Friday, October 25, 2013

Dying Embers

"Why pray?" she said with a painful groan and her eyes full of tears.  I had heard her say something like this before; but that had been a long time ago.  I could tell by the tone in her voice as she spoke those words in pain, she was really hurting; not physically but in her spirit.

These were the first two words out of her mouth.  We had gone through almost this same thing a couple of times before, so we thought this time would be different; but it wasn't.  It was not to be.  We had the same empty feeling of loss, the same heavy feeling of uselessness, like everything we believed was again a waste of time.

Once again, it was as if someone had stolen from Peg, one of her greatest strengths, her positive, optimistic, faithful and trusting confidence in the Lord.

Is healing a "promise" or is it just a "hope" we have in Jesus?  Now stay with me here ...

I'm thinking of Paul in A.D.67, facing death under Nero in a Roman prison as he writes in his 2nd letter to Timothy ... "but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick."  Paul had to leave this co-worker still sick and was concerned about him.  I would assume that Paul had already laid his hands on him and prayed for him … but he left him sick.  Paul, the one who taught the church about the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healing, but he … "left him sick."  (2nd Timothy 4:20)

Why did Paul tell Timothy to … "use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities."  Where is healing in this counsel from Paul?  Had Paul given up after years of prayer for Timothy's infirmities that up to then had not been healed by the Lord?  (1st Timothy 5:23)

In his first letter, Paul told Timothy ... "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery."  (1st Timothy 4:14)

Paul later reminds his young friend ... "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands."   (2nd Timothy 1:6)

I cannot help but wonder if the gift Paul is referring to ... had something to do with "faith for healing."  Was Paul saying that Timothy was neglecting both the gift and his own healing?  Did Paul feel like both these men, Trophimus and Timothy needed to believe for themselves?  Just a thought.

This gift … perhaps healing … was still in Timothy, and yet it seems as if there was some decline, a cooling off and a hesitation to exercise it.  Might he have been too negligent or forgetful of the gift, so his mentor Paul reminds him to "stir" it up. 

The phrase "stir up" is a metaphor taken from the coals of a fire, covered with ashes as if almost extinct, and the need to have the dying embers brought up into a flame again by stirring up the ashes. 

It seems to me, that the gifts of the Spirit, especially "healing" can be and has been allowed to burn down from the burning flame of the early church to just dying embers today, covered up by the ashes of past miracles, and these embers are now at the point that if we don't ... "stir up and rekindle the flame" … they will die out totally.

If you have noticed ... healing ... or the lack of it, is a subject I write about often.

I am not judging Paul or Timothy for sickness or what they said or did about it.  Prayer went up to God for any and all problems confronting them.  God heals ... we don't.  I wish we could.  I've even spoken to sickness a few times.  And when it left ... it was all God's work ... not mine.  At other times, nothing happened.

So, why have I taken you on this journey of what looks like Paul's failed efforts ... if I may call them that?  Because we all have had the same results haven't we?  So I ask myself ...

Are my embers covered in cold ashes?  Is that why it seems as though most of the time when I pray for the sick or the dying ... nothing happens?       

"Why pray" ... is what she asked with tears in her eyes.  Why?  Because we are told too.  So what should we do?  What am I going to do?  I'm going to "stir up" those embers ... of any gifts I still have ... if they are still burning, and allow the flame to burn as it should.

Let each of our flames burn bright and not be just smoldering embers hidden under dead ashes from the past.  No matter what is in your past ... failures in prayer, or successful answers from God ... the past is just that.  The past.  It is behind us. 

It's time to wash away the tears, find a stick and stir up those dying embers.



Friday, October 18, 2013

Dwelling in the Secret Place

Jewish tradition, based upon ancient teaching, intimates that Psalms 91 is a dialogue between David, his son Solomon, and Jehovah (Almighty God.)

David asserts in verse 1 ... "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." 

Solomon answers in verse 2 ... "I will say of the Lord, (He is) my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust." 

David replies in verses 3-4 ... "Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, (and) from the noisome pestilence.  He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth (shall be thy) shield and buckler."

According to Jewish opinion about this Psalm, David continues speaking to Solomon in verses 5-13, telling him of the protection he shall receive from God by dwelling with, abiding under, and making God's truth, (the Word) ... his shield.

And then after David's discourse to his son, Jehovah God is introduced in verses 14-16, and basically confirms all that David has spoken to Solomon ... that God shall deliver him from ... "the terror by night, the arrow by day, the pestilence in darkness, the destruction at noonday, and any evil or plague that comes nigh thy dwelling."

God even says why He will do this.  "Because he (whosoever) hath set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him: I will set him on high ... and show him My salvation."

And then the dialogue ends.  It usually does after God has His say.

Supposing this to be a true conversation between David and his son ... and since God does not direct His response only to them; this causes me to believe that Christians today can claim the entirety of Psalms 91 for themselves.  Notice David says ... "He that dwelleth ..." meaning, "whosoever or all."

Notice that the blessings promised here, are not for all believers ... but for those who live close enough to God, that His presence produces a shadow of protection over them.

While it is true that every child of God looks to the mercy seat and even runs to it in times of trouble, yet all do not dwell in that secret place ... (wherever that may be) ... some follow Him from afar and miss His many blessings and protection

Following from afar is like in David's day, those who went to the Temple and worshipped in the outer court knew little of what was available for them in the inner Temple sanctuary or they would have tried to make it their place of worship.
The outer court was open to the masses.  But to get into the inner chamber, the priest would have to unlock the gate into the Temple sanctuary.  Next to the locked gate there was a small hole all the way through the gate wall.  With the key in his hand, he would reach into that hole, all the way up to his armpit.  He would then unlock the lock that was on the other side, on the inside of the gate.

In the Jewish Temple, that inner gate into the Sanctuary was called "the Gate of Holiness" and opens only …  from the inside.  There's a picture here.  God reached His arm way down to man when He sent Jesus to stretch His arms on the cross and unlock the spiritual gate to the inner chamber, represented by the veil that separated the Temple's sanctuary from the Holy of Holies.

The moment Jesus died, that veil ripped from top to bottom, and unlocked and exposed the inner sanctuary to the world.  Some have said that the rending of the veil of the Temple was done as a testimony ... a token payment for Christ being stripped of His clothes and exposed naked on the cross.  From this point on, God started dwelling in hearts of flesh instead of the Holy of Holies in a Temple made of stone.

Those who enter this secret place of Psalms 91, find that He will never allow any to be harmed within His gates.  This protection is constant ... they abide under it ... for it is the shadow of the Almighty.

What is this key that allows you and I into that secret place David spoke about?  I believe it is man's heart, exposed naked and open before God.  The heart needs to be God's possession alone to fill. 

About the heart of man; may I quote Nicholas Herman, the old seventeenth century Carmelite monk from French Lorraine again?  He says ... "The heart must be empty of all other things, because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all other things, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him."
It's always a heart thing with God.

So, how do we arrive at this secret place?  The pathway is praise and worship.  That's why David praised the Lord like he did.  David used words of truth in his praise knowing "the truth of who God is" would be his shield from all the attacks and tribulations that he lists in this Psalm. 

I've heard people say ... "God inhabits the praise of His people" ... so much that I thought it was a quote from Scripture.  But Psalms 22:3 only alludes to or suggests this.  But I believe this is the true meaning; when you praise God ... He is there.

You enter into His presence with praise.  You can't travel there physically; but you go to that secret place in your spirit.  You can go there in times of trouble.  You can shut yourself away from the stress, worry and fear that just happens in this thing we call life.

And when you do, you can say right along with David in Psalm 18:2 ...

"The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer ... and my high tower."
The term, high tower in Hebrew means ... "a lofty or inaccessible place."  A place of protection where any danger cannot reach you.

Make your secret place a high tower.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Little Things Have Consequences

Did you ever wonder if God is keeping score, keeping count of the good things you do, and possibly weighing them against the bad things you do?  If your actions and deeds were placed on a balance scale, which ones would be the heaviest?

I don't think God keeps score ... although there are books that will contain your life's record of things done in the flesh ... and if your name is not found in the "Book of Life" as one of those washed by the blood of Jesus, those books will be opened and what is written in them will be made known.  (Revelation 20:11-15)

What I want to make you aware of is, that there is more to be concerned with than just the big sins.  Yes, I know that sin is sin; but we do classify them into groups or categories, don't we.  The other guy's sin is worse than mine, right?  Any sin potentially, has the effect of keeping God at a distance.

That's why we need Jesus to stand not only with us, but between us and God the Father.

Do you know that the little things we do, things God can't be pleased about, have far reaching consequences that you may not be aware of.  The little things in our life that may not be sinful, but yet aren't as pleasing to the Lord as they could or should be ... sometimes make me wonder, just how much trouble they really cause us.

Again ... not "big" sins ... but things we have grown used to doing.  Maybe they have become part of our flawed character; flaws like impatience, carrying a grudge, gossip, no compassion for others ... and the list goes on and on.  These are little things that most likely won't keep you out of heaven, but will keep you from being like Christ. 

Have you ever had the Lord speak to you?  I was thinking about this one day and I heard or felt in my spirit something that caught my attention.  It wasn't a voice.  But yet the words came to me as if I was reading silently from my Bible.  You know, sometimes when you read the Word it just goes into your mind.  At other times, a scripture goes through your mind and lodges (finds a home) in your spirit and lives there.  It becomes real to you.

I hesitate to say that God spoke to me, but, these words were established in my heart ... "Little things have consequences in the spirit realm.  They hinder your prayers."

I've always liked this promise in 1st John 3:22 ... "Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."
So now I'm thinking ... if we don't receive ... could it be because we don't do those things that are pleasing to Him?  The little things and their consequences?

Consequences such as … being unable to enter into spiritual warfare on behalf of your children when they ask you to stand with them in prayer.  That is a big one.  You don't want to be hindered with a need like that.

How many hours have Peg and I spent praying for our two grown girls and their children?  How are we going to pray effectively for them if our prayers are hindered? 

The consequences will fall, not on you, but upon those you are praying for ... if your prayers are hindered; which means they will be ineffective, inadequate or lacking in power.

An example of this is found in 1st Peter 3:7 ... "You married men should live considerately with your wives, with an intelligent recognition of the marriage relation, honoring the woman as physically the weaker, but realizing that you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in orderthat your prayers may not be hindered and cut off. Otherwise you cannot pray effectively."   (Amplified Bible)

So what does it mean … "your prayers are hindered?"  I can easily see from the Amplified version that it could mean, "we can't pray as effectively" as we should because of something displeasing to the Lord that is still in our lives.  It may not even have to be sin.

In the original Greek, this word "hinder" is "ek-kop'-to" and means to exscind.  Here's where it get a little worrisome or scary. 

Exscind ... alludes to the power to "cut off," or "frustrate" ... which circles back to the real meaning of "hinder." 

So when Peter uses the word (hinder/exscind) he is saying the little things in our life, can prevent your prayers from ... "progressing, succeeding, or being fulfilled." 

To me, that is one scary consequence.

What I really don't want one of the consequences to be is ... that God Himself, (for whatever reason) would somehow be … "hindered" … either in hearing our prayers or His willingness to give us the answers to our prayers.

Little things have consequences.

Friday, October 4, 2013

It Is Expected

Many Christians believe that because Jesus has made them righteous through His blood sacrifice on the cross, that they have also been made holy.  I have also noticed that old fashioned holiness is very seldom taught or even preached about anymore.  It didn't used to be that way years ago.

Of course it might be because many of the faithful took holiness to the extreme.  It became works.  The holier you were the better Christian you became, or so they thought.  But there was a problem with this ... it became a "holier than thou" mentality,  characterized by an attitude of moral superiority and some became quite critical of the lifestyle of others.  Guess what?  Holiness sometimes became sinful.

Righteousness and holiness ... are they the same?  No.  But they should go hand and hand.  It is sometimes hard to accept or believe that we have been given Jesus' righteousness as a free gift; and holiness is sometimes hard to keep active in our lives.

Righteousness in simple terms means ... right standing with God.  It has nothing to do with your merit or goodness.  Righteousness.  You can't earn it, or buy it, and you certainly don't deserve it.  When you accept Jesus as the Lord of your life ... He freely imparts His righteousness to you.  Jesus gives you His righteousness so that when you stand in front of God the Father ... you stand there as if you had never sinned.

The Apostle Paul states in Philippians 3:9, that he wants to "... be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness ... but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."

Am I clear enough?  It's His righteousness, not yours.  You have none of your own.

Holiness.  As defined it's ... "the state of being holy."  The only one that would live up to that description 100% of the time would be God.

God said in Leviticus 11:44 ... "be ye holy, for I am holy ..."  The foundation of the command is this; that the Israelites professed to be His people, and that as His people they ought to be like their God ... holy.

1st Peter 1:15-16 ... "But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (behavior); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."

Since man hasn't changed, nor has God ... Peter is saying this declared will of God should also apply to the believers of Jesus.  Because the object of Christian worship is holy, (that's Jesus) the character of His worshipers should also be holy.

The English dictionary defines holy as ... "something dedicated or consecrated to God; or a person who is morally and spiritually excellent."

God has implanted principles of holiness in us, otherwise the command ... "be ye holy, for I am holy" would be unjust.

Although our personal holiness, as becoming equal to God's, will never be attained to by fallen man, it is still a desirable goal to continue the quest for such holiness as far as we are capable of attaining.

Without getting into pre-destination, the Apostle Paul makes this interesting statement when he remarks that God ... "hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him ..." (Ephesians 1:4)

That we should be holy ... It looks as though Paul states this as the reason or objective for which God has chosen us.  To be holy in Him.  It is not merely that we should enter into heaven.  It is not that we may live anyway we please.  It is the design and purpose, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to make us holy, now that we have been made righteous through Christ. 

We were not chosen because we were holy.  We were just the opposite ... but that we might be made blameless by His blood and then live holy.

Romans 12:1 ... "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

To be "righteous" is a free gift from God through Jesus. 

To be "holy" is ... a lifestyle

Being holy is how you live out your faith in Jesus.  It's not that you can't or won't sin anymore ... we do.  But it's the effort we make walking each day in God's mercy and grace.  We are learning daily how to walk in Him.  Some days we may fail.  Other days we will be victorious. 

Do we need to try to live holy before God?  Should holiness become a conscious thought with us each moment?  I'm not speaking of an awareness of sin ... we need that.

But I don't want to have to practice or work at trying to live holy.  I want to be able to allow the Spirit of Jesus in me to guide my actions intuitively, instinctively.  To do this, I just need more of Jesus and less of me and then I think holiness will follow.

Paul said ... "that we should be holy" ... 

It is expected.