Wednesday, December 24, 2014


As we read the events of Christmas as told in the Bible, we watch as God draws back the veil and gives us a glimpse into the heavenly sphere.  He revealed "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:26-27)  He called those who were willing to take part in His plan, and they experienced things they had never known before.
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary; an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, the shepherds saw a multitude of the heavenly host praising God; the wise men saw a star and were able to interpret its meaning.  These are not your ordinary, everyday happenings.  It was a glorious time of the supernatural being revealed to natural men and women as God announced His “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
            God is still revealing the supernatural to those who receive His Spirit. We can have a light that shines and reveals a spiritual level that the natural person cannot see.  By His Spirit, we can understand God’s Word more clearly, hear His voice speaking in our spirits, see beyond the physical things that are happening around us, and have understanding that goes beyond human knowledge.
            There is no age barrier, no gender barrier, no special skills required.  We don’t have to be at a certain place.  We simply have to be open to receive Him.  We learn that from reading the accounts of Jesus’ birth.
            All the characters in the Christmas story are familiar to us.  Each one has their own story of how the birth of Jesus affected them personally. Through the words in the Scripture, we can see the response to their initial encounter with the God of all creation.  We can watch their faith grow as they choose to follow God.  Their experiences can give us a greater understanding of God’s eternal plan. 
            From Mary we can learn the value of submission, even when we are grossly misunderstood.  She was looked upon as a fallen woman, and very likely the rumors flew from one to another.  It would have been hard to accept her story as truth.  After all, she was an ordinary young woman claiming an unbelievable story.  Even after Jesus had grown up and began His ministry, the religious leaders made mention of His “illegitimate” birth.  But it wasn’t true, and God’s favor and blessing were on Mary.  That means much more than the favor of the world.
What are we willing to give up in order to become part of God’s eternal plan?  Will we fully answer His call, or fall prey to the condemnation of those who don’t believe?
            Joseph found that things are not always as they seem.  The “truth” was pretty obvious to him about Mary, and it may have shocked him that she would make up such a fanciful, sacrilegious story.  But, Joseph discovered the obvious was not always the truth.  Just when he thought his world was falling apart, the door to the heavenly realm opened and showed him the honor God was bestowing on Mary and him by allowing them to be part of His miraculous plan.
            When we think our world is crumbling beneath our feet, we need to take another look.  Our God is in control.  What He allows is for our ultimate good, no matter how devastating it may seem.  If we seek Him, He will draw back the veil and show us the truth in His time.  But we must learn to trust Him regardless of “the obvious”.
            I believe we can learn several things from the shepherds.  One is this:  God knows exactly where we are and it doesn’t matter if we are low in the social order or on the top.  The shepherds were not exactly white-collar workers, and they were on the job out in the field.  God sent not only one angel, but a multitude of angels to them!  We are all loved by Him, and He sees us where we are.  He wants us all to know His plan of salvation.  We may be rejected by those of high standing in this world, but we can be accepted by the King of kings and know Him personally.
            The second thing the shepherds can teach us is that we are to share what we have received.  They didn’t keep the news to themselves.  They listened to the angels, believed the news, went to see Jesus for themselves, and immediately began to share the good news with others.  Too often we are quiet when we should be talking about Jesus and letting others know of the salvation we have found. 
            The wise men set out on a long journey because God showed them a star and gave them the knowledge to understand what it meant.  They followed the star seeking Jesus regardless of how much it cost them.   Few seek Him like that anymore…with total abandon!  We try to fit Him into our schedules a few times a week, but too often those times have become a form instead of a love relationship with Jesus.  Are we willing to put forth the effort to seek Him at great personal cost because we long for more of Him, His Word and His Spirit?  When we seek like that, we will find.
            Even Herod can teach us something.  He clung so tightly to what he had, that he couldn’t grasp the truth and enlightenment he could have possessed as his own.  Instead, he tried to kill the Truth and Light.  He missed the opportunity of a lifetime.  What we have in our hands is there only because God has allowed us to have it for a while.  If we hold tightly to material things, traditions and positions, we will lose the most important gift we could ever receive.  We might have to release some things in our lives so we can cling tightly to Jesus, but He is definitely worth it. 
            When we realize these were real people who had lives like we do, it puts a different perspective on things.  They had plans of their own.  Mary and Joseph were planning a wedding.  The shepherds were on the job.  They were busy about their daily routines and had feelings, doubts and hopes, just like you and me.  But the birth of a Baby changed everything about their plans and routines as they responded to the call of God.  He will change us, too, if we listen to His voice and respond to Him in complete surrender. 
God can do wonderful things through ordinary people who respond to His call with the words of Mary, “be it unto me according to thy word.”  Let this be a Christmas of surrender.

Friday, November 28, 2014


            There is an old saying, “a stitch in time saves nine”.  Common sense tells us if a tear in a garment isn't mended when it first happens, it will continue to tear and fray, making a bigger hole that requires more stitches to fix.  If it’s left too long, it cannot be repaired.
            The Scripture speaks of God “rising up early” and sending his prophets to warn His people of impending judgment if they did not repent.  That means God didn't wait until the day of judgment before He warned them.  He began early when their transgressions were a small tear that could be easily fixed.  His warning went out before their sins were so deeply imbedded in their hearts, before their sins had multiplied and infected the whole nation, and before they had begun to accept their sins as commonplace, normal behavior.
            God doesn't give us warnings to cause us to be fearful or to beat us down until we feel hopeless and defeated.  He speaks clearly, directly and even bluntly sometimes because He doesn't want anyone to perish.  His desire is for us to know the truth and be set free by it.
When we read and follow God’s Word, we find instruction, comfort, warnings, encouragement and even rebuke when needed to keep us in the way of life.  His Word is truth and will keep us through times of chaos and times of peace.  He warns us to examine ourselves and see if we are following Him or if we have wandered away from His Word.  He loves us enough to warn us of our own human frailty and the fierceness of our enemy.
In writing to one of the churches in the book of Revelation, Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”  Who would want to take our crown?  Who would want us to release the Truth we have in Christ?  We have an enemy that is using every scheme he can to trip us up and cause us to lose our faith.  He sets snares for us, and we need to be wise to his tricks.  They are not innocent tricks, but deadly ones.
Satan tries to undermine our faith by causing a hint of distrust toward God just as he did with Eve.  We need to refer back to God’s Word when that happens to reinforce the truth.  If we don’t, Satan will make us feel hopeless and disappointed in God because He didn’t do something we thought He should.  Our enemy tries to convince us that God has forsaken us and doesn’t care about the trials we are going through.  He knows that what we believe can be altered by how we feel.  If we feel down and rejected, we begin to believe we are down and rejected, and we act on those feelings rather than holding fast to what we know to be true.  It’s amazing how little Satan has to do to change how we feel and ultimately what we believe.
Termites are very small, but they can ruin the foundation of a building by consistently eating away at the foundation little by little.  Once the foundation is compromised, the whole building is in danger.  If we allow our feelings to rule instead of Truth, we will little by little doubt the very fundamentals of our faith – Who God is, the inerrancy of His Word, salvation through Jesus only and by grace instead of works.  When we no longer trust God, we no longer believe God, and the very foundation of our salvation has crumbled.  We need to hold fast to what we know to be true, especially when our feelings tell us something different.
            When I went through a rather mild trial, for some reason I was overwhelmed emotionally and my emotions began to make decisions about my beliefs.  I couldn’t understand why God hadn’t moved on my behalf.  At the moment, I couldn’t see how foolish that was, but I finally realized I had to reach beyond how I felt and stand on what I knew to be true.  When I came through the other side, I knew why God had not intervened earlier.  I learned a lot through a little test that became a huge deal in my mind because my feelings overshadowed what I knew to be true.
Hebrews 10:23 tell us, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.”  How can we hold fast when it seems our hands keep slipping and causing us to fall?  How can we retain our faith when God isn’t fitting into the mold we have made for Him?  Maybe we need to get to know Him better - as He truly is rather than how we have invented Him to be in our minds. 
Sometimes it helps to honestly examine our walk with Christ and determine if we are growing in Him.  If we have been saved for years and are still baby Christians, that is the reason we slip so easily. 
It has never been God’s intention for us to stay newborn babies after we are born into His kingdom, and never mature in our faith.  But that is the condition of a large percentage of professing Christians.  They repeat a prayer, join the local church and become active there.  That’s great, but what about their relationship with Jesus?  Have they really met Him, and deepened their relationship with Him through the years?  That’s what being a Christian is all about, a growing relationship with Jesus.  If we are truly going to be Christians, or “little Christs”, we have to get to know Him so we can follow Him and be like Him. If we are not consistently growing in His Spirit and His Word, we are losing ground.  In Hebrews 5:12, we read, “For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food.”  (Amplified Bible)  We cannot mature until we read the Bible, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning to us, and then put it into action in our everyday living.  Don’t allow Satan to take away the truth you have.  Put it into practice. 
            The mindset of the world can cause us to second guess the things we have learned to be true through our faith and experience.  When an overwhelming majority doesn’t believe the truth and their reasoning seems to make sense, we need to have enough of the Word in us to see through the error and deceit.  Scripture tells us that evil men will go from bad to worse, “But as for you, continue to hold to the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced, knowing from whom you learned [them].”  (2 Timothy 3:14 Amplified Bible)
If we don’t put what we have learned into practice, we will lose it.  If we don’t know the truth, we will fall for the lies of Satan.  Many of our churches no longer preach the truth because they have convinced themselves the truth changes with our culture.  How foolish.  If truth can change, it wasn’t truth to begin with.  Rather than losing our grasp on truth, we need to hold to it, grow in it and proclaim it with a renewed sense of urgency.  The Holy Spirit will bring the Word to our remembrance when we need it, but we have to know it first.
            Paul gave this charge to Timothy.  “Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions.” (2 Timothy 4:1-4 Amplified Bible)
            This encouragement and charge is for us, too.  Certainly the time is upon us that Paul described here.  God knows it is difficult in our times to continue speaking the truth when people don’t want to hear it.  But we are all called to carry the Gospel to those in our circles of influence.  That might be someone we know well or a stranger, but we need to keep a sense of urgency in our message – both living it and sharing it.  In Jeremiah 9:3, God says those who are not “valiant for the truth”, do not know Him.  The opposite is also true.  Those who really know Him will be valiant for the truth.  It’s when we get careless in our relationship with Jesus, that we become weak and are susceptible to the wiles of the devil. 
God is faithful to sustain and strengthen those who follow Him with their whole heart and who hold fast to His Spirit and His Word.  “For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name’s sake in ministering to the needs of the saints (His own consecrated people), as you still do.  But we do [strongly and earnestly] desire for each of you to show the same diligence and sincerity [all the way through] in realizing and enjoying the full assurance and development of [your] hope until the end, In order that you may not grow disinterested and become [spiritual] sluggards, but imitators, behaving as do those who through faith (by their leaning of the entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness) and by practice of patient endurance and waiting are [now] inheriting the promises.  (Hebrews 6:10-12 Amplified Bible)
Be careful.  Hold fast.  Press in.  Stay in the Word and listen to God’s Spirit.  When we draw near to God, He draws near to us.  He wants us to know Him.  He wants to reveal Himself to us in His Word.
            “…hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”

Saturday, October 25, 2014


“Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you.”  Deuteronomy 6:14   

While I was praying one day, three statements began to well up in me.  I felt they were important and wrote them down.

1.       “My God is high and lifted up.”  - God is above all (everything, nothing excluded) and He is    in complete control.

2.       “My God will reign forever.”  -  His is not a temporary control; it’s for eternity.  He has        always been in control, He is now, and always will be.

3.    “My God will gain the victory.”  -  No matter what it looks like now, God has won.    Regardless of the circumstances and the actions of people, God has already won.

Do we genuinely believe those statements beyond any doubt?  If we did, it would change the course of our actions.  It would change the course of our thoughts and priorities.  That kind of belief would change everything about us because it would change who we are.  How grounded are we in our faith?  How committed are we to our God? 
We are all concerned that God has been technically removed from our government, our schools and our nation as a whole.  And we should be.  But we should be more concerned that God has been removed from many of our churches and in many areas of our own lives.  The Church is weak because the whole counsel of His Word is unwelcome in many pulpits and church members’ hearts as they have settled into the comforts of this world and have become apathetic concerning the work of God’s Kingdom. 
Recently, I heard reports of homes that were invaded and the children were told to renounce Jesus or die.  None of those children renounced their Savior, and all of them were martyred as their parents looked on, helpless to stop the slaughter.  That’s how deeply those children believed in Jesus.  They were sure of their salvation.
Too often our light trials cause us to doubt the goodness of God and the control He has over all things.  Sometimes we despair over things that are so petty.  Our emotions tell us God doesn’t care for us because He doesn’t keep every little pain, opposition and burden from us.  We rationalize that comfort and being carefree equals to love.  So, when we pray for Him to remove a discomfort and He allows it to stay, we face a crisis of our faith.  Most of us have been called by His name long enough to know Him better than that, but do we?
No one wants to face the kind of situation our brothers and sisters in other countries are facing.  But if we did, what choice would we make?  Is Jesus really our All in All, our Savior, Master and Lord?  In their circumstance, would we still believe God is high and lifted up; God is reigning and will reign forever; God will gain the victory?  Are we assured beyond any doubt who He is to us?
The parents of those martyred children expected the soldiers to return for them, and they begged their Christian brothers and sisters to pray that they would have the courage their children had.  It reminds me of Hebrews 11:35 speaking about those that were martyred.  “[Some] women received again their dead by a resurrection. Others were tortured to death with clubs, refusing to accept release [offered on the terms of denying their faith], so that they might be resurrected to a better life.” (Amplified Bible, emphasis mine)  Is that what we would have asked; to have courage to face death? 
Their spiritual life was more real and more precious to them than the physical.  They saw things, not from the natural view of this world, but from the life they lived in the truth of God’s Kingdom.  If we will ask, God will open our spiritual eyes and let us see what is really happening around us.  When we sincerely seek Him in prayer, studying His Word and listening to His Spirit, we will see greater things than this world.  We will understand that He alone is God.  Only those who are born of the spirit can see the Kingdom of God.
The assurance we have in God will be in direct proportion to our relationship with Jesus Christ.  It comes only when we have a close, personal connection with Him on a spiritual level, and it will deepen as we are consistent in that union.  An intellectual knowledge of Him can be pulled down by reasoning.  An emotional knowledge of Him will constantly vary with our circumstances, whether they create joy and peace within us or fear and doubt.  Our intellect and emotions can lead us to “other gods” that are no gods at all.  They can cause us to slide away from Him and to put our confidence in other concepts, things or people.
In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, many of God’s people were serving Him part time.  After all, He was the God of their ancestors, so they didn’t completely let go of those traditions and sentiments.  But they also served other ‘gods’ like the nations around them.  God doesn’t accept part time allegiance.  If we acknowledge only that He is ‘a’ god, then we are denying the fact that He is the only true God.
Jeremiah confronted the people with these words from God Himself.  “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods?  But my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.  Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.  For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”  (Jeremiah 2:11-13)
Here God lists two destructive choices they made.  First, they turned away from the revealed presence of God in their lives and the power of His Spirit to lead them, protect them, provide for them and bless them.  Second, they turned to their own strength and knowledge that was totally inadequate to lead them, protect them, provide for them and bless them.  Because they rejected God as God and were doing it their way, they found themselves in enemy territory before long.
Can you imagine how appalled the hosts of heaven must have been – those who live continually in the manifest presence of God, who have seen His glory face to face?  They must have considered it unbelievable that anyone would make that exchange.  But it still happens every day. 
Have we changed our gods?  I have always had to pause when I read the verse in 1 John 5 from the Living Bible that says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.  Amen.”  The King James Version says it like this:  “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  Amen”.  That puts a little different perspective on it, doesn’t it?  An idol is “anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”  It makes the act of looking to other things, people, concepts and theories rather than the Word and Spirit of God sound much more serious.
Anything can become an idol in our lives if we allow it to take God’s place in that area.    It can be whatever we allow to rule our thought patterns, our responses, or to dominate how we spend our resources God has given us.  It can be traditions that we carry out in His name, but without His presence.  People or possessions can become so dear to us that they become idols; a career that we pursue above God can control our time and priorities; rebellion against His will can turn us from following Him to seek our own way.  God says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  (Exodus 20:3)
Now is the time to renounce any other gods we are depending on, listening to, worshiping, offering up money to, or sacrificing our time for.  In Isaiah 26, God’s people had learned a lesson about serving other gods.  They repented and turned back to the Lord God Jehovah, Who was and is and is to come.  They found serving Him was superior by far to serving other gods and losing His presence among them. 
They said, “O Lord, our God, other masters besides You have ruled over us, but we will acknowledge and mention Your name only.  They [the former tyrant masters] are dead, they shall not live and reappear; they are powerless ghosts, they shall not rise and come back. Therefore You have visited and made an end of them and caused every memory of them [every trace of their supremacy] to perish.”  (Isaiah 26:13-14 - Amplified) 
Do we have other masters ruling over us besides God?  We can choose what God we serve, so let God arise in your heart and put to rest any other gods. 

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I'm not sure what prompted it, but a picture came to my mind recently that captured my thoughts and led to this article.  I saw a soldier dressed in a crisp clean uniform and shiny shoes. He was marching with a group of soldiers on parade while the crowd cheered them on and the band played.  It wasn't the celebration of those who had been in battle and won a great victory.  Rather it was the pomp and ceremony of those who had acquired a position and were proudly displaying their ranks.  There was a certain arrogance and superiority in their demeanor.  They were on exhibit as models of the perfect soldier, but they were not an accurate representation of those who were active in service.
In contrast, I saw another soldier who was in a trench.  His uniform was crumpled, torn and covered with dirt, blood and sweat. His shoes were nearly worn out; his body was too.  He had fought in one battle after another and had been wounded numerous times, but he refused to give up.  He was holding his ground against the enemy. It seemed he was beaten, but he knew better. 
The parade soldier considered him a disgrace to the uniform and a shame to the regiment for putting himself in a position to be wounded by the enemy.  Why couldn’t he be more like these polished, proud soldiers?  Why couldn’t he uphold the dignity of the uniform and follow the regulations?
Yet the wounded soldier was the one who understood what the war was all about.  He was the one actually changing the course of history for his generation and those who would come after them.  He was the one who denied himself for the sake of a greater purpose.  He wasn’t afraid to confront the enemy face to face because he was equipped and experienced in warfare.  He knew how to conquer the enemy and gain inroads into his territory.  He was willing to face danger, because he already knew the outcome.
The first soldier was nothing more than a showpiece holding up a public image of a warrior, but lacking the authenticity of experience and practical application, yet he received all the glory while the trench soldier was unnoticed. Although he appeared to be the perfect soldier, he wasn't. The soldier in the trench was.
There is a vast difference between the two.  One knows Jesus personally and truly follows Him while the other leads a religious life based on what he has been taught about Jesus.  The parade soldiers are “doing church” in the natural.  They don’t need the Holy Spirit because they know all the ropes.  They don’t need His leadership because they have learned all about leadership from other parade soldiers.  They think they can carry on without any “outside help”, because they have never seen the battle.  They put forth a great show, but one thing is lacking – the power that comes only from the Holy Spirit.
I wonder how we would feel about the Apostle Paul if he lived in our day. He was definitely a trench soldier. But he also knew what it was like to be a parade soldier, an empty showpiece.  He had been a Pharisee who thought he was righteous and doing the work of God as he marched in the parades to the beat of the cheering crowd. He knew what it was like to hold a position that commanded the respect of other men and put him in a place of power over them.
But one encounter with Jesus Christ caused him to leave all that behind to become a trench soldier – a real soldier, one who understood by experience what was truly important, who understood the enemy, who understood the power of the Holy Spirit that was within him, and the cost of the war. Jesus had met many of those Pharisees and warned His followers against being like them.  So, Paul left behind the rank of parade soldier to be promoted to the perfect soldier, one who was more than outward show, who had substance, the Spirit of God, at work in him.
As he embarked on this new journey, he was almost always surrounded by controversy and chaos, yet he was never the one who caused it. He simply spoke the truth of the gospel with all the power and authority of God working through him.  That’s the mark of the perfect soldier - the power of God working freely through them.  That was enough to stir up every demon spirit who wanted to stop the gospel from being preached.  Everywhere Paul went, there were enemies of the cross who would twist his words and his purpose. He was persecuted and placed in dangerous circumstances on a regular basis.  Did that stop him from preaching the Word?  No!  He understood the war, the enemy, and the outcome.  He wasn't worried about his life or his reputation. He wanted to please God more than anything else.  He wanted to fight a good fight, finish the course God had set before him and receive the reward he knew was waiting for him.
Paul wrote about the "trench soldiers" versus the "parade soldiers" in 1 Corinthians 4:9-14.  "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.  We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.  Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;  And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:  Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.  I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.”
The parade soldiers may look down on the trench soldiers, but their well-being depends on them. They may wonder why these trench soldiers can't keep their clothes clean and stay far enough away from the enemy to keep from getting wounded. They may say if that soldier would shape-up, there wouldn't be so much controversy surrounding them. But while the "parade soldier" stands by or retreats, allowing the enemy to advance, the trench soldier gains ground and holds it.  He gets the job done.
Paul didn't try to cause trouble. He didn't do or say things just so he could add another badge to his collection or another type of persecution to his list. But he would not back down from the truth. He would not drop the banner of Jesus Christ and run. Why? Because he knew what was really important, not just for himself, but for the whole world. Not just for his generation, but for ours, too.
The whole purpose of this comparison is to ask ourselves these questions:  “Am I a parade soldier or a trench solider?  Am I serious about what I do in the Kingdom of God?  Is it a sideline of my life, or my whole life?  Have I given my all to Jesus, following His command to bring others to Him, or am I just “doing church” on a natural level?  Am I working in my own power, or in the power of the Holy Spirit?”
A parade soldier may look like the perfect soldier, but that’s only in the eyes of the world.  When the battle comes, they are not equipped because they are not fully led by God’s Spirit.  So they are unable to accomplish anything of any real value. Their accomplishments are on a temporary, natural level rather than a spiritual one.  They are distracted by the crowd around them and the expectations of their peers.  
A trench soldier isn’t out to win accolades from the world, but to please Jesus and set others free from the power of the enemy.  He is fully engaged in the war and oblivious to any outside distraction.  He does what is right, regardless of the cost.
In the early days of the Church, there was a whole army of trench soldiers, and they ‘turned the world upside down’.  God is calling for soldiers in this generation who are willing to give their all to make a difference in the world and to call out others in the church to join them.  He needs those who are not entangled with this life, but are sold out to Jesus Christ and willing to enlist, having counted the cost.  He doesn’t draft soldiers; we have to enlist.  But before we enlist, there are a few things we need to know.
One of the promises Jesus gave us is that people would hate us...just like they hated Him. In John 15:19, He said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Then in 2 Timothy 3:12 we are told, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
Jesus didn’t try to hide any of this from us, neither did any of the apostles.  They wanted us to be prepared and realize the importance and seriousness of the service we are entering, that this is a war.  We didn’t start it, and we are not to add to it.  We are simply to stand for what is right according to God’s Word.  And that causes the turmoil. But at the same time, it brings freedom to ourselves and those we minister to.
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."  (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
If we evaluate our position and find that we are a parade solider, we don’t have to settle for that rank.  We can move up to be the perfect soldier, complete in Christ, working in the trenches and the Spirit of the Lord working with us.  Is it easy?  No.  Is it worth the sacrifice?  Yes.  For now and eternity.

“Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.”

Psalm 144:1

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


            Our church basketball team was competing against some intimidating players and the score was uncomfortably close. The other team pulled ahead in the last few minutes of the game, and our team had a decision to make. With just a few minutes left they could play half-heartedly just to make it through the game, or they could press in and finish well. They chose to give it their all, and they won the game in the final seconds.  We were on our feet cheering wildly for them.  The effort they put forth from the very start was important, but they had to accelerate when it got close to the end because the situation called for it.
According to Scripture, we are living in the last days and we have a choice to make. We can casually live our lives, blending into the darkness around us, or we can press into the Kingdom of God with all our time, resources and effort and be overcomers.  I can’t help but wonder if we are not wasting precious time that could be used for Jesus. Are we busy entertaining ourselves and securing our present and future comfort instead of living the gospel and making it known to others? Or have we accepted the challenge to accelerate and make the final seconds count?  We are facing an intimidating foe, but we already have the assurance of victory if we follow Jesus Christ to the end. 
Are we giving Him our all, or have we become caught up in the spirit of this world? There are a few minutes left in this dispensation of time and it is crucial that we examine how we are spending it. 
In these last days, we have at our disposal the Spirit of the Living God Who has chosen to enable us to do the work of His kingdom by placing in us His power and His wisdom.  When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and explained what was happening.  He said, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:16-18)
We are still living in the last days. His Spirit will still work in us and through us, so why isn't He? Could it possibly be because we are too full of the world to allow Him in?  That we are just going through the motions of religion, instead of being empowered by the Spirit?  When we make the decision to lose our lives so we can gain His, we will learn the value of depending on Him and obeying Him even when it doesn’t make sense to us. It will change everything about our lives and will cost all our time and effort.  We become powerless when we are not willing to surrender everything to gain Christ. 
Another passage of Scripture concerning the last days describes this dilemma in detail. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 in the Amplified Bible depicts the moral and spiritual condition of our times. "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]."
Think about it. Most people are so stressed that they are like a rubber band stretched to the limit and ready to break. There is trouble everywhere we turn making life in general hard to bear, not to mention all the catastrophes.  Trying to juggle all the responsibilities and chaos in our own strength is stressful.  Let’s read on.
"For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane.  [[They will be] without natural [human] affection (callous and inhuman), relentless (admitting of no truce or appeasement); [they will be] slanderers (false accusers, troublemakers), intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good.  [They will be] treacherous [betrayers], rash, [and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God."
Pick up a newspaper. Watch the news on television or check it out on your mobile device.  Just take a look around you.  It is incredible how accurately this portion of Scripture describes our world today.  How did we get here?  Verse five gives us the answer: "For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them]."  He says those who should have the power of God active in their lives have turned to a form of religion and do not have His Spirit working through them.
When we lose the power of God in our lives, we fall into the same pattern as the world.   We begin to view salvation as a transaction made with the organized church instead of the genuineness of the powerful transformation the Holy Spirit brings in our lives. We talk fondly about the power our forefathers had in their lives but are strangers to the power of the Holy Spirit in our own. So, we struggle to carry on His work without Him.
There is a downward spiral to this kind of life.  We are at a loss as how to handle our own spiritual struggles or those of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are at a loss because we lack the power of God to give us His wisdom and to guide and empower us.
When we are in charge of the gospel, we begin to make changes to our beliefs and God's commandments so that they accommodate our "form of religion".  That’s why so many preach a cheap, easy gospel that fits well into our busy lifestyles. It is a neatly packaged gospel that doesn't offend anyone, doesn’t cost us anything and that we can manage and control.  That is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The essence of His gospel is total surrender and total freedom; persecution and blessing; spiritual warfare and perfect peace; meekness and power; losing and gaining.
When will we get tired of being defeated in our prayer life, our relationships, and trying to micro-manage God?  It is not our responsibility to figure out everything.  God doesn't need our help.  He desires our surrender and for us to get close enough to hear Him.  If we can figure it out and control it, then it is not God! 
We cannot save people by manipulating the mood and atmosphere. We cannot change people's hearts by coercing them to repeat a prayer. If God is not drawing them, they cannot come to Him. We need the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to do the work Jesus commissioned us to do.  That’s why Jesus sent Him.
2 Peter 3 speaks of the last days with its "scoffers, walking after their own lusts" and wasting time with unbelief.  It says "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." But he calls for those who will hear to draw close to God and stay faithful, to look for the "coming of the day of God" and for "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”  Then he tells us, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."
The more we allow the Spirit of God to develop the nature and power of Jesus Christ in us, the more He can accomplish through us.  Now is the time for the true Church, the Body of Christ, to rise up and be the Church, without spot and blemish, completely sold out to Him.  Until we know Him intimately, we will remain strangers to the power of the Gospel and the Spirit Who has been given to us. 
The church in Galatia had become confused about the true gospel and was following after false teaching.  Paul wrote to them and said, “I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah) [and that you are transferring your allegiance] to a different [even an opposition] gospel.  Not that there is [or could be] any other [genuine Gospel], but there are [obviously] some who are troubling and disturbing and bewildering you [with a different kind of teaching which they offer as a gospel] and want to pervert and distort the Gospel of Christ (the Messiah) [into something which it absolutely is not].  (Galatians 1:6-7 - Amplified Bible)
We are in the last days.  There are many false teachings and false spirits that claim to be Christian, but if they are not following the teachings of Jesus, they are not Christian.  They are proclaiming a man-made teaching in His name, but are without His power.  We cannot afford to be slack in these last days.  We need to read His Word for ourselves and believe what it says no matter who offers a different gospel.  Now is the time to accelerate.  Now is the time to live and move and have our being in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are in the “last seconds”.  What are we going to do?

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