Saturday, April 15, 2017

TO THE FEARFUL

Fear – an unpleasant emotion caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger, pain or a threat; dread; terror; cause to flight; cowardice; timidity

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock used to represent a countdown to global catastrophe.  It has been maintained since 1947 by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board.  The clock hangs on the wall in their office at the University of Chicago.  The factors that influence the “time” on the clock are nuclear weapons, climate-changing technologies, biotechnologies, cybertechnologies, and anything else that can destroy our civilization. On January 26, 2017, the Doomsday Clock was moved up by thirty seconds.  These scientists say we are now at 2 ½ minutes until midnight, or doomsday.
Few of us want to hear warnings about catastrophes in our future.  It strikes fear in us.  But even Jesus gave warnings to His disciples about things that were coming on the earth. He said that the powers of the heavens would be shaken, the sea and waves would roar, there would be distress among the nations, tribulation, persecution and “men’s hearts failing them for fear.” Then He said, “And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled”.  Jesus was telling His disciples not to fear all these things.
Don’t be troubled?  Don’t fear?  How can anyone face such overwhelming circumstances and not be troubled or afraid?  Why did He tell them those things?  To scare them?  Of course not!  He told them so they could be prepared…and so we can be prepared.
            If Jesus said not to be afraid, we need to take Him seriously that there is a way to conquer fear. We can find our way through the Word of God and by taking a closer look at the various types of fear.  Then we will see how Satan uses them to paralyze us and destroy our faith in ways we may not have realized before. When we see how Satan uses fear against us, we can be equipped.  Otherwise, fear will shut us down.  It will send us spinning in circles trying to fix things that only God can fix.  It will put our mind in a state of such turmoil that we cannot think clearly.  Fear is a diversionary tactic of the devil to turn us away from our faith and confidence in God. It paralyzes us from moving forward.
            Let’s look at some of the various characteristics of fear.  One of those characteristics is called dread.  Dread is an anxious anticipation of evil.  It isn’t terror, but rather an inner darkness and sense of foreboding.  It reminds me of the darkness and eerie stillness just before a tornado hits.  Dread hangs over us like the lull before the storm…even when there is no storm.  It gives us a continual sense of danger approaching.  When dread rules, we don’t expect anything good to happen.  We see the negative in every opportunity God sends instead of having confidence that He is working all things for our good.  We let dread lead us down the path of defeat instead of victory.
            Don’t you think Satan must have tried to put dread in the hearts and minds of the great men of faith?  “Joseph, you will never be free again.  Just be content that you have favor here in prison.”  “Peter, you missed your chance.  You denied the Lord.  It’s over now, and there is no turning back.”  We are not to live in a dream world and pretend our circumstances aren’t real, but we can’t let fear convince us they are bigger than God.
            Another type of fear will “cause to flight”.  It is something that makes us run.  That happens to a lot of people when God asks them to step out in a new area.  (Remember Jonah?) Or it may be a problem that is bigger than we are, so we are faced with a challenge.  We can accept the challenge, or we can run.  We can step out in faith to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit, or we can retreat.  This type of fear will bring up every negative reason for us to turn away from the call.
            Even Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go?”  He brought up the fact that he wasn’t good at speaking and the people wouldn’t believe him.  Finally, he said, “O, Lord, send somebody else!” (my paraphrase)
            Fear probably tried to tell David, “You can’t kill Goliath!  Run while you have the chance.”  “Peter, you can’t walk on water or preach a sermon! Don’t do something foolish.”  And the enemy of our souls will call your name, too, and say, “you can’t (fill in the blank).”  Don’t listen to him.  When you are reasoning out if you can do it or not, don’t factor out God.  If Satan can trick us into listening to his voice and acting on it, he can snuff out our faith, just like putting out the light of a candle.  When God calls us to something or we face a challenge, He says, “Fear not, I am with you.” What more do we need?
            Cowardice and timidity are fears that cause us to withdraw from life in the Spirit.  This type of fear will immobilize us and cause us to constantly pull back because we are afraid to make a move.
            When I was a little girl, I was afraid of monsters under my bed.  Now, technically, I knew they weren’t there, but I was afraid of the darkness and the unknown.  It was an unfounded fear.  When we get older, our fears change, but most of them are still unfounded.  They turn into “what-ifs”.  “What if I fail? What if I heard God wrong?  What if people reject me or come against me? I might do the wrong thing, so I will just do nothing.”
            Usually, we know what God said, yet we keep questioning Him.  But He doesn’t say anything else because He has already told us what to do.  If we continue listening to this type of fear, it will hold us captive in indecision.  Then we will either compromise by doing something that seems a little safer, or we will hesitate in confusion and insecurity until the opportunity passes.  Either way, fear has done its job.  We cannot allow fear to intimidate us and rob us of our relationship with God and our work in His kingdom.  So, what are we to do?
            In Mark 4, Jesus taught the disciples a lesson in faith. They found themselves in the middle of a terrible storm in the sea. The storm they were battling was very real.  It was very dangerous and about to drown them all as the waves covered their boat.  It wasn’t an imagined danger, but one they were literally in the middle of.  They woke Jesus and asked Him, “Do you not care that we perish?”  And He said, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?  Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.  But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  (Matthew 8:23-27)  The disciples were given a glimpse of His power and authority, even over the wind.  They saw a little more clearly Who He was and what He could do.  They were learning to have a little more faith in every situation they encountered with Jesus. We can, too.
            Why are we so fearful?  Why do we have so little faith?  Faith comes from trusting Jesus, and trusting Him comes from having a close relationship with Him. And we can’t have a close relationship with Him if we don’t know Who He is, what He can do, what He taught, and what He still teaches those who will listen.   Faith will overcome fear.  Faith will lead us on in the face of danger and uncertainty. 
            When fear overtakes us and crushes our faith, we need to realize what is happening and overcome it.  Romans 10:17 tells us how.  “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  That is simple enough, but it takes some initiative on our part.  Be careful what you read, what you watch, what you listen to, what you allow inside of you.  If we are not careful, fear will set up a blockade between us and Jesus. When that happens, it blocks the light and we find ourselves groping in darkness.  Darkness brings fear and is full of lies.  Light brings truth. Truth brings faith. Faith eliminates fear.
The more we read the Word of God and listen to the voice of God speaking to our spirits, the stronger our faith will be.  Hearing the Word is the first step.  But, the word ‘hear’ means more than just hearing with the physical ear.  It means “a receiving of the message”.  In other words, we have to take what our ears hear and put it into practice day by day as situations present themselves to us.
Here is a random example.  When we read Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil”, then we need to use some self-control to keep from sinning when we get angry.  We also need to make sure we have our anger resolved before the day ends so it won’t take root in our spirits.  It’s that simple!  Follow the instructions you read in the Bible.  
Fear comes from hearing, believing, meditating on and acting on the words of the enemy.  It comes with practice.  Faith comes from hearing, believing, meditating on, and acting on the living Word of God.  It comes with practice.
It may sound like a terrible struggle, but it’s really not.  Our part is simply to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly.” (Colossians 3:16)  It is a decision that will build confidence and trust in Jesus and a faith strong enough to conquer fear.  If you don’t eat any food for a few days, you will be weak.  If you don’t communicate with Jesus for a few days, you will be spiritually weak.
Remember, fear pushes us with threats and lies.  Faith leads us gently with light and truth.  Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  We may see some perilous times, but He will be with us, and He will give us the kingdom.

“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”

“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”


(Additional Scriptures:  Psalm 56:3; Luke 12:22-34; Psalm 46:1-10; Ephesians 6:10-18)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ARE YOU SLEEPING?



            The Amplified Bible renders 2 Corinthians 5:10 like this:  “For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil, [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].”  Please read it again, very slowly.  Let the gravity of those words sink into your mind and spirit.
            If suddenly you were revealed as you really are, what would people see?  Would it be a different you than they were used to?  What have you achieved?  What are you giving yourself to accomplish?  What or who has your attention?  What are your motives and purpose in what you are busy working toward?  We all have carefully learned answers to such questions.  Of course, we are giving ourselves to the work of the Lord for His glory.  Really?  That’s the right answer, but is it true?  Certainly it is the goal of every real Christian – to please God above all else.  But Satan is doing everything he can to turn us from that goal.  He is fighting hard because it is so close to the end.  He wants to lull us to sleep to keep us from accomplishing eternal purposes.
            When religion replaces relationship with Christ, we have been lulled to sleep.  When “getting out of the box” really means trading in tradition for the newest fad, we have become drunk with the world system, reeling from box to box and fooling ourselves.  When motivational speeches have replaced the message of Jesus Christ crucified, dead and resurrected to save us from our sins, denying ourselves and becoming one with the Father, we are severely lacking in truth.
            We seem to have forgotten passages of scripture like 1 John 2:15.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  If we believe that scripture, why would we want to copy the practices of the world by developing our Christian version of it?  We try to offer a “Christian alternative” to every holiday and trend of the world, but wouldn’t it be better to simply offer them Jesus in the power of His Spirit?  If we want to give them something different, why don’t we, instead of trying to wrap Him in their trappings?  We are not to live in darkness, but in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is not a message to condemn, but an urgent message to rouse us out of our sleep to arise and follow Jesus.
            We are living very close to the day of Jesus’ return, the coming of antichrist and the judgment of God upon this earth.  It is of grave importance that we wake up from our slumber and become the people He has called us to be and do the work He has called us to do.  The hour is too late to offer emotionally charged but spiritually empty performances in Jesus’ name.  It is too late to offer messages that are only “bless me” oriented and leave out the teachings of Jesus that we are to sacrifice to bless others and selflessly do the work of the Kingdom.  It is too late for our churches to be passive rather than places of pure worship and equipping the saints to take the message outside the walls.  It is too late for us to be striving for positions, money, power and the honor of men, rather than taking on the role of a servant.  It is time to be kind to God and not always be asking Him to be kind to us.  We need to wake up!
 “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”  1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
            Those who sleep are in a state of partial unconsciousness.  Spiritually speaking, they are carnal (thinking from a darkened mind) and indifferent to the things of God’s Spirit.  They are sluggish in their understanding of spiritual matters and the times and seasons.  A person who is drunk has lost their self-control, their balance and their ability to think or express themselves because they have put poison inside them.  The word ‘intoxicate’ comes from the root of two Latin words; one meaning ‘in’ and the other meaning ‘poison’.  When we as Christians give our attention to the things of the world rather than the things of God, we are filling our spirit with poison.  We lose our ability to think and comprehend clearly.  We even lose our ability to walk in the Spirit and communicate clearly.  In either case, whether asleep or drunk, we are not fit to do the work of the Kingdom.  We are instructed to be alert and sober.  That may mean renewing our faith in a Holy God and giving Him the reverence He deserves.  It may mean renewing our passion for Him alone.  It may mean renewing our hope in His promise of salvation - His way, not our way.
2 Peter 3 tells us “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation [behavior] and godliness”.   We Christians need to shake ourselves and wake up.  Where is our zeal?  Where is our power?  Just as alcohol is never the answer for the flesh, filling our minds with worldly things is not the answer for our spirit.  We need to keep intoxicants from our spirits so we can be spiritually alert.  Satan has offered us a sedative to make us comfortable in this world, and we have taken it.  His real intention is to take our eyes off Jesus.  Jesus never promised us a comfortable life in this world, but the power to overcome.  The only place we can find the power to overcome is at the feet of Jesus, learning of Him and being filled with His Holy Spirit.  Then we can have our minds transformed to the mind of Christ and be free from the influence of intoxicants.
We are warned further in 2 Peter 3, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.”  We may know the dangers ahead of time, but that alone will not save us from the enemy.
A soldier who studies the enemy’s tactics and learns how to conquer them, then settles down to sleep will be captured by the enemy and will put many others in danger.  Knowledge in itself will not get the job done.  It takes putting that knowledge into action. The scripture here tells us to “beware”.  That means to stay alert and be prepared for danger and the wiles of the devil.  
We need to watch.  The meaning of watching is not only to stay awake, but to stay awake because one is so intent upon something.  If we put all our emphasis on the enemy, we won’t have the offense ready.  The positive side is to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory both now and for ever.  Amen.”  2 Peter 3:18
As we are watchful of the enemies’ devices, we are also watchful in readiness.  If we want to be ready, we have to make the effort it takes to continually grow in grace (the Divine touch on our hearts and its outflow from our lives).  If we will observe the example of Jesus, we will discover He made time with the Father a priority.  His whole purpose was to do the Father’s will, so He had to know what it was.  Our relationship with Jesus Christ is our lifeline.  It is everything, because we get our strength, wisdom and guidance from Him.  We need to become one with Him in character, in purpose, in service, in love.  We can only do that as we are consistently influenced by being in His presence.  The things of this world are passing away, and if we want to invest in something eternal, we must stay connected with Jesus Christ.  Just doing and saying the right things won’t work.  We must have the anointing (the touch of God) on our lives to give power and substance to our work.  As John the Baptist observed, we must decrease and Jesus must increase.  Our wants and desires must fade away as we merge into His will and desires.  In this close fellowship and walking it out in our lives, we will be set free from the bondage of the temporary to soar with the eternal.

“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:14-16 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

TO THE DISCONTENT


Contentment – a state of being satisfied or easy in mind

            Are you content?  Part of the time? All the time? Never?  What makes you feel content?  I enjoy quiet, unrushed moments when I’m alone with the Lord.  They give me a sense of contentment.  Finishing a task I had been dreading to tackle can also give me a feeling of satisfaction.  Of course, being with family, a peaceful vacation and many other circumstances can bring contentment.  But when those circumstances are past, the feeling of contentment goes with them.  And what about the days when there are no quiet moments, the work load is overwhelming, the family isn’t around and our circumstances have left us alone and afraid?  We need something that never changes if we want true, lasting contentment.  Situations change. Relationships change.  Our needs change.  The contentment they offer today may be pulled out from under us tomorrow, leaving us discontent.  But we can have an abiding contentment, regardless of our circumstances.
            Paul had a firsthand understanding of the complexities and even brutalities of this world.  But he had a greater understanding of the realm of God’s kingdom.  In Philippians 4:11 he made this statement: “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  Paul had learned from experience to be content regardless of his condition or status.  His comfort level was not the prerequisite for his contentment.  Whether he had plenty to eat or was hungry, he knew God would not let Him down. If everyone else was against him, God was for him.  Paul knew what it was like to have to restrain people from worshipping him, but he also knew what it was like to be tracked down, hated, stoned, persecuted and thrown in prison without a cause.  Yet he said whatever his status, he had learned to be content with it.
To ‘be’ is to exist in the present.  When troubles come, it’s easy to long for the pleasant days of the past or try to block out the present by looking to the future as we ‘wait it out’.  But even in the hard times, the unfair times, we need to be present in our existing circumstances and look for the purpose of God in them.  We can look around us and say, “What is God’s work here?  He has me here for a purpose, so what is it?”  It may be to turn our attention back to God.  It may be an open door for ministry.  When we find it, we need to move with it.  That is where Paul found contentment.  Knowing and doing the will of God.  That is where we will find it, too.
            How could Paul be content when his circumstances contradicted everything we consider essential for contentment?  He gives us the answer in verse 13.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  That scripture is not just a mantra that if repeated over and over will come true.  It is much more than that.  Paul had learned from experience that it is a rock-solid truth he could count on.  Paul accepted the will of God, but not without the strength and ability of God.  We can, too, but we have to choose to set our focus and goals on a higher realm of living.
            Paul had learned that real, lasting contentment is found only in Christ.  Before his encounter with Jesus, he was a Pharisee.  He had enjoyed prestige and the best this life has to offer.  But he learned contentment was not found in the long, repetitious prayers prayed in public, or being called “Rabbi”, or even in having the esteem of the people, his peers and his superiors.  The pride of the position he had earned by a well-disciplined life fell short of bringing contentment.  He found contentment in giving everything for the cause of Christ.  And Christ became everything to him.
            Paul was always fully engaged in his present circumstances. When he stood in chains before Festus and king Agrippa, he seized the opportunity to give testimony of how Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and how his life was changed. When he was shipwrecked on an island, then bitten by a poisonous snake, it was all for the glory of God.  It led to the salvation of those on the island.  When he was arrested in Jerusalem, it was his ticket to Rome where God had called him.  Even during his imprisonment there, he continued to write and share the gospel with everyone who came to see him.  Paul did the work of the kingdom of God wherever he was.  He didn’t need a formal invitation.  His circumstances were his invitation.
            Because of the hardships in his life, Paul stood before kings, worked miracles, shared the gospel with most of the world, and wrote a large portion of the New Testament by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  He was content in the will of God.
            Jesus is the perfect example of finding joy and contentment in doing God’s will.  Even as He struggled in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was set and determined to do God’s will.  He had the power to free Himself with one word.  So, how did He find the resolve to give Himself over to the torturers?  It was for the joy of doing the Father’s will.  It was for the joy of knowing He was buying our redemption. 
Hebrews 12:2 speaks of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He knew what was ahead, and He allowed Himself to be tortured, humiliated, ridiculed and crucified for the joy that was set before Him, and for the joy He brought to those who believe on Him.
I know this is a poor example in comparison to what Jesus has done for us, but it will give us a picture of the principle involved.  I don’t like to clean house.  Scrubbing sinks, bathtubs and toilets and vacuuming, dusting and mopping don’t really bring excitement into my life. I dread it, but I do those things because I know what will happen if I don’t.  It would leave us in unhealthy living conditions, and all the clutter would overwhelm us.  I do it because I know the benefits and the light feeling that comes with a clean house.  The work is worth it.  It leaves me with a sense of contentment.
We were worth it to Jesus because He loves us.  He knew our sins had overwhelmed us and would destroy us, and there was nothing we could do to redeem ourselves.  He saw the end result – our redemption.  He also found joy in pleasing the Father by accomplishing His plan. We can find that same joy and contentment, knowing we are in the will of God.
We are called to lay aside anything and everything that will take us away from accomplishing God’s will.  If we will give up the struggle and give in to walking in God’s will (following His Word), we will find contentment there. If we offer ourselves up as living sacrifices, being transformed by His Word and refusing to be conformed to this world, we will walk out the perfect and acceptable will of God in our lives.  Even our harshest circumstances can prove to be of great value to us and the kingdom of God.
First Timothy 6:6 tells us, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Godliness is holiness and righteousness that is ours only through Jesus’ sacrifice and the abiding Spirit of God in us.  It cannot be earned.  We can have the life of Christ in us and be free from the guilt of sin, all because Jesus walked in the Father’s will and paid for our freedom.  Now we need to set ourselves to walk in the Father’s will and see what He will do through us. 
Jesus said, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21, emphasis mine) We live in the kingdom of God by doing the will of the Father.  We can have the Spirit of God alive in us, changing us to be more and more like Jesus, guiding us, giving us understanding of God’s Word.  That is the epitome of contentment – living the full life of freedom in the kingdom of God, the perfect will of God.  We can be satisfied even in the most difficult of times, because we know the One Who has promised to provide everything we need.  When we learn to trust in the all-powerful hands of God, we can have a mind that is at peace with its lot in life, hands that are ready to seize every opportunity, and an assurance that we have more than enough of whatever we need.  We can go through the hardships with joy because we are accomplishing God’s plan.
What are you leaning on to make you content?  Is it a relationship, a promotion, a bigger house or retirement? If it is the things of this world, I can assure you it is not enough and it won’t last.  It’s amazing, that most things we think will bring us contentment are dreams for the future that will probably never come to pass.  But, we can start being content here and now, in our ‘present’, wherever that may be.  Because only following Jesus will bring contentment that weathers the storms of this life and ushers us into His presence.  Only by His Spirit can we recognize the will of God and walk in it. That is contentment.

Are you content?


Do you want to be?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

TO THE BROKEN


Broken – shattered, cracked, in poor health, crushed in spirit, disappointed to the point of despair
           
None of us born to this sin-stained globe can honestly say we have never been broken.  The fact is that we were all born broken.  We were born with a sinful nature that naturally pulls us toward the enemy of our souls and away from the voice of God calling us to Himself and freedom.  This inborn brokenness will lead us down the path to more and more brokenness unless we allow Jesus to break the power of sin over us.  We cannot set ourselves free or heal our innate brokenness no matter how hard we try.
Recently, I ordered a figurine online.  When it arrived, it was broken.  I couldn’t use it in that condition.  Considering the price I paid, I didn’t want to glue it back together.  I wanted a new one.  So, arrangements were made for a replacement to be shipped to me, and the broken one was packed up and sent back.
We are like that broken figurine.  In our sinfulness, we are always trying to glue ourselves back together so we can be useful, but the glue never holds.  No matter how hard we try to rid ourselves of this inherent sin nature, we can’t conquer it.
Here is the good news. Jesus doesn’t want us to try to glue our broken nature so we can look whole on the outside.  He wants to make us whole from the inside out.  So, He paid the ultimate price for us to actually be born again and have a new nature.  And the miraculous thing is He doesn’t have to ship us off and get a replacement.  He keeps us, yet He makes us brand new.  Don’t try to figure it out.  Just accept His invitation.  “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)
There are other types of brokenness that enter our lives, too.  Aside from our sin nature, there are various elements of this world that can break us.  We can be broken mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally.  Some brokenness cannot be hidden.  But there are many people who look like everything is in place in their lives.  On the outside, they appear to be whole, but on the inside, they are shattered.  Jesus wants to take our brokenness and turn it into something good, something that is useful. The causes of brokenness are varied, but here are a few that may be more familiar than we like to admit.
There is a brokenness that comes from deliberate, unjust actions against us that crush us into the ground and leave us bleeding and fragmented while the perpetrators trample over us as they go their way.
            Joseph is a prime example of injustices.  He went from being the favored child in the comfort of his father’s house to being a slave in Egypt, then from there to prison.  The hardest part was that his brothers were the ones who sold him.  Talk about being unjustly treated and trampled on!  Joseph was the poster child.  But God took the years of brokenness and molded his circumstances into something good for Joseph and the whole world.  He raised him up to great power and prestige, because Joseph didn’t allow his broken circumstances to break his spirit or his faith and trust in God.  He had the favor of God in his life.  He had no idea what the future would hold during those long years in slavery and prison, but he remained faithful through every hardship. He gave his best, regardless of his conditions.
For those who are faithful, even in unjust circumstances, God will bring something good out of the evil committed against us.  Give your all, your best effort, even when the circumstances are undesirable or even demeaning.  God knows what He is doing.  He will reward you.  Joseph’s brothers were jealous of his favor with their father and with God.  They were also jealous of his dreams.  So, they sold him to stop the dreams from being fulfilled.  But you can’t stop God-given dreams.  God will bring them to pass, regardless of what others do to try to kill them.  
            We can also be broken by circumstances beyond our control.  Sometimes one problem after another crowds against us and seems to never let up.  When that happens, we need to draw closer to God and let Him use those circumstances to help us learn what He is trying to teach us.
Job was a man who lost everything, but was restored in the end.  The Bible describes him like this, “that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”  God had blessed Him with material wealth also.  He was “the greatest of all the men of the east.”  He had seven sons and three daughters.  In one day Job lost all his possessions and his children.  Shortly after that, he lost his health.  Even his wife lost her hope and told him to “curse God, and die.”  Although her trust in God had wavered, I have to say this.  She was experiencing all the loss, too, as well as seeing her husband reduced to an ailing man who was sitting on an ash pile scraping his sores.  What devastation.  Then, on top of it all, Job’s friends came for a visit.  They began to accuse him and told him he needed to repent because he had to have done something terrible for God to allow such loss.  He retained his trust in God and defended his integrity. 
Finally, God Himself came on the scene to vindicate Job’s innocence and show Job and his friends just how powerful and all-knowing He really is.  He restored all of Job’s wealth and gave him more sons and daughters.
Hold steady.  Keep your faith firmly planted in God and His word.  Don’t let circumstances uproot what you already know about Jesus.  Instead, let those circumstances open your eyes to know Him better.
Then there is brokenness that we bring to our own door by selfish and indulgent living, making poor choices, then shaking the fist at God because we reap what we sow.  This type of brokenness will lead to one of two roads – repentance or destruction.
The young man we know only as ‘the prodigal son’ is a perfect illustration of rebellion, brokenness and repentance.  This younger son of his father couldn’t wait to be free from the confines of his father’s house, so he took his inheritance and struck out on his own.  He was determined to live life his way.  And he did, for a while.  Scripture says he “took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.”  Soon, he was out of money, out of friends, out of food and out of family.  He found a job slopping pigs.  He had hit the bottom.  All the partying, living it up, and loose morals had caught up with him and left him broken and alone.  While he was in this broken condition, he began to think of his father’s house.  The place he couldn’t get away from fast enough suddenly gave him hope.  He finally got the courage to go back home.  He even had a well-rehearsed speech that he hoped would land him a job as one of his father’s servants.  What he didn’t realize was that his father had been waiting all this time, praying he would return.  He ran to meet his son and restored him to full son-ship.  All it took was making a move in the right direction.
That’s all it takes for us, too.  We have a heavenly Father Who is eagerly waiting for us to come to Him.  Repentance opens the door to restoration in our Father’s house.  So, why wait any longer?
All brokenness does not lead to restoration, because many broken people harden their hearts and turn from God instead of repenting and allowing the Father to renew their position.
King Saul is a sad case of rebellion leading to destruction.  When God chose Saul as the first king of Israel, he was humble and obedient.  But later, rather than obeying God, he became absorbed with his own status and power. 
His arrogance and pride caused him to take matters into his own hands, and he blatantly defied God on two major occasions.  Once he offered a sacrifice that was to be made by the prophet Samuel.  Saul grew impatient waiting on the prophet to get there, so he did it himself.  Another time, he directly disobeyed the Lord by keeping the spoils of battle.  When Samuel told Saul God had rejected him, Saul’s response was not one of repentance.  Instead, he asked Samuel to go with him to offer the sacrifice in front of the people.  He was more concerned with how he appeared before them than he was about having the favor of God. When David came on the scene and was acclaimed as a great warrior above Saul, jealousy and pride gripped his heart.  He heard the people praising David for his great victories, and he purposed to kill him.   Instead of repenting, Saul grew harder and more mentally disturbed, tracking David to destroy him as if that would solve his problems.  Eventually Saul was killed in battle and the Philistines hung his body on the city wall as a trophy.
Don’t be a trophy for the devil.  He has quite a few already.  Instead of being added to his collection, you can repent and be free.
No matter how determined we are to succeed, if we are fighting against what God has decreed, we will not be successful.  We will be broken and destroyed.  All the power on earth cannot stop what God has spoken.
Brokenness has options regardless of its cause.  When we are the victim of unjust actions from others, we can choose to do our best and honor Jesus in our present conditions.  We can keep our focus on Jesus and learn the lessons of brokenness.  If life’s circumstances overwhelm us with grief, fear and worry, we can choose to stand firm on the Word of God and not waver in our faith.  We will be stronger when we emerge from those circumstances.  When we have rebelled against God and find ourselves paying the price, we have the option to surrender it all to Jesus in repentance and allow Him to make us new.  Or we can keep running into the same wall and become Satan’s trophy.
            What has caused you to be broken?  Maybe a relationship, rebellion against God, a disappointment, a lost job, or a spiritual hurt that left you doubting.  Is God not able to touch the hurt and restore health?  Of course, He is.  Is He willing?  Of course, He is.  Are you?

Brokenness can result in something good, but that is up to us.

Allow your brokenness to lead you to Jesus.




Monday, January 23, 2017

GET READY


            How many times have we used the phrase “get ready”?  We get ready for work, ready for church, ready for whatever task awaits us, and hundreds of other things every day.  But how often do we think about getting ready to answer God’s call on our lives?  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  We need to learn to follow the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives.                       2 Peter 1:10 says, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”  Diligent means conscientious, careful, attentive and persistent.  In other words, it takes determined purpose and effort to walk in God’s will.  God has called all of us, but it requires preparation to answer the call. 
            In Matthew 22, Jesus told a parable about a king who had a wedding for his son and invited people to come, but they would not come.  They were busy with their own affairs and rejected the king’s invitation.  So, the king sent his servants out to gather whoever they could find to take the place of the other guests.  However, one of those guests who came was cast out of the festivities because he didn’t have on a wedding garment.  He had been called, but didn’t prepare himself to take part in the wedding feast.  Then Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  How can we, as God’s called out ones, prepare ourselves to be chosen?

PREPARE OUR HEARTS
            First, we have to stay close enough to Him to know what His call is on a daily basis.  He seldom gives us long-range details.  We must be sensitive to what God is saying and what He is doing now.  If our communication with Him is sketchy, we won’t hear Him clearly.  Neither will we have the power and ability to follow His leading. Those who follow Christ know Him personally, hear His voice and follow.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”  And He has called us all to play a part in bringing that prayer to pass.  If we want to have the power and authority of Jesus to do our part, we have to allow Him to change us and empower us.  That comes only through relationship with Him.  But we need to be aware that there is an enemy who is trying to keep us from preparing ourselves.  Satan wants to make us lukewarm, and keep us from hearing Jesus’ directions.  If we do hear, he tries to keep us busy or too comfortable where we are to answer. 
If I’ve ever had a life Scripture, it would be Psalm 57.  I have turned to that chapter numerous times in my life.  But, recently, I was reading it when something came to my attention I hadn’t noticed before.
In verses six and seven it says, “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves.  Selah. My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” 
The word ‘prepared’ in verse six and the word ‘fixed’ used two times in verse seven both come from the same Hebrew word, ‘kuwn.’  Both words mean the same.  ‘Kuwn’ means to make ready, to prepare, set up, be steadfast.  This Psalm was written by David when he fled from king Saul.  He was hiding in a cave at the time.  His enemy was steadfastly plotting against him.  It was no accident that the traps were set for David.  Saul and his army carefully crafted each one for his destruction..  They went through the process of preparation to bring them about. So, what did David do?  He made preparations of his own.  He made his heart secure and steadfast in God.  He listened and obeyed, and not one of the snares of the enemy was a match for God.  That’s what we have to do if we want a vision and passion that is God-inspired.  We have to prepare our hearts before God if we want His holy fire burning in us.  We have to have a hunger and thirst for His Word and His Spirit if we are to be filled.  Remember, although the enemy is making his preparations, we can overcome with a prepared heart.
Examine your heart.  Is it prepared and established in Christ?

CHANGE OUR PRIORITIES
            Changing our hearts will change our priorities.  Jesus taught that this life is not nearly as important as God’s kingdom.  He said, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life,what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.  The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment…But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Luke 12:22-23, 31)  When we make our Father’s business our top priority, He promises to take care of what we need in this life.
            It’s time for the Church of Jesus Christ to rise up above the things that pertain to this life and give our all to obtain eternal life, and then spend our days sharing it with others for the sake of the kingdom.
            We live in a land of plenty where we have been told we can be whoever we want to be and accomplish whatever we want to accomplish.  But Jesus puts it all into perspective.  This life is over too soon and then we step into eternity.
            When Jesus spoke these words in Luke 12, He had just told the story of a wealthy farmer who had such abundance that he was planning to destroy his old barns, build bigger ones and then eat, drink and be merry.  “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”  (Luke 12:20)  He died that night and left all his abundance to someone else.
            When our soul leaves our body, everything we worked so hard for will belong to someone else and we will meet God empty-handed unless we have done everything we could for the kingdom of God.  All that God allows us to have in this life is for the purpose of building His kingdom, not to lavish it on ourselves.
Isaiah 40 records the account of God giving Isaiah a message for His people.  “The voice said, Cry.  And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.  The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”  (verses 6-8)
That message still rings true in our generation.  We get so caught up with accomplishing things in this life that we forget how uncertain it really is.  We have no guarantees on our lives here, but we do have a guarantee of eternity.  This life is spent making the choice of where and how we will spend eternity.
Examine your priorities.  Are you investing in the Word or this world?

TAKE ACTION – WALK IN THE SPIRIT
Once we hear His call, we must act.  We can have the best of intentions, but we need to put action to what God speaks to us.  Don’t just dream about it, do it, even if it scares you.  It requires surrendering our lives, all of it, to Jesus Christ. 
It’s not enough to act out of our own desires or our own intellect, no matter how noble they may seem.  We are to act out of a steadfast heart that simply hears the voice of God and obeys Him.  When we do that, we are walking in the Spirit.
            If Jesus’ disciples had built a steadfast relationship with Him and changed their priorities to leave everything behind to follow Him (which they did), it would have been of no use if they had not acted on His directions.  He told them to go and preach the gospel, not to keep it to themselves.  If they had refused to act on what He said, the gospel would have never been preached and no one would be saved.  Their obedience was essential.  God has a part for you, and it is essential, too.  We are to carry out the same commission Jesus gave to His first disciples.  “Go…and preach.”  Share the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Live as Jesus lived and make disciples.
            How can we be a follower of Jesus Christ if we don’t emulate His example and carry it out?  If I went through recipes and pulled together a delicious, nutritious meal, but only went through the process of making it in my mind, I would not feed anyone, not even myself.  The same applies to the Word of God.  We must prepare by reading and studying His Word, but if it is never worked out in our lives, we will not feed anyone, not even ourselves.
            Examine your actions.  Are they in obedience to Christ?

Get ready so you can make a difference in the world!


Monday, December 19, 2016

THE ENCOUNTER


It’s time to celebrate Christmas again!  Every year, we have a new opportunity to join with Christians around the globe to focus on the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and to reflect on what that encounter means to us personally.
It’s the message of God with us.  God in human flesh. It is more than amazing.  But God became flesh and dwelt among us.  God entered the world as a Man.  And because He did, we can have very personal encounters with Him.
An encounter is when we come upon someone or meet with them, usually unexpectedly.  In this case, mankind was totally caught off guard.  Even the learned religious leaders were blind-sided by this encounter with God.  They were so surprised, that they rejected Him.  John puts is like this.
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.  He came unto his own, and his own received him not.  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:10-14)
During Jesus’ life on this earth many received Him, believed on His name, and knew He was the Messiah. One unlikely candidate was a woman who had a pretty bad reputation.  Her encounter with Jesus came when she made a routine trip to the village well for some water.  She was totally unsuspecting that the Stranger sitting at the well would change her life forever.  She probably expected to be shunned by this Jewish Man, because the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans, and especially not with women of her class.  But this Jewish Man broke tradition and spoke to her.  He actually asked her for a drink of water.  Then their conversation turned to her personal life and to the ways of worship of the Samaritans and Jews.  And before she knew what was happening, He told her He was the Messiah.  Somehow, He had opened her heart, and she knew He spoke the truth.  So, she ran back to the village and told the people she had found the Messiah, and she invited them to come and hear Jesus.  They came, heard Him for themselves, and accepted Him.  One encounter.  One unexpected meeting.  And life was never the same for a whole city.  That’s what happens when we meet the Savior.
Another encounter came in the darkness of night when one of the Pharisees came to Jesus.  Almost all the Pharisees spoke out against Jesus and were looking for a way to get rid of Him.  They didn’t know Who He really was although they had all the Old Testament Scriptures to show them.  They were jealous of His fame, His power, and authority.  As part of that prestigious group, Nicodemus couldn’t come openly to Jesus, but he needed some answers.  He needed to find out for himself Who this Man really was. So, he came by night seeking truth. Nicodemus was different from the other Pharisees who didn’t believe Jesus was from God.  He told Jesus he believed He must be from God or He couldn’t do the works He was doing.  Jesus explained to him the kingdom of God – a spiritual kingdom that cannot be seen until one is born again.  Not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual birth that connects us with Christ.  Because of His encounter with Jesus, Nicodemus’ eyes were opened.  It seems he must have accepted Him as the Messiah, because later, when the Pharisees were planning to arrest Jesus and kill Him, Nicodemus was brave enough to speak in His defense.  Then, after Jesus was crucified, Nicodemus went with Joseph of Arimathaea to prepare Jesus’ body for burial and placed Him in the tomb.  This is what it says about Nicodemus in John 19.  “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night.”  Now he was associating with Jesus in the light.  What a difference an encounter can make when we allow it.
The Bible is filled with accounts of those who encountered Jesus.  Each of the disciples encountered Him and left everything behind to follow Him. Years later, Paul did the same when he encountered Him on the road to Damascus.  Mary encountered Him as a baby in her arms and as a grown Son Who hung on a cross and then returned from the dead.  There are too many to mention, but every life that encountered Jesus was changed.  They would never be the same.  Neither will our lives be the same when we encounter Him.

Some who encountered Jesus rejected Him.  Others were interested for a while, but soon slipped back into their normal lifestyles.  Some not only turned away, but even tried to stop the Light from shining.  But the Light still shines today and will never fade.
We can have encounters with Jesus Christ on many levels throughout our lives.  He calls us to salvation, offers us healing, speaks to us to come up higher in our relationship with Him, or maybe He calls us to a specific work. Then, we have a choice to make.

What encounter have you had with this Messiah?  Have you received Him or rejected Him?

Isn’t it time to allow Him to break through the normalcy and change your life forever? 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"BUY THE FIELD"



            It was a normal day, and I was going through my regular routine when it happened.  I heard the still small voice of God’s Spirit speak to my spirit.  It was only three words.  “Buy the field.”  Those words have been playing through my mind ever since, and I have been searching the Scripture.  I knew those words were meant to take me to another level in my Christian walk, but I knew they were also meant to be shared.
            In Matthew 13:44, Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field.”  This man bought the field and took possession of the treasure.  It was more important to him than all of his possessions.
            How important is the kingdom of heaven to you?  Most of us would say, “More than anything!”  But is it really more than our possessions, our comfort, and having our own way?  When our spiritual eyes are opened to see the kingdom of God, it is at that very moment we have the opportunity to possess this treasure, right now, right here in this world.  The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not it is worth giving up everything of this world to possess it.
            Living in the kingdom of God is not following a set of rules, doing a lot of good works, or coming up with a plan to ‘help God out’.  It is following the King of the kingdom.  It is following Jesus just as tangibly as His twelve disciples followed Him when He walked the earth clothed in human flesh.  How can we do that?  By allowing the Holy Spirit to live inside us, listening to His voice, then doing what He says.  Jesus sent the Spirit to be with us for that very purpose.  It requires surrendering our will to follow wherever He leads.  There is a cost to follow.  We die to self and live unto Christ.  Jesus never tried to hide the fact that there is a cost.
            In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus talked about the cost of following Him and living in His kingdom.  Let’s look at three of these verses.  “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it…Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?...So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (verses 28, 31, 33)  To live fully in God’s kingdom, we must forsake our own little kingdoms and the kingdoms of this world.
What has God opened your eyes to see?  What has He stirred your spirit to do?  Is it something He has spoken to you to give up or someplace He is leading you toward?  When you choose to follow Him in those areas, you are choosing to walk in the kingdom of God.
It may mean we have to give up something dear to us in this world before we can fully walk in His kingdom, because the kingdom of God is the sphere where the will of the King is carried out.  This world’s goods and our own plans often get in the way and need to be abandoned.  We can choose to draw back if we wish, but only full surrender will bring full joy.
Jesus describes the joy the man in the parable had when he found the treasure.  It had been hidden to him, but his eyes were opened and he gladly sold everything to have God’s kingdom.  Everyone does not gladly receive it.  Some hear of the kingdom and decide to go their own way.  Others come so far and then decide the cost is too great, so they turn back. But the kingdom of God is within everyone’s reach.  Whether or not we obtain it is our choice.
When Jesus sent out the seventy disciples two by two, He gave them these directions.  “And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.  But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
Notice Jesus spoke of the possibility of two very different responses.  But one factor remains the same - the kingdom of God is as close as your hand.  It is right there!  Some choose to live in that kingdom while others close their eyes to it and continue to live in darkness.
            Jesus said to count the cost before you buy the field. Living in the kingdom of God requires all we have.  It is not a sideline or add-on to our busy lives.  It is all or nothing.  We are either all in or all out.  We cannot be true disciples of Jesus on a part time basis.  We enter the kingdom as newborn babies, but we must press our way into the interior of this kingdom and not be content to play around the fringes.
            The other passage of Scripture that came to mind is from Proverbs 31:16-17.  It speaks of counting the cost, but it also shows us that finding the treasure is just the beginning.  After that, we start learning how to function in His spiritual kingdom at the same time we are living in this physical kingdom.  That is only possible with God’s Spirit in us.  Once we have the treasure, what will we do with it?  You don’t buy a field and let it lie dormant.  The woman in Proverbs 31 shows us that.
“She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.  She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.”  Notice this woman considers the field before she buys it.  She looks it over to see if it’s worth the price, if it will produce fruit, and she considers if she is willing to put forth the effort to work it.  She decides it is good and pays the price.  Then she works it, cultivating, planting, and watering it.  And it brings forth fruit, not just for her, but for her whole household.
The treasure in the field is worth the price.  So, we are back at this deciding factor: Are we willing to put forth the effort to make the field useful?  Our work is not over when we buy the field.  It has just begun.  The treasures of God’s kingdom are not to be hoarded for ourselves alone.  God is not pleased when we hide it in our hearts and never let it flow out into the lives of others.  We need to be sure to make good use of that which has been entrusted into our hands.
The whole plan of buying the field and living in God’s kingdom includes our salvation, but it also includes working in the field.  On our journey from here to heaven, we are to spend everything we have to sow and reap the harvest.  We have to freely give our time, money and talents to carry out the will of the King.  Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely give.”
He also said the harvest was ready for reaping, but the laborers were few.  He needs those who will give and give and give some more to see that the harvest is brought in, that not one soul is left out.
            If you have bought the field, what are you doing with it?  Does it produce just enough to feed you, or do you share the abundance with others?  There is a world full of people who need someone willing to work in the field and bring them to a knowledge of Jesus Christ. 
Has Jesus been drawing you to a certain work?  Buy the field.  Has He opened a door that seems too big for you to walk through?  Buy the field.  Has He asked you to let go of something that seems to be a good thing?  Buy the field.  Is He asking you to give more than you feel you can give?  Buy the field.  Buy the field and work it with all your heart.
Don’t leave the kingdom of God to walk in the kingdom of men.  Don’t stop following the King of the kingdom when the path gets rough and steep.  Because we are exchanging temporary blessings and rewards for eternal ones.  The price is more than worth it.


“…and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field.”