Friday, January 31, 2014

Trusting In The Mighty Hand Of God

 Trusting In The Mighty Hand Of God
I Peter 5:6,7
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 
On the night of May 2, 1863, General Jackson was seriously wounded; his left arm was amputated in the early morning of the following day. When Rev. Lacy came to the tent where Jackson's arm had been amputated, he exclaimed, "Oh, General, what a calamity." Jackson thanked him and said, "You see me severely wounded, but not depressed, not unhappy. I believe that it has been done according to God's holy will, and I will acquiesce entirely in it. You may think it strange; but you never saw me more perfectly contented than I am today." With his firm trust in God's providence, Jackson knew his wound was God's will, and he would wait until God revealed His reasons.

Jackson told Rev. Lacy that when he was lying wounded on the field and when he was being carried in the ambulance, "I gave myself up into the hands of the Heavenly Father without a fear. It has been a precious experience to me, that I was brought face to face with death, and found all was well." In the following days, at Jackson's request, Lacy had daily devotions at Jackson's bedside at ten o'clock.

Through perilous times, General "Stonewall" Jackson, never lost hope in the Lord, the Shepherd and Guardian of his soul (I Peter 1:3-5). What is there to fear when in the mighty hand of  God is His rod and staff, seen as comforting instruments of protection and direction. Jackson was quoted as saying, “My religious belief teaches me that I’m just as safe on the battlefield as I am in my bed. The Lord has already appointed the day of my death so I need not worry about that. I live my life and prepare myself so I will always be ready to meet my Lord, when death does overtake me.”

The Lord encourages and allows His children to cast upon Him all their anxieties, fears, and doubts. In the highest matters of concern, as well as, in the lesser matters. To commit the smallest concerns to the Lord, frees the believer's heart from becoming burdened down and restless. God does not want Christians to sink under the load of needless cares and fears becoming distracted with the things of this world. The Chief Shepherd of their soul is watching over them and cares about every detail of their life, including the fiery trial of their faith. Resist the temptation to distrust the One who has made heaven and earth, holds every Christian in the palm of His hand, and seals them unto the day of redemption.

Thought: As we cast all our worries on the Lord and prepare ourselves for battle, may we never forget our enemy, Satan, whose purpose on this earth is to blind, discourage and destroy. Satan tries to undermine God's character and wants us to doubt God, doubt His Word, and His power. Casting all our anxieties upon Christ will help us to resist doubt, as well as other temptations. Resisting Satan is a conscience effort of obedience which denies him success in the temptation. 

Trust God's mighty hand to guide, direct and lift you up during times of doubt and personal conflict. You grow in Christ when you are obedient to His Word and understand that includes enduring hardship, fighting the good fight, and standing firm in your faith.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Troublesome Times

Troublesome Times
I Peter

 First Peter was written for the purpose of teaching Christians to live victoriously in the midst of hostility.

The History Behind I Peter:

     Nero, the emperor of Rome, was born in 37 AD. After his father died, his mother married his uncle, the emperor of Rome at that time, and persuaded him to name Nero as his successor. Nero took the throne at age 17, refused his mothers attempt to control him and had her banished from the palace and then killed. He spent lavishly and behaved inappropriately executing opponents and Christians after setting fire to the city of Rome. 

     The fire was said to have started at the southeastern end of the Circus Maximus and ravaged Rome decimating 75 percent of the city. When Rome burned, the Romans believed that Nero had set  fire to the city. He had an incredible lust to build and in order to build more, he had to destroyed what already existed. Nero needed someone to blame for these atrocious acts, so, he used Christians as a scapegoat. The Christians were already hated by the Roman people because they were associated with the Jews and were seen as being indifferent to their culture. The lie spread quickly throughout Rome blaming the Christian community for the fires, thus, began the persecution. Later, Nero, with the help of his personal secretary, committed suicide, after hearing he was condemned to death by beating. Because of the great persecution against Christians during the burning of the city,  the book of I Peter was written.

     Peter wrote the epistle through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to encourage believers going through vicious persecution. He begins the letter by writing of the the great gift we have through God's gracious mercy and the living hope we have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ our LORD. We have an inheritance reserved in Heaven for us which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away. It is protected by the power of God through faith and for this we can greatly rejoice. Though we may suffer a little while in the trials and tribulations of this life, when we trust God through the difficult times, our salvation is proved genuine, being more precious than gold.

     Peter gives hope to the believers in Rome and advises them to "gird up their minds," to prepare themselves for action by thinking soberly and rejecting the hindrances around them. They needed to focus on the future eternal grace of God and be steadfast in clarity of mind with self-control. These Christians, undergoing such suffering, needed to fix their minds on the future events of God anticipating the second coming of Christ and God giving them eternal life in His presence. This is not a time to be disobedient or conforming to the former lusts of the flesh, but to be "Christlike" in their behavior. It is written, "BE YE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." We are to conduct ourselves in the fear of God during our stay on this earth, knowing we were not redeemed with perishable things, but by the precious shed blood of God's own Son (I Peter 1:16-19).
 "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:"

      Don't be surprised when you suffer, that's not a strange thing, that's not an alien experience. "But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (I Peter 4:12,13). When you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exaltation for if you're abused for the name of Christ, you're blessed. You're going to suffer, but you have to endure with a right attitude, and keep on doing right. Set your hope on the inheritance to come in the future, on the revelation of Christ's glory, and rejoice in the midst of your suffering.

    Peter concludes in chapter 5 verses 10 and 11 with a benediction  saying,  "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." Does that sound like something you'd like, to one day be perfected, confirmed, strengthened and established? God will do just that after you have suffered a little while.

Thought: Christian, realize we are to live with the understanding that God's purposes for the future require some pain in the present. While the believer is being personally attacked by the enemy of our faith, we are being perfected in our faith, by the Lord Himself. Stand firm in your faith bringing glory to God until the day He comes or until He calls you home.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Is It Spiritual Warfare?

Is It Spiritual Warfare?
Ephesians 6:10-18

I have asked myself many times in my life time, “Is this Spiritual Warfare?” If it is, “What do I do?” The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells Christians what to do during times of waring against the forces of evil. Some people think that everything they encounter is the devil’s doing but this not so. Satan cannot be faulted with all things because human beings still have the old nature that dwells within. The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, these are in opposition to one another. Even though one may be a believer, there is still remaining sin. The battle is not always outside of the Christian, because one does not need the devil for that war, the fallenness of man is sufficient.

Where do we begin in our battle against spiritual wickedness in high places, forces of this darkness... and against the fiery darts of Satan? We begin with the preparation and the preparation is to understand that we have to rest in the strength of Christ, and then stand firm. When we stand in the strength of Christ and in the power of His might for the purpose of positioning ourselves against the schemes of the devil, we withstand with Christ’s equipment on, “The Whole Armor of God.”

Satan is described throughout Scripture with the reputation of being a murderer and a liar.  He works openly in the wickedness of the world and secretly in the false religious systems of this world. He will be religious when he needs to be religious, hypocritical when he needs to be self-righteous and blatantly wretched, and vile when it suits him. He is the enemy of God. Lucifer, a name given to him in heaven, is known as: the son of the morning, the anointed cherub fallen from heaven, the ruler of the demon world piling his wretched assaults on God’s Kingdom through the humans that are his subjects. We cannot be ignorant of his wicked schemes or of his evil devices. We must endure hardness and fight as good soldiers because the Bible instructs every believer to do so. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

How do we defeat Satan and get the victory? There are people today who want to perform exorcisms, and bind Satan while using certain formulas for dealing with the devil. Scripture says in I John 3:8 that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and Hebrews 2:14 says, He came to destroy him who had the power of death to whom we were all our lifetime subject to bondage. We need to know that the Lord has already taken measures against the works of Satan. When a believer is saved he receives the Spirit of God, the same power that defeated Satan on the cross. God’s power indwells the believer by the Spirit of God making this power our resource. We have the power of God available to us to resist Satan. We are not asked to bind, or cast out Satan but to resist and not to give place to the devil (James 4:7; Ephesians 4:27). "Resist the devil and he'll flee from you." This is the same word used in I Peter 5:8,9 where it says the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and verse 9 says who resist steadfast in the faith. Same word. Standing, withstanding, and resisting is what we're called to do.

How do I keep from giving place to Satan? 2 Corinthians 2:11 says, "Be not ignorant of his devices." What are his devices? Satan targets the believer’s mind and brings false teachers with wrong doctrine into view to destroy, divide, and devastate what God has planned for every believer. His schemes are relentless, persistent, and ruthless, but God has already provided us protection through the Word of God. I Timothy 6:11 encourages us to “Flee youthful lusts," flee temptation, "and follow after righteousness." We are to fight the good fight of faith and admonish others to do the same encouraging them in what matters most, eternal life. We are to minister with a heavenly and eternal perspective to which we were called. Resist the devil, flee temptations, and stand firm in the power of His might. Be clothed in the Whole Armor of God spiritually, and mentally be prepared for the battle of a life time. 

Thought: The more we stand for Christ in the world the hotter the battle is going to get and the greater our God is going to be glorified, we need to be ready. Father, preserve us from the stupidity of our flesh, the deceitfulness of Satan and the subtly of his demons. Help us to come out and be separate, with our armor on standing firm in the power of Your might. Help us to live with boldness according to Your principles and Your righteousness in obedience to Your will. Amen!

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Glories of Home

The Glories of Home

I have been thinking of a place called Heaven recently, with the loss of my dear Mother-in-law, and a very sweet friend, the magnificence of Heaven has captivated my mind. The thought of heaven being filled with the presence of the Lord God Himself, compelled this brief writing in hopes that your heart would be drawn to a place we call, “Home.” The Bible describes heaven as a place in which sadness, pain, and death itself will end once and for all and the presences of the LORD will overwhelm your eternal soul forever.

Scripture tells us of a few sights we will see when we reach heaven’s gates. We’ll enter the very throne room of the Majesty on High and see the One who sits upon the throne. Isaiah said, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up...and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 61,3). The Bible tells us that God’s throne is unquestionably in heaven according to Psalms 11:4 which says, “The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD'S throne is in heaven...” And knowing that God’s throne is forever in heaven (unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever, Revelation 5:13b) gives us a presences of mind that He is permanent, unchanging, and completely in control of the entire universe. He governs the world, not merely as Creator, but as Savior. 

We are told that around the throne is an emerald rainbow, Revelation 4:3b, “and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald,” showing the grandeur and excellence of the glory of God. Ezekiel 1:28  reads, “As the appearance of the bow (rainbow) that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake. As Ezekiel fell on his face before God’s throne, he saw a throne of glory, a throne of grace, a throne of triumph and a throne of judgment. We too, will see a throne as Ezekiel observed and experience the throne of glorious triumphant grace.

White garments will be worn by those in heaven, symbolizing Christ’s righteousness imputed to believers at salvation. The saints arrayed in garments of pure white will be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb, a feast prepared for His bride. “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God” (Revelation 19:8,9).

Worship will take place in heaven, a mighty chorus of praise to our God on His throne. “...and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever...and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:8b-11). None of these dear saints are concerned with their own holiness, honor, or reward for all those things pale into insignificance and become meaningless in light of the glory of God.

These are only a few of the sights that we will see as we enter the splendor of heaven. Our journey “Home” will be the most magnificent and breathtaking trip we will ever take. We’ll never run out of money, we’ll never run out of time and certainly never ever have to vacate the premises. The city we call Heaven or “Home” has walls of jasper and gates of pearl. The streets are clear as glass made of pure gold such as we have never seen before. Could we ever imagine or contemplate such a city as is described for us in the Word of God? How glorious it will be and yet, this is only a faint and dim representation of what heaven is truly like.

Thought: When reading this song, think of those who have gone on before you, and contemplate the excitement of one day finally being “Home.”

Finally Home 

When engulfed by the terror of the tempestuous sea, 
Unknown waves before you roll; 
At the end of doubt and peril is eternity, 
Though fear and conflict seize your soul. 

When surrounded by the blackness of the darkest night, 
O how lonely death can be; 
At the end of this long tunnel is a shining light, 
For death is swallowed up in victory! 

But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven! 
Of touching a hand-And finding it God's! 
Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial! 
Of waking up in glory-And finding it home! 

Words by L. E Singer, 20th century
Music by Don Wyrtzen, 1942

Friday, January 3, 2014

Is There Hope at the Well?

Is There Hope at the Well?
John 4:7-14
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. ( For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)  Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.  Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?  Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (Read John 4:7-30)

Addictions are relentless whether they be substance abuse, sexual obsessions, food cravings, or perfectionism. God created us with two basic components: the physical part which we can see and the inner person, the unseen spiritual part; the heart, soul, spirit, and mind of a person. The inner person and the outer person are distinct, being, the inner person is responsible before God and makes choices in response to the influences of the flesh. The term “addiction” means to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively. That something could be just about anything–––including the sin you’re struggle with at this moment.

Lust, is a biblical term and indeed is like a thirst that is never quenched. In todays culture, it is said, “No one is really being hurt by the choices that you make. It is dangerous to repress your sex drive and abnormal to deny yourself sexual expression in any form that pleases you.” Have you been trying to quench a "thirst" like this too? This post is intended to bring biblical clarity to you who are struggling with sexual sin. I don’t wish to be harsh or unloving, but my desire is to bring freedom through biblical thinking.

What did Jesus say was the difference between the water the woman at the well had been drinking and the living water He offered her? He offered the woman living water and said that if she drank it, she would not be thirsty anymore; she would be satisfied and not desire one relationship after another.

(Read Proverbs 4:14-17,19)

You’ve become so accustomed to "drinking" the "water" of sexual obsession that unless you cut it off, you will, out of habit, return to it. Please do whatever it takes to rid your life of any and all avenues leading to this sinful sexual behavior. The Bible tells us to, “Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt” Ezekiel 20:7.

My friend, let's face it. The devil has lied to you when he said you would be fulfilled by pursuing the lusts of your flesh. He promised you happiness, fulfillment and peace—in short, he promised satisfaction, and that he would fill your emptiness and remove your nagging doubts about yourself. Did he deliver? No! Instead, he dangled the carrot of forbidden fruit in front of your face promising you that if you just took one more step you would find what you desired most. No matter how many new things you’ve tried or searched after, nothing will EVER bring you peace and satisfaction, or fill your heart with joy because they are LIES. Only Christ can bring true satisfaction and fill your longing soul with peace and joy. Perhaps you've been there, and have found yourself doing things you thought you would never do. Are you wanting love and acceptance? Peace? Expecting sexual sin to satisfy you would be like drinking out of a sewer and expecting it to be a cool, clear drink of spring water!

Thought: After speaking with Jesus, the woman at the well went back into town. Scripture does not specifically say why the woman left her water jar with Jesus, and so we cannot know for certain why she did so. Obviously she did indeed need to continue to drink physical water even after her encounter with Christ. However, we do see Jesus comparing the physical thirst of the woman with her attempts to quench the thirst of her soul by having multiple sinful relationships. Jesus offered her "living water" which would quench the thirst of her soul once and for all.

Dear friend, here is good news for us! As we learn how to drink “living water,” that only Jesus can give, we can leave our "water pot" behind and drink from the “well of hope,” which never shall run dry.