FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Part 45 – Published 11/11/17
III. Thirdly, I have to speak of THE REMEDIES WHICH THE LORD EMPLOYS. I do earnestly pray that what I say may come home to all here, especially to every one of the members of this church, for it has come very much home to me, and caused great searching of heart in my own soul, and yet I do not think I am the least zealous among you. I beseech you to judge yourselves, that you be not judged. Do not ask me if I mean anything personal. I am personal in the most emphatic sense. I speak of you and to you in the plainest way. Some of you show plain symptoms of being lukewarm, and God forbid that I should flatter you, or be unfaithful to you. I am aiming at personality, and I earnestly want each beloved brother and sister here to take home each affectionate rebuke. And you who come from other churches, whether in America or elsewhere, you want arousing quite as much as we do, your churches are not better than ours, some of them are not so good, and I speak to you also, for you need to be stirred up to nobler things.
Note, then, the first remedy. Jesus gives a clear discovery as to the church’s true state. He says, “Thou are lukewarm, thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” I rejoice to see people willing to know the truth, but most men do not wish to know it, and this is an ill sign. When a man tells you that he has not looked at his ledger, or day-book, or held a stock-taking for this twelve months, you know whereabouts he is, and you say to your manager, “Have you an account with him? Then keep it as close as you can.” When a man dares not know the worst about his case, it is certainly a bad one, but he that is right before God is thankful to be told what he is and where he is. Now, some of you know the faults of other people, and in watching this church you have observed weak points in many places, have you wept over them? Have you prayed over them? If not, you have not watched as you should do for the good of your brethren and sisters, and, perhaps, have allowed evils to grow which ought to have been rooted up: you have been silent when you should have kindly and earnestly spoken to the offenders, or made your own example a warning to them. Do not judge your brother, but judge yourself: if you have any severity, use it on your own conduct and heart. We must pray the Lord to use this remedy, and make us know just where we are. We shall never get right as long as we are confident that we are so already. Self-complacency is the death of repentance.
Our Lord’s next remedy is gracious counsel. He says, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire.” Does not that strike you as being very like the passage in Isaiah, “Come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price?” It is so, and it teaches us that one remedy for lukewarmness is to begin again just as we began at first. We were at a high temperature at our first conversion. What joy, what peace, what delight, what comfort, what enthusiasm we had when first we knew the Lord! We bought gold of him then for nothing, let us go and buy again at the same price. If religion has not been genuine with us till now, or if we have been adding to it great lumps of shining stuff which we thought was gold and was not, let us now go to the heavenly mint and buy gold tried in the fire, that we may be really rich. Come, let us begin again, each one of us. Inasmuch as we may have thought we were clothed and yet we were naked, let us hasten to him again, and at his own price, which is no price, procure the robe which he has wrought of his own righteousness, and that goodly raiment of his Spirit, which will clothe us with the beauty of the Lord. If, moreover, we have come to be rather dim in the eye, and no longer look up to God and see his face, and have no bright vision of the glory to be revealed, and cannot look on sinners with weeping eyes, as we once did, let us go to Jesus for the eye-salve, just as we went when we were stone blind at first, and the Lord will open our eyes again, and we shall behold him in clear vision as in days gone by. The word from Jesus is, “Come near to me, I pray you, my brethren. If you have wandered from me, return; if you have been cold to me I am not cold to you, my heart is the same to you as ever, come back to me, my brethren. Confess your evil deeds, receive my forgiveness, and henceforth let your hearts burn towards me, for I love you still and will supply all your needs.” That is good counsel, let us take it.
Now comes a third remedy, sharp and cutting, but sent in love, namely, rebukes and chastenings. Christ will have his favored church walk with great care, and if she will not follow him fully by being shown wherein she has erred, and will not repent when kindly counseled, he then betakes himself to some sharper means. “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten.” The word here used for “love” is a very choice one; it is one which signifies an intense personal affection. Now, there are some churches which Christ loves very specially, favoring them above others, doing more for them than for others, and giving them more prosperity; they are the darlings of his heart, his Benjamins. Now, it is a very solemn thing to be dearly loved by God. It is a privilege to be coveted, but mark you, the man who is so honored occupies a position of great delicacy. The Lord thy God is a jealous God, and he is most jealous where he shows most love. The Lord lets some men escape completely free for a while after doing many evil things, but if they had been his own elect he would have visited them with stripes long before. He is very jealous of those whom he has chosen to lean upon his bosom and to be his familiar friends. Your servant may do many things which could not be thought of by your child or your wife; and so is it with many who profess to be servants of God—they live a very lax life, and they do not seem to be chastened for it, but if they were the Lord’s own peculiarly beloved ones he would not endure such conduct from them. Now mark this, if the Lord exalts a church, and gives it a special blessing, he expects more of it, more care of his honor, and more zeal for his glory than he does of any other church; and when he does not find it, what will happen? Why, because of his very love he will rebuke it with hard sermons, sharp words, and sore smiting of conscience. If these do not arouse it he will take down the rod and deal out chastening. Do you know how the Lord chastens churches? Paul says, “For this cause some are sickly among you, and many sleep.” Bodily sickness is often sent in discipline upon churches, and losses, and crosses, and troubles are sent among the members, and sometimes leanness in the pulpit, breaking out of heresy and divisions in the pew, and lack of success in all church work. All these are smiting with the rod. It is very sad, but sometimes that rod does not fall on that part of the church which does the wrong. Sometimes God may take the best in the church, and chasten them for the wrong of others. You say, “How can that be right?” Why, because they are the kind of people who will be most benefited by it. If a vine wants the knife, it is not the branch that bears very little fruit which is trimmed, but the branch which bears much fruit is purged because it is worth purging. In their case the chastening is a blessing and a token of love. Sorrow is often brought upon Christians by the sins of their fellow-members, and many an aching heart there is in this world that I know of, of brethren and sisters who love the Lord and want to see souls converted, but they can only sigh and cry because nothing is done. Perhaps they have a minister who does not believe the gospel, and they have fellow-members who do not care whether the minister believes it or not, they are all asleep together except those few zealous souls who besiege the throne of grace day and night, and they are the ones who bear the burden of the lukewarm church. Oh, if the chastening comes here, whoever bears it, may the whole body be the better for it, and may we never rest till the church begins to glow with the sacred fire of God, and boil with enthusiastic desire for his glory.
The last remedy, however, is the best of all to my mind. I love it best and desire to make it my food when it is not my medicine. The best remedy for backsliding churches is more communion with Christ. “Behold,” saith he, “I stand at the door and knock.” I have known this text preached upon to sinner’s numbers of times as though Christ knocked at their door and they had to open it, and so on. The preacher has never managed to keep to free grace for this reason, that the text was not meant to be so used, and if men will ride a text the wrong way, it will not go. This text belongs to the church of God, not to the unconverted. It is addressed to the Laodicean church. There is Christ outside the church, driven there by her unkindness, but he has not gone far away, he loves his church too much to leave her altogether, he longs to come back, and therefore he waits at the doorpost. He knows that the church will never be restored till he comes back, and he desires to bless her, and so he stands waiting, knocking and knocking, again and again; he does not merely knock once, but he stands knocking by earnest sermons, by Providences, by impressions upon the conscience, by the quickening’s of his Holy Spirit; and while he knocks he speaks, he uses all means to awaken his church. Most condescendingly and graciously does he do this, for having threatened to spew her out of his mouth, he might have said, “I will get me gone; and I will never come back again to thee,” that would have been natural and just; but how gracious he is when, having expressed his disgust he says, “Disgusted as I am with your condition, I do not wish to leave you; I have taken my presence from you, but I love you, and therefore I knock at your door, and wish to be received into your heart. I will not force myself upon you, I want you voluntarily to open the door to me.” Christ’s presence in a church is always a very tender thing. He never is there against the will of the church, it cannot be, for he lives in his people’s wills and hearts, and “worketh in them to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” He does not break bolt and bar and come in as he often does into a sinner’s heart, carrying the soul by storm, because the man is dead in sin, and Christ must do it all, or the sinner will perish; but he is here speaking to living men and women, who ought also to be loving men and women, and he says, “I wish to be among you, open the door to me.” We ought to open the door at once, and say, “Come in, good Lord, we grieve to think we should ever have put thee outside that door at all.”
And then see what promises he gives. He says he will come and sup with us. Now, in the East, the supper was the best meal of the day, it was the same as our dinner; so that we may say that Christ will come and dine with us. He will give us a rich feast, for he himself is the daintiest and most plenteous of all feasts for perishing souls. He will come and sup with us, that is, we shall be the host and entertain him: but then he adds, “and he with me,” that is, he will be the host and guest by turns. We will give him of our best, but poor fare is that, too poor for him, and yet he will partake of it. Then he shall be host, and we will be guest, and oh, how we will feast on what he gives! Christ comes, and brings the supper with him, and all we do is to find the room. The Master says to us, “Where is the guest chamber?” and then he makes ready and spreads his royal table. Now, if these be the terms on which we are to have a feast together, we will most willingly fling open the doors of our hearts and say, “Come in, good Lord.” He says to you, “Children, have you any meat?” and if you are obliged to say, “No, Lord,” he will come in unto you none the less readily, for there are the fish, the net is ready to break, it is so full, and here are more upon the coals ready. I warrant you, if we sup with him, we shall be lukewarm no longer. The men who live where Jesus is soon feel their hearts burning. It is said of a piece of scented clay by the old Persian moralist that the clay was taken up and questioned. “How camest thou to smell so sweetly, being nothing but common clay?” and it replied, “I laid for many a year in the sweet society of a rose, until at last I drank in its perfume” and we may say to every warm-heated Christian, “How camest thou so warm?” and his answer will be, “My heart bubbleth up with a good matter, for I speak of the things which I have made touching the King. I have been with Jesus, and I have learned of him.”
Now, brethren and sisters, what can I say to move you to take this last medicine? I can only say, take it, not only because of the good it will do you, but because of the sweetness of it. I have heard say of some persons that they were pledged not to take wine except as a medicine, but then they were very pleased when they were ill: and so, if this be the medicine, “I will come and sup with him, and he with me,” we may willingly confess our need of so delicious a remedy. Need I press it on you? May I not rather urge each brother as soon as he gets home today to see whether he cannot enter into fellowship with Jesus? and may the Spirit of God help him! This is my closing word, there is something for us to do in this matter. We must examine ourselves, and we must confess the fault if we have declined in grace. And then we must not talk about setting the church right, we must pray for grace each one for himself, for the text does not say, “If the church will open the door” but rather “If any man hears my voice and opens the door.” It must be done by individuals: the church will only get right by each man getting right. Oh, that we might get back into an earnest zeal for our Lord’s love and service, and we shall only do so by listening to his rebukes, and then falling into his arms, clasping him once again, and saying, “My Lord and my God.” That healed Thomas, did it not? Putting his fingers into the print of the nails, putting his hand into the side, that cured him. Poor, unbelieving, staggering Thomas only had to do that and he became one of the strongest of believers, and said, “My Lord and my God.” You will love your Lord till your soul is as coals of juniper if you will daily commune with him. Come close to him, and once getting close to him, never go away from him anymore. The Lord bless you, dear brethren, the Lord bless you in this thing.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Part 44 – Published 11/4/17
AN EARNEST WARNING ABOUT LUKEWARMNESS – II
Delivered Sunday, July 26, 1874
We have already said that this condition of indifference is attended with perfect self-complacency. The people who ought to be mourning are rejoicing, and where they should hang out signals of distress they are flaunting the banners of triumph. “We are rich, we are adding to our numbers, enlarging our schools, and growing on all sides; we have need of nothing. What can a church require that we have not in abundance?” Yet their spiritual needs are terrible. This is a sad state for a church to be in. Spiritually poor and proud. A church crying out to God because it feels itself in a backsliding state; a church mourning its deficiency, a church pining and panting to do more for Christ, a church burning with zeal for God, and therefore quite discontented with what it has been able to do; this is the church which God will bless: but that which writes itself down as a model for others, is very probably grossly mistaken and is in a sad plight. This church, which was so rich in its own esteem, was utterly bankrupt in the sight of the Lord. It had no real joy in the Lord; it had mistaken its joy in itself for that. It had no real beauty of holiness upon it; it had mistaken its formal worship and fine building and harmonious singing for that. It had no deep understanding of the truth and no wealth of vital godliness, it had mistaken carnal wisdom and outward profession for those precious things. It was poor in secret prayer, which is the strength of any church; it was destitute of communion with Christ, which is the very life blood of religion; but it had the outward semblance of these blessings, and walked in a vain show. There are churches which are poor as Lazarus as to true religion, and yet are clothed in scarlet and fare sumptuously every day upon the mere form of godliness. Spiritual leanness exists side by side with vain-glory. Contentment as to worldly goods makes men rich, but contentment with our spiritual condition is the index of poverty.
Once more, this church of Laodicea had fallen into a condition which had chased away its Lord. The text tells us that Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock.” That is not the position which our Lord occupies in reference to a truly flourishing church. If we are walking aright with him, he is in the midst of the church, dwelling there, and revealing himself to his people. His presence makes our worship to be full of spirituality and life; he meets his servants at the table, and there spreads them a feast upon his body and his blood; it is he who puts power and energy into all our church-action, and causes the word to sound out from our midst. True saints abide in Jesus and he in them. Oh, brethren, when the Lord is in a church, it is a happy church, a holy church, a mighty church, and a triumphant church; but we may grieve him till he will say, “I will go and return to my place, until they acknowledge their offense and seek my face.” Oh, you that know my Lord, and have power with him, entreat him not to go away from us. He can see much about us as a people which grieves his Holy Spirit, much about any one of us to provoke him to anger. Hold him, I pray you, and do not let him go, or if he be gone, bring him again to his mother’s house, into the chamber of her that bare him, where, with holy violence, we will detain him and say, “Abide with us, for thou art life and joy, and all in all to us as a church. Ichabod is written across our house if thou be gone, for thy presence is our glory and thy absence will be our shame.” Churches may become like the temple when the glory of the Lord had left the holy place, because the image of jealousy was set up and the house was defiled. What a solemn warning is that which is contained in Jeremiah 7:12-15, “But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; therefore I will do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.”
II. Now let us consider, secondly, THE DANGER OF SUCH A STATE. The great danger is, first, to be rejected of Christ. He puts it, “I will spue thee out of my mouth,”—as disgusting him, and causing him nausea. Then the church must first be in his mouth, or else it could not be spued from it. What does this mean? Churches are in Christ’s mouth in several ways, they are used by him as his testimony to the world; he speaks to the world through their lives and ministries. He does as good as say, “O sinners, if ye would see what my religion can do, see here a godly people banded together in my fear and love, walking in peace and holiness.” He speaks powerfully by them, and makes the world see and know that there is a true power in the gospel of the grace of God. But when the church becomes neither cold nor hot he does not speak by her, she is no witness for him. When God is with a church the minister’s words come out of Christ’s mouth. “Out of his mouth went a two-edged sword,” says John in the Revelation, and that “two-edged sword” is the gospel which we preach. When God is with a people they speak with divine power to the world, but if we grow lukewarm Christ says, “Their teachers shall not profit, for I have not sent them, neither am I with them. Their word shall be as water spilled on the ground, or as the whistling of the wind.” This is a dreadful thing. Better far for me to die than to be spewed out of Christ’s mouth.
Then he also ceases to plead for such a church. Christ’s special intercession is not for all men, for he says of his people, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” I do not think Christ ever prays for the church of Rome—what would he pray for, but her total overthrow? Other churches are nearing the same fate; they are not clear in his truth or honest in obedience to his word: they follow their own devices, they are lukewarm. But there are churches for which he is pleading, for he has said, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” Mighty are his pleadings for those he really loves, and countless are the blessings which comes in consequence. It will be an evil day when he casts a church out of that interceding mouth, and leaves her unrepresented before the throne because he is none of his. Do you not tremble at such a prospect? Will you not ask for grace to return to your first love? I know that the Lord Jesus will never leave off praying for his own elect, but for churches as corporate bodies he may cease to pray, because they become anti-Christian, or are mere human gatherings, but not elect assemblies, such as the church of God ought to be. Now this is the danger of any church if it declines from its first ardour and becomes lukewarm. “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”
What is the other danger? This first comprehends all, but another evil is hinted at,—such a church will be left to its fallen condition, to become wretched,—that is to say, miserable, unhappy, divided, without the presence of God, and so without delight in the ways of God, lifeless, spiritless, dreary, desolate, full of schisms, devoid of grace, and I know not what beside, that may come under the term “wretched.” Then the next word is “miserable,” which might better be rendered “pitiable.” Churches which once were a glory shall become a shame. Whereas men said, “The Lord has done great things for them,” they shall now say, “see how low they have fallen! What a change has come over the place! What emptiness and wretchedness! What a blessing rested there for so many years, but what a contrast now!” Pity will take the place of congratulation, and scorn will follow upon admiration. Then it will be “poor” in membership, poor in effort, poor in prayer, poor in gifts and graces, poor in everything. Perhaps some rich people will be left to keep up the semblance of prosperity, but all will be empty, vain, void, Christless, lifeless. Philosophy will fill the pulpit with chaff, the church will be a mass of worldliness, the congregation an assembly of vanity. Next, they will become blind, they will not see themselves as they are, they will have no eye upon the neighborhood to do it good, no eye to the coming of Christ, no eye for his glory. They will say, “We see,” and yet be blind as bats. Ultimately they will become “naked,” their shame will be seen by all, they will be a proverb in everybody’s mouth. “Call that a church!” says one. “Is that a church of Jesus Christ?” cries a second. Those dogs that dared not open their mouths against Israel when the Lord was there will begin to howl when he is gone, and everywhere will the sound be heard, “How are the mighty fallen, how are the weapons of war broken.”
In such a case as that the church will fail of overcoming, for it is “to him that overcometh” that a seat upon Christ’s throne is promised; but that church will come short of victory. It shall be written concerning it even as of the children of Ephraim, that being armed and carrying bows they turned their backs in the day of battle. “Ye did run well,” says Paul to the Galatians, “what did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” Such a church had a grand opportunity, but it was not equal to the occasion, its members were born for a great work, but inasmuch as they were unfaithful, God put them aside and used other means. He raised up in their midst a flaming testimony for the gospel, and the light thereof was cast athwart the ocean, and gladdened the nations, but the people were not worthy of it, or true to it, and therefore he took the candlestick out of its place, and left them in darkness. May God prevent such an evil from coming upon us: but such is the danger to all churches if they degenerate into listless indifference.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Part 43 – Published 10/28/17
C.H. Spurgeon – Delivered Sunday, July 26, 1874
AN EARNEST WARNING ABOUT LUKEWARMNESS – PART I
If you have never read the writings of Spurgeon, it is quite a treat for those who appreciate the Word being presented by a bold preacher that was dedicated and focused on the Lord’s work. If you notice above, this message was delivered in 1874. I am dividing this sermon into several parts as it is 18 pages long. I hope you enjoy.
“Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” Revelation 3:14-21.
o Scripture ever wears out. The epistle to the church of Laodicea is not an old letter which may be put into the waste basket and be forgotten; upon its page still glow the words, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” This Scripture was not meant to instruct the Laodiceans only, it has a wider aim. The actual church of Laodicea has passed away, but other Laodiceas still exist—indeed, they are sadly multiplied in our day, and it has ever been the tendency of human nature, however inflamed with the love of God, gradually to chill into lukewarmness. The letter to the Laodiceans is above all others the epistle for the present times.
I should judge that the church at Laodicea was once in a very fervent and healthy condition. Paul wrote a letter to it which did not claim inspiration, and therefore its loss does not render the Scriptures incomplete, for Paul may have written scores of other letters besides. Paul also mentions the church at Laodicea in his letter to the church at Colosse; he was, therefore, well acquainted with it, and as he does not utter a word of censure with regard to it, we may infer that the church was at that time in a sound state. In process of time it degenerated, and cooling down from its former ardour it became careless, lax, and indifferent. Perhaps its best men were dead, perhaps its wealth seduced it into worldliness, possibly its freedom from persecution engendered carnal ease, or neglect of prayer made it gradually backslide; but in any case it declined till it was neither cold nor hot. Lest we should ever get into such a state, and lest we should be in that state now, I pray that my discourse may come with power to the hearts of all present, but especially to the consciences of the members of my own church. May God grant that it may tend to the arousing of us all.
I. My first point will be THE STATE INTO WHICH CHURCHES ARE VERY APT TO FALL. A church may fall into a condition far other than that for which it has a repute. It may be famous for zeal and yet be lethargic. The address of our Lord begins, “I know thy works,” as much as to say, “Nobody else knows you. Men think better of you than you deserve. You do not know yourselves, you think your works to be excellent; but I know them to be very different.” Jesus views with searching eyes all the works of his church. The public can only read reports, but Jesus sees for himself. He knows what is done, and how it is done, and why it is done. He judges a church not merely by her external activities, but by her internal pieties; he searches the heart, and tries the reins of the children of men. He is not deceived by glitter; he tests all things, and values only that gold which will endure the fire. Our opinion of ourselves and Christ’s opinion of us may be very different, and it is a very sad thing when it is so. It will be melancholy indeed if we stand out as a church notable for earnestness and distinguished for success, and yet are not really fervent in spirit, or eager in soul-winning. A lack of vital energy where there seems to be most strength put forth, a lack of real love to Jesus where apparently there is the greatest devotedness to him, are sad signs of fearful degeneracy. Churches are very apt to put the best goods into the window, very apt to make a fair show in the flesh, and like men of the world, they try to make a fine figure upon a very slender estate. Great reputations have often but slender foundations, and lovers of the truth lament that it should be so. Not only is it true of churches, but of every one of us as individuals, that often our reputation is in advance of our deserts. Men often live on their former credit, and trade upon their past characters, having still a name to live, though they are indeed dead. To be slandered is a dire affliction, but it is, upon the whole, a less evil than to be thought better than we are; in the one case we have a promise to comfort us, in the second we are in danger of self-conceit. I speak as unto wise men, judge ye how far this may apply to us.
The condition described in our text is, secondly, one of mournful indifference and carelessness. They were not cold, but they were not hot; they were not infidels, yet they were not earnest believers; they did not oppose the gospel, neither did they defend it; they were not working mischief, neither were they doing any great good; they were not disreputable in moral character, but they were not distinguished for holiness; they were not irreligious, but they were not enthusiastic in piety nor eminent for zeal: they were what the world calls “Moderates,” they were of the Broad-church school, they were neither bigots nor Puritans, they were prudent and avoided fanaticism, respectable and averse to excitement. Good things were maintained among them, but they did not make too much of them; they had prayer-meetings, but there were few present, for they liked quiet evenings at home: when more attended the meetings they were still very dull, for they did their praying very deliberately and were afraid of being too excited. They were content to have all things done decently and in order, but vigor and zeal they considered to be vulgar. Such churches have schools, Bible-classes, preaching rooms, and all sorts of agencies; but they might as well be without them, for no energy is displayed and no good comes of them. They have deacons and elders who are excellent pillars of the church, if the chief quality of pillars be to stand still, and exhibit no motion or emotion. They have ministers who may be the angels of the churches, but if so, they have their wings closely clipped, for they do not fly very far in preaching the everlasting gospel, and they certainly are not flames of fire: they may be shining lights of eloquence, but they certainly are not burning lights of grace, setting men’s hearts on fire. In such communities everything is done in a half-hearted, listless, dead-and-alive way, as if it did not matter much whether it was done or not. It makes one’s flesh creep to see how sluggishly they move: I long for a knife to cut their red tape to pieces, and for a whip to lay about their shoulders to make them bestir themselves. Things are respectably done, the rich families are not offended, the sceptical party is conciliated, and the good people are not quite alienated: things are made pleasant all round. The right things are done, but as to doing them with all your might, and soul, and strength, a Laodicean church has no notion of what that means. They are not so cold as to abandon their work, or to give up their meetings for prayer, or to reject the gospel; if they did so, then they could be convinced of their error and brought to repentance; but on the other hand they are neither hot for the truth, nor hot for conversions, nor hot for holiness, they are not fiery enough to burn the stubble of sin, nor zealous enough to make Satan angry, nor fervent enough to make a living sacrifice of themselves upon the altar of their God. They are “neither cold not hot.”
This is a horrible state, because it is one which in a church wearing a good repute renders that reputation a lie. When other churches are saying, “See how they prosper! see what they do for God!” Jesus sees that the church is doing his work in a slovenly, make-believe manner, and he considers justly that it is deceiving its friends. If the world recognizes such a people as being very distinctly an old-fashioned puritanical church, and yet there is unholy living among them, and careless walking, and a deficiency of real piety, prayer, liberality, and zeal, then the world itself is being deceived, and that too in the worst way, because it is led to judge falsely concerning Christianity, for it lays all these faults upon the back of religion, and cries out, “It is all a farce! The thing is a mere pretense! Christians are all hypocrites!” I fear there are churches of this sort. God grant we may not be numbered with them!
In this state of the church there is much self-glorification, for Laodicea said, “I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” The members say, “Everything goes on well, what more do we want? All is right with us.” This makes such a condition very hopeless, because reproofs and rebukes fall without power, where the party rebuked can reply, “We do not deserve your censures, such warnings are not meant for us.” If you stand up in the pulpit and talk to sleepy churches, as I pretty frequently do, and speak very plainly, they often have the honesty to say, “There is a good deal of truth in what the man has said” but if I speak to another church, which really is half asleep, but which thinks itself to be quite a model of diligence, then the rebuke glides off like oil down a slab of marble, and no result comes of it. Men are less likely to repent when they are in the middle passage between hot and cold, than if they were in the worst extremes of sin. If they were like Saul of Tarsus, enemies of God, they might be converted; but if, like Gamaliel, they are neither opposed nor favoring, they will probably remain as they are till they die. The gospel converts a sincerely superstitious Luther, but Erasmus, with his pliant spirit, flippant, and full of levity, remains unmoved. There is more hope of warning the cold than the lukewarm.
When churches get into the condition of half-hearted faith, tolerating the gospel, but having a sweet tooth for error, they do far more mischief to their age than downright heretics. It is harder a great deal to work for Jesus with a church which is lukewarm than it would be to begin without a church. Give me a dozen earnest spirits and put me down anywhere in London, and by God’s good help we will soon cause the wilderness and the solitary place to rejoice; but give me the whole lot of you, half-hearted, undecided, and unconcerned, what can I do? You will only be a drag upon a man’s zeal and earnestness. Five thousand members of a church all lukewarm will be five thousand impediments, but a dozen earnest, passionate spirits, determined that Christ shall be glorified and souls won, must be more than conquerors; in their very weakness and fewness will reside capacities for being the more largely blessed of God. Better nothing than lukewarmness.
Alas, this state of lukewarmness is so congenial with human nature that it is hard to fetch men from it. Cold makes us shiver, and great heat causes us pain, but a tepid bath is comfort itself. Such a temperature suits human nature. The world is always at peace with a lukewarm church, and such a church is always pleased with itself. Not too worldly,—no! We have our limits! There are certain amusements which of course a Christian must give up, but we will go quite up to the line, for why are we to be miserable? We are not to be so greedy as to be called miserly, but we will give as little as we can to the cause. We will not be altogether absent from the house of God, but we will go as seldom as we can. We will not altogether forsake the poor people to whom we belong, but we will also go to the world’s church, so as to get admission into better society, and find fashionable friends for our children. How much of this there is abroad! Compromise is the order of the day. Thousands try to hold with the hare and run with the hounds, they are for God and Mammon, Christ and belial, truth and error, and so are “neither hot nor cold.” Do I speak somewhat strongly? Not so strongly as my Master, for he says, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” He is nauseated with such conduct, it sickens him, and he will not endure it. In an earnest, honest, fervent heart nausea is created when we fall in with men who dare not give up their profession, and yet will not live up to it; who cannot altogether forsake the work of God, but yet do it in a sluggard’s manner, trifling with that which ought to be done in the best style for so good a Lord and so gracious a Savior. Many a church has fallen into a condition of indifference, and when it does so it generally becomes the haunt of worldly professors, a refuge for people who want an easy religion, which enables them to enjoy the pleasures of sin and the honors of piety at the same time; where things are free and easy, where you are not expected to do much, or give much, or pray much, or to be very religious; where the minister is not so precise as the old school divines, a more liberal people, of broad views, free-thinking and free-acting, where there is full tolerance for sin, and no demand for vital godliness. Such churches applaud cleverness in a preacher; as for his doctrine, that is of small consequence, and his love to Christ and zeal for souls are very secondary. He is a clever fellow, and can speak well, and that suffices. This style of things is all too common, yet we are expected to hold our tongue, for the people are very respectable. The Lord grant that we may be kept clear of such respectability!
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Part 42 – published 10/21/17
THE AGONY OF REJECTION
Have you ever had times when you felt you were alone and the world was not interested in you at all? Have you ever had those you love and you thought loved you, seem to ignore you and even avoid you? What about your job and the sad feeling that if you never showed up again, they would just shrug their shoulders and keep going. There is no doubt, thoughts of rejection are one of the most painful places within the spectrum of human emotions. We all want to believe that our life has meaning and that what we do and think are just as important as everyone else. Many times rejection begins as a child with being humiliated about our body and being told we are weird or ugly. This dark cloud can continue as an adult with everything from being turned down for jobs, made fun of for being overweight, being poor and lacking education to not being able to have friends or find someone to love. These haunting feelings of intimidation, fear, and embarrassment cuts deep into our soul and mocks us as it declares that we are less than adequate and destined to live forever on the island for misfit humans.
We all have times where we are sad and discouraged but being depressed is a more serious negative emotional reaction to the way we see certain things. It’s true, there are chemical imbalances within our mind that can distort our thinking but there are also dark spiritual influences that can attack and influence our thoughts. Beyond all the hype, there is a spirit world that is ready to take advantage of our weaknesses and are experts at pushing certain buttons to keep us upset. One of the major keys to living in peace is to learn –— God thinks about us is a huge part of the victory.
When we learn what is TRUE we can more clearly discern a LIE. God is truth and is not trying to discourage us! The devil is a liar and wants to keep us sad and defeated. The world has their own interpretations and opinions and we must see that what others think about is not the way it really is. When we realize what is going on behind the scenes we can begin to make life changing decisions.
The idea of a mirror is mentioned in the Bible as a way to integrate the habit of self-examination. It is meant to search the deepest part of our soul in order to know what is good and bad and then once we discover the truth, we can then allow God to change us from the inside out. The problem that humans have with mirrors is that we do not want to use the correct set of eyes. The natural eyes chooses to look at life through our failures which produces low self-esteem or on the flip side, we se ourselves too highly and become puffed up with pride. We must come to know the fact that God loves the idea of us paying attention to what He says and applying it to our life so much that He gave us “spiritual eyes.” Why? So we can see His divine reality! What is that? It is the way things are and not the way they seem. When we only focus on the glass being half-full we become convinced that we are worth LESS than we really are. In fact, when we believe that we are NOT special in every way, we are actually insulting God and saying that He is not telling the truth. Jesus loved us so much and thought we were so valuable that He DIED so we could enjoy this life and the life to come. How in the world could we feel bad about ourselves after that? Esteem means to respect, have admiration, appreciation, honor, value, regard and favor and this is exactly how God sees us! We are beautiful in God’s sight and He loves us more than anything! Let us remember that God never makes a mistake. “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knows right well” (Psalm 139:14) It is only when we decide that we are going to accept true reality and discard the negative influences that are trying to deceive us, that our life can begin to bloom with faith and enthusiasm.
Resentment is directly related to unforgiveness and is more than an ugly attitude, it is a deadly disease. The bitterness from anger can turn into hatred and this brings us into spiritual captivity. In order for us to live in the freedom of God’s presence, we must also release those we are holding in the bondage of unforgiveness. It has been illustrated as a snare trap that when we step into the noose, it releases a trigger that catches us by the foot and leaves us dangling upside down. As we remain suspended, we are unable to do anything for anyone. We become paralyzed and taken completely out of the picture with God. We are left stewing and pouting in our anger and unless we deal with this situation, our discouragement will only become worse. It is in repentance that cuts us down and allows us to return to the favor and anointing of God. We must humble ourselves and turn everything over to the Lord and let Him fight our battles for us. Trust Him and know that he is aware and wants to take care of us. Self-examination is not something we do occasionally but rather we must evaluate our mind and soul every day. Prayer and honest meditation must be a part of our daily life to keep from falling into the snares of the wicked one. Only with staying on our knees and receiving the revelation of God’s perfect wisdom can we understand what is true. God loves us and wants to see us filled with joy and confidence. The foundation to our success is for us to believe it!
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Part 41 – Published 10/14/17
LET US NOT BE WEARY IN WELL DOING
There are times in the life of a Christian where we must evaluate from time to time and seriously consider what we are doing and if it is truly associated with God’s specific instructions. If we are a child of God, we have a ministry. Many of us are confident that we are “called” for a unique purpose and anointed to accomplish His will but sometimes it’s difficult to know why things are not seemingly being successful. I realize that many times our ideas and visions are not the same as His and this can wreak havoc on our emotions. Most likely our idea of success is not the same as His and until we get to the bottom of this problem we will not be able to rest in His peace.
When we become involved in labors and works for His Kingdom and we see very little response, it immediately relays a message that either we have failed in our ability to understand Him OR those around us are simply not interested in the Lord. For all who are discouraged today, I sincerely pray that something in this letter will touch you and minister to your heart and inspire you to keep moving forward. I believe we are being challenged every day to continue believing and trusting God. We automatically think this is referring to our adversary but we must also include Jesus Himself. We realize the Lord never promised that our life would be smooth sailing or that the masses would listen to us and respond joyfully, but actually it is just the opposite. So, do not feel disheartened because your path is difficult – it’s supposed to be. I just want to remind you that God is completely aware of all that you have done and are doing for Him. He will always remember your deeds and the intentions of your heart. His endless love is all around you and He desires that you be saturated in His peace. I realize we hear this scripture quite often but it does not lessen its power to comfort and encourage. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9).
I retired a couple of years ago and to be honest it was an emotional time for me. I was closing out a chapter of my life that was bittersweet and by this, I mean it was a good “job” that paid well and took care of my family but I was really never really interested in it or enthused about it. So, after 35 years, I know what it means to be employed with something that my heart was not excited about. I think it is wonderful when someone can work in a field they are passionate about and in these cases I would say the money is more of an added bonus instead of the only reason they are there. I have told the story before, but I knew a man that worked as a prison chaplain and he looked me in the eye one day and said he would do it for free. I was talking with him about the ministry and some different options I was considering (along with me mentioning about salaries). I also know others that volunteer their time after thy get off work because this is what they love. Nonetheless, I managed somehow to endure the marathon of staying with one company most of my working career and I am thankful to the Lord for helping through it. Like I was saying, it was very weird for me to say goodbye to my friends and co-workers and I struggled with feeling “lost” for several months. I used to wake up at 3:45 am and return home about 2:30 every day and was usually tired and sleepy, so I often took a nap. These grueling hours were very hard on my system and disrupted my “brain” as I not only felt tired all the time but also seemed trapped in a cycle of “slavery.” I’m sure most people feel like this because the daily grind of working can really be exhausting. I hardly ever enjoyed time alone in the mornings and when I first retired, I remember taking walks in the neighborhood and noticing how wonderful it was to simply listen to the birds, feel the sun and watch the clouds in the sky.
I had always worked in the churches throughout my employment career and most of the time it really pushed me hard to be able to lead worship and practices, teach classes and all that. I loved to write music and play guitar and sing and of course I also love to write (like I am now) and send my messages out through the emails and my blog. I now write for over 100 newspapers across the country and some actually pay me. I would have never thought that someday I would have an audience of over a million people per week. Anyway, I have been on mission trips and have been involved with prison ministry and nursing home visitation and have always enjoyed trying to help and encourage others. I also became determined to somehow take some Seminary courses and become more serious about understanding more about ministry. In today’s world, it’s very difficult to earn respect without some type of education and so I chose Bible Colleges where I could participate in distance learning courses and go at my own pace. I would work during the day and study at night and after several years I was able to accomplish some goals and I believe the knowledge has helped me to be more effective in my service unto God and His people. I also became a member with several different organizations and after I retired, I could give more of my time to serving others. I was praying the Lord would open some new doors for my ministry now that I have more experience and education and the newspapers have been an answer to my prayers. I am confident that God has been preparing me for a larger audience and more responsibility within the Kingdom as a minister, chaplain, writer and a community leader. I also thought that after 30 years of singing and speaking that new opportunities would come and I would be blessed with my faithfulness and perseverance. I took some time after I retired to finish a book that I had been working on and finally published it and released it in the summer of 2015. This was another piece of the puzzle that I believed the Lord was going to use to bring me before churches and to expand my territory of broader recognition and the chance to speak and sing to those who had not known of me. So, after a year and a half of knocking on every door in my area, I have not had a single invitation from anyone. I have been a little discouraged but I am still in strong spirits and realize that things happen for reasons that only God knows and I trust Him even when I do not understand.
I know that God can open any doors He wants and can make things happen in spite of how others feel or what they do. I have given away thousands of tapes and cd’s of my music throughout my life and most have never replied or even mentioned it. It is obvious – the music is not very good. Now wait a minute, let me explain. I believe the songs are anointed with the Holy Spirit and they are solid spiritual messages that touch the heart and have the potential to make a person do some serious thinking. I am not an exceptional guitar player neither am I a professional singer but rather just an average guy that tries to offer a passion that is a calling from deep inside my soul. Most of the songs are recorded at home with cheap packaging and not considered professional quality and I think this really matters to a lot of people. The melodies are probably boring to some people and maybe not entertaining or catchy enough or contain the “magic formulas” that makes some music stand out as special. I also perfectly realize that the “message” is hard and convicting and this probably contributes to much of the rejection but overall, they are what they are – just simple and evidently not impressive enough to catch anyone’s attention. OK, I get it, I understand they are not taken seriously and most are tossed in the garbage as an inferior product. Haven’t you ever thrown away tapes and cd’s because you just did not want to keep them? Did you feel bad, no it’s just the way life is. You like certain things and discard the rest. Oh, there have been a few people over the years that have made comments that the music blessed them and this brings me to my next comment. I have come to the point in my life that I really need to be happy and content with the decisions I have made concerning the ministry. I do not regret the money I have invested with all the equipment and I do not feel angry or upset with all the time I have spent writing, practicing and recording music and giving it all away. I cannot afford to be offended with anyone. It would be ridiculous to be mad at people for not endorsing me or taking an interest in me or whatever because if you seriously look at reality you will see that the cream rises to the top. Those that are good get the recognition and besides who can stop God from opening a door? If He wants to anoint someone to be a blessing to others – He can definitely do it! I must see my labor as “seed” that was sown with the intention of spreading the gospel and touching the hearts of all those who were thirsty and seeking His presence – period! Yes, it’s true that even most church people do not really want the intimacy of God’s presence – and that is alarming. The book He graciously gave me to write is about worship and the awareness of His presence and hardly anyone has commented on that topic. But, again the book is just another part that is also included in the big picture of how much time and energy I have contributed toward the cause of Christ. Was the Lord in all of this? I will answer that in the way of thinking that the book of James explains. “Even so faith, if it has not works is dead being alone” (2:17). I would rather be busy doing all I can for God than doing nothing because I am afraid or cannot confirm His direction. I know He gave me some talent and I feel strongly that I am called to the ministry but why He has not used me in a greater capacity I do not know. If the reason is because of my past failures then I accept this as my discipline and will repent and carry on as I declare He is rich in mercy and long-suffering.
If I sound like a person with hurt feelings and filled with disappointment I ask for your forgiveness. Meekness is wonderful attribute but it’s difficult to not consider respect as something that is needed because without it our voice will not be heard. It’s true that our witness and testimony are the most powerful possessions we have but they are more effective if others can sense our anointing and that we are sincere. However, it is imperative that we distinguish between the carnal desires that are based on emotional pride and the purity that is found in spiritual humility. I have always struggled trying to remember that we are not responsible to change a heart or heal a hurting soul but instead are commanded to do our “part” and leave the miracles to the Creator. It’s one thing to sing a song or write an article and walk away knowing you have delivered the WORD of the Lord and another thing entirely to believe it was our talent or intelligence that made it happen. Our works will be tried in the refining fires of God’s perfect wisdom and the intentions of our heart will one day reveal everything about us. If any of us have demonstrated our labors with pure motives we have nothing to worry about. If we are only sad about how we have NOT been embraced by the masses or made piles of money then maybe we were not doing it for the right reasons. “Behold, you desire TRUTH in the inward parts: and in the hidden place thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6).
You know, I realize that all of us have many questions about life and very few answers. Oh, I understand that we know a few Bible scriptures and can fill in the blanks for a lot of situations and circumstances but there are many other things that we will probably never figure out. I was told some amazing facts the other day about authors and books and they say that the overwhelming majority of authors never sell over 100 books. Only a tiny portion of the vast number of authors in the world will become a financially successful writer. I must admit that when I was ready to release my book I was excited. I felt confident about the content, I had it professionally edited and the cover looked amazing. I was expecting (like everyone else) that a major publisher would just sweep this up and distribute it to the world who was just “waiting” to absorb this resource. Again, I do not regret writing it but it has been somewhat disappointing especially when I read newspaper articles about how a supermodel diva from Brazil has just launched her book and the deluxe edition is only $925.00 per copy. I thought about this for a while and I must admit I was a little twisted up inside. My book sells for $19.00, is 347 pages with 50 chapters and well over a hundred scriptures while her book is a photo gallery of herself. Hmmm…I’m just saying. It also punched me in the gut the other night when I watched an interview with a famous rapper. They were walking through his mansion that looked like an elementary school and he had a line of Rolls Royce’s parked out front (and it was noted that he was worth over 350 million dollars). So, once more I was thinking that I have been writing and singing about God’s Word and how much He loves us and this man has dedicated his life to screaming out perverted vulgarities, cursing, promoting violence, rape, destruction, hatred, murder and every vile and disgusting thought a human can think of and he along with the world is very “proud” of his accomplishments? He is respected as a musical genius, has sold millions of Cd’s and sadly has become a modern-day hero to the masses which many are young children. I could not help but think that I can hardly give my music away and here there are millions of people buying this filth and trash so they can absorb its garbage into their soul. Do I sound upset? Ok, I am a little. I’m human with a fallen nature but I must continue to realize that God gives free-will to everyone and we are allowed to choose whatever we want.
The Lord keeps up with what we have all accomplished and the most important factor will be why we did it and who was leading us. God knows how much money and time I have put into the ministry and I am thankful for a very understanding wife that has allowed me to spend freely without receiving anything back. Our emotions are always trying to compare oranges with apples but we just need to remember to give it over to God and let Him do what He wants with it. He will not force people to follow Him and at the same time He will not stop anyone from following the devil. It is a labor of love to see and know that I am doing it for Him.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 40 – PUBLISHED 10/8/17
NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN PRAYER
We will all agree there is nothing more important than prayer. We can also say that prayer is the foundation of our relationship with Jesus and that everything we do and are springs forth from how much and how serious we are about praying. Some have said that God measures our sincerity by our prayers and I can definitely see this is possible. He is not impressed with our words of our works as much as He is our devotion to the secret place of meditation and intercession.
I have sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to me lately about going deeper with God. The shallow, baby pool is not enough and neither should it be for those who are serious about knowing the Lord. I have certain things in my life that I would like to accomplish and yet it seems I face many locked doors. I pray and ask God to open them and make a way for me, but I am usually disappointed. This is not His fault, but rather is a consequence from my lack of spiritual enthusiasm. I received this message the other day by David Wilkerson and I can relate to its timely truth. I have copied it for us to follow and have exchanged a few words and rearranged some of the sentences but for the most part have left it intact. This is such a good word and I am guilty of what He is talking about and repent for my selfish attitude. I have turned a life that is supposed to have it’s share of sacrifice into some type of carnal Disney World that is trying to ruin my life and steal my soul here on earth and my eternal life in heaven. I am convinced that our lukewarmness could very well jeopardize our marriage to the Lamb. Everyone is not going to enter into the banquet feast because they all are not the bride or wise virgins. Remember, the foolish virgins were not allowed entrance into the marriage supper. It is a reality that prayer is the most difficult and challenging deeds in the Christian life. It is also the key to knowing and understanding God Himself. However, in order to enter into the deeper waters of spiritual intimacy with Jesus and seeing our visions fulfilled by the power of heaven, we must discipline our flesh, let go of the world, and pray without ceasing. There is no other way to succeed in Christ and for Christ. This past week, I was able to dedicate a day to prayer as I was alone and had nothing to distract me, and I enjoyed this time of fellowship with Jesus. I must also add this was a day where I was attacked from several different directions and by the end of the day I was nearly in tears. If we believe that Satan will not attack us when we go into prayer, we are not thinking clearly. There is a price to praying. May you enjoy this great teaching by a powerful and humble man of God who is truly missed.
THEY PRAISE but WILL NOT PRAY – by David Wilkerson
Christ Is Made A Stranger When People Praise Him, But Will Not Pray To Him!
“We praise a Christ to whom we will not pray! We have become a praising people, but not a praying people. For many of God’s people the prayer closet is a relic of the past. “Why ask God for what He has already promised? By faith, take hold of the promises and simply command your deliverance! “We no longer want Christ as much as we want what He can do for us. We want an escape from pain and suffering and want our troubles to vanish. We are so caught up in our escape from pain, we lose the true meaning of the Cross. We refuse crosses and losses – no Gethsemane for us! No nights of agony! We are embarrassed and have actually turned away from this suffering, bleeding, resurrected Christ!
We call out for His healing power. We boldly declare His promises of prosperity. We want His protection. We want more money and the abundance of this earth’s goods. We cry out for His peace and His happiness. But we really don’t want Him alone! How many of us would serve Him if He offered nothing but Himself? No healing. No success. No prosperity. No worldly blessings. No miracles, signs, or wonders. What if – once again we had to take joyfully the spoiling of our goods? What if – instead of clear sailing and problem-free living, we faced shipwreck, fears within and fighting without? What if -instead of painless living, we suffered cruel mocking, stoning, bloodshed – being sawn asunder? What if – instead of our beautiful homes and cars, we had to wander about in deserts in sheepskins, hiding in dens and caves? What if – instead of prosperity, we were destitute, afflicted, and tormented? Listen brothers and sisters, what if this life was all there is and even an eternal heaven was not a glorious promise? What if knowing Christ in this life was the only time we had with Him, would we still be enthused? The Church once confessed its sins – now it confesses its rights. The church used to be a strong light in the community, but now it has compromised with political correctness and social acceptance and has become lukewarm. Very few of God’s people pray anymore! They are too busy working for Jesus to talk to Him! Ministers especially have become so busy doing kingdom work, they have little or no time left to pray. There is time to visit, to build, to travel, time to vacation, to attend meetings, time for recreation, reading, counseling – but no time to pray! Preachers who do not pray become promoters. They become frustrated building contractors. When they lose touch with God, they lose touch with their people and their needs. Preachers who don’t pray have egos that spin out of control. They want their own way. They substitute sweat for unction (anointing).Evangelists who do not pray become stars, storytellers. They lack humility, so they manipulate crowds through emotional gimmicks. The cry of many pastors is, “Oh, God, where can I find an evangelist who doesn’t care about money, or who is not promoting something? One who can bring heaven down and make Christ real! Oh, God – give me a praying man to bring my congregation to its knees!” The shame of this generation is that we have too many talented men of God and only a few who have touched God in prayer.
There is even less praying in the congregation! I’m 100% for getting prayer back in our public schools but that’s not God’s real problem! His problem is getting prayer back in our homes! His problem is to get His own chosen people to pray! And you are a phony if you fight for school prayer and neglect secret- closet praying yourself! Do we pray? Oh, yes! When we need something. We have the formula down pat – in the name of Jesus! All we need Him for is to counter sign our petition checks before the Father. I am weary of hearing people say, this is such a busy age – I have no time to pray. I’d like to, but I don’t have time. No! It’s not lack of time; it is a lack of desire. We make time for what we really want to do. Look at our Christian young people! Wasting hours of time playing video games, laying around, goofing off, bored, restless, searching for satisfaction and contentment! But no time to pray! No time
for Jesus! Oh, God! Somehow! Some way! Get this generation on its knees. Not just a religious tradition, but a daily communion with Christ.
Our Savior, who has the care and concern for multiplied universes, has the time to pray just for you! He takes the time to intercede for you before the throne of God as outlined in the book of Hebrews, and you say you do not have time to pray to Him! Religious people work feverishly for a Christ we ignore. We will go anywhere, do anything, in His name. But we will not pray. We will sing in a choir. We will visit the sick and the prisoners. But we will not pray. We will counsel the hurt and needy; we will stay up all night to comfort a friend, but we will not pray. We will fight corruption! We will crusade for morality! We will stand up against nuclear weapons! But we will not pray! Most of all, we don’t pray because we really don’t believe it works. Prayer is a bloody battleground! It is where victories are won! A place to die to self! A place where a holy God exposes secret sin! No wonder Satan tries to hinder prayer! A praying man sends a shudder through hell. That man or woman is marked because Satan knows prayer is the power that crushes his kingdom. Satan is not afraid of power-hungry saints, but he trembles at the sound of a praying saint!”
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 39 – Published 10/1/17
PUTTING CHILDISH THINGS AWAY
As a young child our days are simple and our heart is innocent. It’s like being in a dream state where the sun has not burned away the fog and we are clinging to that last moment of trust and our tiny amount of knowledge is naive with the remaining amount of pure sincerity. As we grow older our conscience learns about deception, lying, cheating, and greed along with how to endure the onslaught of harshness, cruelty, disappointment and hurt. Through our experiences we discover how to defend and how to question what people say and do. We realize that life is not always the way it seems, so we build walls around our hopes and dreams to protect them. Unfortunately, over time, this can lead us to become, negative, anxious, bitter, angry, paranoid and weary of most everyone.
What we feel in our conscience tells a good bit about who we are and what we are. When we hear a song that makes us cry – that is a sign of a tender heart and a sensitive conscience. When we read a letter that floods our emotions, we have opened the door to our heart and allowed our soul to be touched. What do you feel when you look up into the sky or out into the ocean? Are you moved when a baby smiles at you, when you see two elderly people holding hands or when you walk through a cemetery? The sensitive heart is a beautiful place to live because it gives us a glimpse of a higher realm of existence. It reminds us there is another life, a more wonderful, glorious eternity beyond this mortal dimension. We believe and trust in a God that personally gives us the hope and confidence to know this mortal experience is just a temporary journey and there is a glorious eternal life waiting in heaven that we will one day comprehend.
It is difficult to admit that I am a stubborn person and I am not proud of the fact that I have had problems with being selfish. I am known to have a personality that does not always like swimming with the current and many times I have made the choice to swim against it. It’s that, “March to the beat of your own drum” mentality and though we can see how these types of individuals can occasionally impact the world for the good – it can also be said that most of the time a lone drum seldom produces beautiful music. God has tried to speak to me and correct my “lone ranger” attitude but not only have I at times refused to submit to the Holy Spirit’s instruction, I rebelled in anger because The Lord did not see things my way (which unfortunately has added to my pain and frustration.) I can go through the list of many past relationships and friendships where I have soaked the bridges with gasoline and ignited them because I thought people were deceiving me, disrespecting, using me or whatever. I might have been right in some cases and wrong in others but the point is that we never reap God’s perfect blessings when we walk away singing “I did it my way.” I really do not like that song. Why? Because it’s filled with pride and rebellion and God does NOT like it either. Yes, by the grace of God I am learning and growing and realize I have made my life much more painful than it needed to be.
In this war against my flesh I have learned a lot about brick walls, disappointment, burned bridges, loneliness and isolation. When we who belong to the family of God attempt to go through the motions of spirituality while trying to function in the realm of carnality we will continue to suffer frustration until we deal with the problem. God will allow us to repeat the “cycle” and sadly it is common for individuals to blindly grope through an entire lifetime without understanding the problem was not that everyone was crazy – but their refusal to humble themselves and pray. On top of the personal, internal misery of things not going our way we discover how the disappointment of our plans and visions not manifesting is only the tip of the iceberg. The serious loss is the distance in our fellowship with God and the torment of knowing how much time we have wasted trying to climb mountains that God never told us to climb. You see, the closer we are to Him the more our mind can see His thoughts which are directly connected to His will and our destiny. Until we pronounce the old carnal nature dead we will never enjoy the freedom and joy of Jesus Christ being our Master and Lord.
Pride actually breeds rebellion and is an instinct of self-defense. It is sad to realize that some people have gone through their entire life spiritually blind and mad at everyone. As we establish our “legal rights” we become our own champion defense attorney destined to justify our actions even if we need to tweak the truth. This mental/emotional “courtroom” fiasco can go on indefinitely until we are willing to see that some trials are intentional “tools of destiny” that are there to help us transform our corrupt thinking into the image of Jesus. We just need to remember that He is the potter trying to mold us into perfection – when the clay tries to mold itself it is always a complete mess. When our guts are grinding and our mind is reeling with negative thoughts and anger we must realize that our carnal attitude is preventing the presence of God from helping us to see the “real” truth. Opening the eyes of our heart is seeing the true spiritual reality that is going on behind our pride. We know we are bound and ineffective but are we convinced the enemy has paralyzed us? Many times, we cannot see that our own twisted thinking are the very ropes that have us bound. When we have unforgiveness we are offended at God, His response is to wait until we repent for our ugliness. When we become filled with anxiety and strife we automatically begin to drift away from him and only we can decide how far we will go. Sure, there are the obvious actions to take such as reading God’s word and pouring your heart out to him in honesty and of course praying, giving, and worshiping but what about taking responsibility for our own pride? Just because someone goes to church, this does not mean they are walking with God. When will we stop trying to manage our own emotions and directions? When will we stop allowing our resentment to keep us from going behind the veil into the holy of holies?
Our heavenly Father wants us to go far beyond the idea of restoration and consider a total re-build. It’s called becoming a “new creation” but Jesus can only wait for us to receive His revelation and make the decision to give Him total control. We can go as far with Him as we choose and we can have as much of Him as we want but it is usually the high cost of sacrifice that causes us to establish boundaries. As we discover what God wants us to be, we are then faced with deciding just how much we will do.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 38 – Published 9/23/17
RAPTURE AND SECOND COMING PART VII
THE ARK OF SALVATION
Here we are on a Saturday, September 23, 2017 and I feel led to conclude our series with this part 7. Today also happens to be another date that many have declared as a prophetic sign that we are entering into the last days. Lately, the Sun, Moon, Stars and Planets have been coming together in some strange and unusual configurations that are rare and significant to many people around the world, especially Christians. Some are saying today’s event represents the passage found in Revelation chapter 12 verses 1 and 2, “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” I am not going to attempt to explain the interpretation but some are saying the world is now entering into the “official” tribulation period while others are predicting the rapture of the Bride of Christ. Whatever happens, I do believe we are steadily moving toward everything God has planned and being ready to meet Jesus should be our highest priority. The identity of the woman and the man-child has been a topic of debate and of course the reference to 1260 days is also very interesting. Could this be referring to the first 3 and ½ years of the 7-year tribulation?
Matthew chapter 24 tells us the time will come with shattering suddenness on those who are immersed in material things. We can look around to our family and friends and see that everyone is going at a hectic pace as they try to make as much money as they can and absorb every minute of pleasure they can. We are reminded that Noah prepared himself in the calm weather for the flood which was to come, and when it came time to close the door he was ready. I think we can assume correctly that if television was available at that time, they would have not had time nor the desire to watch it. However, the rest of mankind were lost in their eating and drinking and marrying and all the other things of life that we place as important. We also see they were shocked and caught completely by surprise when it started to rain, but it was too late once the door was closed. These verses are a warning never to become so immersed in our own human nature that we fail to remember to worship God in Spirit and truth. May we never allow our concern with work and pleasures distract us from remembering that eternity is only a breath away. Life and death are in His hands, and whenever He calls, at morning, at midday, or at evening, we must be ready. “Today is the day of salvation – now is the appointed time” II Cor. 6-2.
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” Matthew 24:37-39. “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason, God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” II Thessalonians 2:1-12.
We have seen the spiritual type and shadow of the Ark and how it represents the salvation of Jesus Christ. We notice among other things that being saved was offered to anyone who believed. It is difficult to imagine that not one person except Noah’s family was saved. The warnings were there just like they are today as anyone who is curious can read and learn about how to be saved. There was no other way to escape except through the Ark and likewise Jesus is the only way to be born-again, delivered and protected from the devastating dangers of sin. The door of the Ark is open today and this time of grace is associated with the great commission and our responsibility to tell everyone we can that Jesus is the meaning of life and the only way to heaven. Here is some commentary from “Got Questions.”
“The Bible makes it clear why God is sending a strong delusion in the end times: They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. Simply put, God sends a strong delusion to those who chose not to believe the gospel of Christ. Those who take delight in mocking and rejecting Him, He will condemn. It is man’s choice whether to accept and believe the truth of Jesus Christ as presented in the Scriptures. To receive the truth and the love God offers is in keeping with its teachings, I John 5:3 says, “This is love for God: to obey His commands.” Conversely, to know the truth and not obey it is to face the wrath of God: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” Romans 1:18. Frankly speaking, there is no more dangerous condition for man than to know the truth and refuse to obey it. To do so is to harden the conscience and make God’s condemnation sure.
When one knows the truth and refuses to obey it, he is subject to any lie, any deception, any untruth that man can conjure up. Romans 1:21-22 declares, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” Paul goes on to describe in verses 29-31, the mindset and behaviors of those who disbelieve. As a result of man’s foolishness and his arrogant disdain of the Lord we see in verse 28, “God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” And correspondingly in verse 32, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them.” Isaiah puts it this way, “They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations; so I [God] also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in My sight and chose what displeases Me” Isaiah 66:3-4.
When men know the truth and refuse to receive it, when they refuse to obey it and hold it in unrighteousness, “they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth” 2 Thessalonians 2:12. I John 4:16 reminds us that, “God is love.” He is not some cruel monster who deliberately and inwardly delights in preparing people for everlasting condemnation. But He earnestly and lovingly proclaims the gospel of Christ, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9. Throughout the Scriptures, God urges people to accept the truth. But when people reject Him and spurn His message, then—and not until then—God hardens them and turns them over to a deluded mind to wallow in their wickedness to their eternal damnation. This is what the Lord says about those who choose to reject the truth: “They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the Lord does not accept them; He will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins” Jeremiah 14:10.”
We close with this passage found in the book of Luke, chapter 17 and verses 26-37. We notice the reference to Noah and the Ark again and also to Sodom and Gomorrah. In both stories, the people did not believe the warnings and thought that God was a joke just like they do today. This scripture mentions the “Son of Man” being revealed which is obviously Jesus, and we notice this is all in red print – the words of Christ Himself. He says to not worry about taking anything with you along with the disappearance of those sleeping and working which many scholars say that Christ is speaking about Rome destroying Jerusalem and prophesying about this event. He is giving a warning that many Jews will forget the importance of walking with God and will become lukewarm and distracted with the cares of life. Within this prophecy, can you also see the type and shadow of the rapture?
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Where, Lord? they asked. He replied, “where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”
May the Lord continue to give us His wisdom and understanding. “He which testifies of these things says, Surely I come quickly, amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus” Revelation 22:20.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 37 – Published 9/16/2017
THE RAPTURE AND THE SECOND COMING – PART VI
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him! Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise answered, saying, No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us! But he answered and said, Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” Matthew 25:1-13.
Taking a brief look at this parable, many will question about how this story connects with the rapture? Allow me to say, this is not as simple as it may seem. Some who study eschatology believe the Bible is not only literal but also filled with types and shadows can that be used to reveal past and future events. If we spend time studying parables, we are told by scholars to be careful that we do not over-analyze the tiny details and lose focus on the practical meaning. I want to say that I am limited in understanding about all the details of the end times. In the past, as I have waded out into the deeper waters of certain subjects and always end up with more questions than answers. It would be nice if the future events about the end of the age were provided with clarity but for the most part they are not. God’s mysteries are hidden and are waiting for those who are willing to seek. I believe it takes much diligence in the study and research of God’s Word but most importantly the unveiling of these secrets must be interpreted through the Holy Spirit. Spiritual discernment is always crucial when it comes to listening and understanding God’s Word. It is one thing to have personal views but it becomes a serious responsibility when it involves being His messenger and relaying His truth. Knowledge is collecting facts but wisdom is the gift to understand them. William Law is quoted, “Read whatever chapter of scripture you will, and be ever so delighted with it, yet it will leave you as poor, as empty and unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full union with and dependence upon him.”
For many years, I have been what is called a “mid-trib” person which means I could not see the specific references in scripture where God would provide a gracious escape for His children from the harsh suffering of the tribulation. I contemplated that many modern Christians have lived a life of pleasure and prosperity (including myself) and that we have not really had a need to really prove our faith. It just always seemed the pre-trib catching away idea was a convenient and even possibly a damaging view that was causing the church to fall asleep and not worry about staying on fire for God. If someone believes they are going to be caught away at any moment, no matter what spiritual condition they are in, why would they be concerned about anything? Why would these people feel the need to pray and become spiritually courageous for what the future holds if they are not even going to be here? Another reason why I have been persuaded with the “mid-trib” idea is because I do not believe that God will pour out His WRATH on His children. The way I have understood end-time prophecy is the first 3-1/2 years of the 7-year tribulation period will be difficult but nothing compared to the suffering that will occur in the second half of the period as the antichrist comes into power and forces the world to worship Him. We must clarify there is a difference between God’s wrath and the world’s persecution. His wrath is for the evil people but He will not necessarily protect His people from suffering because of their faith. Like I have said before, I want to know the truth and I want to know WHY I believe. If there is a catching away of the saints before the tribulation period, I want to be ready.
I also want to clarify that I’m not sure just how in-depth I will attempt to go. As most of you know, this is a vast subject where I am sure hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written. Like I have said before, it is mind-boggling at how many different ideas and interpretations there are and It is not my intent to stir controversy or discredit what some people believe. I would like for my main focus to be on the rapture/second coming and hopefully provide a clearer understanding of where we are in God’s time-line. We know that Matthew chapter 24 is filled with prophetic knowledge and yet it’s also the place of much disagreement. One thing we can agree on is the parable of the fig tree where Jesus was talking about how it is possible to discern the signs and how we can know that His return is near. We can have the mind of Christ as the scripture declares in Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” If we do a search about what other people believe concerning Matthew chapter 24, it seems to be a mixture of rapture and second coming references, so separating them is truly a challenge. Again, this is another example of how complicated this can be. Nonetheless, whether the rapture or the second coming, these passages reveal warnings to be ready and faithful, there will be rampant wickedness, signs in the earth and the heavens, a trumpet call and an unexpected catching away where the angels gather the elect and the world will mourn and SEE Christ coming in the clouds. Alright, I realize we are reading a translation and it’s likely the original language may be more accurate, but if so, who can separate these meanings and correctly put all of this in order?
If we continue to chapter 25, we can better comprehend this is talking about the rapture because life continues on after this event, where after the second coming, the world will be cleansed by fire. we have 10 virgins; 5 wise virgins were invited and were READY to go with the groom while 5 foolish virgins were also invited but were left out of the wedding feast because they were not ready. I have a question about the foolish virgins. Since they are virgins, is this symbolism of purity meaning they are saved but were being punished because they were not ready for the groom? Just because they are not a part of the catching away, does this mean they are lost forever or will they have a chance to prove themselves in the great tribulation? The passage in verse 12 is very sobering as the doorkeeper answers and says, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not (I do not recognize you).” There are several opinions and considerations but I do not think anyone can deny that the concept of being prepared is very serious.
(1) The ten virgins all look the same but are they all really saved? How do we know who is saved? A congregation of church members also look very nice and religious but is everyone in every church really born-again? Obviously, these foolish virgins did not have their eyes on Christ because their heart was divided with the cares and distractions of this world. The door being closed also reminds me of when the warning was given for many years to board the Ark and when it was time to close the door, it was too late. However, if the oil represents the Holy Spirit then all the virgins are born-again. I know a Bible scholar who says he believes all the virgins are saved but even the wise virgins are not a bride. Some believe the bride is set apart because they have lived according to God’s Word. They have lost their marriages, experienced hated from their families, they have been rejected, persecuted, and have suffered much earthly loss in order to gain God’s presence. This view reveals a sobering probability that Christians are divided into categories according to their personal devotion to Jesus. If you notice, the groom came when they were “asleep” and left with the BRIDE however, the wise virgins were able to respond quickly and were allowed access to the Marriage supper of the Lamb. Since they were filled with the Spirit, could this mean they were killed in the tribulation and then allowed to join the banquet? So, what about the foolish virgins? When they finally arrived, they were DENIED access. If you notice, the doorkeeper said I do not know you, which may represent Jesus but whoever this is, the point is that it was their personal relationship with the groom that was keeping from entering. It’s possible that the statement “not knowing” meant these individuals never took time to draw near to God and did not believe a personal relationship was important and the consequences were devastating. In other words, since they did not care about having fellowship with their Savior on earth, they will NOT be given the privilege to sit at the banquet table with Him in the next life. This explains how important it is to be completely dedicated to Christ NOW and not to embrace the deception that being mildly religious will be accepted. In this light, there will be many who are shocked and will regret how they served their flesh and chose to be spiritually lukewarm instead of walking with Christ. The idea of being satisfied with a cabin in the corner of glory-land comes from a dark, selfish, carnal imagination that is an embarrassment. Being saved is not about barely making it to heaven, it’s an open door to have as much of God as you want. Of course, this will take great sacrifice which is why many play games and try to get something for nothing. God is not fooled or mocked! He will judge every soul with perfect wisdom and will divide, separate, reward and punish in a perfect way with His perfect wisdom.
(2) If all 10 virgins are actually members of God’s family, again, this argument opens up the feasibility that ALL Christians may not go in the rapture but only those who are considered the remnant bride. This small group of true disciples are seen by many as the inner circle of devotion and dedication to Jesus. Some references call these individuals “the man-child” and there is much commentary about this to consider. They are what we would call fanatics and extremist that have been rejected and hated by everyone even their own families because of their love and loyalty to Jesus. This high-level of spiritual intimacy with their Lord and first love has been their focus and with much suffering, sacrifice and persecution they are being relieved from the earth by the mercy and compassion of God. There may be so few people go in the rapture that it is hardly noticed instead of the traditional view that ALL saved people will be taken. It seems very probable that the groom will only come for His BRIDE and those attendants who are filled with the Holy Spirit. These virgins are the ones who are waiting and watching for their Savior so they can celebrate the wedding and prepare for an eternal life together with God. The foolish virgins are seen by many to be the ones who did not have Christ at the top of their priority list and those who are half-hearted followers. If they are members of God’s family, they are considered as a part of the wedding party (only God knows). They will be left behind and may be given a second chance to prove their devotion and learn what the others already knew. Matthew Henry also mentions those who are saved but have not had time learn what it means to be a devoted follower of Jesus. There are many different reasons but the point is that it takes much wisdom, suffering, and perseverance to recognized as the bride. GRACE is NOT the license to sin and live however we choose, but rather is the opportunity to surrender our will, obey His voice and become saturated in His glorious presence. I encourage you to conduct your own study and listen with an open heart what the Spirit is revealing to you and to listen to what others have concluded. Pray and ask God to give you the wisdom and revelation so that you can not only have peace and confidence in your heart but that you might be able to give a solid answer when called upon.
On a side note: It is estimated that it took around 70 years to build the Ark (you can research this) and many scholars also believe that a generation is 70 years. The Ark has always been a spiritual type and shadow of the salvation within Christ and this time period may be another revelation connected with the rapture. Many believe the Jews who were born and or alive when Israel regained their nationality in 1948, would be the generation that would witness the rapture. I am not trying to predict a certain day or hour of Christ’s return but 70 years will be completed in May 2018. Whether this is valid or not, these people are growing older. How close do you feel we are to His return? Do you believe there is anything that needs to happen before the rapture?
Matthew Henry Commentary – “The circumstances of the parable of the ten virgins were taken from the marriage customs among the Jews, and explain the great day of Christ’s coming. See the nature of Christianity. As Christians, we profess to attend upon Christ, to honor him, also to be waiting for his coming. Sincere Christians are the wise virgins, and hypocrites the foolish ones. Those are the truly wise or foolish that are so in the affairs of their souls. Many have a lamp of profession in their hands, but have not, in their hearts, sound knowledge and settled resolution, which are needed to carry them through the services and trials of the present state. Their hearts are not stored with holy dispositions, by the new-creating Spirit of God. Our light must shine before men in good works; but this is not likely to be long done, unless there is a fixed, active principle in the heart, of faith in Christ, and love to God and our brethren. They all slumbered and slept. The delay represents the space between the real or apparent conversion of these professors, and the coming of Christ, to take them away by death, or to judge the world. But though Christ tarry past our time, he will not tarry past the due time. The wise virgins kept their lamps burning, but they did not keep themselves awake. Too many real Christians grow remiss, and one degree of carelessness makes way for another. Those that allow themselves to slumber, will scarcely keep from sleeping; therefore, dread the beginning of spiritual decays. A startling summons was given. Go ye forth to meet Him, is a call to those prepared. The notice of Christ’s approach, and the call to meet him, will awaken. Even those best prepared for death have work to do to get actually ready, 2 Peter 3:14. It will be a day of search and inquiry; and it should concern us to consider how we shall then be found. Some wanted oil to supply their lamps when going out. Those that take up short of true grace, will certainly find the want of it one time or other. An outward profession may light a man along this world, but the damps of the valley of the shadow of death will put out such a light. Those who care not to live the life, yet would die the death of the righteous. But those that would be saved, must have grace of their own; and those that have most grace, have none to spare. The best need more from Christ. And while the poor alarmed soul addresses itself, upon a sick-bed, to repentance and prayer, in awful confusion, death comes, judgment comes, the work is undone, and the poor sinner is undone forever. This comes of having oil to buy when we should burn it, grace to get when we should use it. Those, and those only, shall go to heaven hereafter, that are made ready for heaven here. The suddenness of death and of Christ’s coming to us then, will not hinder our happiness, if we have been prepared. The door was shut. Many will seek admission into heaven when it is too late. The vain confidence of hypocrites will carry them far in expectations of happiness. The unexpected summons of death may alarm the Christian; but, proceeding without delay to trim his lamp, his graces often shine brighter; while the mere professor’s conduct shows that his lamp is going out. Watch therefore, attend to the business of your souls. Be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.”
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 36 – PUBLISHED 9/9/17
THE RAPTURE AND THE SECOND COMING – PART – V
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE RAPTURE AND THE SECOND COMING
by Thomas Ice
This is a short study that I found recently by Thomas Ice. I am not saying that I endorse or agree with all of this material but I am only sharing it with you for your consideration. It is good to listen to what other people have found as we are all students seeking to learn God’s truth.
Over the years I have had hundreds of discussions with many people about the timing of the rapture. Of course, I strongly believe that the New Testament indicates that the Church will be raptured before the tribulation. One of the key reasons I think this is because I believe the Bible teaches that the rapture is a distinct event from Christ’s second coming to the earth. In any consideration of the truthfulness of pre-tribulationism, this issue is of crucial importance. Dr. John Feinberg notes that distinguishing between the rapture and second coming is important in establishing pre-tribulationism against the non-pre-trib claim that the Bible does not teach such a view. The pretribulationist must show that there is enough dissimilarity between clear rapture and clear second advent passages as to warrant the claim that the two kinds of passages could be speaking about two events which could occur at different times instead of the same event happening all at once. The pretribulationist does not have to prove at this point that the two events must occur at different times, but only that the exegetical data from rapture and second advent passages do not make it impossible for the events to occur at different times. If he can do that, the pretribulationist has shown that his view is not impossible. And, he has answered the post-tribulationist’s strongest line of evidence.
A key factor in understanding the New Testament’s teaching of the pre-tribulational rapture revolves around the fact that two future comings of Christ are presented. The first coming is the catching up into the clouds of the church before the seven-year tribulation and the second coming occurs at the end of the tribulation when Christ returns to the earth to begin His 1,000-year kingdom. Anyone desirous of insight into the biblical teaching of the rapture and second advent must study and decide whether scripture speaks of one or two future events. Yet, many non-pretribulationists never deal with this issue.
FRAMING THE ISSUE – Post-tribulationists usually contend that if the rapture and the second coming are two distinct events, separated by about seven years, then there ought to be at least one passage in scripture which clearly teaches this. However, the Bible does not always teach God’s truth in accordance with our preconceived notions or in such a way that answers directly all of our questions. For example, a Unitarian could design a similar kind of question regarding the Trinity. “Where is at least one passage in Scripture which clearly says that the Persons of the Godhead are distinct?” We who believe the Trinity reply that the Bible teaches the Trinity but in a different way. Many important biblical doctrines are not given to us directly from a single verse, we often need to harmonize passages into systematic conclusions. Some truths are directly stated in the Bible, such as the deity of Christ (John 1:1, Titus 2:13). But doctrines like the Trinity and the incarnate nature of Christ are the product of biblical harmonization. Taking into account all biblical texts, orthodox theologians, over time, recognized that God is a Trinity and that Christ is the God-Man. Similarly, a systematic consideration of all biblical passages reveals that scripture teaches two future comings.
I am not saying that the Bible does not teach a pre-trib rapture, as some have misconstrued similar comments in the past. John S. Feinberg, “Arguing for the Rapture: Who Must Prove What and How” and in Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, editors “When the Trumpet Sounds” (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), p. 194. http://www.pre-trib.org. In my view, the New Testament does teach pretribulationism, even though it may not be presented in a way that is not as clear to some as they might like. Post-tribulationists often contend that the pre-trib position is merely built upon an assumption that certain verses make sense if and only if the pre-trib model of the rapture is assumed to be correct. However, they often fail to make it clear to their readers that they are just as dependent upon assumptions as they say the pre-trib people are. Their error stems from failure to observe actual biblical distinctions. For example, Christ’s overall ministry has two phases which revolve around His two comings. Phase one took place at Christ’s first coming when He came in humiliation to suffer. Phase two will begin at Christ’s second coming when He will reign on earth in power and glory. Failure to distinguish these two phases was a key factor in Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah at His first coming. In the same way, failure to see clear distinctions between the rapture and second advent lead many to a misinterpretation of God’s future plan.
THE NATURE OF THE RAPTURE – The rapture is most clearly presented in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In verse 17 the English phrase “caught up” translates the Greek word “harpázô,” which means “to seize upon with force” or “to snatch up.” Latin translators of the Bible used the word “rapere,” the root of the English term “rapture.” At the rapture living believers will be “caught up” in the air, translated into the clouds, in a moment of time. The rapture is characterized in the Bible as a “translation coming” (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thes. 4:15-17) in which Christ comes for His church. The second advent is Christ returning with His saints, descending from heaven to establish His earthly kingdom (Zech. 14:4-5; Mat. 24:27-31). Ed Hindson observes: The rapture (or “translation”) of the church is often paralleled to the “raptures” of Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2: 12). In each case, the individual disappeared or was caught up into-heaven. At His ascension, our Lord Himself was “taken up” into heaven (Acts 1:9). The biblical description of the rapture involves both the resurrection of deceased believers and the translation of living believers into the air to meet the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51 52). 2 Differences between the two events are harmonized naturally by the pre-trib position, while other views are not able to account naturally from the biblical text for such distinctions. The following graphic lists a compilation of rapture passages set opposite to many that refer to the second coming.
RAPTURE & SECOND COMING PASSAGES – John 14:1-3 1 Thess. 4:13-18 1 Cor 15:51-53 Col 3:4 Heb. 9:28 1 John 2:28-3:2 James 5:7-9 1 Thess. 1:10 1 Thess. 2:19 1 Thess. 3:13 1 Thess. 5:23 Phil 3:20-21 Titus 2:13 1 Cor 1:7-8 1 Peter 1:7, 13 Jude 21 Daniel 2:44-45 Daniel 7:9-14 Daniel 12:1-3 Zech. 14:1-15 Matt 13:41 Matt 24:15-31 Matt 26:64 Mark 13:14-27 Mark 14:62 Luke 21:25-28 Acts 1:9-11 Acts 3:19-21 2 Thess. 1:6-10 2 Peter 3:1-14 Jude 14-15 Rev 1:7 Rev 19:11-20:6 Rev 22:7, 12, 20 2 Thess. 2:1 1 Tim 6:14 Rev 3:10 2 Tim 4:1 2 Thess. 2:8 Rom 8:19 1 Cor 16:22 1 Thess. 5:9 Rev 2:25 Zech. 12:10 Phil 4:5 2 Tim 4:8 1 Peter 5:4 1 Peter 4:12-13 2 Thess. 2:3 (?) With the second Advent rapture – the seven-year tribulation period – and the “Seventieth Week” of Daniel Based upon the references above, we can see a vast difference between the character of passages referring to the rapture when compared to those of the second coming as summarized in the following differences.
RAPTURE AND SECOND COMING CONTRASTS
Rapture is a translation – 2nd Coming is establishing His Kingdom
Rapture is a translation of all believers – 2nd coming is no translation at all
In the Rapture translated saints go to heaven – in the second coming translated saints return to earth
In the rapture, the earth is not judged – in the second coming the earth is judged & righteousness established
The rapture is imminent, any-moment – the second coming follows definite predicted signs including tribulation
Rapture is not in the Old Testament – the second coming is predicted often in Old Testament
The rapture affects believers only – the second coming affects all men
The rapture is before the day of wrath – the second coming Concludes with the day of wrath
In the rapture, there is no reference to Satan – in the second coming Satan is bound
In the rapture Christ comes for His own – in the second coming Christ comes with His own
With the Rapture He comes in the air – In the Second coming He touches down on the earth
In the rapture, He claims His bride – in the second coming He comes with His bride
In the rapture only His own see Him – in the second coming EVERY eye shall see Him
After the rapture, the tribulation begins – after the second coming the Millennial Kingdom begins
John Walvoord concludes that these contrasts should make it evident that the translation of the church is an event quite different in character and time from the return of the Lord to establish His kingdom, and confirms the view that the translation takes place before the tribulation.
ADDITIONAL DIFFERENCES – The quotation and the first six contrasts in the graphic above are taken from John F. Walvoord, The Return of the Lord (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1955), 87-88. http://www.pre-trib.org. Paul speaks of the rapture as a “mystery” (1 Cor. 15:51-54), that is a truth not revealed until its disclosure by the apostles (Col. 1:26), making it a separate event, while the second coming was predicted in the Old Testament (Dan. 12:1-3; Zech. 12:10; 14:4). The movement for the believer at the rapture is from earth to heaven, while it is from heaven to earth at the second advent. At the rapture, the Lord comes for his saints (1 Thess. 4:16), while at the second coming the Lord comes with His saints (1 Thess. 3:13). At the rapture, the Lord comes only for believers, but His return to the earth will impact all people. The rapture is a translation/resurrection event where the Lord takes believers “to the Father’s house” in heaven (John 14:3), while at the second coming believers return from heaven to the earth (Matt. 24:30). Hindson says, “The different aspects of our Lord’s return can be seen in the scriptures. The eschatological debate is the time interval between them.”
POST-TRIB PROBLEMS – One of the strengths of the pre-trib position is that it is best able to harmonize the many events of end-time prophecy because of its distinction between the rapture and the second coming. Normally, post-tribulationists do not even attempt to answers such objections and the few that try struggle with the biblical text putting forth stained interpretations. Yet, pretribulationists do not encounter difficulties in providing answers. What are some post-trib problems?
First, post-tribulationism requires that the church will be present during the 70th week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27) even though it was absent from the first 69. This is in spite of the fact that Daniel 9:24 says that all 70 weeks are for Israel. Pretribulationism is not in conflict with this passage, as is post-tribulationism, since the church departs before the beginning of the seven-year period.
Second, post-tribulationism must deny the New Testament teaching of imminency – that Christ could come at any-moment. Pretribulationism does not have a problem with these New Testament passages, since they believe that no signs must precede the rapture.
Third, premillennial post-tribulationism has no answer to their problem of who will populate the millennium if the rapture and second coming occur at the same time. Since all believers will be translated at the rapture and all unbelievers judged, because no unrighteous shall be allowed to enter Christ’s kingdom, then no one would be left in mortal bodies to start the population base for the millennium. The pre-trib viewpoint does not have a problem at this point.
Fourth, post-tribulationism is not able to explain the sheep and goat’s judgment after the second coming in Matthew 25:31-46. As in the previous problem, how would there be any believers in mortal bodies, if they were raptured at the second coming, who would be available to enter into Christ’s kingdom? Pretribulationism does not have such a problem.
Fifth, since Revelation 19:7-8 indicates that the church, Christ’s Bride, is made ready to accompany Christ to earth (Rev. 19:14) before the second coming, how could this reasonably happen if part of the church is still on earth awaiting Christ’s Advent? If the rapture of the church takes place at the second coming, then how does the Bride (i.e., the church) also come with Christ at His return? There would not be sufficient time for this to happen within a post-tribulational sequence, but the pre-trib position has no such problem. CONCLUSION The distinctions between Christ’s coming in the air to rapture His church are too great to be reduced into a single coming at the end of the tribulation. These biblical distinctions provide a strong basis for the pre-trib rapture teaching. When we consider that the church is promised exemption from Israel tribulation (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10) and that the 70th week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27) is for Israel and not the church, like the previous 69, so it only follows that the church will be raptured before the tribulation. Such a hope is indeed is a “Blessed Hope.” Even so, come Lord Jesus! Maranatha!
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Published – 9/2/17
THE RAPTURE AND THE SECOND COMING – PART IV
SEDUCING SPIRITS AND DOCTRINES OF DEVILS
“Now the Spirit speaks expressively, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking LIES in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we TRUST in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach” (I Timothy 4:1-2,9-11).
“This know also, that in the last days perilous (dangerous) times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, not thankful, and unholy. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent (no self-control) fierce, despisers of those that are good. Traitors, arrogant, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of religion but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:1-5-7).
“What you applaud you encourage – beware what you celebrate.” Ravi Zacharias.
We spoke last week about the powerful delusion that is already working in the world and will continue to grow in strength as the end draws near. The rapture is near and we will continue to notice signs that confirm God’s Word. Yes, people are generally like sheep which with all due respect is not a good thing when it comes to having discernment and intelligence. It’s time to stop acting and pretending that everything is going to be alright and stop whining that we all just need to get along with each other and be more flexible in our world views. I admit this would be the easy way to live because it would create a false security of comfort and peace and I emphasize the word “false.” The older generation is fading away and unfortunately spiritual truth is going with them. Truth is being watered down to the point where we cannot tell what it is. If Biblical truth were a medicine, in today’s world it has become so diluted that it does not have enough power to heal anyone. Brothers and sisters is anyone preaching that we are in a WAR? Or are the pastors hiding behind the pulpit afraid that someone is going to be offended? Are the spiritual leaders becoming so intimidated of the social and political police they are selecting their sermons from a tabloid instead of the Holy Spirit? The New World system of social and political correctness is now the law and we might as well face it instead of trying to negotiate with it. WE CANNOT play patty-cake with Satan and walk in the Spirit of God at the same time! We are servants to whom we obey and can only follow one master. The liberal agenda of secular humanism is taking control of everything and is armed with one of the most deceptive strategies that can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It is not a complicated strategy but rather simple – the flesh aggressively desires to do whatever it wants and it does not want anyone to interfere! There is an old saying, “why change something if the old way still works?” and we can be assured that Satan knows exactly what people want.
We may not want to admit it, but Satan has a very successful operation going on in the world today. As CEO of planet earth, he has “Prince and power of the air” written on the door of his executive office. Why is this significant? Because the world has progressed in technology and the media plays a significant role with the New World Order whose purpose is to mesmerize the world with his wizardry. Satan can now spew his lies and deceptions to millions or even billions of people every minute and this is speeding up the process to hypnotize the masses. I realize I harp on television consistently, but why would we watch something that we KNOW is filled with Satanic influences? Do we like walking on the edge of danger? Are we in denial that a daily intake of sin and darkness will not affect our mind and spirit? Evidently, we do not care! Why? Because we are already caught in the snare-trap of the delusion – and that is something to seriously think about. Do we think we are too strong to be caught in the web of Satan’s influences? Humanism can gradually transform the human mind into a carnal beast that craves debauchery and perversion and Satan is the master who continuously feeds these dark passions and desires. The delusion is a masquerade that decorates and remodels its agenda with being nice and giving and loving but it’s only a spray-painted piece of cardboard that is hiding the most devastating tragedy of mankind. The puppets of this system are promoting world peace and unity which seem to be a good idea, but the hidden plan is to eliminate God and the Bible along with everyone who follows Jesus Christ. Why? Because those who live in willful sin hates the truth and will NEVER submit under the authority of God! The blind heathens of this world are allowing Satan to embed his hatred for God into their hearts and they are growing increasingly aggressive toward those who stand for Biblical righteousness. Where are we heading? We are heading toward a society that believes God is bad and Lucifer is good. If you want to read more about this philosophy you will no doubt be introduced to a man named Albert Pike a 33-degree Mason who was a leader of this Satanic movement. The idea has been around a long time, it is spreading like a devastating plague and sadly many people have embraced its message. We can look around today and see this ideology is spilling over into the realm of higher education and the younger generation. This “new way” of thinking is establishing a platform for the future as the anti-christ will not have a difficult time convincing the world that Jesus wants to destroy the world while he wants to save it. “And no marvel; for Satan, himself is transformed into an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). The mark of the beast will not be seen as a bad idea – the masses will be convinced this is the key to intelligent, orderly, logical, and successful living.
I was browsing through a magazine the other day and it featured a disturbing story about a popular personality. This individual is very wealthy and in the eyes of the world is the ultimate definition of fame, fortune and respect. The problem is not that they are spiritually lost because Jesus came to save those who are spiritually blind but when they are given a platform to speak confusion about God, the masses accept what they say as truth. This is in addition to them living a lifestyle that is offensive and contrary to the holiness of God. Sadly, instead of being exposed as a corrupt and wicked role model for today’s youth and a horrible influence on society, they were being praised and exalted as one of the most honorable human beings on the planet. This person was actually given the Presidential medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a civilian in the United States. The magazine was rolling out the red carpet with an opportunity for them to teach life principals about how to be happy and live in peace. This seems strange to me for someone who believes there is no judgment from whatever you consider a divine deity and the concept of a higher power could be a rock, a tree or whatever you choose. What a safe and happy way to shape and mold your own idea of spirituality instead of reading and following what is already clearly explained in the Bible. When people attempt to create God in their own image, they remove all sense of responsibility to obeying the truth and while blocking out reality, they can attempt to live in a matrix fantasy of happily ever after and the idea that everything will be OK. This person went on to say they believe they are not hurting anyone with their personal beliefs but I beg to differ. People who have a platform to the world are responsible to God for what they say and how they act no matter how they try to twist and distort spiritual reality. At the end of the article a comment was made that sounded similar to what I am saying here and then another reader stepped in with what I believe is a representation of the liberal and atheist masses that are rapidly multiplying in our culture. I quote, “Christians are bigots, hypocrites and follow a sadistic dictator they call lord. Your violent fables and outdated fallacies will not scare us or manipulate our emotions anymore!” This country has now developed a huge army of liberal atheist that will intentionally ignore those who sacrifice their lives to help others while declaring athletes and movie-stars as hero’s to be worshipped.
Politics is rapidly changing because Satan knows this is where the transformation must begin. In order to change the way individual’s think, he must control what they see and listen to – (pause). He must somehow turn things around backwards while making it seem the world is improving and getting better. He has been able to manipulate our government to throw God and the Bible out the window and fill our public education system with lies from hell and the crazy part is that most parents have endorsed and supported these actions. In general, most people do not care what happens with anything as long as they can eat their steaks and drink their beer. Many do not know right from wrong which is making it very easy to teach that good is bad and bad is good. With the majority being blind and vulnerable to deception, it will be easy to lead the masses into the gates of hell. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that exchange darkness for light, and light for darkness; that exchange bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21). The New World Order is pounding the masses with the idea that we must follow science and philosophy in order to rescue the ignorant and save society. They talk about religious tolerance but they have no intention of being tolerant toward Christianity. Their plan is for Christians to open their mind and accept the idea that all religions are the same and all should be embraced and respected in the name of moral unity. However, what they do not reveal is the secret plan to establish a one world religion that rules the globe with an iron fist. Anyone who disagrees with the doctrines of this legal system will be labeled as being filled with hate, bigotry and prejudice.
Of course, the true follower of Jesus knows there is only one God and all others are false. There is only one true God and He is the God of the Bible. The heavenly Father, the Son of God Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit all together form the holy trinity as the ONLY one and true God. He is from the beginning and He has no end and no other idol can say that. He is the only infinitely perfect supreme being that is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent so why in the name of heaven is there any question to this issue? God created heaven, the universe and all living things and is in total control of everything. There has never nor will ever be anyone that can challenge His authority as He is the Almighty, the Alpha and Omega. All other deities and gods originate from the deceived imaginations of mankind and are not only imposters but a direct enemy to the absolute truth. If this statement makes me a target for the system of the beast then so be it. If Google wants to remove this site because of my declaration, so be it. We as followers of Christ must draw the line in the sand and refuse to bow down to the Satanic influences of this generation or we will be swallowed by the fear and intimidation of lukewarm compromise. Yes, there will be trials and persecution but there has always been hatred for Jesus and if you and I truly love Him, He promises the world will hate us and want to destroy us. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love their own: but because you are NOT of this world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore (this is why) the world hates you. Remember the WORD that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, (held what I said against me) they will also keep yours (feel the same way). But all these things will they do unto for my names sake. Because they know not him that sent me” (John 15:18-22). “These things have I spoken unto you, that you should NOT be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea the time is coming that whoever kills you will believe he is doing God a service. And these things will they do unto you because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:1-3).
Let us stop and evaluate and examine our heart today. Where are we going – what are we doing? Are we listening to the voice of the Shepherd or listening to our own will? America may be a leader of nations but it is also filled with abortion, homosexuality, sexual indulgence, violence, pornography, prejudice, hatred, rebellion, strife, greed, lust, perversion, and every form of sin and deception. We must settle the question right today – will we stand for Jesus and His truth? Are we willing to be persecuted for God? Are we prepared for the judgment and suffering that is coming upon this nation? What would you do if the economy collapsed next year? Is your faith strong, are you dwelling in the secret place of spiritual intimacy with Christ? Are you walking in the power and peace of His presence? Today is the day of grace for us to draw near to God and the only thing standing in the way is our carnal nature. Who will we choose? Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus. All glory and honor and worship to Jesus forever – Amen.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 34 – PUBLISHED 8/27/17
THE RAPTURE AND THE SECOND COMING – III
THE GREAT DELUSION
“And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceptiveness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” II Thessalonians 2:8-12.
According to the Bible, a strong delusion is coming upon the world. I believe this attack is already in the early stages and is growing stronger every day. You can sense that people are becoming more selfish, more violent and less caring because they have surrendered their soul to the dark side. The human mind has always been considered as the battleground for the soul and unless it is crucified and allowed to be renewed, the carnal nature will dominate and control the individual in every way. Sadly, those who live according to their fleshly emotions will never be a servant to God as the Lord has established in Romans chapter 6 that we are servants to whom we obey. This delusion is in every nation, country and region and it should be a spiritual reality to be very concerned about. Why? Because this delusion could be affecting our loved one and close friends that we do not want to see perish. This deception could also find its way into our life. Many would say they would never be deceived but not being able to detect when we are being fooled is the basis of deception. Allow me to ask, how many individuals believe they are correct in their theology and politics but are wrong? Do you see what I mean? Awareness does not have to be saturated in terror, but a reverential fear of God is a correct approach to this situation.
When you allow yourself to drift into a spiritual lukewarm state, you do not notice the ugliness and shock of sin. Why? Because you are slowly being paralyzed by the poison of darkness and deception. It does not take very long for a Christian to lose their sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. If we are not living in an awareness of His presence, we have already lost it. However, if you go on a fast to pray and seriously seek God, you will begin to “wake up” and notice that you are being engulfed in an Ocean of filth and wickedness. Inner peace and joy comes from spiritual intimacy with God and when we take our focus from worship and prayer and redirect our attention to our flesh, we fall into the snare trap of misery, anxiety, depression, anger and sadness. Of course, we have heard about being seduced by the philosophies and the new political ideas of the world but what many who call themselves Christians should also beware of is being led astray by the religious system. The problem with deception is that you don’t know you are deceived. If you knew you were deceived, you’d walk away from the lie and embrace the truth. Lovers of the truth are less likely to be deceived, but anyone can fall into deception. And if you think you are above the possibility of falling into deception, you are walking in a deception called pride. So I challenge you: Begin to pray for God to break off any deception that has clouded your soul. Beseech Him by His mercy to deliver you from the grip of deception, to shine light on your mind and to give you discernment.
The strong delusions are everywhere and can even infiltrate the pulpits if the people are not being refined in the fires of God’s holiness. This is far beyond the much-hyped prosperity gospel that mimics New Age philosophies in pursuit of the mighty dollar. Mind you, I’m not against prosperity, and indeed I consider myself blessed but as I Timothy 6: 9-10 explains, the love of money is THE root of all evil and many prosperity preachers have fallen into deception by getting caught up in the Babylonian paradigm instead of seeking first the kingdom of God – amen! There is also an increasing wave of views that are being taught that uses grace to excuse sin and takes away the responsibility of the individual to live holy. We are in control of what we say and do, yet many are now saying that God understands our intentional sin and does not judge us for our wickedness. The liberal ideas from higher secular education have expanded within the modern church and now is challenging the authority of the Word of God. Today, the validity of the Bible is being considered as more of a folklore than divine and the general conclusion presents those who believe the Bible is without error are uneducated fools that have no integrity and cannot be respected or trusted. A very real example of the new doctrinal revolution is the rejection of hell and the acceptance of universal reconciliation. Other dangerous religious laws that are being established is the idea that ALL religions are the same as all worship the same God and all paths will lead to heaven. Those who reject this doctrine are aggressively being labeled as prejudiced and filled with hate. So, how do we avoid the delusion? Good question. Let’s find out what delusion means and I believe this is great place to start. If we listen to the psychiatrist and the psychologists we understand these doctors are faced with the problem of delusion on a regular basis. This is another insight that the mind is extremely fragile and vulnerable to mental disorders, chemical imbalances, demon persuasions and how situations and thoughts can seem very real but are not true.
“If I told you that I could substitute for Carl Towns with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA, you could justify calling me delusional. A delusion is a false belief that is based on an incorrect interpretation of reality. According to the medical world, a person with delusional disorder will firmly hold on to a false belief despite clear evidence to the contrary. Delusions can be caused by mental illnesses called psychoses. These include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Delusions also can occur in degenerative brain conditions, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. Delusions often are beliefs that could not possibly be true. For example, if I believed that I were Abraham Lincoln, or Moses, or that the earth is not round but is actually flat, those would be considered delusions. These deceptions also can be about something that is not happening but that could possibly occur in reality. The CIA could really be tapping my telephone, for example: I do have a phone, and the CIA actually does have the ability to tap it. However, if I devoutly believed the government was tapping my phone, yet couldn’t give you a plausible explanation for me being paranoid and fearful, I would likely be delusional. In a condition called “delusional disorder” a person with otherwise “normal” thinking can function in society and appear to be stable but may be totally convinced that Taylor Swift is going to ask them to sing with her at a huge concert in the near future. The hardest part is getting someone who is delusional to recognize that he or she is living in a matrix world that is NOT true reality.”
How do deceptions creep in, and how can you guard yourself from strong delusion? Be careful what you listen to, read and watch! Invest your time in the quiet and secret place of God’s presence. Dedicate a place that is a personal sanctuary of peace and devoted to prayer, study and meditation. Stop depending on what others are saying and ask God to speak to you directly. You and I have a clear line of communication with God and are told to seek, ask and knock. He promised that we could be as CLOSE to Him as we want and that nothing can stop us from living in the awareness of His presence. This is a quote from Jennifer Leclaire, “Jesus warned us against falling into deception. Paul, Peter, John and James all warned us not to be deceived. You can hardly read a chapter in the New Testament that doesn’t issue a warning against deception. And yet deception is dominating the world and much of the church. How do you protect yourself from the spirit of error? I believe being a student of the Word is one safeguard against deception. Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). That’s why you can’t just be a blind follower of what someone else preaches. You have to study the Word yourself. We must measure every message we read and hear against the Word of God for ourselves. Don’t just check to see if the scripture is in your Bible, but study its meaning in the context of the chapter, book and entire Bible and then PRAY. When you do, heresy is quickly discerned. Sadly, the church at large is lukewarm and lazy, preferring to feast on flashy sermons without lifting a finger to open their own Bibles. Can you see how easy it will be for many to be deceived?”
I realize the great delusion is coming upon the world even much stronger than it is now. How else could the world not recognize the antichrist and even embrace his thoughts, plans and suggestions? We only need to watch the news or pick up a newspaper to see the lies and wickedness the masses are accepting. The world of politics has now turned into an abyss of chaos and confusion. The new generation is rising to political power and are slowly re-establishing the direction of this nation from being based on Biblical principles to a dominant secular society that has re-written the ideals of right and wrong. God and His Word is being discarded as being filled with bigotry, violence, cruelty and hatred and many children are being turned away from its message of who God really is. Allow me to say, the remnant of disciples who follow Christ will not be able to slow down this runaway train of liberal thinking. The world is growing darker each day as the laws of Satan are being established. Yes, we can work in this time of grace and listen and obey the still small voice of the Great Shepherd but the prophecy has already been written and the end is not a pretty sight. Let us pray for divine appointments. Let us pray for those in our network. May we pull away from the lure and temptation of the world and focus our attention on JESUS! He is coming soon and is calling for His bride to be ready when He returns.
“Dear God, please teach me how to pray. Growing closer to you is my goal and I read in your Word where fasting can help bring clarity to my soul. I need to become focused on you and as I draw near, I will be able to hear your still small voice. Lord, please help me have stronger self-discipline in order to say NO to my flesh. My mind needs to be transformed and renewed with your Word and my heart needs to be purified by your refining fire. I do not want to become blinded by the strong delusion that is being unleashed upon the world. Please help me Jesus, to know what is true. Protect me under the shadow of your wings. I love you and desperately need you, amen.”
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 33 – Published 8/19/2017
RAPTURE AND THE SECOND COMING – II
The more we search, the more we realize there are many who have spent much time in study about the end times and what a vast subject this is. I have several parts to include with this series and it would be easy to venture out into the deep waters of the entire subject of future events, but at this time I would like to stay focused on the rapture and second coming. On a side note, the total eclipse is coming soon and much is being said about this being another significant sign of Jesus returning. I personally believe this is a warning to America that judgment is on the horizon and I pray that many will repent and reach out to Christ. Let us ask for His wisdom and understanding in these last hours.
I have heard the basic teachings that explain the ancient Jewish wedding ceremony tradition as a type and shadow of the return of Christ for His bride. I do not discount this as a mystery that reveals spiritual truth. There are many websites that are loaded with Biblical research and I chose to relay this material for us to review. The only name I found is Yedidah and his site is www.laydownlife.net. He has provided a great study and I hope you enjoy it! I am not saying I agree with everything he believes but this is enough material to at least consider some points. It is long and I intended to break it into 2 parts but I will go ahead and keep it together. I have gone through it and tweaked it to give more clarity and have pointed out certain views that I thought were interesting. Let us begin.
John 14:2-3: “In My Father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you. And, if I go to prepare and place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Matthew 24:36, 44: “But of the day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only”. “Therefore, be also ready: for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of man comes.”
Matthew 25:10-13: “…the Bridegroom came: and they that were ready went in with Him to the marriage and the door was shut.”
Revelation 7:7-8: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
John 3:29: John the baptizer, referring to himself as the “friend of the Bridegroom” and to Jesus, the Bridegroom: “He that has the Bride is the Bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatest because of the Bridegroom’s voice. This, my joy, therefore is fulfilled.”
Psalm 45:6-17 “Upon Your Right Hand (Yahushua) did stand the Queen, in gold of Ophir.”
Matthew 22:8-14 is a story of the gathering of the guests. They must be invited, and must have on a “wedding garment.” The wedding garment is white linen—the “righteousness of the set-apart, “saved.”
The Word of Elohim is basically the story of a wedding, from start to finish. It is a love story of a loving Father, seeking the perfect Bride for His Son, (Yahushua) and a bride who is totally devoted, pure of heart, and in love only to Him, submitted and perfect in His sight. Another picture of this is found in Genesis 24:1-67 with Abraham sending out his servant to find the perfect bride for Isaac.
In the basic structure of the Ancient Jewish Wedding Ceremony, you will see the Father, and the bridegroom (Yahushua), the “servant” the Ruach Yahuweh, the bride, the attendant of the bride (pictured by Moses), and the attendant of the Groom (pictured by Elijah), and the guests. In most weddings, there are 3 groups of people: 1. the guests, forming the largest group, 2. the attendants of the bride and the Groom, usually a small group, and 3. the bride and her bridegroom. All are content and happy within their situation however, only the bride gets to go home with the Bridegroom and live in his House forever. She has an intimacy with Him that no one else has!
This is an interesting observation – And, so there is a new earth, which will be created for the “saved” guests. There are the attendants who are the “kings of the earth” that are “saved” and who represent the guests before the Father and the Bridegroom. And, there is the bride, who stays with her husband in the Father’s House. (Revelation 21:22-22:5, 14) This is also mentioned in Revelation 3:7-13 in the letter to the church at Philadelphia, which represents the bridal remnant in the last days. She does not go onto the new earth, but stays in the presence of the Father and the Son. She is marked, because 1. she is submissive and yielded to her Bridegroom, guarding and obeying the terms of His Marriage Covenant, (the Holy Word of God). 2. because she loves Him with a perfect love. 3. because she follows her Bridegroom (the Great Shepard) wherever He goes, and 4. because she has made herself ready and purified herself and separated herself totally unto Him. She belongs to Him, and her relationship with Him is intimate. He knows her, and she knows Him, and their fellowship is like a sweet fragrance.
I. HaMelech – the King! Another name for Rosh ha Shanah, which is the day of His coming- at the Feast of Trumpets, is “Coronation Day.” This Feast usually occurs during the Roman month of September. (This year it is sundown on September 20 and runs through September 22). This is the traditional day for the Bridegroom to come for His Bride, and at their wedding day, he is crowned the king, and she is crowned the queen. Thus, marriage day is the day of Coronation.
II. Yahushua will come for His bride on Rosh ha Shanah-Tishre 1 on the Hebrew calendar. The essential message of this Feast is the reaffirmation of the Kingship of Elohim. (Interesting).
III. Messiah will be crowned on Rosh ha Shanah and given the heathen for His inheritance, as well as receiving His Kingdom. Daniel 7:13-14 and Psalm 2:6
IV. Jewish Scripture used for this day: Genesis 49:10 and Zechariah 9:9
V. Revelation 19:11-16: He comes with the sound of the trumpet and much fan-fare and ceremony. He comes as the trumpet sounds loudly, with His angels, in the wrath of the Father, to destroy His enemies and the enemies of His Bride. He comes as a victorious King to deliver His Bride from the evil one.
VI. He becomes the King of Kings over all the kingdoms of this world: Revelation 11:15-19; 19:16; Daniel 7:9, 13-14, 27; Revelation 1:7. (These last 2 points sounds like the Second coming instead of the thief in the night. Combining scriptures for both events has always been a problem for me).
VII. On the wedding day, the Bridegroom and the Bride are called King and Queen – and reference is made to Psalm 45. (I have not been acquainted with this theology).
THE WEDDING ARRANGEMENTS
Either the father arranges the wedding as Sampson’s father did, or the father sends an agent in his place, as Abraham sent Eleazer, or the young man comes by himself to the girl’s father to arrange the marriage between the two of them.
II. If the young man goes to the house of the girl, he initially must carry these three things:
a) A large sum of money (or many expensive items) to pay the price for the Bride.
b) A betrothal contract with his promises to the Bride written on it.
c) A skin of wine.
Note: In John 5:8: “For there are three that bear witness in earth: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” In prophetic typology, the wine represents the Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit), the water represents the Word of God (the marriage contract or Covenant vow – the Torah given at Sinai) and the blood represents the ransom price paid for our salvation (the ONLY payment of redemption). Acts 20:28, Paul speaking to Pastors: “Take heed to yourselves…to feed the assembly of Elohim, which He has purchased with His own blood.” Ephesians 1:14 tells us that the Ruach’s presence with us is the “down-payment of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…” His Bride was the purchased possession, and He is coming to fully redeem her unto Himself. I Corinthians 6:20; I Corinthians 7:23, “For you are bought with a price.”
III. If the Father approves of the marriage, the girl is called in and they all drink the wine together. In the drinking of the wine, she commits herself to the young man (salvation – accepting Jesus into our heart by faith). Jeremiah 31:31 “I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.” Matthew 26:27-28: “And He took the cup (the 3rd cup of the Seder—the cup of redemption) and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying `Drink you all of it: for this is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Thus, He renewed His Covenant in His own blood, together with His Remnant Bride who would be taken from among the whole world.
IV. At this point, the two are considered husband and wife. Their union can only be dissolved by divorce, but their state is still called “betrothal” as was with Mary and Joseph. (It is interesting to consider that we are not technically married YET to Jesus but are waiting for Him to return. Our life on earth is devoted to preparing for our wedding).
V. After the wine is consumed, the young man will go away and prepare a dwelling place for them which is usually adding on a room to his father’s house. He promises that when the room is finished, he will come back for her, and she would forever be with him. “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” Matthew 14:1-3. The bride to be belongs to him now, for she is committed and her intentions have been witnessed and confirmed.
VI. The young man goes to prepare a chador (chamber) in his father’s house, commonly called a “chuppah” (the honeymoon bed).
VII. The girl must now spend her time learning how to be a wife and mother, and to learn how to please her husband. He may be gone for as long as 2 years or more. (some say this represents the 2000 years from the resurrection of Christ until He returns for His bride. If this is true, it is another sign that the rapture is very near). The young man, if asked when the day of his wedding will be, often gets rid of nosey inquirers by saying: “No man knows the day or the hour, only my father knows.” (Matthew 24:36/Mark 13:32). Thus, he puts the responsibility of dealing with friends and family who are curious onto his father. It is a personal thing with him, and he only discusses the timing of his coming for His bride with his father. He communicates with his bride in secret, and by his messenger (represented by the Ruach ha Kodesh (HOLY SPIRIT) who is the representative between Yahushua and His bride. Also, the term “no man knows the day or the hour” is a catch-phrase for the Feast of Trumpets—Rosh ha Shanna, because it lasts for 2 days. Three trumpets are blown during that 2-day time period. And, everyone waits for the “last trump” when according to Jewish tradition, the gates of heaven open and the righteous ascend to heaven (resurrection), while the fate of the wicked is sealed.
VIII. The groom designates two close friends to assist him and to assist the bride during the ceremony. They are called “witnesses.” The two witnesses of Revelation 11 have this aspect to them. Also, during the ceremony the contract containing the groom’s promises are then turned over to the parents of the bride.
IX. He comes for his bride with great fanfare, trumpets, his servants and friends and family. It is a joyful day when he comes to receive his bride for the wedding ceremony. There is music and dancing and rejoicing. (John 2)
X. On their wedding day they are called the King and Queen. On this day, tradition says that they stand faithful and pure as they are united. For two years or more (for us, 2000 years approximately since our Bridegroom went back to His Father’s house) the servant, represented for us by the Ruach ha Kodesh, (HOLY SPIRIT) works to prepare the Bride to perfection for her marriage to the perfect Bridegroom, Yahushua. From I Corinthians 1:4-9: “I thank Elohim always concerning you…that you are not lacking in any gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Master Yahushua Messiah…” I Thessalonians 5:23: “And the Elohim of peace Himself set you completely apart, and your entire spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Master Yahushua Messiah.” From Ephesians 5:25-27: “…Messiah also did love the assembly and gave Himself for it…in order to present it to Himself a splendid assembly, not having spot or wrinkle or ANY such thing, but that it might be HOLY, set-apart and blameless.” The Bride has purified herself, and made herself set-apart unto Him alone!!
XI. The words of the wedding ceremony are from Psalm 45, and Isaiah 61:10-62:5, “…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall Elohim rejoice over you.”
(Note the marriage feast lasting 7 days and many believe this is revealing the seven-year tribulation period AFTER the bride has been taken. My question is; since the bride is in the bridal chamber with the groom – who are the guest?)
XII. Once the ceremony is over, the two go into the bridal chamber (chuppah) for 7 days. Portions of the Song of Solomon, read during Passover, gives the details of the intimacy between Messiah and His Bride.
XIII. The seven days in the chamber correspond to the seven days between the end of the Feast of Trumpets, and the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest takes the blood before the altar and the sins of the nation of Israel are forgiven. (On the Day of Atonement Messiah will judge all the nations that came against Jerusalem, and separate out the sheep and goat nations, as well as pronouncing the whole House of Jacob/Israel including the 12 tribes. Joel 3:1-12; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 11:26-27; Isaiah 59:20-21; 60:11-22; Jeremiah 31 and 33; Ezekiel 36:24-38; 37, and etc… (I have looked at the time period between the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement and cannot come up with 7 days. It is said the Feast of Trumpets ends on September 22nd while the Day of Atonement begins September 30. This would seem like 8 days to me – 23 – 30).
XIV. At the end of the 7 days, the groom’s “friend” (representing Elijah – John the baptizer came in the spirit of Elijah, and represented Messiah and called himself the “friend of the Bridegroom” in John 3:29) or “witness” waits at the chamber door. The guests have arrived and are waiting for the door to be opened, and the wedding banquet to begin. When the groom is ready, he knocks from the “inside” of the chamber door, indicating the marriage has been consummated (made perfect) and they are ready to make their public appearance before everyone. The friend opens the door, and the guests cheer.
XV. In Revelation 11, the two witnesses have been in the earth witnessing and preparing for 3 ½ years. At the voice of the Bridegroom calling them up, Messiah Yahushua comes out of heaven with a trumpet blast, accompanied by the set-apart ones who have died, to gather His whole Bride for the wedding, and the 7 days in the chuppah. The door of heaven opens and He proceeds out. The “bride has made herself ready.” He picks up His Bride who is alive and waiting for Him on the earth. Then after His glorious entrance into Jerusalem, they proceed to the wedding feast. Some believe that the wedding feast will occur at Mt. Sinai, since that is where the terms of the marriage Covenant were given to the Bride. Look at the wording of Revelation 19:8 and 11. The parable of the wise virgins, of Matthew 25:1-11, shows us that only the prepared Bride gets to go into the chuppah with Him. The guests are shut out. (Interesting – I do not understand Revelation chapter 11 or where these events tie into the wedding feast. I assume this is happening after the rapture and during the tribulation period but it is confusing. Would someone like to share their thoughts about this chapter?
XVI. John the baptizer saw himself as the groom’s “friend” – John 3:28-30. Jewish tradition says that Elijah attends the groom – as John was called “Elijah” even by the “Groom” Yahushua in Matthew 11:13-14. Elijah’s message is one of preparation for the coming Messiah. He stands and waits for the Groom’s knock. Matthew 17:3 shows the glorified, radiant Messiah standing with Moses and Elijah.
XVII. The Bride’s attendant according to Jewish tradition is Moses. His function is to escort the Bride to the Bridegroom, as Moses escorted the children of Israel to Sinai to be wed to Elohim there. In Revelation 11:3-7, the two witnesses to come have the characteristics of Elijah and Moses.
XVIII. After the marriage the Bride goes to live with her Bridegroom as the Queen of the Almighty Elohim and King of Kings. She remains with Him, by His side, for eternity. When Father comes, and brings His city down (Revelation 20-22), the Bride is found still with her Husband (Revelation 22:3-5). (Again, I have not heard God’s people be referred to as “Queen” and it sounds odd. I have heard teachers refer to the Holy Spirit in a feminine context. Would someone like to share their thoughts?)
Let us stop here and take time to look over this material. “Father, give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear what your Spirit has to say, amen.”
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 32 – Published 8/5/17 and 8/12/17
THE RAPTURE AND THE SECOND COMING I
I have been feeling a stirring in my heart lately about the return of Jesus. No doubt He is always trying to communicate with us but embarrassingly we are more consumed with the affairs of this life. I realize it is difficult to be looking to the Eastern skies all the time, but we must admit the dark-side are experts when it comes to providing temptations and distractions. Those of you that read my writings, are aware that I have not concentrated on a great deal of Bible prophecy. I enjoy reading people’s opinions and I’m interested in the subject but feel very inadequate to teach on it. I mostly write and sing about the battle between our flesh and our spirit along with the practical aspects of living the Christian life. I am convinced that developing an awareness of God’s presence is the meaning of life but to me eschatology is complicated and often confusing. It’s also discouraging when we see so many arguments and opinions and how difficult it is for Bible scholars to hardly agree on anything. We can spend a lot of time analyzing and accepting persuasive points and then turn around and sincerely consider strong arguments for theories that oppose our original ideas. This often leaves us with not knowing what to accept and is another reason I have hesitated to be dogmatic about these topics.
Regardless of how complicated the study of future events are, I do believe as followers of Christ, we should at least put forth an effort to pray and seek for divine wisdom about the signs of the times. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7 and verses 7 and 8, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that will ask receives; and he that seeks will find; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” We can agree, we will never discover personal spiritual truth unless we are passionate to search for it! I have always been amazed at how many Christians do not know what they believe and some who do have their own convictions do not know “why” they believe. We are commanded to invest our time trying to learn who we are, who God is, what he wants and how we can obey Him. If we are NOT doing these things, then maybe we have lost the point of our purpose. II Timothy 2:15 does not say we have the option to spend time researching the scriptures but rather demands that we, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that will not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We have been given a wonderful book of knowledge and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us understand. It is easy to rely on our spouse or our pastor to teach us what they believe but our salvation experience is supposed to be a personal “relationship” between between Jesus and the individual. To be honest, what we believe is our identity and should be considered our highest priority. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12.
In this series, I will try to keep each part relatively small because we have a lot of ground to cover and we can take our time and not have to rush through it. Like always, I welcome your questions and comments about this subject. I am not trying to imply that I know everything about the rapture and the second coming and would love to hear what the Lord is showing you.
Let us begin with acknowledging the fact that Jesus IS coming back. Like I said, there are several disagreements about the details but within the Christian life we must admit His return is a huge part of the foundation of our faith. When we refer to the return of Jesus, its important to note there is a camp of believers who are convinced this will actually be two events – the rapture of the saints – AND the second coming or the day of the Lord. The other major camp is persuaded that all the scriptures are talking about one event and they have merged everything into one huge spiritual phenomenon. Whether together or separate, we see that most Christians believe these things will happen, the disagreement is about when they will happen. My purpose is not to condemn or correct someones theology but rather I want us to learn with the intention of finding more truth. When I present what I have found, this does not mean I definitely know what is going to happen. I may be wrong and you may be wrong but hopefully, we can find what is right. For the sake of definition, let’s look at the meaning of both events.
THE RAPTURE: We will take a brief glance for now. The term originates from a Latin word meaning, “to carry away, to transport or snatch away.” Even though the word rapture is not used in scripture, the idea and explanation of Christ removing His people from the earth at the end of the age is taught in scripture. In this event, God will remove all believers from the earth in order to make way for His righteous judgment to be poured out on the earth during the tribulation period. He will resurrect all believers who have died, give them glorified bodies, and take them from the earth, along with all living believers, who will also be transformed and given glorified bodies at that same moment. “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be “caught up” together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” I Thessalonians 4:16-17. In the New testament, Paul calls it a mystery now revealed: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” I Corinthians 15: 51-52.
THE DAY OF THE LORD: Many people call The day of the Lord, the second coming of Christ and that is alright. I guess technically we could call the rapture the second coming of Jesus but it is not worth arguing about. The second coming is also referred to as the second advent or the Parousia but the point is that He will return to the earth to fulfill all of His promises and the prophecies that have been declared about Him. God’s Word is perfectly true and it has never and will never fail! In Matthew chapter 24:30, Jesus spoke about this Himself, “At that time the SIGN of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” We notice at the rapture, the Lord comes “in the clouds” and we meet Him in the air but at the second coming, we read in Zechariah 14:3-4 that the Lord descends all the way to the earth to stand on the Mount of Olives, resulting in a great earthquake followed by the defeat of God’s enemies. At the rapture, it seems the saints are the only ones that will hear the trumpet and see Him in the clouds. They are lovingly delivered from the coming tribulation, but the world continues in the darkness of sin for seven more years. At His Second Coming, Christ reveals Himself and crushes the armies of the world who have gathered to fight against Him as Titus describes this violent confrontation as a glorious appearing that the whole world will see.
I want to end here for part one and close with this thought. Most Bible scholars do not see any prophecies that need to be fulfilled before Jesus comes to take His bride away. On the other hand, there are several prophecies that need to be fulfilled before the second coming happens. For some reason many have become complacent about being caught away any moment. Maybe its because we have heard about it so much but the truth is that we are living in the hour of grace where we have a chance to prepare our heart, mind and soul to meet our first love. It is a sobering thought to realize He could come tonight and it is our responsibility to be excited and ready to go when the trumpet sounds.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 31 – Published 7/29/17
REFLECTIONS FROM MATTHEW CHAPTER 7
Why do Christians fail to pray? Why do Christians fail to understand about prayer and how important it is? Much of the problem is because people who do not see a critical need to sacrifice will easily ignore the diligence to suffer. The justification will always plead to the mind and ask the question; “why should I pray when God is already making all the decisions?” “Why should I take the time to pray when the outcome has already been settled?” “What difference would it make and the grandfather of them all; “ Honestly, I just do not want to do it.” With this type of attitude which by the way is embedded within the core of our carnal nature, it is no wonder why true, fervent prayer is so rare. Yes, we may say; “bless them Lord” as we eat another chicken leg but what about the type of prayer where we fast and lay on our face before the Almighty for long periods of time? This is way too serious for most religious people and in their opinion would fall into the category of kooky extremism. This may sound strange, but I believe the fanatical lifestyle of taking up our cross and following Jesus is not what most people have in mind when they raise their hand and walk the aisle during the altar call. Too bad, because I know this is exactly what God wants and the reason Jesus died and rose again. I have often wondered that the problem may be in the way the gospel is presented. If Christ is only presented as a free golden ticket to go to heaven without any responsibility on our part then maybe the masses are deceived. It is not about how many came forward – it’s about who truly falls in love with Jesus. “Not every one that say’s to me; Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but only the ones who obeys the will of my Father which is in heaven” Matthew 7:21.
We are selfish by nature which is the very reason why God commands and demands for us to be changed and transformed from what we are to what He wants us to be. We can call ourselves anything we want but if we do not allow Him to break us, melt us, and re-build us, we cannot walk in the fullness of His Spirit. The idea of the Potter molding a blob of clay on the wheel is the spiritual reality about Christianity. By the way, the concept of giving our heart, mind and soul completely over to God’s control is going extinct. Why? Because we literally hate this message. We have allowed our flesh to dictate our life for so long that it declares war whenever we suggest this new way of living. As I have said over the years, it is not the devil that is our greatest enemy, it is our flesh. If we can ever bring our carnal nature into submission to the Holy Spirit, we can begin to become a reflection of God’s image. If we ever manifest the attributes of Jesus it will be a result of us letting go of our control and allowing Him to renew us from the inside-out. Without us willingly crawling upon the hot coals of His altar of purification and allowing our sin-filled nature to be burned to a crisp, we will never have the privilege to walk in the wonders and glory His presence. “But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when he appears? For He is like a refiners fire and like fullers soap” Malachi 3:2. We know His refiners fire cleanses, purifies and makes us holy and if we study about the fuller, we see the rigorous, meticulous, and painstaking process that is done with freshly woven cloth in order for it to eventually become desirable. There is not much teaching about spiritual symbolism like that.
I am convinced the reason why our view of modern day Christianity is so weak is because many of these participators are trying to build a spiritual life on the foundation of fleshly emotions and religious rituals. No one can live for God while also trying to plan everything, make all the decisions, and live the way they want! We are servants to whom we obey no matter how religious we may seem. We will never be able to live and follow Jesus Christ if we are only listening and obeying the “feelings” of our old nature along with the persuasions of the devil who is always lurking and observing our choices. He records our weaknesses and then tries to mix the things we love in with the activities we have been told to avoid. This strategy is a carefully thought out plan that uses one of the most powerful arguments that ease our conscience called – compromise. In politics, we find a category called a “Centrist” which describes an individual whose convictions are moderately in the middle. This is another way of saying that people who are always claiming to be neutral are very acquainted with tolerance and the acceptance of everything being painted in different shades of gray. In the spiritual world, God explains that someone who chooses to dabble in religious activities and intentional sin at the same as also living in the middle or more precise as lukewarm which is disgusting to Him. The Lord does not avoid confrontation because He is afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. He does not respect or accept anything that is false because He is perfect truth. How will anyone know what we believe and who we follow if we cannot take a firm stand for anything? Again, we must admit (unless we are satisfied to continue living in denial), that we cannot become an overcomer in the sense that God intended, by trying to live independent and to be our own guide. So many people are trying to build their own idea of what they want God to be, then they can design their life however they want without feeling guilty. In this light, they have become the god of their life and have willingly deceived themselves into creating God in their own image. Living the life of compromise is actually a result of fear which is the opposite of faith. This is the evil danger of arrogance! The true child of God will listen to the voice of the Great Shepherd and then respond exactly as He tells them. This is the beauty of humility!
There are many reasons why the average Christian does not act like one, and if we take the time to stand back and observe carefully, I believe we can agree it is the lack of spiritual maturity. With this being established we can direct our attention to the attributes of a child and one of the first things that comes to mind is rebellion. How many has witnessed a toddlers tantrum first hand? No matter how you analyze the action of resisting God’s authority, it always reveals ugly attitudes like defiance and disobedience. This may sound shocking, but it seems that most Christians are actually not enthused with learning how to become followers of Christ. I will simplify; people do not want to do what God say’s and most are only interested in what they can get out of the deal called salvation. How popular would Christianity be if heaven was not a part of the program? What if Christianity only contained the promise that we could become aware of God’s presence through prayer, worship and meditation? Since these are the least popular parts of salvation, there would probably not be very many Bibles sold or churches built. Rarely would we ever find a person on a ship that is sinking who would refuse getting into a lifeboat. Most people want to reserve a seat in the next life but do not want to live for God. The idea of simply believing that God is real in order to go to heaven has caused much confusion. We have two distinct possibilities when it comes to our attitude about being a Christian; either we sincerely do not understand about our responsibility to surrender our life to Jesus or we do realize this and have decided that we are not going to do it. The truth about salvation has everything to do with entering into a covenant agreement with God that allows the one who was purchased with a perfect sacrifice to likewise surrender their will as a living sacrifice. The idea of being offered this great gift of redemption is not free but instead will cost the individual everything. Jesus Christ truly surrendered all and the great hymn “I Surrender All” clearly presents the same confession for all those who claim to love and worship Him with “ALL” of their heart. However, for those who live their life without being aware of what God demands, or willingly chooses to ignore Him, I am afraid things will not turn out like the fantasy they have embraced. Could it be that much of the religious world is living in an illusion of false faith and are the very ones whom God will say depart from Me, I never knew you? Who else could these people be that are described in Matthew chapter 7?
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 30 – Published 7/22/17
A TRUE ACCOUNT OF FAITH AND FORGIVENESS
For those of you that have never heard of a woman named Corrie Ten Boom and her remarkable family, it is truly a heart-breaking account of courage and sacrifice. We begin our story with Cornelia (nicknamed Corrie) who was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, in 1892. She was raised in a devoted Christian atmosphere and lived in a large house above her father’s business where he was a jeweler and watch maker. This loving family believed in demonstrating their spiritual convictions by offering shelter, food and help to anyone in need. They also held a deep respect for the Jewish community in Amsterdam, considering them precious in God’s sight and during World War II, actually participated in an underground organization that secretly hid hundreds of Jews to protect them from arrest by Nazi authorities. Within their home, they built false walls, and alarm systems, but eventually were betrayed by one of their Dutch neighbors. Unfortunately, all ten of the family members were incarcerated, including Corrie’s 84-year-old father, who soon died in the Scheveningen prison, located near The Hague. Corrie and her sister Betsie were taken to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. Betsie suffered and died there on December 16, 1944. Corrie miraculously survived and in her book entitled The Hiding Place, she tells her inspiring story about the power of forgiveness. The depth of what she learned is seen in quotes such as this one; “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
The evil horrors of the holocaust are beyond comprehension and a sad reminder of the fallen state of mankind. When Corrie and Betsy were struggling to stay alive with sleeping on lice infested straw and nothing to eat but a small amount of bread and water each day, she tells of a particular prison guard that was cruel to them and how these nightmares haunted and tortured her soul. When Germany surrendered the war, Corrie was finally released and after regaining her health, she began traveling around the world giving her testimony for Jesus. Another of her popular declarations is, “Love is the strongest force in the world” (especially when we include our enemies). It was now 1947 and she had been invited to a large gathering in Munich to share with a devastated country how God desires that we let go of the resentment and forgive each other. Her message was centered on confessing our sins, and as we forgive, God is faithful to forgive us and begin the healing process. She said it was common to have auditoriums filled with solemn faces and when dismissed they would not say anything and quietly leave.
She had just finished speaking when she saw a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat working his way toward her and then it was instantly clear, this was the evil guard from the concentration camp. He did not recognize her, and exclaimed, “What a fine message you have spoken fräulein” as he stretched out his hand. He joyfully confirmed how good it is to know that our sins are washed away forever. She literally felt paralyzed as it seemed the entire world had stopped. Emotionally confused, she fumbled with her pockets and stared at the floor as her mind flashed back to the piles of dirty clothes on the floor and the shame of her and Betsy standing naked in front of him as he mocked and slapped them with his leather crop. He spoke up again and said she had mentioned Ravensbrück and that he had been a guard there, but since that time, he had become a Christian and now believes that God has forgiven him for the cruel things he did there. Again, the hand came out as he boldly asked, “Will you please forgive me?” She admits this was gut wrenching but placing all of her trust in God, she followed the Biblical command, grabbed his hand and said yes, with all of her heart. Her words are remembered; “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 29 – Published 7/15/17
CHRIST IN US – THE HOPE OF GLORY
“To whom God would make known (reveal) what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in YOU, the HOPE of Glory” Colossians 1:27.
As sure as Jesus lives in you and I, we can KNOW that He will never leave or forsake us. We can KNOW that we are sealed with His love, redeemed, purchased, cleansed, made righteous, and justified through the grace and compassion of a merciful God. He is worthy of all praise, worship and honor, amen!
Of course, all of us throughout our lives have hoped for certain things and prayed and dreamed but actually very few know about the highest hope. The dictionary defines HOPE as a desire that is supported by being confident of its fulfillment. In other words we are going beyond “wishing” and absolutely believing that we will receive what we are seeking. From a spiritual and Biblical perspective HOPE becomes reliable because it becomes a solid belief supported and grounded in FAITH. We choose to TRUST God by completely letting go of doubt and fear!
When faith comes together with hope we are no longer dreaming that something might happen. We can KNOW certain things WILL HAPPEN because they are based upon the promises of God who always keeps His Word. How many believe that God’s Word is true? How many believe that God has never and will never fail? Praise His holy name! Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified on a cross, and rose from the dead in order to forgive us of our sin, save our soul, transform our mind and live within us as the LORD of our life! Thank you Jesus! In this context, our HOPE is IN Christ as we are united together in blood covenant with Him and are saved, sanctified and set free in His Holy Name!
I saw a picture in the newspaper the other day of a group of atheist protesters that were holding signs saying, “God is not dead – he never existed!” They were railing against the Noah’s Ark exhibit in Northern Kentucky and their message was shocking to say the least. I was thinking about how could anyone not believe in the one who created them and scream insults to the ultimate authority of all eternity? Can you imagine living in this life without any hope after you die? It’s amazing how cold, hard and calloused human beings can allow their heart to become and yet God still has compassion on them and loves them. “Lord, whatever it takes, open their eyes that they might see the light of your love. May the Holy Spirit intervene and work in mysterious ways to convict and save them, amen.”
God has never forgotten anyone. He is never distracted, he is never too busy. He hears every word and knows every thought. If we are in Christ and Christ is in us, we can sleep in perfect peace and have sweet rest as we relax in the palm of His hand. He is in control and as a father loves His children and wants the best for them on earth, we can know that our heavenly Father is a thousand times more aware, more focused and more concerned about us.
“Let NOT your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (US) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
He promised that He is preparing a place for us in heaven!
He said that in heaven we will have brand new healthy bodies!
No fear, worries, stress, pain, troubles, darkness, strife or sin!
He promised that we will live forever in heaven with Him!
Heaven is filled with worship, joy, excitement, peace, love, light and purity!
If these are not reasons to run and shout, I do not know what are!
Of course God wants to give us miracles and blessings today, BUT let us remember that our greatest accomplishments were always associated with our love and generosity and our greatest HOPE is to live with Jesus forever! It was not how much we talked about God – it was how much we walked with Him.
“Father, we thank you for loving us. Mankind is depraved and we were all lost and blind until you reached out and saved us. Thank you for your Word and we ask that you give us the wisdom to know how to live for you. Help us develop the attributes of your nature so that we can be a vessel of honor for your glory. Thank you for your grace that intervened and became our hope and true meaning of life, amen.”
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Part 28 – Published 7/8/17
JESUS SAID, “PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU”
Yes, there is cause for concern about the times we are living, as anxiety and worry is all around us. There is a sea of voices that can overload our system with doubt and discouragement and things can become even worse when we are going through personal trials and problems. And yet in the light of all that is happening in this sin infected world, we can go to God’s Word and find comfort for our soul. Is it possible to go through this life with a sense of peace with the absence of anxiety and fear? Is it possible to proceed in a harsh world of chaos with a sense of direction, confidence and stability? I am thankful for God’s Word that gives us the faith and strength to say YES! Where can we live in spiritual calmness and serenity? We can allow our mind to be transformed from emotional thinking to spiritual thinking. We can spend time in our prayer closet and stay connected to the Holy Spirit. We can become crucified with Christ and allow Him to fill us with His character and nature. These are ways that will help us live in God’s peace that passes all understanding. “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God in Him will I trust” Psalm 91:1-2.
As we turn to John chapter 14, we are reminded that most of this chapter is printed in red which means that Jesus Himself is doing the talking. He is teaching about having and maintaining spiritual peace which is so crucial to have if we desire to live as an overcomer. We also notice within this passage is that He is actually facing a very stressful situation Himself as it is the night before his trial which leads to His execution. He knows He is nearing the end of His mission, and He is promising to not only be with us in this life but He is also going to prepare a place for us, so that we can be with Him forever. Verse 1-3 says, “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Fathers house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
He goes on to say that WE will do great and mighty works (verse 12) and declares that we can PRAY and ASK for His help and that He will do it (verse 13-14). He continues to explain that He is also sending the Holy Spirit to help, lead, guide and comfort us (verses 15-18) and that He will come and live inside of our heart as our Lord and Savior (verse 23). And then in verse 27, for the first time He mentions the word PEACE. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. He repeats what He said in verse 1 as an emphasis that He is trying to make clear. “Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid” IT’S IMPORTANT FOR US TO HEAR THESE WORDS TODAY just as it was for those who were there when He said them. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and His truth is the comfort and hope to our mind and soul. God wants to calm our troubled heart and fearful mind, but we just need to rest in the secret place of His presence and trust Him.
Christ has given His promise that we can walk through difficult times without a troubled heart or a spirit of anxiety – and God does not lie! We are reminded in II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of Power and of love and of a sound mind.” True, it’s much easier to have peace when all is well in life when health is strong and finances are abundant and relationships are thriving. But we can also walk in the PEACE of God’s presence when the storms are raging and in the dark, difficult valleys because we know whom we have believed – and are persuaded – that He is able – to keep that which we have committed – unto Him against that day. This is the life of TRUST – FAITH – JOY, and VICTORY! With His strength, we can be a living testimony, no matter what we are going through. We can be filled with His love to the point where the world can sense that Jesus is REAL. The idea of becoming a witness for Christ is allowing our mind and heart to be transformed into His image.
I listened to a story the other day about a tragedy that happened on the West Coast a while back that involved an individual who stood up in a restaurant that had games for children and opened fire on a room filled with innocent victims. A place devoted to fun was turned into a place of horror where 20 people were killed for no reason at all. To think that something like that could happen in a nation like ours is a tragedy is beyond the imagination. What is coming in the future? What will people do when the economy falls and the banks are locked? What happens in times of crisis or serious illness? It is the unbeliever that throws their hands up without hope and says, “I do not know what to do – all is lost – I am doomed.” But for those who trust in God – we know with all of our heart that he loves us and we are engraved on the palms of His hands. Jesus went to the cross so that we could have a personal relationship with Him and the Father. Psalm 55:22, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
In a world that is filled with depression, confusion, violence, hatred, and despair, the child of God can LIVE in security and contentment because we have learned what it means to believe what He says and have decided to ABIDE in the awareness of His presence. Jesus Christ is our ROCK our SHELTER and our STRONG TOWER where we can hide in Him and be safe. I Peter 5:7, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your cares upon Him; for He cares for you.” The Lord is saying, to sit with Him and lay your head on His chest. Let go of all the worries and fears of this world, take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet moments with Him. What could be more important than spending quality time with Jesus? Where we spend our time reveals what (or who) we love. Maybe what we look at and what we listen to has a whole lot to do with how much peace we have. Hmmm…
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 27 – published 7/1/17
I try to include in my daily prayers my desperate need for wisdom. As we all know, it seems the world has always been ruled by politics and our current environment is no exception. We are examined and judged by what we believe and then placed into groups and camps of like-minded individuals. This automatically identifies us as either friend or foe no matter how we try to be nice and get along with people. It seems that both sides of whatever the argument may be does not care if someone is a good person or a bad person but is only concerned with their convictions. Actually, it appears that what they believe is the very thing that causes them to be or bad and this cannot be ruled out. But, I guess beyond the obvious of basic right and wrong, how can we know if our political views are correct?
I will use myself as an example of an average person who listens to the news and then attempts to figure out who is trying to deceive me and who is telling the truth. I call myself a truth seeker but as many of you have already discovered, the truth is difficult to know. It has been said many times that the more we learn, the more we do not know, and that is because the truth about a particular subject has many layers. Like a jigsaw puzzle that is dumped out onto the middle of a large table, the thorough understanding becomes clearer when we examine all the pieces and try to learn their significance. By only focusing on a few pieces, we can easily be deceived as to what all the pieces represent. When the puzzle is finally completed, it may not look anything like what we were convinced it was going to be.
I am grateful to the Lord for giving me the occasional insight that I call a revelation and within these ah-ha moments, I stand back in awe because they allow me to realize I am in way over my head. By the way, these moments are rare and usually simplistic. One of these tidbits has confirmed within my brain, that most people do not know what they are talking about – including me. I do not mean to be harsh or rude, but it’s just a painful reality that people who have not researched the subject extensively and have no experience operating within the issue, are not someone you should listen to. For heaven’s sake, even so-called experts do not have a cl , so we can imagine how foolish it would be to follow those who are led by their feelings. Most people would agree that it depends on the depth of the subject, but for the most part when it comes to politics, the average person is not qualified to discuss the issues. Well mister, I can believe and say whatever I want because it is my right! This is true, we can speak our mind, the problem has always been the difference between fact and opinion.
When Christ was captured and taken into custody, He was treated very badly. He was accused of blasphemy against God and most of the community believed He was a trouble maker and an overzealous activist that was trying to promote a false religion. Without going into pages of what the people were speculating, let us just say that one side felt sorry for Him while the other side thought He was receiving exactly what He deserved. Of course, now we can look back and see the big picture but at the time we can also realize that most people did not really understand what was happening. There is no way they would beat Him and killed Him is they believed He was God – right? Can you imagine what everyone was saying and how this had become confusing time that was filled emotional distress? The point is there was a reason why Christ went through this suffering and likewise there are times in other situations when there are reasons for situations that are beyond our comprehension. I know that most people are not shy when it comes to spouting their feelings and I realize our passion to justify our convictions but this does not change the fact that most of the time we know very little about the subject.
When the government of any nation makes decisions, there are only a handful of the inner core representatives who know what is really going on. The process starts with leaders who make decisions and then the masses are left to try and figure out why the choices were made. In our modern world of communication, these decisions are filtered through a biased media who try to speculate, exaggerate, manipulate, mold and form their opinions into a logical consideration. This avalanche of pieces and parts of distorted information is then processed by the masses and used as the bricks knowledge to help build the walls of individual worldviews. Do these ideas and opinions create an accurate account of what is happening? No. Again, these are only a few pieces of the puzzle that have been used to imagine what the entire puzzle looks like. We have always heard that opinions are like elbows and I am just like everyone else in the fact that I have my own personal views and perspectives about everything. So, how do I come to my conclusions? The same as you – from what I have read and heard. In other words, most of what you and I believe can be traced to other people’s opinions. Just like the old experiment that tells a story to one person and then it is retold over and over, until eventually the story sounds nothing like the original, this is exactly and unfortunately the way that our opinions are formed. The only truth is the correct interpretation of what God has said and that is difficult to find.
Does the Lord want us to spend our time repeating opinions that are not true? No. He would much rather us be silent than to be a part of the problem. Even if we discover something that is true about someone, does God want us blab it all over town? Do we want someone to tell everyone about mistakes we have made? Does Jesus want us to spend all of our time repeating gossip and spreading strife, slander and criticism? No! This is negative and dark information that does nothing but tear down and discourage. Whatever happened to the idea of being led by the Holy Spirit – in EVERYTHING we say and do? Christians should be known by their love and wisdom, not to be another conspiracy theory resource! I know people who claim to be Christians and yet have devoted their life to relaying rumors that are based on speculation. Christ did not say what He felt or thought because emotional opinions are dangerous and filled with sin. He said what God wanted Him to say because He was there to do GOD’S will and we are called to do the same thing. James chapter three reminds us that the tongue has set the course of nature on fire, is filled with poison and if it is not tamed can destroy everything in its path. It is the truth that leads us into the divine understanding and this revelation brings light, encouragement, compassion and edification. Divine truth brings freedom and peace and allows us to walk with God and to know Him intimately. How can we love God and mankind if we are a wrecking ball dedicated to spewing curses and evil negativity? A wonderful way to live is to meditate on this scripture and apply it to our heart and mind. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are PURE, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of GOOD REPORT; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” Philippians 4:8.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 26 – Published 6/24/17
WHEN WE WORSHIP HIM
“He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds. He tells the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:3-5).
Do you appreciate the fact that God is with you when you are mowing the lawn or doing the laundry? Do we realize that when we do something wrong, even if no one else will find out about it – He is there? It’s not like He’s down the street or even down the hall – He has a front row seat to everything we think and say because He lives “within us.” Omnipresent is one of the long list of God’s attributes and it simply means He is everywhere at the same time. It is truly a revelation to realize this, and to discover that God is much more aware of us than we are of Him. If I could condense the purpose of this message in one sentence it would be; to encourage us to strive (make great efforts to achieve) to become just as attentive to God’s constant presence – as He is with us. I am reminded that within the discipline of Theophostic counseling, an empty chair is always brought into the session as a representation that God is being welcomed to sit in with the conversation. This is for the counselor and the counselee to have a visual reminder that even though we cannot literally see God, we can have a conscious recognition that He is listening and is given the liberty and consideration to intervene however and whenever He so desires. This is also a perfect way to acknowledge that He hears, sees and knows – everything.
We know about worship as an organized meeting in the corporate setting of a church, but there is a deeper and more personal view of worship that is the highest form of love, obedience, and devotion, and that is the continual awareness of being the friend of God. There are levels of spiritual maturity and “graduating” into a closer walk with Christ is determined by the proportion of OUR determination to know Him. Since we realize that going to church does not prove that someone is a Christian, then we can also agree that participating in a praise service is not necessarily worshipping God? It is true that singing unto the Lord can (and should) be a part of expressing our love and gratitude, but John 4:24 says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” So, how do we know if we are worshipping Him in spirit and truth? Within the context of this passage, Jesus is having a conversation with a woman and is revealing to her several things about her personal life that was making her uncomfortable. She attempts to divert His attention away from her problems but He refuses to be distracted about the subject of true worship. His point was that worship is not confined to an external ceremony but is a matter of the heart that is associated with God’s truth. Unless there is a sincere passion for God – there is no desire to worship and unless we have a personal relationship with God we worship – there is no understanding of truth. The more we know about God the more we appreciate Him and the closer we draw near to Him the more intimate our worship will be.
It does not say they shall just “sing songs” in perfect harmony with an expensive sound system as this will make them worshippers. Whether in deed or thought, one must have the intentions of divine love and adoration or our offering will be tainted with ulterior motives. Many of our religious traditions have caused a misconception, and unfortunately many Christians have become confused by the subtle deceptions of what a follower of Jesus should be. The masses are proud of their church attendance and how they participate in a worship “service” every week, but this is NOT the entire picture of spiritual devotion or obedience. It does not take a lot of convincing for our un-renewed mind to deceive us into thinking that going to church IS the total Christian life. In this way comfortable way of thinking, everything can be contained in a safe little box that we visit and leave. The “museum” attitude can tolerate going to church but does not worry about taking anything home. If we went to a seminar that promoted a “guaranteed” way to become a millionaire in 4 weeks, we would buy a ticket, bring our notebook, sit on the front row and take notes! (You know where I am heading with this). Many have never wanted to understand that church is a place where we load our guns and fill our canteens and this makes perfect sense because most have no intention of enlisting as a soldier. Why? Because there is nothing in it for them! This is why things like love and prayer are not crucially important to the average person. Amen or oh me? Nonetheless, the tiny amount of time that we do meet together was created to be like a “time-out” in a game where the players go to the sidelines to join together in the safety of unity, catch their breaths, get a drink, wipe off the sweat and blood, listen to instructions from their coach and be reminded of their purpose and destiny – then go back into battle! Whatever your personal metaphor of church, an important rule to remember is that we are NOT at war with each other (which is why we love the peace and anointing when we are together) but rather with the dark kingdom and our own carnal nature. The conflict is usually advertised as a warning against the “devil” but the “top secret information” is that our most intense WARFARE (and seldom mentioned) is making the painful decision to surrender our will so that Jesus can be victorious within us!
The Christian has been called to “walk” or abide in the Spirit of God and this can only be accomplished when we allow the Lord to fill our minds and hearts with His thoughts. For many years I was guilty of seeing the church as THE place of worship and that we should try to spend as much time in church as possible “working” for Him. I was often frustrated because there were many other parts of the service that seemed to hinder and harness what God wanted to do. What I eventually came to realize is that instead of the church environment being my entire personal worship experience, the church should be considered as a training center where I learn “how” to worship Him as a LIFESTYLE. Likewise, a sermon is NOT the ONLY instruction we should receive all week but rather should be an “enhancement” to our personal Bible studies, the same with praying for others, giving, helping and so on. When college students go to class, listening to the professor’s lecture is not the only requirement for the course, but rather is only a fraction of the reading and writing that is necessary. Our church corporate meetings should be like training and practice sessions that help us become more experienced and better equipped as we go out into our network and serve in God’s ministry. Spirit without truth leads to a shallow, overly emotional experience that could be compared to an adrenalin rush that is a “fast and furious” burst of emotions and when these feelings subside so does the awareness of God’s presence. True worship is a level-headed steady stream of positive thoughts and appreciation for what He is doing in our life – all the time. Let us say with confidence, that worship is not just going through the motions of a religious program so that we can appear spiritual – it is demonstrating our convictions on a continual basis because God lives within us! What we do and the way we act in church is easy. The real challenge is how we react when we are out in the world, in a fox hole and the bullets are flying over our head.
Years ago, the Lord spoke to me through a prophetic word that God would give me a gift to write songs – but there was a “tiny” condition – I would have to “walk them out!” This has been difficult but I am finally beginning to realize that just because some people can produce truth and even help others connect with God, it does not mean they have the revelation of the message themselves. I realize the perfect scenario would be for us to receive the revelation and then feel qualified to teach others but many times I believe that since all of us only have such small amounts of understanding, He can still use us for His purposes as He hopes that the truth we are sowing will continue to grow within us. The same is true with worship as it has nothing to do with the quality of our vocals, our style, ability or how long we have been participating – it is all about how much of our heart we have given to Him. For example, if the pastor is NOT living by his own preaching and the worship leader is only focused on the sound of the music, then this church has become a “job” and not a ministry! Just because our hair stands up on the back of our necks or goose bumps run down our arms does not mean anything to God if our walk does not match our talk. I have personally known individuals that have spent many years claiming to have built a strong spiritual life but in the end, they discovered that their vessel had holes in the bottom and that emotion was mistaken for spirituality. For some reason, the Word was on their lips but never became “activated” within their mind and heart to create the transformation that could change who they were. As strange as it may sound, we can trudge through what we think is a Christian life without a true comprehension of what it means – and disturbingly it is easy to do.
The first part of Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” This is a wonderful spiritual principle that EXPOSES the contents of our hearts and what we say and do as “evidence” that can be used against us. We cannot only live a religious performance in the church environment but our words and deeds will eventually reveal our true identity. Only when loving God becomes a “personal passion” will we begin to worship Him everywhere we go and in everything we do. Let us learn how to worship Him while we work, when we take hikes into the mountains or when we are with our family. Let us praise Him when we are walking on the beach, on vacation, at the grocery store, pumping gas or in the waiting room. Praise and worship is a STATE OF MIND within the one who truly loves God with their whole heart! He is calling us to come away with Him; can you hear Him? He is beckoning for us to get alone with Him in a private, secret place of refuge. It is not a geographic location but a quiet and holy habitation where we can concentrate and talk with Him. It is a spiritual “mighty tower” of solace and security where we can empty our consciences of all stress, fears, worries, and concerns. Within the intimacy of His presence is an environment where we can sing and cry at the same time and where we can become saturated with His joy and be overwhelmed by His endless love. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is STAYED on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3). If we genuinely love and trust Him – we will worship Him with all of our mind and soul.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
THE RESISTANCE OF OUR FLESH TOWARD GOD
Anyone that has ever got off the couch and tried to do anything they felt was important has felt the resistance of the carnal flesh. Whenever God’s children feel a passion for demonstrating their convictions, it would be a good idea to be prepared for laziness, rejection, control issues and emotional vulnerability. Most of the time it is not our fear of how others will react or what they think about us, but it is the warfare required to take control of our own mind and will. It is true, we will face adversity and it is truly disheartening to realize that most people are not interested in our vision, but the real war will always be between our flesh and God’s Spirit.
When we venture out of our comfort zone and take the bull by the horns, we are setting ourselves up to be tested within the deepest recesses of our being. Everyone wants love and appreciation because feeling good about ourselves is a huge part of our psychological and emotional stability. However, when we place too much emphasis on how we “feel” and not enough toward what God says, we are already defeated by compromise. We are emotional beings but we cannot afford to be controlled by them. One of the most difficult things is knowing the difference between the two. This helps to reveal why religion is plentiful but walking with Jesus is rare.
There are reasons why things happen and it seems that most of them are unsolved mysteries but every now and then we can see a glimpse of how God was actually at work behind the scenes. Again, I want to say that we could all save ourselves a lot of heartaches if we could hear God’s voice clearly. Sometimes I wonder if He becomes quiet so that we can learn about faith. Could this possibly be a part of our spiritual education where we can develop humility? If we received an immediate answer every time we talked with God, we would not understand the virtues patience and His perfect timing or have a clue to know how to encourage others. Maybe we would become demanding and prideful and lose our compassion and sympathy toward others.
GOOD NEWS! It is possible to NOT be led around by our emotions and become determined to see life through the eyes of God. The Lord is trying to renew our mind with His Word so that we do not find ourselves caught in a snare trap every five minutes. The devil is trying everything he can to distract us from thinking about God. He also loves to throw some awesome pity parties because if he can discourage us, he has immobilized our power and one of the key elements of our spiritual life – our joy. We can become determined to follow God’s thoughts or continue being entangled in the confusing world of emotions – the choice is ours. “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose LIFE that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
All of this is true, but just because we read about how to live a victorious Christian life does not mean we will automatically convert into an overcomer. We must absorb His Word through our brain and into our spirit all the while yielding our will and the pull of our flesh. If this sounds difficult, it is because it is the most difficult decision in this life. Listen, if we are born again, our spirit is connected with God’s Spirit and we have a wonderful opportunity to channel His energy into our being. If we can prevent our mind from talking us out of it, we can be saved from ourselves. Being filled with His Spirit means that He has been given us the chance to transform the way we think and this will literally change who we are. When it comes to God’s knowledge and wisdom, it is all about personal revelation. In other words, it is not how much we know but how much we understand and has been allowed to be seeded and rooted within our heart. The devil and all the demons of hell have tons of spiritual knowledge but they do not allow it to penetrate their pride and change who they are. Here are seven encouraging thoughts.
Number one: Make sure you know your direction. Research thoroughly before you move. If you do not know, do something positive while you are waiting. If you are really serious, you can declare a fast. This is not only with food or other pleasures but also dedicate quiet time alone with Him every day. When you discover all of the basic fundamentals and requirements that are connected to what you are interested in, you may discover that you are not qualified, not anointed or simply are not called to this field. Yes, God can do miracles but He does not make people embrace or accept you. He opens doors for situations that He has already prepared that is the perfect fit for you and what you have to offer. We need to know our gifts and callings before we can proceed in a definite direction.
Number two: Persistence and stubbornness are not the same things. Being stubborn toward God is being rebellious and He is not impressed. He appreciates and blesses us for being persistent because it is a demonstration of faith but when He tells us no and we keep going forward we have fallen into disobedience. There have been times in my life where I did not know whether to quit or keep going. When doors have been slammed in my face and locked from the inside I kept knocking and continuing even to the point of trying to force them open with a bull dozier. There are major problems with this type of mentality. They never come open and all of the attempted demolition makes a huge mess including the avalanche of resentment and bitterness. Again, it is crucial to know if the devil is working against us or if the Lord is saying no.
Number three: It would seem to be a more peaceable existence to follow God through the doors instead of trying to break them down ourselves in the name of Jesus. Spiritual authority is real but it is intended to be used against the devil – not God’s will. If we had listened to His still small voice in the first place we would have never been found sobbing at the doors which were never a part of His plan for our life. There is nothing wrong with aggressive faith that gets us off the couch and attempts to do something but having God’s approval is crucial to being successful. He has a plan and is not working against us. He is trying to help us succeed for His glory, so we must develop our spiritual hearing and learn to trust Him. There is a huge difference between confidence and pride, so we must make sure our attitude is submissive – not controlling. I cannot overemphasize the importance of knowing where we are going and what we have been called to do but most of all – why are we doing it?
Number four: God is perfectly able to make a way for those who really want to accomplish their destiny. The Father has drawn a divine blueprint for everyone’s life and it is our mission to find out what it is and accomplish it. He is all the power and authority we will need and is even more excited about our potential than we are. He is simply searching for someone that wants to do HIS will instead of their own. And this will require the grueling process of submitting and yielding our entire life to Him by allowing Jesus to sit on the throne of the heart as Lord. If we are in God’s will, we will be shocked at how smooth the miracles will come. Where God guides – He provides.
Number five: Since God has this mission for our life already mapped out, it only makes sense that He also has definite places, people, and endeavors that are included in this unique design in order for it all to work out according to His intention. Our responsibility is to recognize all of this and be as cooperative as we can. When we take an exit ramp because we would love to be involved with something else, we are hindering the design and possibly ruining our chances to succeed with what we have been called to do. How many people are swimming against the current in this life because they did not follow the instructions? How many are miserable because they followed their own map instead of the Lords? When we try to sneak in a door that is not as part of God’s will and manipulate circumstances for our own selfish agenda we will never be happy or satisfied.
Number six: Purity and holiness is a very important part of being successful in the eyes of the Lord. Brokenness and humility brings us closer to God and enables us to hear His still small voice. It is when we are puffed up with self-confidence and arrogance that we drift away from His presence to the point where we lose connection with Him. Situations that seem right to our mind are rarely the way God is trying to guide us. Since our flesh and God’s Spirit are enmity toward one another, they will never be able to see eye to eye. This is exactly why we need to be cautious in our decisions because we may be heading into a snare trap filled with devastating disappointment. Drifting away from our daily prayer and study time is a sure way to become lukewarm and backslidden. The enemy will try everything he can to distract us away from thinking about God. It is our personal responsibility to stay close to Jesus.
Number seven: The love for God and others is the greatest commandment you and I has been given. It is not an option or something we can modify – it is a direct command. Yes, I realize the love of many will wax cold in the last days and we can already sense the departure of concern and closeness within our families and friends. Human nature has a built-in aggressive arrogance that can easily progress into resentment, revenge and hatred. I do not care how much people call themselves a Christian, if they are always violently criticizing, judging, slandering, mocking and attacking those who do not agree with them, they are not walking with Christ. Why? Because the level of love we have for each other can be measured by the love we have for God. If we do not pray and spend time with God, we will not demonstrate a deep love for others. Agape love is based on prayer. When people are led by their emotions, they are self-centered and may seem to be nice on the surface, but this is a phony and superficial love. It is based on whether or not you believe like I do and has no consideration about how the Holy Spirit feels about the situation.
Someone who spends time with God in the secret place, is much more sensitive and in tune with what God is thinking and is much more likely to cast down the sin of pride and obey the voice of the Great Shepherd. This is NOT easy because we want to prove we are right. However, we are to give it to God and let Him take care of it – His way! The Bible say’s in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” This verse is saying that it is not what we are doing outwardly that impresses Him, but rather He is concerned about our attitude and our character. When we allow Him to break us, then we can submit to His authority as He rebuilds us into His image. A contrite heart is associated with repentance and is an excellent frame of mind to live in. Pride will never allow us to be broken which is why this is so difficult. It does not matter what labels we wear or how outspoken we are. It is about learning how to be meek and humble and then taking the initiative to become transformed. Again, it is more than just knowing – it is doing something about it! Losing weight is more than just knowing we are obese. Exercise is more than watching videos and buying equipment. Walking with God is going to take us leaving the throne of our heart and ALLOWING Jesus Christ to become the LORD of our life. May the Lord of all things continue to give us His wisdom and understanding and the courage to follow Him.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 24 – published 6/10/17
WHAT MAKES GOD HAPPY?
Is God happy? Well, let me see, I would say sometimes but not all the time. I would speculate that some things please Him and other situations make Him upset and disappointed and most of it is associated with the way people live. We notice in scripture that He is compassionate and is filled with mercy, but we also see that He is a disciplinarian and can become angry. His Word reveals how He feels about certain things and explains much about He declares as good and bad. He became upset when the people of Noah’s day were living in sin and He destroyed the whole world with water except for 8 people. We are told that Jesus Christ will return at the end of the age and crush the opposing armies of this earth by the glory and majesty of His infinite power. So, we can clearly see that not living for Him makes Him very un-happy. I personally believe He is upset because of the way mankind has nearly ruined the earth with pollution and the lack of concern for His beautiful creation. The old human nature is corrupted and filled with darkness, greed and lust. The rebellious attitude of those who hate God and the refusal to repent has always made God un-happy.
So, what makes God happy? We read throughout the Bible, that God is love and it’s theme is all about encouraging us to become like Him. So, we can agree that when God sees us sincerely loving others and willing to help those in need, He is happy. This is a major pillar of the foundation of obedience and to have us listening to His voice and responding is definitely something that pleases Him. His idea is for us to be instruments, tools and vessels that He can work through and use for His glory. I guess maybe another important question would be if we really want to make Him happy. Do we even think about it? Why not? Because our will only cares about what feels good to us. Our flesh knows that if we consider God’s thoughts about living, it will include decisions that are uncomfortable, and heaven forbid the idea of sacrificing or suffering. Imagine how it would change our life if we would spend more time thinking about how we can make God happy with us. This is a beautiful part of understanding holiness, the reverential fear of the Lord and the awareness of His presence.
One more question; is He happy with you? When we stop and really think about it, we begin to realize how simple it is to know what God expects from us and whether or not He is happy with us. The Bible was given to us by God as an instruction manual so that we could understand good and evil and how much He wants us to be good. Of course, man has dissected this instruction book and has attempted to dilute and confuse the masses with his psychological interpretations, but thank God there are still a remnant that abide under the shadow of the Almighty. It will do no good to point our fingers at everyone else on judgment day. Each person will be accountable to what they believed, what they said and how they acted. This is why it is so important to pray for wisdom and discernment and self-control. The Holy Spirit was sent to help us live in God’s righteousness and to be transformed into His image. This can only happen when we decide that yielding our will to Him is the most important decision on earth. This makes Him very happy.
Our heavenly Father has never been shy about the consequences that will happen when we choose to ignore Him and be bad. The more we learn about His ways, the more responsibility we have and the more wisdom we acquire, the more He requires of us. This is why many people refuse to listen and avoid the truth at all cost. They might put on a religious appearance but this does not fool God. In fact, those who play games and become hypocrites trying to make others believe they are holy are enemies of the cross and this makes God angry. So, we can see that the amount that God is happy with us, is measured by how committed and devoted we are to living for Him. I cannot think of anything more important than for God to be happy with the way we are living – can you? Once we understand the meaning of life, we cannot go back to being ignorant. Knowing right and wrong makes us accountable.
The song says, “don’t worry be happy” and this is a catchy tune, but I would think there is much to be concerned about when it comes to walking in God’s Spirit. We should worry about what God desires from us because we were not created to live however we want! We were created to worship, serve and love Him with all of our mind, heart and soul. It is one thing for us to be emotionally happy but an entirely different universe when we are referring to God being happy with us. We can become as close to God as we want because there is nothing preventing us from being filled with Him. The only person that can say no to this divine invitation is our own will. Are you in control of your will? This may sound silly, but it is a very important question. If we are not in control of what we think and what we do, then who is? As we discover what God wants us to be, we are then faced with deciding just how much we will do. And this will explain who we were and how much we truly loved Him.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 23 – published 6/3/17
THE BEAUTY OF DESCENDING
When we understand that something is evolving, we think of development and progression. Likewise, our spiritual evolution with Christ would be another way to explain the maturing process of our personal relationship with Him. We can visit many different types of churches and observe traditions and styles that have been passed along through the generations, and we should remain passionate about preserving truth; however, it is also important to know what we believe and why we believe it. Along with absorbing knowledge, we are cautioned to beware of a false religious dignity that attempts to blend carnality with spirituality. If we are to become remnant disciples for Christ, it is imperative that we learn how to grow in the truth of God’s Word while keeping our pride “deflated,” because the more arrogant we become, the less available we are to Him. Available to do what? some might ask; to express the innocence, sincerity, and humility that will govern the conscience to live in the delight of God’s holy liberty. But many will argue, “We are adults and must act sensibly!” Allow me to say that just because we become older in age, does not mean we allow the child like attitude within us to pass away. One of the worst enemies of the church is this misunderstanding of spiritual growth. It is not about seniority or how long we have been a member – it is the evidence of being filled with His Spirit! We have allowed the increase of our natural way of thinking to decrease our spiritual sensitivity. The Lord is very disappointed in the cold attitudes of many people within today’s organized church that think more highly of the outward design and concept of dignified religion than the intimate fellowship between Jesus and His followers.
What does all this talk of being like a child have to do with praise and worship? Pull up a chair and think with me for a minute. Children have clear consciences and do not worry about what other people think. They have not yet learned about being self-conscious or embarrassed. They respond bluntly and honestly according to how they feel. For example, when they are hungry, they cry, and when they do not want to sleep, they cry – and they do not care about how loud or irritating they are! But have you ever thought about the way children react when they are standing at the door and see their daddies walking toward the house? They start laughing, hollering, stomping, and clapping – why? Because they want to be close to him: they want him to pick them up, hold them, and squeeze them. They long for the feeling of security, the bond of love, his strength and protection, as His “presence” brings excitement and joy. Do you see where we are heading? So, if we are children of God, and He is our Father, why don’t we act like this about His presence? Our deepest spiritual expressions toward God are still intertwined in our emotions because we express our feelings toward whatever we love, but we are also talking about spiritual attributes like meekness, trust, purity, and humility.
As we grew up, we were taught to stop running and jumping on daddy and to become more reserved and dignified. We learned to tone down our emotions and be more in control of our excitement. We went through a process of transforming from a spontaneous and impulsive child to being more “repressed.” In our developmental stages, we learned to hide our thoughts and wear a mask so that our feelings would not be so exposed, which was to protect us from embarrassment along with what is socially unacceptable. We were taught how to go through the motions and how to play mind games and adapt to situations. If left unchecked, the default system channels us into a life that is similar to a game of poker where learning how to bluff becomes crucial to our survival. Sadly, when our freedom and transparency are allowed to dissolve, we are left with a mechanical robot existence which has a direct effect on how we express our spiritual worship. When the lost become saved, it takes a while to comprehend the idea of “trust” because they are leery of running to anyone with open arms in reckless abandonment – especially an unseen God. We have been trained that it is embarrassing for adults to jump up and down and scream “daddy, daddy” – yet, that is exactly what God wants. There is nothing that can describe the feeling that comes from your child being so happy to see you! What joy it is to see their love for you as they stretch out their arms and cry out your name. Likewise, our heavenly Father is thrilled when we express our love and joy for Him and longs to “see” our excitement. Is this not the heart of worship?
Let’s look at a passage of scripture in I Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Some might think this means to gradually become “dignified” and to be “reserved” in church and in the Christian life. But actually, this is referring to the differences in our mortal ability to comprehend the depths of God with this earthly realm of existence and when we will be transformed into our resurrected body in the next life. You must read verses 10 and 12 that allow the train of thought to flow into the correct context. The Lord never intended His children to become ashamed or estranged to Him in public or private. There is a difference between man’s “religious piety” and having the revelation of the reverential fear of God’s omnipotence. The enemy wants us to exchange spiritual peace for the carnal misery found in the captivity of pride. In Luke 9:26 we are reminded that “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”
Listen to this commentary by Matthew Henry on I Corinthians 13:8-13. “Charity is much to be preferred to the gifts on which the Corinthians prided themselves. From its longer continuance. It is a grace, lasting as eternity. The present state is a state of childhood, the future that of manhood. Such is the difference between earth and heaven. What narrow views, what confused notions of things, have children when compared with grown men! Thus, shall we think of our most valued gifts of this world, when we come to heaven. All things are dark and confused now, compared with what they will be hereafter. They can only be seen as by the reflection in a mirror, or in the description of a riddle, but hereafter our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. It is the light of heaven only, that will remove all clouds and darkness that hide the face of God from us. To sum up the excellences of charity, it is preferred not only to gifts but to other graces, to faith and hope. Faith fixes on the Divine revelation, and assents thereto, relying on the Divine Redeemer. Hope fastens on future happiness, and waits for that; but in heaven, faith will be swallowed up in actual sight, and hope in enjoyment. There is no room to believe and hope when we see and enjoy. But there, love will be made perfect. There we shall perfectly love God. And there we shall perfectly love one another. Blessed state! how much surpassing the best below! God is love, read 1 John 4:8,16. Where God is to be seen as He is, and face to face, there charity is in its greatest height; there only will it be perfected.”
I have had the privilege of being involved with spiritual music and have experienced many interesting situations. I have come to the conclusion that praise and worship is just as much a place where we go as it is an act that we do. It does not matter if we hire famous singers and there is a million-dollar sound system, if the anointing is not on those ministering, the music is powerless. Also, if the congregation is lukewarm and not walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, the entire service will be cold and lifeless. The fire of the Spirit will be evident when people are hungry and thirsty for God – not politics or entertainment! Jesus is the place of refuge where we abide under the shadow of His wings, and this can happen whenever we want or wherever we are. I have witnessed people worship in many different ways, and the amount of divine evolution they have allowed to happen in their minds and spirits is directly connected to how free they are to express their love to Him. Allow me to say, how we connect with God in our private time will be revealed in how we respond in corporate worship AND our daily walk. This is the revelation of walking AND worshipping as a continuous lifestyle.
Years ago, we attended two unique types of church services each week which were somewhat similar yet contrasting. Church one was a more traditional service where I led the music along with a full band while the congregation remained at their seats. Some would raise their hands as the words of the songs were displayed on the overhead. The other service had no one leading, no instruments, and no words; they played pre-recorded praise and worship songs through a very good sound system. In these two musically distinct corporate services I noticed a few things that are interesting: Church ONE seemed to need more encouragement to focus on the Lord. Sometimes if they felt like praising, they would respond, and sometimes they would not. In this environment, there did not seem to be as strong of a spiritual expectation or craving. It was more reserved and the attitude more selective to the “menu” or program. In today’s world of contemporary worship, many have become dependent on the words, and the videos to the songs because that is what they have grown accustomed to. (Sometimes I wonder if the words do not distract from focusing on the Lord Himself. The old idea of holding hymnals also seems to focus on the aspects of technically “singing the song” more than entering into deeper intimate worship.)
In church TWO there is no one trying to prepare the people to praise and worship. The crowd is smaller but more serious. It seems the ones who come are already so hungry and thirsty they are ready to enter the gates and courts of the Lord instantly. You can sense in the atmosphere there is an expectation of knowing they are going to “taste” the Lord and cannot wait to be with Him. The moment the music is started, the people open up like flowers and begin to flow into God’s presence. They do not care who is singing, what the name of the song is, or even if they have ever heard it. All that matters is connecting with God and telling Him in their own words how much they love Him. There are no awkward moments where the band is fumbling, no one is trying to explain the song, no one is giving commands or trying to present a concert of entertainment. It is just soothing and comforting worship music that is peaceful to the soul.
In church ONE, staying at your seat is the traditional custom and “normal” location to sing the praise music. This is fine but does tend to limit the personal freedom similar to how little children enjoy running and playing in wide open spaces. Now, brother, we need to do everything in decency and order in the house of God. Allow me to say, when it comes to decency and order, it seems that praising God would be much more exciting (and more important) than watching a football player intercept a pass and run for a touchdown while we are dancing all around the room. God is THE original superhero, and we should cheer Him with ALL of our might! (Unless of course, we have drifted away in our relationship with Him). If we are NOT allowed to walk and run around, lift our hands, shout, wave flags, dance, and weep in His presence, then maybe we need to learn the difference between religious legalism and spiritual liberty.
In church TWO, there is complete freedom to do whatever you feel comfortable with in worship. You can get out of your seat and walk around the sanctuary, kneel somewhere in the room, pray for others, lay on the floor, wave banners, lift your hands or just sit in your seat, but the point is not having to worry about what others think because they are doing the same thing. This freedom to enjoy God’s presence without intimidation and the fear of embarrassment is something very special and refreshing. If we dance around the house or skip down the street or on the beach singing praises to God, we can feel the release of our inhibitions. If we have a merry heart and make melody in our souls throughout the week, we will be more likely to enter into His joy in the corporate assembly. Unless this type of attitude is NOT allowed. Those who have learned how to encourage themselves through the week are the ones who get into God’s Word and allow God’s Word to get into them!
Man’s idea of the normal church will no longer satisfy those who want to continue to go deeper in their intimate relationship with Jesus. God’s idea of normal church is to fill His people with His glory!
Christ wants His children to know His will and be the channel that allows His power to be made manifest. God’s “normal” are weeping, giving, praying, signs, wonders, and miracles. God’s normal is for His church to walk in peace, declare and confess His Word, and release the “halogen” brightness of His love, humility, generosity, and forgiveness. The evolution of God’s TRUE church is moving away from a mundane business meeting of focusing on itself and is learning how to roll up its sleeves and extend Christ into the community. When we sing about the “river coming down” this is referring to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost to prophesy, spread the gospel, heal the broken-hearted, set the captives free and reveal the living Jesus to those who desperately need His truth. Descending within God’s Kingdom is actually growing stronger and more mature because true spiritual evolution is not ceasing to be a child – it’s learning how to become one. “Verily I say unto you, except you be converted [changed], and become as little children [humble, trusting, honest, pure], you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 18:3). There is much more to salvation and spiritual transformation than just securing a place in heaven. It is growing and developing in the image of God’s character.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 22 – published 5/27/17
MANY GAVE SOME – BUT SOME GAVE ALL
Salvation is often identified in Scripture as an opportunity for all, but to many, it seems there is confusion as to what it really means. If salvation is only accepting what Christ accomplished on Calvary, this could cause someone to see this as simply a gift. However, the question remains, what do we give in return? Is this just a gift or is it a covenant agreement that includes our responsibility to also give Him our life? It seems the masses are happy to believe He died and to receive heaven but have ignored the reality of entering into a holy vow with God. Is there a way to be saved and not become a disciple of Jesus? It is true that we must have faith, but it is more than only believing God is real. We must include the concept of an exchange. Jesus laid down His life for us and we likewise must down our life for Him. Thus, true salvation is a covenant salvation of mutual love. God loves us whether we love Him or not but when we accept Him as Lord and Savior we are committed and accountable to devoting all of our love to Him. There is a passage found in Mark chapter 12 that tells the story of Jesus watching the congregation as they were casting their money into the treasury. He noticed a certain poor widow that was in line and she put in 2 cents to which He called His disciples to Him and said, “Verily, I say unto you, that this poor widow has given more than everyone else that has contributed. For they all gave according to their abundance; but she of her own willing desire gave all that she had, even all of her living.”
How often we “calculate” and reason within ourselves. As we discover what God wants us to be, we are then faced with deciding just how much we will do!
Christ calls us to be His disciples, and He explains what His disciples are to do and how they are to live. The main qualification is the most difficult thing we will ever do in this life and it is explained as completely yielding our will to God. In our rational and emotional world, we want to make our own identifications and descriptions that can justify and make us feel better about ourselves. To make things worse, human nature does not always have pure motives. For example, some will say, I will join this church because this will give me a better chance of meeting someone important that can help me in my business. Others say; I will volunteer if they will promise that my name will be mentioned in the newspaper and so on and so forth. It seems it does not cross many people’s minds to pray and ask God what they are to do or to stop and examine their heart to see why they are doing it. Even in the Christian environment, we refuse to let go of our control. Surrendering our will is like a foreign language and many within the religious world will never yield their will to Him. Can a person be a disciple of Christ and never yield their will to Him?
Anybody can – everybody won’t – but somebody will!
If you were standing out by the Lake and Jesus walked by – would He call you to follow Him? There had to be something that Jesus saw in these disciples that led Him to say, “drop your nets and come follow Me.” We must agree that He knew whether they would follow Him or not. Do you believe that some started out following Him and then later chose not to follow any longer? I would say this happened but what do think caused it? Their flesh became tired of being denied. So, would He see a fire and desire in us today that would make Him want to call us? It is common to hear people say, I would do anything for Him, I would we even die for Him, but how could we ever die for Him if we can hardly live for Him? I wonder within myself, just how obedient I would be if He asked me to drop everything I am doing and come follow Him. The wealthy young ruler walked away sad, and he represents the religious world, so the odds are against me. I have known a few individuals that have literally done this and they are the true definition of a disciple. It is people like this that gives me the faith to keep learning and to keep pressing forward.
Selfless is a beautiful word to God but like an ancient artifact in the world, we live. It is the opposite characteristic of our fallen nature and a personality attribute that must be learned. Similar to how being optimistic is a learned behavior, casting down the temptation to be self-centered takes a lot of discipline. Many would declare they can be selfless as long as it doesn’t cost them anything – like their pride, reputation, ego, wealth, or status. However, whatever the cost, true discipleship demands selflessness. Philippians chapter 2 talks about how Christ humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross and to also let this mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. We can clearly see that taking up our cross will indeed cost us everything and the only way we will ever allow this to happen with us is to learn how to be selfless.
In closing, I want to mention something for just a moment that is one of the reasons why many refuse to give the disciple concept much thought. In our modern world, as we have mentioned lately, we can see that not only is the idea of salvation becoming easier but that also the gospel is being changed into something different. Many have never come to terms with the reality that they are depraved, yet the Bible clearly says that all are born in sin and are of our father the devil. Of the many reasons why redemption is so important, the main fact is that we must be spiritually transformed and without this drastic, miraculous change we are lost forever. Pride is so deceptive, that many people refuse to believe they are corrupt. The truth reveals that unless we are filled with God’s light, we are blind and stumbling in the darkness of our sin. It was never intended for our life to be a mixture of our will and His will. It is seen by God as either we are a follower of Christ or we are a follower of our own desires. I realize we all sin, but it is this “mixture” that contaminates the entire being. A small amount of leaven affects the entire bowl. The Potter at the potter’s wheel is one of the most powerful images of what God is trying to do in the lives of those who want Him to make them and shape them into His vessel. This brings several questions; what happens if the clay does not want to be on the wheel? What if the clay rebels and does not cooperate or yield to the Potter? What if the vessel turns out defective and filled with holes?
I found these nuggets and wanted to share them with you from the book “Worship and Entertainment” by A.W. Tozer.
“Believe it or not, I would like to be decent and nice. If I could, I would join Norman Vincent Peale in thinking about roses and symphony orchestras. But I can’t join the good brother. So, I must tell you that if you do not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week. There is no such thing known in heaven as Sunday worship unless it is accompanied by Monday worship and Tuesday worship and so on. You can worship God at your desk; you can worship God on a train or driving in traffic; you can worship God washing the dishes or ironing; you can worship God in school or on the basketball court. You can worship God in whatever activities are legitimate and right and good; you need not be in church all the time. Everything inside us should worship God all the time”
“Let us suppose we are back in the old days of the high priest, who took incense into the sanctum and went behind the veil and offered it there. And let us suppose that chips of rubber (the worst-smelling thing I can think of when it burns) had been mixed with the incense so that instead of the pure smoke of spices filling the temple with sweet perfume, there was the rancid smell of rubber mixed with it. How could a priest worship God by mixing a foul ingredient with the sweet-smelling ingredients that would be a stench in the nostrils of God and the people? And how can we worship God acceptably when there is within our nature something that, when it catches on fire, gives off not a fragrance but an offending smell? How can we worship Him when there is something in our nature which is undisciplined, unpurged, uncorrected and unholy? Even granted that a man with evil ingredients in his nature might with some part of his conscience worship God half acceptably, what kind of a lukewarm way is that to live?”
“Remember, there is no magic in faith or in names. You can name the name of Jesus a thousand times; but if you will not follow the nature of Jesus the name Jesus will not mean anything to you. We cannot worship God and live after our own nature. It is when God’s nature and our nature begin to merge that the power of the name of God begins to operate within us. We cannot pray toward the east and walk toward the west.”
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Part 21 – Published 5/20/17
BE NOT DECEIVED – GOD IS NOT MOCKED
It is amazing how the multitudes call themselves a believer in God, and yet in the lives of many, it is difficult to see what they mean. For those who do not talk to others about God, or even acknowledge Him, I am confused as to how these individuals consider themselves a Christian. When the children sing, “This little light of mine – I’m going to let it shine” this may seem like a message for babies, but it is actually a statement of deep personal theology. If we are filled with the light of God within us, we will be a light-holder for all the world to see.
When a person is born-again they are transformed into a completely new creature. If there is no change or fruit, there has been no spiritual experience. The manifestation and demonstration of the character of Christ are essential within the Christian life. It is true that newborn babies drink milk and must learn the basic fundamentals of the faith, but the key is having a passionate desire to consistently want more of God. Within those who call themselves a Christian, if there is not a burning passion for being close to the Lord and for worshiping Him in Spirit and truth, something is terribly wrong. Either the person has never connected with Christ or they are in a backslidden state.
The idea of believing can be deceptive and is the cause for many to miss a true connection with Jesus. It may sound strange, but it’s possible that simply believing can produce a false sense of security and artificial peace when it comes to thinking that all is well with our soul. Just believing something is true does not mean we know the person, or that we have embraced it or allowed it to change our life. There will be many who will stand before the judgment that will say they always believed that Jesus died on the cross. They will say they did some good deeds and believed there was a God, but never quite understood there is a huge difference between head knowledge and a personal relationship.
Even Satan believes in God, but does not love Him and once again, believing is not necessarily receiving and when it comes to our eternal destination this can be very dangerous. Why? Because it’s possible to have an emotional fantasy that assumes a person can live however they want and still go to heaven. Modern Christianity is all about numbers when it comes to having people come down front and join the church. Unfortunately, many times this religious process lacks the explanation of what the Christian life is and what being saved will cost us.
The presentation of the gospel is commonly only focused on what God did to save us, but it rarely talks about what is required of us. Have you ever noticed this? The gospel is presented as believing that Jesus died on the cross and this is definitely true and is an explanation of God’s love along with an invitation to accept Him into our heart – however, this is NOT the entire Christian life. It is taught today that if you will only believe that Jesus died and rose again, this is ALL you need to do to go to heaven. I realize this is a basic fundamental pillar of the Christian foundation, but it seems the modern church has taken the word “believe” out of context. Instead of people making an impulsive decision, it would be beneficial to have several weeks of classes and teachings that explain the entire story. For those who are genuinely being drawn by the Holy Spirit to be saved, after a few weeks of intense study, they would be ready to accept Christ into their heart and dedicate themselves completely to Him. I’m sure there would be some that would lose interest within a few weeks and would not even finish the classes, which would confirm that all who raised their hand to accept Christ did not actually receive Him. I wonder how many people think they are saved but have never experienced a legitimate spiritual conversion?
Have you ever heard a minister warn someone about what a radical change to our life that salvation will bring? Why? Because they do not want to scare people away. It is common for ministers to want people to raise their hands and come forward to accept Christ because this makes the ministry appear to be effective and successful. However, we can agree that everyone that has professed Jesus as their Savior, has not been transformed. Personally, I believe that much of this failure comes from how Christ is presented. If He is “only” being presented as a Savior that saves us from the lake of eternal fire and brimstone, then I believe the gospel has been twisted and re-designed into a religious marketing campaign to gain more church members. Yes, He came to save us from sin, but again, He is not just a fire insurance policy and people need to know exactly what they are signing up for. Salvation is not about escaping something, it is about falling in love with Jesus Christ and dedicating our entire life to Him! If salvation is only a relief that we have secured a seat in heaven, we will never be a radical follower of Jesus.
Have you ever heard a preacher say, “If you don’t plan to live the Christian life totally committed to knowing God and to walk in obedience to Him, then don’t begin; for this is what Christianity is about?” Is this presentation of truth too bold and overly aggressive? No, it is a serious life or death statement. We can see a similar blunt presentation of truth was spoken by Jesus when the rich ruler came to Him and asked what he needed to do to go to heaven. Jesus said that true salvation was more than following a list of religious rules. It is more than political favors, respecting someone because of what they own or a game where we score points and gold stars. Christ was trying to explain that being born-again was about dying to the old carnal nature and becoming radically changed into a reflection of Christ.
Are there exceptions? I cannot find them in the Bible. Can we continue living according to our will, make our own decisions and think, say or do whatever we want? Not according to God’s perfect truth. What about grace? Grace is not a license to be self-centered or an excuse for our rebellion. Grace is the “opportunity” to be forgiven and to walk in His holy presence. His mercy is filled with patience and long-suffering toward us especially when He realizes we are trying and learning, but for those who know right from wrong and ignore it, they will be held accountable.
The Christian life is a growing and developing process that is based on us seeking Him in prayer and study. How we invest our time has much to do with our spiritual bond with Christ and the strength of our personal relationship with Him. If we are not ready to allow Him to empty our heart completely with who we used to be, and then fill us with who He wants us to be, then maybe we are not actually accepting Him at all. Unless we comprehend that we are receiving Him into our life as our LORD and MASTER, we have failed to understand who He is and what He requires. Becoming a Christian is taking up our cross and following Him – in everything. It is all about surrendering, yielding, submitting and letting go of our control and allowing Him to sit upon the throne of our conscience. To the carnal flesh, this is an offensive message! The older ones realize what has happened over the last 50 years but many of the younger people today do not understand the depth of commitment pertaining to covenant salvation. This is why multitudes of religious people now believe that everyone is saved and going to heaven. Being born-again is now presented as only believing God and Jesus are real and there is no responsibility to live a holy, obedient life. This lie is leading the world into a dangerous deception and making a mockery of the cross. I read a comment the other day from a preacher who said that many churches rejected teachers like David Wilkerson and thought they were offensive and called them doom and gloom ministers. No wonder – he was relaying God’s message and it convicted them. The religious world thought the same thing about the Lord. The pride of religion and politics killed Jesus and have absolutely ruined the world because humans desire to do whatever feels good and they hate it when anyone says they are wrong. Sometimes the truth is sad.
When we are spiritually transformed, we experience a change of citizenship, a change of governments, and a change of allegiance. We no longer belong to this world and these man-made kingdoms of darkness. We become a child of the Almighty King and His kingdom of light and love. If we have no plans of letting go of our pet sins and no intention of inviting Christ to govern our life, then we have not entered into the covenant of Biblical salvation. Becoming a member of His family is not a game of chance where we can slip past a God that may not notice or who might forget where we stand with Him. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a person sows, that shall he also reap” Galatians 6:7. He sees and knows everything and our judgment will consist of our thoughts, our words, and deeds. In love and mercy, He died for us, our responsibility is to live for Him.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 20 – published 5/13/2017
THE MISERY OF REJECTION AND ENVY
Do you ever wonder what your life could have been? Maybe if you had done things differently and you had made other decisions, your life would not be as it is now. It might have been better, but on the other hand, it might have been worse. Do you ever look around and observe how other people live and then become discouraged that your life is not as exciting or not as wealthy and happy as they seem to be? We are not robots, and it is common for all of us to dream and consider where we have been and where we are going. Our human nature loves to judge and measure what we are doing and compare it with everything else we see which unfortunately opens the lid to many different emotions. These thoughts become planted deep within us and if left unattended can and will effect us in a negative way. When I say unattended, I mean they must be uprooted and not allowed to grow out of control into serious mental, emotional and spiritual problems.
What kind of problems are we talking about? Well, we can begin with envy and jealousy and how subtle these negative “feelings” can become like a parasite and quietly suck the joy out of our life. For example, if we have dreams of success and financial security but are facing a brick wall, all the while someone we know is already enjoying this dream, this can cause a serious discouragement in our thinking and an infection in our soul. We can wear a mask and laugh and act it does not bother us, but down inside we are weighted down with sadness and depression. Most of the time, envy is wanting what other people have, but sometimes it is simply desiring the resources and opportunities someone else has so that we can purchase and create the life we fantasize about. In other words, we may not want a person’s specific home, their exact vehicles or their spouse, but we would love to have their bank account so we can live the life we want to live.
Another problem that can develop is seeing ourselves as a failure which is directly connected to our confidence and self-esteem. There is nothing more poison to our soul than thoughts of low self-worth. For many years, I wrote music and played the guitar and sang. The music was important to me and my spiritual connection with God, but only a few people have ever shown an interest. I have recorded the music, gave it away and made it available on the internet but it has not been a success. For years I absorbed the lack of enthusiasm as a personal rejection and became puzzled and discouraged. Finally, I had a serious meeting with myself and agreed that the music was between me and God and nothing can take away my joy and peace that it contains. I hear people play and sing all the time and I have wondered about why they are a success, but now I am content to let my dreams go and be happy for them. The same is true with my Christian articles. I write a faith column for over 100 newspapers across the country and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have a rather large audience. I started out offering my work for free, however, after a year I began to feel that I deserved to be compensated like other writers and thought this would be encouraging while also providing a little financial blessing. Everyone has been thrilled with receiving my column for free but explained they could not afford to add it to their budget, (even though we were only talking about a few dollars a week). To say the least, I was deflated to think that a 700 word article each week, was not worth the price of a sandwich. Again, I had to provide counsel for my own emotional wounds and not allow the pain of rejection and envy to turn into bitterness. I came to the conclusion that God is aware of the situation and certainly able to step in if this is what He wanted to do.
Has this been easy? Absolutely not! The devil was breathing down my neck and at times it seemed he was punching me in my gut all the while laughing in my face. I just needed to stop and lay the cards on the table and see things the way they really are. God has opened the doors for my work to be published which is an absolute miracle and it is an honor and privilege to serve Him and all the people in these communities. I just need to let MY idea’s go and trust Him and believe He will bless and provide in “HIS” way. I am no stranger to rejection, in fact, it seems to have attached itself to me. I have never been lucky or had the Midas touch like some that I know and I will admit, I have a tendency to make mistakes and wrong decisions. I am a counselor and I encourage people all the time about how important it is to listen to God’s voice and yet it seems that much of the time I cannot hear Him myself. I realize I am hard-headed, but it sometimes it seems that He grows weary of my whining and goes on vacation without telling me where He’s going. I can relate to Psalm 13:1, “How long will you forget me, O Lord? For ever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of measuring our success with popularity, wealth, talent, awards, education, material possessions, and all the things that go along with being respected. Again, our old nature wants to associate who we are with what we have and what others think about us. It requires a serious determination within our conscience, but we should never allow the world to measure how valuable we are as a person with how popular we are or how much money we have. Self-discipline is a very important factor when it comes to guarding and protecting our thoughts. Since we become what we think about, it does not take a rocket scientist to know how important this is to our well-being. We can use someone like Mother Teresa, who was not rich, did not live in a mansion and neither did she have all the luxuries of life, but we can all agree that she was a wonderful and caring person who was very content and happy to spend her life helping others and loving God. If this is not a success, what is? Is she respected? Absolutely! Is she a role model of what we should be? According to Jesus – yes! Here are a few ideas that can help us when we are feeling sorry for ourselves. God loves us and knows what we are thinking about. He knows what is important to us and what we would like to do. Of all the things in our life that we have accomplished, and that we still have on our list, we can trust and know that He desires the best for us and is trying to guide us into His perfect will.
1. Shift your focus to the goodness in your life. One of the biggest reasons we envy the life of another is because we have begun to take our blessings for granted. Count them again. You are talented. You are gifted. You are cared for. You are unique. Your life is too valuable to be lived like everyone else. You have countless reasons to be grateful for the life you have been given. Remind yourself again.
2. Remind yourself that nobody has it all. Comparing your life with others is always a losing proposition. There will always appear to be people who have it better than you. But remember, we always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others. Be reminded, nobody has it all. Each person you meet experiences problems, trials, and weaknesses–just like you. This is what makes us human. Nobody is exempt. Nobody has it all.
3. Avoid people who habitually value the wrong things. If you spend all your time with people who compare the latest fashions, you are going to start desiring the latest fashions. If you spend all your time with people who talk about their salaries, their new cars, or their extravagant vacations, you are going to naturally fall into the inevitable trap of comparing your possessions to theirs. Listen my friend, there are far more important things to pursue. Remove yourself from the conversation (and the relationship if necessary). Begin to focus on what you can do to help someone in need.
4. Spend time with grateful people. Gratitude is highly contagious and it is important to find grateful people who experience contentment in their lives and spend quality time with them. You can find them online, read about them or you can find them in person. But the more you invest your time with them, the more you learn about generosity and how to let go of being selfish and self-centered. God’s character is giving, and we have been called to be like Him.
5. Understand that marketers routinely fan the flame. One of the most effective tools for advertisers in our culture is to foster jealousy and envy among us. After all, if they can cause us to recklessly desire the possessions of another, they can drive us to great lengths to acquire it for ourselves. Be on guard against their tactics. Recognize them. Avoid them. And refuse to succumb to their deception. Have you not noticed that television is one huge campaign to cause you to lust after everything they are selling? They always portray others as being happy and if you could only have what they have, you would be happy also. This is a big lie and a trick to keep us thinking we are missing out on the good life.
6. Celebrate the success of others. Genuinely and practically, rejoice in the fortune of others. When somebody receives something that you desire, be “sincerely” happy for them. If you wanted it, they probably did too. Stop viewing life as a competition or some type of a game to see who can collect the most money and treasures. Joy is not a finite resource, it comes from the spirit realm and is all about how close to God we are. The moment you learn to experience happiness in someone’s joy is the day you take a huge step to overcoming envy once and for all. If someone you knew won the lottery, would you really be excited and happy for them?
7. Be generous. Even if you have to force yourself into it at first, make generosity an essential habit in your life. Give your time. Give your finances. Give your abilities, talents, and skills. Volunteer in your community. Support a cause that promotes something that is good and right and do not be afraid to get your hands dirty. As you begin to spend more time and more energy with those who have less than you, the more you will find fulfillment and meaning. And when you do, the allure of another’s person life will quickly fade away. Envy, jealousy and rejection has held us hostage for far too long. It is time, once and for all, to break free and experience a more fulfilled life in God’s Spirit. Solomon said that everything in this world is vanity and leads to misery and sadness. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is being saturated with joy, wisdom, love, faith and the contentment to live in His perfect peace.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 18 – Published 4/29/17
I wanted to share something very exciting with you this week. A Christian pastor from Kenya contacted me recently through email and said he had read some of my articles on this site. Peter has been using them in his outreach services and I am truly humbled. We have been sharing about our ministries for the last few months and Peter wanted to know if he could translate some of my teachings into his native language and distribute them to his church members. I was very encouraged with this request and this is a sample of the translation from English into Kisii. I thought you would enjoy this and I appreciate your continuing prayers that people will receive God’s Word. I also ask that you pray for pastor Peter and his congregation. They are is need of Bibles that are printed in the Kisii language. I have contacted the American Bible Society in Kenya and I am trying to connect them with pastor Peter. Hopefully, the Bibles will be given and the Word of God will continue to grow strong in this area! Praise the Lord forever! Here is an example of the two languages.
THE SECRET PLACE
Abiding under the shadow of the Almighty
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 of laziness is NOT where we should be content!
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.”
ESEMO GETE YA BOBISI
Okoebisa base ekeiriri kiomonene
Ensemo ya 39
INEE TWABEIRE ANGE
Yeso akabatebia nerikire inga momwanche nyasae oino be chinkoro chiaino chionsi,nebirengererio biaino bionsi,na okwo nakwo ogochika kwe engencho enene mono (Matayo 22:37). Enchera eyemo yo okorenga okwegena gwaito inkori tokoerwa nechinguru chiaito as oboegenwa.
Onye tokorigereria ase okogani twarora na amaiso aito twarora okogenderera gwaito okuya ase amorokererio yo omonene.
Omonto omokanyeku naende omongaini nigo akoba na okogania gwokomanya kera egento as omonene,omonto Ohio nigo agokina kemoika ase okomokorera omonene nyasae oye.
Aborokiwa bari bakinire kemoika,tibakonyara kobugwa ase okwerora konde gwensi ase engencho ya kera omonto omuya nabo enga ekengere gekona korera botuko na mogaso getari gochi korima.
Mere buys ase okobeka chinguru Nekemanyererio gete,korende omonto omongaini nigo akorora,oigwa na omenta chinguru.ase okomanya okuya (proverbs 1:5).
Tiga bono ingerwanerere as obosio bwa abakori abante abange bari babeire bagoteba barabwo nabakiristo as amatuko amange.
Okomanya kwane inkori nabeire inkorigia obomanyi ase okomanya christo ase amatuko amange korende tinanya konyora okomanya gwonsi kori inganetie okomanya.
Twaganeriwe tosabe ase obomo,ase obwanchani na okoegena.tiga ngoroki okwegena kwane kori okonene nario ndetogerie ase abanto.nabo igo tinganeirie inkore ebibe ase omobere one, korende nengwenerte inkore onsi ase okwegena kwo omonene oito christo amen.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PUBLISHED 4/22/17 – PART 17
OUR FREEDOM AND PEACE IS SATAN’S TARGET
In the Old Testament, jubilee meant that every fiftieth year, all debts were automatically canceled and every loan and obligation were paid in full. Today we remember that Jesus HAS paid our sin debt, and when we are “released” from the bondage of sin, we are FREE INDEED to experience the joys and excitement of having a relationship with Him! Praise God – this is what living in the awareness of His presence is all about! This FREEDOM to know Him and to enjoy His abundant life is the heart of praise and worship because we are forever grateful for His love and are filled with a burning desire to express our love back to Him. Go ahead and jump, sing, dance, clap, and run around shouting praises to our God! He is worthy of all worship and adoration! He is exalted; He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! The stones will NOT need to cry out because – WE WILL WORSHIP HIM! “Saying, amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 7:12).
It is exciting to think that worship will be the “center” of all activity in heaven! For those of us who look forward to living with Jesus for all eternity, it would seem that praising Him would be a constant state of mind, but much of the time it is not. Why? It is simple, because most of the time, He is NOT the focus of our attention. We allow the distractions to flood into our soul and this steals our hope and contentment. The more we become involved with serving and following our emotions, the further we drift away from prayer and spiritual intimacy with God. How can we change this? By changing the way, we think. But how do we do this? It is a most difficult task to allow God to re-wire our brains and will come down to having a serious discussion with our will. In order to build a new “house”, we must invite God to be our solid foundation, and this depends on our willingness to surrender our control. The amount of our heart we yield to Him will measure how filled we can be with His presence. Since we are already living in the Spirit realm, it would only make sense that we would be starting the celebration early by worshipping Him as a lifestyle. God’s ultimate plan is for us to empty ourselves out so that He can fill us with His Spirit until we are “overflowing.”
True worship is not an act that we do to prove to everyone else how spiritual we are, it is an honest, sincere appreciation of our love for God. So, what is true worship? It is a discerning attitude of the heart that expresses our passion and devotion for Christ by literally “living” for Him at all times. There are many questions related to what we do and why we do it, but the answers are always found within our motives and intentions. We worship Christ because we adore Him above all things which lead us to conclude that we will not be able to express our worship to Him outwardly until we have fallen in love with Him inwardly. When Christ is found seated on the throne of our heart as Lord and Master of our mind – He will become the center of our life. Is there a fake worship? Yes. There is always an imposter for everything the Lord creates as mankind being inspired from the dark-side has tried to mimic true worship with the legalism of religion. Many who have spent their life involved with church activity, have never experienced the depths of spiritual intimacy with Christ. Sadly, they are completely satisfied with this arrangement. To make the decision to draw nearer to God would mean they would need to surrender more of their will. In this light, the religious tradition is as deep as they choose to go.
Within each human conscience, there are rooms and closets of secret compartments which contain imaginations. These are places where some thoughts may never or rarely be exposed while other convictions are out in the open and decisions have been made to fight for them, but whatever the case, it is within these chambers that we come to terms with what we believe is true and allow our trust and love to be developed. It is also in these hallowed halls of personal intimacy that God desires to have access and to bring His penetrating light of truth. It is no secret that our heavenly Father has an agenda for His creation, and that is to literally possess us. If we can ever become determined to harness our independence and allow Him to establish His Kingdom within us, He can freely take control and complete His will through us. This can only happen when we become tenacious to please Him and become saturated with love for Him. The definition of tenacious is: “Steady persistence in a course of action, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement. Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”
“Lord, give us a passion to become tenacious for you!” If the saints would sincerely pray to become Jesus fanatics, burdened for souls, on fire, filled with the Holy Spirit, driven by love, seeking His wisdom, willing to surrender their wills and be serious about becoming true disciples for Christ – we would NOT even recognize this NEW empowered church! This is a picture of the overcoming remnant warriors that will NOT fall asleep in this last hour because they love God more than their flesh! There is a war against the saints of God to distract us from devoting our attention to God’s voice. Whether it be sensual desires, entertainment, or anger from the way our government is leading this nation into ruin. We all have sensitive buttons and the enemy knows exactly what stirs our emotions. Do you not think this is the key to spiritual warfare? Satan’s idea is to twist God’s people up in knots in order to lead them deeper into emotional quicksand. How can we walk with God and obey our carnal nature at the same? The Lord’s prayer mentions peace, love, forgiveness, resisting temptation, being still and resting in His anointing, restoration, not being afraid, walking in God’s presence, receiving God’s mercy and goodness, forgiving our enemies and being delivered from evil. You see, this is the lifestyle that God wants us to live, but it will require us to let go of our rebellious nature and take up His cross.
The heart that is free from the sin of selfish independence and has embraced the will of God, is a heart that is filled with joy. This is the revelation of jubilee relating to the personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This life is not about what we can do but rather what we allow Him to do through us. The storms of sin are raging all around us there is no doubt. Hatred and defiance are increasing and mass deception is occurring within the tidal wave of voices that are being influenced by Satan. Even the religious world cannot discern truth and are becoming blinded by their lack of spiritual understanding. However, there is a secret place of refuge where we can go to come out of the storm. We can run into the Fathers arms and enjoy the peace and hope of His presence anytime we want and there is no blessing greater than this. In these times of refreshing, we can listen to His voice and learn about what He wants us to do and then it is up to us whether or not we will do it. There is no substitute for our obedience no matter how noble it may seem. To trust God completely and to obey His voice is the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path that leads to the gateway of our jubilee. “Stand firm therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” Galatians 5:1.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
WHO WILL TEACH THE NEXT GENERATION?
Every child, whether they turned out wonderful or let us say, less than desirable, was the product of a mom and dad. It is true that some parents did not care about their children and invested very little time into their development, but generally speaking, mothers and fathers dearly love their kids and a large percentage have suffered from worry, sadness, and discouragement. Much blame is always pointed toward the parents, but I do not believe that “all” blame can be laid at their doorstep. We must admit that parents have the access and the perfect opportunity to present constructive thinking and a sense of right and wrong into their children’s mind and spirit within the formative years, however, this does always guarantee the child will continue in the direction they were pointed. In some cases, this may be a good thing and by the way, there are miracle situations where the children of terrible parents have turned out much better than the former generations. These are cases involving determination and the power of God.
Children are like sponges when it comes to learning and also very curious about what they observe, which gives all parents the duel opportunity to not only be the instructors but also the responsibility to demonstrate what they believe in front of the young ones. We must also realize that children are also vulnerable to other outside influences and have the ability to embrace whatever they want. So, how important is it to protect and guard the mind and spirit of a child? Many experts agree that the first six years in a child’s life is his or her most important years of mental, emotional and spiritual development. It is believed that the foundation that is laid within the individual’s conscience during this crucial period of time becomes the decision filter they will use for the rest of their life. This is amazing, to say the least!
It is no secret that young parents are inexperienced when they begin raising children of their own, but we can also realize the level of success can be connected back to how they were raised. The generational cycle of curses and blessings are very real and it is generally accepted that knowledge is transferred from generation to generation whether it be positive or negative and is directly associated with behavior. There are exceptions where parents have realized their own lack of understanding and have made it a priority to “improve” the cycle for the sake of their children and this is wonderful. Unfortunately, this is rare. The only way people can know about such information is when they are taught and this is the problem. We can go back to the concept of the default system and the divine reality, and recognize that parenting is another crucial section of life that requires an understanding along with an organized passion instead of a “rolling the dice” attitude. Again, if the parent has been brought up with an awareness of how serious it is to live in God’s presence and obey Him, then most likely these spiritual principals will be repeated and passed on to the next generation.
Does this idea of good parents producing good children always work? Through the years, I have talked with many broken-hearted parents that have wondered where they went wrong. They seemed to be good Christian people who lived a decent moral life, took their kids to church, corrected them and tried to teach them the best they could. In these times of trying to console and encourage, the scripture found in Proverbs 22:6, usually finds its way to the surface. “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” The idea here is to remind the parent that if good “seed” has been planted within the heart of the child, this living Word will eventually germinate and become manifested later in life. I’m sure many bewildered parents have thought they did lead their child toward the light of God’s wisdom, but now they are now trying to figure out what is going on and why it seems this is not working. When a child matures into someone who is not interested in God, it is common for the Christian parents to second guess and blame themselves. This can lead to guilt, confusion, and bitterness as they wait in agony for this miracle to manifest. Oh, the tears that have been shed and the prayers that have been said over a lost child. How many parents have waited for the day when suddenly the child’s eyes would be opened and like the prodigal they will finally see the truth and repent?
Well, first of all, we need to agree that God and His Word never fails. I am not sure why children that have been raised in good Christian homes live a life of sin and darkness. I personally know of a wonderful family that was Godly parents but yet they have a 60-year-old child that is cold, rebellious, calloused and content to have lived a life of sin. The parents are respected and loved by everyone and have other children that are good, yet it is evident this child never wanted God. I recently visited a 39-year-old man the other day in prison that has spent the last 20 years as an alcoholic and drug addict and yet his father and grandfather were both ministers. We could say that maybe the parents were deceived and thought they implanted a solid foundation of truth, but thist is usually not the case. We could guess and speculate forever, but I have come to the conclusion that when a person becomes an adult they choose what type of life they want to live. Everyone is given free-will to decide every moment what they will do. I believe our ability to select good or evil is what defines us as a person and can overpower whatever is stored in our mind and heart. Why do pastors commit adultery? Why would a deacon steal money from the church? We could go on, but the bottom line is that even people who know the Bible backward and forward, still have a choice to live for God or live for the devil. We are all accountable for what we do and the bottom line is that we will do whatever we desire and love to do! Of course, every parent should pour into their child everything that is good, but we all must realize they will grow up and make their own decisions. Christian parents are NOT to carry the weight of condemnation for what their children do. Every parent will always continue to pray for their children and I encourage every mom and dad to never give up believing that God will intervene.
Sadly, in the last 60 years, we have seen a decline in parents taking a strong role in the development of their children. There was a time when families would actually set aside a time each evening where the father would pray and teach a Bible lesson and everyone would talk and be honest about what they were thinking. Some called it the family altar and I cannot think of a more powerful spiritual influence on the younger generation and I believe is a part of that passage in Proverbs we mentioned earlier. What happened to this time of family bonding? Satan conveniently invented television for the purpose of destroying this precious time between God and the institution of the family. Family altar was in the evenings after work, school, and play and was the perfect time to share with one another, ask questions and create a relationship of closeness and trust that was the core of the family love. It is very clear the canceling of this time of communication has been devastating. Mom and dad began to ignore their children because of this distraction and the children drifted away from this holy covering and turned to the dark ways of the world. Now families hardly know one another and do not care. The rest is history.
Today as more parents fail to relay the gospel to their children, truth becomes unavailable to tomorrow’s world. If children do not receive a spiritual education from their parents, where are they going to find it? It only takes one generation to drop the baton of spiritual truth and there becomes a famine of God’s holy wisdom and revelation. Do you see this has already happened? Do we realize what a corrupt and perverted condition our society has become? Biblical knowledge is the diet of our new born spirit and gives us the nourishment and power to accomplish our destiny, but if there is no one to tell them, how will they be able to survive? Our government was inspired by Satan and decided to remove all forms of Christianity from the school system. This was another tactical move to eliminate any type of Biblical influence to the young ones. This strategy from hell has worked perfectly to produce a generation that has no conscience connected to the Holy Spirit but instead has been filled with lies, hatred, blindness and deception. Our prisons are triple capacity, pornography is readily available on children’s cell phones, and alcohol, drugs, child abuse and adolescence sex have become an epidemic. What did we expect? Whenever God is removed – people become a carnal beast!
As Christians, we agree that a Biblical education is the most valuable gift in this life because it is how we learn about God and what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, when parents have NOT invited Him to be the LORD of their own life, they certainly are unable to relay divine truth to anyone else. This lack of understanding causes not only the parent to become a prisoner of darkness and misery but also as a “carrier” they have the potential to contaminate the next generation and continue the cycle of generational curses. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of my God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6). It is no secret as to what kind of knowledge this is referring to – it is the knowledge of God. It is also obvious that parents who could give two hoots about living the Christian life will be concerned about teaching their children about the Bible. This passage clearly reveals why our nation is a mess – we now live in a famine of God’s Word.
For those that have reflected on the past and seen where they have made mistakes, we can all ask God to forgive us – and He will. Like we said earlier, many did not receive a strong spiritual influence in their own childhood and did not know exactly how to raise their children. God realizes this and will forgive us. The Lord will not turn away from us and will answer our prayers and knows that we did the best we could at the time. He loves us and is filled with understanding and compassion. We must continue having faith and hope and remember, it is never too late to talk with our children about this and sincerely share our heart with them. Just because the parents are older and the children are grown, does not mean that we cannot continue teaching and minister to our children. There is nothing impossible with God and He can make a way where there seems to be no way. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual (unceasing) fervent prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much” James 5:16.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Published 4/8/17 – PART 15
IT MATTERS WHAT WE BELIEVE – III
“If you will stop and ask yourself why you are not as reverent and God fearing as the first Christians were, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but because you never thoroughly intended it.” – William Law.
As a minister and chaplain at a Veteran medical facility, I am around death and dying on a regular basis. I am called in the middle of the night to come and pray with those who are at the end of their journey and to help comfort the families. These are difficult times because it hurts our heart to see people agonizing in pain over the loss of their loved one. I am an emotional person and always interested in what people did in their lives and the kind of person they were. I have noticed if the family is serious about their Christian faith, they are more aware of the spiritual reality of God’s Word and more likely to understand about salvation. For those who are not Christians, they usually will not mention about the spiritual world but will just make small talk. It is true that none of us know for sure about the eternal destination of someone who has passed from this life, even though with most funerals I have witnessed, people are very confident to place the deceased into a heavenly setting. We can listen to others talk about how the deceased lived and references to their religious participation, but to speculate is only our opinion – only God knows the heart. We realize the Bible talks about being able to know a person by their fruits (whether good or bad), and this is something we may be able to consider, but for the most part, we must acknowledge that God is the only judge and His justice is perfect.
Can a person be saved on their death bed? Yes. The thief on the cross was saved right before he died because he called upon Jesus to save him. Is it rare? I believe it is. Many times a lost person especially when they are older have become very hardened in their heart. It is only the miraculous power of the gospel that can break the heart of stone and transform the spirit. I would never say that it is too late to be saved but I have also wondered that if God has drawn someone a 1000 times and they have rejected Him, why would He be obligated to draw them anymore? We must also include that many who are seriously ill, are usually heavily medicated and cannot hear or understand. I have tried to speak with people that are in a semi-conscious state and it is very difficult. Can they accept Christ within their mind? I believe yes, because God knows the intentions of our heart and our deepest thoughts. Of course, God’s plan is for small children to be taught His Word and that they might be saved and live for Him all through their life. However, many people have had miserable lives that we do not have a clue about. God is filled with compassion and long-suffering and specializes in the area of mercy.
No one wants to believe that someone we knew and loved dearly will NOT be given entrance into heaven. This is another reason why there are so many theological versions of the doctrines and alternative ideas that pertain to this subject. The old fashioned gospel teachings were cut and dried about those who sin and the consequences of being lost were being cast into the lake of fire to burn forever. This type of preaching was effective to convict the lost into running to the altar and reinforced the lifestyle of holiness and reverence toward God. Over the years, we can see that church leaders did not want tiny crowds of the faithful who were strict when it came to purity but rather dreamed up new ideas how to increase the congregation while also increasing the offerings. They figured the only way to draw more crowds (and more money) was to soften “the message” and relax the high standards of obedience and self-control. Ah, the idea was to release the floodgates of the world and allow the dark attitudes of sin into the church. Working in cooperation with Satan, the messages became less threatening as these modern organizations began to grow in comfort, carnality, relaxation, pride and popularity. It seems whenever human nature takes control of anything – it becomes ruined.
As the idea of sin becomes acceptable, the validity of the Bible becomes confusing. When there is no difference between those who are saved and those who are lost, nothing makes sense. The modern strategy to remove all absolutes and make the church a place of laughter and contentment has also successfully removed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Members of the bride and body of Christ have always been called to prayer and holiness and there is nothing relaxing and cozy about that. The true church is a supply house where the warriors load up and go back out into the battle. If this is not the vision of a church, I am not sure what it is. When people are taught that everyone is OK, why would anyone believe in the need for change? Strong medicine is a healing balm but when the medicine is watered down, it has no ability to cure. It is the anointing of God’s Spirit that uses the WORD of the Lord to penetrate and convict the hearts of men and women to REPENT of their sin and to fall before God in reverential fear. People reaching out to Jesus in faith and becoming born-again and being filled with the His Spirit and being healed and delivered is God’s idea of the church. Again, if this is not happening, what is really going on?
Here are several ideas that people believe about what happens when we pass from this life into the next one. Some scholars teach that individuals who lived a life without any indication of being a follower of Christ will be separated from God for a “designated” period of time, but will eventually be reconciled to their maker. This is a popular idea (called total or complete reconciliation), because it allows for a reasonable punishment while having a happy ending that gives family and friends comfort in knowing the person will eventually be alright. This sounds reasonable, but what do we do with all of the passages that talk about an eternal hell? I’m sure there are groups that believe a select group of people might fall into the “eternal” part, but the others will have to serve their sentences before being released.
There is another interpretation of the next life that also proclaims the lost will be NOT be eliminated from God’s presence and describes the justice of God that will divide heaven into sections like a sports arena. Those who have been obedient and faithful will have a much closer seat to God’s throne. The ones that lived however they wanted will have to settle for a seat in the nose-bleed section where they will need binoculars to see what is happening. This distance from God is considered a severe punishment enough. This reminds me of the old song that said, “Just give me a cabin in the corner of glory.” I guess, this was supposed to be a statement of humility, but I never really appreciated the concept. I have always thought that a follower of Christ was to strive to do the best they could to please God and should be filled with faith and excitement to be as near to Him as possible. To settle for a place over in the corner sounds like they do not want to be totally dedicated to being a living sacrifice, and are perfectly satisfied to live a lukewarm life and to barely make it inside.
Allow me to mention one more idea that is common within the religious world. There is a concept that perceives salvation in the light of a lottery game of chance. This group believes that God selects certain ones to be saved and after all is said and done, only these fortunate individuals will be given entrance to heaven. The thought here is that everyone is born depraved and deserves to be lost and God mercifully saving a few is a demonstration of His saving grace. The doctrine of predestination is found in the scriptures but I am not sure who is smart enough to interpret it. I have no problem accepting the truth that God in His foreknowledge “knows” who will accept Him and who will walk away. BUT – I have never been able to grasp the idea of divine selection. If this is true, are people chosen before they are born to remain lost? Is every person given the opportunity to be saved? What does, “many are called, few are chosen mean? If someone dies and has never heard the gospel, does God take this into consideration? Is Satan given control over a certain amount of people that are called goats, wolves, and tares? Personally, I am not exactly sure how all of this works, but currently, I am persuaded that every person is given a free-will to seek out their own salvation and make their own decisions. Truly, this is a difficult topic.
The old Doris Day song, “Que, sera, sera” talked about life being like rolling the dice. What a happy-go-lucky idea that believes that whatever happens will happen. This is for people who just want to float down the river and not worry about anything. No faith, no responsibility to learn or change the way they are. This is the easiest philosophy of life, because it removes man from being accountable to the reality of self-discipline and places all the blame on God. A deist believes that God created the universe but He does not interfere or intervene in the affairs of mankind. This is very similar as the idea is that we are completely on our own and everything depends on luck. I certainly do not believe this, but I am persuaded that God will become as involved in our life as we desire for Him to be. I also believe that He is working constantly and that He has a specific plan for everything and everyone.
Included in these ideas and opinions about how God operates, is one more that is widely accepted, and I call it the “points system.” Many live in a fantasy world where they think that if someone is nice, that everything will all turn out OK. They do not really base their ideas on the Bible but are just assuming that a few good attributes like generosity will outnumber their sins and will allow the person to make it into heaven. If someone had a good nature and would give a stranger the shirt off their back, according to the rules, would count for a significant honorable mention. If we worked hard and provided for our family, then it is obvious that we will receive a lot of bonus points. If we minded our own business, mowed our yard, paid our bills and bought girl scout cookies, many believe this will definitely go a long way toward earning a golden ticket to heaven. I have a question. So then, if this is what salvation is about, who is NOT going to be there? Hitler and a few serial killers? If being good and nice are the requirements for salvation, I’m trying to understand why Jesus came to suffer and die on the cross and rise from the dead. This point system would have been much easier. Yes, God’s people are called to do good works, but it is NOT the works that saves their soul. They work because they love God and are filled with His nature which is to listen and obey the Father.
Allow me to include that being lost in our sins is the ultimate reason why every person needs to be saved. However, it is not just sin that denies our entrance to heaven; it is NOT having Jesus Christ in our heart. I am sad to say that many seemingly good decent people are lost and will not be in heaven. In fact, according to the Bible, there will be a majority of individuals that will be flabbergasted and shocked to realize their name is NOT written in the book of life. I have pondered about the probability that we will only recognize loved ones that are there and our memory will be erased of those who did not make it. There is no sorrow or sadness in heaven and if we cannot find certain ones, we would be upset to know they are in hell. There are two types of sinners – lost sinners and saved sinners. What gives the saved person the privilege to be with God forever is being forgiven for their sins, washed clean in the blood of Jesus, being born-again and transformed into God’s family and accepting Jesus as LORD of their life and Savior of their soul. There are only two categories; saved and lost, and after death, this cannot be changed. I have walked in cemeteries and have seen the inscriptions on tombstones pleading with the living to please pray for them. I have even heard of the practice to pay people to pray after they die in order to receive more assistance with their destiny. I believe when the body takes its last breath, the ledger is finished.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
Published 4/1/17 – PART 14
If you have ever attended many funerals in your life, it would seem as if everyone will be there. A simple answer according to the Bible is that everyone will NOT be in heaven. In fact, the Bible explains there will be far more people that do NOT make it than will. “Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Of course, it is devastating to think that anyone would miss the final curtain call and fail to fulfill the requirements of eternal life, especially if it is someone we know and love. So, if everyone is NOT going, who will be allowed to enter? Only those who have invited Jesus into their heart as their Lord and Savior. (By the way, everybody wants to be saved from hell, but very few want to allow Christ to control their decisions). We cannot have it both ways. There is no such thing as a close personal relationship with Christ and willingly living for the devil. It is true that a saved person can sin, but they will experience conviction and remorse and will be miserable until the fellowship with Christ is renewed. If someone is happy and content to live in the darkness and yet proclaims to be a Christian, we know there is something very wrong. Romans chapter 6 explains that every person is a servant to whom they obey, in spite of the rituals, ceremonies, traditions or however they want to deny, justify or decorate it.
Another important pillar of truth confirms there is only one Creator of all things and one God above all other idols and personalities. When it comes to different religions and worldviews, I realize that many people are opposed to the idea of there being only one way to heaven and that Jesus is the only true God. Our free will allows us to search the world and choose whatever belief system we like, but according to the Bible, Jesus is the God above all other Gods and to believe in someone else, would be to trust someone or something that is CLAIMING to be God. Let us look at Ephesians chapter 4 and verses 4 through 6, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all.” Every throne only has one chair and every kingdom only has one king! Here is another passage that declares the idea of only being one true Creator of all things. “But to us, there is but one God, the Father of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him” I Cor. 8:6.
Why is all of this important? Because when we are placing our trust and hope into our eternal existence, we better have it right! There are so many diverse ideas out there that teach everyone will go to heaven and there is no eternal punishment. We can find many different philosophies that declare we are good and worthy of heaven and that God would never hurt anyone. We may be ready to agree with some of these pleasant thoughts but do people ever stop and think – what will happen when I die and discover these ideas were wrong? We realize that it is much easier to think happy thoughts than to seriously consider truth. To be honest, the problem with the average person is that very few really understand the true God and His perfect Word. In order to know about absolute truth, one must know the God of the Bible. Ah, now we see the problem. Most people do not want to know God. Why? Because the God of the Bible is the ultimate judge and requires that we follow His voice which in turn, means that whosoever believes in Him must be transformed. Human nature hates the idea of change and has no intention to submit or yield to God. To realize just how strongly this is true, we can remember what happened the last time we started a diet and exercise routine. It is common to want to grab the bull by the horns and pronounce what great ideas we have without understanding that true change comes from the power of our mind. Losing weight, stopping smoking or changing jobs has much to do with our mental determination but if we are seeking spiritual change, we must go even deeper. We must unite with God and give Him control of our conscience which is also many times referred to as the will. This is the ultimate vision of change. We will only become the person Jesus died for us to be when the desire to allow Him to become our Lord becomes GREATER than our desire to live the way we want.
I have studied this complex subject over the years, and yet still cannot understand many components about it. How do we know who is saved and who is lost? We realize there are some individuals who do a lot of good deeds and go to church but yet, they have never been born again. How do we know? Because salvation is not based on anything we can perform or earn and it is possible to be deceived. We are born-again by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus, but there has always been a danger to trust religious laws and the creeds and doctrines of legalism. We work because we are saved but do not work to secure our salvation. I must include that when are genuinely saved and transformed, we will want to follow God and go what is right in His sight. His Spirit compels His children and influences them to live in His presence and His peace that passes all understanding. The Bible reveals that whoever receives the “Light of the World” into their life, their witness and testimony will be the EVIDENCE of being a follower and will reflect the image of Christ. When someone becomes born-again, they are so excited and on fire for Jesus, they do not care who knows it! They are ready to tell everyone about Jesus, and they really want to pray and read the Bible and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. If they have been born-again and over a period of time drift away from this spiritual intimacy and are not demonstrating the love and light of holiness, they are back-slid and need to repent and be restored back into fellowship with the Lord. In John 2:3-6 we read, “And by this, we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this, we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in the Almighty ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” This is a simple yet difficult message. John is talking about our fellowship with God being based upon our obedience and our desire to live under the shadow of God’s wings. If we are truly saved, we will do what God tells us to do and if we refuse, we are in rebellion and God will deal with us in discipline because His judgment includes the love of correction.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 13 – Published 3/25/17
IT MATTERS WHAT WE BELIEVE
“For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” Psalm 116:8-9.
We are judged by what we believe. Such a basic statement, yet so profoundly true. We, humans, have a complex brain and have been given the capacity to build our own persuasions, but we also recognize there is always an immediate controversy when someone claims their worldviews as being true. Since most everyone believes they are correct, we can clearly see why the world is overflowing with strife and disagreement. In the Old Testament, we read where there was never a shortage of diverse belief systems that involved many different traditions and interpretations. The ancient world was a smorgasbord of every type of religious idol and political opinion a simple-minded human could imagine. And of course, it is common throughout history where kings and emperors have demanded the masses to worship and obey them without question. Sadly, this has been amazingly successful since humans are vulnerable to deception by the enemy of their own weakness and ignorance. When mankind started out in the new world “after” Eden, it would seem relatively obvious to accept there is only one real God and the best way to live would be to follow Him. But, evidently the same personality that posed as a serpent was only beginning in his quest to influence the gullible masses with a continuous flow of devastating lies, and the result of this vicious cycle is even more evident today.
The desire to believe, live and do whatever we want has always been highly sought after. The dream of freedom has been the inspiration for some of the most bloody wars in history and have cost more lives than can be imagined. While the idea of fighting for liberty is a noble intention, there are motives and intentions within the desires for freedom that are also worthy of consideration. If the concept is to be free to do whatever we want, there has been a critical misunderstanding of right and wrong. It is not God who created mankind to be free to sin against Him. It was God who sacrificed His Son so that man could be free to worship and obey Him. This is why it is heart-breaking to the Christian when they know that many men and women have been killed fighting for freedom that allows for individuals to legally live in sin and be openly proud of it. People will say, no one has the right to tell me that I’m wrong – even God. I am who I am, I feel good about it, and that is the only thing that matters! In a non-Christian world that is led by emotional human nature, whether we like it or not, this is the normal way of thinking and exactly where we are heading.
The frustrating part about right and wrong is how difficult it is to prove. I was reading about all the ideas that people have about their identity and it is becoming mind boggling. It seems now, that anyone can just come up with a title and call themselves whatever they think they are. We can see where this is going and it is frightening to wonder where the world will be fifty years from now. If everyone can be justified for being whatever they want and to do whatever they want, who will draw the line and where will it be drawn. If there is no standard of divine authority that is acknowledged as being absolutely true, then who can we trust that will understand the correct decisions? I guess my ultimate question is will there come a time when there are NO absolutes? Will the court system become so entangled with confusion and political correctness, that anything can be justified with intelligent reasoning and social acceptance? When the Bible was defiantly tossed out of our education system, the children lost what little portion of discipline and spiritual stability Christian teachers could provide. And now we see that within this very same institution, the unraveling of a generation that was not even given the choice to choose Biblical curriculum and consequently failed to receive the fundamental building blocks of a Godly perspective. Now, let’s see, who in the world would have wanted all the children to not know about or believe in God? Ah yes, that skilled defense attorney that works constantly to protect and justify those who are guilty of willful sin. The one who encourages the human will to live their own life and to set every mind at ease against accountability and the realities of a coming judgment.
Our world is changing dramatically. Another true announcement and maybe one of the only thing I say that we can agree on. It’s true, the world has always experienced social, moral and psychological problems, but for the most part of global history, we just never put a microscope on it or discussed it. When humans acted strangely, we wrote them off as being mentally ill, demon possessed, psychopathic, or uncivilized and went about our merry way. We never considered that one day, human rights would become not only the pathway to universal tolerance but would establish an environment where truth is whatever a person embraces. A kingdom without the divine authority of God is a world saturated with chaos, hatred, evil, arrogance, darkness and selfish lust. A vision of the one who has ruined mankind and helped unleash the curse of sin, a world fitting for the father of all lies, the king of hell. Satan’s message to the world is that man can live however he wants – and no one can tell him what to do. Rebellion and pride is the character attributes of the dark-side. Our right to do whatever we want has turned into aggressive violence and hatred. People are standing proudly with a growing confidence screaming the battle-cry that I am who I am and I will never change and you cannot change me. This would be good if they were on the right side, but what if they are wrong? And let us not forget that it does matter as this life is not just an essay where we are all graded for our imagination and will receive no credit for creativity. To some it seems worth it to be their own person, live in denial and keep their heart’s door locked. The truth is, it will spell doom for every soul that ignores salvation and who chooses to take their chances with eternity. There are no do-overs and no second chances.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 12 – Published 3/18/17
THE HUMILITY OF BEING GRATEFUL
It is easy to pity ourselves over a runny nose or a stubbed toe and forget there are many people fighting for their lives with cancer and other diseases. How often we are critical of others and their decisions and yet we have never prayed for God to help them. When we choose to only think about ourselves, we have no time or desire to think about anyone else. Today before we say an unkind word – let us remember that many are unable to communicate. Before we complain about the taste of our food, may we consider the millions that have nothing to eat. Before you complain about your husband or wife – remember there are many who are lonely and praying for a companion. And before you proclaim about what a stressful and aggravating life you have – think of all the ones that have passed away. As you gripe about your children, think about those who cannot have any.
Before you become depressed about your house being messy – think about those who live in the streets. Before being frustrated about how far you have to drive – think about the ones that have to walk everywhere they go. And when you complain about your job – think about the unemployed and disabled that wish they had a job like yours. Before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another – let us be reminded that we all sin and are accountable to the one who made us. And when discouraging thoughts try to bring you down and depress you – put a smile on your face and thank God, you’re alive and still around. If we really believe in the power of prayer and that God intervenes in human affairs, let us agree there is much work and praying to do. Everything is not lost – it depends on how you look at it. We were created by a loving God who cares about us and wants us to trust Him and look to Him in all things. Life is a gift – live it, enjoy it and celebrate it as you follow Jesus, and most of all, try to help others along the way. Sympathy or criticism is not a substitute for love, work, speaking truth or prayer. Being aware of God’s presence and everyone around us is a perfect request in our prayer journal. Discernment does not automatically happen, it comes with fervent knocking, asking and seeking.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
MAKING ROOM FOR JESUS
God cannot become evident in anyone’s life unless they have made a personal intention to do so. When we are completely full of ourselves, there is no room for God to seen or heard. As John explains in the third chapter of his gospel, this is what decreasing our flesh and increasing His spirit is all about. As we descend in our thoughts about trying to live on our own, we only discover what it means to yield our will through prayer and fasting. When we are focused on Him, and invite the Lord to sit upon the throne of our heart, His presence will increase. More of Him and less of me is a simple illustration, but in the spiritual reality, it is the most difficult task we will ever encounter. Those who have dedicated their lives to His service have made great sacrifices because they love Him.
We are so blessed with abundance that many of us have never known how life would be without the security our materialism provides. This is why the multitudes scratch their head in confusion when they are told to “drop their nets” and trust the Lord. We read about these inspiring stories and it sounds like a noble act for someone else to do, but most of us are spectators and have always had plenty of other options. Corrie Ten Boom said, “You may never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” Maybe this is why Christ seemed to imply the wealthier a person becomes, the more vulnerable they are to the dangers of drifting away from God’s presence. When we already have everything we need, it’s easy to develop a subconscious attitude that we do not really need faith at all. Wealth can be a wonderful blessing but it would be much better for our riches to be reduced in order to awaken our spiritual sensitivity and expose our arrogant attitude. If our spiritual life could ever become as important as other aspects of living, we would be more likely to follow Him. “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” Philippians 3:7.
The more we learn – the more that is expected of us and this gives us a wonderful explanation why the majority of people run the other way when it comes to learning about the gospel. When we are willing to understand what God wants from us, we discover that His focus is on the deepest part of our decision-making process. This is called our conscience, our heart or our will. God knows the way to navigate a vehicle is through the steering mechanism and until any of us relinquish our control to Him, our life will continue being a demonstration of spiritual rebellion. It does not matter how nice, intelligent and seemingly well-organized we are to the world, we are disrespecting Him for being intentionally disobedient. Leonard Ravenhill is quoted, “I find it most intriguing to contemplate the fact that while men are considering what place to give Jesus Christ in their life, He has already decided what place to give them in eternity.” When we learn about the meaning of life, we are held accountable for understanding the purpose we were created. As we discover what God wants us to be, we are then faced with deciding just how much we will do, and it is within these everyday decisions that we will someday be judged. “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first” Matthew 19:30.
Lately, I have been meeting with a young man that wants to know more about God and how to live the Christian life. I actually led this young man to Jesus last week, as come to find out, he did not really understand about salvation. Faith comes by hearing, and he had heard enough to be convicted. The divine appointment was perfect, and he was ready to commit his life to Jesus Christ! Praise the Lord! What a privilege it is to impart God’s Word to someone who is hungry and thirsty for spiritual truth and then to stand back and witness the love and mercy of God to save an individual into His family. When we pray for the burden and opportunity to lead others to Christ, we will be amazed at the doors God will open. If we are busy and do not care about others, we will not even notice those who are lost and dying all around us. The greatest message we can tell anyone is how Christ willingly went to the cross, was tortured and died for our sins. He paid the only price that could forgive us and save our soul. He arose on the third day and confirmed everything He and His Father had promised and now His blood seals the covenant vow between God and His children forever. As Christians, we are called to teach the foundational principals about yielding our will and allowing Christ to fill us with His presence. And even more importantly, we are called to “demonstrate” His Word so that everyone can realize what it means for Jesus to become the Lord and king of our life. Without this revelation of submitting our will and obediently following His still small voice, we are not only missing the beauty and power of walking in His Spirit but presenting a watery testimony to those who need to see the saving light of Jesus Christ.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
DISCOVERING OUR SPIRITUAL GIFT – III
As a part of God’s family and kingdom, we will have trials and challenges. It is common knowledge the dark side is against God and this includes anyone that is associated with Him. Since His children carry His anointing to manifest their gift, we can also know there will be spiritual resistance that tries to derail and distract us in order that we might fail our mission. Yes, there is a demonic world that hates heavenly creativity that reflects honor to our Majestic Creator, but we are reminded that greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. Let us beware of the “wolves” among us that want to influence us and tell us that we can do much more if we do it this way or if we change and compromise we can be more popular. The key to our spiritual success is to listen to God’s voice, to follow Him and do it HIS way! We often forget, but actually, the only reason God’s true remnant are not defeated is because Jesus and His angels are fiercely fighting a raging battle for us in the hidden dimension of the spiritual realm. This constant warfare allows us to keep working as we also must rise up and live by FAITH as we stand against discouragement. There is no time to sit on the couch in a pity party, but let us rise up and accomplish our mission in His mighty name! How many soldiers have given up on their divine blueprint? How many have been beaten down and driven backward? How many will stand before God and be ashamed for not forsaking all and not abandoning the normal life of safety, comfort and security? This is the difficult yet crucial part of being an overcoming the natural realm and taking hold of the higher dimension of the supernatural. With prayer and fasting, let us give sacrificially, discipline our mind and walk the sanctified life. “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mathew 11:12).
I went to visit an old friend in the hospital the other day, and I have been shaken at what I learned. He and I ran around when we were teenagers and wasted a lot of precious time being young and dumb. After a few years of being a prodigal, the Lord spoke to my heart and I eventually returned back to him and the land of the living. Unfortunately, my friend did not. We drifted apart and I had not seen him since my children were born. I learned recently that he had never married and went deeper into the darkness of drugs, alcohol and all that goes with it. He lives with his parents and has closed himself away from those who love him and is in very bad health. This is an example of someone that had the opportunity to follow God’s voice and turn away from the darkness but according to free-will, he chose to not let go of a destructive lifestyle. His dad was our Sunday school teacher when we were kids and they were a very good family. Through the years this family has endured much heartache over their only son, but it also reveals once again that we cannot change someone’s, heart. We can only pray and help to a certain point and then it is between the person and God. This was not his divine blueprint and I reminded of the rich young ruler that refused the offer from Jesus to follow Him. I believe that much of our judgment will be based on how closely we followed the blueprint which is all about obedience. I pray that he is saved and will respond to God. The Lord is patient and long-suffering and I am so grateful for His amazing grace. If not for His great salvation and the Holy Spirit where would any of us be today? There will come a time in every overcomer’s life where they must take a stand and know they are going in the right direction. Yes, we have been very blessed, but it is possible that someday we will actually need to completely trust God to provide our food and shelter. We are so spoiled and most of the time we take our basic provisions for granted. Our cabinets and refrigerators are filled and we do not have a clue what it means to be really needy. What if our ability to purchase is taken away, what would we do? Our gifts and talents will still be important and in some instances, could possibly a part of our survival, but for the most part, our dependence will require us solely trusting in His voice. Adrian Rogers is quoted, “If you want to know how wealthy you are, look around at what you have and see what money cannot buy and what death cannot take away from you.”
Sometimes our gift will be under attack from those who want to change the course of our direction. Many times, parents will try to persuade a child to follow a certain path, whether it be college or a specific career. It is true that many times a young person will not know what their gifts and talents are, but this is also why it is important to train children to pray and seek God about the divine blueprint. I do not believe that our career should be like rolling the dice, but that we should rather be enlightened by His wisdom so that we “know” where we are going. Isaiah 50:7 says, “For the Lord God will help me; therefore, shall I not be confounded: therefore, have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” It will take courage and confidence that we have heard from God to keep going in a direction when others are saying we are crazy. If you KNOW you have heard from heaven, be careful to how much you listen to those who criticize you. Sometimes people can help us with wise advice but there are also individuals who do not listen to God but rather are susceptible to a deceptive habit of being negative can unknowingly carry the infectious disease of strife, confusion, and discord. We see this in the realms of politics and religion and its trickle-down effect, especially with family and friends. It is a fact that people will not agree with what you believe or how you live but this should not condemn us or intimidate us. Be free and filled with happiness and enjoy the presence of God! In many cases, these people are not intentionally trying to hurt us, but the world is filled with opinions and ideas as they say these are like elbows, everyone has them. Individuals that are convinced they are right, are mostly trying to “help and save us” from error, however, the problem is that though they are sincere, they can also be sincerely wrong. As we seek out our own salvation with fear and trembling, let us make sure we listen to God before we “receive” advice and before we “give” it.
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife (quarreling) in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above but is earthly, sensual, and devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated (communicate), full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:13-17)
Let us never forget the secrets and mysteries that can be found in the quiet times of meditation as we focus on His promises and are left with the hope of heavenly and earthly victory in God. He wants the best for us, and to use us for His glory. He created us and empowered us for His purpose! As a knife is used to cut and a paintbrush is made to paint, each of us has been called to be a small part of the big picture within His kingdom. It is true, there are many who are not doing what they were called to do, but it is never too late to discover our calling. Be encouraged today in knowing that all things are possible with God and our most serious obstacle is our own doubt and fear. I have been writing for 30 years and in those years, it seemed that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. Only recently has a door opened where I am now writing to more people than I ever imagined. Words like determination and perseverance is crucial to your success. Do not give up, do not quit! Keep going in His strength and keep believing that in His time, He will take all of your experiences and use you for His glory.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
DISCOVERING OUR SPIRITUAL GIFT – II
The ones who are gifted usually know they have something unique but rarely understand why it has been given or the details associated with it. For example, many talented singers start out in church but many are eventually drawn into the secular world of entertainment. The mesmerizing power of their gift is intended to glorify God but many times ends up glorifying the individual. A person that comes to mind is Elvis Presley who was very anointed. It is difficult to describe the ability within him because this power was from heaven and generated a tremendous popularity and devotion. However, if you notice the famous reply, “thank you, thank you very much” we can see how easy it is to accept praise instead of clarifying that we are only a vessel in the Potters hands. Again, the talent was to be used for God’s service and not for his own desires. It’s true, he did sing gospel music and touched millions but he could have been the Billy Graham of Christian music if he had been more outspoken for the gospel. Whitney Houston is another modern day musical star that was given an exceptional anointing but became a victim of fame.
These gifts are easily noticed by others because of how they move the soul. The creative conscience is not a coincidence but has been placed there intentionally by God. These individuals are more directly focused on a particular interest than just viewing life as a general whole or the big picture. They channel a great deal of energy and passion into the subject to which they were drawn and this concentration helps refine and develop the gift. The passion within seems to receive gratification from accomplishment and it’s common for these individuals to be willing to sacrifice everything for the continuation of success. There are struggles behind the scenes of those who live in this driven world and all is not smooth sailing, to say the least. However, in trying to walk the tight-rope between our will and God’s will, peace and satisfaction will depend on submitting our life to Him.
I believe that spiritual gifts and talents come from the supernatural treasures of grace from God Himself. They are given with one basic purpose and that is to reflect glory to God as a form of worship, not to elevate a human on the pedestals of fame. As history has proved over and over again we have seen what happens when a gifted and anointed vessel uses the divine gift as a selfish instrument to build a personal kingdom of pleasure for their life. They are miserable because they have not obeyed God’s divine order for their lives and if they do not self-destruct in this life they will surely be required to answer for their earthly disobedience in the heavenly judgment.
Many times these individuals rebel against going with the flow of tradition and the well-traveled path of normal mediocrity. When people try to be different and display their own style, many times it is confronted with negative attitudes from those who can only understand common sense logic. As these critics launch missiles of rejection, they do not seem to care how real and intense the hurt and pain can be. They include the point-blank accusations like, you are a disappointment, you will fail, you are foolish, it will not succeed, etc…which of course loads up the individual with guilt, discouragement, crushed emotions, anger, depression, self-pity, desperation, and the overall feeling of being alone in a very large world. This brings us to the first crossroad that will have a direct impact on whether or not the flying machine will get off the ground or become a flowerpot in the front yard. This is the place where baby birds choose to jump from the nest and try their wings or settle for a job selling insurance. This is where decisions are made, where blueprints are activated, where talk becomes action, dreams grow legs and where passions become stronger than words.
If you have spent time in seclusion with God and you know you have heard Him, do not allow another human to prevent you from accomplishing your mission. I love to collect wisdom nuggets and found this simple yet profound statement the other day when looking through some of my own writings about rejection. “Don’t expect others to take as much interest in you – as you do yourself.” I have experienced my share of rejection and have noticed how excited people are when they are talking about what they are doing. I guess we are all like that. This is an important personal revelation, because sometimes we forget why others are never as excited about what God is showing us or doing in our life than we are. Whether it is a new car or a new grandchild, it is much less painful when we understand that everyone is mainly focused on their own life and events that affect them. If we are going to be successful, we will need to develop thick skin and realize that maybe only God is truly interested in what we are doing. This does not mean we become harsh, bitter and lose our sensitivity, but rather to guard our heart with the shield of faith and keep our eyes on Jesus. It is wise to prepare for the enemy to influence us with discouragement because this is one of the most common attacks to our soul. The world has never embraced God and if you do, you can expect rejection. Some people are destined to minister to the world and others may be called to inspire a select few. It is not quantity that makes someone more important or loved by God. He loves each of His children and as the story of the widow who dropped a couple of pennies into the offering reveals His wise judgment, we can be assured that He will not forget all the little things we did for Him and will reward accordingly. Each child of God is unique pertaining to who they are and what God wants them to do. He knows the complexity of each personality, how we are wired and precisely what can touch someone’s spirit. If we simply follow His desires, He is pleased and will say, “well done my good and faithful servant” which will be the greatest words we could ever hope to hear.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 8 – PUBLISHED 2/18/2017
DISCOVERING OUR SPIRITUAL GIFT – PART I
Have you ever thought about what enables some people to accomplish certain goals while others never seem to find the right connection? We are faced with many different choices and possibilities, but we can agree that life was never intended to be a carnival game of luck. I will admit that in my life, I have struggled with finding my gift and what I was supposed to do with it. For years I thought I was on the right path but was discouraged when I saw very little fruit of my labor. Now that I look back, I can see that it is not up to us to decide about success but to have faith and keep a pure heart. When the Lord begins to reveal His will to us, it is tempting to think this will only take a few months of training and we will be ready to do whatever it is. This may be true for some things but not all. Some gifts may require many years of behind the scenes learning, to develop into the level ministry that is needed.
The novice is not ready to step forward but needs years of mentoring in order to become more experienced and wise. Generals are not produced with two weeks of boot camp and neither is a brain surgeon confirmed by reading a medical textbook. It could possibly take 20 or 30 years after we know what our gift is, before we are ready to be used in the power of His Spirit. Jesus was 30 years old before He began His ministry but we need to remember that He was God in the flesh and always knew who he was and what He was called to do. My personal testimony is that I started writing 30 years ago, and have just recently been given the green light to walk through the doors of opportunity. All that He has shown me during this time of training, is now being manifested for such a time as this. When God decides we are ready, it is amazing how things line up and people begin to notice what you are saying. This is because of the anointing that God activates within us when HE is ready.
Our heavenly Father has created everyone as a unique individual and included a personal mission for us to achieve that I call the divine blueprint. We have heard the old saying that we are His hands and feet, and the idea is that He wants to use us as a vessel or instrument to accomplish His work, just like the potter that shapes each piece to be used for a particular purpose. Each human has standard abilities but the Lord has also blessed us with various creative gifts and talents. From a worldly perspective, these gifts are seen as having degrees of significance but in the eyes of the Creator, they are all very special and crucially important. Let us also remember that God is not impressed with how much we can do but is more concerned with us listening to His voice. His rewards for service will be based on our attitude, motives and our obedience. To see just how special you are to the body of Christ and to the world, let us take a look at this passage of scripture found in I Corinthians chapter 12. The first part of the chapter talks about spiritual gifts that are more noticeable, but there are many gifts that have been distributed among His people that are done quietly and effectively without recognition. Just because the parts may seem small, the kingdom of God needs them equally the same. In fact, many times the small deeds of service can make a huge impact on someone that maybe nothing else could. God knows what touches everyone’s heart and makes everything work together according to His perfect plans. The heart of the matter is to realize that each of us have a calling, we are anointed for this work and God is ready to open doors and provide resources for us to accomplish our mission. There is a time of preparation and training and it’s very critical that we step forward in His timing and not ours. There is much to be done and a short time to do it, but in order for us to be successful, we must be dedicated and determined to serve Him with all of our heart.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
As a part of God’s family and kingdom, we will have trials and challenges. There will be spiritual resistance that tries to derail and distract us in order that we might fail our mission but we must keep the faith and keep pressing forward. The heart of the matter is to realize that each of us have a calling, we are anointed for this work and God is ready to open doors and provide resources for us to accomplish our mission. There is a time of preparation and training and it’s very critical that we do not become depressed or lose interest in the mission. I believe many have not wanted to fulfill their spiritual calling and have made the choice to follow their own dreams. We have been given free-will and God does not make us obey Him, but this will also be a part of our judgment. We will continue this topic about discovering our spiritual gift next week.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
GOD IS NEAR – HE IS LISTENING
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. How He desires to spend quiet time with us. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit waits for each of us to draw near as God longs to be with His children. As we go about our busy day, many times we do not realize His presence but nonetheless, He is there. The Lord of compassion gives each breath and every heart beat as a gift of His mercy and grace. He cares about every thought and every situation in our life because He loves us so much.
Time on earth is short, here today – gone tomorrow, but eternity will be forever. Each person has a soul, and every soul will live forever with God or without Him. Jesus was born into this world so that His blood could pay the ransom and free us from sin. He rose from the dead so that we could be saved from a hopeless and lost condition. Those who embrace the Savior in this life, are transformed and prepared to be a vessel of honor. Our heavenly Father is preparing our place in heaven right now. The meaning and purpose of living is built on Christ – the solid Rock.
The Father created you as a unique, one-of-a-kind individual. There is not another person like you. He drew a blue-print for each person to follow and wants to intervene, inspire and empower us to accomplish His plans. It is not about our will – but His will be done. In this world you will have tribulations, but do not be afraid because greater is He that lives in you, than any person in this world. Your heavenly Father is in total control and has complete authority over all powers and principalities. His angels are all around you and He never takes His eyes away from you. He is simply seeking someone who will do what He says and trust Him in everything.
Within our mission we have been called to do in this life, there are 2 great commandments above all others; love God, and love one another. If we will choose to listen to His voice and follow Him, we will always live in the peace and joy of His presence. He is holy and desires that we have a clean heart so that we can walk close with Him. Forgive those who have trespassed against you and sincerely pray for them. Holding on to resentment and hatred will make our hearts hard and cold. Let it go, give your anxieties to Him and He will give you rest. Live to demonstrate His love and mercy that you may forever dwell around God’s throne.
He knows our pain and sees our tears. You are His precious child. Trade your bitterness and sorrow for His joy that is unspeakable and filled with His glory. Offer up your fervent prayers and burdens for the souls that are lost and hurting. It is in loving and giving you will find true contentment and peace. All that you do – do it for the love of God and the love for others. When you reach out to help those in need, you are reaching out to God. Jesus is the Bread of Life and He is the Living water. He who comes to the Lord will never be hungry or thirsty again.
Trust and know that God’s Word is true. Lean not on your own understanding but believe that your steps are ordered by the Lord and that He will guide your steps. There are times it will grow dark, and it will feel like you are walking through the valley of death, but fear no evil. His truth is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. When you are holding God’s hand, there is nothing to be afraid of. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Almighty God that considers you His highest treasure. He will never forget you because He has engraved you on the palms of His hands.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 6 – Published 2/4/17
SOMETIMES LIFE SHOWS UP
I have been privileged to sit under many great speakers and teachers in my life. Throughout the years of being involved and learning about ministry, I have painfully discovered much about human behavior and spirituality. With God’s grace, I humbly say that now I am being given the opportunity to share what I have been given to more people now than ever in my life. There are many deep mysteries and complicated questions that we will never understand while we live in this realm. But, there are also practical lessons that God can reveal to us by imparting His divine peace that is woven together with His infinite wisdom. The key has always been to have a sincere passion to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.
Years ago, I knew a special lady that enjoyed a full life of adventure and was used as a blessing to many. However, mixed within her life of success and respect there was also a great deal of tragedy and disappointment. It’s not that this is rare or unusual, but rather it’s the way that she learned to deal with life and how to take each day as a unique moment in time. You could see the years of hurt and pain in her face and sense the agony in her soul but she also had a strong will and fortitude to keep pressing forward. She spent much of her life helping to comfort people in crisis with what is called psychological first-aid and was known for a simple phrase that she repeated constantly; “life shows up.” This was her trademark battle cry and a coping mechanism that helped her endure one painful disappointment after another. She learned that no matter what we go through, we cannot give up or stop trying and in this wisdom, is a profound message to all of us.
There will be times when all of us will be shocked, surprised and caught off guard. These moments of crisis can hit us so hard that we can literally be “knocked out” for an eight count but with God in our corner, He can help us get back on our feet. When things are going well, we have a tendency to enjoy the ride without a need to be cautious or prepared. But, if we have not invested the time to make sure our spiritual foundation is solid and our psychological first aid toolbox is loaded, we are vulnerable for an unexpected ambush. When we are drifting too far from the shore and away from the safety of His protective harbor, our only defense is a weak collection of emotions which fail to provide us with the ability to think or act clearly. Christians realize there is no substitute for praying, but sometimes just saying a prayer is not always an automatic fix for our own problems or anyone that is going through an emergency crisis. In times of tragedy there are things we can do that are good and things we can do that are not good (which include doing nothing). Nonetheless, the best preparation for any type of situation is to live in the constant awareness of God’s presence so that in case a serious storm comes upon us suddenly, we will not be crushed from the weight of fear and discouragement.
We have heard, “it’s not what happens – it’s how we react to what happens” and in the light of how sometimes “life shows up” we can agree. May the Lord continue to give you His strength and endurance as you continue to stand in the gap for yourself or your precious loved one. As your heart is breaking in this situation, may you continue to press into God’s presence and be surrounded by His peace that passes all understanding. He knows you better than you know yourself, He has heard your prayers and is working for your benefit according to His sovereign will. If you are agonizing over someone in a crisis situation, be encouraged by remembering they know how much you care about them and they are comforted with your love. If you are experiencing a severe trial and hurting deeply within your soul, reach out to God today and trust Him completely. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He never said that we would not have difficulties and gut wrenching disappointments, but He did promise that when life “showed up” he would be there to walk with us through it.
Psalm 91:15 – “When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.”
Psalm 50:15 – “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
Psalm 145:18 – “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
Psalm 34:17-18 – “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
FROM THIS TIME FORWARD
LIBERTY: William F. Holland Jr. (1988)
There are strangers in the land, I cannot understand They capture the helpless plea with evil magic too strong for me I tremble with fear, but God will never forsake us - From hands of hate I receive these chains Mile after grieving mile, am I guilty, was there a trial? Oh Lord, cover me in the shadow of your wings - I remember the joy of life’s hopes and dreams Bells of freedom no longer ring, but in my spirit His song I sing His presence has become my rhythm and melody - My emotions torment me; I am sifted like sand I wait for the next life to see family again; God can forgive I am shattered in the dark but He can find the pieces - A voyage of weeping in this vessel of shame Days without light; agony and sickness with no end in sight Headed for a country called, “sweet land of liberty” - Eyes that stare at the scars of my brand They ignore my dignity; I am reduced to sorrow and humility I remember the days of sundance and the joys of rain Heaven is a land where no stranger will stand Eternal skies filled with hope, without sight of a shackle or rope Without memories of the past; free at last, free at last
PART 4 – published 1/21/17
LAYING DOWN OUR ISAAC
We have heard the story of Abraham all our life but what was the purpose? I realize it is a wonderful illustration of faith and learning how to trust God but there may be more to it. The act of sacrificing what we love, is something we not like to think about and understandably so. However, one of the pillars of salvation is directly connected to surrendering and yielding our will. In order for Christ to become the Lord of our new life, we must eventually learn what it means to let go of our old one. Another key point within this process is having a sincere desire to see this happen.
I received a word years ago from a trusted spiritual friend. She was an older saint that played piano where I was leading worship and with holy boldness she said she needed to speak with me in private. She said the Lord had given her a message for me and it was; “Lay down your Isaac” but had nothing else to add. She advised me to seek God and ask what this means. I was working toward a ministry position at the time and was frustrated with the continual answer of it “not being the right time.” I chewed on this word for a while and was praying to the Lord about what He was trying to say. I thought about some of the details about Abraham and Isaac and was given some insight about my personal life and our progressive evolution to go all the way with God.
Isaac was a child that God had promised to Abraham and Sarah. They thought this was somewhat comical because they had become very old, however the miracle happened and they loved this child very much. I can see this parallel as the calling or ministry that each one of us have been promised. While some have thought they were not worthy and have doubted the idea, by the grace of God they have finally experienced the manifestation and the Holy Spirit’s anointing and confirmation of their ministry. Abraham no doubt felt a responsibility to teach and raise the child in the way he thought he should be. Many times this is how we approach our ministry but if we are careful we will over-organize and eventually suffocate its purity with micro-managing. Abraham had been told that Isaac would grow into an amazing nation of God’s people but I’m sure he was wondering how as a feeble old man, am I going to make sure this happens? There it is – He could not! Could it be that Abraham was holding a little too tight and maybe was so consumed with trying to control this situation, that God needed to show Abraham that HE was the architect, that He was going to make it happen and this was for HIS glory?
So this TEST was God’s way of prying Abraham’s fingers from leading and guiding his “ministry” with his intelligence and emotions. He was brought to the point of allowing it to die and laying it down to prove that God does not really need us to do His work. And maybe God was likewise telling me that I needed to willing to sacrifice my ministry and understand it’s success is not about my power or abilities. Giving it over to God is allowing Him to have total control and our attitude should be focused on humility, love, reverence and obedience. This also means that if He decides to take it away and fulfill His plan another way, we are to accept His decision and not be offended or hold resentment against Him.
Our LOVE for who he is should be a much higher priority than what we do for Him. When we are focused on the kingdom instead of the king we have lost our first love and our motives and intentions have become distorted. I was looking more to having positions of respect and authority even in the world of “worship” instead of listening and trusting God. We are the vessel but He is the Potter and the vessel can do nothing on its own. Can the saw or hammer build the house? No! It is only when the Lord decides to use us, that the power and glory of God is seen and known. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes in vain” Psalm 127:1.” It is not that Jesus does not want to work through us – He just wants to make sure we see Him as the one who provides the power, opens the doors and decides when the time is right.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
OUR SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION IS A PART OF HIS PLAN
“But we all with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from GLORY to GLORY, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18).
Twenty-five years before I started writing on a daily basis, I wrote music lyrics that were downright painful to my human nature. For those of you who have listened to these songs I am sure you will agree they are uncomfortable to the casual Christian. Many have told me over the years that the music was so convicting that probably only a small remnant of seekers would actually want to hear them. This must be true as I cannot count the number of times I have given them to someone and they never mentioned them again. I admit it is intimidating and fearful when we see Christ standing at the sacrificial alter beckoning for us to crawl upon on the hot coals. However, it’s like everything else, when we are passionate about what we enjoy – we cannot get enough of it, but when we are trying to avoid something, we cannot run fast enough to get away from it. Sadly, this is how we respond to much of what God desires for our life.
Of course, everyone wants a Savior but only if it’s free. Being “changed” into His image from glory to glory is the spiritual reality of learning, growing, evolving and advancing into God’s perfect will. Remember in the Old Testament God asked, “Who can I send and who will go for Me?” And in the New testament Jesus simply wanted the wealthy young ruler to make a life-changing decision by asking, “Will you sell everything you have and follow Me?” So, this cross-road is not something new or a special calling – it is what being a true follower of God is all about. We have been deceived if we think that He will ACCEPT any other generic kind of life we throw together. Have you ever asked yourself; what is my spiritual destiny? I realize we cannot see the future but we can at least make sure we are on the right path. We can answer that it is abiding in the constant awareness of His presence and being obedient to His voice! But just what does it mean to abandon our will? Well, in order for us let go of our life, it is good to know what we are trading for and basically it is trying to trust and understand the revelation of God’s will. One more question. What is the meaning of life? It is loving God with all of our heart, mind and strength. It is knowing Him in the power of His resurrection. His will is His Word and knowing the wisdom of His knowledge reveals who He is and what He demands from us. You see, no matter what we have been taught, abandoning our will is NOT an option. Doing what we feel like or even having good intentions is hardly good enough. Our flesh is so sneaky and rebellious that it can deceive and convince us that we are doing the best we can and that God understands and everything is alright. If we would become serious and take the time to fast and pray, we would discover the piercing and sobering truth that we are wandering out in left field wearing a blindfold.
I find myself from time to time sitting in my office upset and brokenhearted over my failures and inability to live to the standards that I know God has called me to demonstrate. I have sadly discovered the reason why I do not “walk” according to His will and it is simply because my flesh does not want to, (and this upsets me even more). I comfort myself when I am reminded that at least I am convicted over my sins and that I want to know His truth and live by it, but I ask myself constantly – when will I become “really” serious and begin to give myself to God completely? I know this may sound elementary but we will fulfill His destiny only when we become saturated with the fear, reverence and revelation of who He is. We will embrace His demand to change when the conviction to be transformed becomes greater than our desire to remain the same.
We begin the New Year with prayer that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will have mercy on us, teach us and empower us for the mission we have been called to accomplish. Each child of God has been called to do many things and has a unique role to play in His Kingdom. Our gifts, talents, anointing’s and personalities are all different and He desires to use each one to accomplish His perfect plan. As we have said many times before, our life now that we have been born again has been drastically changed because we are now building from a new spiritual blueprint. The plans and desires that we had in our old life may not look anything like what God has chosen for us to do now. Each follower of Christ has been given certain responsibilities and for the rest of our days it is up to us to discover what they mean and how to accomplish them. The beginning of wisdom concerning this mission is realizing that we must operate in HIS strength and attitude in order for these plans to be spiritually successful. Those who attempt to “combine” their will with God’s will or allow denial to lead them into a seemingly innocent rebellion, will discover that no matter how excited or diligent they are to execute their goals, things never seem to pan out. Even if they forcefully push them through until they are exhausted from their labors, they are left empty and extremely dissatisfied. Why? Because they have never learned that God does not accept or bless our designated offerings if they are given in our way and on our terms.
Many who are saved and filled with His Spirit have not allowed God’s Word to renew and transform their mind and like the children of Israel they continue to go round and round in circles of frustration and defeat. Allow me to say, that God is doing a major work in those that are serious about personal change. I also believe that much of this miracle process will be an accelerated course in faith and sacrifice. We all agree the time of the end is near and we also realize that many in God’s family are not spiritually ready to “walk” in this level of spiritual awareness. So, what will reveal where we stand? The intentions of our heart. God has not changed and His Word is exactly the same as it has always been. He judges the human conscience and knows who is dedicated to obeying His voice and who is ALLOWING their mind to be deceived. We read in Hebrews chapter three about the “hardening” of the heart and within the context it mentions the children of Israel and their failures with trying to half-way follow God (which He considers dis-obedience). We also notice that Jesus and the New Testament saints are held accountable about how they respond to difficulties and trials of this life. We read in verse seven, “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost says, Today IF you will hear His voice, harden NOT your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.” What does the word “provocation” mean? It means to provoke, insult, instigate, irritate and induce. God’s people were promised they would receive their inheritance but because of their UNBELIEF they did NOT fulfill their part of the covenant and were denied the promised land. He was trying to teach them faith and how to progress and develop into mighty spiritual warriors of His kingdom but they made the CHOICE to remain carnal babies. Yes, He became aggravated at them because they would NOT overcome their flesh in order to walk in faith and obedience. Is this not what God is saying in this hour? He has given us His Word and the opportunity to be as close to Him as we desire but instead we have played the harlot and allowed the pleasures of this world to prevent us from being mature. Do you actually believe that God will gladly accept any type of rebellious attitudes, laziness, apathy, impure motives and all excuses to live in carnality? Where did we ever get the idea that God will compromise His Word by making exceptions and yielding to the pleas of intentional lukewarmness? We have listened to all of the sermons, sang the songs and read all the books for one reason; That we might abandon our will and embrace His perfect will! Not so that we become so smart with religion that we try to make it work like a magic lamp! If we have not spent time with Him and discovered who He is, we have willingly traded Christianity for religion! Verse 12, “Take heed brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
We are members working together, learning and developing how to live for Him. We know that many things happening around are NOT what God has wanted. Many religious activities, programs, organizations and traditions may be substitutes or even distractions to what God is really desiring to do in this world. If we read about certain individuals that had extraordinary experiences with the Lord, we notice that God was found in the secret places of isolation away from the voices of chaos and especially the religious world. We know why they were drawn into the depths of His presence; because they wanted to know truth. They desired to go deeper into His endless sea of wisdom and revelation. They were overwhelmed with His authority and His majestic power. They raised their hands to heaven and He touched them and filled them with the glory of His endless love. “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that will ask will receive; and he that seeks shall find, and to him that knocks it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 2 – Posted 1/7/17
(I found this article by Brian Hupperts in my archives and thought you would enjoy it).
“He led you through the great and terrible wilderness (desert), with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock” (Deuteronomy 8:15).
“And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness (desert) these forty years, that he might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
The dry times, those painful seasons of barrenness, are times to be humbled before the Lord. Jesus said that the Father was glorified when we bare “much fruit.” Notice when the children of Israel finally received fruit…AFTER they had walked through the desert. Fruitfulness is the ultimate objective of God for you after you have walked through a desert. What is precious in the desert? Sand? No, there is shifting sand everywhere. Sky? No, in fact, there is little protection from the merciless beating of the sun. What is precious in the desert is water. A single drop of water can make the difference between living and dying. Water is the precious commodity of life. Life processes only occur in the presence of water. Most plants cannot survive in deserts. For those that can, survival depends on their tap root digging deep through the sand to find water. Water is the survival issue in arid lands. Having water is the decisive factor between what lives and what dies.
Look at the history of God’s dealings with his saints. He led his people out of Egypt by the hand of Moses…through the desert headed to the promised Land. John the Baptist lived in the desert until the word of the Lord came to him. Jesus was “led by the Spirit” into the desert to be tested by the devil. Paul spent years in the desert before his commissioning as an Apostle. God has used the drought of many deserts to forge some of His finest saints.
Deserts are such obscure places. They precede blessing but are themselves looked upon as curses. They function to bring you to the place of having to only concern yourself with the basics of existence. It is when water, symbolic of the Living Word of God, becomes they only issue of your life, what you live and die by, are you finally ready to enter into the Masters service. One drop from heaven is all you need. When all else in this world appears as sand in your eyes, empty barren waste, you are ready for Kingdom service.
Deserts have the curious effect of hardening your resolve while humbling your heart before God. Plants grow in direct relation to the amount of water available. When you can blossom with just a little water, you can blossom anywhere! After the desert, you will be “like a tree planted by the water thriving!” The only plants that survive the desert have root systems that can find water. The roots’ absorption force must be greater that that of the soil. In other words, you have to thirst more for the Waters of Life than the world. It is when you hunger and thirst for righteousness that you are satisfied.
Don’t curse the desert times. God is testing you, seeing what is in your heart. Actually, he is letting you see what He has seen all along. Allow your roots to grow deep into God so that “out of your belly shall gush forth rivers of living water.” A river in the desert suddenly springing forth? Sure, that’s His way. God often uses the desert to prepare the messenger. When the messenger is ready, then the message comes. We have our part to prepare ourselves for the ministries God calls us to. We also have to be prepared by God for those same tasks. When we can serve Him in a place of barrenness, we can serve Him in a place of fruitfulness. It is when we are humbled and broken of our own power that God can then show Himself strong on our behalf.
There are some beautiful things growing in the desert. Be patient and let Him finish what he has started in you. It takes a deep, well developed root system, to be able to not only nourish a plant, but produce and feed the growing fruit on its’ branches. If there are no roots, there will be no fruit. And His goal is to bring us to a place of fruitfulness.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
PART 1 – Posted 1/1/17
LIVING IN THE WORLD WITHOUT LOVING IT
Beginning a NEW YEAR is a time that is bitter sweet. On one hand we are bracing for what is on the horizon and on the other, we are excited to see what God is going to do. We pray for the Lord to lead us and we desire to be used even greater than ever before. As I prayed about the title for our series this year, I could not get away from thinking about what is coming. The world is changing and we who are Christians realize the Bible has prophesied about how the spiritual direction of this age is not going to improve but rather will grow worse. The decisions that we make from today until we are no longer here on earth, will be a testimony of our faith whether good or bad. May we decide this day that we will live for Christ and dedicate our life to Him on a deeper level than ever before. May we continue to dedicate our lives to Jesus Christ from this day forward.
Just as Christ has sent the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts for His return, there is an antichrist spirit in the world, preparing the hearts of the wicked for the coming of the Man of Sin! “And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:3). John is saying, you have heard about the coming of the antichrist, it has been preached and taught, and you expect his arrival. But, beloved, wake up, because this spirit is all around you right now and is having a deadly influence on nearly everything and everyone! Satan has already walked into the governments of the world and possessed the hearts and minds of the most powerful people on the planet. He realizes that if he can control the legal and social system he can enforce and establish a heathen culture. He has inspired the inventors with ideas of technology and is using it to entertain the masses and distract them from thinking about God. He has slipped into the education system in the name of relativism and tolerance which mocked the purity and holiness of absolute truth and replaced it with philosophy and psychology. He has stepped into the medical world as an imposter of healing and filled our society with drugs to help ease the anxiety and fears that he caused with sin, lust, greed and violence. His plan is for everyone to live a carnal rebellious life against Christ, and absorb enough medications, alcohol and drugs to dull the pain of conviction. The masses are now blind to his spell and represent the meaning of being deceived.
When we refer to the spirit of anti-christ, we are talking about the presence of Satan. He has been allowed to roam the earth and has been given limited powers to deceive and destroy mankind. He is the opposing force against God and the temporary leader of the dark kingdom. He has a multitude of demons that help him accomplish his agenda and this is not in any way, shape or form funny or comical. People are killed and brutally hurt everyday from events that are caused, influenced or directed by this evil entity. His mission is the same today as it has been since he fell from heaven. He is a rebellious creature that is jealous of God and has wanted to be like Him for a long time. God truly loves us and wants the best for us while Satan is trying to kill as many people as he can, while he attempts to lead them into the eternal fires of hell. Satan is the exact opposite of God in every way but works night and day to impersonate Him. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, appears as an angel of light and is the father of all lies. It is sobering to consider how dangerous he is and reminds us why it is so important to live in constant prayer.
I believe we can agree, the antichrist will not suddenly appear on the scene and overwhelm humankind. Rather, his spirit is mysteriously at work now, methodically setting up his kingdom in the compromising hearts of the masses. When he finally appears, he will be publicly revealed to those he already possesses! There is even a new TV show about him. Right now we see a growing antichrist sentiment, but soon this will turn into a flowing stream and, eventually, a vast ocean. The antichrist spirit is invading the hearts of many apostate Christians even now. “But how?” you ask. “Why would anyone trust the antichrist especially those who claim to be a Christian?” Because they are like-minded with him. What makes Satan’s agenda much easier is because the fallen nature of humans can identify with sin and in fact much of the time we embrace it! It is easy to tempt a human into doing something wrong because they already have a corrupt mind and heart already. When the Lord brought salvation to humans through His work on the cross, it was an opportunity to be transformed away from this evil nature and an invitation to live holy with God. This sounds wonderful and is, however it takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice and dedication to walk in obedience to His voice. John writes: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:15-18).
What does this mean? Are we to go sit on a mountain top and wait for the return of Christ? Are we to forsake our family and live in a motel isolated from the world? I agree it is very difficult to live for God and not compromise His absolute truth. But with much prayer and seeking His specific answers, I believe we can find His will that can allow us to serve Him while also living in the world. John is warning us about those who still love the things of this world and have opened their heart and made themselves vulnerable to the spirit of antichrist. He is saying, you know these are the last days because so many are spiritually blind and do not care about anything but themselves. This is a snare trap, but the Bible also promises that we can also pray for His wisdom as we travel in our journey with Him. Let us not be afraid but rather keep our eyes and ears focused on God’s voice.