Monday, September 16, 2013

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Count the Costs

          Well Lord, this is another one of those times when I write out my thoughts and feelings in hopes of coming closer to seeing things from your perspective, and in doing so, searching once again for that ‘peace that passes understanding.’  Being a follower of Christ doesn’t come without a cost, a price to be paid.  In my spirit, I know that whatever the cost, to gain Christ is far more precious than anything else that I may loose in this world.  Part of the cost can often be an alienation from the ones we hold dear and love here on earth.  Look at a lesson from history when the Nazi’s, controlling the youth, set family member against family member. In this increasingly anti Christian atmosphere of today, it is not far fetched to think the very same thing couldn’t happen once again here in America.   Even as I feel such sadness, I thank the Lord that He is well acquainted with our feelings. He understands exactly what we are going through, for there is nothing that has touched humanity that He Himself did not experience in a far greater depth than any of us could ever imagine.  There it is right there.  I could stop right here, for He has already given me the answer.  I am humbled and feel so sorry for indulging in my little pity parties for my momentary afflictions, when I consider the greater price that He paid to restore me, and all others who will choose to have faith in Him, that we might gain an eternal relationship with Him.  When I am reminded that He left the Father and all the glories of Heaven to be afflicted, despised, scorned and rejected here on earth to pay the ultimate price of sacrifice on the cross, then it brings to the forefront a realization that any sufferings or afflictions that I may incur are miniscule in comparison.  Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, of sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands with persecution; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10: 29, 30)  We can never out give the Lord.

          Years ago, I had to make a choice: whether or not to continue on the path with God, even if it meant that I might loose the husband that I love so much.  At the time, he was not a believer.  Satan had whispered in my ear: “Are you sure you want to do this?  Remember that He (God) said that in surrendering your life to Him, your life would be forever changed.  What if that could mean that in choosing God, you will loose your husband?”  Somehow, the Holy Spirit gave me the courage and power to make the right choice.  I knew in my spirit that I couldn’t wait and see what Rick’s choice would be; I had to go on in my own journey to be with the Lord no matter what!  I have thanked the Lord for that decision over and over again throughout my life.  As it turned out, only months later, Rick too made the decision to choose to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  In one month, we will have been married for forty eight years.  Praise the Lord, we were made one not only in the flesh but also in the spirit through Christ, and He has been with us all the way through many storms of life.

          We were blessed with three children whom we endeavored to bring up in the faith of the Lord in hopes they would not go astray.  It is our greatest desire that they and their children would receive Jesus that we may all be together in eternity one day.  Presently, sad to say, the deception of false gods and apostate teachings are on the increase in this secular, and increasingly lawless, world. People who choose to forget God will pay the highest price of eternal separation from God. Yes, Satan is like a roaring lion, roaming to and fro, seeking whom he can devour.     In these last days it is not popular to study the Word of God, and it’s even more unpopular to believe that it is truth and therefore should be the instruction book by which we are to live out our lives.  In my writings, and conversations about the Lord, I have always asserted that no one should take my word for anything, but rather always check out what I say, as well as any of our own opinions, with the truth in the Word of God.  That said, I have often been accused of speaking the “gospel according to Ginger,” even when I have presented the scriptures themselves to testify of its own truth.  Those who believe in the truth of the Word are more often than not called bigots, haters, and intolerant.  Tolerance has been redefined as not only having to make allowances for the differences in others, but now one must also accept, condone, and deem as equally good the very things that are not right nor good according to the Word of God.  We have truly become the peoples as depicted in the latter days: calling good evil and evil good; always seeking to learn, but never learning the truth; and having the semblance of religion but lacking the power thereof.  The world doesn’t mind if we pray, as long as we don’t pray in the name of Jesus or in the name of The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  The sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is said to be irrelevant and unnecessary for there are many paths to God, and the Cross is deemed a useless part of Christian mythology.  Mankind doesn’t need a Savior for he can be his own savior and god and do enough good to work his own way to heaven.  Furthermore, there are even those who teach that there is no Hell, Satan is only a symbolic figure, and everyone goes to Heaven no matter who or what one believes in.  Who needs to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah?  What could that possibly prove, except that He was the only one that was truly all good, all God while also being human and the only one ever capable of paying the price for the sins of man.  Oh wait a minute, that word ‘sin’, I forget that it doesn’t really exist anymore either for man has decided that there is no longer any good nor evil, for whatever pleases him is right and acceptable.   Unfortunately, these ungodly teachings are even being found within the church itself and the people are so biblically illiterate they don’t even know the difference between God’s truth and the lies of the devil. 

          Unfortunately many, even among those who profess to be Christians, are reducing the Gospel of Jesus Christ down to only part of His truth, and in doing so they water down and corrupt the full counsel of the Word of God.  They will proclaim that God is love and so as long as we just all ‘love one another’ nothing else matters.  Christians will love others, saved of not.  But that does mean that we are not to use discernment and recognize that sin does exist, and we do a greater harm to one another when we don’t reprove and rebuke ourselves and one another when we fall into the practice of sin. In the eyes of the world, it is unloving and bigoted to point out anything as wrong or sinful, even though the consequences of sin is always going to cause harm and even death.

          Recently, as a result of my colonoscopy, a large polyp was found and the doctor was unable to simply remove it.  Instead, I had to have surgery to remove it along with a good portion of my intestines.  Further lab work disclosed that it was in the very last stage before turning into cancer.  I was saved from the disastrous effects of a horrible thing that could have led to my death at the worst, or expensive and very uncomfortable remedies and treatments at the very least.  Now, my doctor could have told me not to worry about the polyp, just let it remain there, and I would be just fine.  Thankfully I had a doctor that would not lie to me, but was willing to tell me the truth and remove that which could only bring me harm.  Telling me the truth, and then taking the action to rid me of the harmful thing, was what I would call true love.  Was the surgery pleasant and without pain?  Was it costly financially and physically?  Did it require effort and work, discipline and a personal commitment to recover from it?  Did I need the skillful hands of the surgeon to remove the insidious thing that was attempting to grow and destroy me?  Did I need the hand of the Lord to be there with me and carry me through it every step of the way?  The obvious answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes.  Though this procedure was unpleasant, it was still necessary for my total well being and recovery. 

          O I can just hear it now –the questions and accusations that arise out of doubt and unbelief.  Where was your God when your baby girl died after living for only one hour because she was born with her organs all in the wrong place?  Where was your God when your husband lost his job?  Where was your God when other bad things happened to you and your family?  What if that polyp had already become cancer?  What if the cancer was terminal? Where was the healing hand of your God then?  My answer is, Praise the Lord, He has already restored me unto Himself.  He continues to teach me His ways and wipes my slate clean each time I repent because, in my humanity, I have strayed from His path and into sin.  He has already prepared a place for me that where He is I may be also.  Healing in its fullness will be totally received in every way when I see my Lord face to face.  This world is a corrupt and fallen world.  When the rain falls, it falls on both the believer and unbeliever.  He never promised me that there wouldn’t be any troubles in my life.  He did promise that He would be there to comfort me and help me through them.  I lost my baby girl and never even got to hold her.  Yet every time Satan and grief would try to come in like a flood,  He replaced that grief and the lies of the devil with the most wonderful visions of her made whole, well, and dancing with joy and glee in her heart in the presence of her most magnificent, glorious and loving  Heavenly Father.  How in the world could I stay sad with the knowledge of that forever in my heart?  How could I hold onto grief when He turned my morning into joy by the site of the two precious children he had already blessed me with? How could hopelessness have any part of me when He later blessed us with the birth of our second son, who was carried to full term and delivered in complete wholeness and good health, even after the doctors had warned me against getting pregnant again? This faith, this hope, this trust is all a part of God’s gift of salvation in the here and now.  He is not a mythical, symbolic, or allegorical kind of pie in the sky god created in the imagination of mankind.  He is The Real One and Only Living God who has made Him self known through His Word and His Living Son who sits at the right side of the Father forever interceding for you and I.  None of this is  earned or obtained through any efforts or works of my own.  All of it is the gift of God because of His mercy and grace and because He loved you and I first.  He is not a respecter of persons, but has offered His gift of salvation to anyone who will trust and believe in Him.  The only way one can be left out of the redemption of this plan of salvation is to make the personal choice to reject Him and refuse to accept the gift He so freely offers to all.         

          Yet we are led to believe by popular opinion of the day that godly love does not also carry the responsibility to receive Him by faith, or to speak God’s truth to ourselves or to other believers.  We are led to believe that real love is to deny the existence of the sin nature of mankind, that man is inherently good, and given enough time, man can lift them selves up into a perfected manmade utopia created by the unity of brotherhood. The particular path of enlightenment that one chooses to follow is to be limited only by his own imaginations. Since there are many paths to God in this New Age way of thinking, it does not matter what god you believe in for there is no longer One True and Living God.  Yes, the foundations for the godless one world religion of the latter days have been firmly planted.

          In the physical world, we are all gung-ho to remove the cancer that is about to consume us.  However, when it comes to recognizing the cancer of sin and the need for its removal, we are automatically cautioned by these words: “Judge not lest ye be judged.”  They are used in error to try to erase our need to recognize and repent of sin in our lives.  Using godly discernment, as the word cautions us to do, is not being judgmental.  It is the tool of godly discernment that enables us to distinguish between good and evil; to recognize sin in our lives that the Holy Spirit might convict us of that sinfulness and lead us to repentance.  Isn’t it ironic that we humans often seem to find it so easy to understand that love is expressed by encouraging one to get rid of the physical cancer, yet it is considered hateful and unloving to direct attention to the cancer of sin that is attacking us spiritually and destroying us just as surely as the physical cancer.  It is considered more loving to ignore it, lie about it, or deny its existence. We are encouraged by this new ‘normal’ morality which refuses to recognize sin any longer, to believe that love condones sinfulness, and even redefines it as good and acceptable.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go to a doctor who is going to feign love for me by lying to me and telling me I’m going to be just fine while he knows I’m not.  Neither do I want a friend to tell me I’m doing just fine when he knows I’m being eaten alive by doubt, unbelief, immorality, bitterness, and so on.  To my way of thinking, a friend that is not willing to impart truth about spiritual matters is even more dangerous than one who would lie about physical matters.  The physical lie could lead to my physical death, but the spiritual lie could lead to my eternal death.      

          In today’s world, it is considered to be bigoted, self righteous, judgmental hate speech to call homosexuality or any type of sexual immorality a sin, whether it is for the homosexual or heterosexual.  We are to call living together outside of the bonds of marriage simply an acceptable life style.  We are to proclaim the equality of same sex marriage as right and good, and God’s covenant of marriage between a man and a woman as outdated, old fashioned, and unnecessary.  We are to exalt a woman’s right of ‘choice’ as more valuable than the life of the unborn baby that God has ‘knitted together’ in the womb of the mother.  We teach members of society to be satisfied with being dependent upon the state rather than being dependent upon and trusting in the Lord.  We are forced to give more and more of our personal finances to the state rather than being able to give ‘cheerfully’ and voluntarily to help our fellow man.  We learn that a father is not needed and has no need to act responsibly, for the state will replace him as care taker of his family.  The mother who chooses to stay home to raise her children is considered to be unproductive and therefore unfulfilled.  Our elders are no longer held in a position of respect for the wisdom they have learned as a result of the many life lessons that they have already endured.  More parents no longer deem it a necessary part of life to study the word of God for themselves that they may grow closer to God, and in turn teach and bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Children are more often taught to consider their own self esteem more important than obeying and respecting their parents, or anyone else for that matter, turning them into self centered beings without consideration or the ability to demonstrate selfless love towards others.  Thus they are made loveless, undisciplined, arrogant and prideful beings through no fault of their own.  True wisdom and knowledge is gained through a reverential awe (fear) of the Lord. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”  The children of today are being robbed of the most precious gifts God has for them for they are not being taught of the Lord.  Instead, being an independent thinker, separate and apart from the word of God, is being exalted and valued more than being taught of the Lord. They are being subjected to the teachings of every ‘ism’ man can imagine. They are not being taught from the Bible, God’s instruction book, that they might be equipped properly for life to have the ‘mind of Christ’ and think like He does – to see things from God’s perspective instead of thinking too highly of one’s own opinions and ability to reason.  God warns us not to lean unto our own understanding apart from His commandments and statutes, for that will only lead us down the path of pridefulness, lawlessness and self destruction.  Isn’t it ironic! God gives man the gift of the ability to think and reason.  Man turns around and tells God He isn’t needed anymore because he (man) is able to “think for himself” with little or no input from His Creator. A picture of pure arrogance!!
          I reflect back upon my life with thanksgiving unto God for I do not speak from an attitude of look how great I am.  I know full well the truth of the statement, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  Once again, I give all glory and honor unto Him, the giver and Creator of my life.  If there be a cost, or loss of anything in this world because of my choice to follow Him, my loss has been of no more than temporal things.  God always speaks precious words of truth that can never be surpassed: Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed; when he cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8: 34 – 38)  “…Who is my mother? And who are my brethren?” And He stretched out His hand towards His disciples, and said, “Behold my mother and my brethren!  For whosoever will do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12: 48, 49, 50)            The Lord once spoke to me as I was entering my house: “If you were to loose this house and everything in it, God would still be God.”  I acknowledged that the word was from Him even though I did not understand the full meaning of it.  Over the years, He has reminded me of it and little by little, He continues to reveal more of what He wants me to understand. There is nothing on this earth that is more precious or valuable than He is.  Gold and silver are but dirt in comparison to Him.  If I lose anything in this world because of my choice to follow Him, He has already given precious blessings in granting me the privilege of just knowing Him and experiencing His wonderful presence even in the limited manner of my own finite human nature.  And He has let me know that there is so much more to come.  “But it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2: 9)  Count the cost of following Christ? In comparison, there is only gain.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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