Saturday, September 5, 2015

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Does the Flame of the Holy Spirit Burn Brightly within Your Heart

        Feeling downcast this morning, I sought to turn to the Psalms which usually help uplift my heart, reminding me that our Hope is in the Lord, and not defined or controlled by the conditions and circumstances of the world.  I read Psalm 73, which ends with an encouraging word that, if we remain faithful to the Lord and endure to the end, God is our security and safety that will bring us into eternal salvation with Him.  You would think that I should have been lifted to the heights of rejoicing in the Lord.  However, it had the exact opposite effect this morning.  I felt as if my heart was being torn asunder, as if I were mourning the death of a dear friend, not just a physical death, but a spiritual death, which has far more devastating, and eternal consequences.  It is an eternal separation that can never be rectified or reconnected.  While we still have breath, it may still be possible to use that moment in time to choose to ask Jesus to come into our heart as our personal Savior and Lord.
          One second past that last breathe is one second eternally too late.  After death, there are no redo’s.  We can’t then suddenly decide, “Oh gee Lord, I have made a horrible mistake.  I’ve changed my mind.  Now I believe in you Lord, please take me out of this eternal Hell.”  I felt moved to tears, crying out to the Lord for those who, at least from present appearances, are lost to Him.  It isn’t that I wasn’t thankful for all that He has done for me.  Instead, I was lamenting the fact that so many others seem to willingly choose to walk away, refusing to see that what He’s done for me, He wants to do for all.  If I, a mere human being, feel so sad for those who persist in being stiff necked and hard hearted, how must our Lord feel?  How does He do it?  How does He remain so patient with all of us, never giving up on any of us, day in and day out?  Our understanding of His great capacity of love towards us is so minute, for our own ability to love is so finite.          Satan has come to rob, steal, and destroy.  It’s so crazy, people have been robbed and they don’t even know what they have lost.  God is not a respecter of persons.  He doesn’t offer salvation to one person, but not to another, as if one person is better or more deserving.  None of us is deserving of anything except Hell, due to our sinful nature.  He came and sacrificed His life to pay our sin debt, that we might have what we don’t deserve and can never earn; He came that all of us might, through faith in what He did on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, receive through His mercy and grace, the free gift of eternal salvation.  How in the world can anyone reject such a gift?  Even faith to believe in Him is a gift from God: therefore, no Christian can brag about having faith, for we can not make or earn it by our own efforts.  God gives the gift of faith to anyone who seeks Him with their whole heart.  Whether we believe in Him or not, there is nothing that we have that we didn’t receive from Him.  Sadly, the word tells us: “Enter the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7: 13, 14 NKJV)  Did you catch the significance of the word few?  Out of all the many who have had, or will have, the privilege of hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, only a few will choose to believe on Him, be born again, receive forgiveness of sins, and receive the free gift of salvation and eternal life given by the grace of God.  There are many gods, but there is only one God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  There is no other Savior.  Only Jesus Christ, God incarnate in the form of man, was sinless and therefore qualified to take our sins upon Himself, to pay the sin debt that we owe, but could never repay.  Why would anyone put their faith in any god or religion that, by their own doctrines of faith, can offer no more than a “maybe, if you do enough good deeds?”  With faith in Jesus, salvation is a promise based on His sacrifice for you and me on the cross, not on a maybe based on our own inept and insufficient works.  There is no remission, or forgiveness, of sin without the shed blood of Jesus.  When He cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” the bill of every sinner, who repents of his sins, and confesses Jesus as his Savior and Lord, is given a receipt that is stamped “Paid in Full.”    
          Today, are you sure that the flame of the Holy Spirit burns brightly within your heart?  Do you seek to serve and obey the Lord in true faithfulness.  Psalm 73 paints a picture in our minds which demonstrates the difference between one who lives life trusting in the wisdom of his finite mind, as opposed to the one who chooses to live life trusting in God and His infinite wisdom.  We are all too often living a life more focused upon obtaining temporal riches, as if this present world was what really mattered in life.  A scripture that expresses that condition so well is the following: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.  For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark.  And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24: 37- 39)  The word tells us that we are to live out each day as though it might be our last day.  We take for granted the thought that life is going to go on and on, as if our time on earth had no limits, or as if this temporal life was all that matters, or, worse yet, wall all that there is.  We live with the attitude that our purpose in life is to gather and experience the pleasures, material goods, and power of this life while we may, having no care about living a life that is pleasing unto the Lord, or often living as though the Lord does not even exist.  We forget so easily that none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow.  Our only concern is to focus upon what makes us feel good, a life that is centered on self; me, myself, and I; get all I can for me while the getting is good; “live fast, die young, and leave a pretty corpse”; and “if it feels good, do it!”  The temporal life is all that matters when living in this frame of mind; therefore it is not surprising that wickedness multiplies, and godliness and lawful or moral living is greatly marginalized all the more with every passing day.  In this state of mind, there is no need to bother our pretty little heads with such matters as: our eternal destination, looking for the Lord’s imminent return, the need to repent and be forgiven, and far be it that we should consider any need of Jesus as our Savior.  No, no, none of that matters; we’re doing just fine without all that silly useless stuff!
          You know what’s even worse?  That description of life is often being lived out by those of us who consider ourselves to be a Christian.  We have wrapped ourselves up in the things of this world so much that we have practically lost all vision of what out real purpose on earth is to be.  Being the salt and light of the Lord, to draw others to Christ, has often been put on the back burner.  At times, we have failed to even put ourselves on the burner, or if we did, the burner was either turned on low, or never turned on at all.  What is it going to take to get us to wake up and realize that the time is not only short, it is running out?  Do we really want to step into eternity to hear the Lord say to us, “I never knew you” as He spits us out of His mouth? (Rev. 3:16)
          We have so quenched the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is no wonder that we can be so easily deceived, and can no longer discern between good and evil.  Instead, we have sunk to the level of calling evil good.  Again, I am not now talking about unbelievers, but rather the state of present day believers.  We have chosen to go so far away from God and His word that we must question if we will ever find our way back to Him?  Here in America, so many of our churches are not only accepting as good the ways of the world, but we are even joining in on the celebration of that which is blatantly contrary to the word of God.  Many of the mega churches are so busy feeding the me, myself, and I appetites with health, wealth, and feel good diets, that they have no appetite left for hearing about living a life of sacrifice and holiness unto the Lord.  Furthermore, no one had better mention that there is a need to turn away from sin and get right with God.  Oh no, not that; your treading on the dangerous ground of being judgmental.  Being held responsible for our actions, and confronting the sin in our life has become a real bug-a-boo, and no longer valued as a tool to help one another stay on the straight and narrow path for our own good.  
          In contrast to the self centered life, the one who seeks to know and obey the Lord is commanded and instructed not to covet the riches of this world.  We are encouraged to focus upon the greater joy of serving the Lord; thereby storing up riches in heaven, the kind of riches which grant rewards now and eternally.  I don’t mean to infer that having wealth is a bad thing, or that we aren’t to be grateful for the gift of life here on earth.  We have witnessed many wealthy people, whose heart belongs to the Lord, and are directed in using that wealth for the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, being an instrument to serve God and demonstrate His love to and for others.  What I do mourn, is when we stray from our first love towards the Lord and become so intent upon the cares of this world, having little or no vision or understanding of God, all that He offers, and all that we are losing by not serving and loving Him first and foremost.  It’s as if we are willingly choosing to get on the Titanic, even after being warned that we will surely drown and never reach our correct destination, the one He has planned for our good, and not for our harm.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed.  Yet, too often we refuse to hear the truth, preferring to stick our fingers in our ears and prance off on our merry way to the tune of “I Did It My Way.”  Either we are willingly ignoring God, or we choose to believe that we know better than God.  How can it be that we have strayed so far from God, refusing to hear Him as He cautions us time and again: “Stop; beware the danger; can you no longer hear my voice, or is your heart so far from me that you just don’t care anymore?”    
          We live in a world that is spinning out of control, yet we choose to act as though the awfulness of it will never come to our doorstep.  God won’t let that kind of stuff happen to us, not in our household, not in our land.  How easily we have forgotten 9/11.  We see being played out before our eyes on television what true sacrifice and faithfulness to God looks like.  Many are being marched out, forced to their knees, and with the name of Jesus on their lips, having their heads cut off for no other reason than that they refuse to bow down to any other God.  They courageously choose to confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior, even if it means their death.  Children’s heads are being cut off and displayed on stakes, or their bodies are being hung on a cross to die.  Families are being slaughtered and thrown into mass graves.  Others are fleeing for their lives with nothing but the shirts on their backs.  I wonder how much comfort and strength to endure these tragic conditions would be provided by those who preach the health, wealth, and happiness gospel.  I wonder how many of us even think to pray for those who are already being sacrificed as martyrs for their faith in the Lord.  Can we really close our eyes to the genocide of Christians as we once did to the genocide of the Jews in the Holocaust?  Are we truly willing to ignore history and refuse to learn from it, when we have previously declared “Never Again?”
          What is it going to take for Christians to return our hearts to truly seek to “work out our salvation” daily, and make conscious decisions to demonstrate our fear of the Lord through a genuine hatred for evil, with a willingness to love and obey Him in thought, word, and deed with all our mind, heart, and strength?  What is it going to take to cause us to fall on our face before Him to worship the Lord, “in spirit and in truth,” in complete humility and thanksgiving for who He is, and all He has done and is doing?  What has happened to our desire to have the mind of Christ that we might think, and be, more like Him?  When did we get so sidetracked that we have begun to think that we have the right to disagree with any part of God’s word, or that we have been given the right to edit it to make it say what is more pleasing to our selves?  Have the things of this world become so self satisfying to us that they have completely replaced our thirst and hunger for the Lord and His ways?  Has our conscience and spirit been so saturated with the things and ways of the world, and our own egos that we no longer even remember the joy of having the Lord write His word on the tablet of our hearts, as we spend time meditating upon His word?  Have we completely forgotten the amazing blessing expressed by the scripture “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”? (Psalm 34: 8)
          Not only have we forgotten what it means to be the salt and light of the world, that others might be drawn unto belief in the Lord, but even more regrettable is our failure to follow the scripture in regards to the word and our children: “And ye shall teach them your children, speaking them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deu. 11: 9)  Because we are failing in teaching our children of the Lord, we are raising a generation that is void of the reality that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” (Prov. 1: 7) and that “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.”(Prov. 8: 13)  Instead of bringing our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we are allowing the secular schools to bring them up in the admonition and nurture of the government to believe: man is the center of all things, there is no need for God, and especially no need for Jesus and His useless sacrifice on the Cross, and even less use of believing in His resurrection from the dead.  Then we wonder why they turn out being so self centered, having little or no concern for anything or anyone other than the pursuit of that which is pleasing unto themselves, having no care for or consideration towards others in this world, and definitely no concern about God, or their own eternal destination.  Instead of lives being based upon the solid rock of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we wind up with a generation that think themselves to be god, often becoming scoffers and mockers of God and His word.       
          Alright then, seeing our own condition and the condition of the world, do we just throw up our hands and surrender in defeat!  God forbid!  It is past time; the ringing of the alarm bell to wake us up from apathy is long over due, but it’s not too late!  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9 NIV) If we have sunk into apathy, or become mired in doubt and unbelief, let us choose to do all that we can to reignite the flame of faith, trust, and love in our hearts for the Lord.  With every step that we take to draw near unto Him once again, He is running towards us to receive us once again unto His bosom, just as the earthly father did when he saw his prodigal son returning home to him once again.  The father never left the son; it was the son who chose to leave the father, and squander everything that he had been given.  Yet when his father saw him coming from afar, he ran out to greet him and fell upon his son’s neck to shower him with hugs and kisses, unconditionally welcoming back home, even giving unto the unfaithful son his best robe, his very own ring signifying his unqualified acceptance as his own, and ordered the biggest party to celebrate his return.  Our Heavenly Father is willing and able to do that and so much more for us.
           If we have strayed from Him as our first love, let us return in faith unto Him with the same assurance that He will throw His arms around us, and reignite that flame of joy and faithfulness in us, through the power of the Holy Spirit which He has deposited in every believer.  Let us become even more determined to work out our salvation daily by willfully and joyously surrendering ourselves unto Him, to love, obey, and serve Him with all our mind, heart, and strength.  There is nothing that we have that He did not give unto us.  Without Him, our lives are like a blade of grass that grows up and then withers and dies.  “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.  The grass withers, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (I Peter 1: 24, 25)  With Him, not only does He grant us the joy of knowing Him in this present life, but He gives us a more abundant life that starts now and continues on into eternity with Him.
          God forbid that we should live our lives as self-indulgent Christians who seek to please ourselves instead of seeking to serve the Lord and walk in obedience unto Him.  These days are troublesome times where the dark is getting darker, and even Christians are being deceived and deceiving others.  We must be determined to learn more of God, and renew our minds daily by the washing of the water of the word.  Be careful to study that you may not be deceived.  It is written:  “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.  (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)  For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according unto the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” (Phlp. 3: 17-21)  Help us Lord to always look unto Thee, not mistaking your grace as permission to sin all the more, but rather recognizing that your grace is meant to keep us from being enslaved to sin, and thereby live the best life that each of us can with you as our source of strength, as you work within each believer to perfect us, making us more and more into your image, as we learn day by day to yield our will, and let Thy will be done in our lives.  The more we love the Lord, the more we will seek to obey Him, and want to be more like Him.  To know the Lord, is to love the Lord.  The more we love the Him, the more we will want please the Him, in thought, word, and deed.  My heart cries out to the Lord with the words of this song of worship:  “Lord you are more precious than silver.  Lord you are more precious than gold.  Lord you are more precious than silver and nothing I desire compares with you.”
          While we are here, let us not squander the time that He has given to us by twiddling our thumbs until He comes for us, or until we die and go to Him.  Each day is a precious gift to demonstrate our love for Him, and for Him to show His great love and grace poured out towards us, as He makes us more and more into His image.  Let us be all the more determined to spend time with Him and in His word, that we might have the mind of Christ, and thirst after the waters of the fountain of life, and hunger after the Bread of Life that satisfies the soul as nothing else can.  Let us cry out to the Lord: “Here am I, Lord; use me as an instrument of your love.  Let me know and experience what it means to walk humbly before the Lord, and serve you with gladness in my heart!  Direct my paths and lead me in the way everlasting that I may endure to the end, and glorify Thy name with all of my being.  And Lord, help me to be that salt and light that I may serve you and help lead others to salvation through faith in Christ and His resurrection, to become a part of the family of God, and have eternal life with you.  Let me not be deceived or compromise Thy word or ways, but endure to the end, trusting in You and in the truth of Thy word, and be ‘being filled’ daily with Thy Holy Spirit.  While there is yet time, whether it be one day, one year, or years, let me not grow weary of doing good, but keep your praise on my lips and in my heart that I might glorify and magnify the name of the Lord in thought, word and deed forevermore.  Bring back the new again Lord, when I walked in the newness of the realization of your amazing, thrilling, and unending love.  Let me not be complacent or take you for granted, but have such a love and passion for you that I would never want to stray from your loving arms.  Father, I pray Thee, keep me ever looking up, waiting patiently, while both expecting and desiring to see your soon return.” 
          If each of us, being assured that we are truly born again through faith in Jesus Christ, believing that as He was resurrected, we also will be resurrected unto eternal life with Him.  Continue that good work which you have begun within us that we may in turn work all the more diligently, remembering to pray without ceasing for one another.  As we intercede not only for each other, may we also pray earnestly for all those who are still lost in their sin.  Knowing that none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow, may Thy Holy Spirit stir up within us all the more a burning flame of love within our hearts for the Lord our God.  Help us, O Lord, that we may be willing to stand in the gap for others, to encourage and support one another.  Grant us perseverance to walk in the light of your word that we might be equipped to fight against the powers and principalities of the darkness of this world.  Father, grant us a compassionate heart as we pray and strive to help one another in the struggle against sin in our lives, but God forbid that we deceive ourselves or others by condoning, accepting, or tolerating sin in our lives.  Teach us Lord to be Holy as Thou art Holy, to be merciful and forgiving as Thou art, with a faithful and repentant heart.  Renew our minds daily by the washing of the water of the word, and may the flame of Thy Holy Spirit burn brightly within us, as an everlasting refining fire, to establish us in Thy righteousness.  We pray for your mercy, grace and forgiveness to be shed abroad until the last soul has entered into the Kingdom of God.  Let us pray with a sense of urgency, before it is too late, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!”  We give you all the glory and honor, and praise Thy name for ever and ever. Amen

**Encouragement for your own individual study of the word:
I was once told, “You teach the gospel according to Ginger.”  I don’t share that with you as a negative critique.  Instead, I believe it has been used for my good, and not for my harm.  This is a key guideline, or principle, for learning; always ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you anything that is contrary to the word of God.  A friend once taught me, “Chew the meat, and spit out the bones.”  Only God has everything right.  The Word is His truth; the Holy Spirit is our teacher.  Never use a partial, or even one whole verse.  Study the full context, so that the meaning is neither perverted nor misconstrued.  Do not be deceived, or deceive others.
          My purposes are: to serve the Lord in an effort to lead others to believe in and receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior; to share what I believe the Lord is teaching me; and to encourage others to study the word of God.  Never take the word of another, no matter how learned, as the gospel truth.  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Tim. 2:15)  The word always speaks the truth; the word of man does not always speak truth or lead to truth.  Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. It is He who leads and guides each of us into all truth. 

          I entreat you to study Psalm 73 and Phlp. 3, the scriptures which were instrumental in what I have shared with you today.  As we read and study His word, He will make it come alive in our heart.  Draw near to God; “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  His word is “sweeter than honey”, and “more precious than silver and gold.”  Let the Holy Spirit open the eyes of your understanding, and write His word on the tablet of your heart.  Let the joy of the Lord be your strength.  His joy is better than happiness; it doesn’t depend on circumstances or situations, but is your strength even in the midst of trouble!  Rejoice in the Lord!


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