FREE!!! To Fully Surrender! (I Peter 2:16)

Image result for what does it meant to be free in ChristA few weeks ago I shared a message from Galatians 5:1 entitled “Live Free or Die Apart”. The message focused on the meaning of the phrase “It is for freedom you set us free: therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery”. I have included a PDF download of my sermon notes… Live Free or Die Apart

Our congregation discovered that this is in reference to adding elements to salvation by the grace of the cross and resurrection of Christ, through faith. Per the context of Galatians, that meant, false brethren of Jewish descent adding circumcision or other aspects of the law to the simple call to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Freedom, essentially in that context, means we are free from attaining salvation through obedience to the law. Yet we discovered this freedom is not freedom to choose to live according to the dictates of the flesh or our own ideas of the Christ-life, as Galatians 5:13  declares…

(Galatians 5:13  NASB)”For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another”.

This passage of scripture indicates that our freedom is not to be used in pursuit of our own desires, plans, or thoughts concerning how to live out our faith. In fact, the word of God has much to say about how we are to be careful of misusing our freedom. Below is a list of passages to consider.

  1. Romans 14:14-23; I Corinthians 8:9-12
  2. Romans 15:1-5; Philippians 2:1-5
  3. Romans 6:5-7, 12-14, 22
  4. Galatians 2:20 (KJV, NKJV); Hebrews 8:10-12
  5. Hebrews 4:16

The above list is not exhaustive, but served the purpose of the message the Lord Jesus gave me, but one passage in particular stood out from the others, because of the contrast it brings to the truth of our being free in Christ…

(Romans 6:22 NKJV) But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

Note that Paul was not speaking of himself, as being a slave to God, but all of us. This is the paradox of Christian freedom. We are free in order to fully surrender our lives to God, as bond-slaves. Just like Jesus.

(Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV) 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Without diving too deep into the wonder of Christ’s making “Himself of no reputation”, it is enough to say, by His own sovereign freedom, as God, He emptied Himself of His own will (for a time); for the purpose of serving only the will of the father. Hence the phrase, “taking the form of a bond-servant”.

We understand the word of God declares “As He is, so are we in the world” (I John 4:17). In the primary context of the passage, this means as He is love, we are to be His love to the world, until He returns. Yet, it has a broader application, as we are the body of Christ and the word of God declares repeatedly, we are saved to be as He was… Free to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

We must be aware, that this freedom we have in Christ, does not allow for us to choose not to be His bond-slaves (I Corinthians 6:12, 10:23). We are called to give our entire being to love Jesus by obeying His commands (John 14:15-23). Let’s remember this is not a requirement of salvation, but is to grow in relationship to the Christ life, as well as safeguarding our soul from backsliding and apostasy.

The reason for this posting is that I was once more dragged back to this truth while reading the word of God to my children the other morning.

(1 Peter 2:15-16 NASB)For  such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God.

Here we see the contrast in our being free in Christ. We live as men free from the dictates of sin and the world, the flesh, and the devil–but alive unto God for the purpose of freely surrendering our will; for the purpose of serving only the will of our Savior. All of this is for the sake of love for our Master. Consider that O.T. bond-slaves, after paying their debt, could use their freedom, for the purpose of continuing as a bond-slave the rest of their lives. Why would someone do that?

(Deuteronomy 15:12-17 NASB12 “If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free. 13 When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16 It shall come about if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you; 17 then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also you shall do likewise to your maidservant.

Let us understand that for one who would become a bond-slave the rest of their life, they literally were laying aside their own will, for that of their master. They could expect no vacation, personal time, or accommodation, unless their master commanded it; their life was not their own.

I must admit, that the Lord has been dealing with me concerning this truth for several years. The new man I am in Christ rejoices in this truth, but everything I was raised to be as an independent American screams… NO! Praise God for the Holy Spirit, who has enabled me to grow in this desire, but woe to my stubborn flesh. Do you understand this battle?

Part of being His bond-slave is assessing where we are most prone to disobedience. Below I have listed some scripture to consider concerning your call to be His bond-slave. May God grant us grace to be honest and power to be free to freely surrender to Jesus.

  • Proverbs 3:5-7, 11-12
  • Ephesians 4:29-32
  • Ephesians 5:15-21
  • I Peter 1:13-16

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, Freedom in Christ, Galatians 5:1, Galatians 5:13, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Danger of Inward Hypocrisy

While reading “The Workman of God“, by Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest), in the chapter entitled “The Worker Among the Two-Faced“, I came across a passage which I believe needs to be prayerfully considered, by all who serve Jesus Christ, in Gospel ministry. In the passage, King David and Nathan the prophet are being used to reveal the often easy to hide hypocrisy, which can grow in the heart of those who truly love the Lord.

“Let us go back to the incident recorded in II Samuel 12. For subtlety, for amazing insight and sublime courage, Nathan is unequaled…

…Would to God there were more preachers and Christian workers after the stamp of Nathan. David did not even begin to realize, after a year of the grossest and most dastardly hypocrisy, that Nathan was brandishing the sword straight into his own conscience, and only when David had made his answer and Nathan heaved out strong denunciations of God and thrust the sword straight home with, “Thou art the man,” did David say, “I have sinned against the LORD.” There was no bungling about Nathan’s work.

If you want to know how it was possible for a mighty man of God like David to have sinned the most wicked sin possible–I do not refer to adultery or to murder, but to something infinitely worse, a deep, subtle, inward hypocrisy, tremendous and profound; David lived with it for a year and administered justice while all the time he was a “whited sepulcher”–you must first allow God to examine deep down into the possibilities of your own nature.”

This passage caused me great pause.

How often do we in the pursuit of our calling, begin to compromise, concerning the time we set apart for seeking the face of God? Usually this pursuit is justified by how much work we have to do, as ministers. Yet even as we justify the compromise, almost apologetically with an “I know I need to spend more time with the Lord” statement, we really have little intention of changing course or stepping of the merry-go-round. Why?

David’s calling as king, laid upon him responsibility and a persona–it provided him with ego stroking that little by little replaced his desire for God and his desire to follow hard after Him.

Let’s be honest, as ministers we must be careful of the same pitfall. We are called to the ministry of the word and prayer, but if that is erroneously founded upon study and intellectual recall, we minister from an emptying well. It is often true in our ministry context, that if we don’t get it done no one else will; but to live by that is to walk in pride. We need to re-frame our efforts for the kingdom of God with “Lord Jesus is this what you want me to do?” Then wait for His reply and obey His leading.

David’s pride was stoked by unbridled passion, not tempered or led by the Holy Spirit, for a long time before his fall. This lead to little compromises in carnality, which began to wither his resolve. Those little carnal compromises appear in our lives, when we are not finding the continual fullness of the Holy Spirit, because we are ministering out of experience, rather than the present leading and power of God. As a result of our living and ministering on “auto pilot”, we lose spiritual stamina, strength and resolve.

When this occurs we think we are dealing with our troubles, like the spiritually mature, who soldier on. The truth is, we are not dealing with them at all; except with carnal and worldly activities and distractions (ministry might be one as well).

As David fit this pattern, we can very easily as well. Have you ever read of the Ephesian Church in Revelation 2:1-8? Once more let’s visit Chamber’s work.

“Mark how Nathan came to David. “And the LORD sent Nathan to David.” Be sure, before you face a hypocrite, a two-faced soul, that God has sent you… to use all the subtlety you have from your own heart. Any worker who has stood before God’s all-searching eyes for five minutes is not staggered at David’s fall. Any heart-sin recorded is possible for any human heart, and why I say that the worker among the two-faced (one given to secret hypocrisy) will find the hardest work is that he has to get his wisdom and subtlety not only from God on High, but from a strange, mighty probing of His own nature.

In addition, Chamber’s writes…

Worker for God, before you go among the infirm, the sick, the subtle, the hypocrite, let God deal with you. A child cannot wield the sword of the Spirit; it must be wielded by one fed on strong meat, one who has been deeply dealt with and examined by God’s Spirit, in whom the last springs and possibilities of iniquity and wrong in his own nature have been disclosed to him, that he might understand the marvel of God’s grace.

Considering Chamber’s last comments. How often do we minister on Christ’s behalf with sanctified motive and sincere love of the brethren–thinking as we minister along the line of “God is moving for sure”, only to see a limited and disappointing result?

It is true this can be attributed to callousness, immaturity or spiritual insensitivity, in the persons being ministered to, but it is also possible the fault may lie with us. Would we not serve Him more effectively, by seeking the Lord to search our own hearts?

The New Testament reveals that the servants of Christ, who were fully set apart for God, refused to pick up worldliness and denied themselves as a rule, were not only happy in Christ in the most dire places, but powerfully effective in turning the world upside down.

Come to think of it, around the world, where the ministers of Christ do the same, they minister in miraculous power, persevere in difficulty and are making disciples in the direst places. Perhaps it is time for the servants of the Lord in America to confess, we like David are not only prone to harboring hypocrisy, through justifying compromise, but may be in the midst of it right now.

Dear friends, I point no finger at you, but confess, I have, at times fallen prey to this carnal pattern. If you have not, pray for me, that I would follow the pathway of Nathan, rather than David. May God bless you as consider this writing.

Posted in King David, Nathan the prophet, Oswald Chambers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Weed Kills: Guest Post from Michael Brown

maxresdefaultBelow is a re-print of an article published in the Christian Post, written by Dr. Michael Brown. The article is entitled “Why Christian’s Should not Smoke Pot“. Dr. Brown’s unique and powerful testimony makes him an expert concerning this topic, as well as a needed cultural commentator and prophetic witness to the church of Jesus Christ. It’s possible you have no position on (I believe the word of God is adamantly opposed to using anything that can alter brain function, including medical use of marijuana).

WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD NOT SMOKE POT

By: Dr. Michael Brown

I want to share my own convictions as to why followers of Jesus should not smoke pot. I encourage you to consider them prayerfully before the Lord.

First, for the sake of clarity and simplicity, I’m not addressing the issue of the medical use of marijuana, as prescribed by a responsible doctor. While it’s possible these subjects are related, I’m focusing here on the recreational use of marijuana.

Second, I speak from personal experience, both as a follower of Jesus and as a former pot smoker.

In short, I was a heavy drug user from 1969-1971, earning the nicknames “Drug Bear” and “Iron Man” in the process. The drugs I used included pot, hash, ups, downs, LSD, mescaline, speed, heroin, and (very briefly, right before I got saved) cocaine.

Many of my friends, colleagues, and former ministry school students were drug users too, some heavily and some lightly. But we hold the same views today about Christians smoking (or ingesting) pot.

In short, you cannot “be sober and alert” and smoke pot at the same time. Yet God’s Word calls us to this very thing.

Peter wrote, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).

When you smoke pot, even a little, your mind gets into a more relaxed state, a state of lowered alertness and lower sobriety. It’s called “getting high” for a reason.

You might think it enhances your thinking or creativity or spirituality, but in reality, it is bringing you into a less sober state of mind, one in which your ability to respond rapidly and critically is actually lessened. So, you might be more “creative,” but not in a holy and godly way.

Yet a recent headline on Christian Post announced, “XXXchurch Pastor Craig Gross promotes ‘Christian Cannabis,’ says weed makes it easier to worship.”

The pastor, Craig Gross, explained, “I’ve never lifted my hands in a worship service ever, ‘cause I was raised Baptist. … I’ve done that in my bathroom worshiping with marijuana by myself.”

Ironically, it’s for this same reason that some strippers get high before performing or some actors have a few drinks before engaging in a sex scene. The drugs or drink loosen them up and relax them, helping to remove their inhibitions.

But this is the opposite of spiritual liberty. It has nothing to do with holiness and it is totally unrelated to worship. (The real shame here is that Pastor Gross has fought against the use of porn for many years. Yet Christians who get high will find their ability to resist sexual sin lessened as well.)

Before I knew Jesus, I received incredible spiritual “revelations” while tripping on LSD or mescaline, especially when combined with huffing diesel gas. I even discovered the secret of the universe! All of this was from below, not from above. All of this was deception.

We should also factor in that pot remains a gateway drug, opening the door to more serious drug abuse over time. Is it any surprise that Denver has now voted to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms after Colorado legalized cannabis in 2014?

Even if you never went beyond pot after years of personal use, the moment you advocate it, you open the door to others. Is that wise?

I’ve also been told repeatedly that pot today is not like the pot I once smoked. It’s much more potent and dangerous. And the very real, not exaggerated, dangers of marijuana use have been documented by Alex Berenson in his bestselling book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.

As the blurb states, this “eye-opening report from an award-winning author and former New York Times reporter reveals the link between teenage marijuana use and mental illness, and a hidden epidemic of violence caused by the drug—facts the media have ignored as the United States rushes to legalize cannabis.”

Bad roots will produce bad fruit. Just give things enough time.

According to a report from SF Gate, “With some marijuana products averaging 68 percent THC – exponentially greater than the pot baby boomers once smoked – calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms have risen. In the Denver area, visits to Children’s Hospital Colorado facilities for treatment of cyclic vomiting, paranoia, psychosis and other acute cannabis-related symptoms jumped to 777 in 2015, from 161 in 2005.”

Significantly, “The increase was most notable in the years following legalization of medical sales in 2009 and retail use in 2014, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health published in 2018.”

In the words of psychiatrist Libby Stuyt, who treats teens in southwestern Colorado and has studied the health impacts of high-potency marijuana, “Horrible things are happening to kids. I see increased problems with psychosis, with addiction, with suicide, with depression and anxiety.”

And while the effects on adults might not always be as extreme (or, as quickly noticed), it is clear that anything this harmful to teens can hardly be beneficial to adults.

Paul exhorted the believers in Ephesus, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, ESV).

In the same way, he would urge us not to get high on drugs but rather to be filled with the Spirit.

Of course, I’m quite aware that the response of many would be, “But that’s the whole point. Just as we can drink alcohol in moderation, we can smoke pot in moderation.”

My response would be: 1) It’s an unnecessary crutch; 2) it still removes your full sobriety; 3) it opens the door to more intense pot use, along with the use of other drugs; 4) it creates another fleshly habit in your life.

For two years, day and night, my life centered on drugs and rock music, and I got as high as humanly possible without dying, once taking enough hallucinogenic drugs for 30 people. (I am only alive and in God’s service by His grace and mercy!) And in the months before coming to faith in Jesus, I smoked pot morning, noon, and night. It became a constant part of my life.

Yet when I truly experienced the joy of the Lord, which then revealed the depths of His love to me, I said to Him on the spot, “I will never put a needle in my arm again!” And I was free from that day (December 17, 1971) until today.

Two days after that, while smoking hash with friends, I realized that the Lord didn’t want me to get high in any way. And the rest is history.

So, before you get high (whether for the first time or again), ask yourself these questions: Is this light or darkness? Is this feeding my spirit or my flesh? Is this exalting Jesus or opening the door to the enemy?

Be wise, and sober, my friend. And be filled with the Holy Spirit. There is nothing like it.

 

 

Posted in Christians and marijuana, Christians and pot, Christians and weed, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spiritual Discernment: Guest Post by Brian Troxel

Dear Friends in Christ,

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Below is a link to an excellent post by brother in Christ Brian Troxel , concerning the true nature of Spiritual discernment. I am posting an excerpt to wet your appetite for God’s word concerning this most necessary character trait among Christians; one which I believe is in short supply among the saints in America. After reading the click the link to finish at Tim’s site–Brother Mike Erdel

DISCERNMENT AND RELATIONSHIP

(1 Corinthians 2:15) But he who is spiritual discerns all things, and he himself is judged by no one.”

Discernment has nothing to do with intellectual prowess. True discernment is the aggregate result of an individual’s walk and life in Christ. Many today have confidence in their spiritual condition due to the overflow of teachings readily available to all. Any teaching that does not bring a corresponding measure of the “fear of the Lord” is bereft of truth. The foundation of a discerning life is built upon the fear of the Lord. (Proverbs 2:3-13)

Discernment requires a walk and an abiding in Him; the things of God will always culminate in the character of Christ. The very essence of truth is Christ who is the Truth. Whenever an expression is in conflict …

Click this link here the rest Spiritual Discernment

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A Ticket to Heaven?

Image result for Salvation is not a ticket to heavenWhat have we become? What have we made the message of Christ in this nation? We have taken the Gospel and mutated it into a message about us. We have taken the power of Christ’s atonement and made it a point to be punched on our ticket to heaven. We have minimized the resurrection to be power for your “Best Life Now”.

Salvation is not a ticket to heaven, but this is essentially what we teach. Jesus died so you can be forgiven and henceforth, upon death or rapture, you receive a mansion on the hilltop, or more contemporaneous to the Jefferson’s “A DE-LUX apartment in the SKY-Y-Y”.

Salvation is not about primarily our entrance into heaven, or seeing your dearly departed loved ones (as great as that will be). The message of the cross is the power of God unto salvation, because you are saved to enjoy the presence of the One who is SALVATION: Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus the Messiah). This is to take place in the NOW! Salvation is not about “Move’in on Up”, but about being in His presence forever, after He lives in us until we see Him face to face.

Why have we done this? Because it is more readily accepted by people, who want a free ride to heaven with minimal discomfort here and now; like the discomfort of repentance, or the discomfort of being set apart from the world, the flesh and the devil. Or the discomfort of denying ourselves for the will of God, taking up our cross and living for Him, rather than ourselves.

To be saved is not a past tense accomplishment, but a present reality. Through faith in Christ’s atonement, we are forgiven that we may be reconciled to God.  To be be saved is  to literally be born again with a new nature, in order to grow in righteousness (II Corinthians 5:17-21), love and boldness; for proclaiming the praises of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9-10). Salvation means the chains and addictions of our past are severed forever (Isaiah 61:1-3), allowing us to freely obey the word of God, as lead by the Holy Spirit.

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To be a saved person means I willingly grow in living the truth, “my life is not my own, I was bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). To be saved means I am joined to others, who have followed Jesus Christ, and for whom I willingly lay aside my needs to meet theirs (I Corinthians 12:12-20Romans 15:1-2; Philippians 2:1-4).

Ultimately, to be saved means I have the potential, to not only meet with God, in all His manifest presence, but to be filled with the fullness of who He is (Ephesians 3:14-19). In this truth, I understand that I am part of the body of Christ as a living stone and with all the other living stones we present a living representation of Christ to the lost world around us (I Peter 2:4-5; Ephesians 2:19-22).

Therefore, let us consider with great grief, what is passing for “being saved” in our day. In our geography is the Savior being proclaimed and seen as He truly is or as a cheapened and unholy caricature, because of false conversions and a lukewarm and compromising church?

Let us awake and trust Christ to give us light (Ephesians 5:13-21)! Let us recapture the joy of being saved and fixate on the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-3)! Let us take the counsel of Christ and buy gold (faith) refined in the fire, the garment of Christ’s holiness and seek to have our vision healed (Revelation 3:18). And before His return, let us once again discover and commit to obeying His last great command “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Let us remember Jesus is returning for His Bride, the church, who is supposed to be ready for Him in a very particular way…

Ephesians 5:26-27 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

Let the question be asked, from the Old Hymn…

“When the Bride Groom cometh, will your robes be white? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Remember dear friends salvation is not about what we profess, but rather what Christ declares concerning us…

Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

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Posted in Cheapening the Grace of God, Christian Salvation, Ticket to Heaven, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“They Can’t Take What is Hidden in Your Heart”

Matthew 10:16-25“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

Psalms 119:10-11 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

Many Christians would agree, the times surrounding our Lord Jesus Christ’s imminent return, occur in environment of world-wide persecution against followers of Jesus Christ. Yet often we Christians in America believe our destiny will is to have an environment politically and culturally, which lines up with our morals. We cry out for revival, not realizing true revival in the church did not bring political or peace to the clout to the church in the long term. It usually ended in the body of Christ being marginalized and ultimately persecuted in some form. We cry for revival and the fire of the Holy Spirit, yet why do we expect a different cultural and political environment, that the one it brought throughout the book of Acts? It would seem we believe we are promised something Jesus promised no follower of Christ this side of heaven.

The church in other periods ad nations believed this, to its detriment. Make no mistake this error in theology and worldview (that God destined us to change culture through political position and power) led to the rise of Roman Catholicism. This form of satanic apostate Christianity, wielded almost absolute political power for over 100 years and led the world into the dark ages.. God in turn raised up men like William Tyndale, Jean Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwinlgi and others, who knew their only government was the theocracy of the Kingdom God, with Jesus as KING. All of these men, were persecuted to a greater or lesser degree.

Let us acknowledge this truth: living in the fullness of the Holy Spirit leads to favor wonderful influence in His church, but persecution from the world (Philippians 1:29, 3:8-10). The Church in America needs to be solely focused on Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, being led by the Spirit of God, and hiding the word of God in our heart, which is the only place man can not burn, steal or speak over it. Please click the link next to the picture below and read the article published on the Christian Post, which deals with details how our Chinese Christian brothers survive and thrive as they are tortured in prison. And let’s not be fooled, what they experience may be our experience in the future. Will we thrive in Christ as they?

 

Chinese Christians memorize entire Bible in prison: Gov’t ‘can’t take what’s hidden in your heart’

Posted in Chinese Christians, persecution, Philippians 3:10, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We Go out… Not Knowing…

(Hebrews 11:8-10) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

The above passage refers God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12…

(Genesis 12:1-31 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

For Abraham, God’s call to him could not have come at a more earth shattering time. We read at the end of Genesis 11 that Abraham’s father had just passed away, after taking his entire family from their homeland and traveling towards Canaan. With his new responsibility to lead the family, no one would have faulted the “father of the faithful” if he had turned tail and ran back to Ur of the Chaldean’s. Yet out of nowhere the One True God calls to Abraham for the first time in his life and the shaken man responds (See Genesis 12:1-3 above).

God’s call to Abraham is an awesome world changing blessing, with a promised son for the childless father; a son who would make Abraham’s descendants too numerous to count. Yet the cost of the calling was extreme: leave your country, your immediate and extended family, and its culture and customs (Abraham’s world view, life practice, and religion). Although the promise of God’s inheritance to him was too magnificent to grasp, Abraham had to leave everything behind and trust God for promises that he would never fully see or fulfilled this side of heaven.

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I was reminded of Hebrews 11:8-10 when the Lord called my family and I to leave the church I was privileged to pastor for 6 1/2 years. This fellowship had become our family in the faith–a place of ministry where the Holy Spirit had deepened the faith and practice of almost everyone in the church–  a home which filled our lives with many God blessed memories–a calling, where we were entrusted with the growth of some of the most transformed Christians we have been blessed to see grow.

He called us to leave behind a neighborhood and community we loved and had sought to reach with the gospel for years. We left this all behind to begin the process of discipleship in another fellowship of saints, with all its promise and potential. This move at times was one of joyful anticipation, but also cautious optimism and at times sadness.

Remember that for Abraham inheriting the promised land, meant a lot of headaches, heart aches, failures, trials and looking to the future with hope, when little appeared to be happening. For me, the move spoke loudly that the promise of investing in His kingdom would reap a chorus of praise for Christ in heaven now and in the eternity to come. Yet we set out, endeavoring to be obedient to the call of God, not knowing what the ultimate end of this new season of ministry will be

We departed for Fostoria Ohio, knowing Jesus will never leave us or forsake us–that He will be faithful to His promise and power toward us, so long as we remain faithful to Him. We understand that being faithful to Him does not mean we are guaranteed to see all our desire for His people and His promises in this life. We must live by faith, trusting that in the difficult days to come, and they will come, if we hold fast our faith, He will reap a harvest in due time.

(Galatians 6:9) And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

This “due season” is at times near and often off in the distance, because the call of God is not about moving up to better material situations for the called in Christ, but about greater faithfulness in the face of grater challenges against the kingdom of God.  The call is about greater perseverance in the face of more difficulty and potential suffering on behalf of the Savior (Philippians 1:29). The call of God is also about more of the presence of Christ, as we trust Him in the midst of greater difficulties, sufferings and spiritual warfare. In light of these truths, what can we learn from Abraham’s “going out not knowing'”, which we can apply to our life for the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord?

LIVING BY FAITH

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There are many lessons we can learn from Abraham’s going out not knowing where He was going, but the most prominent one resonating with me, is living by faith. From the beginning of God’s call to him, all Abraham had to go on was the word of a God He did not fully know or understand. Although his nation, family land and culture were filled with pagans gods and abominable practices, none of them spoke or resonated like the word of Almighty God spoken to him. Like Saul meeting Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), where the Savior’s glory blinded the Pharisee, Saul also obeyed without knowing the way. In His new life the LORD expected him to follow. It is the same for us. Remember, He does not expect perfection, but a growing obedience based on trust.

How does that trust grow? Considering Abraham’s life, trusting and obedient faith grows through a series of promises and commands, which enabled his knowledge of God to grow, as he learns to trust the faithfulness of the LORD. We see this culminate in the LORD calling Him to sacrifice his son Issac.

Hebrews 11:17-19 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

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Let’s remove some of the shock to start. People usually consider Abraham a super saint with a statement like “I could never consider such a thing”. But let us follow the pattern of how God built Abraham’s faith, through promises, commands and the revelation of His Almighty character. In the first place, let us remember this was not a temptation to murder, but a test of Abraham’s fear and devotion to God (Genesis 22:1). God never intended the boy’s death, but his servant did not know that. In Abraham’s native culture, child sacrifice was normal and expected. Abraham would not have thought anything out of the ordinary, except that the boy would come back to life, being the promised seed.

This is why he answered Isaac “The LORD will Himself provide”, when asked where the sacrifice was. Yet as God’s pattern of promise, command, faithfulness and revelation, the LORD revealed His holy character as above all other pretended god’s; He was not a death dealing pretended god, but the God whom gives and sustains  all the life He created. What is the point?

In our walk with Christ, upon completion of a task, season of life, or ministry calling, He will call us once again to go out not knowing where we are going. The purpose is to deepen our faith in His word–to engender greater operational trust to obey His commands and to reveal more of Himself to us; which will draw us into a deeper intimacy of relationship. At times the call is overwhelming, but don’t lose heart. Draw upon His faithfulness from the past. Hold to His last instruction in your present calling and His word for affirmation of direction.

I have learned the place I am safest and most in line with His will, is when I have gone out…TRUSTING HIM… even though I may not know where I am going, or what is around the next corner.

Philippians 3:7-11 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

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Posted in Genesis 12:1-3, He went out not knowing where he was going, Hebrews 11:8-10, Uncategorized, walk by faith | Leave a comment