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Soldier4Christ
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« on: July 15, 2006, 08:03:05 PM »

Changing Minds, Changing Directions, Changing Lives

    Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (1 Cor.5:17).

Coming into the transforming presence of God is something that will open our eyes to a great many things. Drawing near to Him will guarantee that we will begin to rethink the way we think, and question the way we have always considered things to be. We progress forward toward Him until we face areas we may be unwilling to give up, or that we are not wanting to consider changing. It's then that we shelter our eyes from His light as He reveals truth that we choose not to see.
The painful reality is most painful to our flesh. Our flesh chooses to cling to that which is loved in the flesh--those things that are of this earth which bring to us a sense of security and comfort. Our flesh is unwilling to part with such things or even to consider doing so. It is not until we can willingly deny ourselves and selfish nature, that we will move forward toward God. It is not until we are willing to abandon all we have ever treasured, believed or thought we knew, that we will truly "throw off everything that hinders" so that we can fully come into the transforming presence of our Lord.
I have heard people ask, in reference to heaven, "What will there be to do up there?" or "What will we do for fun?" Such questions seem innocent enough, yet they are contrived only out of that part of humanity that seeks self-pleasure--the part that "savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." To think otherwise is to yield to the self-deceit of the flesh, allowing our thinking to remain imprisoned by the thoughts which once led us, rather than our thinking being transformed in the presence of God. To seek heaven is to seek God and to forsake self and that which is pleasing to self. For, "whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it" (Lk.17:33).
A great many things hinder us from coming into the transforming presence of God. Continuing to hold to ideas, philosophies, patriotisms and beliefs that we once held before we stepped into the light--those things will hinder us from moving toward God. Continuing to cling to earthly desires, careers, ambitions and success as we defined them before we came to Christ--those too will hinder us and cause us not only to hesitate from moving toward God--they will cause us to turn away.
The question of "What will we do in heaven for fun?" should change to "Whom will we be with?" For Christ died so that we might come to the Father, heaven happens to be the place wherein we shall be with Him. Going to Heaven means going to be with and live with God, if that does not sound like "fun" to us, then we might want to examine our hearts to discover what our true treasures are and where our true loyalties lie. We cannot claim to truly love God while refusing to come closer to Him because we are unwilling to let go of what we cling to on this earth. Remember Lot's wife. She clung to what she was supposed to be leaving behind. Life was in front of her, yet she turned instead to lifelessness.
We are new creatures in Christ, and just as a butterfly does not try to live like a caterpillar, so we should remember that we are not as once we were--nor should we act like it.

    And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. . .But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt (Gen.19:17,26).
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2006, 08:04:28 PM »

Job Security

    The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry
    but He thwarts the craving of the wicked (Proverbs 10:3).

The Lord does not condone laziness, nor does He condone the use of scripture to make the level of one's work-effort justifiable. Some might explain that they do not need to worry about working because the Lord will provide for their needs. This is true. We do not have to, nor should we, worry about working so that our needs will be met (Mt.6:25-34). However, it is also true that we are not to use such reasoning to excuse personal laziness. But this is only one side of the coin and hardly a side anyone dare try to argue as correct. For we will find it equally true that scripture is misused if it is used to excuse one's excessive work efforts.
If we are to examine the reasons why we work today--and more-so, the reasons why both mother and father "have" to work--we are sure to find a multitude of good sounding reasons, and those often scripturally backed.

"A man's gotta eat."
It is a well known fact that we must eat to live, and lesser known that many of us live to eat. Nevertheless, we mark this first cliché as "Reason #1." And there is a solid verse of scripture that seems to firmly back it up. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." There is certainly no error in the verse, but there is often error within the application of the verse. For there are more who will use this scripture to provide support to their need to work and work many hours, or put work ahead of their family, God or church; than there are those who use it in reference to someone in the body of Christ who does not work. And as we have grown accustomed to Reason #1, we find that we no longer bat an eye at having to work on Sundays. That which at one time was unthinkable for a Christian, has now become the acceptable.

"A man who does not provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever."
This is a powerful statement that could become cliché if not for the fact that it is straight from scripture. 1 Timothy 5:8 tells us, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Yet even as with Reason #1, this one (Reason #2) is more often quoted to support one's reasons why they must work, than to why they should. Reason's we must work often include: to pay the bills, and to provide for our needs. However, these are often the reasons that only graze the surface of our true motivations.

The reasons seem very valid until we get beneath the surface layer of rationale and logical explanation. What we often find motivates us to work is not a desire to fulfill our obligations to God and family, instead it is fear. For example, when we consider getting laid off from work or being a casualty of a company down-sizing, do we see ourselves disheartened because we cannot do that which God has directed. Of course not. We know that God honors our efforts to do His will. He is not going to chastise us for not supporting our families if there are no jobs currently available. Suddenly being out of work does not make us feel disobedient to God, it makes us feel frightened. Frightened of the trouble we will find ourselves in when we cannot pay our bills, rent or mortgage. Frightened of the possibilities that we might not be covered by a company medical plan and suddenly have an illness in the family. Or Frightened because the job market is at an all time low.
If we honestly look inside our hearts, we might find that what makes us work two or three jobs, or jobs that exceed 40 or 50 hours a week is not a desire to honor God, but a desire to feel comfortable and financially secure. And to find that security through the work of our own hands while quoting scripture to back it up. One has to wonder how much we really rely upon and trust in our Heavenly Father, when we work so hard to do for ourselves.
Just think, at the end of it all we can look back and say to ourselves, "I carved out a life for myself with these two hands." And we can pat ourselves on the back with those two hands, while trying to remember what joy we gained by the fruits of our labor.
We do not have to struggle to make ends meet. We need simply to obey God and trust that He is good for His word, "The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry."
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2006, 08:05:00 PM »

The Taste Test

    Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Pt.2:2-3).

Many of us have been approached at a supermarket entrance by someone performing a taste test. They want us to test two or more products and then respond by telling them which product was the one that we liked the best. Its sometimes hard to distinguish one product from another if the products are extremely similar. But there are other times when we might be offered something that we like against something we do not really care for. Our response in the latter instance is usually much quicker and easier to make.
In Psalm 34:8, David encourages us, "O taste and see that the LORD [is] good: blessed [is] the man [that] trusteth in him." If we held a taste test between item "a" (The Lord), and item "b" (the world), which do you think would win? What we would discover might not surprise us, in fact, it would most likely sadden us. But consider the tasters in the test. They are people who have been enjoying item "b" (the world) for all their lives. Many have not tasted item "a" at all, and many who have, have done so incorrectly. In other words, you cannot get an accurate account of a new taste, while the old one lingers in your mouth. That is why it is necessary to repent, turn away from, those things you have been tasting all your life as we come to God. We cannot get a true representation of God's person while we cling to those things of the earth that tickle our taste buds.
Let me briefly illustrate. A good judge of a pie baking contest or chili cook-off will not go from one item directly to the next. He will taste one item and then use some means to clear his palate, some means that will clear his mouth of the taste of one item before proceeding to the next. This gives him a better representation of the taste of each with out confusing the lot. Let us then consider once more that we cannot truly taste of the fullness of God's goodness, while the taste of those things we have embraced that are not of Him still lingers.
To conclude, let us consider something else. The more we taste of God, the more our tastes will be transformed. The things that once tickled our taste buds will seem bitter or perhaps begin to make us gag or become sick to our stomachs. Many people can think of a time where they had gotten sick enough to vomit, and can associate that time with a particular food. They often lose the taste for that food and never want to taste it again. In fact, the very idea of eating it often makes them nauseous. As we turn from the tastes of the world, clearing our palates of that taste--so to speak, and we taste of the goodness of God, we will begin to be repulsed by the mere thought of speaking, thinking or doing things we once embraced. Living as a Christian becomes much easier when we savor the things that are of God, and sin is so much easier to gain victory over when all it ever does is leave a bad taste in our mouths.

    Bread of deceit [is] sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel (Proverbs 20:17).
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« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2006, 08:05:51 PM »

A Time To Be Weaned

    In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb.5:12-14).

To come into the consuming presence of God is to taste His goodness. Once again we recall David's words, "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him" (Psalms 34:Cool. Tasting God's goodness will cause us to desire more of what He has to offer, so long as the tastes for the things of this world do not linger in our mouths. As we come nearer to God and continue to taste of His goodness, those tastes we once desired will begin to lose their appeal. Our appetite for the things we embraced in the darkness will diminish, and will begin to leave a bad taste in our mouths if we taste of those things once more. Yet it is not enough that our tastes be changed, they must also continue to change and to mature.
Herein lies a problem. So many of us come to the Lord and taste that He is good. We become satisfied with what we first receive and become content to remain at that place--the place wherein we first tasted of the Lord's goodness. But even as a baby must someday begin to eat solid foods, so must we. Our first taste of God is not something that should make us desire to curl up with our spiritual bottles and be babied the rest of our lives. We were not meant to remain in a condition in which we require someone to hold us and feed us and pamper us. Instead we are meant to be in that condition for a short time. And during the days of our spiritual infancy, we do need someone to care for us and guide us and help us to develop into mature children of God. But that is just the beginning of a long growth process; in which, as we mature, we become the ones who help care for the spiritual infants.
So what happens when the infants do not mature? When those who "ought to be teachers, . . .need someone to teach. . .the elementary truths of God's word all over again," do we wind up with a church full of baby Christians--or lifeless ones perhaps? If the teachers in the church have had no one to teach them, how many teachers still have need of being taught? How many church leaders still hold to the "elementary truths" because they themselves have not tasted the mature food that God provides?
It is a sad reason why so many of us do not mature, one that is wrapped up in an old cliché-- "We want to have their cake, and eat it too." We want to straddle the fence, living in a place wherein we can hold the milk of God in our right hand and a plate of worldly cake in the left. This is nothing more than a selfish and bratty mentality--clinging to that which we crave--refusing to let go for any reason. The problem is that the milk of God does not go with the cake of this world, nor will it ever. And until we release the cake of the world, and move beyond the milk, we will never experience the fullness and favor of the fruits of righteousness.
The reasons we cling to cake and milk are pleasure sustaining wishful thoughts. These thoughts keep us from moving forward toward God, they keep us from maturing and they keep us from truly caring about others the way God desires us to. They keep us at a place wherein we require teaching, and wherein we do not teach anyone else above our immature understandings of the Kingdom of God. If we truly want to ever help others in their Christian walk, we must be willing to forsake the world, and continue moving toward God.

    "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? (Jn.3:10).
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« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2006, 08:07:00 PM »

In Spirit And In Truth

    Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father is spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth (Jn.4:23-24).

What is worship? Is it some fanatical display designed to peak the awareness of God through an emotional outpour? Is it an organized meeting which draws our attention toward God through structure and deliberate methods? Perhaps it is a time that an individual sets aside each day to read the Bible and to pray. In truth, it is none of these, because each can be done completely within the flesh and may never draw our attentions toward God, and because each were described only in the perspective of what can be seen with human eyes. True worship cannot be seen, due to the nature of true worship being something that is done in the spirit. What can be seen with the eye is the fruit of worship--physical expressions of inward events.
Unfortunately worship, like so many other things, is something that we seem to misunderstand unless we can see some tangible evidence that it exists. So it becomes easier to cut to the chase and skip the worship "in spirit and in truth" all together. If certain physical expressions are attached to the exercise of worship then why not take short cuts to get the results we are LOOKING for? This kind of thinking can motivate large numbers of people to "do" worship in the flesh without ever connecting with God in the spirit. We wind up putting the proverbial cart before the horse--as though our worshipful actions will invoke the Holy Spirit to come upon us. When in truth, it is as we come in contact with the Spirit that He invokes within us a response that may include outward expressions. And those expression that may not fit into our preconceived ideas of what outward worship should LOOK like.
If we need to SEE outward expressions so that we can determine that we have truly worshipped, then we have missed the point. For in so doing, we go into worship more concerned with what we will do to worship, than Whom we will be worshipping. Our contentment then does not rest in whether or not we meet God, but in whether or not our actions to worship meet our individual, or collective, approval.
Some say that true worship leads to physical manifestations such as speaking in tongues, raising hands or being so overcome by the Spirit that one would grow weak in the knees and fall to the ground. Some say that true worship does not include any of that, but that it is something that is done deliberately and is well organized because, "God is not the author of confusion." Yet in both cases, what is failed to seen is that true worship is not seen--it is a matter of the heart. And if it is seen only in terms of what can be seen, then it is not seen at all. For we are to worship in "spirit and in truth," not in "sight and acceptable practices." We cannot measure what takes place in the spirit by what is seen, but we can most certainly, and often do, quench it.

    1 Thessalonians 5:19:
    Quench not the Spirit (KJV). Do not put out the Spirit's fire (NIV).
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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2006, 08:07:35 PM »

Draw Near to God

    "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:Cool.

Monday
Strengthened by the words of Sunday morning,
guided by the thoughts of yesterday,
we often find our greatest expectations,
get lost within the passing of a day.

"God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (Jn.4:24). To worship God is to draw near to Him. "There is a way that seems right to a man," yet many of our ways are so far away from the right ways that though we follow the path with the best intentions, we miss the road-signs that tell us we're going the wrong way. Drawing near to God is an act of relationship, not religion. All of the quiet times in the world will be useless if there is an absence of focus on God.
True, there are benefits from reading the Bible and praying at any time. These righteous acts will put us in mind of heavenly matters in an earthly realm. But if the righteous acts become the focus over God then what we do is seldom empowered by God, and often initiated by human effort.
We can take what we hear in sermons or in Sunday school, and we can add what we read each day from God's Word, and still come up short to get what we need to get us through the day, let alone an entire week. In fact, a person could fill all of their waking hours with Christian music, Bible reading, recorded sermons and prayer, and still feel empty and dry. It may be a person that could practically quote the entire Bible, chapter and verse, yet he could still have a look of defeatedness in his eyes.
I have often heard others say (and I have said it myself) that they were going through a dry time--a time when it did not matter what they did, they just could not seem to get anything out of their quiet times and Bible readings. They mention that their prayers just seem to be going into the air, and that it does not seem like there is any kind of connection with God. I personally do not know a Christian who has not been through such a time, but I do know that the Scripture says, "Draw near to God, and He WILL draw near to you." And we may do just that and still not feel the way we think that we should. But I once heard someone say, "Some days I don't feel much like a Christian, but that does not change the fact that I am a Christian."
But dry times can come to earlier ends when we deliberately shift our focus off of the cares of this life and on to Christ. Music, Bible reading, sermons and prayer are more easily accomplished and carried out by a soul that has first set their eyes upon the Lord. As we draw near to God we come closer to His Peace in the midst of difficult circumstances. We come closer to His Joy in the midst of sorrow. We come closer to the Person of the Heavenly Father and discover what it means to be children of God.
When we enter our quiet times of devotion and Bible reading, we should do what is necessary to first shift our focus to our Lord. To begin with, we can ask Him to help us to do so. We can also listen to music or reflect on poetry about God or meditate on a verse of scripture to help us draw near to Him. Whatever we do it should be something that speaks about God's person and draws us to consider Him for who He is. This will enable us to better focus on Him throughout the day. This will better enable us to draw near to God, and this will better enable us to rise above religious rhetoric, and enjoy our Christianity by clinging to God in a daily, thriving relationship.
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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2006, 08:08:22 PM »

The Message Received

    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

From church to church, from Sunday to Sunday, there is a message that is communicated to congregating Christians and visitors alike. What that message is may vary depending upon the denomination, creed, pastor and people. Yet, within all, there is a line that can often be drawn. It is a line that separates the message of God from the message of man. And to our loss we may discover that, regardless of sermon and song, the message that is often received is one of "Be like us," rather than, "Be like Christ."
There are many people who do not go to church. If asked why, most often the reply has something to do with the people in the church, rather that the words that come from the pulpit. We have all heard and more than likely believe that, "Actions speak louder than words." So if it were that a church had to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ without a word, what would it be saying? Do the nonverbal communications of a Sunday morning congregation express the love of Christ through unconditional love, or the peace of God by demonstrating a faith that reaches beyond life's circumstances? Does the congregation, without a word, tell an onlooker that what God has said is true and that He can help them to live an abundant life in the midst of a lost and confused world? Perhaps our message is one of struggle more than one of strength, one of defeatedness more than one of victory. If we sing "Oh victory in Jesus" yet we look beaten by the world, who then have we demonstrated has victory over us?
Nevertheless, we cling to our beliefs and promote our ideologies with incongruency and contradiction. Not that it is wrong to cling to or to promote, but that this cannot be done in word alone, for we know what the scripture says, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1:22).
Relying on words alone to testify to a lost world will most often leave people looking for answers. They hear our words about the "Power in the blood" and they begin to see a glimmer of hope for themselves. Then they look into our anemic lifestyles and turn away in disappointment, continuing their search for what can bring them what they need to fill the void in their hearts.
Is the message of the Church, "Be like us?" Do people feel that joining a church means that they will be expected to act and do as those within its congregation? If so, the wrong message is getting across and what they are hearing is that if they want to be holy then they need to heed our creed--if they want to be saved then they must surrender what they feel, think and do and become like us. Rather than seeing that they can take the yoke of Christ which is easy, and take Christ's burden which is light; they see that they must take on the heavy burdens of religious do's and don'ts, and therefore feel as though they are giving up life, rather than finding it.
But if the message of the Church is, "Be like Christ," then they are free to discover who Christ is in them. They are free to come to Him just as they are and to be accepted with unconditional love, and they are free to give up their lives in the world so that they can find true life in Christ. This message will help them to find Christ before Christianity, and it will enable them to bear spiritual fruit as a result of Christ dwelling within them, not as a result of group pressure within a congregation, telling them to do this or that.
Belief in the person of Christ is not justified by consensus of the majority, it is justified as it is expressed and lived out in the lives of those who follow Him.
What message do we want to communicate? To say "Be like us" is easy, as it sets the standard based upon what we have done with what Christ has given us. But to say "Be like Christ," sets a higher standard that requires us not to rest within our beliefs, but to see them worked out in our lives and lifestyles so that the message that is seen by onlookers, is the same as the one that is heard.
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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2006, 08:10:07 PM »

Consider the Cross

    And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me (Mt.10:38).

Consider the cross. It was once a symbol of death, but now a symbol of beauty to adorn wearers of necklaces, earrings, and the like. The cross was a symbol of the end--to take up the cross was to walk a road of hopelessness and helplessness. It once evoked feelings of dread and despair in the hearts of those who lived in the time of Roman crucifixions. But it now evokes thoughts and feelings of pleasantry as one gazes upon its aesthetic qualities or craftsmanship. And yet there are those who still look upon it today with an entirely different outlook. To them it is a symbol of life through the death of one, it is a symbol of hope and new beginning and it is a symbol of the manifest love of a Heavenly Father for his children. Within these sentiments we find the true meaning of the cross.
During this season, we take a closer look at the cross. We consider what it meant to the people of the time and what it means to us today. And we consider what it meant to Christ and to His Father. We remember how Christ took up a cross, and willingly gave up His life so that many others could find life. Christ, "who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb.12:2). And we consider how "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor.5:21).
We consider "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 Jn.3:1). And how great a love this is, for "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn.15:13). And "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom.5:7-8). And "Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren" (1Jn.3:16).
So now let us consider the cross in our own lives today and every day. How Christ says to us, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Lk.9:23-25). Therefore we do not look at the cross to see Jesus alone, but to see that we should say even as Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal.2:20).
The world once looked upon the cross as a symbol of suffering and shame. Much of the world around us today looks upon it as a religious icon without considering its implications, or they simply see it as an adornment worn on necklaces and the like--seeing it as not much different than a peace symbol. And though it invokes thoughts of Christ's sacrifice and death in the hearts of Christ's followers, it equally carries a meaning of self-death and self-sacrifice in the hearts of those who will follow Christ each day--giving up rights to personal desires and wants in this lifetime.
Consider the cross. How far will you carry it? How willing are you to die to self and personal desires so that you can live to Christ? Will you say as Paul, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil.1:21). Will you forfeit your rights to a life of your choice on this earth so that God's glory may be manifested in Heaven? Remember once again Christ's words, "whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?"
It was necessary that Christ should die that others, through Him, might live; and it is necessary for us to die to self if we want to see a dying world find life in Christ through us.

    And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me (Mt.10:38).
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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2006, 08:11:15 PM »

Desert Rain

    As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you , O God
    (Psalms 42:1).

"The dry and thirsty land, where no water is. . ." (Ps.63:1).
We often spend our summer days looking forward to the next rain; while at the same time dreading the possibility of heavy storms. As the ground hardens and sometimes cracks and the farmers crops begin to droop, we pray for rain to come and quench the "dry and thirsty land." But when the storm is upon us and winds gust and giant trees are whipped back and forth, and lightning cracks and thunder booms; it is a time we hope to get the rain we have prayed for without anyone or anything being hurt by the violent storms that accompany. But storms bring rain and rain brings growth, and through the storms the land receives what it needs to be sustained.
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. . ." (Ps.42:2).
The dry spells of the soul can at times be almost unbearable. Accompanying symptoms may include a hardening of the heart, a feeling of spiritual numbness, a loss of compassion and a feeling of isolation. It is a time when the human need for God is fully realized and it is a time when God is recognized as what we need to sustain us, to bring us out of dry times that harden and crack the soul.
"The rain falls on the just, and the unjust. . ."
We know without a doubt that though we are able to call ourselves children of God, we are not exempt from the storms of this life. In deed, some who belong to God suffer more greatly than some who do not. Yet, within it all, those who have learned to call upon the name of the Lord have learned as well that the storms of this life seem threatening at first, but in the end they are a blessed relief from the dry times that constantly pursue us. And though some storms would seem to devastate us, those are the storms that God can use to make us rise above the circumstances--stronger than before.
We seem at times a desert place. Our strength dries up and all that once seemed vibrant within, seems to have wilted in the seemingly endless heat. Perhaps it is within the tendency to gravitate toward self-fulfillment that we find ourselves within the driest times of our lives--times that we choose to find our own way to satisfy what we believe we need. We seek after the waters of this life that look to be all we could hope for, but in the end they are stagnate pools of bitter waters. They hold no real redeeming value, and not only do they not quench the thirsts we have, they leave us worse off than when we came to them.
But though our tendency is toward self-fulfilling waters, there is within us all a desire to come to the rivers of life. It is when we can say as David did, "My soul thirst for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" that we will once more draw near to God--allowing  His rains to cleanse our nurture our souls. Where once we sought the apparently pleasant waters of this earth, we now find the greatest blessings in the midst of the rain storms.
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« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2006, 08:11:59 PM »

Bringing It Down To Earth

    What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
    (Philippians 3:Cool.

The presence of God is the most holy place. It is the place wherein we come and in essence remove the sandals from our feet. For how we clothe ourselves to walk in this world is not fitting as we tread upon the holy ground to approach the presence of God. And entering into His presence causes us to realize our need. We see ourselves for who we really are in comparison to Him, and we see our imperfection and inadequacy. But this does not spur us to retreat in shame, but instead, we confidently approach the throne of grace because of the work of Christ.
But how do we approach Him? Much about this only seems to touch the spiritual, how do we bring it down to earth?
To begin with, we know that sin keeps us from coming into the presence of God, sin--and even more so--the desire to cling to sin. Our sins have been forgiven us and therefore are no longer a wall that separate us from God's Salvation (Jesus tore down that wall). Instead, they separate us from His fellowship, and become a greater barrier when we refuse to let go of them.
Clinging to anything behind us will keep us from moving forward. Remember what the writer of Hebrews has said, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (12:1). This is our act of repentance: to turn away from what is behind us and to press on toward the Holy place of God. We see that the kingdom to which we belong is not of this earth, and so we shake the dust of this earth from our feet and set our focus on the Kingdom of God. Our goals, ambitions and dreams for a life on this earth will fade, and our desires will be transformed and our hearts will no longer cling to the treasures of this world.
While letting go (of sin, the world, our wants, etc.) is the first step to drawing near to God; clinging to Christ as Lord and Master is the second step. Jesus tells us, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lk.9:23). We move away from our past that is wrapped up on self-fulfillment, and we follow the path of Christ that leads to righteousness (or right living).
The path that leads to righteousness is where we bring the vague idea of drawing near to God down to earth. While drawing near to God is a spiritual matter, there are several things we can physically do to help us draw near. But to put it simply, we can say it in one statement, "be like Christ." The writer of Hebrews encourages, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith" (12:2). Christ is the physical representation of God. He is our example to follow. To be like Christ is to draw near to God. Christ prayed, therefore we must pray. He knew scripture and we too must not only read, but gain understanding of and memorize scripture. He served others more than self. He sacrificed His rights to anything from this life. He was fully devoted to the work of God. If we are to draw near to God, this is the path we must follow. It will not do us any good to wish we could be more Christ-like if we are not willing to follow in His path.
Christ Jesus, while on earth, walked each day fully in the presence of God the Father. He has come to dwell in each of us who believe in Him, to provide to us all we need to follow God as He did. But, the truth be known, the reason so many of us struggle with step two (following Jesus), is because we have failed to accomplish step 1 (denying self). As long as we refuse to let go of our endearments in this life, we cannot fully draw near to God, we cannot be the child of God we desire to be and we cannot be effectively used to draw a lost world to Jesus. The song says, "I surrender all."  How much have we given up so others might find life?
In considering the vague ideas of the spiritual calling in our lives, we realize we need to find ways to bring it down to earth so that we can better understand what we can do to draw near to God. But God understands all of our needs better than we do, and He has already brought it down to earth within the physical manifestation of His Son--Jesus.

To follow Jesus, we must learn to let go of this life. If we are to be the agents of change we must be willing to be changed. A lost world is counting on us.

    But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ (Philippians 3:7).
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« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2006, 08:12:59 PM »

Abstinence

    Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us
    (1 Peter 2:11-12).

What comes to mind when the word abstinence is brought up has a great deal more to do with our present culture than to the word itself. If you were to ask someone today what they think about "abstinence" you would probably not be surprised to hear an answer pertaining to the other person's viewpoint on sexual restraint and promiscuity. But let's see if we can broaden our view of this word to encompass the ideas Peter was trying to convey to the readers of his letter.
While sexual abstinence is an important issue, it hardly touches the surface of the broad spectrum of the "sinful desires, which war against the soul." sexual sin gets a great deal of attention as do other sins that seem to be the "bad" ones--ones that make our jaws drop or perhaps peak our interests--or perhaps even still, provide us a good conversational topic. But the sins that truly so easily beset us seldom climb to reach the heights of the perceived "top ten" of the "Worst Sins" list.
Peter warns us to "abstain from sinful desires, which war against the soul." And if our attentions are drawn to the so called "bad" sins, we will easily overlook the subtle sins that will keep us held captive to them, so that we do not experience the freedom we should know in Christ.
One particular subtle sin is the sin of the "I's." It is, unfortunately, a sin that holds many of us within its grip. As most sins, the sin of the "I's" begins within the heart. It may take the shape of discontentment, feelings of uneasiness, feelings of need or desires to be heard, liked, understood, desired, adored, etc. Whatever shape it takes, it will quickly draw a person's attentions and focus inward, to where what is seen first and foremost is what, "I want," "I feel," " I need," " I deserve," or "I don't" want, feel, need, or deserve.
To put it simply, the sin that so easily besets us is self-centeredness. This might in fact be the root of all sin, for all sin springs from a desire to please self regardless of what God wants for us.
It is a simple thing that we see our selfishness as the root of our sin, yet it is profoundly odd that we, knowing this about selfishness, would be as sheep led astray because we long for greener grass.
In our seeking to draw near to God, we know we must abstain from sinful desires. To abstain, we first must stop neglecting the "lesser sins," for they are the subtle sins that will beset us, defeat us and draw us further away from God to look for the presumed "greener grass."
The subtle lies of the devil will lead us to rationalize reasons to possess that which pleases us. But the truth of Christ will lead us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily and follow Him. How long will we go on believing Satan's lies? He took Jesus to the top of a mountain and offered Him the world--Jesus refused. But the devil has tempted us with a few creature comforts in this life, and we have bought the lie--hook, line and sinker.
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« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2006, 08:14:15 PM »

Who Has Suffered

    Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God (1 Pt.4:1-2).

The writer of Hebrews tells us, "In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (12:4). There is a willingness to forego earthly desire for the sake of Christ, and there is a willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ. It is a willingness that puts aside human want to follow the will of God. It is a willingness, however, that escapes the largest portion the Church as we know it.
It is a stiff necked people who stand tall and proud and refuse to bow to the Lord. It is a deceived people who bow heads to give thanks for three full meals a day, yet refuse to bow to the will of God if He would ask them to give up some of what they have grown accustomed to. The majority of the Christian Church of the United States is such a people. May God have mercy on us all, and no longer withdraw His Hand, for we are in need of His discipline.
We gather each Sunday to praise Him with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him. We sing songs of worship being more concerned with how much we like the song's tempo or familiarity rather than whether it is offered as a vocal sacrifice to the Lord. We listen to sermon after sermon, only to pick at the preacher's oratory abilities afterwards and behind his back.
We are they who have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof. Trusting our human appraisal of things and our reasoning abilities to deal with difficult, or even daily, circumstances; while claiming that we trust God for everything. We trust our own hands for provision of sustenance. We trust our financial fortitude for the promotion of church growth, building programs and organized activity. We enter into business discussions about the church with little mention of God's will, with the exception of a brief, traditional opening prayer.
We are they who cling to our ways, our lifestyles, our likes and our wants, refusing to let go without a fight (or perhaps, without a church split). And somehow within it all, we have deceived ourselves into believing that we are living as righteously as is humanly possible, and that we are making valiant efforts to carry out the will of God.
Woe to us. For we have become so blinded by our selfish desires that the truth of righteous living has escaped us. We have become blind leaders of the blind. For we mix our desires from this life with our desires for the next, and hope we can keep from slipping too far in either direction. For the one side of the fence would mean that we are godless, and no better than the lost world and all their godless lusts. And fully dwelling on the other side of the fence would mean giving up those things we treasure of the world--the same world we think to live above. We are a selfish and bratty people who want our cake and eat it too.
We are a people who want to be entertained. We want church to be an enjoyable experience that will keep people coming back. It would seem that fellowship with other believers and with God is not enough. We must gear functions and services to a level suitable to the liking of the majority or else they might lose interest and stay home and watch television where they are sure to be entertained. Rather than the church setting the standards, it has chosen to bow to the world as if to say, "If you can't beat'em, join'em." We reason that a church needs money to function, and therefore needs members to have money, and so it makes perfect sense that it should be formatted in a fashion that will attract the most people--or at least the ones with money. And if that means bringing football into the church on Superbowl Sunday--why not? After all, we have determined that we can't compete with what the world offers.
And so in our efforts, out from our human reasoning and in order to sustain what we desire, we have modeled the church after the world. And in essence have limited the choices of the world around us. For once upon a time, people saw the distinct qualities of the local church. It was a place where, when they finally grew up and got serious about life, they would come to discover truth, purpose and the will of God. Now days, what does the church have to offer anyone who is searching but more of the same?
It is time the church remembers what it means to set the standard and stop trying to compete with the world in order to grow a membership.
It is time we stop deceiving ourselves to think that we can have our cake and eat it too--having an eternal inheritance with Christ in Glory; while partaking of earthly delectables.

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« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2006, 08:15:36 PM »

The Souls Purpose: To Be Profoundly Filled

    God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground
    (Gen.1:28).

(There are many scriptures which demonstrate marvelous parallels between one thing, event or truth and another. We can read scripture closely and often find spiritual truth that is not at first obvious. But they are truths that exist between the lines of fact and description. This may seem to some as though we are reading into the scripture something that is not there. And while we cannot promote such parallel interpretations as fact, we cannot ignore the possibility of such an existence of the parallel truths God would demonstrate through His Word. Jesus Himself used simple parables to teach more profound spiritual realities. In saying the kingdom of Heaven is like a tree that sprouted from a mustard seed, He is not saying it is a tree. And when Jesus related a story of the man with the ten talents, He did not do so to relate a story, but the spiritual truth within the story. And though Genesis does not say that the flood was to be a symbol of the baptism we would receive as believers, Peter uses the simple story of the flood to describe a more profound truth within it (1 Peter3:13-22). )

God's commands should be taken at face value. God is very clear in what He desires from us. It is we who muddy the waters with excuse, worldly thought and human reasoning, causing God's will to be something vague and difficult to understand. God's commands have immediate implications that require long lasting commitment and obedience. We hear God's Word, take Him at His Word, and loyally obey Him today and every tomorrow. Adam and Eve were to physically carry out what God commanded. They were to fill the earth, subdue it and rule over it (all the creatures of it).
Secondly, the deeper truths are wrapped up in all that lingers on. This is what separates God's living and active Word from that of human decision and effort. Very little is perpetuated out from human thought and reason for a long while. Though some human effort may produce residuals for a time, God's Word continues to produce residual benefits into eternity.

There are three instructions that God gave to Adam and Eve shortly after He created them. He told them to fill the earth, to subdue it and to rule over it. These commands could be seen as the outward expression of an inward truth. An amazing parallel that seems to exist is one which would put the course of man and the course of earth in a similar path. Simply put, even as the earth goes--so goes mankind. The earth was created a empty mass, it was brought to life beneath the active work of God's own hand, it was baptized with water--and finally--it will be recreated in a non-corruptible form. As Christians, we were once an empty soul, we were brought to life beneath the active Hand of God, we were baptized with water and will be recreated in a non-corruptible body.
Adam and Eve were commanded to fill the earth. We are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. They were commanded to subdue and rule over the earth. We are told we must learn to subdue and rule over our flesh.
Consider this, that even as the earth has been filled physically, we are to be filled spiritually with God. Everywhere we look on the earth it is teaming with life. Life that God brought. Life that God commanded to go forth and multiply.
The Spark of life within each of us that began when we came to God through Christ, was never meant to remain a spark, even as Adam and Eve were never meant to remain the only two human beings on the face of the planet. The Spark that Christ began in us is to spread so that everywhere within us that someone else might look, is filled with the Life that God has brought forth. Our design is much like that of the earth, and our glory is to be filled.

    And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph.5:18).
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« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2006, 08:16:29 PM »

Watching

    Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ love us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph.5:1-2).

During an effort to pass out flyers for an upcoming revival, I approached a lady working behind the counter of a rental store. I began to tell her about the revival and tried to encourage her to go. She began to briefly explain why she would not be able to go. I tried to encourage her further and soon found myself on the other side of a verbal attack. However the attack was not personal, she pretty much attacked everyone I was affiliated with. Yet, after she calmed down and we talked further the true issues began to surface. She was angry because there were others who had come before me, some who were part of the local Christian college. The same college from which she claimed came a great many of her delinquent or non-paying customers.
The woman claimed that she realized that they were struggling students and that she tried to be understanding. But she could not understand how people who called themselves Christians could sign agreements to make payments on rental items, only to fail to live up to their end of the agreement. These were Christians, and she was troubled and even angered because these should have been her better customers--not her worst.
How we live, work, do business and entertain ourselves, says a lot to the lost world around us. We may consider some things, such as delinquent payments or missed appointments or even forgetfulness to be trivial things. If so, then perhaps we do not consider that we are actually trivializing the thoughts and feelings of those who are left hanging because of us. Perhaps we need to consider our thoughts about someone who is a Christian who owes money to us and fails to pay. Such an occurrence might have us questioning that person's integrity.
It is reported that Ghandi stated that he would have converted to Christianity if he could have seen just one living example of the Christ proclaimed. We cannot go on being slack in our responsibilities and act as though it really does not matter. How can people trust us when we tell them that Jesus is who we say He is, if they cannot trust us to pay our debts, or keep our word, or make an effort to remember important information? They can't. And it may end up that those who did not trust Jesus, did not because they could not trust those who claim to follow him.

We are not perfect.  Yet, we are instructed to watch that we do not become stumbling blocks to others.  And while others may just be making excuses and using us as scapegoats, we cannot use that as an excuse for our own behavior.  The Lost souls need to see Jesus and to see His followers walking the talk--their very lives depend on it.
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« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2006, 08:17:07 PM »

In the Fullness of Time

    He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (Lk.10:2).

It has been said that history repeats itself. It is more than likely that we would all agree with that statement. Looking back through history reveals to the children of God, a world that moves forward when ignited by hearts seeking God, and a world that stumbles when they lose sight of Him. There is a cycle throughout our past that continues today and will do so into our future (how ever long that may be) on this earth. One generation boldly follows God, willing to die for God. A few generations later, we find a people who are content to be their own gods. It is then that God often allows them to suffer the consequences of their wickedness (Romans 1:18-32), and in so doing, many come to the end of themselves, yield to God and return to a path of righteousness. And as history would indicate--the process starts all over again.
We see in church history, times of great awakenings--times when the church seems to have been revived and people become strong in their faith once more. They are the times of revival that churches today look back on so fondly, and try so diligently to duplicate. Yet all the good intentions and valiant efforts return unto us void as we learn that we cannot fabricate revival when and where we choose, but that it is something that comes in the fullness of time.
The fullness of time is the time of harvest. It is the season of reaping what has been sown. even as the crops of a field must go through a process before being ready to be harvested, so the world must also. It is in due season that the planting is done, and it is in due season that the rains come (Lev.26:4), and it is "in due season we shall reap" (Gal.6:9). It is a process that will come to its fullness--its season of reaping. It is necessary for the children of God to find their place within God's process. To continue diligently in obedience to God, doing what He has given each of us to do. One does not harvest in the season of rain, and one does not plant in the season of harvest--so also we must find our place within the process so that "in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
The time is coming, and very soon, when our nation will come into a season of want. The people, having fed on their lusts, are realizing as Solomon did that it is all in vain--a "chasing after the wind." They are only now realizing their emptiness, and even those who seem to have it all have turned up wanting. We are entering into a season of hunger, driven by spiritual famine. For all who have not sown to the spirit are beginning to feel that they are starving to death. But not all have come to that realization, and so the fullness of the season has not yet come.
The time is coming, and very soon, when our nation will be given over to face the consequences of its actions. It will be the season of desperation. All that once was, will be gone. All that people held precious will be lost, and all that they had depended on for security in this life, will vanish. It will be the season of crisis--the turning point for many that leads them toward their only true hope, Jesus Christ. But it will also be the end for many, as they see no reason to go on. They will feel it is too late for them to turn to God, and seeing nowhere else to turn, they will end their own lives--many of whom had once called themselves Christians.
The time is coming when the fields will be ripe for the harvest. But it will not come by force and it will not be a shockwave set off by a man-made revival. It will only come when people come to the end of themselves and learn to quit trying to be the masters of their own destiny (lost souls and Christians alike).
We must continue diligently within the process, and prepare ourselves for the coming storms. For if we, like the world around us, spend our time sowing to reap the benefits of this world, this life and the pleasure thereof, then we too will suffer loss in the fullness of time.

    The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Gal.6:Cool.

    Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Rom.8:5-8).

    Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe" (Revelation 14:15).
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