Wednesday, August 9, 2017

FEAR, ANXIETY, WEARINESS OF THE SOUL



2 Corinthians 1:8-10
(8)  For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
(9)  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
(10)  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

I've experienced a weariness of soul lately.  I've battled anxiety and fear.  I tend to run away and want to curl up in a corner that's safe and escape it all.  But sometimes life won't let us escape. Fear and anxiety is like a relentless pounding away on you until you can't take anymore.  I can almost relate to what Paul said above "Indeed, we felt that we received the sentence of death."  Not that I am dying of anything but in my soul, I felt "the sentence of death" or that I was dying inside and could never stand up again.  But, as Paul also said, "But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead." Sometimes we feel just dead inside and lose hope.  No strength left for the griefs and sorrows it throws at us.  No more fight in ourselves.  No hope of happiness in this life again.  The enemy of our souls brings us down further and further into the muck.  He exaggerates the trial in our minds so that the battle is, in our mind, way beyond the actual facts and blown out of proportion.  Or he blinds us to the real battle and the seriousness of it as we try for sanity's sake to block out reality. 

God does neither.  God reveals truth to our hearts always.  He shows us the proper perspective rather than an exaggeration, and He also shows us the reality of a situation. Sometimes truth brings us fear and anxiety, but when God brings unpleasant truth to us, He also brings assurance of His presence, His power, and His deliverance so that we do not despair but rest in His unfailing love. So that we look beyond the trial and see Him.  Long ago I wrote down a saying I read, "every impossibility is an opportunity for God to reveal Himself and show His strength."  So many times since, I've had to put that to the test and say, "Lord, here's Your opportunity.  Take it. It's too much for me." 

I'm learning a few things about fear and anxiety and weariness.  First of all, you'll never ever be free of fear if you are afraid of the fear.  The more you run from it, the more it chases you down and overcomes you.  It is like a roaring lion.  We fear its torment.  So we run from it.  The fear of the fear is worse than the actual object we are fearing! It is a vicious cycle. Soon the panic beomes the thing you fear and you forget the reason for it. I used to have a recurring nightmare of a bear chasing me and I would run with all my might but as in dreams so often, my legs would become like lead, and not move and I would almost be overtaken by the bear and then I would wake up.  I know at that time the dream was coming because of a particular fear that was chasing me.  Finally I faced the fear.  And in my dream I faced the bear and defeated him.  Finally I faced my fear again recently and told myself, "so what if this fear causes me pain."  It won't kill me.  If it does, good! I'll be home with Jesus.  But it won't.  I CAN endure it, and I can go on because in the fear I have found the presence of Jesus there.  Just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, when I let the flames of fear surround me, they don't scorch me at all.  The presence of Jesus is there with me in it and I find myself thankful for the trial that brought me to such a presence of His love and fellowship.  I wouldn't know this fellowship outside of this furnace.  So let the fear come.  The flames won't kindle upon me.  Christ is in me.  I learned to lay down in the fear instead of struggling against it.  If I perish I perish.  But I didn't. I rose up again.

Another thing that I gained through my anxiety attacks, was again to go back to what the Lord had given me years earlier, to flood my mind with His Word.  I again made a recording of Scripture and listened to it.  When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord raises up a standard against Him (Isa. 59:19).  His Word is that standard.

God's Word is healing, soothing balm for the soul, faith building, and it is personally spoken to the heart of the believer who is trusting in Him and looking to Him.  Again I experienced such a faith and confidence in my God through the midst of the fire of anxiety.  I've always said anxiety is a greater pain than any physical pain I have ever endured.  I understand my son's suicide because of the unrelenting anxiety he endured.  I don't condone it and I know God had a better plan, and if we resort to that, we miss all God had planned in revealing Himself to us and blessing our lives.  But I do understand the intensity and unbearableness of the pain and his inability to bear it any longer.  If someone held your hand over a fire how long do you think you could keep it there?  What if they gave you pain meds to help?  Or stood near you patting you on the back cheering you on or trying to console you?  NONE OF THAT would stop the intense pain of the fire consuming your hand and you would not even be able to think about anything else or listen to them. Many say suicide is an act of selfishness, and in some cases it may be, but much of the time, it is simply an act of escape from the horrible fire inside you. Only God Himself can walk into that fire with you and keep it from harming you and deliver you.  God has a better way.  We have to look to Him. I have found in the midst of my anxiety and unbearable pain, many times, that as I cry out to Him in my weakness and helplessness, and flood my soul with His life-giving powerful Word, He heals, He gives faith, He raises me up, He restores.  He strengthens for the battle and enables me to rest in Him even as I cast my care onto Him and know the battle belongs to Him.  He gives me the power of patience, as I wait for Him. I can afford the patience knowing He will come and He will answer, and He will do all He said "in yet a little while."

I guess I'm bearing my soul right now and exposing myself and making myself very vulnerable, yet I feel compelled to both reach out with hope for those who are struggling with this, and wanting to give God glory for the wonderful discovery of Him I am finding through it.  I even truly (surprising to myself) came to the point I thanked God for the trial because of what I could see it producing in my heart. Yes there was still pain, but with it a sweetness and comfort.  Just as there is nothing more painful in my mind than fear and anxiety, there is nothing more wonderful than God's very presence.  I wish I could describe it, but there is no way to do that.  You have to experience it.  It's in our pain we experience the greatest manifestations of His very presence and reality, almost as tangible as if we could see Him face to face and reach out and touch Him. No - even more tangible than that, because He is on the inside of me manifesting His presence and power in me. I wish I could give that to every one of my readers without the pain of the trials, but it is the pain of the trials that brings that kind of presence to us.  Because of that, I am no longer afraid of the fear.  I'm no longer afraid of the anxiety. Let it come. Christ comes with it.  His promises become more precious to me and more alive.  His Word opens up to me and becomes my delight more than it ever could otherwise.  He becomes my peace.  He Himself.  I no longer look for peace separated from Him.  He IS my peace.  It makes me want to walk very close to Him, abide in Him, and let nothing disturb that fellowship.

I know that I know He will answer my prayers, and that He will fulfill His perfect love and plan for me. I know that I know I can count on Him to see me through, even though I don't feel able at all.  I know that I know my God is faithful and keeps His Word, and because I have been listening to His Word I know what He is saying to me and I have an answer to all the fiery darts of the enemy.  They cannot penetrate this armor. 

I also learned something about weariness. Sometimes we grow weary and just need to lie down.  When you do, don't quit, don't give up, but lie down and rest.  Rest in Jesus.  Commit yourself and your life into His hands and casting all onto Him.  Rest and let Him build you up again until you once again can walk and not faint, and run and not be weary.  Rest in His promises.  Let the hymns minister to you. Exhaustion can give us a distorted view of life and troubles.  When Elijah was weary from the battle he became depressed and God gave him rest and fed him.  So rest and let God feed you.  You'll see everything differently.  You don't feel that you can do the smallest task when you are weary and tired.

Matthew 11:28-30
(28)  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
(29)  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
(30)  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

The burden becomes too much when we pull against the yoke and strive in ourselves.  If we rest in His yoke we will find the strength to go on. When our soul is in intense battle, our bodies also become very tired and weak.  We don't feel strength to go on. It is as we physically lie down and rest, quit striving, and learn of Him, letting Him reveal Himself to us that our bodies also find refreshment. 

Our thought life plays a major role in our not becoming depressed.  Paul said for a reason to "rejoice always."  Our thought patterns can actually alter our brain waves.  We can get stuck in a negative brain wave pattern.  In order to pull out of it, we need to rejoice in the Lord, pray, trust, be thankful, think on the right things. At first this takes work.  That's why I listen to Scripture.  It does that for me.

Philippians 4:4-8
(4)  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(5)  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
(6)  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
(7)  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(8)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.


May the Lord minister to you and build you up in His faith today!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

REVISITING MY PORTION, THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART


I wrote a devotional on The Lord As My Portion a while back.  I find myself once again praying over and over, "You, Lord, are my portion" as I'm once again being led through places in this life I don't want to go, and as life takes turns I wish I could reverse but can't. Once again I'm reminded of the fact that God alone is the portion of the Christian.  We are blessed in many ways in this world, given many gifts and pleasures in this world, and enjoy the provisions of the Lord.  But every once in a while, the Lord reminds us that it is not those things that are our life or our portion, but it is He Himself.  Sometimes life is full of uncertainty and fears.  When that happens once again we must draw close to the Lord and ask Him to show us that He indeed is our portion, and to manifest Himself as that in our situation.  It doesn't matter that I share details of my own burdens because we all have them.  We're all from time to time plunged into overwhelming life situations that we think are beyond our endurance.  Our hearts faint.  But when we call out to Him and feed on His promises we find He indeed is the strength of our hearts and our portion.  I revisited my earlier devotional this morning and felt God wanted me to listen again to what He had given to me then.  Once again, and in fact even stronger than the first time, it strengthened my heart, so I put it to video and hope that it will be a blessing as well and encouragement to some, to trust the Lord to be your portion, no matter what you are facing. https://youtu.be/2IhN18WZZHk 




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

BOWING DOWN TO THE WORLD'S IMAGE



­­­King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, "You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace."
(Daniel 3:1-6)

Have you ever imagined yourself in such a situation as the one above?  Have you thought about what you would do?  Many Christians, today, are even now being faced with the above situation daily.  Some giving up their lives.  To some, it is obvious.  They are told renounce Christ and bow down to allah, or die after we have fun torturing you for a time and then let you die the most horrible death we can think up for you.  But here in the West it is much more subtle.  In America we hear "Bow down to the political correctness, the god of this world, of humanism, or we will destroy you one way or another."  Many churches are bowing down to them and teaching their congregations to do so as well, rather than standing for God and His Word and trusting Him to walk through the fire with them.

As believers in the Word of God, walking according to that Word, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could not but stand true to God and bow down to the true God of Heaven alone, we cannot bow down to the god of this world, the god of humanism.  Some, even in our beloved "free" America have been harassed, fined, imprisoned, or even killed because of it. Yet there are those among the "church" that seem to want to bow down to the image created by man.  There is another jesus, another church, another christianity that they bow down to which pretty much bears the exact same image as the image of the god of humanism.  They have even written their own "bible" (The Message), which is not even a paraphrase, but a rewriting of God's Word and makes it the laws of humanism, rather than God's.  It is man's bible, not God's. Sadly many Christians are fooled by it, thinking it's just another paraphrase and they read it and replace God's Word with it. Since they are not really abiding in or studying God's Word they cannot discern the clear difference in the way it is reworded.  How subtle the devices of the enemy! If he cannot get you to stop reading the Bible altogether, he will give you a corrupted bible that sounds like God's Word but is changed enough so that those who don't love His Word will be fooled by it.

These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
(Psalms 50:21)

And now we have books like The Shack, that promote a different god, a different jesus, a different Holy Spirit, than that of the Bible.  So many are worshipping a very humanistic image, in one form or another and think by doing so they are saving themselves. This humanistic jesus appeals to them and the passions of their flesh and does not require holiness.

What image do you bow down to or worship.  To worship means to bow down, to prostrate oneself, to do homage.  In our hearts we do homage to and serve either the God of Heaven, or the god of this world or the god of self.  As believers in the One true God, we cannot have two masters.  We must hate the one and love the other.  We cannot bow down to the world's system or their image of another jesus, and yet be true to the real Jesus of the Bible.  We think to compromise and be okay with both, but we are lying to ourselves.  You will not have the fellowship with God or the power in your life to live for Him if you are compromising with the world. You are putting yourself in a place of "enmity" to Him.

There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
(Daniel 3:12-18)

Notice the response of these three young men of God. "But if not, be it known to you O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."  Even if God does NOT deliver us, we will still not serve your gods.  No matter what, we will not bow down to your image.  So often we put conditions on our service to God.  If God answers my prayers, I'll serve Him.  If God gets me out of this one, I'll serve Him.  If God shows Himself to me in the way I want to see Him, then I'll serve Him.  But when a person has the One true God living in his being, and truly knows the God of the Bible and abides in Him, then no matter what the consequences, the pain, the inconvenience, the discomfort, we just have to say no to the god of this world and yes to the God we know and bow down to Him alone, regardless of the consequences. 

This story is always a strength to me, because it presents a clear picture.  So often the picture is blurred and we think we can compromise a little here and a little there so as not to suffer the "offense of the Gospel" from the world around us.  We are always being tempted to compromise and try to hold onto both worlds.  We cannot hold onto both the flesh and the Spirit. We must give in to one or the other.  We only deceive ourselves in our compromise, and we cave in to and bow down to our flesh, all the while deceiving ourselves into thinking we are walking with God still (Gal. 5:16-17).  There are always consequences for our choices.

God did deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo through the fire and out of it, and in the process Nebuchadnezzar saw the power of God and acknowledged Him as a true God.  Though Nebuchadnezzar did not yet recognize Him as the only true God, He protected God's followers because of it, and allowed them their worship of God.  Sometimes standing with uncompromising firmness allows God to show Himself strong through us to the world around us, and some are delivered out of the world as they see God's glory.  Other times we are weak for His sake and not delivered from the perils we face because of our stand for God.  Many over the centuries have been martyred because of their testimony for the Lord. But just like these three young men, we must decide who our God is and who we will bow down to or not, whether or not He delivers us in this life.  Ultimately all of God's children will be delivered, whether through death and being brought into our eternal home with Him, never to be touched by evil again, or through rapture, being caught up in the air to meet Him when He comes in the clouds to gather His church home to be with Him forever. 

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
(John 15:18-21)

So often our hearts fool us into thinking we can have our Christian life and be loved by the world as well.  But as the days grow more and more evil, the line is being drawn more clearly between those who are bowing down to the god of this world and those who are servants of Christ.  The only way you can know for sure is to read the Word of Christ, and seek to understand what He has clearly said about Himself to all those who would want to know Him and belong to His family.  Many pastors and teachers today are telling their congregations and followers that they don't need to read the Bible.  They only need to empty their minds and be still and listen to the spirit speak to them.  But if they are not comparing all to the Word of Jesus, then they are listening to a different jesus, not the true Jesus of the Bible.  If they are being told by that jesus of the humanist making or that of a demonic spirit, that they don't need God's Word, then it is a counterfeit and they are being led astray into deception.  God's Spirit always draws us to the Word of God - the very Word that He Himself inspired men to write. He has never changed or disqualified that Word or lowered its significance. Jesus said the first important sign of the last days would be deception, that even the elect themselves, if it were possible, (and the Greek implies that it is), would be deceived by false prophets, teachers, and false Christs.  If you are joining forces with the world that hates the Bible and hates all followers of it, then you are bowing down to the wrong god whether you are in a Christian church or not.  I don't care how loud or lively they sing, clap, jump up and down, fall down, or what manifestations you are experiencing or seeing, if they are not bowing down to the God of the Bible but find themselves to be friends with the world, then they and you are in "enmity with God." (James 4:4)

Time is short for us on this earth.  We must "choose this day" whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15).  Today is the day of salvation for all who would come to Him (2 Corinthians 6:2).  He calls all and says "whoever will come, let him come and drink freely." 

The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
(Revelation 22:17)

To those believers who are in a false church preaching the gospel of this world rather than the Gospel of Christ, come out from among them and turn to the true Christ and His true Word of life.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."
(2 Corinthians 6:14-18)


Have you truly received the Gospel of salvation through the true Christ of the Bible?  Have you been born of His Spirit?  http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/helpseek/salvatio.htm  Don't gamble with your eternity.  You can know for sure. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

SHOULD WE HATE THE SIN AND LOVE THE SINNER?




There is a lot of hate being passed around on the internet and on the news media and all over our nation right now, and the world, for that matter.  As Christians we need to read what God's Word has to say on it.  We need to not take a verse here and a verse there and ignore others but to get the mind of Christ, the true heart of God on the matter.  I am very disturbed by Christians who think it's okay to hate anyone.

I've seen Christians taking Old Testament verses and saying, "See? We are to hate those who are evil, not love them! How can we love those who are evil?"  We forget that we too were considered evil in God's eyes, even if we think we are less evil than those who demonstrate their evil more outwardly.  We forget what we were washed from and saved from.  We also don't realize the extent or potential for the evil in our hearts that God saved us from.  If we hate sinners, we have no concept of how much God has forgiven us, and we don't at all understand His salvation. We don't understand what His sacrifice meant.

I remember once when there was a serial rapist in the Twin Cities area, and he targeted teen girls who were alone, walking somewhere.  He would snatch them off the sidewalk and throw them in his trunk, take them to some remote area and rape and kill them.  One girl escaped to tell the story of all he did, which was horrendous.  I had such a hatred for that man and as I struggled with the Scriptures that told me to "love my enemy," and pray for them, I could not.  I cried out, "God I don't want that man to be saved. I want him to go to hell and get what he deserves!  How can you love a man such as that or forgive what he did?"  The Lord, I believe, spoke back to me clearly, in my spirit, "Aren't you glad that I can forgive sin that horrible?" I realized He took that horrible sin onto Himself, as though He Himself were the guilty party!  I just broke down and realized just how horrible and evil sin is, and that there is none of it God will not forgive if we come to Him in repentance.  Would I want God to limit what sins I could be forgiven of?  What if He only forgave the "good sins" or the "acceptable sins?"  But He forgives all.  "All who come to Him He will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37)

If anyone from ISIS, who committed horrible crimes against the church, came in repentance (acknowledgement of themselves as a lost sinner having a change of heart toward God, believing in Him), then they would be forgiven. If Hitler had repented and turned to Christ, he would have been forgiven.  Paul, who persecuted the church, caused Christians to blaspheme, and murdered them, was forgiven.

I've heard Christians reject the notion that we are to "hate the sin but love the sinner."  They quote Old Testament verses.  Yes, God indeed hates evil.  He indeed hates sin.  He "hates the wicked" and will one day punish them.  But He also loves them enough to die for their sin so that they can be saved from that wickedness rather than receive His wrath.  How can He do both?  How can He tell us to hate evil, yet love and pray for those who do evil?  Because He "wishes that NONE should perish but that all should come to repentance."  He Himself has become a PROPITIATION for them, having taken unto Himself, the wrath of God due them. If they do repent, He has made the way for them to be washed, cleansed completely, and delivered once and for all of that evil, and made a new creation, so that they can one day stand before Him, perfectly holy and pure and spotless.  It is all by the blood of the Lamb, not anything they do.  If we think that only certain sins God will forgive but not all, we have no idea then for sure that He will forgive ours.  We have not seen the potential to evil and gross sin in our own hearts.  If we did we would humbly bow down before God in awe of this merciful God, and just weep with thankfulness of all He has forgiven and done in us. 

If not for the sake of an evil person, for the sake of Christ Himself and His love, I pray for the evil person.  Not because I could love anything about them, what's in their heart, or their actions, or even the kind of person that would give themselves over to such horrendous evil, but I pray for them for the sake of Christ... for the sake of His blood and sacrifice... because it is to His glory to save and deliver, and that His great unspeakable sacrifice was not in vain for that person. In fact, all the more is He glorified when evil is conquered. You can say, "well they will deserve everything they get."  Yup, they will, and we who are Christians, are NOT getting what we deserve, yet we deserved the same - accept for Christ. 

Romans 5:6-11
(6)  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
(7)  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
(8)  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(9)  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
(10)  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
(11)  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Christians sometimes act like God saved them because they were so loveable and good.  We were repulsive to Him.  We looked horrible and ugly to Him.  He saw all the evil in our hearts, and yet, rather than pour out His wrath on us, He came in the flesh, taking on our likeness and weakness and gave Himself up in our place, becoming that very evil He so despised, becoming a curse for us, and imputing His own perfect, pure, holy, righteousness into all - whosoever - no matter how evil a sinner - into their hearts if they only confess their evil, agree with Him about His righteous judgment of it, and believe in (accept, trust in, adhere to, rely on) Him and that sacrifice, receiving His eternal life.  Some of us, sadly, think there was very little of sin for the Lord to forgive in us. We then have no idea of the depth of His love. Paul said he was "the chief of sinners."  All of us, if convicted by the Holy Spirit of our sin, will feel the same way.

(Luke 7:47)  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

There are some sins that are more horribly wicked and have greater consequences and harm to others in this world, but in eternity, all sin is equally guilty of separating us from a perfect holy God.  The greatest sin of all is to reject that sacrifice which alone can save us. 

Hebrews 10:28-31
(28)  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
(29)  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
(30)  For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people."
(31)  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

It was the greatest show of love there ever was, and the only remedy for evil.  To reject that is to embrace all evil, and to take sides with evil and the "evil one" who led the first rebellion against God, Lucifer, the devil.  To reject that is to one day become completely empty of all good that even now they enjoy of the goodness of God and all conscience, that is as well, a gift from God where evil to any degree is restrained in them, and to become a full manifestation of evil just as satan is, and just as all those they despise as being evil are.  In those who reject that marvelous provision God has made for them, evil will take over their hearts and minds.  They think themselves to have some morals and goodness, but they will find out whatever good at all that they are capable of in this world has been granted them of God, by the presence of the Holy Spirit in this world Who was sent to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).  To the extent one rejects God's Word, the more evil will overtake his/her heart. That restraint will be completely gone after they leave this world.  Those who accept God's great sacrifice will take on the nature of God Who alone is good and will be free from sin and evil in themselves and will be given new incorruptible bodies that will never have any evil in it, or never die or be corrupted again. This is only through God's provision through Jesus Christ. There is nothing in us that can save ourselves.  Our greatest "goodness" is no measure at all to the holiness and perfection of God.  It is unacceptable before Him and He sees our true nature for what it is - evil.  It opposes Him, Who is goodness and holiness and righteousness and love.  Our best acts are as filthy rags in His sight.  He sees them for what they are - our trying to be our own god, and have our own righteousness. Not until we accept His imputed righteousness, can we be counted righteous before Him.  His alone will suffice in Heaven. 

Here are some verses to think on:

Matthew 5:43-48
(43)  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
(44)  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
(45)  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(46)  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
(47)  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
(48)  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 24:12  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

Luke 6:27  "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luke 6:28  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Luke 6:32  "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
Luke 6:35  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

*Note, He does not say love your enemies, as long as they aren't too evil or as long as they aren't too terrible or as long as they have not committed the most horrible acts of violence.

Romans 12:17-21
(17)  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
(18)  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(19)  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
(20)  To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."
(21)  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God is merciful beyond our comprehension!
2 Peter 3:9-10
(9)  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
(10)  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

His promise to those who come to Him in humility to find His salvation:
Revelation 21:3-7
(3)  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
(4)  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
(5)  And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
(6)  And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
(7)  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

God is able to hate evil, and say, as in the Psalms He hates the wicked and is angry with them every day, and yet to send His only begotten Son that "whosoever" no matter how wicked, believes in Him, will have eternal life.  He clearly says that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and that He wishes that none of them would perish but have eternal life, and yet in his "hating" them, it is not that He wishes their destruction but He must hate evil as He is perfectly good and evil cannot be allowed to harm what is good or to corrupt it if one truly loves.  Love must not ever allow evil to corrupt all that is good or then evil would overcome good.  But yet He most definitely loves the sinner as is revealed on the cross of Jesus Christ.  So Jesus Himself was the One Who became the object of God's hatred... His wrath upon sinners. God's wrath was poured out upon Him for us.  Because of this we are to love the sinner, as He loved them and made propitiation for them.  To not see this is to despise what Jesus did for sinners.  (Isaiah 53) The very reason we still see evil in the world and God does not instantly end it or judge it is because of His love for the sinner and His desire for "all to come to repentance."  He is longsuffering and patient, still drawing as many as who will come, out of the evil in this world to receive His salvation and deliverance from evil. This world and its evil is very temporary.  Eternity will be with Him and evil will be defeated.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
(9)  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
(10)  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
(11)  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

So yes, we must hate the sin, but love the sinner, just as Christ loves the sinner, and gave Himself up for them, and just as He loved us in our sinful condition, seeing the very depth and potential for the evil nature that we once were controlled by. If we love Christ and understand His sacrifice for sinners, we will love the sinner for His name's sake, and for His glory.

1 John 4:7-12
(7)  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
(8)  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
(9)  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
(10)  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
(11)  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
(12)  No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WHO IS THIS GOD WE PRAY TO?





And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek."
(Psalms 27:7-8)

There is something inside every human being that draws us to God, that makes us want to reach out to Him, to know Him.  The ultimate thing in life is to truly know God.  God gave us the gift of prayer in order that we may inquire of Him and learn to know Him and to reach out and find Him. Some, instead of reaching out to find Him create their own religions or their own gods.  That inward need is there, for a God, for an object of worship, yet if they don't seek to find and know the One true God, they will end up creating their own. This in itself is evidence of God. There is one prayer that the unbeliever can pray that will be heard of God, and that is the prayer to know Him, to be forgiven and to become a child of God.  All other prayer is the privilege of God's born again children alone - those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Prayer opens up our hearts to know God.  Even as we come before Him with our needs, we must humble ourselves and acknowledge Who He is.  Prayer opens the door of our hearts to Him.  The ultimate purpose of our prayer is to know God, be united with Him, and to submit our hearts to Him, that He may be glorified.  As His children, we have the privilege that no other has, to come before His throne of grace and mercy, boldly, through the blood of Jesus Christ and His merit alone.  We have unbroken access to Him.  What a great privilege! How little we make use of it!  What promises He gives us if we just come to Him in prayer!  He promises to hear. He promises to answer.  He promises His presence. 

Prayer is not just asking.  Prayer is listening.  Even as we sit at His feet through the reading of His Word, meditating on it, letting Him speak to us through it, we are in communion with Him and there is a fellowship.  It's so important to have this part of prayer in our lives in order to come to Him with our supplications and intercessions and requests.  When we lay our hearts before Him and let the Holy Spirit speak to us through His Word, we find our hearts brought nearer to His, our minds cleansed of our own or worldly thoughts and ways, and we are able to pray according to His will, and to understand His will and purpose more accurately.  Many times when it seems our prayers are not answered it drives us to seek His understanding through His Word and in the process of prayer the answer comes by His changing our hearts. 

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
(1 John 5:14-15)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12)

Without prayer we will not have the blessed fellowship with God which He desires for us.  Without prayer we cannot truly grow in our knowledge of Him the way He wants us to.  Without prayer we miss out on receiving all that He has for us as our gifts and privileges in Christ.  Without prayer, He is not glorified in us the way He desires to be.  Without prayer we become self-focused instead of God-focused.  Without prayer, we are only depending on ourselves, our own ability, wisdom, understanding, and strength, rather than leaning on Him.  We are saying, in essence, we don't need God. A church without prayer will be a lifeless ineffective church. How important then is it that we know the God we pray to, and what He is about?  How can we pray effectively if we don't?

Who is this God we pray to?  He is the One true God.  He is truly beyond our comprehension but He has revealed certain things about Himself in His Word and through Jesus Himself coming to us. He wants us to know those things that He revealed about Himself, to seek Him and to find Him.  He wants us to know Him rightly.  Anytime we have a wrong concept of Him or of His salvation, it lessens our ability to be effective in prayer or in our walk with Him, or in our testimony to others.  To learn of His attributes gives us more help in our prayer life and more faith and purpose as we pray.  We can only learn of His attributes through His Word and our giving ourselves over to it, to keep it, to meditate on it, and to obey it.  It is only God Himself Who can reveal Himself to us.  We cannot form our own concepts of God based on what kind of god we desire, as so many do today in the apostate church.  They don't like the God of the Bible so they form their own god, lessening His true attributes and bringing Him down to their own level, rather than letting Him bring them up to His.  They have no idea what they miss!  The god of their making is always more like them.  God wants to raise us up to where He is and make us like Him.  There is no higher glory! How awful it is then, when we have a lesser view of Him and do not seek to know Him rightly and give Him the true honor of Who He is as revealed to us in His Word.  Our prayers to this lesser god can never bring God's blessing.  We must know Him rightly and come to Him humbly. 

Who is this God we pray to?  Who He is not, is a genie we can use to get all we want in this world and manipulate according to our own use.  That, again, is to bring Him down to our level or even below that, where we become the god and He our servant that we think to command.  If we are to know Him rightly, we must also give Him the right place in our hearts.  I am always in awe when I hear God calling Himself "I Am."  He is so beyond our comprehension that there is no other way to describe Him other than simply "I Am."  He simply is, and always was and always will be.  He is the great I Am. He is Who He is, perfect in all His ways, with no need to ever change. That leaves us with a sense of great awe.  It is something we can't grasp fully, yet we know it is true.  How can He explain Himself to us?  Yet He has expressed Himself to us through Jesus Christ Who was the exact representation of Himself in the flesh.  God's attributes are simply what is true of Him, and He reveals that to us in His Word in many ways, even in the many names of God. Each name reveals to us a particular attribute of God.  Yahweh Shalom - the Lord is peace, Yahweh Shammah - the Lord is there, Yahweh Tsidkenu - the Lord our righteousness, Yahweh Nissi - the Lord my banner, Yahweh - the self existent One, and many more names of God are given to us in His Word, always revealing to us an attribute of God.  This is the God we pray to.  This God has so much about Him that we can never completely know all there is to know about Him.  Yet He reveals so much of Himself to us in His Word and in our relationship with Him through the Spirit when we become His child through being born again by faith in the finished work of Christ. What riches then to discover this awesome God!!  He is a God of love, a God of wonder, a God of perfection in every way!  How can we not be grateful for and want to pursue this God and pray to Him?  He gives us the privilege, as His children to do so.  Are we using this privilege?  Do we really grasp what He has given to us?

When we pray to God, many times we want God to be a certain way.  But we must learn to love, not what we want God to be, but what and Who He truly is.  In learning His attributes, we learn to love Him more and wonder at His glory more and more and desire that glory.  We learn to pray, as the song goes,

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

The more God is our true vision and the more clearly we see Him, the more effective our prayer life will be; and the more effective our prayer life is, the more clearly we will see Him and know Him, and the more He will be glorified in our lives. Our motives for prayer will be less and less of what we want and more and more what He wants.  Our Christian lives will become more fruitful.  If we abide in Him, truly, we must abide in Who He really is, not what we want or imagine Him to be. 

If God reveals His attributes to us in His Word, He wants us to discover them and He wants us to respond to them. We must form our own ideas of Him and our responses and our actions then, based on those true attributes of God, and as we choose to look to Him and walk with Him, we learn to "put on Christ" and those characteristics of Christ will more and more, hopefully be seen of Him in our own walk and interaction with others as well, bringing forth fruit, so that others are drawn to seek Him. 

Do we demonstrate to the world around us what God is like?  Or are we praying to a god of our own making and showing the world a god of our own making as well? The right answer will affect, not only our lives and walk with God, but the lives and destiny of others around us that we touch as well. 

The more we seek to know the One true God, the more love for Him we will have and that love will flow from us to others. What is the greatest attribute of God?  "God is love" - Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
(1 John 4:8-12)

Our prayers then, should flow from love, to a God of love - God's love for a lost and dying world, which He shed His precious blood for.

What a wonderful God we have!  What a blessing to know that He loves us, and wants us to know Him and invites us to do so! May we pursue Him harder and pray more earnestly while He gives us breath! 

*Edited, 7/14/2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

PUSHING THROUGH ADVERSITY

I went for a walk this morning, and noticed in several places along the side walk that there were things growing right through the black top. I was amazed.  Then I saw this little flower, so pretty sitting there in its glory having pushed its way through the black top, as though it were saying, "Nothing can stop me! I've broken through and I'm victorious and I'm beautiful!"

It made me think of our different responses to adversity in life.  This little flower's response to all hindrance to its life gave me faith.  It stirred up a kind of hope, a feeling of endurance and reluctance to give up or let myself become discouraged.  It was as though God placed it there for me to say, "Never grow weary, Ginny.  You will surely reap if you faint not."  This little flower had some pressure, some adversity, some resistance to push through but it endured.  Life gives us many types of resistance to the Gospel of our Lord.  It gives us much resistance to the message of life He has given us and wants to tell us continually, "give up! give up! give up! It's no use!  Why are you fighting against a world that is determined to hate God?"

Some have formed a movement of resistance today.  It's a resistance against anything of God, anything of the Bible, and anything Christian.  It manifests itself in politics, in religion, in counterfeit Christianity, and as the Bible told us, it comes against all that is of God with a vengeance.  How can we stand in such an evil day?  How do we push through the resistance of life that seems to never end. It's not enough that the world is against us, and a false church as well, but the circumstances of life and perhaps our health can be a heavy weight we must also push through.

We can overcome, just as this little flower. We can keep reaching up for the sun.  We can not even look at the adversity but instead look up to the Son and see He is there, He is faithful, He is ever giving us the grace, the power, the encouragement, the hope, and the promise that is sure, we will reap if we faint not.  we will by our endurance through His power, gain life and have victory.  We will win this battle.  We will break through every barrier and every resistance.  Why?  Because He has.

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 16:33  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

He Himself has overcome every resistance in this world that could possibly come against us and nothing can stop His plan for His church.  Nothing can defeat His children.  If He says don't be afraid, it's not just an empty phrase, but it is with power and meaning and truth.  We have no reason to be afraid if He says we don't.  So we do not have to "let our hearts be afraid."  Even though in this world we have tribulation and resistance and many times it seems, defeat...yet He has overcome the world and anything it can do to harm us or separate us from His love, or defeat His purposes from being carried out.  Our own purposes, goals and dreams may have to be taken to the cross, but His will be carried out, and His purpose for each of His children is more than we can fathom. 

So push on dear child of God! don't be dismayed.  Push through every obstacle that comes against you and keep looking and pushing forth toward the Son.