The Forgotten Door to Power, Position and Peace

We were created for a place of power, position, and peace and yet our quests for them often lead to futility and disappointment.

Rather than reset our compass,  we dig deeper in ourselves for inspiration, motivation, and self confidence, cheering ourselves on with words of “gusto” and “empowerment”.   Seeds of self promotion and self-actualization were sown long ago with a dark promise,  “…your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Satan’s design for man mirrored his own downfall –  exaltation of self – selfish ambition, self love, self importance and self reliance….separation from God.  

But the position God plans for us, the peace He promises, and the power He avails to us is far greater than any ‘self actualization’.   His personal love and plan for each of us will lead to places where He awaits, with a calling only He can fulfill.   

The life lived by faith in Christ is one with eternal value. 

The will of God is unique to each individual life. God has created each of us specially unique in that there is not, nor will there ever be anyone like you.  He has also placed you here on earth in this time and generation in the country and ethnicity for His own desire.  Your impact in this world is nothing without Christ; it’s all about surrendering our will unto His.   (Excerpt from Anchored in the Cross  3/15/18)  

Hollow and temporal achievements in this world can never compare to the work of the Holy Spirit through the life of a surrendered believer.  Sadly, today’s church has lost the power, the peace, and the position before God.  They are ‘safe’ places for personal sin, without conviction and without a loving challenge to pursue God’s holiness.

From ancient days to this present moment, through broken yet indwelt believers, and through His living word, God desperately calls us.  Fellowship, salvation and eternal promises come forth only through this forgotten door…

door with snow pinterest

“…we can boldly enter heaven’s most holy place because of the blood of Jesus. By His death, Jesus opened a new and life giving way…” (Hebrews 10:19-20)

Church agendas of ‘good works’, excellent music, special events –  campaigns against every social ill – can never reconcile us or anyone else to God.  Nothing at all in us can please or satisfy God.  In view of God’s holiness the Apostle Paul declared, “In me dwells no good thing.”    From this revelation opens the life giving truth:  The blood of Christ alone brings new life.  He restores us to God, and indwells our hearts.  (Read what God did while we were sinners…  in Romans 5) 

Our flesh and soul often suffer regret, remorse, and self condemnation leading to inconsolable emotional suffering.  But “godly sorrow”, as described in II Corinthians 7:9-11, is a blessed drawing of the Holy Spirit leading to true repentance.  There, at the foot of the cross, the door opens to the power of the cross:  forgiveness of sin and deliverance from the power of sin.

New power, through the life of Christ within us, new position – the right standing before His throne, and new peace, through Christ “which surpasses all understanding”…..God awaits us.  And Jesus declares,

“…I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”   

door with snow pinterest

 

DELETING WORDS OF LIFE…

…will never change their power or purpose.

“Repent and Live!” declares the Sovereign Lord (Ezekiel 18:32), however today only “Live!” remains and resounds in our vocabulary.   There is power in words and, in God’s living Word, it is power to renew, restore, and resurrect.  “The Word became flesh and for a while lived among us”.  The Word of God defines the fall of man, what keeps him separated from God, (Isaiah 59:1-2) and that which would restore and reconcile him to his Maker (Galatians 1:4).  Separation from God aligns us with the spirit of this world – the very spirit that “sets himself up as god” and continually baits our pride with the ancient seduction of sin: “you will be like God”.   As ‘gods’ we reinvent the Lord’s  proclamations, decrees, and promises into that which circumvents acknowledgment and  submission to Sovereign God, elevating our knowledge and wisdom against His truth. 

Toward this, we tolerate and broadcast the most profane words and phrases – many that enflame our flesh with corrupt imagery while, at the same time, systematically eradicating the very words that usher our minds toward Almighty God.  Who today calls for repentance?  Words that evoke life changing decisions are erased from our culture. With near success, we have eliminated “sin” from our vocabulary, our thinking – our entire belief system.  In fact, the Oxford Junior Dictionary, grooming the next generation, has removed the word ‘sin’ because “it has fallen into disuse, is obsolete, and is not recognized by the younger generation”.

It has been aptly said,

All moral engineering is preceded by verbal engineering.”

This reality was heralded by renowned psychiatrist Karl Menninger in his acclaimed book, “What Ever Became of Sin.”  The very word ‘sin’, he expounds, “was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word…It has almost disappeared – the word along with the notion.  Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore?”  Dr. Menninger predicted that sin would be replaced with symptoms of illness and disorders.  He foresaw a day where practically everyone would be considered sick with little or no personal accountability for choice and willful conduct.  Biological and psychiatric terms, even environment, would define deviant behavior.

That ‘day’ is here.  Redefining and reinventing ‘sin’, we have rendered ‘repentance’ obsolete and offensive, scorning God’s sacrifice for remission of sin and the gift of reconciliation through our Savior.  Ultimately, it is a collective rejection of God as our reference point in life.

Changing our reference point, framework, and jargon however cannot change the truth, neither can it alter the damage and guaranteed consequences of sinNo matter what we call it, “The wages of sin is death…”  Yet God’s call to repentance is the deepest call of mercy to man, “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23)   At the heart of our refusal is rebellion – intuitively we know that to receive a gift from God we must acknowledge that He is God

Sin unleashed, driven by lust and corruption, bears such reprehensible fruit that we label it uncontrollable – a mental defect or disease.  While mental illness is a painful condition in all its forms, are we oftentimes diagnosing the consequences of sin – those we commit and those committed against us?   Can layers of guilt and self condemnation ever be lifted by an ‘anti-depressant’?  Will a laboratory find the balm for the deep wounds of abuse and betrayal?  The  Bible defines sin in Old Testament law and New Testament, such as the ‘obvious’ acts noted in Galatians 5:19-21 and the condition of man today, II Timothy 3:1-4.   Against this hopeless array, the Lord offers unmatchable promises, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;” the relief of forgiveness and the joy of new beginning.  

Jesus calls out,

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28) 

The launching pad for every sin is the refusal to go to God.

Satan finds no threat in manmade programs that exclude God yet propose to remedy the sure damage and destruction of sin, he knows their futility.  Deleting words cannot diminish their strength – sin is a powerful stronghold which man CANNOT master, an ensnaring deceit that man CANNOT outsmart or resolve.  Pride, confidence in the ‘human spirit’, encourages us to address ‘drunkenness, debaucheries, sexual immoralities and violence, lack of self-control, rage, hatred, jealousies, and the like’ with programs, prisons, therapies and medications that ultimately yield no freedom, reform, relief, or cure….no inner peace.

Sin is a cruel taskmaster, ‘taking us farther than we planned to go…costing more than we ever thought to pay’.  Calling us ‘dead in sin and trespasses’, God Himself initiates our repentance, drawing us and quickening our hearts with truth through the Holy Spirit.  Worldly regret, remorse and tormenting guilt are a downward deadly spiral but godly sorrow, repentance, leads to life. (II Corinthians 7:10) The Lord did not die for our sins to be treated, improved, or morphed into something acceptable.  He came to save us, deliver us from our sins, cleanse us completely, and in doing so, create new life.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation:  the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Corinthians 5:17)

                       “Repent” come under the authority of God “and live!”

"Whom the Son sets free is free indeed" John 8:36

“Whom the Son sets free is free indeed” John 8:36

                                       

CAN ISIS WIN?

Egyptian Christians martyred by ISIS

Egyptian Christians martyred by ISIS

While the world apparently slumbered, the terrorist group ISIS rose up with increasing power, resources and resolve.  Depraved and inhuman, defying even the base instincts given to man, gruesome beheadings, torture, and brutal human enslavement have become their trademark.   Their movement is ghastly and historically unique in its ability to broadcast treachery through the media.  Other gross inhumanities, such as Hitler’s death camps, the Turkish genocide of Armenians, or the forced starvation and death of millions under the oppression of Mao Zedong and Stalin, might parallel in terror.   Most certainly man is capable of loathsome sin however, merciless brutality may be inspired and fueled by spiritual power.      

“We must understand that ISIS is a demonic movement.  This is not mere terrorism.  These barbarians are making blood sacrifices to their god.”  Joel C. Rosenberg

While embedded within ISIS territory, journalist and author Jurgen Todenhoefer observed the operation itself and interviewed ISIS fighters.  Reporting to CNN on 1/4/15,

“When we stayed at their recruitment house, there were 50 new fighters who came every day,” Todenhoefer said. “And I just could not believe the glow in their eyes. They felt like they were coming to a promised land, like they were fighting for the right thing….These are not stupid people. One of the people we met had just finished his law degree, he had great job offers, but he turned them down to go and fight … “

Toward the progression of world conquest, ISIS freely admitted to Todenhoefer,

“…slavery is a great help to us and we will continue to have slavery and beheadings, it is part of our religion…“ 

The journalist concluded,

“ISIS is preparing the largest religious cleansing campaign the world has ever seen.”

Yes, they are richly armed, yes, they have increasing recruits and resources.  But all that is nothing if not fueled by living fervor to conquer – they have answered a powerful call into a dark mission.  They are spiritually and mentally prepared to take on  barbarianism with steely satisfaction and pride.   

Against this onslaught, the western world scrambles to manufacture resolve and strategies.  Amidst the complaining, opining, and posturing, the deep void of conviction, mission, and sacrifice remains our greatest weakness.   Defending ‘our way of life’ is not a strong platform since our ‘way of life’ has cultured a lifestyle of complacency, comfort, and tolerance for the very things that compromise our strength as a people.  We have lost our moral compass and any sense of righteousness – how can we muster up the will to sacrifice and defend, to push back the enemy at great cost? 

If we don’t acknowledge that ISIS is spiritually endowed, we can proceed to trust in our own defenses and wisdom,  and strategies which have availed little in this battle.  However, ceding that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood….but against powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6), what should our response be? 

Many will exclaim, ‘Just bomb them and utterly destroy them!’ A spiritually endowed movement cannot be exterminated like a bug when it has most likely pervaded our land.   God may employ man into the physical battle, but our readiness and call must start with an undergirding, a separation unto Him….

Head for the hills…. “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps 121) If we are serious about a battle, we will get alone with our Commander, hear from Him and wait upon Him, with a willingness to obey His Word.  Now is the time to prepare with repentance and renewal, to “Prepare our minds for action” (I Peter 1:13) as surrendered vessels given to Most High God, with resolve to align with Him and behind Him in every struggle.  The smallest army, backed by heaven, will never fail. 

Of the Bible, godly leaders admonish, “get into this Book and get this Book into you!” pleading with believers to study, meditate upon and accept the WHOLE counsel of God, resisting the will to conform His changeless word into our comfortable lifestyle.  Surrendering to the whole counsel of God is the only assurance of His whole promises to us.  There is no power nor promise – and every reason to fear – when we know the Way and the Truth but have a willing heart to adulterate His Word.

Encroaching enemies and dire threats expose our complacency and the sin that weakens and disqualifies us for spiritual battle.   The Lord always raises up godly messengers to warn us, draw us, and prepare us.  Yet admonishments, warnings, and calls to repent are as unpopular today as in the days of Jeremiah.  In Jeremiah 20, he is beaten and humiliated in stocks by Pasher the Priest.  

After beating and humiliating Jeremiah, the Priest's name was changed from Pasher to Magor-Missabib, "Terror on Every Side".

Following this, the Priest’s name was changed from Pasher to Magor-Missabib, “Terror on Every Side”.

 

Jeremiah’s message warned of God’s judgment, the rise of a powerful invading kingdom, to chastise those called by God’s name as they refused to repent of faithlessness and idolatry.  Complacency and comfort led to a false security in self as Jeremiah warns, “This is what the Lord says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”  (Jeremiah 17:5)

ISIS calls us the ‘People of the Cross’ and the ‘People of the Book’ but are we?  Do we represent the Cross of Christ and the Word of God?  If so, are we endowed with the power of the cross and the living word of God?

Much of the western church is either weakened by willful sin or busy ministering to the wounds of sin’s victims.   Perhaps only dire threat will quicken us to our knees before God, a position of readiness long forgotten by many.   Godly churches who resist prevailing world culture to surrender and wait upon a living word from the Lord are dwindling in numbers.  Obedience to God has become so unpopular, those who subscribe to the whole counsel of God are viewed as the ‘enemy’….mocked, derided, and marginalized….until a true enemy, armed with cruel hate, arises upon us.

  

congress singing God Bless America

Members of Congress, on the Capital steps, singing together, in itself is a surreal image.  Yet this group,  not known for honoring God, is singing God Bless America!   A spiritual stirring, albeit hollow and temporary, ensued following the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  Perhaps an inner compulsion, a quickening for the ungodly to acknowledge God, evoked such cry after these horrific attacks. 

How much more should the Body of Christ be prepared before a coming storm? 

We are called to separate unto the Lord, come together in His presence, and break forth from spiritual huddles.  The Lord calls us in to send us out; can we see ourselves, the Body of Christ, as ‘first responders’ on any front in this dark world?  If we avail ourselves to the living God, surrendered with a willingness to obey, He will call upon us in times of darkness to be a light.  The will of God has not changed, He desires to indwell believers as vessels for His Holy Spirit, to represent Him and bring glory and honor to His name. 

A raging battle quickly exposes the nominal, the lukewarm, from the readied, red hot, vessel of God.

ISIS fighters are not lukewarm nor are they attracting nominal believers.  They have availed themselves to spiritually dark forces and are displaying their conquests to the world.  

Can ISIS win?  They can achieve the domination measured by God as it serves Biblical prophecy, further spinning the world’s course into the coming judgment and return of Christ.  The question for us is, can their rampage serve to quicken the Body of Christ out of slumber and frivolity, into His presence?  Can we find power in prayer, in the Lord’s presence, and gain His burden for the persecuted, the desperate and suffering?

 It is God’s will that He be glorified in this world.  Jesus came as the Light of the World and passes this defining call onto His followers, “You are the light of the world.”   (Matt 5:14)  Through Him we can be that readied beacon, a point of refuge and hope, a conduit for God’s power, pointing to Him as the saving light through the coming dark storm.

lighthouse in the storm

“A lighthouse is only a tourist attraction until the storm comes…then, no longer a tourist attraction, its light is essential for survival for people trying to find their way home in the storm.”   (Pastor Carter Conlon, Times Square Church)

 

 

 

YOUR NAME HERE

YOUR NAME HERE - WRITTEN IN SAND

YOUR NAME HERE – WRITTEN IN SAND

For the follower of Christ, every accomplishment, acknowledgement, and acclaim – every entanglement- in this world presents the risk of spiritual death.   Every time we want our self to count in this world, we have diminished the purposes of Christ.  When Scripture speaks of separation from the world, most believers think bars, nightclubs, casinos, brothels, etc. However,  the entire world system lies under the domain of Satan – politics, education, commerce, trade – all that is in the world opposes the divine authority of God, and is culminating into a powerful anti-Christ domain.  We cannot sanitize any aspect or minimize Scriptural declarations:

“…don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”   (James 4:4)

Our highest and only ideal in any area, work, school, community – must be aligned with the Lord’s call for us there.  The loftiest arenas such as medicine, politics, science or education have the greatest potential to overshadow the presence of Christ in our lives if we pursue high worldly standards and miss the mark for holiness and humility.   God’s authority does not acquiesce to the ‘good’ of this world but calls us to obedience and surrender.   Christian ministries are not immune to worldly influence and trappings – the ‘self appointed’ will count for nothing when presented on Christ’s altar.

Often and aptly said, with Christianity ‘everything up is down’.   While those in the world strive to make a name for themselves, we as believers gain the greatest treasure – intimacy with the Lord – when we live as strangers, aliens, and foreigners in this world.  “…you do not belong to this world, I have chosen you out of the world.”  said Jesus, John 15:19

Divested, treading lightly, grasping loosely…..

“Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” (I Peter 1:17)

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (I Peter 2:11)

“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.”  Psalm 119:19

For Christians to petition unbelievers in Hollywood, government, or education to represent Biblical values is futile and, moreover, misses the mark of Christ’s demonstrated life.  Strangers, aliens, and foreigners typically do not make demands of host countries, nor do they have rights to do so, they are merely passing through.  Moreover, our power against the enemy does not come from ourselves employing worldly tactics, but are spiritual, through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  If we are commissioned by God we are backed by heaven. Too often though, we are quick to protest but slow to separate ourselves unto the Lord, to fast and pray.

Without the Holy Spirit, most miss the inevitable truth, “Your life is just a vapor…” written in sand in a windy world. 

YOUR NAME HERE - WRITTEN IN STONE

YOUR NAME HERE – WRITTEN IN STONE

“At every turn of your life, keep the end in view; remember that you will have to stand before a strict Judge who knows everything….”    Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ.

Except for careful planners, most of us will not actually see our ‘final destination’,  yet we could be scheduled to reach it tomorrow.   The most profound transition of our life is the moment of our death .  Rather than meditate upon it, even savor the moment we see Christ, we reject and dismiss such thoughts and go to great lengths to deny, delay and avoid the possibility of death.    Our predecessors did not live in such a way, they ‘loved not their lives in this world’…believing that “to die is gain”.  The Psalmist beckoned the Lord, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Numbering our days, meditating upon the great transition, is a deeply humbling influence to overshadow daily decisions, reactions, and priorities.

While harsh and devastating, death is often the quickening fire set to mature and separate  believers unto Christ.  It changes our focus from the temporal to the eternal – not just for our soul but for those eternal souls around us.  Contemplating eternity undergirds the great commission, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News…”  The reality of death should stir us with the passion and urgency of the Gospel.

YOUR NAME HERE - OMITTED OR WRITTEN FOREVER

YOUR NAME HERE – OMITTED OR       WRITTEN FOREVER

Sovereign, Almighty God has a divine and fearful Book of Life.  Such was supernaturally revealed to the hearts of God’s chosen throughout the ages; Moses referred to this Book of Life in his pleas for mercy, Daniel’s prophecies point to the preeminence of this Book,  the Apostle Paul speaks of this Book, and the aged Apostle John sees this majestic Book of Life in Revelation.  Man’s attempts to capture life, drama, and truth in books or literature are less than dust and ashes next to the book of all books, God’s Book of Life.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it….And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life… If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”   (Revelation 20, excerpts)

One day soon the façade of this temporal world will fold and the majesty of God’s everlasting Kingdom will be established.  It has been said,

“The believer’s life on this earth is his only arena for change and fruitfulness…the nature of eternity is changeless.  Therefore, the time to become like Jesus, being conformed to His likeness, is during this earthly Christian experience of trial and faith”

“You and I will never be any closer to Christ, throughout eternity, than we are when He comes.  That’s the point of judgment”.

Paul exhorts us, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  Why so, if the cross of Christ is sufficient for our atonement and eternity?  God declares judgment for the complacent.   Unlike unbelievers, lukewarm ‘Christians’ misrepresent the majesty and awesomeness of God, attempting to weave Him into the world and that He opposes. God is a “consuming fire”.   If we rightly discern and anticipate His coming judgment and Kingdom, we will have godly fear and trembling, and a deep grief for the lost that are without hope at His arrival.

“Oh Lord, help us to put our name – our reputation, our possessions, all that we are and have – into your Hand.  Launch our lives out as Your vessels in this world that Your Name might be glorified and honored above all.”

THE GREATEST FEAR OF ALL

…is not the one you run from.  It is the fear to enter into and embrace.  There is no stronger protection, no greater wisdom, no deeper treasure to be found outside of the fear of God.

                     “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life”                         

 “The fear of the Lord leads to life: then one rests content, untouched by trouble”

“The fear of the Lord adds length to life…”

 (Proverbs 14:27, 19:23, 10:27)

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”    

(Isaiah 33:6)

‘Fountain of life’, ‘the key to God’s treasures’…yet, why so seldom preached? 

Entering into a true fear of God begins to empty us from self sufficiency, self satisfaction, and self determination.  It is a place of relinquishment – all that we are, all that we have, may be required on God’s altar.  We are so willing to sing, “I am a friend of God!” but do we count the cost of this ‘friendship’?  Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command”. (John 15:14)

Abraham, friend of God, obtained this privileged and honored place after demonstrating his fear of God, obeying His command to sacrifice Isaac.  For our benefit, God declared, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.”  (Gen 22:12)   God knew what was in Abraham’s heart, his willingness to sacrifice and obey, but through this chosen vessel, God reveals to us the desires of His heart.  If we fear God, we will obey, “…all nations on earth will be blessed, because you obeyed Me” and therein is great reward…costly great reward.

Nearly three quarters of Holy Scripture is the ‘Old Testament’, establishment of law, the outpouring of prophecies,  revelations of God and His ongoing outreach to man.  Page after page reveals the power, majesty and sovereignty of God, self described as ‘a consuming fire’ whom alone should be feared and whom alone owns the word awesome.    The grace and love of the New Testament, manifested in our Savior, was bestowed upon those who, for generations, lived knowing the fear of God.  The revelation of God’s love completed their deep cry for the awaited Messiah, one who would atone and rescue them from certain and otherwise inescapable judgment.   Knowing the fear of God prepared their hearts to receive the love of God.

Basking in God’s love alone is wading in shallow waters….it may seem safe, but never yields the flow of living waters availed to us from God.  Worse is man’s inclination to fashion God in his own likeness, tailor His ‘love’ by our emotional standards, and live in the false security of God’s easy friendship. When life grows dark, when hardship and tragedy strike, from these shallow waters come the accusations, “Why this if God loves me!”

The one who knows God fears God and takes His Word seriously.  “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My Word”.  (Isaiah 66:2)  Is there any greater honor than being esteemed by the Creator of the Universe?

Unlike the terrors of the world, our own deep anxieties and fear of man, the fear of God does not paralyze us but rather motivates us to serve Him, to do His will and offer ourselves as His vessels.  “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men”, said Paul in II Corinthians 5:11.  At great cost and sacrifice unto the Lord, the Apostle Paul faithfully served the Lord – a ministry that propelled the Gospel throughout the world.  When God is awed, magnified in our hearts, we are bowed low to the place of humility.  It is there where He exalts and raises us to worship and serve Him.  In friendship, the Lord shares His heart and grief for fallen man and engages us to represent Him to the world.

Spiritual greatness, wisdom, protection from temptation, even springs of life come forth from this right standing.  Motivation and inspiration to serve and sacrifice are grounded in this powerful place of acknowledgment.  Yet, while it is common to be plagued and tormented by worldly fears, can we generate a fear of God within us, the fear that delivers us from all others?

Fear of God comes from knowing God – we know Him through revelation from His living Word.  It is not a natural inclination, we are not predisposed to fear and obey God.  It must come from willfully seeking the presence of God, waiting upon Him to reveal the truth as we read and meditate upon scripture.  It must come from a willful decision to obey what He reveals toward us.  When the Lord calls us to a task or correction it may well be out of our capacity…often the desire to obey is beyond us.  Therein our relationship grows, matures, and yields fruit as God Himself enables a surrendered heart to obey and accomplish His will.

Satan is not the greatest enemy to our faith – our own complacency lulls us into spiritual death and uselessness.  The ‘complacent’ fail to fill their oil lamps, they bury their God given talents.  They are not ‘esteemed’ by God but risk their place in His Kingdom.  It is the fear of God that compels us to draw near to Him and there in His presence we rightly view our smallness, our sinfulness, and the brevity of our life.  Under His shadow, He who never sleeps will fan the flames, even the embers, of our faith for His glory.

woman praying

Lead me out of shallow waters Lord, and teach me to ‘serve you with fear and rejoice with trembling’.

 

 

 

TAKE THE LORD OUT OF THE MANGER

manger-cross
Americans spent nearly 51 billion dollars during the Thanksgiving weekend to kick off the Christmas spending season. Is the ‘reason for the season’ really Jesus? Why does so much of this activity, clamor, entertainment, spending and planning yield so little if anything for the Kingdom of God? How could so much count for so little?

When God commissions an event or mission, He is in it and it will not fail. He will make Himself and His power known without bells, whistles or tinsel. In fact, all He seeks is a willing vessel, often choosing the weakest, the oldest, and least capable.

“The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing”. (John 6:63)

While the Word of God is “active and living, sharper than any two edged sword” the Lord chooses to conceal some ‘vital information’ from man – obscuring specific dates, times and places such as the burial place of Moses. He knows man’s propensity to enshrine and idolize events, times and places, and, in doing so, miss the mark. Have we missed the mark here? If so, why?

Perhaps presenting God in a manger is a benign message – one the world can easily tolerate. A helpless baby, animals, shepherds and gift bearers – all pose no threat to the average man or the world at large. The whole world can celebrate without conviction or accountability. Yet, we know that when God moves, the world trembles.

It is good and right to rejoice at the truth that God became flesh. As vessels of God, Old Testament prophets stood as living beacons for this event, preaching a message of repentance and hope. However, this most important event of history had no fanfare, no crowds, no entertainment or publicity. By God’s design, those whom He called, those who would seek Him, would find Him. As the Body of Christ, we are called – commissioned – to be heralds and beacons, surrendered vessels to proclaim the coming Messiah – proclaiming not only His birth, death and resurrection but His return – as Judge!

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” Matthew 24:44

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out…” Acts 3:19

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world by the Man He has appointed.” (Acts 17:30.31)

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His Kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season…” II Timothy 4:1-2

“He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as Judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42)

“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God…” (I Thessalonians 4:16)

The Lord did not point to His birth as He walked in this world…He pointed to His return, commanding and beckoning us to “watch”, “wait”, “pray” and keep our lamps burning. As His Body in this dark world, we extend His call to repentance and reconciliation, hoping men might turn, receive forgiveness, new life, and life everlasting.  Are we willing to go beyond the manger, calling people to repentance, to the cross of Christ?  Can we tell of and point to His promised return?  

The full Gospel is not a popular message, even among some Christians.  But it is the message delivered by the Holy Spirit, through surrendered vessels, to hearts prepared to receive.   Heaven does not rejoice over the popular, heaven rejoices when one sinner repents.

Time is short. Christ is no longer in the manger, He’s standing at the door!

“Behold, I am coming soon!” Revelation 22:7

 

RISE UP AND GO FORTH

From threshing, to rising, to the offering of bread…
(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Grain is crushed for bread, but one does not thresh it forever…” (Isaiah 28:28)

While suffering, even threshing and crushing, comes equally to the lives of believers and unbelievers, those who follow Christ have great assurance through their trials, a two prong anchor: your suffering has purpose and its intensity and duration is divinely measured. It does not seem so under the weight of grief and loss, moreover, this assurance itself does not lift the darkness of torment, depression or fear. Truth is an anchor onto which we must fasten ourselves –  it does not stop the storm but sustains us to the end of it.

“Crushed for bread” is a Christian truism rarely preached in the western world. It does not fit well into much of the gospel entertainment and prosperity that prevails in many church circles. When the Lord allows, designs and orchestrates, threshing and crushing in our lives it assaults our fleshly thinking, our human comforts, our health and sense of security – sometimes all at the same time. It does not seem loving nor merciful. In fact, it may cause the deepest questions of ‘love’, ‘mercy’ and ‘God’ to arise in our soul. Yet Lord stands by the cries of anguish and even accusation – He will prove faithful if we decidedly hold fast to the anchor.

But why the fire? Why the pummeling pain of betrayal, disappointment, and confusion? Why the shaken ground, the void of peace – why indeed!

Like grain, we are shaken to remove chaff, threshed to make bread. Challenging our comfort, even all we have built as security and surety in our lives, as threshed wheat we are mixed for kneading and shaping – which leads us into a fiery furnace! While we desperately seek to dull the pain, find any exit, or extinguish the fire the Lord’s purpose remains – to reveal Himself to us in the furnace. The threshing floor and fiery furnace are painful places where divine opportunity is ever present: we can walk by faith in the strength of the Holy Spirit, surrender and defer to the Lord’s leading, and depend on Him to deliver us. If the Christian life is indeed supernatural, the Lord will shake all our natural strengths and prove them deficient.

But how do we survive through, even rise up and come forth from these trials?

Be honest with God. Forget the brave veneers, scriptural and religious clichés, and reverent formalities. Let go. “I can’t take this! ….Help me, Lord, I am sinking!…I’m not going to make it through…” Unburden your heart with expectancy and start the journey through the fire. Share your burden with brethren and spiritual authority, an elder or pastor. Consider support of godly counsel and intervention. Central to deliverance though – learn to shut in with God, unhurried and undistracted.

Study the sovereignty of God. Immerse yourself prayerfully in the Word of God and the testimonies of the ordinary men and women who fell prey to evil men, suffered great loss, were wrongly accused, deeply betrayed, tormented, grieved, anguished…yet found their pain and darkness counted greatly in the Kingdom of God. Beckon the Holy Spirit to speak through the Word to your heart, write down the very scriptures that challenge your fears, your doubts, your grief, and overwhelming powerlessness. Memorize them and decidedly dare to stand upon them in faith, they are your protective shield and winning sword. (Ephesians 6:16,17)

Decide to worship. “The sacrifice of praise” becomes a deep and meaningful as we willfully worship God even as our hearts fail from brokenness and fear. It is costly praise, valued by the Lord, a worship that declares, “Yes, I am miserable/in pain/fearful and anxious/crushed and heartbroken…but you are still God, sovereign over all and worthy of worship.” Powerful tactics of Satan, magnifying points of anguish and highlighting every possible disastrous outcome, begin to wane as we magnify the Lord and shift our thinking toward His promises of victory. Read aloud, even sing the Psalms as a battle cry.  A pastor once admonished, instead of “Set me free and I’ll worship you” resolve to “worship Him and He’ll set you free”.

Seek God’s Purpose. What is He threshing, separating, out of your life…what is He kneading into your life? What of Himself does He choose to reveal? Keep asking, keep seeking – believe that the Lord will draw near to us as we draw near to Him, “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. What is His purpose for your suffering? As Pastor David Wilkerson often preached, “Don’t waste your afflictions!” Our suffering can produce valuable assets to the Kingdom of God, preparing our vessels for God’s Spirit to flow through and reach others who may be floundering in a dark miry pit.

Broken to be shared

Broken to be shared

Wheat must be threshed for flour, kneaded and molded for the fire and, finally, broken to be shared. When hardship and turmoil come, when emotional trauma strikes and pierces with multilayer pain, let us grasp the ‘two prong anchor’ and build on this foundational promise. Let us cry out to the Lord, seek godly avenues of wisdom and support. Decidedly worship, let your spirit gain strength as the Lord inhabits your praise. Above all, do not give up. Let us resolve that, even before threshing comes, we will stand and press on with the certainty that sovereign God will produce in us that which has eternal value.