Posts Tagged With: Faith

When An Unsaved Loved One Dies

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The Lord has whispered in my heart concerning you, and His spirit urges me to pray, and to speak His truth into your difficulties which in turn brings strength and peace. In times like these we can go to our well of hope and strength to bask in the Lord’s glory. Suddenly, our burdens lift under the light of God’s wisdom and loving providence. John Piper offers good perspective for difficult times of grief and loss. He writes, “What we must keep our focus on is that God is just, God is good, and God does not do anything that we will not ultimately approve someday.”

The Lord has affirmed this truth to me in a personal way during a time of deep grief and loss.

 

One day we will look back upon all that was painful in our lives and nod in agreement with God. We will understand that He allowed the right thing to transpire at precisely right time, every time. I am glad that God is so big and mysterious. If I were to understand everything He does and all that He allows to happen, He might not seem quite so big and all knowing.  His infinite immensity is more than our imaginations can fathom. As we focus our thoughts upon God’s love, being absolutely convinced of His faithfulness to always do or allow what is best and good, we cling to the knowledge that we belong to Him. Doing so has often helped me to reconcile difficulties in my mind. Like the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and obey,”—It rings from the hearts of those who can say along with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

 

Genesis 18:25 is like the voice of a clarion proclaiming the righteous faithfulness of our majestic Holy One, saying “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” We can rest in the understanding that God will always do precisely what is right and best for His children. He is the only one qualified to judge because He is holy and pure, and He makes judgements on our behalf that display the grandeur of His delectable mercy. But He also has the paternal passion for you and I that elicits tsunami sized waves of compassion and comfort. Let’s lift our voices to our Heavenly Daddy saying, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

Go to Him, and rest in His loving arms while trusting that God knows all things and we do not. Trust Him.

 

When Christ returns and gathers you and I to be with Him forever, there will be no sorrow, pain, suffering or tears. This is His promise. How will He accomplish this? I don’t know—nobody does. But what we do know is that God is faithful to keep His word. He will keep all of His glorious promises to you. I know a lot of people, many of whom I do not believe to be saved. I love them, and my finite mind cannot reconcile how I will not be bothered in the least by the fact that they will be in hell while I am in bliss. But I trust God, and I know He can and will keep His promise to wipe every tear from our eyes. Never doubt His love. He has inscribed your name upon His palms. That’s what He said. Rest in the glorious warmth of God’s mighty love, He will comfort you.

In summary, the one thing that will salve our hurting hearts during times of grief and loss is faith in God. Personally, I can feel His love for you in my own heart as He confirms His words of promise that He’s given to us all. Hope is found in Christ Jesus and His love will comfort us.

 

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Categories: Bible, Christian Living, Death of Unsaved, Faith, God's Faithfulness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bible Origin Series

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The age in which we live is experiencing a full frontal onslaught against the authority and inerrancy of scripture, more than at any other time in history. God’s word is under constant assault with increasing intensity. How will our children answer when confronted with the objections of the world? Will they be prepared to answer the critics and make a strong defense of their faith? Will their faith weather the storms of horrendous negative peer pressure in college?

 

That is the reason why we’d like to provide you with some tools to help prepare you and your children, so that no matter what comes, your faith in the God of the Bible may stand firm. And so that you may:

 

“…Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: keeping a clear conscience, so that those who slander you will be put to shame by your good behavior in Christ.” 1st Peter 3:15 & 16 KJV & Study Bible

 

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In conjunction with the Bible Origin Series, and as a prelude to its exciting continuation, I was compelled to include some necessary truths. These are the very thoughts I’ve been wrestling with. The Spirit has laid them in my heart to study. So, after a tanker full of really good coffee, I went to work summarizing as briefly and concisely as possible, the issues that have been holding up the works, and I am presenting them in this post for your astute consideration.

 

Straight out of the starting gate I can tell you that in truest nerd fashion, science gets me all excited. I’ve made it a good habit to research everything that I am told, and put it under honest scrutiny, just as the Berean Christians did when Apostle Paul preached to them. It is wise to study the history surrounding not only events and documents of the past, but also the spiritual implications of things that have transpired long ago. Most interesting to me is when we can chart the formation of concepts, ideologies, and various religious practices, it provides insight that would have eluded us otherwise. I relate this not for the purpose of tooting my own horn, so to speak. Though, sometimes, I feel as if my head is swelling up with too much information or getting overheated, perhaps, until I think it’s going to burst. So let’s get to it.

 

On the subjects of providing scientific, archaeological, historic and other tangible proofs of God’s existence, and as for the Bible having Divine origins, we must consider the following before we continue.

 

  1. The existence of the God of the bible cannot be disproved by science.

Every such attempt has been dramatically debunked. The unbelieving world, under the influence of satanic deception, continues to perpetuate increasingly more fabrications (called theories) to explain away their own failures to disprove the existence of God.

  1. On the other hand, the existence of God cannot be proven to be true through science either.

I believe it should not even be attempted.  God has designed it that way for a purpose: That salvation may be by grace through faith. Scientific evidence can in no way bring a soul to saving faith in Christ Jesus. There are, however some very good organizations who have in  great detail scientifically disproven the claims asserted by atheistic and agnostic scientists. One that I can recommend is the Institute For Creation Research

Another I like is Cross Examined

Frank Turek is a wonderful Apologetics professor, besides he’s a funny guy and really cracks me up. You may want to check out some of his videos on Youtube.

I do give credit to and even applaud those Christians (apologists) who have made use of their scientific studies to help aid Christians whose faiths are faltering. Often, weakened faith results from un-surrendered pride of intellect, which was enervated via lies perpetuated by those who would have us believe they possess a superior intellect than we do. Or, perhaps the enemy has used a person’s circumstances to bring about their doubts. Superior intellect is the premise on which most anti-God scientists base their ludicrous theories. When Christian men of equal or greater (worldly) intellect disprove bogus scientific claims, the claimants of fallacious reasoning resort to name calling and attempts to demean or undermine the qualifications (intellect) of researchers who demonstrate truthful science, rather than using their own scientific method to attempt to disprove the science itself. That is a clear indication that they are already well aware of the inconsistencies of their own research and thinking.

The bible declares them to be “willfully ignorant” (Romans 2). NOTE: (We will see the bible’s meaning of “willfully ignorant” later in this post). Perhaps it is their innate sense of the ignorance they employ which drives these deceiving scientists to insist on their own intellectual superiority as a mask to cover their ineptness to disprove God?

 

As for Christians, nowhere in scriptures are we commanded to go forth and study the sciences to prove God’s existence. “For by grace you are saved through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8) It does not say that belief or faith comes through convincing scientific argument. Consider this next verse carefully.

For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom, knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1st Corinthians 1:21 KJV  (Emphasis mine)

 

If evidence beyond Creation, the bible, and that which the Holy Spirit of God has already provided is employed, belief is no longer by faith, but by extra evidence contrived by man. To demand more evidence is to have no faith. And yet faith is always rewarded with concrete factual assurances that our faith is not in vain. Where a soul employs saving faith, more evidence than anyone could ever need, or expect, is provided to that individual soul.

 

We are told by the Spirit of Christ that it is through the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and preaching, and teaching of the bible, that souls are saved.  We cannot prove the resurrection of Jesus by reason. And the resurrection of Jesus is the central truth of the gospel. Without it, everything else of the Christian faith is worthless and powerless. No man knows Jesus rose from the dead unless that man has trusted Him in complete helplessness of soul. “If thou shalt confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9&10).

 

This “belief” is not an intellectual one. Intellectual belief can never produce moral and spiritual results. The devil has an intellectual belief in Christ as being Lord of creation, and belief in His resurrection.

 

“Belief with the intellect does not produce righteousness, belief with the heart does.”—G. Campbell Morgan.

 

This saving faith is ‘certainty of the heart’ and it brings clarity about pure morality, and it precedes regeneration of life (it saves us, qualifying us for grace). By mankind’s absolute helpless dependence upon God, casting ourselves by faith into Christ, is received the inner spiritual witness that causes the soul to know for certain. Faith produces certainty—a certainty born of evidence provided by the unseen inner spiritual witness of God Himself, indwelling those who believe.

 

The resurrection is a fact that can in no way be proven, nor explained by reasoning, but must be accepted in, not intellectual assent alone, but also in faith. That faith is then rewarded by assurance that “He ever lives to make intercession for us.” We not only know it, we do not merely believe it—we have experienced Him and know for certain it is true: He lives!

 

The biblical “ignorance” in the Greek is the same word as “agnostic”. The same word in Latin is “ignoramus.” They mean the same thing: “The man who does not know.” But we can be sympathetic with the man who “cannot know” for he is forever bound to walk in the darkness of not knowing anything whatsoever of the eternal and the spiritual. How can we have anything but sympathy for such a one? Their entire life is predicated upon uncertainty in all things, and will be manifested in frustration, dissatisfaction with life, and will lack true, lasting purpose.

 

One who is spiritually blind, groping about in the dark, is far worse off than a person who is physically blind, and yet has spiritual sight. Spiritual sight is afforded through faith in God. And yet we can respect such a person who is honest enough to say he does not know. There is still hope for him. Unless, that is,  he has made his agnosticism a harbor of refuge and impertinence. If this is the case then all hope for him is lost, and his agnosticism has become a prison. But if he’s not done so, He may yet have faith bloom within him at some future time, that he may know the truth concerning the resurrection of Christ Jesus, as so receive inner eyes to see, and be forever certain. For this we earnestly pray.

 

Now, I can finally get back to sharing some absolutely amazing and incredible things about the Holy Bible. I eagerly anticipate providing some absolutely resounding proofs that the bible is divine in origin, and completely infallible, and authoritative. Some of it is guaranteed to be jaw dropping. It’s going to be an enlightening and a fun ride, so buckle up and be sure to watch for our next post.

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God’s Matrimonial Marvels

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He was less than attractive to look at, but one might say he was cute, if, that is, they were fond of pugs. When hearing Earnest Farnsworth preach, it was impossible to miss the passion in his voice. Accentuating this auditory indicator was his body language, with movements akin to the conductor of some grand orchestra. Right down to the drool on his chin, Earnest’s messages poignantly manifested his love for people, and for God. Oh he was a beautiful soul. That turned up little nose of his, though repulsive to the casual observer, became a beloved feature to those more astute, who knew him well. Many came to adore this man, whom strangers called ugly.

Some Christians have attempted to conceptualize the physical appearance of the Apostle Paul. Tradition has it that he was a slight man, and unseemly to gaze upon. Austerity marked him as a stern person. Yet, on the inside, he was one of the most magnificent souls to have ever lived.  He was so loved by the churches, that upon hearing they may never see his face again they were deeply saddened. “What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.” Acts 20:38

What is it that resides on the insides, which can so negate these men’s deficiencies in physical aesthetics? What made them so appealing? Both were Christian men—men of God. But there are thousands of Christians who are ugly both inside and out. What makes the difference? Allow me to propose an answer: Perhaps the ugly souls are not really saved at all? My audacity in suggesting this is influenced by Jesus’ own words.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Matthew 21-23


“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14 KJV

Allow me to make another bold and audacious statement, but before labeling me a heretic, please hear me out. Those who are extremely beautiful souls, who shine forth with the love of Christ, are God. What? That’s right, I said they are God.

Yes, Father, Son and Holy Spirit “alone” are God, the three in one, and that is no contradiction to what I said just previous. Allow me to present to you the doctrine of sanctification, and of God’s Holy Spirit. Please follow through to hear the conclusion, that you may understand my daring statements.

Back in Genesis, God ordained the institution of marriage. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 NIV

Though a man and a woman are two separate individuals, when joined in marriage, spiritually speaking they are now one flesh. Two become one. This is a spiritual union. We will come back to this in a moment.

Often I hear preachers and teachers of the word speak as if they were not in Christ, while at the same time preaching Christ. I’ve done it myself, many times, but this morning the Lord set something new into my mind. We ask, “What would Jesus do?” Or maybe, “What would Jesus say in this situation?” Really? We don’t already know?    If we are in Christ we should know what Jesus would do, or what He would say, because he lives within us. “…But we have the mind of Christ.” 1st Corinthians 2:16 Either we believe the bible or we do not. That tired old excuse about different ways of interpreting was worn out before it even began. It is nothing more than a rationalization to disobey God.

On this last verse phrase, I was amazed that all translations of scripture were identical, with the exception of a few using “Messiah” in place of “Christ”. We are a part of Him!

In the past I’ve talked a lot about our relationship with Christ, and this relationship is a sweet essence in our doctrine. But there’s a difference between having a relationship to Him, and a relationship with Him. I have a relationship to my desk. I sit before it, and it serves me well. I care for it, wiping off the muffin crumbs and cleaning off the coffee spills. Every so often, I actually tidy up the entire thing, though you may doubt that if you were to see it. It would be rather odd to say, “I have a relationship with my desk.” It is not personal. It has no personage.

We serve a personal God, who is intensely interested in every nanosecond of our lives. Paul speaks in relation to my audacious statements as being a former “mystery” that is now revealed. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. “ Colossians 1:27 NIV

Christ uniting Himself to us is the mystery that was not revealed until after Jesus’ ascension to the Father’s side. He is our righteousness, and He is creating holiness within us. This was and is the only way we could overcome our sinful nature. He empowers and enables us to obey God in all things. God did however give a few clues in the Old Testament era, as to how He would change us back into people who are fit to be in His presence. One of those clues is found in Jeremiah 31:31-33.

Here is a key verse when it comes to sanctification. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 NIV

If we are really saved and are true Christians, then Christ is in us. We are Christ’s church. We are the bride of Christ, but we are still in the engagement stage of this marriage to Him. When Jesus was on earth, a pledge to be married was a serious thing, not like today. It was a prenuptial contract. Our wedding shall take place in heaven, and we now are being made ready by becoming holy, as He is holy. Holiness is a qualification for entering the kingdom of God. We are washing our robes in the blood of Christ.

But we have been sanctified, set apart as a holy people, a royal priesthood unto God. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1st Peter 2:9 NIV

But we are also, currently being sanctified, as in the process of becoming holy. “For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1st Peter 1:16. We are becoming holy (being sanctified). We are being conformed to the image of the Son of God. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Romans 8:29a

We’ve been set apart and joined to God through Christ. More specifically, we are joined to Him through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ. If in marriage two become one, as God declares, then are we not one with Christ? “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” 1st Corinthians 6:17 There it is again, our spiritual union (marriage) with Christ. We become one with God.

Is Jesus God, or not?  I pray that you said, “Yes!” If so, and we have become one with Him, then we too, are, in a sense, God. But our union with Him has stipulations. We can only be godlike when we are in full surrender, submission, and obedience to Him. Our union with Christ is contingent upon our submission to His Spirit, who is constantly hoping to unite with our spirits, and have control over us. But he will not take control, we must give it, and surrender ourselves to the will of God. This is FAITH! Do we believe in God’s love or not? Do we believe that He is right in all that he says, and in every way that He leads us? This is what repentance means. We cannot be born of the Spirit until we have repented, agreeing with EVERYTHING God has said, says, or will say. It is a change of mind.

I agree that I am a sinner and in need of God’s grace. I need a Savior, and God has provided that Savior for me in His Son, Jesus Christ. I agree that Jesus is both God and man, that He was born of the Virgin Mary, that he lived and died a physical death on the cross. God placed all the sins of the world in Jesus, and then Christ died and carried our sins to the grave and buried them there. He arose on the 3rd day, was seen by many witnesses, and finally ascended to sit at the right hand of God’s throne in glory. Jesus, our Christ is alive forevermore! We must confess Him before witnesses, and be baptized into Him (Romans 6, 10:9-10) and in obedience to his commands. Yes, salvation is a free gift of God’s amazing grace. This is called justification. But if I am to dwell in His holy presence, I also need to be fully sanctified and made holy. The more I mature in my relationship, which is synonymous with, the more that I trust Him by submitting (obeying), then the more like Him I become. That’s where the beauty comes in.

Our hearts, our minds, and our souls are being fashioned into the most gorgeous creatures you could ever imagine. This is the beauty that made Earnest and Paul so attractive and lovable. It was their union with God, through their submission to God that made them so attractive on the inside. They shone with the glory of Christ, who dwelt within them.

A splendid truth concerning those who are saved and sanctified and being made holy, is that you are the elite, the elect, the chosen of God. You belong to an upper echelon and will one day even judge angels. There is no imagining how exalted your position is. Spiritually you are seated with Christ at the side of the Father. All enemies are being placed under His feet and you are a part of Him. But it is not by your own merits. Jesus has won all of this victory for us. We can accept no credit for simply doing our duty. But kudos anyway, for striving with every fiber of your being to become just like Jesus.

We too can blossom into stunningly winsome people, regardless of our external appearance. So what is your soul and spirit looking like today? Buff it up and make it shine by trusting Christ completely. When we say that we are trusting Him, it means we are obeying Him. We will make mistakes. But they better be mistakes and not deliberate sin! We do not consciously set out to disobey God. If so, then we are not united with Christ, we are still in our sins, and Jesus will say those horrible words we never want to hear. “Depart from me, I never knew you.”  If you still love that sin, then you do not love God with the type of proving love He commands. We love holiness, righteousness and all that is good, beautiful and glorious.

“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26 KJV

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Becoming like children means that He is our Parent and we must be as a humble child and do as our loving Father directs us to do. When a saved soul sins, and they will sin, they will hate that sin just as God does. We won’t be able to stand ourselves until we confess that sin to God. This restores our fellowship with him. We must repent. In addition to the previous definition of repentance there is also this: “I hate my sin, and I never want to do it again!” This is true repentance and confession.

Sadly, we often hear only a partial gospel. “Get your free ticket to heaven.” Yes salvation is free. It is a gift from God. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Yet, this in no way eliminates our responsibility. The New Testament is replete with staunch warnings about our new lives in Christ and what the Lord expects of us. He saved us for a reason, for a divine purpose. One of those reasons is mentioned in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Make no mistake, the redeemed are God’s passionate project. He is working in the world through us, the church. He’s also busy recreating inside us, working to shape you and I into glorious creatures. Let’s rejoice over this next verse: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 NIV Did you catch that? Glory, in us! Praise God!

We are to be obedient, and sin not. But when we do sin, even though we do not want to sin, we have forgiveness. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1st John 1:9. The Lord is keeping us spotless, if we are truly in Him, united and joined to Him in the closest bond known to the human mind: marriage. We weep and mourn over our sin, forsake and confess it.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we can just take the free ticket to heaven and go on about our business without doing any changing. He will give us the power to make the changes that are requisite for our transformations. Come beautiful butterflies—let’s sing praises to God, who is still at work in you me, and who promises to bring that work to completion.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in salvation by works. But I do not consider obedience a work. We must forsake our sin. How can one rationalize willful sin and explain away the following verses? “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8. NIV

This was written to Christians, saved souls, besides, it says “Whoever”.

I can’t wait to see your beauty unveiled in its entire splendor. We see only a small portion of that resplendent loveliness in this life; but it is enough to distinguish those who are truly being conformed to be like the one who is the most gorgeous of all: Jesus. He is the one who has made all of this possible. May Christ Jesus and God the Father be forever praised!

 

 

 

 

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Time To Rejoice

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There are nearly a dozen hot button topics that have come up over the past week that I had hoped to expound. It would have drawn a lot more readers. But life kept on happening, effectively robbing me of the time I needed to plant my butt in the seat and type. But then again…

Today I want to block out all those other things bouncing around in my thinker, to relate what the Lord spoke to my heart this morning, through His word. Hold onto something now, we are entering my brain.  ☺

We hear the verse often, and most every Christian is familiar with it. I think there’s a danger in over using popular verses. When we hear them, our minds believe we’ve already received the full impact of that particular passage of scripture in the past, and so we don’t really think much about it. Opening my bible this morning, I turned to one such verse.

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I can say with confidence, I’ve read that verse lots of times over the years, and have heard it quoted even more. But let’s dig in, and see if we can draw some deeper meaning than what appears on the surface.

First, let’s list the topics that this verse includes. Certainly it speaks of God’s sovereignty: God is in control. He can do as He pleases. I’m thankful He is a good and loving God, aren’t you?

This verse also proclaims that the Lord is the Creator of time.

Trusting God through whatever the day might bring is another grand principle we need to apply to our minds, which this verse implies.

God is working out His grand plan for mankind corporately. He also has individual, personalized plans for each one of our futures. (Jer. 29:11) He is aligning circumstances and events so that His plan for you will be brought to pass. This verse shouts the topic of Divine Providence.

We should rejoice.

When we can rejoice in the Lord, regardless of what is transpiring around us, or happening to us, God is very pleased. It reveals that we are trusting the Lord, and acknowledging His sovereignty. We are showing our understanding of His providence. We are acknowledging His provision of all we need, and we are joyful over His love. So here’s the thrust of the message I received today. God led me to the book of Job to make the connection.

“He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” Job 2:10

You should already know the story of Job, so I won’t get into that, but suffice it to say that God allowed Job to suffer horrendous tragedies in his life

Yes, it is easy to trust God in the good times of plenty and health. But what about the days when my sciatica is raging, causing terrible pain in my back? What about the days a migraine headache forces me back into bed? Can I rejoice then?

Often, I think I know what needs to be done in order for me to continue growing in holiness. I have mapped out how to best serve the Lord, and what I need to accomplish in order to minister to others. I have my days all planned out. But sometimes God interrupts my plans, with His plan. He might say, “No, Sheldon, today you need a headache.” Will I trust Him still? Will I rejoice in the fact that God knows what he’s doing, and that it’s all for my own good? Can God show love to me by allowing me to have a splitting headache? Yes! I may not enjoy the pain, but I can rest assured that God’s love for me remains intact. I can rejoice because I trust in His wisdom, which eclipses my own.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people should shout, “Praise the Lord, I have cancer!” I’m not going to actually thank God for my pain. But I am going to thank Him that He is using my pain to shape me into the image of His holy Son, just as He has promised. I will praise Him for aligning events to coincide with, and bring about His perfect will, because His will is better than good.

Another popular verse states, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

If I am going to rejoice in the Lord at all times, even during a sciatica flare up or a blasting migraine, I will need to trust God. I must accept the bad along with the good, as did Job. I must believe that in His providence He is working all things together in a way that will bring about all that is good for me. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Perhaps I needed to be reminded today that God is in control, and that He loves me very much. Maybe I required a refresher course in remaining joyful over my relationship with Jesus. But then, maybe God simply wanted me to write all of this out so that you would be reminded of these things. Whatever the case, the Lord is working.

Not perceiving or acknowledging God’s loving control does not hinder His plans from progressing, not in the least. But it will harm us, and steal off with our joy. Let’s lift up the mighty name of our glorious God today and rejoice in Him! Because, as we all know, God is good, all the time!

Pray with me:

Heavenly Father, we praise you that you are a holy God, and we praise you for your goodness and your sweet love. May your mighty name be forever exalted. We especially thank you for sending your Son, Jesus to pay for our sins and reconcile us unto Yourself. What an awesome plan of salvation! It is so wonderful that we have this precious relationship with you, and with Your Son, through Your Spirit within. We pray for your will to be done in each one of us, and across the earth. Teach us, oh God, to recognize your Lordship over all things, and to rejoice in the fact that you love us so much. Thank you for providing everything we need to grow in goodness and in godliness. We praise you for nurturing us along, as we become more and more like Jesus. We love you, Lord! We praise your mighty name, Hallelujah! In Jesus’ glorious name, Amen.

Categories: Growing in Faith, Ministry, Providence, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Unstressed Servant

unstress

As the multi-plenteous things I needed to accomplish today swirled in my head, and blood pressure began to rise, the Spirit spoke to me. You better spend some time in prayer and bible reading first. I was stressed with a capital “S”. There are just not enough hours in my days to accomplish all I hope to do. It’s possible that I have two hairs left which have not yet turned white.

Yesterday I finished my planned bible reading, and so this morning I realized that I’d failed to plan where to read next. I’ve been through the bible many times, yet it continues to teach me new things, as if it’s growing along with me. So, I did that thing that perhaps others have done at some point. Allowing my bible to fall open, I simply read whatever passage my eyes fell upon.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

That’s all it took to remind me that God is in control, and He has my situation well in hand.

As I began praising God, and thanking Him, another passage flashed through my memory. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  

My thoughts were: Christ is the one doing the work, not me. I’m just a tool in His hand. My breathing slowed to become deeper inhalations, and I began to relax. The fact that the work I do is actually Jesus’ work took a considerable amount of pressure off of me. Nobody expects a tool to rise up all by itself and accomplish this or that each day. I must simply yield myself to Christ and be available to do as he directs. He’s the one controlling and empowering the tool (you and me).

Then I flipped the pages of my bible to another random scripture and looked down to read this: (May God) equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ…” Hebrews 13 (Parts of 20 &21).

“Okay Lord, I get it. Forgive me for taking your job onto myself. I’m getting back behind you—help me to follow closely. Please use me for your purposes today, and lead me. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

We can step into each day with confidence, knowing that as long as we are following Jesus everything is going to work out fine. There are still some projects I need to complete, but now I’m relaxed and confident in Christ. Whatever situation you find yourself in today, know that the Lord is with you. Make certain that you are following His lead, and remember, He never fails!

At this juncture in my day a second cup of coffee is calling my name. Mine is always fresh ground, but it would taste much better if you were here having a cup with me.

Faith, hope, love & peace to you today, and may God Bless You.

 

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How-to: Be Successful (Step One)

SUCCESS 1

Do you hope for tried and true steps to lasting success?

Which work for every worthy venture on planet earth?

You want it to be clear and easy to understand?

“What’s it going to cost me,” you ask?

Here’s the entire cost up front: A little of your time & attention, and a lot of effort. That’s all it costs.

If you are reading further, I suppose you’ve decided to invest a little time and attention. So let’s move on to our efforts.

  1. TRUST IN GOD
  2. Be Willing to Change
  3. Be Determined & Persevere

Step one: Defining Success.

 I have a certain friend who loved to flaunt what he felt was his success. He had more money than most anyone else in our circle of acquaintances. He had more material possessions, and he had a great deal of influence in the world. He also had lots of associates who held him in high esteem. The sad part, however, is that he was not/is not happy; in fact he suffers great depression. Recently, the Lord allowed his entire life to come unraveled. His wife left him, his dog actually died, and his business was in the toilet. God was vying for this man’s attentions, and trying to teach him what real success is all about.

“When our ideas of success are contingent upon bank balances, popularity, influence over others, titles, or any other worldly endeavor, it is extremely temporary! Our success will be as fictional as Marvel’s superhero character, The Flash. Those temporal things can end in a blink of The Flash’s eye.”

Just as with my sad friend, most people today believe the definition of success that the world programs us to believe. We’ve heard it ever since we were toddling around in diapers. “You can do anything you want to do in life.” We are told “Just believe in yourself and try hard enough.” Here in America it is often billed as “The American Dream”. We’ve been taught things such as: “You can even be the President of the United States.” Or, “You can be the best.”

Right out of the starting gate we are programmed to think from an egocentric perspective: It’s all about me. But these notions are diametrically opposed to God’s outline of success for every individual on earth.

When our ideas of success are contingent upon bank balances, popularity, influence over others, titles or any other worldly endeavor, it is extremely temporary! Our success will be as fictional as Marvel’s superhero character, The Flash. Those temporal things can end in a blink of The Flash’s eye.

For Christians, even our identity is bound up in who and what Christ is. Our lives are centered on and around God (theocentric). Instead of struggling to be the best, where our efforts are zeroed in on ourselves, it’s all about Jesus. Our efforts are to serve Him, and to exalt Him in the best way we are able. We make Him the best instead of striving to make ourselves the best. Accordingly, when we do so, God elevates us to the best that we can be. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1st Peter 5:6
When we discipline ourselves to conform to God’s way of doing and thinking, He rewards us with success. But exactly what is God’s idea of success?

We will be offering God’s definition of success in increments, because success involves many things. It affects every area of our lives, including our finances, our station in life, our popularity, and more. We’ll discuss each of these in turn. But first let’s look at the most prominent characteristics of biblical success.

Success is taking the talents, skills and gifts that God has blessed us with, and putting them to work in a way that does the following.

  1. Trusts God
  2. Brings Glory to God
  3. Increases (Returns a Harvest)
  4. Keeps us Busy

This is not being the “Master of your own Destiny,” as we are taught by the world. Our destiny is in God’s hands, and we must trust Him enough to do things His way. In the Parable of the Talents (Mathew 25:14-30) Jesus indicates the criteria by which our lives as Christians will be measured.

In this teaching Jesus shows 3 servants, representing 3 children of God. There are three for a reason. The first two receive exactly the same rewards (verses 21 & 23). But they were given different amounts to work with. One had been given 5 talents to work with, and the next servant was given 2 talents to work with. The third servant received 1 talent to work with. The first man went to work with what his master had given him, five talents. He increased what he’d been given to double the amount. The second also put his 2 talents to work and doubled them. The one who produced 5 more talents received the exact same reward as the one who produced 2 more talents.

The third servant did nothing with his talent. He hid it in the ground until it was time for the Master to call upon all three of them to give an account of their labors. This is what each one of us must face: A day of reckoning, when we will be assessed for how well we used what God gave us to work with. It’s not the amount that is important. What we do with what we are given and how we use what we are given is what will be gauged. Jesus could have employed only two servants in his illustration, but he didn’t. He used three servants to show that just because one servant has more money, more talent, more skill or greater gifts, it makes no difference on the Lord’s measure of success. God’s expectation is the same for all of His servants and children. We are to use what we are given to the best of our ability for His glory and not our own.

Paul gives a good talk against the world’s egotistic and egocentric idea of success in 1st Corinthians 4. Look at verse 7: For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

How can we boast about having something that somebody gave to us? That’s like the kid at school whose parents are rich. And he or she think they are better than the other kids because they have more money, better clothes and an expensive car that daddy bought for them.

Let’s not think for a moment we are throwing out the good advice of being a hard worker. This is essential if we hope for success. But God is the one who gave you your brain, and your ability to think. Do you have a good head for business? That’s great, but God is the one who gave it to you. Do you work hard? Excellent! But God is the one who gives you the strength to do so. Besides, working hard is simply doing your duty. God gave Adam work in the Garden of Eden as a blessing, to give him extra purpose, and responsibility, without which no one can be happy.

Success is also being happy and satisfied as we accomplish what God has assigned for each of us as individuals to do. While at the same time, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control. Now that, my friend, is step one for SUCCESS!

To be continued…

 

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Church Hopping

“There’s no place like home!” Dorothy made those words famous in the Wizard of Oz. And we all know it to be true. Ideally, there is no place more safe and secure than at home, among your family where you are loved and cared for.

God has ordained that whatever Church congregation you have joined, is your spiritual home until Jesus returns. The members of your congregation are your spiritual family, your brothers and sisters in the Lord. But all too often, when difficulties arise we look for a new church to attend. Usually, God would have us stay put, and mature through adversity.

So how often do Christians change churches because of a dispute, or we feel like we just don’t fit in? Perhaps we say we are not being fed spiritually. Maybe God would have the person who feels that way to do the feeding? Maybe some spiritual family member treated us badly. Many times the divide comes from some doctrinal difference, which in the end, has no real bearing upon salvation or the gospel of Christ.

I’m hoping to present this without giving the impression of finger pointing—Lord knows, I need grace from my spiritual family too. I’ve said and done some dumb things in the past, including changing churches for the wrong reasons.

We see it all too often today: people jumping ship when they realize everyone is not following the same spirit. In a perfect church everyone always agrees with each other and there’s nothing but love. But we all know: that perfect congregation does not exist.

I was that guy, hopping from church to church searching for the right one for me. It had to fit all of my requirements. It wasn’t until God put the thought in my heart that I needed to stop looking for the right church and simply look for a place where I could be of service to others. Rather than, a place that would satisfy my needs. What a tremendous difference this made. For a few years after finding my church home I still thought I was in the wrong church. Why aren’t these people doing what they supposed to do as Christians? I constantly wondered.

Many righteous people today work diligently for the Lord, yet they see little result or reward from their labors. Sadly, some are wearied from working alongside or beneath church leaders who seek to elevate themselves rather than Christ. I too have faced this dilemma in the past. I wanted to change churches and I asked God’s permission to do so many times. But every time He said, “NO!”

Wow, was I ever miserable. Until I finally submitted and said, “Yes Lord.”

I needed to simply remain humble, submit to God, and submit to the leaders who were over me. I had to trust the outcome to the Lord. My leaders had been selecting who they wanted to edify and support, while leaving myself and others out in the cold. They wanted followers for themselves, who would heed their every whim. Oh they did it subtly and covertly, of course. It looked to me as if they were trying to take the place of Christ as head of the church. They would nefariously hold down or suppress those they felt were a threat to their own exaltation. Part of that included refusing to facilitate the obvious spiritual gifts God had given to others. But in so doing, they sabotaged themselves, along with the entire congregation. Every believer’s gifts are for the purposes of edifying their spiritual family—building up their fellow church members, while bringing glory to God. Those church leaders would have been highly exalted by God, had they themselves submitted.

Thank God I did as He directed so that I could learn of His power and ability to transform hearts and lives!

Sometimes the answer may be to change the church family you work with. Far more often, God wants to use that hardship to grow you, and to teach you what diligent and faithful patience will bring.

  1. Trust God to work in that situation.
  2. Simply serve others, love and forgive (this is serving Christ).
  3. Reverse lead your leaders. Perhaps you are there to lead by example, even though the ones you may be leading have been placed in a position above you.

David experienced similar things from his predecessor. Just think of David’s righteous example to King Saul and his followers. Listen to his words in Psalm 37.

Verse 1:Fret not yourself because of evil doers, neither be envious against the workers of iniquity.”

Take comfort in knowing that God sees your dilemma. He watches over you and takes note of your faithful work for Christ. Continue following Him. We are learning to love the unlovable, and forgive the ugliness, just as God loves and forgives us.

Verse 2: “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb.”

Yes, we are applying this to leaders of the church, whose hearts may only be half on Christ. Maybe their love is simply lukewarm. Remember, it was the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who drew His harshest criticisms. But even some of them became true followers of our Lord Jesus. Nicodemus comes to mind. Love them through it. Kill the bad with kindness and save the good in them.

Consider this: If you leave that church, how will the innocents of that congregation ever see the light of truth, having only ego driven leaders? Or leaders whose hearts are not fully set on Christ? What about the others?  They need you and your example!

*Most Importantly*

Pray for your leaders. And love them through their spiritual obstacles. Watch God work through your faithfulness and your prayers. Watch His mighty love work and watch how wonderfully He reconciles each one of His children to Himself.

Verse 3: Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and verily you shall be fed.

Continue to trust God for your advancement, and for the freedom to use those God given gifts for the building up of others in the church. You shall be fed and nourished up in Christ; our spiritual sustenance. Wait for God to vindicate you and He will lift you up.

 

The dilemmas I faced at a particular church, which I will not name, have since been resolved. Oh there are still disagreements and possibly we can get on each other’s nerves at times…but isn’t that the same with all families?

You are not free to choose your biological family. Neither are you free to choose your spiritual family in Christ (a particular congregation).

The Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit) adds you to His church. And then, He is the one who leads you and dictates which spiritual family you will grow among. What an epiphany that was when God first revealed it to me!

Be certain you are walking in the Spirit and following God’s direction when selecting a church home. Then stick with it, for better or worse. But in Christ, it always gets better.

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Seeking Intimacy With God

The Lord is currently leading me to write a book. While in fellowship with the Lord, I sought His direction. “Lord, where is the void that I can fill? How can I edify my brothers and sisters in Christ? What is yet to be said that other books have not already covered?”

Over the past eighteen months, the answers came clearly and loud, yet in the silence of communion with Christ. The words now burn like a fire within me until they are committed to the page. Here are some snippets from various chapters of that work. I have no idea how long it will be until its completion.

As yet, untitled

“Undertaking to refine a rich spiritual life with the intent of mining deeper into the wealth of communion with God requires the cessation of all devilish hindrances. The enemy is quite adept at impeding our progress toward the higher inner life of supreme sanctification. These obstructions could rightly be described as noisy interference, like many radio stations all bleeding over onto our frequency.”

“All too often we make the mistake of relying upon self-effort in ascending the spiritual heights. Ideas and notions resound in our mind, drowning out the still, small voice of the Lord. Human intellect is a boon for the devil. That old serpent knows that we are incapable of attaining what we seek by means of our own thought processes, and those of us who feel intellectually superior are at higher risk in this regard. Our minds must be led by God in order to reach that desired state of hearing, submitting and following.”

“Be still and know that I am God. In these words from our great benefactor we learn the necessity of shutting down external senses, forgetting about all the weighty concerns of life, and simply waiting upon the Lord. Learn to focus upon His holiness and faithfulness. We are to cast our cares upon Him, because He cares for us. But first we must know Him and experience His presence within the innermost holy place. We first must simply be silent in the presence of holiness. Just as Eli, the High Priest instructed young Samuel. Our opening words to God, whether vocally or simply in practice should be: Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Our concerns will be taken care of God’s way and not how our minds think it should be done. Many times we will receive answers that do not seem to fit our questions. Because we are asking the wrong questions for those burdens to be addressed.”

“It is victory we seek in the attaining of spiritual maturity through intimate fellowship with He that is holy. Yet, for the redeemed, death is imminently required. There can be no survival of the sinful self. One cannot be raised to new life and remain in its glowing warmth while still clinging to remnants of the old self. We must succumb to the extinguisher of every vestige of the life that is passed. This is not relinquishing the true persons we were created to be. Our uniqueness remains intact, yet is purified and more fully developed than ever before—more beautiful than ever before. God’s will as spoken to the believer through the Spirit and the word of God is that extinguisher. He will reveal to us what must go and what should remain and be nurtured of ourselves.”

“The Spirit cannot be fully in charge until the old life has been rendered quiet. There is no possibility for two lives (in this case two natures) to simultaneously control any one vessel. We will obey one or the other and there is no middle ground upon which to compromise. Jesus would have us either hot or cold.”

“Picture yourself bringing a glowing smile to the face of the supreme lover of your soul. For it is blessing which He so vehemently desires to impart to us, and only we ourselves stand in the way of receiving an infinite flow of spiritual blessing. Each time we nail another of those fleshly and sinful longings to Jesus’ cross, our souls beam forth a bit brighter with the light of the Lord’s glory. It is His holiness working within us, bringing forth His glory. Just as a reflection of the “shekinah” glory of God remained upon and radiated from Moses’ face, so shall the beauty of God’s holy nature be reflected from our hearts and through the words we speak. This is for the benefit of all, that others too may see our good works: That praise may be induced unto the Father’s glory. Reflected from us and revealed to the world. This is our assignment. Our task is to constantly reveal and thus propagate the glory of God—the image of God on earth.”

“May we each one retain His glory upon our faces, as did Moses when he descended the mountain. Yet that glory faded over time. This is a profound indication that we must continue to seek God’s face—His presence, and hence constantly revitalize His glory on our faces and through our hearts. He is our perpetual spring of life giving water and we must pitch out tent there and never leave. We must remain in constant fellowship with God. “Pray without ceasing.”

“This then is why we seek intimacy with Him. This is why we long for the joy of His near presence often. Oh the power, the glory, the peace and joy that is demonstrated through the fully surrendered soul! Through the ones who’ve sought the Lord’s face and received counsel from Him. And who have submitted to His word. It is a glorious sight to behold: God’s redemptive plan fulfilled to the fullest it can be until the resurrection of the body at His coming.”

“In every phase of our Lord Jesus’ earthly ministry He found it essential to prepare. Before beginning those three years of ministry work He spent solitary time in much prayer and fasting, in the presence of the Holy Father. Preceding the selection of the twelve disciples, he prayed, apart from others, yet in fellowship with the Father and Spirit. He did not send out the seventy until seeking conversation with the Father. Immediately before His arrest and crucifixion, we see our Savior in the garden, praying, seeking fellowship with God. It is in and through that close fellowship that we too, are prepared for success in our various missions and ministries, as well as in carrying out the general commissions Christ has given to us all.” End snippets.

It is my hope that you will pray for this work. And if the Lord lays it upon your heart I pray that you will give your feedback on the few thoughts presented here which come from different chapters in this coming book. If you know of a topic concerning intimacy with Christ that you feel will help, please let me know, and we will pray together over it.

God bless you as you continue your transformation to be more like the Son of God.

 

 

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Treasure Beyond Description

The Christian’s keys to hope, provision and fulfillment.

Around 30 years ago Rob Cutshaw, a rock hound, dug up a big blue sapphire near Anderson North Carolina. Not sure what he’d found, Rob stowed the rock under his bed, and it sat there for many years. In his endearing Carolina drawl he described the stone as, “big-n-purdy”.

After reading up on sapphires, he took it to a gemologist, who cut and polished the Gem to reveal a stunning star shining through its core. At one point the sapphire was displayed for sale in Rob’s roadside shop. He says he would have taken a hundred dollars for it, enough to pay his electric bill. It is now known as “The Star of David Sapphire”, with an estimated worth of two to three million dollars. It is one of the largest and arguably, most beautiful blue sapphires known today. (1.2.3.)

The intriguing aspect of this story depicts a lack of awareness, a person not knowing the value of what they already possess. Most times as Christians, we are the same way. The treasures and riches we have in Christ far exceed what our finite minds are able to comprehend. Yet the value of God’s gifts of grace are beyond price, completely immeasurable.

When we are born anew in Christ, God adopts us as His sons and daughters, granting us a standing in His family and in Jesus’ dynasty. We are coheirs with Jesus. (Romans 8:17) The Lord’s dilemma, is getting us to understand the vastness of our privileges as His child. He wants us to enjoy complete entitlement.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV)

Yet, too often we search in the wrong places or things, for that which we already own. Either we’re unaware of its existence or we haven’t learned how to gain access. We’re not certain how to go about making a withdrawal of peace, of wisdom or of power. Not fully believing, we fumble the key of faith. But Christ has already opened the storehouses of God for us, offering complete access to everything we will ever want or need.

It is through the same faith that saved us in the first place, that we receive every benefit of His grace.

Maybe it is healing we seek, protection perhaps, or possibly it’s guidance we need. It could be loneliness that brings a heavy heart, or brokenness in a relationship. Hopelessness and despair are obliterated through faith. Whatever our needs consist of, God will provide for us.

Our obedience, which results from true faith, assures we receive every asset of God’s amazing grace.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:11 NIV)

The solution to your every need is closer than you could ever imagine. If you are already saved, continue in that faith. Submit to God—Believe—Ask—Receive.

You truly are exceedingly wealthy!

 

1. Sun Sentinel April 12th 1987

2. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=19870425&id=GlFIAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-hMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6211,3195235

3. http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/t/treasure.htm

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