Thursday, June 26, 2014
No Pain, No Gain Hurts When you lose something it feels like death. When you lose something with no obvious way of getting it back it feels like death. When things get out of control it feels like death. When your dreams begin to shiver and shake and drift into the realm of definitely unachievable it feels like death. When the one you love says they do not love you in that way it feels like death. When your pain just won't go away it feels like death. When your pain returns again and again and the doctor can't even fix it feels like death. When your "friend" assassinates your character behind your back or breaks yet another commitment it feels like death. It feels like death It feels like death but it isn't. It's life. Jesus said in this life you will have troubles but to the one who overcomes I will give the right to sit on my throne with me as my father gave me the right to sit on His throne with Him... Pain feels like death and to some extent one might say it is the death of an old you. But it is not death. Life Goes on. Life with Christ goes on for an eternity. Life without Christ becomes seperation from God and lasts for an eternity as well. Hell I know it's not the most politically correct of topics but what if these things that feel like death, they are just a little hint of what it will be like in eternity without God. Maybe the reason these things feel like death now for those who don't have a right relationship with God, is because they highlight or make us realize our state of seperation. Christian endurance It is certainly true that some have endured amazingly based simply on their profession of faith and their intention to live for Christ despite horiffic circumstance. In acts four when Peter and John are beaten and released after being told not to talk about Jesus anymore, they do not show signs of mourning their beating as if it felt like death. Rather, they praised God that they were considered worthy of suffering like and with Jesus. Indeed, later when Paul is accosted by resurrected Jesus on road to Damascus, Jesus says, "Paul why do you persecute me?" In this way, He equated His suffering with the suffering of His followers. James says, "Consider it pure joy mmy brothers when you face all manner of trials..." as if to say that we should actually be grateful for the persecutions and the tempations of this life. Dispelling the Lie So, these things feel like death but they are not. so, why do we mourn them almost as much as death. I love a line from Robin Hood with Kevin Costner when Robin's Arab friend says, "You are alive. Quit your whining." I get it. I mean, it hurts. Jesus gets it. Man does He ever know what "hurts" means. The question is what are we going to do about it? I'd say, based on Scriptural precedent, when you're hit in such a way that it really hurts, get up, dust yourself off, and do what Christ would have you do. Pray for their forgiveness, tell them and everyone who will listen about Christ, serve, love, deny yourself, take up your cross again, and Follow Him. Overcoming the enemy The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy but Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Consider being affected in a negative way, in a pulling away from God or getting ticked off way a victory for the enemy. Consider remaining faithful, praising the Lord, continuing in His service despite the attacks, a victory for the Lord. So, the pain is real but the feelings that accompany it, the feeling of death, is not. Where death is not, at least as far as people are concerned, life is! And, life overcomes. That's what life does. So, overcome and work another day toward sitting with Jesus. If you trust Him and call upon His name you will never be put to shame. No pain, no gain. Daniel Stevenson, Pastor New Heights Fellowship Director Life station newheightsfellowshipchurch.org facebook.com/newheightstoledo facebook.com/lifestationtoledo Continue the discussion. Buy Think Again in paperback here or on your Kindle.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
This morning my mind turns to considering the natural defenses a man has for putting forth his own way as the correct way. We do what we should not or fail to do what we should and then by way of seeking comfort devise a variety of schemes to cover the elephant in the room which is that we have sin from which we should repent. Defenses Excuses We excuse ourself by saying that there is some reasonable excuse for our behavior. This may well be the most common defense. We say that we would not have done it if not for a certain circumstance. The defense is plentifully available because in fact, it is true that we can not control our circumstances with any degree of accuracy. We can remove certain elements and make changes in an attempt to control our circumstances but many things still happen that are completely outside our control. Blame So, it makes sense then to hang the blame for an action which we are the author of on our circumstances. We say, I can not do what I am supposed to do because I am sick or I only did that because I was tired. I do those things because that was the way I was raised. Revenge This defense becomes even more potent when we use it to justify a specific action toward a person that has visibly wronged us or someone we know in some way. This can be essentially revenge or just a little bit of "justice." We say, " I wouldn't have done that if he hadn't done that other thing..." Ignorance is no excuse. We say, I didn't know. Ignorance is no excuse for ignorant behavior but it's a defense we use. We expect that our transgression will be overlooked because we were not properly informed. In fact, this is little more than placing blame somewhere else because we are saying that it is someone else's job to make sure we knew. Deflecting Sometimes we deflect onto someone elses faults. That is, not as an excuse but just as a focal point. Like a skilled magician we misdirect our own attention or, we think, the attention of those we care about by pointing to someone else's character flaws or weaknesses, their "bad actions" that are supposedly far worse or at least more urgent than our own. Seeing Flaws The list goes on. We defend our actions in our minds eye in an attempt to feel something less than flawed. Herein lies the problem. We are flawed. We are created in the image of God and still able to some extent to create and as opportunity presents to destroy. When we sin or do wrong of any kind it is an easy out to point at the cracks in someone else's image. It's true. Everyone has them. Their presence in every image of God, put forward by every person is hte reason God says not to judge. If you are busy seeing the flaws in the image you will not be able to enjoy the image. Worse, you will be very ready to defend your own flaws instead of dealing with them. Paid Christ died to pay for those flaws. No furhter excuse is needed or viable. That being said, when we placed our trust in Him we gave up the right to use these defenses. We agreed to address those flaws or rather to leave them behind to the best of our ability and when they reer up again we should not defend ourself in our mind's eye but apply our mind to overcome our character weakness. Repentance We should repent and turn back to God but instead most people, wanting to feel like they are ok, defend themselves and by so doing trap themselves in their own web of flaws. This is bondage and as long as we are willing to accept our flaws and not join Christ in working against them we are not free. Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free and whom the son sets free, he is free indeed. Free to be okay while recognizing our own failures and still pressing forward to the calling of God. If one died for all then all died and you are not that person any more and it's perfectly okay to see when that person is surfacing again and deny those desires, not defending that person but recognizing the enemy's attempt to resurrect that person. It's too easy. Don't you see? It's too easy to justify our wrong choices because it's so easy to see other people's flaws. Believe that you are better than that. In Christ, believe that you are made knew, believe that when you do those things now, which will grow fewer and farther between if you are engaged with Christ growing to be a better follower, believe that when you do those things now it is sin in you, not you that does them and that you need to once and for all put them away. No excuses, no defenses for why it was okay. It wasn't. If it's wrong it's wrong regardless. With God it is possible to once and for all put away that behavior that have been defending but you have to stop helping the enemy and start following the savior. Daniel Stevenson, Pastor New Heights Fellowship Director Life station newheightsfellowshipchurch.org facebook.com/newheightstoledo facebook.com/lifestationtoledo Continue the discussion. Buy Think Again in paperback here or on your Kindle.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, and an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer after having dressed in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing was to give myself to the reading of God’s word, and to meditation on it, that through it, my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought to experimental communion with the Lord. I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning , The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words of the Lord’s blessing upon His precious word, was to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it, were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less to prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession or intercession or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next word or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others as the word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me, that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened , and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this: Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events, I almost invariably began with prayer…But what was the result? I often spend a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees before conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul etc.; and often after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or quarter of an hour or even half an hour, I only then really began to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my father and to my friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it,) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonished me that I did not sooner see this point, it is as plain to me as anything that the first thing that the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man. Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the word of God so that it only passes through our minds as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts. When we pray we speak to God. Now prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires generally speaking, a measure of strength or Godly desire and the season therefore when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the word of God, where we found our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore, profitably meditate with God’s blessing though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. Thus there is far less to be feared from the wandering of the mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had time previously for meditation. \ I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God, I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials, in various ways, than I have ever had before; and having now above fourteen years tried this way, I can most fully, in fear of God commend it. Spiritual Secrets of George Muller by Roger Steer, Harold Shaw publishers Wheaton Il. 60-62.