Saturday, October 27, 2012


            Once I had a pen that I enjoyed writing with.  It served me well for a long time, but eventually needed a refill.  I had a choice to make – keep it as a token, throw it away or refill it so I could continue using it.  I chose to get a refill.  When I did, the power to “make its mark” returned. 
Sometimes we forget we – the Church – are to be the hands, feet and voice of God in the earth.  We have to be full of His Spirit to accomplish that.  We are not here to serve our own purposes.  Our nation is in trouble because God’s people need a refill.  We can change that if we choose to.  It begins with one individual, then another and another, until the Church rises up to be the Church.
            God’s people are the key.  We can see that clearly in 2 Chronicles 7:14.  But we must heed the whole message.  “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  Usually, we focus only on the part that says to pray, so we offer up a few prayers corporately or individually and that’s the end of it.  God clearly requires more.
            In Isaiah1:10-20 God likens His people to Sodom and Gomorrah.  He says, “Hear [O Jerusalem] the word of the Lord, you rulers or judges of [another] Sodom! Give ear to the law and the teaching of our God, you people of [another] Gomorrah!”
            Why did He liken them to Sodom and Gomorrah?  They had become disconnected from offering their sacrifices.  The procedures were correct, but the worship, repentance and obedience to His commandments were all missing.  He said their incense (praise) and assemblies were an abomination.  “They are an oppressive burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.” 
            Then He said something we don’t like to think about.  “And when you spread forth your hands [in prayer, imploring help], I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood!”  Their hearts were not right, and nothing they did had any meaning – not even their prayers - until they turned back with their whole heart.  There is more required of us than saying a few words to God.  First, we must turn back to Him.
            We remember Sodom and Gomorrah for the wickedness and perversion that lead to their destruction, but it didn’t start there.  We find the progression of sin in Ezekiel 16:46-50.  Once again, God likens His people to Sodom.  “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.  And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.”  This scripture can shed some light on where we are today.
1.  It begins with pride, an overly high opinion of oneself.  Pride is the sin that caused Satan to be cast out of Heaven.  When pride enters, we become the center of our world.  Instead of Jesus being the center and everything else revolving around Him, we take that place and view everything by how it will affect us.  Our focus is turned away from Jesus, away from others, and is turned on “me”.  Life becomes all about “me” and we cultivate an independent spirit. 
Proverbs 16:18 warns us of the consequences of pride.  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”    It is the forerunner of destruction, the first step on the way down. 
There is a way to turn back from pride.  Romans 12:3 says, “I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.”  We need to keep in mind that we are nothing without Jesus Christ, and have nothing of eternal value to give or gain without Him.  While pride is a spirit of independence, humility is complete submission and dependence on God.  If we will humble ourselves, pride cannot lead us to the next step on the way to destruction.
2.  Fullness of bread may sound more like a blessing rather than something evil, but it can be deadly.  Fullness of bread is enough food to satisfy completely.  If we can be satisfied completely by material things, we are in trouble.  Satisfaction with an abundance of food or any other material possession, is stoking the fire of pride.  It causes us to become dependent on them instead of on God.
Proverbs 30:8-9 helps us see the problem caused by “things”.  “Remove far from me falsehood and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, Lest I be full and deny You and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor and steal, and so profane the name of my God.”  Fullness of bread meshes seamlessly with the next step.
3.  Abundance of idleness is having a false sense of security that causes one to be at ease.  The truth is we have no security outside the boundaries God has set.  Abundance of idleness is characterized by apathy and a lack of interest in spiritual things.  When we are satisfied with material wealth, we forget God and others.  Jesus told a parable that illustrates this principle.
“The land of a rich man was fertile and yielded plentifully. And he considered and debated within himself, What shall I do? I have no place [in which] to gather together my harvest.  And he said, I will do this: I will pull down my storehouses and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain or produce and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many good things laid up, [enough] for many years. Take your ease; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself merrily.  But God said to him, You fool! This very night they [the messengers of God] will demand your soul of you; and all the things that you have prepared, whose will they be?  So it is with the one who continues to lay up and hoard possessions for himself and is not rich [in his relation] to God [this is how he fares].”  (Luke 12:16-21)
God told Abraham that He would bless him and make him a blessing.  That is His plan for all of us.  Whatever God has deposited in us is meant to be shared.  We are to become a conduit of God’s blessings, not another Dead Sea.  Whether it’s the deposit of God’s Word and Spirit in us, the gifts and abilities He has blessed us with, or material possessions; God blesses us so we can be a blessing.  We are not to hoard what God freely gives us.  “Freely ye have received, freely give.”
Our best course of action is to ask God to show us what to do with our “fullness of bread” so that it will not lead to “abundance of idleness”.  Because, when fullness of bread combines with abundance of idleness, we are one step closer to destruction.
4.  They didn’t strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.  Those who reach this step are callous toward the needs of others and deaf to their cries.  They become like the rich man who could think of nothing better to do with his overflow than to cushion his retirement portfolio so he could take his ease.  We need to ask God to make us sensitive to the people around us.  When we pray for the Lord of the harvest to send workers to the field, we should say like Isaiah – “Here am I; send me.”
            Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”  That sounds like an epitaph for the rich man’s tombstone.
            5.  They were haughty, considering themselves to be above others.  When we get a “me” mentality, haughtiness is just around the corner.  “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.”  (Proverbs 18:12
            6.  Committed abomination.  They finally crossed the line, and God brought judgment. God’s response was “therefore I took them away as I saw good.”  But 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a promise for God’s people who have turned from His ways and are being punished for it.  He clearly shows us the path back to Him. “If My people, which are called by My name, shall…
·     “Humble themselves” – Turn our eyes on Jesus and abandon our own way (opinions, mind sets).  Read God’s Word and submit to it as it is written.  Don’t modify it to suit our purposes. 
·       “Pray” – Communicate with God.  Quiet our own voice and listen to God’s Spirit, then He will reveal His way.  We pray for things from our limited knowledge and don’t see results, so we become discouraged.  When we take the time to know Him, we will begin to pray according to His will and see great results.
·       “Seek My face” – Let Him consume us so that nothing is as important to us as His favor.  Then we will know His heart, not just His ways.
·       “Turn from their wicked ways” – Put into practice everything He reveals to us from His Word and by His Spirit. “Faith without works is dead.”  Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Why did God give us this passage of Scripture?  Because He longs for us to turn back to Him.  If we do our part, He will hear us and “heal our land”.  He cancels punishment when it has accomplished what He sent it to do – turn us back to Him in every area of our lives.  He wants to bless, not destroy.
 It is not hopeless.  God calls us.  “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said, Truly our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?  Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.  Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”  Ezekiel 33:10-11 (AMP)  We don’t have to stay on the path to destruction.  We can turn back.  The choice is ours.
Once upon a time the will of God was done on earth through His Church.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit and completely surrendered to Jesus Christ.  Because the power of the Spirit was allowed to work through them, the Gospel spread throughout the then-known world.  But the time came when they needed a refill.  At first they didn’t notice it, but the world did.  When they realized it, they chose to…???

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Next Step

            When I have to do something that is strenuous physically, I realize how out of shape I am. It’s obvious that I don't have the stamina I could have if I put forth a little more effort. But I allow life's interruptions and busyness to keep me from changing that. As important as physical exercise is, nothing is more important than keeping in shape spiritually. When is the last time we had a spiritual checkup? The times we live in require some pretty strenuous spiritual activity.  Are we up to the task?
In the last few weeks, I have received a flood of urgent prayer requests concerning life-changing illnesses and circumstances. I have heard of numerous tragedies and violence in our little corner of the world and they are alarming. The weight of it all brings a heaviness of spirit, especially when you add to it the worldwide attacks on Christianity. It is oppressive, but that is where we are. So we need to determine what we are going to do about it.  We can become depressed and fearful, or we can get in shape and overcome. 
What is our next step? The answer is to look to Jesus. I don't mean that in a comfortable, sentimental, "pretend everything is okay" way. I mean it in a practical, "where the rubber hits the road" way. Allow me to elaborate on that statement. Jesus is our example in every area of life, so let's look to Him to see how He handled difficulty, opposition and other impossible situations.
Jesus was faced with a multitude of people who had incurable diseases and severe spiritual problems. He also faced powerful opposition from the spiritual and political leaders. What did He do? He didn't assemble an army and storm Jerusalem for religious and political reform (although that was what His disciples and the people were looking for). But neither did Jesus let the opposition keep Him from doing the will of the Father. He simply brought light into darkness by Who He was, what He did and what He said. Most of the people who came into contact with His light avoided it and drew back into darkness. Some fought the light, because it made their sins and hypocrisy conspicuous, requiring them to change. A few of the people received the light and allowed it to transform them. They were the ones who became bearers of the light. They passed the torch on, and it continues to shine today. Jesus calls them "the light of the world". They shine the truth, light and love of Jesus Christ - whether or not it's popular, whether or not it’s acceptable, whether or not it’s received. They don't hide who they are, but allow the Spirit of God to openly shine through them.  I want to make sure I’m in that number.
Yes, our world is in terrible trouble, just like Jesus said it would be! “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers [various] places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:7-8)
We have turned so far from God...the true God...that we have ushered in the perilous times about which the Bible warns us.  “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”  (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
 Every Christian needs to shine their light as never before. If we are going to do that, we need to move up to a higher level of living and a higher level of relationship with Jesus. We cannot continue as we have been - passive and carnal. We can no longer value trivial things and trivialize valuable things. The stakes are too high. It is a sobering and urgent time in which we live. We need to heed the warnings of God.
So what is the next step? What is the course of action for one who truly wants to follow Christ? We are not called to assemble an army and fight the world. After all, Jesus came to save the world. We overcome when we follow Jesus' example - speak the truth in love, live the truth in love and shine forth the truth in love. It sounds simple enough, but when we put it into practice it has conflicting consequences. It was the same for Jesus.  Some will come to the light and be gloriously saved.  Some will ignore it.  Others will respond with violence.  Yet we must do what is right consistently. We must shine. Where truth is not manifest, darkness reigns.  Where truth is manifest, light and understanding will reign. That is what Jesus meant when He said we are the light of the world.  If we refuse to shine the light of Jesus Christ, the world will be in darkness. 
Light doesn't have to fight darkness to prevail. It just has to shine. When it shows up, darkness vanishes. How many times have you opened up a room full of light to let the darkness in? Never! Because it just doesn't work that way. We open up a dark room to let the light in. We are all familiar with flashlights, but have you ever heard of a flashdark? Of course not! You cannot shine a beam of darkness and dispel light. But when we shine the light of Jesus, we can dispel darkness in that area. 
Shining light doesn't depend on how many professing Christians we can get together. It depends on how much of the Holy Spirit we have active in our lives. Just one light can make a vast difference, but in order to keep shining, we need fresh oil from the Holy Spirit every day! Our lives and the lives of those around us depend on it. It is imperative that we receive from Him on a consistent basis – through His written word and by allowing the Holy Spirit to speak into our spirits. Prayer – communication with God – is a powerful privilege He has given to us.  We cannot function on a spiritual level without it and without the oil of God's Spirit. In this day it is absolutely necessary to be able to function on a spiritual level. The natural level is not strong enough.
In Zechariah 4:6, we read that it is "not by might [army, force], nor by power [strength], but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." God reminds us over and over that we fight a spiritual war. It is not person against person. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  (Ephesians 6:10-13 – emphasis mine) 
We need to pray more and more for God to open our eyes to see behind the veil to the spirit realm.  There are spirits at work deceiving and destroying. These evil spirits use people as pawns to accomplish their evil deeds. They don't like us or have any desire to do us good. When we fight one another, we never win those conflicts because they are surface battles. The real war is in the spiritual realm - a realm of which most people are unaware. We also need to have our eyes open to Jesus Who has overcome and will make His power available to us if we allow His Spirit to work in us.  It is by His might and power that we overcome. 
When God's people come to the level of commitment Jesus spoke about, we will begin to make a difference. He spoke of denying ourselves in Luke 9:23, and losing our lives to save them in Mark 8:35. We cannot continue to be chameleons and blend with the world. We cannot continue to place our worldly happiness above spiritual matters. Our lights have grown dim and many have gone out for lack of oil - a lack of the power of the Holy Spirit. We spend more time on the things of the world than we do with Jesus, so we are weak. We grope in the darkness of doubts, fears and earthly pleasures just like those outside the Kingdom of God because we are barely within the gate ourselves. Carnality is displayed by a lack of knowledge, lack of power, lack of vision, lack of persistence and lack of holiness. It is time to wake up and become the people Jesus calls us to be. It doesn't happen overnight, but we can begin the journey today.
What is the next step? Let's get in shape, not just to get by, but to shine; not just for a few months, but for the long haul.  Hear the call to rise up before it’s too late.  Maintain a vibrant, surrendered relationship with Christ, and stir up the zeal of the Holy Spirit in you.  Hear the “wake-up call” to each of us.
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, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”  (Ephesians 5:14-17)
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.  Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”  (Romans 13:11-14)
Jesus’ mother gave some very wise advice to the men at the wedding in Cana.  After she had told Jesus they were out of wine (a symbol of the Holy Spirit), she said “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.”  We need to follow that advice today.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Puzzle

            My lack of patience is a strong deterrent to finishing a puzzle.  Looking at all those disjointed pieces makes my head swim in confusion.  How do I know which one to pick up next?  If it doesn’t connect to the pieces I already have put together, I can’t make it fit; so what do I do with it until its turn comes?  I have to put it aside and will probably pick it up another hundred times before I find where it actually goes.
            Lack of patience can also be a deterrent to finishing well in life.  We have hopes, dreams and promises from God that go along with the whole of our lives, but too often we try to make them fit where they don’t belong.  It’s not that they are not a part of the puzzle.  We just need to connect a few more pieces together before their spot will be ready.  We have to leave that confusing pile of pieces in God’s hands, and simply work with the one that fits where we are right now.  We don’t have to worry about the pieces that haven’t found their place to connect yet.  God has already taken care of that.
            The puzzle of my life has many pieces, yet it is just one small piece in the puzzle of God’s purpose for the ages.  The pieces of the past are already in place.  I will take my place to ultimately join the past with the future.  As I do, I fit into the pieces already in place behind me.  They form the anchor with which I connect and I will become the anchor for those pieces yet to be placed.
            God’s puzzle started with time at creation and will go on until the end of time.  He has always had those who would hear Him and obey Him, so the puzzle is constantly being worked on from dispensation to dispensation, from year to year.  Those who allow Him to design them to fit will become part of His whole grand purpose.
            It takes many pieces all around us to complete the work.  The generation before us reaches to take our hands and close the gap between us.  Then we must reach out to the next generation to finish our part of the puzzle with no missing pieces.  It doesn’t happen all at once.  It comes together piece by piece. 
[Just a little note of encouragement to all the impatient people:  Relax!  If we allow God to hand us each piece of our life’s puzzle one at a time, everything will turn out just fine!]