Have we decided?

THE SECRET PLACE
Abiding under the shadow of the Almighty
PART 39
HAVE WE DECIDED?

“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 greatest (most important) commandment.” (Mathew 22:37) Is this our highest priority?
One sure way to measure the fervency of our passion, is how we react to an article about spiritual commitment. If we yawn and roll our eyes, thinking that we are far too advanced for such elementary instruction, most likely we have a bad attitude problem. Actually, the wise and humble person is always interested in learning everything they can about God and never gets tired of growing and serving Him or His people. The “mature” disciple realizes how easily it is to be deceived with our own pride. If the Christian life seems boring, it is time to listen very closely, because somewhere deep inside of you, there is a blaring alarm that is going off. It is a warning message that is pleading with you to be renewed with blazing zeal and white-hot passion like you felt when you were first born-again. “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels”. (Proverbs 1:5) Now, allow me to ask a rather basic question that many may feel is ridiculous since they have been professing to be a Christian for several years. Is following God really in your heart? Brother, what kind of a question is that? I am saved, what more do you want me to say? Well, I have been thinking about my relationship with God and doing some “inventory” within my soul and to be honest, I am not satisfied with what I have found. Why are my eyes filled with tears right now? Because I know where I am and where I need to be, but they are NOT the same place. I believe there are many levels of commitment and living in the lower levels is NOT good enough!
This is the point in our conversation where many will say they are very busy and do not have time to finish the rest of this. They consider this type of talk for babies and have progressed far beyond this level of spirituality. For those of us who choose to remain, let us pray together, “Lord, the world is harsh and cold and sometimes we get tangled up in it. I love to retreat into your presence and I am learning it is the ONLY safe haven in the world. I do not want you to show me your glory so that I can brag about how spiritual I am – I want to know you just for who you are. I want to learn how to walk with you ALL the time. I do not want the sins of my flesh to keep me from being passionately intertwined with you. I desire to make you my highest priority. Help me, I so desperately need you, amen.”
My uncle is one of the closest people to my heart. He lives beside the Ocean and often takes walks down the beach as he talks to God. He worships and praises the Lord as the gentle winds blow, and as the Holy Spirit fills him to overflow, he becomes filled with joy like a little child as he listens to the whispers of heaven. He drinks in the beautiful sun and all of God’s wondrous nature as he pours his heart out to the Father. What freedom and peace to be saturated in the divine presence of Jesus! The holy of holies is not a geographic place on earth but the location is a humble heart that enters behind the veil of pure love, trust and obedience to God. We can experience the Lord in this manner anytime we want, and it does not matter where we make contact with Him – as long as we become determined to do it! It is this “vision” to be absorbed “into Him” that will make the difference between reading about other people’s encounters – and experiencing our own. Is being with Him the MOST important and valuable treasure in your life? Only you can search the depths of your soul and come up with an honest answer. If it is not – what is hindering your relationship and preventing your joy from overflowing?
You see, most Christians are only interested in receiving the promises and blessings that God desires to give. It is a no brainer to hold out your hands and take all of the supernatural miracles we can contain. However, this type of relationship is not necessarily a covenant VOW relationship – because only one side is doing all the giving. Well brother, I go to church and sometimes I give a little money, what do you want me to do? This is where many people have never had a revelation of what God wants. They believe we are “paying God back” with our deeds like going to church and being nice to the check-out girl. This religious idea is something we have come up with that relieves our guilty conscience from being convicted by “substituting” what we fear God really wants from us. Simply – He wants our will. Selah. He must have ALL of our heart before He can be our LORD. He is not interested in making deals, excuses or playing games. He just simply wants someone to love Him as much as He loves them – that is true covenant!
Our heart is like a thermometer with many different little indicating marks that represent the level of temperature. If we feel strongly (passionate burning desire) about something, we focus our attention and energy into it and our mercury rises into the range of highest priority. If we are “fickle” about an idea or opportunity, we become hesitant and start rubbing our forehead in contemplation and thus the temperature of our fire falls into the “cool” zone. We huff and blow and say we need to think about it, which usually means we are just not interested in it enough to “commit” our time or heart into it. And let us not forget that if we stay “room temperature” all the time, then we just float through life settling for mediocrity and a laid back, middle of the road attitude. This general lack of intensity about everything, (especially things related to God), becomes a problem in the spirit realm as it is commonly referred to as “lukewarm” and we all know that is NOT how God wants us to live. The old saying is true; we do what we really want to do!
Allow me to give an example, we have all listened to the experts tell us how healthy we would be to eat all the correct foods and exercise daily. Many of us have struggled with dieting and we may have even bought a piece of training equipment because we felt guilty about our weight or just wanted to improve our appearance. However, allow me to say that unless this idea becomes a burning passion we will NOT be successful! Why? Because we were never determined nor committed to the vision IN OUR HEART. Do not misunderstand me, it was a great thought and in our minds eye we could see it, but it was only a “whim”, it was a passing thought that we were never really serious about! We notice other people who are trim and athletic and we may feel inferior or intimidated but it still is not enough to convince us to change. We may look in the mirror and cry and moan and be depressed but this is still not enough inspiration for us to do it. In this particular area, what do you believe would be the one thing that would flip a switch in your heart that would cause you to become so focused that NOTHING could stop you from achieving your goal? Can we agree that to become the Christian that God is waiting for us to be, the process is the same? Does it not come down to a basic determination that nothing is going to stop us from making His will our highest priority? Is that the cry of our heart today? Is that what we want more than anything? Do we even believe this is what we desperately need?
Remember the rich man and Lazarus the beggar? The sick beggar cried at the rich man’s gate everyday but the rich man never helped him. They both eventually died and the beggar went to heaven but the rich man went to hell and in his misery he could see Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham. The rich man begged Abraham to allow Lazarus to go back and warn his five brothers to repent but Abraham said that even if someone came back from the dead – they would NOT listen. Change does not come from an external event but rather from a “quickening” of the spirit. God’s Word is the revelation that awakens and illuminates our DESTINY. Selah.
When the revelation switch is turned on, it will open the door to where the miracle of spiritual metamorphosis becomes a walk – instead of a talk. In our personal life we need more spiritual manifestation and less religious thinking. Being religious is easy because it is about looking good on the OUTSIDE and that always includes giving glory to the flesh. That is why religion has been so popular and will always be held in social and political prominence. Being spiritual is a completely different world that is focused on God who sits on the throne of heaven AND is supposed to be sitting on the throne of our heart. The life of a Christian is generated from the INSIDE and how dedicated we are to Christ is the result of this reality. In this light, we are our own “demonstration” of Christ and our level of commitment to Him will manifest how “filled” with the Holy Spirit we are. I am not referring to doctrines or rituals but simply revealing the agape love and holy “image” of Jesus Christ. Religious people live in the outer court because the flesh avoids sacrifice and repentance. God’s children make the CHOICE to be refined within the Holy place and the delight of their life is to be in God’s presence in the Holy of Holies. I was listening to a preacher on the radio the other day and he kept talking about a, “made-up” mind. That’s country talk for settling an issue within our heart to do something. It is making a final decision by coming to a point of no return that we are going to give everything we have in order to accomplish our vision. A made-up mind does not allow doubt and fear to convince them to quit. A made-up mind does not allow their flesh to distract them with temptation. A made-up mind refuses to listen to those who laugh, reject and criticize. A made-up mind KNOWS they have heard from God and are committed in their FAITH that God’s power never fails! Jacob had a made-up mind when he wrestled the angel as he would NOT LET GO until he received the blessing! Are we that determined to dedicate our life to Him? Do we desire to be RED HOT enough to stay on our knees until we KNOW where we are going and how we are going to get there?

Take Heed That No Man Deceive You

THE SECRET PLACE
Jesus is not a place you go – but a person you know

PART 20

“TAKE HEED THAT NO MAN DECEIVE YOU”
(Matthew 24:4)

“For by him were ALL things created, that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: ALL things were created BY HIM and for Him: And He is before ALL things, and by Him ALL things consist.” (Colossians 1:16, 17)

The Lord is wonderful! He is just and merciful to all people! There are many things we do not understand about the way He thinks – but we trust Him completely in His decisions. We know He is absolute truth and His ways are so much higher than our mortal ability to comprehend. His wisdom is like the iceberg that allows us to see barely above the surface, while the infinite storehouse of His knowledge and complex reasons are reserved in the divine depths of His sovereignty and omnipotence.

Love is the strongest demonstration associated with the giving of ones self to another and faith is the most courageous form of trusting. As love prepares and knows the cost of sacrifice, faith also believes though it cannot see. Faith embraces patience when there is no comprehension how God is going to provide a way for it to be done. Faith chooses to walk on air even when it cannot see the reality of an invisible bridge. Faith reaches out, takes the unseen hand of God, and courageously presses on “through” the fire and the flood. There are times of joy and laughter on mountain peaks and there are times of agony and sorrow in the shadows of the valleys. Nevertheless, we sing of His glory and His awesome love that knows every heart – feels every pain and sees every tear. It is Jesus we lean on, the one we trust with our every breath. As the song says, “He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own”. I will abide in the peace of His presence and the eternal security of His promises.

Our life is not necessarily “graded” with how many Bible classes we have attended or the amount of religious books we have in our library. It’s not the walls of awards we can receive, the name or denomination of our church or how many times we say, “May God bless you”. The most important decision anyone can make is presented in the first chapter of the book of James. “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, (the excess of sinfulness), and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your soul.” The Word of God is so sharp and precise! This short and simple statement very quickly sums up the core message of volumes of theology concerning salvation. We can talk about doctrines and religious legalism for years, but in the end, it is all about the reality of being transformed from the old spirit that loved sin – into being born-again with a new spirit that receives the miraculous power of God’s divine truth. It is the personal relationship with the divine Lord of heaven and earth that is being established in this life and will be continued in heaven.

The labor of religion is not always genuine because many things can be done with wrong motives. It is possible to do moral deeds that are done in the strength of our will, for the purpose of gaining respect while trying to earn God’s favor. The genuine act of spiritual obedience is always based on listening to God’s voice and doing exactly what He says – no less and no more. These are the accomplishments where God receives all the glory and is pleased with our response. Acts of purity that have agape love as the motive are rewarded with spiritual blessings. The Lord is not deceived with counterfeit sacrifices of worship or service. This brings me to a very important point that seems to be slipping away from the modern Christian atmosphere. As the church world labors to increase technology and sophistication for the purpose of keeping up with the entertainment world, may God’s people not forget the real reason for their labor. There is so much Kingdom work that can be done, it has become noticeable that many participators and spectators within the Body of Christ have forgotten who the King is. They have a form of Godliness by knowing religious “information” but they DENY His power by not knowing or RESPECTING His Word. Satan is mounting a full attack on God’s church because he knows the days are short. It is an all out assault on absolute truth as he pours out his lies that are saturated with compromise. Satan hates God’s Word because it is the ONLY power that can redeem a spirit. He is influencing pastors to focus on the chaotic humanism of psychology and meaningless philosophy that is contaminating the churches with apathy. The result is the lack of God’s presence, miracle power, anointing, faith, boldness, hope, holiness, and love. The religious masses will not feel the impact of sin within the walls because it has already become numb to it in their personal lives. The presence of God in the assembly of the saints is always measured by the discipline and seriousness of the individuals.

If a true remnant believer is in the midst of a harlot religious system, they will either flee from the heresy and carnality of a performance driven program or compromise! Where there is reverence and respect for who God is and the humility and sensitivity to allow Him to control His own agenda – there is the same Spirit of Christ that empowered Pentecost. Those who walk the narrow path of holiness and allow Him to reign in their heart, are the true disciples, ambassadors and representatives of His glorious Kingdom. The remnant is a collection of genuine saints within a massive population of Pharisees. The Pharisees had an emotional zeal and were devout in their religion but they were NOT connected to God spiritually. Some estimate as much as 80 percent of the church world has possibly never been born-again, but live under a delusion that is a counterfeit relief from a guilty conscience. The evidence proves true for those who have no conviction or interest in developing a personal relationship with Jesus after the applause and congratulations. We stand up and cry, “How could this be possible?” Then we remember when Pilate offered to release either Jesus or Barabbas to the Jews, they cried, “Give us Barabbas”. In this light, it is no wonder the modern congregations cannot discern the Holy Spirit, receive divine enlightenment of God’s Word or understand the revelation of love and faith. How can the blind see or feel the presence of God if they do not KNOW God? How can they cry out in repentance if they feel no conviction for sin? How can they know right from wrong if they do not have the Spirit of absolute truth dwelling within them? In addition, how will they have the courage and the discernment to stand for God’s Word if they do not have the Holy Spirit that can help them know the interpretation? Being born again is like dialing into a radio channel. There must be a signal and a receiver. The signal is broadcast in a specific frequency and the receiver must be dialed in EXACTLY – in order for there to be a perfect connection! Those who are lost – do not have the right receiver and are not connected to God at all. Jesus said, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN” (John 3:7) Since many of the world’s churches are filled with emotional religion, it is easy to see how the New World Order will deceive them into accepting every decorated lie in the name of political and social justice. The perfect example of the blind – leading the blind! Are you determined to be a part of God’s remnant? Selah.

It may be unusual to use the word “integrity” to describe God, however it is interesting to observe the meaning found in the Oxford Dictionary. “moral uprightness; honesty; wholeness; soundness; righteousness; honor; principal; decency; goodness; virtue; incorruptibility; purity; veracity; entirety; trustworthiness; totality; completeness; unity; oneness; consistent; valid.” Describing God as having integrity is just a glimpse of His attributes – yet a sobering reminder of who He is and how we should respond to Him. He is not a regular man that makes mistakes or plays favorites. He does not cut corners, cheat, compromise, or do anything that is contrary to what He has spoken. This highest level of divine perfection is reserved only for Himself as no other being has ever or will ever be like Him. In fact, we noticed in the opening scripture that ALL things were given the gift of life BY Him, including all false idols and religions. For those who believe that abiding in sin is no big deal and that God accepts their rebellion, it needs to be said the only reason someone can even exist in the act of being an intentional sinner is from His longsuffering patience and mercy. He is not allowing anyone to be a heathen publicly or secretly because He is “OK” with it. His sovereignty allows for a person to have freewill and He has an appointed time and a just measurement that He will decide when enough is enough. For the church to teach that God loves us, “just the way we are” is walking out on a dangerous ledge. He loves us in our present state and stands with His arms wide-open ready to receive our REPENTANCE! He is thrilled with our decision to follow Him but also has every intention of seeing us grow and CHANGE into a new creation. Remaining the way we are is NOT the idea of total salvation (body, soul and spirit) – it is all about spiritual metamorphosis! The power of His love transforms us and provides the conditions for a spiritual “evolution”! We are saved – we are being saved – and we will be saved – entirely by His blood soaked grace and not by humanistic daydreams. Selah.

“Heavenly Father, we cry out to you this hour. We need you desperately to shake us and awake us from our sleep. Please refill us, empower us, regenerate us, and REVIVE US! We are tired Oh God, and many of us are crying, come quickly Lord Jesus. The harvest is white and we must rise up and shake off our discouragement. Our worries and concerns for the world are heavy; please give us your JOY and a VISION to do your will. We must stay focused on YOU and not be overwhelmed. In your Holy Name, we pray, amen.” “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” (Psalm 119:11)

Becoming as a Little Child

THE SECRET PLACE
“He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

PART 14

BECOMING AS A LITTLE CHILD

JESUS, JESUS, JESUS, SWEETEST NAME I KNOW

FILLS MY EVERY LONGING – KEEPS ME SINGING AS I GO

I have always been a dreamer. When I was a kid, I used to lay on top of a picnic table in our yard and watch the clouds. I can still remember the lazy days of summer, when the sun would shine and the big fluffy clouds would roll across the sky. The sound of an occasional airplane would cause me to look up and try to spot it against the clear blue background of a heavenly canvas. The images of the clouds were clear and vivid; they were so obvious that I wondered if others were seeing what I was seeing. Those were the days of innocence, when cool-aid and tuna fish sandwiches were the high point of the afternoon. My only concerns were taking a bath and what shows would be on television that evening. Is it possible to return to the simplicity and spiritual state of a child? I am not speaking of the mentality, but the spiritual innocence of love, trust and joy. I believe it is possible, but it will not come easy. We have allowed sin to control us and conform our mind. In order to be renewed and restored we must receive the revelation of God’s truth, the desire to change and the determination to yield our will.

I remember as a child growing up in church, the services were predictable and orderly. We sang hymns, took up the offering, people said prayers, and the pastor would speak. After the message, they would sing another song, while the pastor offered the invitation for anyone to come and be saved. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but I always wondered if this is all there is to church. As I became a young man, I started seeking God’s Word, to see if I was just imagining things or if there really was more to it. I read about the miracles, the mighty presence of God, supernatural wonders, manifestations and demonstrations of the Holy Spirit. After asking the elders about why today’s church did not have any of this, they just smiled and patted me on the shoulder as if they felt sorry for my lack of understanding. They said that all of this has passed away and we do not need any of those events anymore. They were meant to help start the church and give Jesus the respect He needed to convince the people to follow Him. Hmmm….

After much study, prayer and consideration, I left my traditions to search for the truth I believed was out there. My wife and I visited the Holiness, Pentecostal, Charismatics, and Independents that were commonly associated and identified as the “Spirit-filled” camp. We did see some demonstrations of God’s power and learned many truths concerning Bible interpretations and revelations of God’s mysteries. I thank God for what we have learned and how we have grown. However, I am still not satisfied. I am troubled in my spirit about what I see happening in the churches as well as what I DO NOT see. Last week I visited a traditional Baptist church and came away discouraged. Please do not misunderstand me, I do not mean to sound overly critical. The hymns were fine although sang with a dragging tiredness. Sadly, many have never experienced the spirit of true worship or the tangible presence of God. It is gloomy to see the deadness of singing songs that are not worship at all. Singing songs about wanting to escape this life is not really worship. Singing songs that justify our decision to NOT face our responsibility to “LIVE” as a follower of Christ, is a carnal excuse to live without faith. Of course it pleases the flesh to sing songs that make us “feel good”. That is the problem! We want to feel good all the time and not be uncomfortable fighting against the lust of our flesh. We fail to pray, fast, witness, give, love or sacrifice anything – because we enjoy being comfortable more than we are determined to be obedient. To be honest, many of the songs that are being sung in the traditional churches today need to be thrown in the garbage!

Those who are called to bring God’s Word have the call to relay what the Lord is saying. We need to hear a word from the Lord that He has “personally” given for the precise hour that we are there. We do not need to hear a quick message that was pulled from a sermon file that has been preached 20 times before. If the minister does not have a message that is burning like fire and he has not been in the presence of God to receive the word for the hour, then he needs to fall on his face and repent or let someone else bring it. If pastors were led by the Holy Spirit, they would know what to do in the service, instead of going through the motions of a dead, dry, program that could rock an infant to sleep. Unfortunately, the repeated high point and excitement of the morning was the anticipation of the enormous amount of food that was waiting in the basement after the service. It is a sad time for the church when there is more enthusiasm and expectation for fried chicken and chocolate pie, than for what Almighty God wants to say and do in the midst of His people! Where are the prayers for the sick and testimonies of what God is doing in the lives of His people? Where are the words of edification, wisdom, knowledge or prophecy and weeping at the alters for sin or the lost? I am not trying to say I am better than anyone else is. I am saying there is a huge difference in our attitude when we are serious about God and when we are playing comfortable, religious games. After the service everyone was happy and seemed to have a good feeling about what had just happened, but again I walked away thinking that something was seriously wrong.

“But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God AS A LITTLE CHILD shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:16-17) We have heard this scripture many times, but just what exactly does it mean to receive the kingdom of God? Let us notice, He does not say to become “childish”, but rather as (the mindset or attitude) of a little child. I believe in order to receive anything from the spiritual realm; we must have a strong desire to understand it. It is easy to stay uninformed because it allows us to escape the accountability to stand for something. Many people want to be blind to the truth because they think it lets them “off the hook” to change their ways. The less involved we are, the less we are counted on to do. This is why the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.
Our attitude toward God must be childlike or there will be a distorted view that will affect our personal relationship with Him. Good children love their parents and honor them. They are aware and appreciative to their parents for the blessings they are given and so likewise Christians love God and seek to please Him in everything they do. Like children, followers of Christ desire to learn everything they can about God and His Word, believing with all of their heart, everything God speaks. We are to be like Samuel that simply wanted God to communicate His will, so that he could obey. Some differences between an adult and a child is that when you are a child you don’t cook, you don’t go to work and you have someone else doing all the thinking for you. Children feel secure having a house in which to live with no expenses, food on the table three times a day and fun times with friends in the meantime. As adults we have the stress of having to work to earn an income. We have to put the dinner on the table, and life cannot be spent just riding our bike all day. We have to prioritize what we do with our time. The more we play and spend, the less money we have. The more we sacrifice and work, the more money we have. After a while, we become more independent and start believing we are making our “own” way. Sadly, many have fallen into the deception of believing the more we depend on our own strength, abilities, education, personality and talents, the less we need to consult God. Gradually we drift away from the simplicity of walking in the innocense of TRUST. This is what God is saying; we must learn to be aware of His presence constantly and learn to trust Him with everything!
There are many things that relate to the remnant of God becoming as little children and we cannot forget to include humility. Good children have a deep respect for their parents and this is a paralell of the reverential fear of God that should be a vital part of our relationship with our heavenly Father. I personally believe this is one of the most dangerous errors that has been accepted in the church world. The “habitual” sins of many in the religious community has flooded the sanctuary of the church, and this attitude has definitely hindered the moving of the Holy Spirit. “Verily I say unto you, except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven, Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew 18:3-4) You see, it is pride and hautiness that corrupts the soul. This poisonous attitude rules the mind and completely changes the “vision” of those who are infected with its power. If people would humble themselves and allow God to increase within them in their personal life, the churches would explode with the miracles of God! Many have created their own ideas of how things should be, and have forsaken God’s presence for their own agenda – and sadly cannot recognize the difference! Humans love to do things – their way. May we not forget that God rejected Cains offering because it was presented in the attitude of disobedience and He did not accept Ishmael because it represents the works of flesh as a compromise to living in faith. It seems when man controls the program, he becomes the focus of attention. Maybe that is why many religious leaders will not step out of God’s way and allow Him to manifest HIS agenda in the churches. God will NOT force His presence on anyone. He gently whispers and beckons His people to draw near to Him and obey – as little children.

Whose Voice Do You Follow?

THE SECRET PLACE
“He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

PART 13

WHOSE VOICE DO YOU FOLLOW?

I believe it is important how we process information and I am concerned that many including myself have fallen into deception over the years. In my search for spiritual truth, I felt more comfortable in the full-gospel camp of what is commonly called, the Charismatic, full-gospel, “Spirit-filled” way. There is nothing wrong with the name, in fact, I actually like it, however, I would like to stop for a moment and understand exactly what it means. It seems the spirit-filled folks tend to accept the idea they are more spiritual than the traditional groups. Some put the main emphasis of their identification in their doctrine that teaches the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. Of course, the traditional churches do not believe in speaking with tongues and their opinion concludes this is either an evil spirit or a work of the emotions. After being a member of BOTH camps in my life, I believe I can speak with experience and I want to begin this article with my discovery. First, let me say that speaking in tongues is a valid and genuine manifestation. Yes, there are fleshly imitations and sadly, it is not unusual to see “emotional” religious deeds performed on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the gift of tongues can be used in divine appointments as a way for God to communicate to unbelievers, also to edify and prophesy to believers. In addition, they can be used as a personal prayer language in worship and intercessory prayer. However, let me say once again, speaking in tongues do NOT automatically PROVE that a person is FILLED with the Holy Spirit! The evidence of being filled with His Spirit is demonstrating the FRUIT of God’s character and nature.

This is not exactly my focus, but I felt I needed to build a foundation with what being filled with the Holy Spirit is and what it’s not. Christians need to examine their hearts and re-evaluate just exactly, how they are living! To live thinking we are a certain way, and in reality we are not like that at all – is a dangerous deception! Allow me explain. I am not referring to anyone in specific, but rather a general scenario of a “normal” supposedly “Spirit-filled” Christian. Let us take a peek –

Rising in the morning, going through the routines of getting ready to go to work, do we ask God to be with us through the day, and to give us His favor and blessings? Do we ask Him for His protection and His wisdom? Do we ask Him to give us a burden for certain people and to give us sensitivity for those at work that might need God’s Word as a divine appointment? Do we ask Him what we should eat or if we should fast today? Do we ask Him to rule our tongue and guard our ears and mouth? Do we ask Him to help us be a good witness as we represent His Kingdom? Are we aware of His presence when we are gossiping, criticizing, judging, or laughing at sinful things?

After we come home, do we thank Him for our day and meditate about the things we said and did, and repent for our sins? Do we ask Him what we should eat for the evening, or if we should sacrifice our meal for the purpose of being more spiritually sensitive? Do we ask Him if we should watch television, what to watch or how long to watch? Do we ask Him if we should study His Word, who to pray for, who to contact, who to encourage, or if we can be used to relay a spiritual message to someone directly from God? Do we ask Him how we should spend our time every evening? Do we evaluate our day and meditate on how we can do better?

In our general everyday affairs and decisions, do we ask Him to give us burdens for people we notice on a regular basis but we do not know personally? Do we ask Him constantly to give us an awareness of His presence and a discernment to know what He wants us to say, so that we can be used in divine appointments? Do we ask Him if we should give a stranger some money or maybe have the opportunity to share the gospel with them? Do we ask Him to give us someone everyday that we can help in some way? Are we always looking for someone that might be within our space that God “sent” to us? Do we ask Him how we are to spend our money? Do we ask Him if we should buy certain things like new cars or expensive toys, or do we just buy whatever we want and do whatever feels good?

These are just a small sample of practical events that we all encounter in life, but my point is simple; if we take great pride in proclaiming to be Spirit-filled and yet have NOT incorporated the lifestyle of being “led” by God in everything, then we are a fake and a phony! If we do NOT have a constant line of sincere communication with Him about the places we go, what we do, and what we say – then in all probability, we are NOT being led by Him. It does not matter what group, name or denomination you call yourself, if you are born-again and have a constant, humble and obedient relationship with Jesus Christ, you are a Spirit-led Christian. It is not the quantity of religious deeds we do, it is all about doing WHAT He said to do, and WHEN He said to do it! Let us turn to Luke chapter six and verse 46, “And why do you call me, LORD, LORD and do NOT the things that I say?” This statement is straight and to the point! It is the most common phrase among Christians to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, but is He YOUR Lord? Lord means someone that has dominion and control over someone. In order to be controlled, a person must first YIELD and surrender to them. This is the problem – People want all that God has to offer, without giving up their will to do everything they want to do. “Big News Flash” – Jesus Christ becoming our LORD does NOT come automatically with accepting Christ as our Savior. Being saved with the mercy, love and grace of His blood does NOT mean He will force us to become humbly obedient to His voice. Selah.

I believe the idea of Christian service has always been difficult to comprehend among those who have never learned “how” to listen. We grow up and look around at those who serve Jesus Christ and we want to participate. There is nothing wrong with having zeal and excitement to contribute our efforts for His Kingdom, but it is crucial to KNOW what He is CALLING us to do. Just because we can do something or rather we “like” to do certain things, does not mean this is our calling. The Lord does give spiritual gifts, however we need to ASK Him exactly what He has planned for our destiny. I believe too many times, people work hard at building something for God and they become so stimulated with their accomplishment, they may miss the Lord completely. He never said that we should create whatever we want and bring it to Him so that He can anoint it and bless it. His divine order calls for us to first, “listen” to His directions, then obediently move in His anointing, and when HIS time is perfect, He will exalt and bless what we have done. If we get ahead of Him or alter His original plans, we are in disobedience and out of His will. When it seems that all doors are locked and no one is interested in our accomplishments, it is either not God’s time – or we are not spiritually, in a place where God can use us. If the gifts you have presented have not been used by Him, it is NOT HIS FAULT, (He has the power to make it as successful as we can handle) but most likely, we have overlooked some crucial “details” somewhere in His divine blueprints. Repent, be still and follow the Shepherd’s voice.

THE WALK OF VICTORY

THE WALK
PART 52

THE WALK OF VICTORY

Have you noticed the battle is intensifying? If you have not recognized the increasing darkness, maybe you are not fighting the good fight of faith! Do not become like the frog who sits in the pot of water that is on the stove. The water is “gradually” heated and the frog does not notice he is being boiled alive. “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned and (for which) you confessed the good confession (of faith) before many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:12 AMP) There is such a thing as “earnestly contending for the faith” and that means to (strive in combat) and be active toward the cause of Christ. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3) We talk and sing about victory but what are we being victorious over? We can be victorious over sin, ONLY when we become more pure and holy. This only happens when we are determined to resist temptation and sacrifice our flesh. The church wants to shout and dance about the rapture but very few want to talk about being a living sacrifice! Yes, Jesus is our victory but victory is never easy or cheap. On the battlegrounds of war, there are dead soldiers, fires burning and the landscape destroyed. As the survivors are wounded and changed forever, it would seem hard to describe “victory” without acknowledging the great price of blood. Likewise, the cost that Christ paid to give us the victory is not something we can casually say without realizing the COST of His suffering.

Are we enduring tribulation as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Maybe you are not taking spiritual warfare seriously, but rather allowing yourself to be entangled with the affairs of this life that doesn’t please your Lord. Maybe? (II Timothy 2:3-4) There are two sides; the body of Christ of our Father God (I Corinthians 12:27; Mathew 6:9) and the body of Satan of the father of the devil (Revelation 2:9; John 8:44). If you do not choose God, by default you automatically get the devil! (Mathew 12:30; Acts 26:18). Brother Billy, I choose Jesus but why is it when I start reaching out for Him the battle increases? Because as you yield to the Lord, He opens the door wider for more of His Holy Spirit to flow through you. Moreover, the only reason resistance becomes more fierce is because you are moving in the right direction! Be encouraged – remember, victory is DEFINITE! “For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7). IF we keep putting our faith and works together in the authority of Christ, we will be fulfilled in the Kingdom that is to come! “But, thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Corinthians 15:57). Keep walking on the devil and know that he is defeated every day, (John 17:18; I John 3:8; Mathew 10:7-8). Do not stop confessing and taking the land! (Joshua 1:3; Luke 10:19) Everyday in your life make sure that Jesus gets everything He paid for with His blood! Warriors – CHARGE!

We see a very interesting and encouraging story found in II Kings chapter 6. Syria and Israel were at war and the king of Syria was troubled because whenever he attempted a military strategy he would discover that Israel was always one-step ahead of him. He had a meeting and asked his servants if they had any information about a traitor in their midst but they said they had heard about a prophet of God named Elisha that had the ability to see the future and help the king of Israel. Therefore, he sent a large company of soldiers and chariots by night and surrounded the city of Dothan to kidnap Elisha and thus eliminate the gifted spy. Very early the next morning the servant of Elisha noticed the entire city was about to be attacked at any moment. He asked Elisha, what could they do and he answered in verse 16; “Fear not: for they that are with us are more than they that are with them”. Now I am sure the servant was confused and wondering about this statement the same as we would act if we were in a crisis that looked hopeless. How many times have we faced a critical situation and used our human reasoning and logical thinking to find a practical solution to our problem? If we only look to what is available to us in our brain then we are destined for defeat because we do not wrestle with flesh and blood but our true warfare is in the spirit realm. In II Kings, chapter 6 and verse 17, Elisha prayed and asked God to allow the servant to have a glimpse into the next world. We talk about the eyes of our understanding being opened and ask the Lord to “open the eyes of our heart”, but what does that mean? The servant’s understanding of truth went from imagination to literal and this spiritual enlightenment allowed him to KNOW divine reality the way God sees it. “And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha”. Seeing the truth was much more thrilling and faith building than the veiled truth. Revelation transforms our “vision” into a tangible substance that is real to our spirit. It is a privilege to peek behind the curtain into the next dimension and see the mysteries of the spiritual realm. This is not to say that we should not believe in the things we cannot not see because faith KNOWS, “without seeing.” God is saying, that everything we take at face value and then later discover how much work and how many people were involved to produce the finished product, was all done according to His perfect plan. When we thought life was out of control we later realize that God had His steady hand on the wheel. The lesson that is being revealed here is for God’s people to understand there is another world at work all around us and to be sensitive of good and evil at all times. Behind the veil of mortality, there is another world of spiritual reality and since we are spiritual beings living in a natural realm, we must use discernment to live this higher wisdom. The encouraging news to us who straddle these two dimensions is that God has complete authority and control over “both” and He wants us to be aware of what is going on all the time.

We have a clear understanding that angels are fighting battles for us behind this “curtain” as demons have been assigned to destroy us. How many times have we avoided “accidents” and never realized we were in serious danger? When demonic creatures have pointed their arrows at us and swords have been drawn, how many times have angels intervened on our behalf and delivered us from certain defeat? Let us remember there are many more servants of God willing to help us on the other side than enemies who are against us. Moreover, walking in this holy knowledge gives us confidence in knowing that situations are not always the way they seem. The devil uses ignorance of God’s Word against the saints and “bluffs” them into surrender and defeat. Fear is one of our most devastating issues only because we have either never learned about the next dimension or we refuse to believe it is true. Let us who are children of the light praise and worship our Lord for providing our constant protection and security. Transformation and being renewed is all about opening the eyes of our heart. Selah.
“He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
(I John 3:8)

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:1)

“For the Lord your God is going with you!
He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’” (Deuteronomy 20:4)

“Do not be afraid of them,” the Lord said to Joshua, “for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.” (Joshua 10:8)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

“Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”
(Romans 8:37-39)

“Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.”
(Psalm 3:8)

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (I John 5:4)

“My soul, give thanks to the Lord, all my being, bless His holy name. My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all His blessings. It is He who forgives all our guilt, who heals every one of our ills, who redeems our life from the grave, who crowns us with love and compassion. He fills our life with good things, renewing our youth like an eagle’s.
The Lord does deeds of justice, gives judgment for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses and His deeds to Israel’s sons. The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. His wrath will come to an end, He will not be angry forever. His Word will never fail.
Our Father does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our faults. For as the heavens are high above the earth so strong is His love for those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our sins. As a father has compassion on his sons, the Lord has pity on those who fear Him. For He knows of what we are made, He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass, he flowers like the flower of the field; the wind blows and he is gone and his place never sees him again. Nevertheless, the love of the Lord is everlasting upon those who hold Him in fear; His justice reaches out to children’s children when they keep His covenant in truth, when they keep His will in their mind.
The Lord has set His sway in heaven, and His kingdom is ruling over all. He is the ultimate authority of all things and no one is more powerful than He is. Give thanks to the Lord, all His angels, mighty in power, fulfilling His Word, who heeds the voice of His instructions. Give thanks to the Lord, all His hosts, His servants who do His will. Give thanks to the Lord, all His works, in every place where He rules. My soul, give thanks to the Lord, and bless His Holy Name.” (Psalm 103)

THE WALK OF SALVATION III

THE WALK
PART 48
THE WALK OF SALVATION III

3. Representing God’s Kingdom

I was invited a while back to play some live music at a country store that sells Christian and primitive crafts. I noticed several plaques and pictures that said, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read”. I was reminded about how I had been convicted lately of dropping my guard in front of those I work with and how easy it is to “blend in” with people that are not children of the light. I realize that Jesus associated with the everyday Joe, but He did it all – without sinning. There are no legitimate reasons for allowing ourselves to become a hypocrite. Our determination is measured by the burden we have for other people’s souls. It is all about love and if we can allow love to be developed within our heart, I believe everything else will fall into place. I know it is strong language but I must face it head-on and not hide behind the long list of excuses that we love to whine about. When we meet someone for the first time it is easy to raise our standard to the top because they have only seen our best effort to portray an image. The problem comes when we see someone everyday and it becomes apparent that we cannot keep up the stress and labor of walking the tight rope of perfection. This “stress” comes from us not being spiritually filled-up enough or prayed-up enough, to relax and allow Jesus to do the ministering “through” us.

The best example of familiarity that all married couples can understand is how well behaved we are when we are trying to capture someone’s heart when dating. Then after the wedding we begin to pull off the mask and be more honest with our mate. We become relaxed and comfortable and tend to let go a little more each day until many times we become nothing like the image we were trying so hard to be. The same is true with the people we work with when we let down our guard and become too relaxed. It might start with laughing at a crude joke or agreeing with someone when they are backstabbing another person. Then someone might have a picture of pornography and you willingly lean in to see. After awhile your team begins to look at you in a different light that is less pure and less respectful than before. A strong Christian emits a type of conviction which establishes a standard that people are aware of. God uses this to remind the lost they are hopeless in their own strength and they need to reach up to Him. When Christians backslide, the higher standard they have been called to falls down to the lower level of the unredeemed and unfortunately they begin to feel comfortable and justified with the current state of their lifestyle. Without the conviction from the so-called Christian, the sinner grows more confident and will actually end up lashing out at the backslider with mockery and hate. We as Christians must hold the bar high for the sake of obedience to God and the love for lost souls. So how can we stay strong and not fall prey to becoming lukewarm and overly familiar with friends and family? Here are seven simple points to remember as we pray and ask God to help us be salt and light to the world and especially to those who “know” us.

• GO TO THE DRAWING TABLE: This is another way of saying we are going to make the willing decision to become a living sacrifice upon God’s alter. Maturity is a process that progresses and advances. When we are convicted to move up to a higher level with God, it is good to lay our cards on the table and evaluate where we are and where God wants us to be. Obviously our flesh does not want anything to do with the hot burning coals of as sacrificial furnace because it spells death but that is exactly what we must endure to become transformed into his image. Gold is purified with heat for the purpose of refining and removing the impurities. We protect our secrets and our will but these are the very things we must “hand over” to him. Without this kind of serious commitment we will continue on the frustrating merry-go-round of religious depression, failure and frustration. When someone wants a new “custom” house built they first go to the architect. God is our author and the finisher of our faith and if we are going to become a new structure then we must go to him first and allow him to design us and build us “his way”. We have developed habits that are so hard to break that it leaves us depressed because we realize we are a hypocrite. We try to hide behind the mask of “I’m ok” but it leaves us with a sad, empty feeling inside. We must admit that we cannot change on our own and openly confess that we desperately need him. We say we know and understand there are two realms; one that is lived in the spirit and one that is carnal but just knowing it is not enough. We claim to love God and desire to walk in his spirit but somehow we cannot seem to control ourselves; the truth is – we cannot.

• PRAY FOR AWARENESS: I know we seem to enjoy playing games but God is really not amused and does not think we are funny or cute. He does have patience with us as we are trying to learn but there comes a point where we must begin to grow. I believe that Father wants to reveal the way we are and is hoping that we will come to our senses and see ourselves the way we really are. The Word of God is intended to be a mirror that exposes our own condition which in turn should develop humility. Worship is bowing before God and giving honor and adoration to Him that is Omnipotent, omniscient and Omnipresent. Pride is being self-deceived and is one of the most common and dangerous problems between Father and mankind. If we are ready to stop living in denial then our eyes need to be opened to the “reality” of our problems and the “revelation” of what he is saying. We first need to realize that we need to change – then let us ask God to show us our own attitude and to make us aware of the way He wants us to be. If we are really serious about changing into His image, we will fervently pray for Him to do a deep work in us. If we are satisfied with being religious and do not believe we need transformation then our odds for failure increases drastically. Many people have all of God they want and do not desire any more. They are not praying for awareness because they are uncomfortable with the truth. Selah.

• NO SUBSTITUTE FOR OBEDIENCE: Whether we want to admit it or not we will all be judged in the light of our obedience. We are constantly bombarded by someone trying to help us become a better person and steps to help us become happier. The truth is these self-help methods and ideas will never bring us spiritual peace unless they include obeying God and his word. We want to volunteer and serve in charitable organizations and we might even work within the structures of ministry but cringe when faced with personal obedience. We want to create our own life filled with our own ideas but once again God is not impressed. The Christian life is not just a philosophical arrangement of morals and values it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is based on us hearing his voice and responding to his voice. The hay, wood and stubble of our works and deeds will be burned up in the final judgment because they were either not God inspired or were in direct opposition of what he was trying to tell us.

• KEEP A PRAYER JOURNAL: This may sound simple and really it is, but it has the practical potential to cause a personal revolution in our spiritual life and that is our goal. We all say we know that agape love is what being a Christian is all about but do we really practice it? What I mean is; do we really take the time to think about the needs of others and say a specific prayer for them? Get into the routine of keeping a journal and include within the pages the names of those that you know who need a touch from the Father. This will also cause a stirring that will lead to self-examination and repentance because we must become pure and holy before we go to the throne of his alter. This spiritual habit is very powerful and will bring us closer to him, fill us with his spirit and help us to walk more sensitive in his presence. As we begin to actually care more for others we will begin to reflect his image and character more than ever before. This is real Christianity! Let me also add that moving into the direction of serious prayer produces the power that shakes the foundations of the universe. We must prepare for intense spiritual warfare because the enemy pays more attention to fervent prayer than most anything we can do for the kingdom. It is exciting to record the victories and celebrations of what God has done. Maybe the reason why saints do not have prayer journals is because they do not pray. We focus and spend time with what we are interested in. Of all the things we can do – there is nothing more important than prayer. Prayer is the holy fruit of spiritual love.

• A BURDEN FOR SOULS: It is no secret that we as Christians spend most of our communication time with God asking for “things” that will bring pleasure and what we think will satisfy our flesh. What most people never realize is that our petitions usually are thin when it comes to concentrating and focusing on others. Let us take the time to write out a brand new prayer list and change our way of thinking not for any other reason than agape love. Selfish request are for the young Christian but as we grow into maturity we should begin to see deeper than just the shallow “feelings” of our flesh. What if we made a list of request that was devoted exclusively for our spirit and had nothing on it for our flesh? Try asking God for more spiritual things like, having a burden for lost souls, more wisdom, more love, to be a generous giver and so on. God is filled with love and has a burden for souls twenty four hours a day but we are so concerned with our life that we have become calloused. If we are not filled with his spirit then we will not see people the way he sees them. Ask God to make you less sensitive of the world’s temptations and more aware of peoples needs. Selah. May we be filled with his discernment and grow to love and care about souls enough to pray for their salvation.

• WHO WILL COMMITT? Billy Sunday once said,” Many people have just enough religion to make them miserable”. We talk, talk, and talk all day and all night about things we really do not understand because we have refused to sacrifice the quiet time necessary to know God. It is so much easier to talk about the holy alter of sacrifice than to actually crawl upon it and be refined by God. This is exactly why prayer is the most “talked” about Christian duty yet the least practiced. We have become a “ME” society that has grown more concentrated on self. Our pride causes us to judge others according to our opinions without even considering what God might say. This negative attitude has a direct influence on how much we choose to help others who are in need. Devoting any of our time for the purpose of expressing true love toward others or to God himself is a labor worthy of our sacrifice. We are servants OF Christ and TO Christ. We will never come into the fullness of God’s will or become the useful vessel he has called us to be without becoming a lump of “willing” clay in the hands of the Potter.

• DISCIPLINE IS PAINFUL: In sports, discipline is widely known as the key to becoming the best you can be. Those who are disciplined are not just more likely to succeed but also gain the respect from all who know them. Discipline is an outward sign of someone who is serious, focused and determined. Those who are not disciplined are labeled as lazy, uncaring, and not dependable. Therefore, if we apply these same conditions in a spiritual light we begin to see how the Lord moves within the hearts of His people within the boundaries of their passion to love Him. Of course, it is not easy to adjust our words and actions so that we can gain more humility, but it is worth it if we desire for God to have more confidence in us. This in turn will create a chain reaction that will be noticed in our character. The question must be asked, “Just how much desire do I have to change into the image of Jesus?” Discipline does not fall from the sky but comes from the hearts of those who want it more than anything. Selah. As a man thinks in his heart so is he, which leaves no doubt, as to who we really are. Amen.

THE WALK OF DISCIPLINE II

THE WALK
PART 24

THE WALK OF DISCIPLINE II

I must be honest – I have not fasted a whole lot in my life. I am guilty of loving to eat and have my own problems trying to deal with it. I also struggle with spending time in prayer. I pray and talk with God on the way to work and going home. I talk with Him while I am at work and try to go to bed early so that I can be quiet in His presence and listen to Him but I do not have a two or three hour specific time each day. For those who do – I am inspired to rise to this level of commitment. I personally believe that we are to STAY in constant communion as we WALK in prayer consciousness. Whatever the quantity of time we choose to surrender to Him, our prayers must become a personal discipline that we place at the top of our priority list or our fast-paced life will cause us to forget the needs of others. Last year I felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to go on a seven-day denial of meat, bread, potatoes and sweets. For this particular week, I only ate fruit, vegetables and drank water and fruit juice. I am not boasting of my sacrifice but rather just testifying to you the spiritual encouragement and refreshing this time of seeking God gave me. This may not seem like much of a sacrifice to some but you must understand the amount of rich foods I consume regularly. Fasting done with the right intention and with the humble desire to draw closer to His presence will always be spiritually rewarding and a true blessing to clear our mind and rest our body. Of course, this is not the only kind of discipline we can choose to do because actually the Christian WALK is an entire LIFE of discipline! Fasting is just an example of how we are to live in a “state” of order and control. We are not to be extremist that is strict one minute and let our hair down the next because it exposes the instability of our heart with an imbalance and immaturity of our mind. So, how do we abide in His discipline? We can buy all the books and listen to the video programs telling us how to incorporate Godly principals into our schedule but what we need is more of God Himself! We must be careful that we do not become like the Pharisees who took discipline to a completely insane level of legalism. They became more absorbed in the “science” of living according to the law than trying to connect and know God spiritually. I read an anonymous statement the other day that said the Christian life is not for everyone. It did sound strange at first but the more I thought about it the more I began to grasp its meaning. Salvation is for “whosoever will” but most people will NEVER accept Him. There is such a huge difference between being religious and being a disciple that it is obvious that many church attendees have never had or never will have a burning desire to be a “true” Christian. It is because the followers of Christ must ALLOW themselves to be stripped completely, broken into pieces, melted with fervent heat, molded into God’s image and polished to the brightness of His glory. The masses are completely confused because when they heard the invitation for salvation they were told to accept Christ as their Savior and He would make everything wonderful. They were not informed intentionally about what their requirements and accountabilities would be. They may not admit it publicly but deep within their conscience, their rebellion secretly professes to have never “signed up” to be a living sacrifice or live a life of strict discipline. This lack of holiness is why many churches do lot’s of “activities” but have very little anointing.

I heard an interview with a pastor the other day on Christian radio. The host was asking him about his church and he went on to tell about his programs, the size of the church, and he tried to describe his “style” of ministry and so on. After it was over I realized that he had not mentioned anything about the anointing, the Holy Spirit, changed lives, miracles, healings, visions, the power and glory of God, casting out devils, discipleship, weeping, fasting or even reaching out to the community. It seemed the church was focusing on itself and how hard they were laboring to be a success. Sadly, this is the typical, average, “normal” condition of modern lukewarm religion. The reason why the presence of God is not manifested is obvious: the people have not invested their personal time in prayer and intimate worship. If the members have been calloused by the sins of the world, they will not desire the holy of holies but rather are more comfortable with a light, pleasant, religious service. If the atmospheres in churches like these are no different from going to the grocery store, then something is terribly wrong! If God’s power and anointing has been exchanged for entertainment and if Holy Ghost preaching has been traded for politically correct lectures and socially acceptable stories – then where is God? What part does the Lord have in a church where man leads it, designs it and controls it? God is looking for men and women who desire to know what spiritual discipline really means and who has the faith to step forward and say – I will do it! Not because they are trying to impress anyone but because they love Jesus with ALL their heart, their mind and their strength. In the Christian world there are popular subjects to talk about that can stimulate a crowd to stand on their feet and shout the house down. And, on the other hand there are topics that pastors will keep on the shelf because the majority would be offended and not be able to receive it. I believe that fasting is one of such examples because in general most people are not interested in anything that causes a disruption in their daily routine or that could cause suffering. That is why many churches avoid the deeper spiritual “walk” and settle for potluck dinners every week. It is no secret that people love to eat and sadly in many assemblies instead of being built around God’s Word and the desire to grow spiritually the church is built around fellowship where the only “gain” is found on the bathroom scales. Our lives have become so spoiled with the luxury of eating, that food has evolved from the category of “survival” to the plateau of exciting entertainment. For many, food has become one of our favorite pastimes and is the high point of the day. There is so much sadness and depression in the world that some, (even Christians) have adopted food as a way to drown their anxieties and depression, similar to the alcoholic and drug addict lifestyle.

We understand the general meaning of “fasting” to be the deliberate abstaining of food (and) or drink for spiritual purposes. I also believe that we can declare abstinence from other things that we love and enjoy for the purpose of sacrificing our flesh to enhance our relationship with God. The first part of the New Year is a good time to establish our commitment to Christ and start the calendar with a strong statement of dedication and loyalty to His Name and His Word. But fasting can be exercised anytime of the year and is an awesome way to generate power into our prayers of faith. Also it is a form of discipline to train our heart to be more of a giver and compassionate to those in need. Let us begin in Mathew chapter six and verse one, where Christ gives His instructions on several specific aspects of the disciplined life we have been talking about. “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, for then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to a beggar, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do – blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity. I tell you in all earnestness, they have received all the reward they will ever get.” (verses 1- 2 TLB) Verse 9, “But when you pray, go away to yourself, all alone and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly and your Father who knows your secrets will reward you.” Verses 32, “So, don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But, your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and He will give them to you if you give Him FIRST PLACE in your life and live as He wants you to.”

It is very common for those who think about being disciplined to believe that when the New Year comes around that it is a magical time to instantly become strict and organized to get everything in their life on track. What sort of New Year’s Resolution should a Christian make? The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make? Common New Year’s resolutions are commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set. However, first Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to material things. This is not the central focus of what God’s visions are about. The Lord does want to bless us but usually our benefits and pleasures are the side item while HIS plans and destiny for us are the main spiritual meaning and focus. Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year’s resolution, it has a chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution. So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; (2) pray for wisdom with HOW to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” Yes and Amen!

There have been many brave soldiers since the beginning of time to walk out on a battlefield and declare to heaven and earth, that they are willing to die for what they know to be true. Unfortunately God does not give credit for those who believe in a lie. Having faith in a false god or a false belief system does not earn favor with THE GOD of the heaven and earth. Sincerity does not earn special credit because there is an absolute truth and many who are “sincerely” wrong. Sincerity also does not TAKE THE PLACE of discipline. The Lord does not move just because we ask Him to. He cannot turn against His own perfection because that would be compromising and confusing. We must listen to HIS voice and pray according to HIS destiny for the miracle to be performed in His perfect way and at the perfect time. He usually moves when He sees us taking the initiative to help ourselves. In other words, He is more inclined to help those who are working hard toward the vision instead of those lying on the couch waiting for Him to do it all. We must start somewhere and believe that along with our effort that God is going to empower us with His spiritual discipline and open doors of favor and blessing to help us accomplish HIS will.