Friday, July 29, 2016

Judging Ourselves - The Return to Light

Three years ago I was in a slump and couldn't figure out what was going on with me. God saved me from myself during that time. But as time marched on I slipped back into a state of being that I have been struggling to get out of, again. What is wrong with me??? What is it that I can't seem to see, that returns me to this place of ugliness and darkness? More importantly, how do I get out of the darkness and return to the light?

I must really be a bonehead and bordering on stupidity to fall again for the lies and deceits of the enemy of my soul. Was I even paying attention? Did I see what was going on or not? How many times do I need to be bonked on the head to realize when there is a low doorway I am trying to go through, I need to duck to go through it? It's like looking at the chopping knife, knowing it is razor sharp but reasoning I can move my hand in time before it comes down and chopping off my fingers.

My blog post from three years ago was helpful in getting me to see what was going on again. Click here if you want to read that blog post first

I have been in the slump again. These are the bogs of despair, selfishly wandering around looking for anything that will fill the void of self-realization and self-satisfaction. Plunging into the depths of of the mire of self-loathing, judgement and resentfulness towards others. I had slowly entered into the realm of sin against my brothers and against God himself. I needed to be saved from myself again.
"This picture was the picture of my life. Knowing but not doing otherwise. Continuing in my sin and calling it something other than sin. Imagining myself as righteous in my mind but destitute of the truth, carrying around a sour and troublesome attitude that wanted to satisfy my own desires."
"Being reminded of how I first came to salvation I had to repent of my sin. Sin was what it was and I had to call it what it was and deal with it the way that sin has to be dealt with."
More recently I have been spending time looking at the why and what got me here and talking to brothers about what they see and asking for help to recognize what I need to do. When a person is lost and sinking in the bog mud, they need someone to find them, throw them a rope and help pull them out. Darkness starts to close in all around them and they can't see the dry land to walk on. Everything is confusing and they can't find their way out. 

Thank God for men that are willing to do get dirty in order to find me and pull me out. Even though they get muddy and wet in the process, they are willing to do what ever it takes to help me get out of the slump. Why? Because they love me and they are my brothers.

Yesterday, I talked with a wise man of God (he would deny such accolades and say he is only in third grade). He that told me to stop looking at myself, stop feeling sorry for myself, grab hold of the truth that God loves me and he has promised never to leave me or forsake me. I took his advise along with the advice of several other men that love me and want to see me free from the mire of sin and death. In fact I believe the prayers of those men are what has destroyed the strongholds of the enemy and unblocked my mind so I can be free.

A dear sister was talking about the "why" of doing what we do in regard to creating an inside relationship with others. What I came to realize is that I had forgotten the "why" of what I was doing as well as the "why" of who I am in Christ and His Church. My "why" had become my satisfaction and my way. The real "why" had actually become lost and replaced with bitterness and resentment for not getting my way and not doing what I wanted. I became an island and separated from the rest of the church. I was not able to see or hear what God was telling me to do. I was becoming very unloving and cold-hearted, bitter and uncaring.

Why should I be in the church and submit myself to leaders and others around me? Why should I pursue the interests of serving others rather than myself? Why? Why not just go the direction I want to go? Why is everyone seemingly critical and judgmental of me? Why? 

Because I have my understanding darkened and I am drowning in my selfish thoughts and ways. I've forgotten why I am here, what had drawn me to the church in the first place. What else do I know to do that will benefit me in regard to having eternal life and finding joy in this life now? I'm certainly not going to find it outside of Christ and the Church. I tried that and it was disastrous. If Jesus Christ is who he says He is and the Church is the foundation of His life and truth, then I would be foolish not to do everything I can to embrace all that Christ has said to do. 

If Jesus is not who he says he is and the Church is not the foundation of His life and truth then we are all lost and deceived. My life is meaningless. I am unworthy to be His and in His church. I am lost. My life is a huge waste of time and energy.

He said, I am the way , the truth, and the life. His way is my light and life. But when I forget who I am and loose sight of the "why" I start wandering around the dark recesses of my mind and analytical thought processes; I slip away from what is real about me. My perspective narrows and everything becomes blurry around me. My focus shifts to me and what I believe is important for me. Me, me, me.

Thank God for His divine intervention and his loving kindness. He has not left me to my own devices but instead has captured my attention to focus on the reality of Christ. Jesus, who gave himself for me, who paid the price for my sin, who promised life everlasting, who leads the way in living a real and purposeful life. I want to honor Him and be with Him as my Savior, Lord, and Friend. I want to honor him by submitting to him and obeying his words because of my respect and love for what he has done and who is is to me. I have repented to God.

It's not that hard to do what is right in His eyes once my eyes are uncovered and I see what He is doing. Once I give up kicking and crying for my own way He is right there to show me why and what to do. It is much easier to see how to love myself and all those around me. It becomes my real nature which God birthed in me through faith and obedience. I am his and I have chosen to relinquish the past, present and future to Him. 

The best is yet to come. What do I have to fear but to lose sight of Him and slip into darkness again. And that will not happen when I am connected to those who walk in His ways and love me with the love of God. I choose to stay connected, working at seeing my brothers everyday with spiritual eyes and a heart that beats for my Lord.

The work continues on each day and the work that I desire is to rest in His ability to do all things in me, for me, to grow in grace and love for Him and his Life. Thank you Lord Jesus for not giving up on me and never leaving me alone. Once I was lost and blind but now I see. May I never forget that you, Lord Jesus, are my life, not my circumstances or anything I could imagine otherwise.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Presence of God

If you love somebody, what you long for more than anything else is that person’s presence with you. Photos are a comfort. Telephone calls, emails and texts are nice. Letters are good. Skype and FaceTime are great ways to communicate. Yet nothing can compare to actually spending time with them in person. That picture in your pocket is just a representation of the real thing. There is a feeling of the presence of my wife and family while I am here in Kenya because of all the memories I have of our lives together and a connection with them through the Spirit of God. I know I will see them again when I return to the states and our lives will be joined together again. We will be able to touch one another and communicate directly to one another. We will be in each others presence.

What Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden when they sinned was the presence of God. Even more than possessing the law, the distinguishing feature of Israel was God’s presence with them. The temple was not primarily a place of sacrifice but a place of God’s presence. The exile was such a disaster for the people of God because they were away from God’s presence.
God promised to be in the midst of his people again. This promise was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He promises to be with us. With the coming of Jesus and the coming of the kingdom of God, God came to dwell among his people. Jesus is ‘Immanuel... God with us’ (Matthew1:23). Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is both now’ and ‘yet to come’:
The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus answered, ‘The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, “Look here!” or, “There it is!” And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you’. We are citizens of the Kingdom and God is on the throne of His Kingdom. We don't see the throne or the visible Kingdom but it exists none-the-less.
One day Jesus will return. Then everyone will see, ‘For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other’ This will be the day when the Son of Man is revealed in all his glory, then we will see him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12); and ‘we will be with the Lord forever’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We will experience the visible presence of God forever.
Right now God’s presence is not visible. People focus on eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting and building, spending their resources upon themselves. (see Luke 17:27–28). None of these things is wrong in itself. They are part of regular, ordinary life. The problem in both Old Testament and today is that most people do not listen to the warnings. Jesus urges us to be ready. Our lives should be lived in the expectation of His return, doing what He desires us to do.
Unfortunately, whoever tries to keep their life will lose it and whoever loses their life will preserve it. If we are always trying to find ways of getting the most out of life for ourselves – the most money, highest work position, best reputation, most popular – we will miss out. If you lose your life in denying yourself and serving Jesus, you will actually find life in all its fullness.
As we live in this time between the first and second coming of Jesus, we shouldn't forget to thank God for all his blessings. Of the ten lepers whom Jesus cured, only one came back ‘praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him’. Shouldn't we be thankful for what we have received and let our lives exist in contentment with the abundance or riches he has given us? Shouldn't we be living in joy and praise for his loving kindness?
It is easy to be like the nine lepers who forgot to thank Jesus. We need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude – taking time to thank Jesus for answers to prayer, his constant love, his forgiveness, his kindness and especially for the promise of God’s presence with us. Yes, He is not physically and visibly in front of us to do thank, eye to eye, but our Father knows what we need and he provides what we need. We can be in the presence of God through His Holy Spirit and walk in that presence.
Sin is what takes us away from the presence of God. Therefore, God warns us to avoid idol worship, dishonoring families, theft, leading the blind astray, injustice, sexual immorality, murder and bribery. We forget or choose to do those things that dishonor Him and we disobey God. We turn to serve the idol of Self and self gratification.
God says if his people fully obey they will enjoy all his blessings. He promises to bless our homes, families, work and other activities.Obedience is not to be an occasional event; it is to be a way of life. There is a big difference between people who are willing to obey God daily and those who are willing to obey only in order to get out of trouble. God certainly shows people how to get out of trouble, but He showers blessings on those who decide to live wholeheartedly for Him and make obedience to Him their lifestyle. Our lives are not for our pleasure but for His pleasure.
I will be returning to my home and family soon and I am looking forward to seeing my wife and being with my family. I am hoping they will be as excited to see me as I will be to see them. When Jesus returns for his bride will his Bride be ready? The real question in my mind is, "How excited will the Bride be to see her Husband? Will the Body of Christ be rejoicing in the return of its head and King or will there be a reluctance and a fearful expectation of His return?
May we all be so in love with the "love of our life" that we do everything we can to show our appreciation and obedience to Him each and every moment of the day. The time is coming soon. He deserves our complete gratitude for giving us His life and His Love. We should be looking forward to running into the arms of Jesus and embracing Him, giving ourselves to him completely and submitting ourselves to Him in everything. It is the best gift I can think of to say "Thank You" to my Lord. May his return be soon and our wait be joyfully exciting to see Him face to face.

Portions of this article were used with references listed below:
Bible in one Year -