

Most people rarely think about the deeper meanings of life because it makes them uncomfortable to embrace accountability. We all make decisions everyday according to the way we believe and how we feel and some are noble while other choices are less than desirable. A very crucial selection that everyone makes is whether to step forward and take possession of who they are IN CHRIST or fail to take the time to consider Him at all. So, what does this really mean, who we are in Christ? It means the joining together of God and humans in a covenant relationship that is bonded forever in the spiritual realm. Actually we can say our salvation reality is “Christ in us the hope of Glory” along with the miracle of us being seated in His righteousness and recipients of His redemption. The Song of Solomon in chapter 2:16 says, “My beloved is mine, and I am His” and reveals the divine intention of our salvation is to be intertwined and woven together as vessels of honor that provide a place for His glory to dwell. We are considered His highest treasure as He loves us even more than a mother can love her child and He proved it at Calvary.

As much as God moves among us, do we really comprehend that we have been given the freedom and responsibility to manage ourselves? I thought God was in control. He is God – but He does not predestinate everything. God is the “owner” but even after a person hears the gospel and responds to His convicting power, they remain the “manager” that chooses how much of their “will” they surrender and who is the boss! As humans we naturally want everything to be about us but when an individual becomes saved, this new identification does not mean they will automatically change their old way of thinking. The spiritual state of the individual can be made new but the extent of alterations and modifications within the mind are another department. Stepping out of the center and “allowing” Christ to become THE FOCUS is when true salvation begins to manifest. In other words, until we take control and make Jesus our LORD, we will never submit to Him in obedience. Until Christ becomes the center of our life and we allow ALL of our visions and desires to revolve around and through Him, we are still blind and miserable without a comprehension of the joys and intimacies of a genuine personal relationship with Him.

Humans love to think and do whatever they want! When we watch reality TV about people that try to live in remote areas with no one around to help them, we cannot help but wonder if they are playing some kind of a game of personal challenge to see if they can survive. When they are interviewed we listen to them repeating how difficult it is and how strong a person must be to endure the extremes and constant hardships. Then we also listen to the people that live in the big bustling cities, pushing through the crowds to get to work and living in tiny apartments and likewise trying to subsist the daily rat-race. Wherever on the spectrum we find humans engaged in the battle to fight for their existence, it does not take long before their words reveal who they are placing their trust in. If they are leaning on God, He will be the first words that come out of their mouth but if they are trusting their own wisdom and strength they will begin to brag about their accomplishments and explain how through their endurance they have made their own way.

Everyone wants to be the captain of their own ship and honestly we are. Many times we become confused as to who is really in charge because we think being born-again means Jesus is our Lord. Allow me to say that He is only the shepherd to sheep who submit and follow Him. If He is anything but first place in our love – He is not our Lord. There has been much confusion about salvation and the Lordship of Christ because to believe the sacrifice Jesus gave was intended to make us free from liability we are still seeing life through the old lenses of selfishness. When the eyes of our heart have been opened we will know that covenant relationship means He is waiting for us to mutually sacrifice our life back to Him. “Coram Deo” is a Latin phrase translated “in the presence of God” which summarizes the responsibility of Christians to LIVE under the authority of and unto the honor of Jesus Christ. This state of mind does not develop on its own but comes with serious training and determination. Mental discipline is like a curse word to those who are weak minded but in all things that man can become skilled at, the awareness of what God requires and our accountability to Him should be our highest goal. Until we become “God conscious” our salvation will consist of a default false sense of security of believing He does not care what we do, that no records are being kept and that He is satisfied with our apathy.

OUR FIRST LOVE    1/9/16

PART 2

THE CHASM IS GROWING WIDER

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.”(Isaiah 5:20)

There is an underlying movement in this country to indoctrinate the masses away from God by turning the tables on what is right and wrong. We used to call the hidden messages that were secretly broadcast at unique frequencies “subliminal” but in the case of Satan’s modern political agenda to indoctrinate the world to accept a new way of thinking, we can clearly see the monster has crawled out from under the bed and now holds public press conferences. The “coming out of the closet” battle cry is now proposed as a celebration of liberty to proudly express our depraved human behavior that once was considered a shame – no matter what God says.

We are left to question, “Who are the ones that make decisions about what is right and wrong?” and the answer we discover is troubling. In our supposedly Christian Nation that elects political candidates to represent Biblical views, it seems something is very wrong. Evidently the people who vote and the political system are not on the same page with God and the mess we are in proves the point. Of course another question that arises from the frustration and disappointment of those who care is; what can we do about it? The true Christian can pray and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and then rest in the peace of knowing that God is and will be the final judge and jury in all matters. We do what God is telling us to do and give the rest to Him.

In the midst of an upside-down world, I cannot help but wonder how making our personal lifestyle choices public knowledge has anything to do with transforming something wrong into something good? Just because I or anyone else has been sneaking around doing things that were wrong and then decide to brag about it, should have more to do with repentance than being congratulated with a parade down Main Street! True conviction from the Holy Spirit produces a testimony of brokenness, sorrow and humility where a person sincerely confesses they are sorry for offending a holy God and the damage they have caused and are now coming clean with every intention of not doing it again. In today’s world where right and wrong is being re-defined, the attitude about sin has now become an arrogant militant outcry of stone-face rebellion that proclaims, “I do not care what anyone thinks – I love what I am doing and I will NOT stop!”

The antagonistic posture of this belligerence has become a desperate cry for support to be a modern day hero and role model. Instead of being ashamed for failing to be a person honor, decency and dignity, they are now empowered with a false sense of courage and pride. By turning the tables on right and wrong, they are strangely considering themselves as a respected and admired warrior that has broken free from the bondage of guilt and has stepped forward as a  martyr for all that are still hiding from persecution and condemnation. They do not realize that “guilt” is a normal consequence of sin and is a warning by the Holy Spirit to convict the conscience of doing wrong. It is true, the flesh loves its pleasures and like a child we do not want to be told we cannot have every toy and piece of candy we see, but instead of submitting to God’s authority they believe they can be just as powerful as He is by creating their own world that includes a new legal system of correct thought. Many are calling this cultural “shift” the New World Order and have every intention of destroying God’s perfect way with a humanistic replacement. The concept is for this socially acceptable way of thinking to redirect the spotlight away from those who are evil by attacking those who speak up against sin. As the intensity of this scrutiny increases some religious observers will not be able to endure the rejection and persecution and will sadly compromise God’s truth. The remnant warriors who remain steadfast and uphold the reality of God’s Word will continue to be condemned and criticized as being social bigots as it will eventually become against the law to tell those who deliberately trespass against God and man that their actions are wrong and offensive to His holiness.

We are all sinners and there is no justification for any of us to do wrong! Amen. We all play carnal games at times and have our own weaknesses, failures and problems and sadly many times we are not bothered by it like we should be. I also believe that too often we fail to realize that God is being confrontational as we choose to ignore Him when He attempts to get our attention and it is only in His longsuffering that He restrains His anger and allows us to live.

We have declined from a society that once embraced a certain degree of morality – into a world that is begging to be destroyed! We read that God’s mercy endures forever but this does not necessarily mean He is obligated to give us unlimited chances to change. As long as He is pleading and convicting there is hope for the soul to be saved but the worst event in anyone’s life far beyond any sorrow or suffering would be the moment when God may stop trying to rescue us. We notice in II Thessalonians chapter 2 and verses 7-12 that it is dangerous to keep waving off the grace of God. “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that endorse and confirm the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they REFUSED to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful DELUSION so they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

We notice those that refuse His truth are lovingly given the invitation to receive His grace until the door closes and they are left with facing the consequences of eternal separation from God. Since they rejected His love in this life – why would they want Him in eternity? The Lord is sovereign; He gives and He takes away and the same is true in His judgment! God loves the world but He has shown in history that He will draw the line! His mercy is NOW and pleads, “Come to Jesus today, let Him show you the way – You’re drifting too far from the shore.”

OUR FIRST LOVE – 1/2/16

part 1

HOPE FOR TOMORROW

“Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

A brand new year and I am excited to see what the Lord will do! I have been contemplating about a theme for the 2016 article series and have been feeling a pull toward the phrase “OUR FIRST LOVE.” Jesus addressed the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2 about how He was disappointed they had left their “first love” and told them to repent and be aware of what had caused them to backslide away from Him. Keeping Christ at the center of our thoughts is our highest mission and really proves just how much we love Him and are devoted to Him. It does not matter how much Kingdom labor we are involved with – He simply wants to be our first love. If we stay under the shadow of His wings we will walk in the peace and calmness of His Spirit but if we allow ourselves to be overcome with anxiety, we will not be able to focus correctly because our emotions will cloud our judgment. Prayer is our highest responsibility and may we all make a new commitment this year to stay focused on JESUS! Yes, of course I am concerned about what is on the horizon but I am also confident that He will not allow us to go through anything more than we can handle. God’s remnant is “rising up” because HE is stirring us and convicting our hearts through the Holy Spirit and it is time to be serious about what we believe and be ready to respond! Jesus said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). (This is a rich chapter to include in our Bible studies). I know the Lord is whispering for us to PREPARE for what is coming upon the earth, for His glorious return and for His disciples to seek His face with reverential fear and trembling in order to comprehend what He is specifically calling us to do.

This is a critical election year and another reason to intercede without ceasing. It is no secret this world is in a ragged condition and within this volatile state we also realize that America (even though hanging on the edge of economic disaster) is nevertheless holding back a domino effect of financial ruin for many nations. Many are saying that when this collapse happens (and there are many opinions), we know it will be the worst crisis this nation has ever seen. Some are preparing now for the bottom to drop out (and who can argue) but we should also be allowing the Holy Spirit to equip us to do the most effective and anointed “ministry” of our lives. On top of this we are turning our attention to the dangers of being attacked by the evil forces of Satan through TERRORISM and as the Bible talks about men’s hearts failing them from fear, again we are reminded how the enemy’s favorite tactic is “terror.” Beyond the anxiety levels and panic attacks, our greatest security and peace (Praise God) is that we have encouragement from His Word proclaiming VICTORY in Jesus and that we are on the winning side! Amen! Sometimes it seems the gates of hell are prevailing against God’s Kingdom but let us rest in the blessed assurance of knowing that He is lovingly at work calming the hearts of His people and very much aware of what is happening. We must remember that He is NOT trying to preserve the kingdoms or economies of mankind – He is trying to save the souls who are lost! Our luxurious cities and impressive empires will crumble and burn but the good news is that Christ is preparing His bride (you and I) for His glorious and majestic return! Praise Him forever! Ladies and gentlemen – the final chapter of this world has already been written declaring Christ as the triumphant King of Kings and He shall conquer all enemies and purge the earth as the glorious city “New Jerusalem” comes down from heaven and we enjoy His presence in the millennial reign of Yeshua. Yes, there is coming a time of tribulation and the anti-christ but God’s front-line remnant warriors will overcome by the word of their testimony and the blood of the Lamb!

Let us pray for one another and encourage those around us in the faith, love and compassion of Jesus the Lamb that was slain. Our guidance and wisdom does NOT come from the nightly news or a magazine article – it comes from the still small voice of our Savior and Redeemer! Will the next president really make a difference? I hope so. Will the Senate and Congress actually allow an individual that has solid plans to help this nation? We can pray they will. Can we keep borrowing money without going bankrupt? I do not see how. Will the military have to be used to keep order from the rioting as large scale civil chaos begins? I believe they will. It is worth repeating that no matter what happens around us, we must do all that we can to make sure Jesus is living large within us! It will not be easy but NO ONE can take away our hope, faith or love.

“Father, in the name of Jesus, we acknowledge YOU as the ultimate authority of all things. You created everything and YOU are in total control. We rest in your arms and trust you completely. Please give us courage to discipline our flesh. Please give us your holy wisdom that we might comprehend your perfect plan. Open the eyes of our heart so that we may see your truth as we worship you with all of our being. We repent of our trespasses and forgive others that have sinned against us. We receive your peace that passes all understanding and may your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Prepare us for this coming year and watch over us as we continue preaching your gospel. We love you and adore you, amen.” Yes, it is fine to be cautious and have our guns loaded and our stockpiles of provisions but walking in HIS Spirit is our true security. I am not endorsing any candidate or political party (actually my views are of an independent persuasion in politics and religion) because I focus on the issues and those I believe will do what is RIGHT according to God! BE ENCOURAGED – we will choose to fight with “spiritual authority” and the one priority we must guard with all of our determination is to make sure our heart is pure and clean without bitter hatred because holiness is the key to living in the joy of His presence. Even in tribulation and persecution, our Lord Jesus Christ has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us and will be with us until the end of the world. YES! We can walk, talk and be filled with love and hope! Hope is a positive, encouraging, optimistic, fervent expectation for a certain event to happen and more than anything we are longing to see Jesus return in all of His glory? Because He lives I can face tomorrow – because He lives all fear is gone – because I know He holds the future – and life is worth the living just because He lives!