Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Messenger

Jeremiah is known as the "Weeping Prophet" because of how earnestly he proclaimed the Word of the LORD & yet he did not see the people respond in obedience. For 40 years he prophesied!  God frequently reassures Jeremiah that He is with him and that He will be his defender.  However, in chapter 15 God also reminds Jeremiah that he must also repent:

Jeremiah 15:19-20

"Therefore this is what the LORD says: 'If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve Me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be My spokesmanLet this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.  I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you', declares the LORD."

The messenger is not exempt from the message!

Everyone is held responsible for their own personal response to God and His Word.  If we respond in obedience we have God's promise of protection.  However, if we reject the Word of the LORD, He removes His protective hand and we are then subject to His rebuke.

I can't help but think of the times when my children were little and their daddy and I had to discipline them.  It truly was painful for us to lift our hands and inflict pain on them - temporary as it was.  Yet we knew that if pain was not experienced, they would not realize the severity of their actions and they would not grow in understanding.  God does not delight in punishing His children any more than my husband and I did.  But He knows how necessary it is.  The discipline of God is an act of love (Proverbs 3:11-13).  His warnings are for our benefit.  We must listen and respond to Him with trust, because He knows what is best.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

God's Message

I am becoming more and more convinced that God’s message to the Church is “Seek Me, while I may yet be found.  Turn from your wicked ways and pray!”  He has been telling me this for over three years now.  I have been diligently searching His Word for every mention of prayer.  The message is there; the message is consistent.  It is imperative that God’s people spend time in His presence.  We will never, and I mean never experience the unbridled power of God until and unless we seek Him first!  Not only have I searched His word for this truth, but I have also read books and listened to sermons on the subject of prayer.  When I searched these resources I only expected to hear their point of view on the subject, their understanding of prayer.  What I did not expect was to read and hear almost verbatim the words God has been speaking to me on this subject, but that is exactly what has and continues to happen!  

Andrew Murray says in his work The Ministry of Intercession: A Plea for More Prayer: “Let us all unite in praying God that He would visit our souls and fit us for that work of intercession, which is at this moment the great need of the Church and the world.  It is only by intercession that that power can be brought down from Heaven which will enable the Church to conquer the world.  Let us stir up the slumbering gift that is lying unused, and seek to gather and train and band together as many as we can, to be God’s remembrancers, and to give Him no rest till He makes His Church a joy in the earth.  Nothing but intense believing prayer can meet the intense spirit of worldliness, of which complaint is everywhere made.” 

He also states: “There is a question, the deepest of all, on which I have not entered in this book. I have spoken of the lack of prayer in the individual Christian as a symptom of a disease.  But what shall we say of it, that there is such a widespread prevalence of this failure to give a due proportion of time and strength to prayer? Do we not need to inquire, How comes it that the church of Christ, endued with the Holy Ghost, cannot train its ministers and workers and members to place first what is first?  How comes it that the confession of too little prayer, and the call for more prayer, is so frequently heard, and yet the evil continues?  The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Supplication and Intercession, is in the Church and in every believer.  There must surely be some other spirit of great power resisting and hindering this Spirit of God.  It is indeed so.  The spirit of the world, which under all its beautiful and even religious activities is the spirit of the god of this world, is the great hindrance.  Everything that is done on earth, whether within or without the Church, is done by either of these two spirits.  What is in the individual the flesh, is in mankind as a whole the spirit of the world; and all the power the flesh has in the individual is owing to the place given to the spirit of this world in the Church and in Christian life.  It is the spirit of the world [that] is the great hindrance of the spirit of prayer.  All our most earnest calls to men to pray more will be vain except this evil be acknowledged and combated and overcome.  The believer and the Church must be entirely freed from the spirit of the world… I have felt it so strongly that the truth need to be anew asserted…”

My friends, when I read those words my heart raced!  It was if I had penned those very words myself, yet here it was from the mouth of Andrew Murray, and man of God born in the 1800’s.   I was both encouraged and discouraged simultaneously.  Encouraged because the message was the same as the one I’ve been hearing.  Encouraged because I wasn’t alone. Discouraged because the message has not yet resounded within the Church as a whole.  Discouraged because the message still falls on deaf ears.  Yet I will continue to share this message.  I will carry this baton until the Lord instructs me to pass it on to someone else.  

During my prayer time, the Holy Spirit often leads to me pray Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  I ask God to help His Church to live by this instruction.  I ask God to help us realize that His word is not a cliché, but that it is POWER!  I say this because we often do consider His word to be cliché, do we not?  Do we truly understand what these verses are saying?  It really cannot be broken down to be any simpler than it is!  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  Reread these verses over and over, putting an emphasis on a different word each time.  Do this until it resonates within your heart and your soul!  

God brought to my remembrance several things for which we do not trust Him.  Prayer, of course, is a huge one.  We don’t truly believe that prayer is power; if we did, I would not be writing to you now.  Something else that we do not trust Him on is the acknowledging Him part of these verses.  Some translations use the word “submit”.  Either way, the Church as a whole is not doing this. 
When we pray, which is infrequent at best, we most often are making a petition for God’s blessing upon our ideas, our plans, and our traditions.  We are not seeking His face and asking Him what He wants us to do.  We assume that because something is a “good” idea, that it must be acceptable to God.  If it has worked for someone else, then it will work for us, too.  Right?  Well, my friend, that is how we are leaning on our own understanding.  We limit God by putting Him in a box.  This box often comes in the shape of literal boxed curriculum.  Instead of seeking God ourselves and rightly dividing the Word of truth, we let others do that for us and use prepackaged materials to teach our Sunday Schools, small groups and congregations.  I am not calling these materials evil.  In fact, there are many inspired studies from which I have personally benefited; however, the issue is that these are the things that we go to first.  We do not trust the Holy Spirit to guide us in our studies and in our teaching.  We are taking the easy way.  

The box has another appearance.   It is a more traditional package, which has been handed down throughout many generations.  This box, of course, is Tradition itself.  Much like the fruitcake, church tradition has passed through so many hands that it is now stale and undesirable.  No one really wants a piece.  Our church services have become so predictable, and so bland.  Many who attend these services come only out of a sense of duty, not out of a desire to meet with God face-to-face.  Many go exactly because they know what to expect.  The format never changes.  Again, are these practices evil? Not necessarily.  But are they inspired by God?  In most cases – no, they are not.  How can I say this so confidently?  Because of the evidence - which is the lack of good fruit.  If our services were led by the Holy Spirit, we would see hearts changed; the lost coming to salvation in Jesus, and the Church would be fully submitted to His perfect will.  This is not, by and large, happening in the Church today. We are leaning on our own understanding. 

God warns us of this mindset in Isaiah 50:10-11

“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of His servant?  Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.  But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.  This is what you shall receive from My hand: You will lie down in torment.”
Isaiah 29:13 “The LORD says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by man.”

I do not wish to criticize or condemn my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is not my desire to insult the Bride of Christ.  No!  My heart is full of love for the Body of Christ!  My heart longs for the Church to live in the fullness and the power of God on a daily basis!  My heart’s desire is for every believer to have that child-like faith in Almighty God so that His power can be displayed for the entire world to see!  My heart’s cry is for us to return to our FIRST LOVE! 
Many of you are aware that Jesus Christ Himself pointed out to the seven churches in Revelation that there were things He was not pleased with.  Just as a parent corrects a child, so God corrects His children so that they can become better.  Only in the case of God’s children, we are not only to be better -  we are to be holy, for He is holy! 
Which brings me to another part of this message.  Church, we have got to stop looking like and living like the world!  We must stop rationalizing our participation in things that are not of God!  I am specifically referring to personal sins and worldly holidays. 
In the Church today there is adultery, fornication, gossip, lying, deceit, bitterness and overall selfishness.  Divorce is rampant among believers.  This should not be!  

God says in Ecclesiastes 5:4-7: 

When you make a vow to God, do no delay in fulfilling it.  He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.  And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.”

Other areas in which we are rationalizing and justifying our behavior is in the participation of worldly holidays, the vilest of which is Halloween.  In the past my family and I rationalized this away ourselves.  We told ourselves that if we participated in a church parking lot, it would be OK.  It is a “community outreach”.  But many Christians even participate in the darker things.  What is going on here?  The celebration of fear and death!  What does God have to say about fear?  Is it from God?  Not the kind of fear that is embraced and spread forth during Halloween!  I don’t see how this glorifies Christ. The world sees our behavior in these things and thinks that we are no different – and rightly so! 

I will close with words from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, 18-22

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.  The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you His Holy Spirit.”
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.  Test everything.  Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Puzzling Lessons

I Kings 13

Jeroboam has sinned against God by building altars for idols and leading Israel in worshiping these false gods. So God sends a "man of God" to prophesy against him.  There is no name associated with this "man of God".  Perhaps it is the prophet Shemaiah, who was mentioned in chapter 12; he was called "the man of God".  However, I don't know.

This whole account in chapter 13 puzzles me.  This unnamed prophet obeyed God by warning Jeroboam.  However, on his way home he is approached by an "old prophet" who invites him to come eat with him.  The "man of God" had been told by God not to eat or drink anything, but the "old prophet" said that God (or rather an angel) had told him to invite the man of God to eat.  So the man of God believed the lie and went to eat with the old prophet.  While he was eating, the word of the LORD came to him and said that because he had disobeyed, he would not be buried in the tomb of his fathers.  In other words, "You're gonna die here!"

The puzzle:

Why did the "old prophet" lie to this man?
Why did the "man of God" so readily believe the old prophet?
Were both of these men unnamed because they had disobeyed God?  The old prophet by deceiving the man of God, and the man of God by trusting the old prophet?

I can sort of see how the man of God trusted the old prophet, because God sometimes does talk to us through other people.  After all, that is what a prophet did - talk on God's behalf.  But I don't understand why the old prophet wanted to deceive this man of God.  Was he referred to as an "old prophet" because he was an old false prophet?

Talking things through:

I'm the man of God walking home a different way - walking a path of obedience - when I'm approached by an old prophet.  This prophet invites me to dinner, but I tell him no because the word of the LORD had told me not to eat or drink.  This old prophet tells me that he, too, is a prophet.  He relates to me.  He says that an angel had told him that it was OK for me to eat. So, being tired and weak (vulnerable) I choose to believe the prophet over what God had told me personally.  God uses the old prophet to tell me that because I disobeyed, I'm going to die.

Well, I'm still puzzled.  I don't understand fully why this happened to the man of God except that it is simply what happens.  We are and will be tempted to believe other voices over the voice of God.  Compromising is so easy to do when it caters to our flesh.  We (I) rationalize so many things because it is easier.  Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." 

There was no mention of this man of God inquiring of God before going with the old prophet.  Perhaps if he had the word of the LORD would have come to him sooner with a word of instruction not to go, instead of later with the word of rebuke.  I suppose this happened and was recorded as a lesson to us (me) on trust.  Just because I may presently be walking a path of obedience, it doesn't mean that I am immune to temptation.  The enemy is going to keep trying to trap me.  He will use people with whom I can relate and he will hit me when I am weak and vulnerable.  Giving in is not what I want to do.  I want to obey God's voice no matter what! When I am weak, He is strong!  When I am tempted, He is faithful and gives me a way out!  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

When I am hearing a message that contradicts what I KNOW God has told me personally, I need to trust God's voice.  Even though he does speak in different ways and at different times, I need to trust the word I received from Him myself. 

Father, please fill me with Your wisdom and discernment.  Enable me to know and trust You above all others.  Help me not to doubt You.  Help me to not be swayed by others who would knowingly or even unknowingly tempt me to disobey You. 
In Jesus' Name, amen.