Thursday, August 6, 2015

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          I awoke at two AM this morning to discover that the cable and phone were out.  We always sleep with the TV on, a habit my husband picked up, and I have had to adapt to, as a result of being on the road, away from home, due to his job as a salesman.  I know it sounds funny, but if the TV goes off, the silence seems to be so loud that it will cause us to wake up.  The point is, because the cable was out, we inserted one of our DVD’s to hopefully help us fall back to sleep.  Well, it didn’t work.  Instead, because it was one containing a variety of Christian topics that we often record, my mind was captured and drawn to ponder upon the things of the Lord, as opposed to the things of the world.

          The DVD ended, and I was left with a disturbing and unsettling feeling that would not leave me alone.  Thoughts were being tossed around in my head like a conversation that had a life of its own, refusing to be silenced.  Still, I tried to lie there, hoping that it would eventually end and let me drift off to sleep once again.  No, it wouldn’t cease, and so I continued to listen to the banter of the conversational thoughts.  I became increasingly aware of a growing sense of anxiety stirring up feelings of a great sadness and feelings of some impending doom.   

          How can I explain and describe what I was feeling?  Perhaps, if I set a scene in our minds, we could understand it better.  You’ve been away for awhile, and you’ve just returned home.  As you are about to enter your home, you feel a sense of happiness and peace that only comes from being back in an atmosphere where you can kick off your shoes, take off the clothes that seem to bind to tight around you, and just relax in the comfort of your own home, away from the sights and sounds of the outside world.  You’re looking forward to sitting in your favorite easy chair, or snuggling in the warm and peaceful comfort of your very own bed.  However, when you open the door, you are shocked with the sight of the devastation and destruction that exists because someone has violated the security of your home, having destroyed much, and stolen even more.  Where is everything?  Who did this to you?  How will you ever be able to replace the things that are not replaceable because they weren’t just things, but rather represented people and memories that you loved and cherished?  Even more, their loss has left you with a feeling of being robbed of parts of your very soul: parts that had taken so much time and effort to build into your life; parts that had been built into your life, not just through your own efforts, but infused within you through the precious lives of those who cared enough about you to add a part of themselves to enhance your very being.  It brings such a sense of loss within that you can not imagine how, or if, you will ever be able to fill the emptiness that now invades far more than your physical being.

          I have set the scene that we might have a basis to build upon to help us, the body of Christ, understand the much greater and far more devastating loss that we have, and are continuing to experience in the spiritual realm. We have traveled so far away from our first love that we don’t even realize that we have been robbed, or what it is that we have lost.  We don’t recognize the fact that house of our soul has been violated, robbed, and depleted of the moral fabric that once existed to protect us from the evil of the world.  Our most precious possessions of conscience and ability to discern right from wrong has been so steadily eroded that we don’t seem to realize what we have lost, and that we are continually loosing even more, like a tire with a slow leak.  We have been so desensitized to the ugliness of spiritual pollution and corruption, that we don’t even recognize the fact that we have become comfortable in the practice of tolerating sin in our life.  We’ve forgotten what it means to resist the devil, to give no place to him, to give no appearance of evil, to confront evil where evil exists, and to rid our lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit, of that which is offensive to God and contrary to His holy word.  The walls of moral constraints, which used to exist within the individual believer, and the body of Christ as a whole, have been so battered and broken down by the onslaught of the powers of evil, that we have become as naked and vulnerable to attack as the city of Jerusalem was when its walls were reduced to little more than rubble.              Those who have grown up in the world of the sixties and forward, have no idea of the moral constraints that we have lost.  Since that time, it seems that we have increasingly lost our moral compass, for the belief in God and the truth of His word has been so marginalized in this secular world that not only is evil more tolerated, but it is now even been redefined as good, and good is redefined as evil.  We, the very ones who are supposed to love and worship the Lord, have become more interested in not offending the world’s standards of morality, than we are of not offending God and His standards of true right and wrong and morality.  We have lost the knowledge that truly demonstrating our love for the Lord means to fear Him, acknowledge Him in all our ways, seek to be holy as He is holy, ask Him to search our hearts, expose the evil that may be lurking therein, cast it off, and fight against it with the same kind of diligence that we would if our body was being eaten away by a cancer or leprosy.

          What have we been robbed of; what is missing that once held us closer to the Lord and His ways?  Who has robbed us?  Who has replaced the incorruptible with the corruptible?  Who left the door to our heart so unguarded that any evil stranger could walk in without fear of consequences, and make himself at home to consume and destroy anything of value that once existed there?  I don’t have all the answers, but this I do know.  We have so quenched the voice of the Holy Spirit within us that, not only do we limit His guiding power in our lives, but we often ignore Him entirely, acting as if He doesn’t even exist.  In addition, both believers and unbelievers alike are ignoring their conscience, given by God to be a guide even for the carnal mind.  The fabric of the conscience of the carnal mind was at least influenced at one time by the constraints of godly principles that society held when the society at large esteemed God and His laws and ways as valuable and worth retaining and implementing in the living out of our lives.   

          The bottom line for responsibility for this theft lies within us as individual believers, and collectively as the body of Christ.  We have become so lukewarm and putridly tepid that we have little or no influence upon society at large.  We are supposed to be the salt of the earth; salt is supposed to help preserve and prevent rot.  As we see the encroachment of immorality and secularized standards being received and incorporated within the church, because we refuse to fight back against it, we contribute to the filth and deceit that is rotting us from within.  Not only have we ignored the Holy Spirit, but we have also failed to stay rooted and grounded in the word.  The word has power to shape and mold our minds that we may be equipped to think and act more like Jesus our Savior.  But we have become lazy, and have become more like those who have no knowledge and wisdom of God within them because of their unbelief.  We are to meditate upon and study the word that we may be a “workman that need not be ashamed.”  We have failed to hide His word in our hearts that the Lord might write it upon the tablets of our heart.  He has promised to “teach our hands to war and our fingers to fight.”  We are supposed to teach our children, that they may know the Lord and His ways, and bring them up in “the way that they should go,” that they would not depart from it when they are older.  His word can not have the power and influence in our lives if we do not study, learn about Him and His ways, and depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us to live out our lives by applying His word.  How can we become the person He has designed and purposed us to be if we don’t even take the time to get to know Him?  How can we grow and mature in faith if we choose to do our own thing instead of seeking Him and His will in and for our lives?  He has given us the scriptures to be our instruction book to draw us close to Him that we might be saved not only for our eternal lives, but also that we may be equipped to live out our lives in the here and now.  Jesus said that He did only that which His heavenly Father told and showed Him to do.  Jesus is not just some “good example” for us to try to emulate.  He is the way, the truth, and the life and no man may come to the Father except through Him, and only Him. 

          Life, as God intends it to be for us, can not be lived out without Him.  Because we live in a fallen world, without Him we have no defense against the evil powers of this world or even against the desires of our own flesh.  Without the full armor of God, we are continually opened to the weapons of the enemy (Satan) who seeks to devour us. Without God, we have no defenses.  With God “nothing is impossible,” and “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.”  He has riches stored up to infuse within us that are far beyond our imaginations.  Yes, we have been deceived and robbed, and more often than not, it is due to our own neglect of Him, the One who gave His all for us that we might have abundant and eternal life.

          Another source of theft from us is the ones who have taken on the responsibility to be our pastors and other church leaders.  Many are diligent to teach about God’s love and blessings, but neglect entirely to teach of God’s judgment due to our disobedience, and consequences for not confronting and dealing with sin in our lives.  They often enable us to feel comfortable while we seek to practice sin, as though God’s grace meant that we are not set free from enslavement to sin, but rather as though we are set free to sin all the more.  Even this is partially our own fault, for we are the ones who seek out preachers that will tell us what we want to hear, but not what we need to hear.  We want them to preach only about that which will make us feel good about ourselves.  We don’t want to hear that “judgmental stuff about sin and our responsibility not to indulge ourselves in it.  We don’t want our little minds bothered with such things as a need of taking responsibility for our own actions, or our need to confess our sin before the Lord and ask His forgiveness.  No, we are too intent upon viewing God as some genie whom we have at our personal beck and call to “get” all that we can get.  We want the kind of god that is responsible to us, not the Living God that we are to humbly submit our will to His will, and willing serve Him out of our love for who He is and all that He has done and is doing for us.  Don’t dare to mention the curses that result from our own rebelliousness against the Lord our God who desires to give so freely to us of that which is good, and not evil.  We don’t want to hear of our responsibility to resist temptation and confess our sins before God, or that we should “sorrow to repentance” and turn from our wicked sinful ways.  We have become so tolerant of sin in our lives that, more often than not, we are practically void of the ability to even discern between good and evil.  Where is the act of rebuke, reproof, and correction from our pastors who should be informing and warning us again and again that the wages of sin is death?  For that matter, where is that same reproof, rebuke, and correction given in love from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that if it had been given, may have given us cause to pause before we rushed so willingly into the clutches of sin?  No, we are being lulled into an apathetic state of being by the “I’m okay, you’re okay” insipid sermons that are being preached, which seldom, if ever, stir up the Spirit within us to shine the light to expose the sin that is within, and light that fire that would lead and encourage us to purge from within the poison of sin.

          We have allowed ourselves to indulge in a dumbing down, or worse yet, a numbing down type of Christianity.   We involve ourselves in all the outward activities that we “think” give proof to our faith in God, while inwardly our hearts are arrogant and prideful, seeking more to build ourselves up in the eyes of man, while caring little about humbling ourselves before Him.  We are more intent about what we can get from Him, than we are upon what we can give of ourselves unto Him.  He doesn’t need anything from us; He already owns everything.  Anything that we have is not of our own making, but is that which we have received from Him.  All He asks of us is a contrite heart and a willing desire to serve and obey Him, not out of force, but out of a heart that loves Him with every part of our being.  When was the last time that we voluntarily went to Him, asking Him to search our hearts and to restore a right spirit within us?  How often do we gladly go to His word that He may renew our minds by the washing of the water of His word?  What has happened to our desire to have the mind of Christ that we may think, act, respond, and live in and according to His image and not our own?  When was the last time we sincerely asked Him what He wanted of us? Do we go to Him with a selfish heart asking Him to give us the desires of our heart, instead of surrendering ourselves and seeking His desires to be fulfilled in our lives?

          When did we become so arrogant and prideful that we have begun to think that we have the authority to disagree with His word? Amazingly, we are even creating laws through the Supreme Court of our land, which reflect the idea that we have the right to supersede, or even veto, the true “Supreme Court of the Lord God Almighty and His laws,” established from before the beginning of time.   At the least, we have become leopard Christians, thinking that we have the right to choose which “spots” of His word we do, or do not, agree with.  He’s the Creator of all things; He made us a little lower than the angels.  He knows the beginning from the end, and wants only that which is best for us.  Yet, we take it upon ourselves to be editors, or spot checkers of His word; tell me, who is appointed as the head “spotchecker” over all the “lesser spotcheckers?”  Christians can not expect unbelievers to abide by God’s authority.  However, it is a sad, sad state when the church itself starts to incorporate and accept within its body such beliefs and actions that are totally contrary to the word of God.  We are supposed to love and pray for one another, and love and pray for unbelievers.  We are supposed to love and have compassion for the unbeliever, but we are not supposed to join with the secular world view to condone or accept the practice of any sin in their lives or ours.  We cannot prevent the practice of any sin in the lives of others, but shouldn’t we at least be diligent not to condone and accept it in ourselves as individuals or collectively within the church?  Where in the word has it said that the Christian has the right to decide for himself what is or is not sin?  I thought for sure that was in God’s hands alone.  He has set up absolutes, so that His word is true to all generations, and not subject to change.  It’s man’s ways that are subject to change and are not dependable for they seem to be blown in every direction, subject to the  as the whims and winds of time and place.

          What kind of misguided idea of love is it that seeks to make others feel comfortable in the practice of sin?  When did making ourselves or others “feel better” about themselves, or condoning sin as good and acceptable become more important speaking truth in love for the sake of our eternal souls?  We lie to ourselves, and lie to others that we, or they, are just fine and dandy; all the while we aid and abet the deliverance of souls into the hands of Satan, and possibly right into the pit of Hell!  Have we become such tepid lukewarm Christians that we no longer have any sense of shame or remorse?  Our hearts should be breaking within us for the calamities that are we are contributing to in the world and in the church.  We should be falling on our face before the Lord in total submission for that which we have brought upon ourselves.  Where is our shame and repentance for having lost our “salt” that could serve to preserve and protect us from having all moral constraints completely removed, the results of which will be a state of such rampant evil that none of us has imagined could exist?  How can we ask God to help and bless us when we are so fast running away from His protective hand and removing His protective hedge from around us?  It seems that we are content to go about our lives, closing our eyes to evil instead of opening our eyes and crying out to the Lord our God in repentance, and that He would begin that renewal within our own heart.

          I’m very concerned that should the Lord come for His church in the near future that there will be so few called up in the rapture, that many may not even notice that we are gone.  May everyone who professes to be a Christian, seek the Lord and study His word that we might turn our hearts totally back to Jesus, not just as Savior, but as Lord over every part of our lives.  We must fight back and stem the tide against the idea that being saved by grace means you or I have the right to willfully practice that which God has declared to be sin, as if tolerance of evil in our life has no effect upon our eternal salvation.  We must turn our heart back to the Lord, and go back to the word to be transformed by it, instead of being conformed to the world.  Those of us who are aiding and abetting others, who profess to be Christians, to feel comfortable in the willful practice of sin, must wake up and stop such efforts, if we truly love and care about one another.  There is far more at stake here than whether or not we “feel happy or good about ourselves” for the duration of this temporal part of life.  This temporary existence is but a speck of time in comparison to all of eternity. 

          There is no neutrality or sitting on the fence with God.  If God is God, we are to serve Him alone, and no other.  If Baal is god, then serve him.  We can’t have it both ways.  As believers, we will be held accountable for not at least trying to encourage each other to turn from wickedness, and turn our lives back over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all our life, not just bits and pieces of it.  Isn’t that supposed to be at least part of the evidence that we love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ?  No person can “force” another to change, but we can at least approach each other with the truth in love.  All of us have fallen short of the mark.  We all need a helping hand and a reminder that nothing is unforgivable, except the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit which is an eternal sin.  As Christians, we are to give and receive rebuke, reproof, instruction, and correction, helping and encouraging one another to turn from sin and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to cast down the strongholds of evil in our lives.  If we truly love the Lord, we will consider such actions, when they are received by us, as an act of love.  Isn’t it better to consider a reproof or correction as an opportunity to go before the Lord and ask Him to reveal whether there is truth in the rebuke, in order that we may learn, change, be renewed, and shaped more into the image of Christ? 

          We are supposed to desire to become holy as He is holy.  It is a process, and does not occur if we do not submit our will to His.  What seems to us to be a good thing, or makes us happy, could possibly be the very last and worse thing that we need in our lives.  That which we think we can not do without, but is not for our good, can be removed and forgiven, if we are willing to submit to God’s will and authority over our lives.  We have to be willing to put forth true effort to obey Him, and depend upon Him as our source of strength to overcome every evil work, that would try to hinder our walk with the Lord.  I can’t eat a dozen doughnuts and then ask God to help me loose weight.  It is my responsibility not to buy the doughnuts in the first place, setting myself up for failure.  That is more like giving place to the devil than it is to resisting the devil.   

          At this point, I took a break, or thought I was finished writing for the day, and would return to it tomorrow.  As I often do, I spent a bit of time telling my husband about what I was feeling about what I was writing.  To tell you the truth, I was really “murmuring and complaining.” I said, “Honey, I don’t understand why the Lord is having me write about this.  It seems as though I’ve already written about this subject.  He keeps bringing me back to it time and again to explore it in a different way, and yet the same theme is being repeated over and over.”  I almost began to feel like Jeremiah must have felt as he brought forth the word of the Lord to the people, knowing in advance that they were not going to listen.  I can only imagine how many times he must have felt like quitting, as if it was all a futile cause with no positive results.  Yet the Lord empowered him to remain steadfast and faithful to God, and his obedience unto God was counted as success, regardless of the response of the people.

          During my break, I listened to a teaching by Charles Stanley, and something he said struck a chord in my heart.  He said that the scriptures were written to the people of that time for the people of all future generations.  This insight stirred me to think further about my own study and attempts at writing in an effort to serve and love the Lord, and give back to Him.  Obviously, I am not a professional writer.  But I pray that in sharing with others, I may be of help to stir others to start their own journey to study and draw closer to the Lord.  However, I realized that I had overlooked another possibility for why the Lord would have me return again and again to the same topic.  Could this be a part of what it means to meditate upon the word of the Lord?  Perhaps He is intent on making sure that I understand for myself first of all what I thought was just to be shared with someone else.  As a retired teacher, I believe repetition and review are tools that always enhance learning.  Doesn’t it make sense that, for something to become a lasting and easily retrieved insight or bit of information, it must become embedded first in your mind and heart, and then passed on to others?  I don’t understand a lot about the mechanisms of a computer, but it seems to me that once information is downloaded, it is never really lost but remains in the hard drive.  When God wants us to really have a grasp of his word in a way that will have an opportunity to shape, mold, and change our way of thinking and acting, He does it through downloading into our mind, heart and spirit, where it won’t get lost and is readily able to be retrieved to direct our path as we go through our journey of life.  In that way, the power of the Holy Spirit so interweaves His word and His ways into us, that it replaces the ways of our old nature, and strengthens our new life in Christ, so that it becomes the new normal, and our carnal life becomes less and less normal.  Oh how I love the scripture that gives us the assurance that, if we do our part to cooperate and learn from him, He will “write His word on the tablets of our heart.”  Okay Lord, as a retired teacher, I can certainly appreciate the fact that you use repetition and review in teaching me.  Forgive me Lord for my murmuring and complaining.  I should know by now that you always have a purpose for what you want us to do.

          Sometimes I think of how I have wasted time and allowed myself to be deceived and robbed of the great storehouse of the Lord’s wisdom and knowledge.  I can’t blame it on anyone else but myself.  I could allow my failures to drag me down into the pit of depression, but thankfully, God lifts me up and reminds me not to let my heart be downcast.  He never gives up on me, and has unlimited patience with me. He gladly forgives me if I am only willing to recognize and confess my sin unto Him.  He will pick me up and put my feet back upon the solid rock of faith in Him.  He will restore unto me that which the canker worm has eaten.  Like Peter, when he walked out upon the water, as he took his eyes off of the Lord, He began to sink, but was lifted up once again as He returned His focus upon the Lord.  King David was the apple of God’s eye, not because he was without sin, but because of God’s grace towards him when he sincerely repented of his sins, turned away from his wicked ways, and turned his heart back to the Lord.  What He did for King David, He will do for you and me.

          I can’t explain why some people seemingly have harder struggles against sin in life, while others don’t seem to go down the same paths.  Because one might seem to struggle more, does not mean one person is more righteous, or a “better” Christian than another.  None of us can go through life escaping temptation and sin, for only Christ, God in the form of man, was tempted in all ways as we are, but never sinned. Neither can I explain why some have to endure more hardships in life, while others appear to sail easily through life even though they may never acknowledge the existence of God, much less their need for Him.  I can not imagine how difficult it must be to have to battle against the horrible strongholds of alcoholism, addictions, dark pits of practicing infidelity or any of the numerous forms of perversions and sexual immorality, or gambling, and on and on.  Yet I know that I Corinthians tells us that we can be set free from enslavement to any kind of sin.  The word does not say that if you are saved that you will never sin again.  However, if we are truly born again, but choose to willingly practice sin, wouldn’t it be wise to go before the Lord and seek His will through His word to reevaluate whether we are truly saved or not? 

          How can we say that we love and obey the Lord, and yet continue to hold on to the practice of sin?  We must not assume that God’s grace allows us to hang on to this or that sin because it “makes us happy?”  God doesn’t change His mind, or look the other way because we decide  practice certain sin(s), and incorporate it into our life as our best friend.  I think of Jesus and what He often said to those that were saved, healed or delivered from demons.  He would ask questions like: Do you want to be saved; do you want to be healed; do you want to be set free; what do you want?  Why does He ask such questions?  Doesn’t it seem obvious that everyone should want to be saved, healed, or delivered?  Yet, we see today that, when offered the free gift of eternal salvation, people will still do just as the rich young man did, turn away and reject Him because we value earthly riches or satisfying the desire of the flesh more, choosing the sin and things of the world to be our favorite “sin or friend.”  We often have no understanding that the gifts of God are without limit, for no one can out-give the Lord.  No sin, no matter how satisfying it may seem at the time, can ever bring the kind of blessings, peace, and lasting joy that God is more than willing to pour into our lives, if we are only willing to humble ourselves before Him and willingly obey Him.

          So, where are: reproof, rebuke, and encouragement to confront sin; repentance, and turning away from all that is contrary to the word of God? Once again, I’m speaking here  to us, those who profess to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior?  Do we seek Jesus as our Savior, but think we can serve Him without being obedient unto Him?  Do you and I want to be saved, healed, delivered, and set free from enslavement to “some sins,” but not from other particular sin(s) that we look upon as a neccessary part of the essence of life, as if we would not be complete without it?  Do we really want Him to have authority and Lordship over every part of our life?  Or are there parts that we want to retain authority over so that we can continue in doing our own thing, or as the song says – “I did it my way”? 

          With all that is being redefined as good and not evil; with all the twisting and editing of God’s word that is being done; with all the one-sided preaching of the love of God, without an equal focus on our responsibility to obey our Lord, and the consequences derived from failing to do so; it is no wonder that Christians today are, more often than not, sickly and ineffective.  We are so intent on making each other “feel good” about ourselves, in the here and now, while we seem to care less and less about the horrific present and eternal consequences of not focusing on doing and being that which is pleasing unto the Lord.  If our focus is upon what pleases me, instead of what pleases Him, how can we possibly consider ourselves saved by the blood of Jesus, when we deem our sin as a greater treasure to possess, but do not value, first and foremost, His precious blood that was shed for you and me?  Let us wake up from our apathetic and lukewarm form of Christianity.  Be not deceived or robbed, but anchored in Jesus and the word of the Lord.  Love the Lord our God first and foremost, letting nothing and no one take precedence over Him and His will.  He has loved us first; love the Lord thy God with all your mind, heart, and soul.  Let His Holy Spirit reign in and over every part of your being and He will give you unimaginable joy to be your strength.  “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice!”     

Romans 1: 28 - 32

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

          I Corinthians has made it plain that all have fallen short of the mark, for all have sinned and none can deem themselves as righteous before God, without faith in the blood of Jesus, and His resurrection from the dead.  Take special note of the word were (vs. 11) in the following scriptures, signifying that all have sinned, but also that all who will confess their sin, repent, and believe on Jesus will be saved and forgiven by the grace of God, not that they may continue in sin, but rather to be set free from enslavement to sin.  There is a difference between the continual practice of that which God has deemed as wickedness (sin), and when we fall into sin that all are going to experience simply because of our struggle against our fallen nature which still exists within us, even when we are born again.

 I Cor. 6: 9 – 11

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


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