Monday, November 23, 2020

“LITTLE BOY BLUE, COME BLOW YOUR HORN”

 

            I knew a doctor who recommended to a mother that her baby have a meningitis vaccine. The vaccine was new at the time. When she asked if there were any side effects, the doctor flippantly said, “none that I know of!” as he walked out the door to prepare the vaccine. It was administered, and the next day the baby was critically ill with all the symptoms of meningitis. He was taken to the doctor’s office and sent immediately to the hospital. The truth was that there were known side effects. The doctor was not a negligent man, nor was he arrogant. He was a good doctor and a caring man. He certainly didn’t mean to bring harm to the baby. He was simply careless in answering the question. The baby completely recovered and didn’t have meningitis although he had all the symptoms. According to the mother’s and doctor’s orders, he never received another vaccine. If the doctor had disclosed all the side effects, the mother may or may not have made the same decision. But she would have made the decision with full knowledge, and the doctor would not have been responsible for the outcome.

There is an interesting passage of Scripture in Ezekiel 3. God says to His prophet Ezekiel, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

Again, in Ezekiel 33 we read a passage with the same general idea except it refers to a watchman on a wall who stands guard and blows the trumpet when he sees danger approaching from any direction. He has the same responsibility to warn the people, or their blood will be on his hands.

Although the threat comes from an enemy that shows their intention to steal, kill or destroy, the warning comes from a friend, the watchman. It is given to thwart the plans of the enemy by making known to the people the danger that is impending. Then they can be prepared and make necessary arrangements to secure themselves.

It seems many people mistake the one who warns of impending danger for the enemy instead of recognizing him as their friend. The “watchman” is the one who sounds the alarm so they can prepare and take cover from the real enemy. But once the alarm is sounded, each person makes their own choice whether to prepare or allow the enemy to overrun them. The watchman is not responsible for their decision. He is only responsible for giving them the truth and a forewarning.

We don’t blame the weather man or woman for the tornado that comes or the hurricane that is headed our way. We recognize they are not the enemy. We are glad they care enough about us to warn us in advance so we can make wise decisions and save ourselves and our families. Of course, there are those who don’t take that warning seriously and lose their lives. But everyone has the same warning and the same choice to make. They could heed the warning or go on with their regular routine. Once the warning has been given, it is out of the hands of the “watchman”.

Jesus gave some teachings that people thought were hard, and they took them as a threat against them. He wasn’t threatening. Jesus made it clear He had not come into this world to condemn us. He came to save us, but He was telling us what we have to do to have that salvation personally. He was sounding the alarm, blowing the trumpet, giving the warning message about the day when we will all be brought into account. He suffered at the hands of evil men so we could have a choice. We can hear and heed the warnings in the Scripture, or we can go on with our regular routine. Jesus never forces anyone to follow Him or His teachings. But He loves us too much to let us go into eternal hell without giving us the truth that we have a choice. He tells us so we can prepare ahead of time. He is the only way to heaven.

Jesus is not our enemy. Nor are His true followers who proclaim His teachings. We are sounding the alarm. We don’t speak of the dangers and pitfalls of sin or the fires of hell out of a mean spirit that is just waiting for people to fall over the precipice. We speak the truth because we care about eternal souls. Telling people the truth about sin gives them a chance to prepare their hearts in repentance and change their destination. As Christians, we are the “watchmen” commissioned by Jesus to convey His truth and give everyone the choice of acting on the warning or ignoring it.

Are we sounding the alarm, or are we remiss in making the facts about salvation known? Maybe we are like the doctor. We may not be negligent or arrogant. We may truly care about the souls of the lost, but are we actively sharing the teachings of Jesus with them? Are we intimidated by those who consider us an enemy who is trying to condemn them? Do we love them enough to make sure they know there is a choice? That they can be free? Are our lifestyles showing Christ to them?

            As the people of God who are filled with His Spirit, we are called to uphold the standard and principles taught by Jesus Christ. If we lower those standards, we are endangering our spiritual lives. If we lower those standards and yet proclaim we are followers of Christ, we are endangering the lives of ourselves, other Christians who may follow us and those who are unsaved. It is imperative that we hold forth the Word of Life, not an opinion or what is accepted by our culture. We need to be sure we are following Jesus and His Word and not the watered down version of those who want to miss hell but don’t want to pay the price of following Christ.

Many people do not want to hear the truth. But until we know the truth, we don’t know to repent of sin. Until we repent of sin, we cannot receive the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. Until we know about Jesus, we cannot choose to surrender our will to His and follow Him exclusively. The truth is that He took all our sins on Himself and the wrath of God that was meant for us so we could be free. Our salvation cost a lot.

            As Christians, we are examples to others. If we give the wrong example and withhold the warnings, their blood is on our hands. If we live by the Word of God, follow the teachings of Jesus and are led by His Spirit, we will be examples that will draw others to Christ.

            We have the responsibility of telling this generation about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us. If they receive it, they can be saved from eternal damnation. The choice is theirs, but they need to know the truth before they make their choice. Many choose to reject Him, but let’s make sure they know there is an alternative. Be bold enough to ask Jesus how He wants you to carry out your responsibility. We would be quick to offer a life-line to someone drowning in the ocean, but we seem reticent to offer an eternal life-line to them. Believing in Jesus to the point of forsaking all to follow Him is the wisest and safest and most blessed decision anyone can every make.

 

There is a nursery rhyme that goes something like this:

“Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn.

The sheep’s in the meadow and the cow’s in the corn.

Where is the little boy minding the sheep?

He’s under the haystack fast asleep.

 

            Several years back, I wrote a song using that verse, and then added this verse.

Children of God, lift up your eyes.

The harvest is white. It’s time to arise.

Where are the laborers minding God’s sheep?

They’re under the haystack fast asleep.

 

            It’s time to wake up. It’s time to blow the horn and sound the alarm that Jesus will return one day and we all need to be ready. If we don’t go in the rapture, we will go through the death of this body. We will all live somewhere in eternity. Whether it is hell or heaven is the decision of each individual. Dare to be a watchman, even when you are mistaken for the enemy.

 

“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.

Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

(1 Timothy 4:16)

 

Monday, October 26, 2020

THE TESTIMONY OF DISTRESS

 

 Have you ever been in distress? Maybe you are there now. Most of us have had numerous times of distress in our lives. Distress can be anxiety, physical or mental suffering, a state of danger or just plain being over our heads in trouble.

Psalm 118 gives us this testimony. “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (vs. 5-6,8-9)

Notice the psalmist said he “called on the Lord”. That sounds so calm and confident, but the word ‘called’ means to cry out with a loud voice! It is an outburst of emotion that comes from deep within. And this time it was coming from distress.

I remember one of the times when I was in trouble, turmoil, suffering and anxiety. I could see no way out. I considered it from every angle I could think of, but there was nothing I could do to change the situation. When I called on the Lord, it was loud and went something like this: “Where is God and what is He doing?” I didn’t even direct that question to Him personally. But He heard me, anyway. And He answered me.

I knew He was right there and that He was working on my behalf, but I was in distress! I wanted to see victory right then. And victory did come. But it came in God’s timing and it came God’s way. He knows the right way and the right time.

In times of distress, the comfort and support we receive from others is a tremendous blessing. To know someone is on our side can be quite a comfort. But our real help comes from the Lord.

There is not a single person who can keep us safe or deliver us from every trouble that arises. There are no earthly princes, kings or presidents who can make everything right. Only God can do that. We need to learn to put our trust and confidence in Him alone. And we learn to trust God by going through those times of distress, calling on Him, and watching as He brings us through.

Just recently, God gave me a lesson that began with small requests. The picture I had planned to use for my upcoming book was lost in the shuffle and I needed to get another one at the same church where that one had been taken. The pastor was gracious to let us come and make the picture. I still felt some apprehension about getting it just right, so I prayed that God would let everything go smoothly. It couldn’t have been any easier. The next day, I was to go in the downtown area of a nearby city to cast my vote. My mother was with me. I wasn’t sure where the building was, but I knew the traffic could cause a problem with me finding the right building and a place to park. I had seen pictures of the chaos someone had posted. I prayed that God would help us find it without a problem. As I was driving toward the area, we saw the number on a building beside us. We were almost right at the address we needed. Immediately a car started to back out of a parking space. I waited for them to come out and pulled into the space. Another prayer answered. Later, as I was shopping, I asked for favor in buying dolls for my Samaritan’s Purse shoe boxes. I found the dolls for the exact price I had asked.

Now, let me explain something here. God doesn’t always open up parking spaces and let me find dolls immediately after I pray. Sometimes I have to walk in the rain or pay more than I expected for the merchandise I need. However, He was building my faith to believe for a much bigger mountain. When we returned home, one of my sisters called to let me know of an “impossible” situation, an emergency, involving a close family member. We all went to prayer. And over the next day or two we saw God work miraculously. He not only provided safety, but He provided safety with an upgrade. God goes above and beyond because He can!

I praise God for preparing me for what was coming. I was confident that if He cared about pictures, parking spaces and dolls, He certainly cared more about the crisis our loved one was facing.

God doesn’t work in our way or in our timing. His is always superior to ours. I will quote a friend of ours who says, “God has ways we don’t know anything about.” And she is right! I have shared her words many times, but we need to be reminded of them constantly. Because sometimes, if we can’t figure it out, we give up and come to the conclusion that God can’t do it.

We should never discount the fact that God does the impossible. We read of how He opened the Red Sea, brought down the walls of Jericho, and miraculously saved king Hezekiah and his people from a hostile army. We may not understand why He hasn’t intervened the way we thought He would. But we can be assured that He is in control and He will come through for us at just the right time…His time.

            The very first words in Psalm 118 are these: “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness endures forever.” I guess the psalmist wanted to make sure to praise God first because he was about to give a personal testimony of just how God had delivered him from his distress.

Psalm 57 gives God glory on a similar line. It says, “I will praise and give thanks to You, O Lord, among the people; I will sing praises to You among the nations. David had certainly praised God for His mighty works on his behalf, but he wanted to let everyone else know, too. He purposed that he would praise God among the people, even the nations. And as king, I’m sure he had that opportunity. He gave God glory.

Psalm 57 has been one of my life scriptures. I go back to it often. It reminds me to give testimony of all the goodness of God in my life. And, although I praise Him privately, I want to praise Him publicly, too, “among the people”.

Let’s share our testimonies of the greatness of God to us. People need to see what God is doing right now in the lives of His people. We can let them know that God is still active and still working miracles today. Testimonies are not just from thousands of years ago or hundreds of years ago. They are still in progress. Because the work of God is still in progress!

The testimonies of people who really know God and have seen His miracles and deliverance in their lives can be powerful. Be assured, God is still in the business of bringing His people out of distress and setting them in a “large place”. He didn’t stop caring for us once the first members of the early Church passed away. He is at work in us now if we will trust Him. If we will call upon Him. I have heard many people give their testimony of how God has worked in their lives recently. He has worked in my life, too!

A testimony is a statement made to establish a fact. When we let other people know what God has done, we are stating facts of true life happenings that glorify God.

            I recently heard the testimony of one who heard the voice of God about a certain dream they had to reach children. In God’s time and in His way, He brought it to pass. I know of two testimonies where God has walked with people through cancer and both received good reports, regardless of the odds against them.

            What is your testimony? What has God done for you? Don’t keep it to yourself. Make your statement to establish the facts of His glorious working on your behalf. Let His glory be seen in your life, and give testimony “among the people”! When you let people see God at work in you now, you are introducing them to the God Who was, Who is, and Who is to come. When we fail to show Him to others, they consider Him to be archaic and no longer active. That is far from the truth! Let your distress be used to prove the goodness, majesty and love of God.

            The worst distress any human can have is distress of soul because they are held captive in the bondage of sin. The greatest need of the human soul is to find freedom that will disentangle them from the snare of Satan. Satan’s path leads to destruction. Only Jesus can set us free from that distress. And the good news is that He is not only able, but is willing to do just that. Jesus will break the snare of bondage and set us in a “large place”, our own place in His kingdom where there is true freedom forever. Repent of your sins, surrender your will to His will and follow Jesus. There is freedom in surrendering to Him. I can give testimony to that!

Friday, September 25, 2020

MOVING AHEAD WITHOUT FEAR

 

           When things change quickly and drastically in our lives, it is common for fear to rise up inside of us. That especially holds true when it is a nationwide or worldwide phenomenon that brings it on. Fear can cause us to withdraw into survival mode if we are not careful. 

According to Wikipedia, “Fear is an emotion induced by perceived danger or threat, which causes physiological changes and ultimately behavioral changes, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events.” Some of the fears we have may be imagined. They may come from worrying about what might happen. But many of them come from a very real perception of a very real threat that is not only possible, but is staring us in the face. We can be faced with some terrible circumstances at times. Will we take the option of “fleeing, hiding or freezing” in our circumstances?

Our best option is to withdraw into the presence of Jesus so we can find out what He wants us to do, how to handle the threats and bring good out of evil. Times of trials and turmoil can be used to drive us out of complacency and a form of religion. They can be used to invite us into the fresh flow of God’s Spirit if we will refuse to get caught up in fear and unbelief. As humans, we need something stronger than we are to help us continue in the faith. Only the Spirit of God can do that.

In reading accounts of the great revivals of past years, the fuel for the flame of the Spirit of God was the deep, selfless desire of the people to know Him, hear from Him, and stay on their faces before Him until He poured out His Spirit on them. In so doing, ‘self’ was consumed by the Spirit of God and He was able to do His work and carry out His will, not bound by men’s standards, time restrictions and schedules.

How we do ministry as churches or even as a ministry like ours has been pressed to change. That in itself can be frightening because the known seems so much more secure than the unknown. However, security only comes when we seek and find the will of God for our times. Ministry does not have to end. It can be made better by our dependence on the Spirit of God rather than our own ideas and strategies. These times can prove to be a catalyst to get us back on track doing what God intends His people to accomplish in the way He wants it done.

Over the course of time, churches and ministries can become settled in a rut and less apt to depend on God to reach people that are beyond their pre-set borders. We can get so wrapped up in the organization of ministry that we leave out God and the very people the ministry should embrace. And until we are forced to break our self-imposed boundaries, we don’t. We have a “good thing” going, and we don’t want to rock the boat.

Think about your church, your ministry or your personal walk with Jesus. Is there insight in the teaching and preaching of the Word of God? Probably so. Is there a thrust to talk to people about their salvation? Even that may be securely intact. Is there good music? Possibly so. But is there a deep longing and searching for more and more of the Spirit of God personally in the lives of the believers? Is there a conviction in those who come among us – both saved and unsaved? Are they challenged to surrender all to Jesus? Are lives being changed radically to follow Jesus without restrictions? We need to be cautious that we don’t carry on the ministry Jesus entrusted into our hands on auto-pilot.

Every once in a while God allows circumstances to jolt us out of complacency to a greater and deeper relationship with Him. That in itself will deepen our ministries. It is up to us to see our circumstances the way God wants us to see them and to respond the way He leads us. To be open to the changes He speaks to us to make and to broaden our interest in His Word and lessen our interest in the world.

If a teacher told his students that he wanted them to write a paper on a certain subject, what would happen if the students stopped listening before they heard what the subject was? They may write prize-winning papers with great passion and flair. But if it didn’t fit the criteria given by the teacher, they would fail. I have found it to be difficult on occasions to be still and quiet enough to hear the whole message God wants to give me. If I run off with the “good idea” He planted in my head and take it in a wrong direction, I have failed Him.

Our hearts need to be surrendered completely to Jesus and His directions. There is a lot we can learn from the experiences of Paul and Silas. They planned to go to the province of Asia but the Holy Spirit forbade them to go. They tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. They went to Troas. “[There] a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man from Macedonia stood pleading with him and saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us! And when he had seen the vision, we [including Luke] at once endeavored to go on into Macedonia, confidently inferring that God had called us to proclaim the glad tidings (Gospel) to them. (Acts 16:9-10)  Certainly it was good to carry the gospel to those other places, but God knows the best time and the best person to do each work. That is why we need to be close enough to Him to hear His direction for us.

In planning ministry events and even articles and teaching programs, I am slowly learning that when something doesn’t seem right or it doesn’t work out the way I had planned, it could just possibly be God changing those plans. When I ask of Him, He redirects me in the right track. I am grateful for His corrections. Paul and Silas were careful to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We should be, too. (Note: There are also times when the devil tries to distract us from doing certain things. We need to know the voice of God.)

Every believer is called to win the world, at least the part of the world in which they have influence. We all do that in different ways, but the call to make disciples is the same across the board. We cannot afford to allow fear to keep us from following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t want to be caught in the grip of fear and immobility, we need to seek God fervently and put aside our own agenda and plans.

Let’s not retreat in fear and cease to carry on the work that Jesus commands every believer to do. Instead let’s go deeper into the presence of God and not miss the calling He has for us today, tomorrow or any other day. Some directions may seem insignificant, but the Spirit of God in us makes everything significant. We can go out without fear when we know we are following Jesus’ leadership.

When the angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife, he started that conversation with, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not”.  When the angel told Mary she would be the mother of the Messiah, he said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.” The Lord spoke these words to Joshua after Moses died, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  There are numerous other verses telling us not to fear but to go out in the power of the Lord God. He knows our name and tells us to “fear not” when we listen to His voice and are following Him.

In Psalm 56, the psalmist says, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Believe me when I tell you that fear will offer itself to your mind, your emotions and your spirit. But you can turn fear away by trusting in the faithfulness of God.

When we are faced with fearful times, God will be faithful to us as we are faithful to Him. Just as He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, and even with Stephen as he was stoned; He will be with us in our times of trial.

Here are a couple more scripture verses that speak to any fear that may come to us.

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NKJV)

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

 

Listen for the voice of God to you and move ahead without fear.

 

 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

WINNING THE BATTLE

 


When I entered the word 'stress' into a search engine online, it immediately found 1,050,000,000 items. The stress level of nearly every individual is over the top. Even children feel it from peer pressure, dysfunctional families, normal childish fears and parental expectations. Adults try to juggle all their daily responsibilities while under a dark cloud of uncertainly. Our world is increasingly dangerous and threatening. We all face overwhelming difficulties that have a new face, but are very old problems. With earthquakes, devastating storms, economic nightmares, pestilence and social unrest, most people live with a certain amount of stress. We all need to be reminded of a Source of strength we too often neglect in the rush of living and the threat of destruction. We can be infused with that strength from Jesus Christ when we get to know Him intimately.

I strongly believe we are living in the “perilous times” we were warned about in 2 Timothy 3:1. The Amplified Bible translates it like this: “But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear].” 

The conditions we face in our world today were unthinkable just a few months ago. So many of the things we took for granted disappeared before our eyes, and here we are in a very different world. As we navigate our way through this new world of confusion, uncertainty and danger, we need to realize the spiritual side of what is happening.

This earth is a battleground between good and evil. Oh, yes, there are mortal players in the battles, but they are not the real sources of good or evil. If you want to win, you need to understand that. If you fight on a physical level, you will wear yourself out and lose. If you want to be successful in battle, you also have to understand the enemy. The enemy of God and His children is Satan. And the enemy of Satan is God. So the battles we see with our eyes, the people acting out their allegiance to God or Satan, are just the tip of the iceberg. The real deciding factors are in the spiritual realm.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.(Ephesians 6:11 AMPLIFIED) 

These ‘world forces’ are evil spirits (demons) with varying degrees of power and varying territories. Because we are no match for them in the flesh, we need the power of the Holy Spirit in us to combat them. We need the armor of God and we need to know how to use it. Christians desperately need to be trained for combat, endurance, and knowing our Commander’s voice and following Him without regard to personal cost because we trust Him. If we are not prepared, we will fail in the heat of battle. 

If I was placed in physical hand-to-hand combat today, I would have no idea what to do. I would not know how to put on the gear for protection. I would not know enemy fire from friendly fire. I would not know the territory or even how to use the weapons. It would be suicide to go out to battle unprepared. Whether we like it or not, we are part of a battle. Yet, many Christians, for whatever reasons, are unprepared for the spiritual battle that is getting more intense than ever. They have read about the armor of God, but have no idea how to put it on. They have not learned to tell the voice of God from the voice of the enemy. They do not understand the spiritual realm or how to use God’s Word. They need to be taught before they find themselves in hand-to-hand combat. The brutality of combat can bring us down physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually if we are not prepared.

Let’s wake up and learn how to counter attack and win spiritual battles. Some battles we find ourselves facing may be on a personal level, some for a church or a city, a state or even our nation. We can make a difference. We may think our prayers cannot make a difference in a nation. We may think that is too big of a thing to take on. But it is not too big for God and that is Who we are trusting to answer our prayers. We can pray and get results when we pray in the Spirit. Here is how we can win battles.

“Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil… Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].” (Ephesians 6:11, 13 AMPLIFIED, emphasis mine)

            You may say, “I have heard that Scripture all of my life”. But have you put it into action? We are in a day when we can be defeated by the enemy because we are not consistently wearing our armor. Or because we are so fearful that we are hiding. Or because we are ignorant of the enemy’s strategies. We don’t have to lose this war! Jesus wins and we can be on His side.

            When persecution began for the new Christians, they banded together and prayed to God. What did they pray for? They understood what they really needed, so this is how they prayed.

 “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.(Acts 4:29-31 NKJV) Did they protest and strike out against those who were treating them unfairly? Did they set up a plan to bring down the powers that be? Did they run and hide? No! They prayed for boldness to keep doing what Jesus had told them to do. They prayed for power, signs and wonders so they could be a light to a dark world…just like Jesus.

It is important for us to understand how to put on the armor that God supplies and how to use it. We are called to stand our ground in Christ, on His foundation, and deflect the arrows that the enemy shoots at us, regardless of the level of our battle. So, let’s look at Ephesians 6:14-19 from the Amplified Bible.

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth…” Notice our call is not to start a fight with these evil forces and invade their territory. We are called to stand. Jesus simply stood strong in the truth and proclaimed it whether or not it made the people or the devil mad. Usually, it did make them very mad. Jesus said, “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Jesus IS Truth, so everything that comes from Him is true. His words have no deceit in them. His actions are without hypocrisy. All because they come from Truth. If we are going to have Truth as the belt that holds all the pieces of armor together, we have to know Jesus personally and be fully surrendered to His Spirit Who lives inside every true believer. He is the Spirit of Truth and will reveal things to us. He will show us on a spiritual level the truth of our circumstances, even when it seems that confusion and deception are reigning there. Sometimes it may even seem the enemy makes a valid point, but if we know the truth (what God has said), we will see the lies and deceit behind it. Don’t try to make a bargain with the enemy. Psalm 51:6 tells us what God wants and what He will do when we seek Him. “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6 AMPLIFIED)  

 “put on the breastplate of righteousness.” If we are living in a way that is not pleasing to God, we have no ground to stand on. If we are not on His foundation, we are in the devil’s territory. You cannot be righteous and ungodly at the same time. If you are ungodly, you are not like God in character, thoughts, actions or anything else. Those who are righteous are walking in obedience to the Word of God and the Spirit of God. They have His light and are displaying the light of Jesus. Knowing Who Jesus is and what He said is not enough. The devils believe and even tremble. But they are still evil and not like God in any way. We need to allow the Spirit of God to alter our lives to walk in context with Jesus’ teachings. A righteous person is in right standing with God by the blood of Jesus and their faith and trust in Him. “Blessed (happy, prosperous, to be admired) are those who wash their robes [in the blood of Christ by believing and trusting in Him—the righteous who do His commandments], so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.(Revelation 22:14 Amplified)

“and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” Jesus told us to go and preach the gospel to others. To share the gospel message that we have. Are we doing it? Souls are dying without Christ. What are we doing about it? “The fruit of the [consistently] righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise captures and wins souls [for God—he gathers them for eternity].(Proverbs 11:30 Amplified)

 “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” This piece of armor is of great importance. Without trusting in Jesus, we cannot make it through the war. If we are just naming His name because we don’t want to go to hell, but are not truly trusting in Him for our very lives, we will fail in the battle. If we don’t trust Him, we will not follow His commands, seek to be like Him, tell others about Him or stand firm in the battle. Satan throws darts fast and forcefully. He sends sudden temptations our way that we were not expecting. If we are not fully trusting in Jesus, we will not be able to act quickly enough to deflect the darts. We need to learn to trust Him and follow His commands even when we don’t understand. It is imperative that we can differentiate between the voice of our Commander and the voice of the enemy. For every lie the devil tells, for every wound he inflicts, every threat he makes, faith in Jesus Christ will extinguish and overcome them all.

 “And take the helmet of salvation…” a helmet covers the head. It covers the mind with which we can reason and make decisions. The Apostle Paul said, “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Satan would also like to turn us (believers) away from our salvation which is our deliverance from sin and the penalties of sin. If we turn aside from salvation, we no longer have the rights of being children of God. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But I am afraid that, even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted and led away from the simplicity of [your sincere and] pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3 AMPLIFIED) And in Romans 15:5-6 he writes, “Now may the God who gives endurance and who supplies encouragement grant that you be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify and praise and honor the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If we want to all be of the same mind, we need to all have the mind of Christ. Guard what you think. Don’t let just anything take lodging in your mind. Keep your helmet on securely. Protect it carefully. Make sure your mind is set apart for Jesus and not open for enemy fire.

“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” The Word of God is a must for every believer. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV) As we read the Word of God, we will be enlightened to anything that is amiss in our hearts. We can clearly see where there is a problem within that is causing problems without. And we have the answer on how to change the problem within right there in the Word. Psalm 119:11 gives us further instructions on how to keep sin out of our hearts. “Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” (AMPLIFIED) Jesus is the Word, the expression of God. If we want to be able to stand in the battle, we must know what Jesus taught and follow it. The devil gets an advantage when he can feed us an untruth and we don’t know the difference between truth and error. Saturate your heart and mind with the Word of God. Lay aside whatever you have to, but know what God says, then you will recognize a lie when you hear it. You cannot be successful if you can be trapped by a lie. Deception has led many into the trap of the enemy. The Word of God is powerful enough to bring us out, but it is better to know the Word and not be trapped at all.

“praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Prayer is a powerful tool. It is our connection with the Almighty God Himself. As children of God we can go boldly to His throne to make our petitions. If we want to receive answers to our prayers, we need to make sure we are living steadfastly in Jesus. Jesus said, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.(John 15:7 AMPLIFIED) We can also pray in the Spirit. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.(Romans 8:26 NKJV)  Allow the Holy Spirit to pray on your behalf. He will pray in accordance to God’s will and you will see results.

Our armor works best when we wear all of it. God has provided it for us and tells us how to use it in the battle between good and evil. If we don’t put on this armor, we will find ourselves defeated by the enemy.

PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD!

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

BELIEVE HIS PROMISES



            As children of God, it is very important that we keep the commandments Jesus gave us. But it is also important for us to know the promises He has given us so we can claim them for ourselves. If we learn His promises and set out to claim them as our own, we will be drawn closer to Him. 2 Peter 1:2-4 tells us the promises of God are given so that we “may be partakers of the divine nature”. His promises are not hidden from us. They are all in plain view, written down in the Bible. God not only tells us what He will do for us, but He tells us what we need to do to make them effective in us personally. That is where the growth comes in. I wonder just how many of these “great and precious promises” are actually active in our lives? There must be hundreds of promises, so we can’t look at all of them, but I would like for us to examine a few.

Isaiah 26:3 - “You [God] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
Perfect peace brings confidence, calmness and steadfastness even in the storms. It comes from being at one with God as His desires become our desires. What pleases Him pleases us. What grieves Him grieves us.
Who can have this perfect peace? Those whose minds are stayed or focused on the Lord. When we are driving, we are aware of what is around us and behind us, but our focus in on what is in front of us. If we turn our main focus to either side or behind us, we will go off course and probably wreck, causing damage to ourselves and others.
The same thing happens spiritually when we take our eyes off Jesus. We get off course and cause damage to ourselves and others. That’s why Scripture tells us to look to “Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.”
We do need to be aware of what is happening to our left, right and behind us, but we need to be more focused on Jesus. If we constantly look at all the chaos around us, we will go off course. We need to be aware of what it happening in the spiritual realm. We can only do that when our eyes are on Jesus and we are listening to what He is saying.
Psalm 91 is another scripture that offers us rest. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].Who can find security and rest in God? Those whose minds are focused on Him, who dwell in His secret place, and stay close to Him. There is rest and peace for the people of God, but we have to activate it by staying in His presence.
STAY FOCUSED ON GOD.

Isaiah 40:30-31 - “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
How can we activate this promise? By waiting on the Lord. That means to watch for Him, not wondering if He will show up, but being certain He will. We are just waiting for His timing, which is always perfect. Waiting means to expect with full confidence. When we watch and wait for Him, He does several things for us.
First, He will renew our strength. When your driver’s license expires and is no longer valid, do you just throw it away and quit driving? Of course not! You go to the DMV to get it renewed. They can put it back in full force and you can be on your way again.
When our spiritual strength expires, God will renew it and will put it back in full force if we wait on Him. He gives us a second wind that pushes us forward.
He also tells us we can “mount up on wings like eagles”. Eagles don’t flap. They catch the wind current and they soar. We don’t have to flap, either. We can catch the current of the Holy Spirit and soar by His power and strength. The wind of the Spirit will take us in the right direction and will take us higher than we have ever been before.
We can also run without growing weary and walk without fainting from fatigue. It is clear that we will have to walk and run sometimes. We will climb mountains and walk through valleys. But we won’t be weary and we won’t faint. In crisis times, we can depend on Jesus to increase our hope, our strength, our wisdom and whatever else we need to keep us moving ahead. Because God meets us right where we are. Especially when He knows we have gone as far as our own strength can take us.
WAIT ON THE LORD.

            Proverbs 3:5-6 - “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
            Trusting someone means we rely on their character, integrity, strength and ability. We believe in them and have confidence in their counsel. When we have a problem to unravel or a decision to make, Jesus should be our first thought. He is the only One Who knows our past, present and future.
            If you needed to ask for directions to a certain place, would you want to ask someone who knew nothing about the territory, or someone who was familiar with every square inch of that territory? Of course we would want someone who knew what they were talking about. Otherwise, we would probably be led astray. If we rely on Jesus we can be sure He will lead us in the right path.
            If we lean on (trust in) our own understanding and try to make decisions based on our own limited knowledge, we will continually get off the right path. The more wrong turns we make, the harder it is to find the right way again.
We have no comprehension of what lies ahead, so when we try to make a choice in our own wisdom, it’s like rolling dice or flipping a coin to see what we should do. We will not know until we see the outcome of a situation whether that choice was right or wrong. If we acknowledge God’s character, integrity, strength, wisdom and power, we will put our trust in Him and follow His leading even when it does not seem to make sense to our understanding.
            If we trust Him, stop leaning on our understanding, and acknowledge that we can rely on Him completely, He will lead us in the right path.
TRUST IN AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE LORD IN ALL THINGS.
           
1 John 5:14-15 - “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
This promise is directly linked to the others. But all promises are directly linked to our relationship with God. Having our petitions heard and answered by God comes when we know Him, trust Him and our desires are at one with Him. Then we see the promise brought to pass.
PRAY ACCORDING TO HIS WILL.

The promises of God are to move us forward in our walk with Him. These are just a few of God’s promises. I encourage you to search them all out and claim them for yourself. Your life will be enriched as your relationship with God is deepened.
If you are a child of God and are not seeing the promises fulfilled for you, look for the obstacle that is blocking the promise from coming to fruition. Make sure you are doing your part and that you understand the nature of the promise correctly. God never breaks a promise. He says that He will not withhold any good thing to His children, and all His promises are good. However, He will withhold things that we ask for when He knows they would harm us in some way. He covers us from evil, and sometimes we take it as unkindness toward us. But God is kind and He loves you with an everlasting love.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.Psalm 84:11


Thursday, June 25, 2020

THE TEST OF OUR FAITH



            One day Jesus and His disciples saw a man who had been born blind. Jesus spit in the dirt, made a little mud, put it on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. It probably made no sense to the man, but he went and did as Jesus had told him to do, and he came back with his sight restored. It was as simple as that. He obeyed what Jesus told him to do and experienced healing results. Would we have had faith to do as Jesus told us, or would we have stopped him when we felt the mud going on our eyes? Faith obeys even when it doesn’t understand. A. W. Tozer said, “We are so made that we trust good character and distrust its opposite, and that is why unbelief is so intensely wicked!” If we know Jesus well enough to have learned His character, we will trust Him. Hebrews 11:1-2 in the Amplified Bible tells us that faith, “[comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. For by this [kind of] faith the men of old gained [divine] approval.”
            We may dream of God asking us to do some great thing, but until we have faith enough to do what He asks of us in His Word, we will never be much use in His kingdom. When we read His words in the Scripture, do we have enough faith and trust in Him to actually do what He says? Or are we afraid of what will happen or what people will think of us if we do? Do we have enough faith to live in God’s kingdom principles now? His principles include His promises and His commandments. How established is our faith? What kind of faith do we really possess?
            We can find the answer to those questions by simply examining our daily lives, actions, motives, priorities and words in light of what Jesus taught. If we use other people for comparison, we will get skewed results. We must go by Jesus’ teachings. It can be a sobering process and we have to go one step at a time so we won’t be so overwhelmed that we quit.
            Looking into the Word of God we find many things He tells us to do or not to do. They are all for our good. Let’s look at a few of His teachings and begin to see how we measure up. If we see we are not doing very well, at least we have a place to start, and we can take one precept at a time, asking God to help us follow Him in that area.
            Let’s start with Matthew 5:38-44. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
            At first glance, this may sound like a dangerous commandment to follow. Is it safe to follow this commandment when it seems everyone will take advantage of us and we will be the laughingstock of everyone around us? But the real questions we need to ask are, “Did Jesus say it? Did Jesus mean what He said? Do we trust Him? I’ll let you answer those questions for yourself.
            As you can see, it takes faith to follow the teachings of Jesus. This passage in Romans 12:17-21 may help us understand this teaching of Jesus’ a little more clearly. “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
            Our faith in Jesus will lead us to follow Him with confidence that He will take care of the situation. If we retaliate with evil against our enemies, we have ceased to follow Jesus in that situation and have begun to follow the lead of the person who hurt us. Not only have we not brought peace to the situation but have lost our peace with God. Is our faith a little shaky in following Jesus in this principle? Or do we have confidence that He will take up our cause and we don’t have to resort to ungodly measures? It has been ingrained in us by our culture to stand up for our rights and if someone gets in our way to do whatever it takes to get revenge against them. But that is not Jesus’ way. Here is another question. Did Jesus live by this commandment? Of course, He did. First Peter 2:21-23 tells us, For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
            We are called to follow the example of Jesus with full assurance that He will be with us and He will be the one to repay those who do us wrong. We do not have to defend ourselves. He is our defense and shield. Just as Jesus committed His cause to the Father, we can safely commit our cause into His hands.
In Matthew 6:31-32, Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
            These are the words of Jesus. He never spoke idle words - words that had no meaning or were powerless. If we should worry and try to cover all our bases of the “just in case” scenarios of life, He would have told us so instead of telling us not to worry about tomorrow. The Amplified Bible translates the word “worry” as being “anxious, perpetually uneasy, distracted”. Yes, we are to be informed, prudent and work to make a living, but that is not to be our primary concern. Our top priority should be the kingdom of God. Do we trust Him to lead us today in a way that will have us prepared for tomorrow? Jesus said He would take care of it all. We can rest in Him. Our hopes, our dreams and our decisions should be based on the kingdom of God, not on the economy or priorities of this world. Most of us are probably already seeing the work that needs to be done in us to follow Jesus in this teaching. I know I am. But meditating on the Word of God is more important than worrying about the future over which we have no control. God is in complete control, and if we will listen to His voice, He will guide us in the right direction and provide for us. We don’t have to figure it out on our own. We can ask, and He will lead us. Philippians 4:6 gives us a remedy for worry. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
            In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus spoke an astounding truth. It is akin to the first teaching we studied. He said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Jesus forgave those who crucified Him. He didn’t bring a curse on them, when He had every right and the capability to do so. He wasn’t of this world, and neither are His children. He set us free by forgiving us, and we need to set others free from their prisons, too. If we want His forgiveness, we need to extend it to others. He even goes so far as to say, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)  Wait! Shouldn’t the offender come to us? Not according to Jesus. He wants things cleared up before He will receive our “gift at the altar”. If the offending party hasn’t done it, it’s up to us.
The last teaching of Jesus we will look at is in Matthew 5:13-15. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
            Let’s be certain that we show forth the glory of God through our lives regardless of where we are and who we are with. Jesus tells us to make sure we don’t allow the glory of God placed in us by His Holy Spirit to fade. We are to bring light to every situation, not mesh into the darkness until our light is absorbed by it. We are to be salt to everyone around us, making them thirsty for the Spirit of God and showing them the way of Truth. It is often hard to live the principles of Jesus when others scoff at us and try to entice us. But, if they see us walking in the ways of Jesus, they will come to us when they realize their ways are not enough. We are to be examples of Jesus’ teachings, His love and His forgiveness. We are not responsible for the choices of other people, but we are responsible to glorify God so that they can know what He is like.

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.
And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3