Discovering Our God-given Destination

Scripture Reading and Text:

[1] THE PLANS of the mind and orderly thinking belong to man, but from the Lord comes the [wise] answer of the tongue. [2] All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits (the thoughts and intents of the heart).  [3] Roll your works upon the Lord  [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed”  (Proverbs 16:1-3 Amplified Bible).

GOD HAS A PURPOSE–A PLAN FOR EVERY PERSON:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’re going to end up somewhere else.”  [Lewis Carroll]

God does have a PURPOSE–A PLAN for every person.  Discovering this and fulfilling it is the ESSENCE of life.  Most people I think, don’t have any purpose with their lives.  I know, because that’s where I was several years ago.  We hope, wish for, but do so without a plan.  We sit idly by, waiting for a clue, something to happen.

I recently read a story about Albert Einstein [*See Footnote [i]]:

New York City Train Car

New York City Train Car

Some years ago the great thinker was on a train in New York City.  The ticket taker came walking through the train car. As Einstein reached into his pocket to retrieve his ticket, he couldn’t find it.  He frantically searched his coat pockets, turned his pant pockets inside out, but still couldn’t produce the ticket.  The ticket taker said,  “Don’t worry, Mr. Einstein, we all know who you are.  Forget about it.”  Twenty minutes later, the ticket taker came back through the car and by this time… Einstein was on the floor, searching everywhere for the lost ticket.  Again the ticket taker tried to reassure Einstein by saying,  “I told you not to worry about the lost ticket.  We trust that you purchased one, and that’s good enough for us.”  Einstein looked up at the trains employee and said,  “Young man, this isn’t a matter of trust but of direction.  I need to find the ticket because I forgot where I’m going.”

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Sitting in Idleness

 

 

The Cost of Doing Nothing–

Do you have a clear sense of where you want to go in life?  Are you headed toward that destination, moving away from that destination, or simply standing idle?

The SECRET to SENSIBLE LIVING is this:  Wise people have a SENSE of their God-given destination and have made plans of going there.

Nobody arrives at their DESTINATION in life by accident.  The only thing that arrives at its intended destination by accident is airline luggage.  In fact, without a PLAN, we drift away from our DREAMS.

Most people living in Asia, hope in “good fate” or “karma.”  Not many people are into planning.  They just accept whatever comes their way.

The FARMER and the DEVIL–

I recently read a story about a Finnish atheist.  He left his farm to the devil in his last will and testament.  When he died, the legal system was dumbfounded on how to honor his request in the will.

Finally, after weeks of deliberation, the court decided the best way to carry out the farmer’s wishes was permit the weeds and briars take over the farmland, allow the house and barn to remain unpainted and rotting, and let the soil erode and wash away.

The court had declared in its ruling, “The best way to let the devil have possession of anything was to do nothing.”  The best way to allow Satan to destroy your dream is to do nothing.

Living a life without purpose and direction–

Living your life without an ACTION PLAN, without a PURPOSE, you’ll never arrive at the desired destination in life.

WHY?  There’s a LAW that works in the natural world that also operates in our lives:

“THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS”:

This law in physics states that DISORDER in the universe always increases.

After your children are told to clean their bedrooms, it always has the tendency to become messy again.  This is the result of The Second Law. Simply put, the physical world is decaying and the direction of all creation is downward, not upward.

Everything eventually runs down. Everything is decaying  [*See Footnote [ii]].

2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV):  “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

DISCOVERING YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE AND AVOIDING THE 3 “D” s:

Because of the SIN NATURE we inherited from Adam, we do not naturally lean toward God in moving toward His plan for our lives.  If we don’t attempt to ENERGIZE a proactive counter effort, the natural course of events will lead to depletion of financial resources, disintegration of our families, deterioration of our own body, and yes, the destruction of souls.  That’s why it is ESSENTIAL to develop a plan to reverse the natural direction of your life in order to transport you to your desired direction.

The Wisdom in King Solomon’s Career…

And I purpose to build a house to the Name of the Lord my God,  as the Lord said to David my father,  “Your son whom I will set on your throne in your place shall build the house to My Name and Presence”  (1 Kings 5:5 AMP).

SOLOMON had a clear objective, a plan in mind, but he knew that the TEMPLE would not build itself.  He didn’t “over spiritualize” his dream by saying,  “If the Lord wants this temple built, it will happen in His way and in His time.”  SOLOMON already understood the importance of DEVELOPING A PLAN:

Proverbs 15:22:  Where there is no counsel, purposes are frustrated, but with many counselors they are accomplished.

Proverbs 16:9:  A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.

Proverbs 19:21:  Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.

Proverbs 20:18:  Purposes and plans are established by counsel; and [only] with good advice make or carry on war.

Proverbs 21:5:  The thoughts of the [steadily] diligent tend only to plenteousness, but everyone who is impatient and hasty hastens only to want.  

FINDING CONTENTMENT IN PLANNING:

[13] Now listen, you who say,  “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money,”  [14] Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  [15] Instead, you ought to say,  “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that”  (JAMES 4:13-15 NIV).

JAMES isn’t opposed to PLANNING.  He is WARNING against planning without God.

The foundational question we all should ask ourselves when it comes to establishing our goals,  “Is this PLAN in keeping with God’s will for my life?”

What does it mean to be CONTENTED?

Does it mean I should have my DESIRES limited to that which I already have and achieved?  Or, does being CONTENTED mean, I should have my DESIRES limited to which I am CONVINCED God wants me to have and that which God wants me to achieve (Proverbs 16:9).

The first statement reflects LAZINESS, a sluggard’s philosophy.

The second shows DEPENDENCE on Christ’s Lordship.

GOALS that are within the will of God are designed for the GLORY of God and is pleasing to Him!!

“BUT WHAT IF I FAIL?”

Oh how many times have I asked myself that question.  When those thoughts come to mind, I turn to God’s Word (Scripture) to encourage me in moving ahead:

Sanballat’s words in Nehemiah 4:1-3:

“I have plenty of time, so what’s the hurry?”  Or, “I do not have enough time, so why bother?”

Steve Farrar, founder and chairman of Men’s Fellowship Ministries warns…

“Our continual mistake is that we do not concentrate upon the present day, the actual hour of our life; we live in the past or the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special hour when our life shall unfold itself in its significance. And we do not observe that life is flowing like water through our fingers, sifting the precious grain from a loosely fastened bag.”

* [See Footnote [iii] ]*

“Instant Coffee Theory of Life” – (“Instant Orange Juice Theory of Life”)  - *[See Footnote [iv]*

Rabbi Harold Kushner describes this theory as similar to our tendency when you open a new jar of instant coffee.  We tend to dole it out generously at first because, after all, you have an entire jar of coffee.  But halfway down the jar, you become more conservative, and by the time you reach the bottom of the jar, you begin measuring your portions more carefully by reaching into the corners of the jar for every last grain.

In the same way, when we’re young, we tend to be careless with our time, thinking we have our entire lives to achieve our dreams.  But by the time we reach the end of our years, we ask ourselves,  “How did it go by so fast?” – We pray the same prayer Moses prayed:

“A PRAYER OF MOSES” – Psalm 90:10-12:

[10] The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  [11] Who knows the power of your anger?  For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.  [12] Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  (NIV)

How To Set Up Meaningful Goals for Your Life–

How can you develop a PLAN that will get you from where you are right now to where you BELIEVE GOD wants you to be…

In your marriage…

In your finances…

In your career…

In your ministry…

And in your spiritual life?

CLARIFYING YOUR PURPOSE:

This is a big question each of us must know:  WHAT ARE WE ON EARTH FOR?  WHY DO YOU EXIST?

The answer is clear:  “We all live to GLORIFY God.”

Clarifying Your Purpose

Clarifying Your Purpose

The “clarifying purpose” involves something that you are passionate about.  My PASSION is teaching God’s Word.  That’s how I got started in Blogging For God several years back, coining the title THE WORD DETECTIVE.

“But what if I don’t have a PASSION?”

Bob Biehl, president of Master Planning Group International, suggest SIX QUESTIONS to help you identify your PASSION:

#1.  What needs that I see in the world are of concern to me?

#2.  If I could meet any need in the world, what need would I meet?

#3.  What are the most urgent needs in my country, my community, my church?

#4.  What age group or type of people naturally interests me?

#5.  What are the major needs among my neighbors, my friends, and my family?

#6.  If I don’t meet these needs, who will?

REMEMBER, your life’s purpose should involve something for which God has gifted you with (Study 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Romans 12:6-8).  And don’t forget about your physical talents: “photography, painting, gardening, cooking, etc.”–All can be used to GLORIFY GOD!

Let me encourage you where you are:  Sit quietly and ask the Lord how you can discover a PLAN in your life in accordance to His purpose, His will; and SHARE WITH OTHERS the results– the gifts of your passion.

“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure”  (Proverbs 16:9 AMP).

 


POST FOOTNOTES:

[i] - Billy Graham & Albert Einstein Friday Study Ministries – The First Church on the Net.

[ii] – ENERGY and KIDS http://www.kids.esd.bg/basic_principles.html

[iii] – Steve Farrar, Anchor Man (Nashville, Ten.: Nelson, 1998),  91).

[iv] – Harold Kushner, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough (New York: Pocket Books, 1986), 158-59.

Photo Credits:  Photo Pin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A Match Made In Heaven”

TEXT:  Ephesians Chapter  One.

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“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  [4] For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love [5] He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will”  (Ephesians 1:3-5 NIV).

[*NOTE: Capitalizations–”He”, “Him”, “His”–are inserted by this writer out of respect for God’s Majesty.  The original text in the NIV Bible doesn’t capitalize].

 

FIRST of all, this study is NOT about Calvinism or Arminianism doctrines.  It IS a study on BLESSINGS:

BLESSING #1.  God pursued us in the past–called ELECTION and…

BLESSING #2.  He makes us family in the present–called ADOPTION.

BLESSING #3.  GOD will make us COMPLETE in the future–called UNIFICATION.

I could end this blog right here…but I won’t, for there is so much more to learn from Scripture.  My hope is by the end of this study, you will grasp the LOVE of God has for you and the beauty of this BLESSING regarding ELECTION or CHOICE.

WHAT IS “ELECTION”?

The Greek New Testament, the word is eklegomai – “CHOOSE” [See Footnote [i] ].   In the context of DIVINE ELECTION, God is said to “choose” His people – (Mark 13:20; Acts 13:17; 15:7; and of course, here in Ephesians 1:4).

In Ephesians 1:4, Paul begins with “Long ago, even before he made the world…”- long before anything at all was made, God was there–this was the ETERNITY before CREATION.

God was completely sufficient and not needing anything.  But before CREATION, God did something–He thought about you and me with a PURPOSE in His mind.  This PURPOSE included JESUS and us – It says “God LOVED us and CHOSE us in Christ  Jesus…”

This CHOOSING of us by God is called ELECTION, based on “A Match Made In Heaven”. After 50 years of marriage, my wife and I can look back at all the naysayers, the trials, the disappointments along the way, and truly say our marriage was “a match made in heaven!” 

In Eternity–Before time began…

A MATCH was made in heaven where God Almighty matched us together with JESUS in His mind!  He did this because His LOVE–He specifically and purposefully CHOSE you, He chose me.

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE!

There are some arguments about where the concept of LOVE belongs in verse 4 of the text; actually three different arguments.  But I like the New Living Translation (NLT) talking about God CHOOSING US in relation to His LOVE–and nothing else:

“Even before he made the world, God LOVED us and CHOSE us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”

THE FIRST TRUTH–That God’s LOVE should revolutionize and transform the Christian life.

MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD IS IMPORTANT TO HIM:

God CHOSE to have a relationship with you–GOD CHOSE YOU!  You were important to Him!  Take a second and PRAISE GOD, right where you are, for that!

We were like a puppy at the local Animal Shelter.  But you know what?  God didn’t need to choose you.  There’re others far more eloquent than you and me–more compassionate–more holy than us that He could have chosen for His service in our place.

But God, who looks out over all of humanity, knows every skill, every weakness, knows every sin and every part of goodness in every person, and out of all those CHOICES, He decided to CHOOSE you and me.

And notice that Paul wrote “God chose us” - It’s NOT about me being chosen (focused on PRIDE)–It’s about God CHOOSING me (focused on humility).

But in LOVE to God and humility, I can say, if you are a CHRISTIAN, you are God’s CHOSEN–His ELECT.

The Concept of Election…

The idea of “ELECTION” plays against what we’ve always thought.  We think that WE need to pursue our relationship with God!  CHRISTIANS DON’T NEED TO PURSUE GOD – He has already pursued you, chosen you, and developed a relationship with you.  The fact is, it’s not all about PURSUIT, but about OBEDIENCE to the call.

In Tommy Tenney’s popular book, The God Catchers:  “God doesn’t hide Himself from you so that He can’t be found; He hides Himself from you so that He can be found”  (page 11).

Your RELATIONSHIP with God is more important to Him than it is to you by a long shot–considering all that He has done in advance through Christ to establish it.  What we need to do is let HIM continue to RELATE to you.

Don’t insult God by acting as if you bother Him, or a nuisance,  or you annoy Him.  He went to great LENGTHS to make you His ELECT, His CHOSEN.  You have the relationship–start honoring God today by letting Him take back control of the relationship.  TALK TO HIM and let Him talk to you…to guide and to love you.

God pursues US!

See, you might not have known this before, and so before…when you WORSHIPED unenthusiastically; before… when you PRAYED, timid and shy; before… when you read your Bible and you didn’t expect anything…that’s where I found myself years ago, so I know…but NOT ANYMORE!

Forget that stuff that’s behind!  Now you know that when you come into the PRESENCE OF GOD, He says “MY CHOSEN ONE!  I have sought you.  I have bought you with the blood of the LAMB.  Come on in!”

But there is more– The “BLESSING OF ELECTION” (Ephesians 1:4):

“God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes”

In the Amplified Bible, it reads “He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ…that we should be HOLY and BLAMELESS”

The words “HOLY” and “BLAMELESS” are two important terms in the BLESSING OF ELECTION–

The first term is “HOLY”:

Back in verse one, Paul addressed this letter “to the saints (the consecrated, set-apart ones).”  If something is set-apart, it’s made “HOLY.”    VERSE 1 and VERSE 4 uses the same Greek word - “hagios” – holy [Footnote [ii] ].

GOD’S LOVE TRANSFORMS OUR LIVES–

God made you HOLY, and HOLINESS is being set-apart for God’s use.  In other words, if you are a “true believer” in Christ, God CHOSE you from the beginning of time so He could USE you today!  God doesn’t just set something apart so it can sit and collect dust.  He has a specific plan for our lives in Jesus’ name.

That idea doesn’t set well with some people–that God would have a different plan for your life than the one you’ve chosen–

“I don’t want to live in a jungle as a missionary!”

Or here’s a personal statement I made when my pastor approached me with a bible study for dementia/Alzheimer at a group home:  “I want to teach Lord, but not here!”  He had a different plan for my life, and full of many blessings.

The fact is, we don’t TRUST God with our lives.  If you’ve never seen that missionary movie, Edge of the Spear, you should.

But God made us HOLY so He could use you and make your life SIGNIFICANT for JESUS’ sake.  Our lives are important to God whether we believe it or not!

But there’s more! – God made us “HOLY” and…”BLAMELESS” in His sight–(without fault).

Paul is making reference to the requirements in the OT system; where lambs were sacrificed.  The SACRIFICIAL lambs represented Jesus Christ–the SINLESS, SPOTLESS Lamb of God who would be SACRIFICED for all of us.

Peter uses the same word:  “But  [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah), like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot”  (1 Peter 1:19 AMP).

FACTS DON’T LIE!

MY PURITY IS IMPORTANT TO GOD–

God considers you right where you are now, WITHOUT a blemish, not bearing the effects of sin, carrying no blame because you are “in Christ.”

JESUS paid for our sin on the cross.  If He hadn’t died…we wouldn’t be “blameless.”  But because He did, when we placed our TRUST in the cross of Christ, God looked at us and said “You are spotless.”  It ALL comes back to God making that possible in eternity past through His love.

But what a slap in the face we give God…when we willingly turn our backs and choose to live in sin–when we treat our BLAMELESSNESS dishonorably, sinning without so much as the beat of an eyelash.

Our PURITY is important to God–so important that He gave us the title of BLAMELESS in eternity past–before Genesis 1:1.

THE THREE BLESSINGS I FOUND IN EPHESIANS CHAPTER ONE:

ELECTION is the FIRST of Paul’s’ three blessings in Chapter One.  Or as I like to call it, “A Match Made In Heaven.”

It reveals the LOVE God had for me; it presents me with some truths about God that absolutely revolutionized my own spiritual life.

My RELATIONSHIP with God is important to him and…my life’s DIRECTION is important to my Father, while at the same time, my PURITY is important to God.

A Match Made In Heaven

A Match Made In Heaven

My POST has been directed primarily for those of us who have accepted JESUS as our Forgiver and Lord.  When we understand how BLESSED we are to have been chosen by God as HOLY and BLAMELESS through Jesus Christ, when we realize that our DESTINY is to be part of God’s family; when we comprehend that God has poured out all His grace into our lives; how can we help but humble ourselves before Him and give Him the PRAISE and GLORY!

But maybe after reading this message, you’re asking – “Am I really one of God’s chosen, ‘a match made in heaven’?  

I believe, if that’s your thoughts in asking, it’s the evidence that God is drawing you to Himself.  He’s been waiting for your decision.

SHARE your questions, your decision below in the comment section of this Blog and I’ll try to answer your questions.

 

Bible References: New International Version [NLT]; Amplified Bible; New Living Translation Bible [NLT].

Photo Credits:  Ephesians 1:4-5 – mazmagi.blogspot.com; Shutterstock.

Footnotes:  [i]; [ii] - Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotting “Out-of-Bounds” Wolves Isn’t Easy

Scripture Reading in Acts 20:28-31 [Amplified Bible]

[28] Take care and be on guard for yourselves and the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you bishops and guardians, to shepherd (tend and feed and guide) the church of the Lord or of God which He obtained for Himself [buying it and saving it for Himself] with His own blood.  

[29] I know that after I am gone, ferocious wolves will get in among you, not sparing the flock;  

WOLVES CAN BE HARD TO SEE SOMETIMES

WOLVES CAN BE HARD TO SEE SOMETIMES

[30] Even from among your own selves men will come to the front who, by saying perverse (distorted and corrupt) things, will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them [to their own party/side].  

[31] Therefore be always alert and on your guard, being mindful that for three years I never  stopped night or day seriously to admonish and advise and exhort you one by one with tears. 

WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN YOU SAY “GOODBY”?

When an apostle says farewell and addresses leaders in the next spiritual generation for what he thinks as the last time, a  “farewell monologue” is in order.

As Paul reviews his past as a model for the Ephesian elders’ future work and charges them as Spiritual-appointed pastoral overseers, we can be quickly aware Luke intends his message to ALL church leaders in every spiritual generation (Acts 20:13-17).

Spiritual Watchfulness in the Church…it’s NOT a “one-man show”–

In a day when individualism, authoritarianism or simple economic necessity turns the pastoral responsibility so we may promote TEAMWORK in pastoring or shepherding of the local flock.

LEADERSHIP must be spiritual:  “the Holy spirit has appointed you ["overseers" - KJV] to take care of and watch over the whole flock (verse 28).

Paul’s WARNING to the ELDERS…even some wolves will show up from amongst the leadership (verse 30).

The Bible tells us our ENEMY isn’t so easy to spot.

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Where is the WOLF?

When we think of our enemy–we may tend to think, some guy standing around in a red suit with a tail and a pitchfork.  But 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us “…for Satan himself MASQUERADES as an angel of light.”

*  He looks almost righteous.

*  He looks almost religious.

In other words, you’ll not always know he’s evil and how he looks.  Even FALSE TEACHERS don’t always show up with snake oil and a handlebar mustache.

JESUS warned us in Matthew 7:15, they look like the flock and they have wool just like all the other sheep.  And here in Acts 20, Paul warns the church elders, some of those wolves would show up from amongst their leadership:  “Even from among your own selves men will come to the front”  (verse 30 a.).

OBSERVING THE TRUE NATURE OF WOLVES…

“WOLVES” tend to look like everyone else, feeling that they are in the right.   AND…they are willing to destroy anything in their way.  So let me backtrack a bit.

The WOLVES Jesus and Paul talk about look like us.  You can tell who the Jehovah Witnesses are: They’re the ones with the green bibles and the funny looking tracts.

You can recognize the Mormon missionaries:  They’re the ones riding their bikes, wearing white shirts and ties.

BUT these wolves look like us and that’s because they often ARE us.  They’re often “part of the family”; could be an Elder, a Preacher, a Teacher…it could be ME…it could be you.  AND that’s scary.

Often wolves don’t even realize they’re wolves; so convinced that they’re right…nothing else matters.  So we might actually end up being wolves without realizing it.  And THAT’S SCARY!

“Bah-a-a-”

WOLVES may look “cool” in a TV Documentary series, but I don’t want to be one.  JESUS didn’t call us to be wolves…He called us to be SHEEP. [Sheep and wolves by the way, are natural enemies].

BUT…if WOLVES can “get out-of-bounds” by arising from among our number, and IF those wolves could end up being you or me, how do we recognize when we’ve stopped being a SHEEP and become a WOLF???

“Out-of-Bounds”…

FIRST– I’d know I’d stepped over the line (“Out-of-Bounds”) when I find myself consumed with power and influence.

Paul tells us that these wolves will come forward “saying perverse (distorted and corrupt) things, will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them [to their own party]”  (verse 30 b.). 

These folks want the church run “their way” and the rest of the church be THEIR disciples, and IF they’re not… they’re either fools or heretics.  The one phrase often repeated is “This is MY church!”–it belongs to them and should be run THEIR way.

But there’s a big problem with that phrase.  The problem is…it isn’t THEIR church, not your church, it isn’t MY church.  IT IS CHRIST’S CHURCH!!!

Paul tells the Elders from Ephesus:  “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with His own blood” ~ verse 28 b.

But if WOLVES don’t think that way…if they can’t get their own way…they tend to forget whose church it is.

ILLUSTRATION:  Years ago in one particular church located in southern California, the Pentecostal movement began to take shape within the church body [early 70's].

It started slowly at first, and then it began to take hold, led by their senior pastor.   Murmurers,  even malcontent also began to take hold in the membership.

One Sunday morning, the pastor decided to inform the body of the new direction and how he was led by the Holy Spirit to do so.  He also said that not all of the leadership approved, but the calling of God was so strong in his spirit, there would be a change in some doctrinal teaching.

In the following weeks of the announcement, over 50% of the church split–leaving and going to more “evangelical conservative” denominations.

The “nipping” and “biting” of WOLVES before the kill…

I’m not saying the reasons for their leaving were right or wrong.  What I am saying is what occurred in the interim.  The people who left tried to get the balance of the church to leave by writing letters of disapproval–notes were passed to the unknowing, all fairly nasty.  And although no one else left and the church grew in number…scars were formed in those who stayed, and those who left that were hard to heal.

Distortion of the Truth…

Paul also tells us the WOLVES “distort the truth” (verse 30).  

TRUTH is often one of the first victims of a lone wolf, or… a wolf pack.  Sometimes that DISTORTION comes in the form of FALSE DOCTRINE…and,  too often that same distortion comes in the form of character assassination.

So, WOLVES seek to have their own way…they often play fast and loose with the TRUTH…AND they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

Notice Paul’s words in Acts 20:29:  “…ferocious wolves will get in among you, NOT SPARING THE FLOCK.”

They don’t care who they hurt.  JESUS said  “…the WOLF attacks the flock and scatters it” ~ John 10:12.

* They send out nasty e-mails…

* They try to peel off church members to follow them as their disciples…

* They’ll find ways to attack the pastor’s character, elders, or anyone else who opposes them.

WHY?  Because the FLOCK isn’t as important to the WOLVES.  Getting their way is what’s important.  They don’t really care who they hurt as long as they accomplish their objective.  They’ll even tell you they LOVE Jesus!–but they don’t.  They don’t because they don’t care for His bride (the CHURCH).

In order to get their way, they drag the BRIDE of Christ thru the streets, shred her wedding gown and throw the pieces in the mud, stomping on it. All because–they’re right…that’s what matters!

The Concern with the “What IFS”…

“But…now wait a minute Mr. Word Detective.  What if the leadership of a church is heretical?  What if they’re teaching false doctrine?  Or, if they’re allowing immorality to run rampant in the local church?”

Dealing with it must be done in a biblical way, and HERESY and IMMORALITY can’t be ignored in the assembly.  BUT you want to be careful how you handle it–because you’re still dealing with the Bride of Christ.

FINDING A “MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART” IS A GOOD START:

That above phrase sounds familiar.  It’s finding someone in Scripture who handled something very similar in their midst.  A man who understood the mind of God.

THE MAN DAVID:

Did David ever have to deal with a leader who was immoral?  Dis David have to deal with a man who directly disobeyed God?  Did David ever have to deal with a man who was tormented by demons?  He certainly did…

A MAN NAMED KING SAUL sought to kill David in 1 Samuel 24:1-13:

NOTICE when you read the referenced verses, David confronted Saul in his WICKEDNESS:

Heresy or Immorality MUST BE CONFRONTED and must be called out for what it is.   BUT, if you are in the position of church leadership, use your position to deal with that SIN with responsibility–perhaps even removing such people from the fellowship.

Being Careful…CAREFUL IN responsibility.  

DAVID in the story refused to destroy SAUL…even when it was in his power to do so.  Even when what Saul was doing was clearly wrong and identified this kind of behavior with EVIL.  As the old saying goes,  “Out of the WICKED comes forth wickedness; but my hand shall not be against you”  (24:13).

DAVID withheld his hand because SAUL was the “Lord’s anointed.”

In the same way, every Christian is ANOINTED by God! (1 John 2:20, 21; 2 Corinthians 1:21).

When we become Christians, the Spirit of God came and resides inside our hearts–spirit, mind and soul.  His presence confirmed our RELATIONSHIP with God the Father.  So IF I hurt or damage another Christian in what I say or do, might I be GUILTY of wrongdoing?

But how could David do that?  How could Davis just stand back and let Saul get away?

Well, he could do that because he TRUSTED GOD (1 Samuel 24:13).  

When David said this, he was quoting Deuteronomy 32:35:  Vengeance is mine saith the Lord, I will repay (KJV). 

Using Our AUTHORITY…

When we have the AUTHORITY to discipline a wayward brother or sister in Christ, we should do so, but being careful how we deal with them and the circumstance… because we may find ourselves opposing God in getting His way.  We might even find ourselves becoming WOLVES in the process rather than who we are supposed to be…the  SHEEP.

GOSPEL OF JOHN 10

GOSPEL OF JOHN 10

 So, are there WOLVES in  your midst, or there but SHEEP?  Keep watch, for they’re sometimes hard to identify!

 

Photo Credit:  Photo Pin.

The ‘god-shaped’ Heart in Every Person

TEXT – Acts 14:11-17  (NIV Bible):

Statue of ZEUS

Statue of ZEUS

[11] When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language,  “The gods have come down to us in human form!”   [12] Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.  [13] The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.  [14] But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:  [15] “Men, why are you doing this?  We too are only men, human like you.  We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.  [16] In the past, He let all nations go their own way.  [17] Yet He has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

LIVING IN AN ILLUSION:

wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show/

wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show/

There was a movie a few years ago, with the actor/comedian Jim Carey as the lead, The Truman Show.  The storyline was about a man named Truman Burbank who was adopted as a newborn by a large Corporation.

The corporation created an entire city on the movie set with 5000 cameras, then placing Truman in the artificial city without Truman knowing it was all a fake.

Of course Truman goes through life in Seahaven (the artificial city), thinking everything and everyone around him are real.  Truman was perfectly happy and content for 30 years, with a perfect sky, a computer controlled climate, and a wife and friend who are really actors, and so forth.  I think you get the picture.  It is the only REALITY Truman knows!

At least until a series of accidents start and Truman’s questioning of this “REALITY”, and he finally begins figuring it out for himself and walks off the set into the REAL WORLD.

“Is belief in God like Truman in The Truman Show?”  Some people think so.  Critics claim it’s all because… it is the only reality that “religious” people have been presented.

The movie set experience of “organized religion” has meticulously manufactured and manipulated circumstances, causing people to live in the ILLUSION of God.

These same critics point out, there’s no denying that people who say they BELIEVE IN GOD are real, are happy, and content…even as Truman was happy and content in his world.

However, behind the set, there are merely human directors who are pulling the strings, orchestrating all the right circumstances to make BELIEF in God appear real.  Whether that’s true or not, I’m only pointing out what some people are saying about Christianity.

TRUE LIBERATION…

True liberation comes as it did for Truman; to turn our back on our make-believe world and venture into the real world…a world without organized religion pulling the strings.

CHURCHES shouldn’t be an ORGANIZATION in the first place.  They should be considered an ORGANISM–a living, breathing, GOD creative entity.

The American Population Believes that God Exists!

At least 95% do (Gallup and Lindsay 25).  According to George Gallup’s 1999 poll, interest in God and spirituality is on the rise, not declining (10). Yet when we begin to ask what kind of God is that exists, people are less sure.

Some people envisions of God is impersonal, like the FORCE in the movie Star Wars.  Or view God as a benevolent Santa Claus, a God that has no higher goal than our happiness and success.

THE STRAIGHT TALK PRESENTED IN THE BIBLE’S TEACHING:

The Bile clearly teaches that knowing God is for real; that He’s NOT our fulfillment as an elaborate scheme orchestrated by people, like myself.

God’s Calling Cards (Acts 14:15-17):

LystraMap0302In the city of LYSTRA, which was basically an isolated, unimportant, backwoods area of the Roman Empire.  People living there were all illiterate, superstitious, and accustomed to a rural way of life.

When Paul and his friend Barnabas arrive, God enables Paul through the power of the Holy Spirit, to perform a MIRACLE, where a disabled man was suddenly able to walk.  People were so amazed, their superstition takes over and they try to WORSHIP Paul and Barnabas as Greek gods Zeus and Hermes.

Paul and Barnabas are only messengers…ordinary guys bringing the message of the GOOD NEWS (the Gospel) of God.

Now the citizens of Lystra weren’t JEWISH, they didn’t know the Old Testament story of God creating the heavens and earth, of God choosing Abraham in establishing the nation of Israel.

The Challenge…

Instead, they were PAGANS…worshipping the traditional Greek and Roman gods.

Paul’s challenge to the populace was to turn from their “worthless” superstitions, to the LIVING GOD.   In case you’re wondering, the word “worthless” here means: EMPTY, UNPROFITABLE, VAIN , AIMLESS , HOLLOW- the “absences of purpose or ground or failure to attain any true purpose.[See Footnotes [i]].

Their WORSHIP was empty, hollow, because it was just words– Zeus and Hermes and the other gods didn’t exist in reality.  BUT, the LIVING GOD is the God who is SELF-EXISTENT; the God who depends on no one!  All because He is the LIVING GOD; He created ALL life, whether it’s life in the air, life on earth, or the life in the sea.

Lystra, Turkey in today's setting

Lystra, Turkey in today’s setting

God had been working through the nation of Israel up to this point.  He allowed the rest of the nations to go their own way.  God was preparing the way of the birth of His Messiah, His Son, to bring God’s blessing to the rest of the nations.  But until then, God wasn’t directly reaching out to other nations.

Take Heart…God Hadn’t Abandoned the other Nations!

God left a WITNESS of Himself among ALL PEOPLE everywhere.  God had left the nations evidence, “CALLING CARDS” about His existence.

So how can we know GOD is for real?  Where is the EVIDENCE?

Because of His “calling cards” He left us to see.  God’s fingerprints are all over the world we live in…IF, we take the time to investigate.  No one clue is inclusive in itself.  It becomes the cumulative effect of these clues that builds a strong case that GOD IS FOR REAL!

If God made the EVIDENCE His existence so conclusive, every rational person had to BELIEVE.  But God wants people to BELIEVE in Him freely, out of LOVE, so He leaves enough evidence for the seeker to know He’s there.

The EVIDENCE Can be easily Overlooked…

If you’re not looking, not seeking and you don’t want to see it…the EVIDENCE can be easily overlooked.

GOD’S REVELATION:

“For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them.  For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made–His handiworks.  So [men] are without excuse–altogether without any defense or justification”  (Romans 1:19-20 AMP).

THE PEOPLE OF ROME:

In many ways the people of Rome were similar to the people of Lystra, except the people of Rome were educated, civilized pagans.

In the context, Paul is describing why God’s wrath against sin was being revealed against ALL PEOPLE everywhere, religious and irreligious alike.

In the verses above, Paul tells us that certain things about God can be known once for all.  Even though God’s WHOLENESS might not be known because human minds are limited and confined–a MYSTERY (Romans 16:25-27).

But there are certain things we can know about God; these things include God’s eternal POWER and the invisible characteristics that make God who He is!

God makes these things “PLAIN” TO ALL PEOPLE!

The word “plain” means obvious, evident, clear and well-known.  God’s attributes aren’t only for the “spiritually” endowed Christian, but according to Paul, they’re evident to everyone.

God is invisible and unknowable, yet God made Himself both visible and knowable through the created world.  [See Footnote [ii]]

Because of this, no one can say, “But I didn’t know.”  So this passage of Scripture in Romans 1:19-20, is taking us a step further than the previous verses given in Acts.

Paul’s not just saying the universe contains the EVIDENCE, but we can know God is real because He reveals Himself …THROUGH THE UNIVERSE. In other words, God is actively speaking through His creation, making His invisible attributes visible and clear.

HOW FOCUSING ON THE UNIVERSE REVEALS GOD:

The BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE REVEALS GOD’S POWER–

10676205_10152749633038426_3880646600123989561_nAll physicists today believe in the “BIG BANG”–that the universe spontaneously came into being by an enormous explosion.  Beyond the “big bang”, physicists are speechless, because that’s delving into an unknown world of MYSTERY.  Yet it makes perfect sense the big bang was generated by a God of ETERNAL POWER in the verses of Romans 1.

The COMPLEXITY OF THE UNIVERSE REVEALS GOD’S WISDOM–

The more we learn about the physical world around us, the more complex we realize it is.  One strand of DNA contains enough information to fill all the textbooks available.  But the COMPLEXITY is so finely tuned…perfectly designed for life to exist.

This REVEALS GOD’S WISDOM designing such a complex world in such a way, enabling LIFE to flourish.

Finally, THE MORAL ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE REVEALS GOD’S JUSTICE–

Our internal sense of right and wrong, that inner moral compass, reveals the fact that we live in a moral universe with the sense of right and wrong.  Growing up as a child, my parents would say “just follow your conscience Mel.”

Since some things are MORALLY right and some things are MORALLY wrong, it points to a LAWGIVER, a morally JUST Being who created right and wrong (Genesis 3).

Now the question immediately arose when I was doing my investigation, if God makes Himself clear that He is the Creator of the Universe, why are there atheists and agnostics everywhere I turn these days?

ATHEISM is a form of denial.  Just like alcoholics who become more and more blind to their problem the more they drink, we become more and more blind to God’s Light the more we sin against God.  Eventually, we reach the point we truly believe God’s not real just like the alcoholic reaches the point he truly believes he doesn’t have a drinking problem.

BEING A SEEKER (Acts 17:26-28):

“From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that man would SEEK Him and perhaps REACH out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

Paul is saying to the Athenians, we ALL come from a common ancestor.

Now the Athenians were defensive and believed that their race was superior to all others.  They didn’t need another god–they already had plenty to bow down to as it was!

But Paul claims we all share an ancestry that God Himself was responsible in arranging the basic circumstances of our lives.  God did this so we would SEEK Him.

God’s PURPOSE in placing you and I in this time, and this place, this part of the world we reside, and as you are reading this blog-POST, was for you to SEEK HIM!

God designed us to not only SEEK, but to REACH for Him.  The word “REACH” describes the groping and fumbling of a blind person.  Left to our own resources, we are not equipped to actually find God.  But like blind people, we’re trying to hike an unknown mountain trail without a guide and we’ll get lost along the way.  So we if we SEEK without a guide, we are unable to find God.

But the good news is, God is never distant:  “We are His offspring.”

WE KNOW GOD IS REAL BECAUSE we were made to SEEK HIM–

There’s a “god-shaped vacuum” in the heart of every person.  God designed each and everyone to SEEK HIM.

Doing things your way…

IF GOD IS REAL, then the parallel to The Truman Show is correct, except it’s those who reject God’s existence that are living in a manufactured world.

It is those who are in REBELLION against God, who are avoiding Him because they want to live their lives, using a lyric from an old song…“My way” and where they are hiding in a make-believe world of DENIAL.

The Calling as a Church…?

Our calling isn’t to DEFEND God–He is perfectly able to do that Himself–we are to introduce people to a relationship with JESUS so they, like Truman Burbank, walk off their Seahaven set and venture into the REAL WORLD, the world God created and designed to live in.  GOD’S KINGDOM.

 

 

Footnotes:  

[i]  Strong’s Concordance #3152

Photos:

The Truman Show - Wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show/

Photo MAPS – Bible History Maps/Lystra-Derbe @ biblehistory.com/Lystra

UNIVERSE – hublesite.org/telescope/

 

 

 

 

Letting The Holy Spirit Have More of You!

ACTS 8:14-17 Amplified Bible:

[14] Now when the apostles (special messengers) at Jerusalem heard that [the country of] Samaria had accepted and welcomed the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,  [15] And they came down and prayed for them that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit;  [16] For He had not yet fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  [17] Then [the apostles] laid their hands on them one by one, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

For years, as a believer in Christ, I struggled understanding the four verses listed above.  And then one day, the “scales” were removed from my eyes [See "Taking the Red Pill"], and I began to understand.  Slowly at first, but then one Sunday morning, it happened.  Not all at once…but a Holy Spirit moment, the realizing empowerment took a hold of my heart.

EMPOWERMENT:

In Acts 8:15, 17, 19; Acts 10:47; Acts 19:12; all refer to the EMPOWERING operation of the Holy Spirit.

Now being saved, baptized and trained in doctrinal values of the Baptist denomination, this idea of EMPOWERMENT ran against everything I’d previously been taught by all the well-meaning church leaders.  I knew what Scripture had to say about receiving the Holy Spirit, even underlining them with side notes in my Bible.  Here are the well-known three proofs:

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, save or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink”  (1 Cor. 12:13 NIV).

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ”  (Romans 8:9).

“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory”  (Eph. 1:13-14).

The apostle Paul clearly taught that we RECEIVE the Holy Spirit at the moment we receive JESUS as Savior.  The above three passages make it clear, the HOLY SPIRIT is received the moment of SALVATION.

“Could there be more?”  - The Inward Justifying and Sanctifying Work of Holy Spirit…

In Acts 8:15  however, depicts the inward justifying and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  Further, it does not mean, getting more of the Spirit, rather it is a matter of letting the Holy Spirit have more of you!

“And they came down and prayed for them that the Samaritans might RECEIVE the Holy Spirit.”

[ILLUSTRATION – “A Woman Named Norena” – (See Footnote [i]):

Just Getting By…

The story is told of an elderly woman named Norena, who lived in southern Florida.  When a hurricane hit that area, her home was of many that was damaged severely.

Norena received an insurance settlement, and the repair work began.  However, when the money ran out, so did the contractor, leaving an unfinished home with no electricity.

Norena lived in her dark unfinished home–without POWER–for fifteen (15) years.  The astonishing part of this story, the hurricane wasn’t Katrina but Andrew–a hurricane which struck in 1992.

She had no HEAT, no AIR CONDITIONING while the humidity clung to 100%.  She didn’t have one hot shower.  Without money to finish the repairs, Norena just got by with a small lamp and a single burner.  Her neighbors didn’t seem to notice the absence of POWER in her home.

Acting on a tip, one day, the mayor of the Miami-Dade area got involved.  It only took a few hours of work by an electrical contractor, Kent Crook, to return POWER to Norena’s house.

CBS News reported, Norena planned to let the water get really hot, then take her first “bubble bath” in a decade and a half.

“It’s hard to describe having [the electricity]…to switch on”, Norena told the reporters.  “It’s overwhelming!”

After reading this story, I thought to myself, “How many Christian true believers have been living their entire lives without ever knowing what it is like to have the overwhelming POWER of the Holy Spirit operating within them?”  JUST GETTING BY!

In my own personal testimony, I believe that some of us have had that POWER turned off for so long, we would not even recognize it if it came back to us!  In my case, the POWER was turned on almost 9 years ago.

Giving only a little to JESUS–

Most of us only give Christ a little space of our lives.  D.L. Moody once said,  “What could God accomplish with a man or woman who has fully surrendered his or her will to God?”

NO SET FORMULA FOR RECEIVING AND GROWING IN THE INFILLING WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT:

There are some PRINCIPLES to look at, but basically, it is the same as growing in-depth of relationship with Jesus Christ.  There is no set FORMULA!  Only GUIDELINES.  God is sovereign!

The principle represents our human attempt at cooperation in God’s purposes and SUBMISSION to God’s will.  GROWING in having the Holy Spirit upon for POWER…is simply a matter of being in LOVE with Jesus; asking for the equipping of the Holy Spirit,  receiving in FAITH, and then stepping out in OBEDIENCE.

PRINCIPLE ONE -THIRST – John 7:37-39:

EXTREME THIRST

EXTREME THIRST

It is “thirst” that leads us to Jesus, who gives the LIVING WATER, the Spirit of God.

“Now on the final and most important day of the Feast. Jesus stood, and He cried in a loud voice,  If any man is THIRSTY, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me as the Scripture has said,  From his innermost being shall flow [continuously] springs of living water.  But He was speaking here of the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were afterward to receive.  For the [Holy] Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (raised to honor)” ~ Amplified Bible.

This is, first of all,a THIRST for intimacy with God - Psalm 63:1.

Second, it is a THIRST that arises with deep-seated awareness in our own inadequacy to do the works of God in our own strength.  Jesus perfectly describes our condition when He said,  “…apart from Me, you can do nothing!”

PRINCIPLE TWO – EXPECT – Ephesians 3:20:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”  ~ NIV Bible.

For many of us, “our God is too small”–our expectations of the Christian life are too small.  We’ve limited God by our FEARS, WORLDVIEWS, LACK OF KNOWLEDGE, etc..

EXPECTANCY is an expression of “untrammeled” [Not derived of freedom of action or expression; not restricted or hampered-[ii]] faith in God, which prepares us to RECEIVE to do all that He has for us.

PRINCIPLE THREE - REPENTANCE – Acts 2:38:

“…REPENT (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the (gift) of the Holy Spirit” ~ Amplified Bible.

That one is already BAPTIZED and GROWING in Christ is already assumed.  What the apostle Peter has emphasized here is REPENTANCE and CONFESSION should be an ongoing part of the Christian life.

SIN blocks our relationship with God, so REPENTANCE is basic criteria to spiritual growth.  Being sensitive to sin is what counts.

Please be careful here.  One doesn’t have to be perfect to have a high level of SANCTIFICATION; to receive the Holy Spirit “UPON” them for EMPOWERMENT.  There isn’t precondition for a “second blessing.”  If there were such a criterion for receiving the INFILLING, then none of us would qualify.  This is given as a FREE GIFT of God’s grace to all in Christ, who in obedience RECEIVE.

The GIFT IS AVAILABLE THE MOMENT WE ARE IN CHRIST.

No Neglect…

Having affirmed…no precondition, we must be careful not to neglect the inward work of the Holy Spirit.  God is very PATIENT, but if a person persists in disobedience, God may and often does, withdraws the Spirit’s EMPOWERING.  Saul is but one example in the Bible (1 Samuel 13:8-14).

Peter, after denying Jesus, went out and wept bitterly.  Later on the beach, he accepted Jesus’ recommissioning in the question and command,

“Do you love me?  …feed my sheep.”

PRINCIPLE FOURASK! - Luke 11:9-13:

If a person is in Christ, he already has the Holy Spirit within him.  BUT…to have the Holy Spirit “upon” for POWER, which is what it means to be baptized or filled with the Spirit, one must appropriate it–ASK!

Asking in PRAYER..

The important thing is to ask in prayer.  Doesn’t matter what words you use; no neat formulas.  What does matter is the intent of the heart.

Many find it helpful to have hands laid upon then.  This has a good Biblical precedent (Acts 9:17, 19:6), which gave me support in my faith when receiving Holy Spirit’s INFILLING; the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in an unknown tongue.

One may ask to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit, not once but many times, and as often as needed, and I’ve personally done so on many occasions.

PRINCIPLE FIVE - RECEIVE in FAITH – (Gal. 3:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15):

RECEIVING THE INFILLING with the Holy Spirit is not subject to our emotions or our experience.  Rather, it is founded in the PROMISES of God received in FAITH.

Pail asked the congregation located in Galatia,  “To purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God's sons].  And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba (Father)! Father!”  (Gal. 4:5 AMP).  

And furthermore, in Galatians 3:14,  “To the end that through [their receiving] Christ Jesus, the blessing [promised] to Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, so that we through faith might [all] receive [the realization of] the promise of the [Holy] Spirit.”

The Key to Appropriating What God Has Clearly Promised Us…

IS IN JESUS!  (Mark 11:22-24; 1 John 5:14-15).

These PROMISES listed in the above verses, gives us the CONFIDENCE to ask for and in faith RECEIVE the infilling of God’s Spirit.  We come to know it’s God’s will and intention… that we are made useful in His kingdom, equipped to witness to Jesus Christ.

Thus, in FAITH, we ASK for it, we TRUST and BELIEVE that we have indeed RECEIVED.  Experience will follow what we have appropriated in faith.

The emphases upon APPROPRIATING in faith, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, is it is Biblical; fully respects the SOVEREIGNTY of God and avoids all gimmicks and manipulations of tarrying meetings and the pressuring by people to speak in tongues, so marred by our joyful reception of God’s free gift.

PRINCIPAL SIX - OBEY the Holy Spirit – (Acts 5:32; John 14:15-17):

This last step is the crucial one and the essence of our whole relationship with JESUS.  We are called to OBEDIENCE to the Holy Spirit by receiving in faith…that FAITH must be made ACTIVE and ALIVE!  The way that this happens is through obedience to Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is calling us to obedience and while obeying, that’s when we EXPERIENCE the POWER or see the evidences that we have been EMPOWERED.

AN ILLUSTRATION:

Agitating Dirty Socks

Agitating Dirty Socks

The Holy Spirit, being Holy…His nature doesn’t allow Him to live in a dirty environment.

Does anyone know what that piece in the middle of my washer is called?  The part in the middle that moves back and forth and shakes the clothes back and forth?  I’ll just refer to it as an “Agitator.”

What is the purpose of the “Agitator”?  As far as I have learned [our washing machine and dryer is right next to my study/computer room], its sole purpose is to cause havoc for the dirty clothes; it’s there to SHAKE, SEPARATE, the clothes from all the dirt, grime, and money that may be in or on the clothes.

That said, as soon as we are SAVED, Holy Spirit moves into our hearts…but He doesn’t have our heart to Himself…there’s still a lot of things in there…the main one being our own selfish desires…even though we’ve been saved from our past sins, there still remains some things of the world we still cling on to.

ThesE “THINGS” have a way of attaching themselves to us as DIRT.  So, the Holy Spirit begins to gently and lovingly…AGITATE, to SHAKE…to CONVICT us to the things that need to leave our heart.

You see, God wants us to be FILLED with His Spirit…and only when we come to a place in our lives, is He willing to remove ALL the dirt…can we truly be FILLED with His Spirit.

Until then, many times in our spiritual life, it feels like we are in a washing machine…and the Holy spirit constantly, because He loves us so much, agitating within us, convicting us of sin.

What is the TRUTH?

The truth is God’s will for all to be FILLED with the Spirit…but it is your choice…it’s up to you…TOTAL SURRENDER!

If your DESIRE is to have a casual, nominal Christian lifestyle, in place of surrendering all…seeking to receive will not be your desire.  This is one of the major reasons why many individuals in the body of Christ don’t see the need of surrendering all.

The topic in this BLOG discussion, is often a controversial one because… the ministries of the Holy Spirit are often confused in the receiving/indwelling of the Spirit, occurring at the moment of salvation.

THE FILLING of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process in the Christian life.  It certainly has been for me.

The Holy Spirit becomes our permanent possession the moment we believe.  To RECEIVE the baptism or infilling with the Holy Spirit is just the beginning…you will not arrived at its end of the journey, but you have only begun!

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[i]  “Norena” story from UPI.com>TopNews

[ii]  Oxford Dictionaries.

 

PHOTO CREDITS:

Photo Pin for Bloggers.

 

Bible References:

Amplified Bible and New International Version Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Soul Fasting” (Part Two)

“SOUL FASTING” or “TRUE FASTING” (Part One continued) :

CONTINUING in Jeremiah 58 verses 6-7 (NIV).

[6]  Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  [7] Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood? 

With the title, as The WORD Detective, I like to break down sentence structures in the Bible while I study and meditate on God’s Word for a perspective blog-POST.  Verse 6 & 7 is but one example.

INFINITIVE VERBS–

An infinitive verb is a verb with the word “to” in front of it (eg. “to loose”, “to set”, “to share”, etc.) showing action.  (See Footnote [i])

In Verses 6 and 7, I learned through and by my investigation, the importance of TRUE FASTING and the desired outcomes of my actions.  Yes, there should always be an outcome from FASTING!

My whole outlook into God’s desires  has changed my point of view towards the practice of FASTING.  Not of my desires, or the churches desires, or someone elses, but God’s desire through my fasting can and will be accomplished.

We cannot be saved by deeds of service without FAITH IN CHRIST; but our faith lacks sincerity if it does reach out in compassion.

The PURPOSE of Soul Fasting–

The FOUR INFINITIVE VERBS in Verses 6 & 7, all pertain to LIBERATION.  God says He wants our service to go beyond our own personal growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity.  FASTING should be more than what we don’t eat.  It is obvious that this type of FAST is not a ritualistic one but for spiritual strength, bringing liberation to God’s people (the Church).

Have you ever felt “liberated” after you’ve fasted? The few times that I have fasted, LIBERATION never entered my mind.  Counting the hours so I could end my fast was all that I desired.

THE FIRST DESIRE OR PURPOSE–

The first desire of “soul fasting,” which honors God, is to loosen the bonds of wickedness (“chains of injustice”); while in our FASTING, that God would open the wicked bonds that have been placed upon you or someone else or a congregation.

Unchain the binding yoke

Unchain the binding yoke

The SECOND CLAUSE, to “untie the cords” or undo the bonds of the yoke, indicates the people who are mutually beneficial to one another, are to FAST that this oppressive yoke of burden, misguidance or direction over us is broken.

God tells His people, “If you want to FAST the way that pleases Me, start getting right with your brothers and sisters that sit next to you, in front of you, and across the aisle from you every Sunday.”  ["I don't smoke and I don't chew. And I don't associate with people who do!"].

The NEXT CLAUSE, to let the oppressed go free while we are FASTING; to pray for those who are oppressed in whatever form (socially, culturally), will be set free to serve God.

The statement “break every yoke” pictures the complete destruction of the means of oppression.  Those who are then freed by God can then spread the freedom to others.

The results of “soul fasting”, pursues and continues in VERSE 7

Not only does it require God’s POWER to enact justice, it also enacts God’s POWER to enact FAVOR, BLESSING, BENEVOLENCE to those around us.

“NO NEGLECT HERE!”

God’s people were not to neglect each other.  When someone shared with one in need, it was a reminder of everything one owned belonged to the LORD.

FASTING THAT CHANGES THE HEART:

“SOUL FASTING” changes the heart and make it compassionate.

“YOU” is singular.  The statements in VERSE 7 are directed to each person, to each of us.

Notice that you are to DIVIDE YOUR BREAD with the hungry of the same food that you are eating.  We must deny ourselves, that we may SHARE with that person that’s hungry.

stock-photo-breaking-bread-close-up-180998312

Dividing your BREAD with the hungry

Second, you and I are to provide lodging to those that do not have a house–provide shelter for the cast out poor, forced from his/her dwelling, turned out of house and home.

Third, we are to provide clothing for those who lack them.  “OUR OWN FLESH” probably refers to close relatives (Gen. 37:27).  God expects us to see the situation of our family and to take care of them.

My son once told my wife and I, that in our old age, if we can’t take care of ourselves, we could come and live at his house.  Now I don’t know how our daughter-in-law feels about that proposed idea, but the compassion of family is there.

God’s people SHARE with those who lack the basic needs of life.  Those who know in their own lives the compassionate blessing He brings, should in turn extend it to others.

These acts on behalf of others becomes the outward evidence of inward faith and righteousness (Job 31:17-20; Ezek. 18:7, 16).  JESUS identified with the hungry and naked (Mt. 25:36).

“TRUE FASTING” is to be concerned with more than our physical and spiritual benefits.  God wants us to go beyond concern of our own spiritual growth.

“SOUL FASTING” is more than NOT eating.  It is the emptying of SELF in order to find what we need in Christ Jesus, in order to please God with word and deed.

THE PRECIOUS PROMISE, Verses 8-12:

VERSE 8 begins to set forth some BLESSINGS upon a life that becomes right with God:

“Then your LIGHT will break forth like the dawn, and your HEALING will quickly appear; then your RIGHTEOUSNESS will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard” (NIV).

God offers PRECIOUS PROMISES for those who FAST in TRUTH--”Soul Fast”.  To be changed and have the situation changed to those in need of change.

God wants me to know that He will honor those who TRULY FAST in order to honor Him.

FOUR BLESSINGS ARE PROMISED–

LIGHT, HEALING, GUIDANCE and PROTECTION.

I don’t know about you, my desire is to have these four blessings in my life.  It’s not a wish, but a PROMISE to us who observe the TRUE FAST.

The FIRST PROMISE of LIGHT that comes is when we are focusing our life on SELF, resulting in DARKNESS.  Unless JESUS is the center of our interest, LIFE, in and of itself, is heading towards darkness.

The next BLESSING is…your recovery will speedily spring forth.  This recovery indicates to us HEALING or RESTORATION when unconstrained speed of LIGHT is accentuated.

The peoples RIGHT BEHAVIOR causes the righteousness of God to protect and guide them on their way.

The Advance Guard and the Rear Guard is in Place–

As the advance guard and the rear guard provide protection, so the RIGHTEOUSNESS and the GLORY OF GOD (revealed in the manifested presence), will guard against whatever came against God’s people.

Thus, REPENTANT people are surrounded by divine protection.

If the people had inner RIGHTEOUSNESS (revealed in outward acts of justice and mercy, vv 6 & 7), then…the LORD would BLESS them (Deut. 28:1-14) with LIGHT, HEALING (spiritual restoration), RIGHTEOUSNESS (high standards), and PROTECTION from trouble.

OTHER CONDITIONAL PROMISES, Verse 9:

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say; Here am I.

Under these conditions, the FAITHFUL BELIEVER could call upon God and expect answered prayer.

They had been trying to use God while at the same time, oppressing the weak and needy.  God thus was holding back His response (the COMPLAINT of vv. 1-3).

Selfish Religious Activity…

Our “selfish religious activity” will certainly have a hindrance to our PRAYERS (59:1-2).  God is ACTIVE for His people when they are ACTIVE for others.

Other Problematic Areas, (Verse 9 b.)–

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk.

The FIRST of the problematic concern is the need to remove the yoke.

Pointing a finger of accusation and blame at another or gossiping maliciously (speaking wickedness) about another is SINFUL and it pushes God away from the accuser–the one who is doing the “finger-pointing”.

Having a critical spirit towards others during my life has been a spiritual burden over the past years.  All my “trying not to…” hasn’t worked.  So when these feelings overcome me today; criticizing others and pointing a finger, I REPENT, letting the POWER OF JESUS who is inside of me, live through me.

The Conditions for the BLESSING to continue, Verse 12:

Living as a BUBBLING SPRING!

Living as a BUBBLING SPRING!

And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the DESIRE of the afflicted, then your LIGHT will standout in the darkness of your gloom as midday.

In verses 11 & 12, the BLESSINGS are continued:  Our LORD promises GUIDANCE, SATISFACTION, STRENGTH, and REFRESHING (like a spring).

Oh, to be GUIDED continually by God through the decisions of life; to be SATISFIED  when the world around us is on fire with thirst.

To be PLEASING and ATTRACTIVE like a well-watered garden to those around us.

To be FOUNTAINS OF JOY and COMFORT to the dry and weary soul around us.

All this and more for fulfilling certain conditions God gives us through the prophet.

And, there is even more, Verse 12.

RESTORATION and the REBUILDING of the RUINS OF MAN–

God promises to His compassionate people, that RUIN and DESTRUCTION can be overcome from His Blessed People.

Though the SIN of the fallen race eventually destroys everything it touches, God is greater than our sin.  He gives us the POWER to restore and repair what has been ruined (friendships, family, new relationships, etc.).  [See Footnote [ii]].  Oh, to be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets where people dwell.  God will enable us to put back together that which was ruined and broken.

To Fast or Not to Fast?

I hope that you just might have a better understanding of the FASTING pleases God.  The TRUE FAST, the “Soul Fast”.  So ask yourself before you deny yourself food, and that is what the Hebrew word som means: “abstaining from food and drink in the ritual sphere of Israelite worship.” [See Footnote [iii]].  Remember, JESUS own “FASTING” in the wilderness prior to the beginning of His public ministry is noted in Matt. 4:2. 

So the question isn’t “To fast, or not”, but what is the condition of our heart, mind and spirit (our souls) before, during, and after we FAST?

 

FOOTNOTES:

[i]     http://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/infinitive_html.

[ii]   Oswalt, NIC, 507.

[iii]  Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words.

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All from Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Soul Fasting” (Part One)

TRUE FASTING–

Is there a difference between REGULAR FASTING and TRUE FASTING for the Believer?  When pastors call for a church to fast during the year, do we understand the differences, or are there differences?  Is the idea of FASTING an Old Testament practice and not for todays Church?

Isaiah 58:3-12 NIV translation:

“Why have we fasted, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”

A Bending Reed

A Bending Reed

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear, then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke  of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will become like the noonday.  The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” 

GOD’S CHOSEN FAST:

I’ve been re-reading a terrific book written by one of my favorite authors, Mr. Don Nori: SECRETS OF THE MOST HOLY PLACE.  He asks a question that really caught my attention (pg. 175),  “Are you content to fast food, or is your desire to become God’s chosen fast?”

He goes on to say “Most of us know what the Scriptures call the true fast,” but few of us know the power and significance of this most unusual form of fasting.”

Now I don’t know “most Christians,” but I know I was unfamiliar with this form of fasting.   So, the Word Detective investigation into God’s Word began.

Over my Christian life, I’ve heard many times by different pastors who call for an annual “CHURCH FAST”; not a mandatory ritual, but a strongly suggested activity for a week or two in January.

Being a DIABETIC for over 56 years, ‘doing without food’ and adjusting my insulin wasn’t an option, so I just passed.  Now my actions might be an excuse or just a misunderstanding of the term FASTING, in either case I simply ignored the pastor’s request (I do pray!).

FASTING FOR WRONG MOTIVES:

In Isaiah 58:1-2, we can see the seriousness of the people’s self-absorbed religious practices.

[1] CRY ALOUD, spare not.  Lift up your voice like a trumpet and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins!

{2] Yet they seek, inquire for, and require Me daily and delight [externally] to know My ways, as [if they were in reality] a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God.  They ask of Me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God [in visible ways].  (Amplified Bible)

The people delight in the nearness of God; they thought of themselves as righteous–right with God.

THE PEOPLES PRESSURE (3-5):

In Verse 3, the people now voice their complaint in difficulty, though they were doing what the Law required.

Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not noticed?  Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  (NIV translation)

The people present how they view their RELIGION.  They were observing the activities as laid down by the religious leaders (priests), even engaging in FASTING (Lev. 16:29; Zech. 7:5-6).  They thought their FASTING in and of itself was humbling before their Lord.

Their FASTING though, was thoughtless or done as an attempt to obtain a selfish conclusion.  It was employed only for RELIGIOUS SHOW or to engage God to act on their behalf (See Mt. 6:16-18).

THE ACT OF SELF-DENIAL IN OUR FASTING:

Self-denial is a process to draw us closer to God, allowing us to hear Him better.  The prescribed annual fast, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29) was to afflict one’s soul for the purpose of mediation on the seriousness of one’s sins and the greatness of God in making ATONEMENT for them.  (See Footnote [i]).l

They saw FASTING as denying themselves of God so they might gain something worldly from God in return.  Neither FASTING nor REPENTANCE should be to get something from god in return.  REPENTANCE nor FASTING should be to get God to do anything.  They are expressions, the conviction that my ways are wrong and God’s ways are right whether He does anything for me or not.

Their FAST was simply an affliction of body, not an affliction of soul.

REAL MOTIVES BEHIND OUR BEHAVIOR IN FASTING:

VERSE 4 continues to lay open real motives behind the people’s behavior:

Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.  You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.  (NAS)

The reason for their FASTING was to make their iron-fisted, controversial acts more successful.

Fasting was to be the cause for God to effect or enact their covetous desires.  When it became obvious that their FASTING wasn’t having the desired effect in their lives, they FASTED to know why not.

So God told them that the purpose of their RELIGION was to acquire more and not to improve their closeness, their relationship with Him, as it was originally intended.

VERSE 5 relays that their motives, their purpose for fasting focussed on the external rather than on the realization that they need to be changed:

Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul?  [Is TRUE FASTING merely mechanical?]  Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and acceptable day to the Lord?  (Amplified Bible)

Because they had been focusing on their selfish ends (even their fasting) rather than a change of heart, attitude, and action…their prayers went unanswered.

The SACRIFICES of God are a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  If they call their bodily sacrifice alone a FAST, they were badly mistaken.

Bowing one’s head like a reed was a sign of humility; putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes were symbols of FASTING and signs of submission. But unless they go hand-in-hand as an inward submission to God and turning away from sin, they mean nothing!

THE ABSENCE OF THE BLESSING:

During the days of ISAIAH, God’s people were not experiencing the Lord’s Blessing–His favor on their lives.

They went through the MOTIONS OF WORSHIP and couldn’t understand why God wasn’t noticing their religious efforts.  But while they were FASTING, they were also exploiting their workers and fighting among themselves (vv 3-4).

8222922317_2cce0295b3Isaiah condemned their HYPOCRISY and told them they needed to change.  If they would free the oppressed, share with the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked, God would BLESS THEM with…

 

HEALING,

ANSWERED PRAYER,

GUIDANCE,

STRENGTH,

JOY!

RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY is no substitute for an OBEDIENT HEART.

THE PROPER PATTERN, 6-7:

FASTING is to let go of the normal and natural daily nourishment of this world in order to reach out and grab the empowering of God that is needed and to live righteously in this world.

In VERSES 6 & 7, we learn the desired outcome of FASTING:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?

-GO TO PART TWO TO CONTINUE-

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The Waiting Spiritual Farmer

James 5:7-12 (NAS Bible):

[7]  Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.  Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.

[8]  You to be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

[9]  Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

[10]  As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

[11]  Behold, we count those blessed who endured.  You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of Compassion and is merciful.

[12]  But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgement.

“DIGGING FOR RAIN” – A Story of a Farmer and his young son:  [See Footnotes [i] ]

One of my favorite authors, Don Nori, wrote a book that I just finished re-reading titled Secrets of the Most Holy Place – Volume Two.  Although, Mr. Nori’s intentions might not be directed towards PATIENCE and ENDURANCE, the Holy Spirit certainly spoke to my spirit in response to Verse 7 , James Chapter 5:

“Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it…”

PATIENCE WITH ANTICIPATION:

A FARMER and his young son were walking through the fields of corn they had planted just before the spring rains came.  They had thought this was going to be the best year ever.  The rains had been heavy for almost three weeks.  When the corn sprouted, it appeared as though it had leaped from the ground.

1196027736_d56d2432f2But that was all the rain that came.

Here is where I believe PATIENCE comes into play. The farmer and his son look towards the heavens daily as high thin clouds passed overhead and still no rain.

They walked together through the rows of stunted cornstalks while kicking up dust of the hardened earth covered their feet as they went.

One afternoon, the young boy mentioned to his father that the neighbors were calling a prayer meeting after supper.  The farmer kneeling beside a cornstalk acknowledged the prayer meeting by nodding, then saying, “The harvest rain will be too little and too late for this crop.”  He was hopeful, but his patience was wearing thin.

“We need water right now and we need the harvest rain too.  That would save this corn, maybe even make it a good year.”

At that point, the young boy thought his dad might not have heard his announcement of the evening prayer meeting asking the Lord for rain.

“Do you want to go? ‘Cause if you do, Mom and I will go too.”

The farmer smiled, nodding his head yes and saying “Yes, we will go to the prayer meeting tonight.”  As they walked back to the farmhouse, the farmer’s son, almost speaking to himself said, how cool it would be if the spring rain for the harvest could be saved.  Just in case the harvest rain wasn’t enough.  Although young in age, he believed in the Lord and knew He would not let them down.

The farmer stopped in his tracks, turning his attention to his son and asked him to repeat his last statement: “What’d you say, boy?”  His son immediately thought he was in trouble for his outspoken thoughts:  “I was just joking, Dad.  I said I wished there was a way to save the spring rain for the harvest.”

But the farmer wasn’t irritated, nor mad at all:  “Boy, I think I hear the Lord talking to me through your innocent little mouth.”

Never reaching the farmhouse and grabbing a pick and shovel laying in the dirt, began digging a hole in that spot.  But what about the prayer meeting they were all going to attend?  With the farmer’s actions, his anticipation of the results, he already knew the answer.  “The spring rain is right here in the dry creek bed at the edge of the cornfield.  Leastwise, it’s where it was the last time I saw it!”

Although Mr Nori’s story lingers on in detail, I wanted to skip over some parts [you can read it in detail by getting his book] and get to the conclusion of the story.

After digging through the night, while missing the prayer meeting, the farmer was strengthened by the prayers of his wife and the confidence of his son while he dug.  When the meeting at the church was over, his son stopped to see his dad’s progress.  There the farmer was still enthusiastically digging in a deep hole, so deep that a needed step-ladder was barely visible above the hole.  Getting his Dad’s permission, climbing into the hole, the young boy climbed down the ladder to help his dad search for the rain.

After some time, digging together by the light of a lantern, the water began to spring up like a geyser as they ran up the ladder as the hole quickly filled with water and began pouring into the field.

3393017119_841f9602f4

Now, what does this story of a farmer and his son, digging for rain, have to do with James 5:7-12?  

I LOVE THE WORD OF GOD!

I can never say this too often, “I love the Word of God”.  I believe it to be  inspired and inerrant.  I believe the Word to be God’s revelation of Him self to man.  As someone once said, no matter whether I believe it or not, the bible is still God’s truth.

The BIBLE is our tool to gauge our life.  It addresses every topic you will ever face, and has every answer we need to live a righteous life.  I LOVE GOD’S WORD!

I do love some of its subjects and situations it deals with more than others such as HEAVEN!  But, I also have to deal with hell’s reality.

I love reading and receiving Holy Spirit’s insight and to God’s voice dealing with FORGIVENESS.  But at the same time, addressing the issue “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

I do have to confess, I don’t enjoy some of the topics while reading, studying and teaching over the years in the Book of James.  I’ve had to examine certain sensitive areas and shortcomings of my own life, as we all should in reading God’s Word with application.

PATIENCE!!!

The “P” word…Now I would rather just skip over this.  The word James uses for PATIENCE and ENDURANCE in the original Greek implies for Christians “to stay put and stand fast when you would really like to run.”

James gives us 3 examples–

The Farmer (verses 7-9):

If you are an impatient person, then you shouldn’t be a farmer.  Like the story of The Farmer and His Son, although discouraged from lack of rain, he wasn’t impatient when awaiting God’s directions, then took action.

FARMERS MUST BE PATIENT!

They must be PATIENT with the SOIL.  The farmer must pain and toil preparing the soil to sow the seed.  Being an avid home gardener, my patience sometimes run thin:  I just added compost and fertilizer last year for the results.  Why do I go through this every year?   PATIENCE…

The Jewish farmer would do the sowing of the seed every year after the early rains.  They must be PATIENT with the seed after the soil is prepared and the seed is shown.  And, they must be patient, with the season.

Why does the farmer willingly wait so long?

VERSE 7:  Because the fruit is “precious”.

I don’t use the word “precious” in my conversation or writing.  Maybe it doesn’t seem manly.  After looking up the definition with the corresponding synonyms, PRECIOUS means “COSTLY”.  You and I, as children of God, are PRECIOUS in God’s eye.  Remember the song Jesus loves the little children…they are PRECIOUS in His sight.

THE HARVEST BRINGS REWARDS:

James is picturing the Christian here as the “spiritual farmer”…waiting for a spiritual harvest.

James reminds us, as Christians, the SECRET TO ENDURANCE is when the going gets tough, is that God is producing a HARVEST in our lives.  He desires the FRUIT of our spirit to grow.

We also must remember the farmer doesn’t stand around doing nothing.  As the farmer in the story tells, “he grabbed the pick and shovel and started digging.”  As James mentions, our faith without corresponding action (“works”) of obedience is dead (James 2:26 AMP).  

Then in James 5:9, James urges these believers NOT to “grumble (complain) against one another.”  Too many times in my own spiritual walk, I become IMPATIENT with other believers instead of letting God have His perfect timing.  He will complete in us what He desires.  In His time.

THE PROPHETS:

The early believers would have been familiar with this example of James of the Old Testament prophets.  When we read how these faithful servants suffered, it should offer us encouragement–ENCOURAGEMENT knowing God is in control, even if our five senses aren’t detecting it.

These prophets encourage us by showing they were in the will of God, yet they suffered proclaiming their message in “the name of the Lord.”

The prophets encourage us by reminding us that God cares for those who suffer for His sake.  Someone once said “the will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”  As the apostle Paul said, “God’s grace is sufficient.”

JOB (James 5, verses 11-12):

 Job is the classic example of a man who PATIENTLY ENDURED suffering and was blessed by God for his persevering FAITH.

James reminds the believer there are BLESSINGS for those who PERSEVERE through it all.  Job lost all he had except…a nagging wife non understanding, and non supporting friends.  Job didn’t understand what the causes of his suffering were.  He didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes between God and Satan…yet Job endured!

VERSE 12 seems to be out-of-place with the context of James’ message.  Think for a moment, how often during trials and suffering, trying to deal or bargain with God in the process.  “If you will do this and that God, I’ll do this.”  That is an OATH–a promise.  An “OATH” is a verb indicating the action of “invoking a curse” and “binding oneself under an oath” (See Footnote [ii] ).

Waiting for the HARVEST

Waiting for the HARVEST

 

 

Footnotes:

[i]  Secrets of the Most Holy Place – Volume 2 by Don Nori – Copyright 2004.

[ii]  Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.

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The Challenge Preaching and Teaching to All Who Are Listening!

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NIV Bible:

[1]  Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ.  [2] I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  [3] You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?

FIRST of all, I’m not a Pastor.  But a preacher, a teacher…that I am.  Now that I cleared that up, I can proceed with some principles.  Principles I’ve discovered over 40 years of teaching… which might just help in your sharing of the gospel to all!.

Preaching and Teaching to the Immature and the Spiritual Giants…

Every week, pastors all over the world are asked to do something that is almost impossible:  Preach and teach a message to a group of people which includes…

–  Teenagers to seniors.

–  Men and women.

–  Mature disciples and not-yet-believers.

–  The faithful and the skeptical.

–  Regular attenders and first time guests.

–  Singles, married, divorced and “it’s complicated.”

–  Those who need comfort and those who need a swift kick in the…!

No wonder the pastoral burnout rate is so high!

As a Christian Blogger, I’ve been teaching through writing, as THE WORD DETECTIVE for 44 months with mixed results.  It’s still tough, but I’ve become steadily better at it in time.  But mostly by trial and error.  While I don’t claim to have mastered the art of writing down all my thoughts, I have discovered a few simple principles that may help in your particular giftings.

"Babes" and "Giants"

“Babes” and “Giants”

“Babes in Christ”–Who are they?

“I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food because you couldn’t digest ["stomach"] anything stronger.  And even now you still have to be fed milk”  (1 Corinthians 3:2 TLB).  {I added the word “stomach” in brackets for emphasis}

“Babes in Christ” are Christians who aren’t sufficiently advanced to the teachings of the Word of God.  They are still majoring in the simple and easy truths of the Bible; they see Him as a God of Love but can’t picture Him as a God of wrath and judgement.

So, they RESIST any kind of “strong” or “hard” preaching/teaching against sin.  It doesn’t fit in their elementary theology box.

Could there be sadder words spoken by a Preacher to his congregation?

The Apostle Paul was addressing the Corinthian Church here–a church that was enriched with much knowledge and many spiritual gifts.  Yet in spite of their many BLESSINGS, they remained as “babes in Christ”–couldn’t “handle” the matters of doctrine. so they fill in the blanks with unsound reasoning and began making up their own DOCTRINE!  I’m sure they thought that they were “Spiritual Giants” in their thinking.  But were they not “babes in Christ” and didn’t know it?

Stay Fixed on THE WORD

Stay Fixed on THE WORD

PRINCIPLE NUMBER ONE:  Start and Stay with Scripture.

This is  KEY when teaching or preaching.  Don’t just use a verse or two–a jumping off point to say what you want to say.  STUDY IT and STICK WITH IT throughout the entire message.  Sure, we need to use personal stories, current events and common experiences in our communication, verbally or our writings.  BUT, as I have found, going down a “spiritual rabbit holes” can lead you in the direction of wrong intentions.

When I first started blogging, my oldest daughter sent me a message via Email:

“DAD, I enjoyed reading your story about Jesus in the Bible. Just a suggestion, you might use more personal stories to get your point across. LOVE YOU DADDY, Karen.”

Too many, well-meaning pastors and Christian writers are basing their messages, not on a passage from God’s Word, but on the title of the latest movie, a news headline, or the latest “a funny thing happened to me” story.

Forget Your Bible?

Forget Your Bible?

When in doubt of what to say, or teach is…“the TRUTH of God’s Word always, and I mean “always” speaks to everyone.”

PRINCIPLE TWO:  Learning Something New.

One of the best ways I’ve found in reading and using Scripture  is to MEDITATE on the passage I’ve chosen until I discover something I’ve never seen before.  Reading the words before me until they begin to speak to me.  And, if I don’t feel I’m ready…read it again until it does speak!

Second, I’ve learned over time, the things that I teach orally, preach or write might likely be deep enough for the “mature believer” as well.

I love reading the comments left on my published blogs;  “Thanks, Mel!  I never saw it in that way before!”  To which I reply, “Me either!”

There are few things more invigorating to a church member, as hearing from their pastor who keeps learning and sharing new depths in God’s Word.  And by the way, tell your pastor, encourage your pastor, in acknowledging the truth presented.

PRINCIPLE THREE:  Using the Simplest Language Possible.

After studying and prayer each morning, I go through my notes and edit my rough draft with a Roget’s Thesaurus next to the computer.  I try to replace all the multisyllabic theological terms into everyday terminology.  The same words I would use in casual conversation at the local coffee shop.  I feel it is my responsibility to help my readers, or the Bible Study attendees, to understand biblical concepts and doctrine in such a way, that they can take with them and live them out.

It’s not easy…

Sometimes it’s hard to explain deep concepts in simple language with all the commentaries, books available,  etc., but I’m learning in the process. If I can’t explain it in simple terms, I probably don’t understand it as well as I think I do.  So I study some more until I have a better grasp of God’s Word and can explain it simply [you might disagree].

PRINCIPLE FOUR:  Leave the Results in God’s Hands.

Although frustrated at times, I have certainly learned over the years…you can’t speak with your lips or write weekly blogs, that everyone will get something different from the same message or topic given.  Only God’s WORD can do that.  So I do what I can do, and leave the rest in God’s hands.

I can’t reach the sorrowing widower, the struggling single parent, the alcoholic dad, the skeptical seeker at the same time.  But the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word in speech or in writing can.

The Holy spirit steps in and does something we could never do.  He speaks to each person so specifically, that I hope and pray they leave the pages I write, leave knowing, “That MESSAGE was just for me.”

“Babes in Christ” and “Spiritual Giants” are listening…

HEBREWS 5:12-14 AMP:

[12]  “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.”

[13]  “For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]!”

[14]  “But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.”

Who are the “someones” and the “everyone’s” in your life?

I wanted to leave you with a question rather than an answer.  And if you don’t know the answer, that’s okay.  Should you know the answers?

I have only presented a brief summation of God’s Principles and presenting the TRUTH to Pastors, teachers, preachers, and bloggers (writers).

“If indeed God permits, we will [now] proceed [to advance teaching].  For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit.  And have felt how good THE WORD OF GOD is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come”  (Hebrews 6:3-5 AMP).

 

Photo Credits:

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Credits: 

Signs of Spiritual Immaturity – “Babes in Christ” and “Spiritual Giants” by Connie Giordano – Walking in Faith.

 

 

 

 

Are You SEARCHIN’ FOR DIRECTION IN YOUR LIFE?

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SEARCHING FOR DIRECTION IN LIFE?

One of my favorite singers of the past, was the late Dusty Springfield along with Dionne Warwick: Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Thinkin’ and Prayin‘. What was the lyricist “prayin’” for?  To find, search for LOVE, perhaps in all the wrong places?  Perhaps, but in doing so, frustration must have set in to the “thinkin”.

My search for some answers, begins with finding and knowing God’s will in my life; the search for direction–thus, the question presented in the title for this weeks BLOG.  Not in your life necessarily, but in mine.  Hopefully. in reading this post, you will find and know God’s will more clearly in your life too!

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but how much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose”  (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV Bible).

DOING GOD’S WILL WITH A SMILE -

Before doing God’s will…we need to know before the “doing”, “HOW DO I KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS in any given situation of my life?”

The answer I found, isn’t really complicated.  There are steps in the process like everything else in life.

We live in a “I want it now society”, and patience in knowing, is not a virtue of ours.  Yeah, we might know the words found in Galatians 5:22-23 (“THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT”)…love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…but living with them, applying Holy Spirit’s gifts…that’s not something most of us seek on a daily basis.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t…just, most of us don’t!

FINDING THE ANSWERS IN THE RIGHT PLACES:

How can we find the WILL OF GOD for our lives?  If we don’t follow God’s will for us, we will pay a heavy price in facing the negative consequences.

GOD wants to know His will for your life–

If you’re NOT a believer in Jesus Christ, NOT placed in a saving faith in Him, you’re out of the will of God!  He desires that ALL come to repentance, faith, and to be born-again.

GOD’S WORD:

Psalm 40:8:  “To do your will, O my God, is my desire; your law is within my heart.”

“LAW” (or His Word) = WILL OF GOD.

Example:  We know through reading the Word of God that marrying an unbeliever is NOT God’s will for our lives (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).  God tells us in His Word, ‘Don’t get the cart before the horse’ in new relationships in dating.  Your desires may just precede God’s desire in your life.  And that’s not His will.

THE FIRST and PRIMARY WAY of knowing God’s will for your life…

You are unsure in making an important decision in your family; changing jobs, changing locations because of your job, financial commitments, and you don’t know where to find the answers in your Bible.

If you don’t know where to find your particular circumstance in God’s Word, and don’t have a BIBLE CONCORDANCE, invest in one.  SEARCH for it in God’s Word.  IMPATIENCE might just lead you in the wrong direction.

 1.  God wants us to be WHOLE and NOT SICK…

[2] And behold, a leper came up to Him (JESUS) and, prostrating himself, worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You are able to cleanse me by curing me.    [3] And He reached out His hand and touched him, saying,  “I am willing; be cleansed by being cured.  And instantly his leprosy was cured and cleansed  (Matthew 8:2-3 AMP).

2.  Knowing God’s Will for us is Not to be Poor and in Debt…

More than Enough!

More than Enough!

God wants us to have enough so our needs are met and we give to others in return.

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the servant to the lender”  (Proverbs 22:7).

God’s Word also tells us, to those who might be struggling making ends meet in this economy, one reason why He sent His Son into this world:

[JESUS speaking] …I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)”  (John 10:10 AMP).

The “overflow” is much more than “just enough”!

3.   GOD doesn’t want us to be DEPRESSED:

HIS WILL for us is to be happy (to “enjoy life”), full of joy!  (Philippians 4:4)

“REJOICE in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice!”

THE NEW ROGET’S THESAURUS, definesDEPRESSION” – dishearten, dejection, lowness, worthlessness.  

If you are feeling in a state of constant depression right now…it’s NOT God’s will for your life!

The general will of God is clearly specified in the Word of God for us.  But just knowing where to find thee TRUTH and not claiming and receiving God’s will for our life is another.

So, how can we know the specifics, the details of GOD’S WILL?  Our Bible doesn’t tell us which job to take, doesn’t tell us who to marry, even if we are following God’s will.  E.g., disciples in the boat–“Let us go over to the other side.”

4.  Through the PEACE OF GOD:

“Let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts, since members of one body, you were called to peace.  And be thankful”  (Colossians 3:15 NIV).

“RULE” =  “BRABEUO” (Greek word)  [Footnote [i] ].

This verb is found only in this verse and expresses the underlying sense of “having the role of greatest influence.”  The Amplified Bible says PEACE, ["acts as umpire continually".]

Just as every sport that has disputes, they must be settled by the officials, the PEACE OF GOD as the umpire, settling all disputes as to what the will of God is for our lives.

THE PEACE OF GOD is always “umpiring” in our hearts, but we don’t always pay attention to it.  Sometimes, we even go against the PEACE of God in our hearts.

As you sit in the presence of God, be still, take a “time out”, consider all the options, discerning the will of God by the PEACE given to your heart (Psalm 46:10).

5.  DISCERNING correctly what the Lord is trying to tell us–

Lining the Lights Up…

Aligning Things Up!

Aligning Things Up!

There was a certain harbor that was treacherous and dangerous to enter.  In order for the captain to guide his ship safely into the harbor, he had to be attentive to three lights used to guide him.  When all three lights lined up as one, he knew it was safe to proceed.  Then, and only then, would he bring his ship safely to port.

As we seek GUIDANCE, we too have to be attentive to “THREE LIGHTS”…to guide us into the harbor of His will:

~ The WORD of God,

~  Our outward circumstances,

~  Our inner conviction.

When all three of these Lights line up, we can then proceed with assurance, of being led safely into the harbor.

6.  God’s Will Revealed Through the Word of Knowledge and Prophecy:

“To one is given in and through the [Holy] Spirit [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same [Holy] Spirit”  (1 Corinthians 12:8 AMP).

“…to another prophetic insight (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose); to another the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones]”  (1 Corinthians 12:10).

WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL with this!  Whatever is being revealed should be tested and consistent with the Word of God.  We shouldn’t take others words blindly, but we ourselves should test what the other person has said in respect to what God says (His will) from His Word (Scripture).

God does speak through audible voices sometimes (friends and family).  We have to DISCERN whether we’re listening to God’s voice, or someone elses.

Good intentions…

If we are receiving a word of knowledge or prophecy from a person, we should know and make sure that particular person that’s speaking to our issue is living a godly life too.

But it is possible for some true servants of God to NOT LISTEN to the Lord correctly.  In that case, they should tell you clearly they are not sure.

PROPHECY is not fortune-telling.  We’ve got to be careful of this.

“What should we DO to know God’s will for our life?”

Romans 12:1-2 KJV:

[Verse 1]  “I BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your responsible service.

[Verse 2]  “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

This “renewing” is not a  one time experience, but a daily reminder in every decision and circumstance we face in our lives.  In order TO KNOW GOD’S WILL, we need to…

OFFER OUR BODY (who your are in your spirit–our whole being) as a LIVING SACRIFICE, living holy lives.

KING DAVID came upon the scene of a threshing floor of a Jebusite by the name of Araunah as commanded by the Lord.  When Araunah saw the king coming, he went out and bowed himself down before the king.

Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”  And David said, “To purchase the threshing floor from you; to build there an altar to the Lord.”

What Araunah did next seemed to me a honoring gesture as he offered the king everything he had for the altar of sacrifice–of worship and praise.

But David refused the offer in saying to Araunah,  “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my GOD of that which cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24).

“What’s that particular story have to do with knowing God’s Will for my life?  There is never an offering, a sacrifice of worship, praise or anything else that doesn’t cost you something.  After paying the price, according to God’s Will in the circumstances, David made the offering.  He knew God’s will in this matter because of the Word of his LORD GOD.

The RESULTS OF KNOWING and APPLYING THE STEPS:  

So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and Israel’s plague was stayed.”  (verse 25).

PHILIPPIANS 2:13:

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

GOD gives us the DESIRE to do His will and…He also enables us to do His will.

ILLUSTRATION:

A young man entered his church one Sunday morning where he started praying before the service began.  He was so anxious to find God’s will for his life that he took out a piece of paper he kept in his bible, writing down all the things he was going to do for God.

He started to PRAY that God might revel to him whether these promises were acceptable to Him.

God whispered in his ear, “This is not the way I want you to find My will.  All I want of you is for you to sign your name and leave the paper blank for Me to fill in.”

 

 

Footnotes:

[i]  Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.

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