Are You in the Way or is the Way in You??

Frank walked along the path in the early evening.  “It won’t be long before it is dark,” he mused, “I should be getting back.”  In a few minutes the sun was down and darkness was closing in rapidly.  He knew the path well, but the darkness began to conceal it.  He wished he had left home earlier or at least brought a flash light.

As he rounded the bend about one mile from the main road, a figure stepped out in front of him.  He could sense the size of the man, but couldn’t make out his features.  “Hello?”  The intruder didn’t speak.  “Excuse me,” he said as he tried to go around this silent interruption to his solitude.  The man grabbed him by the arm.  Alarm spread through Frank as he asked, “What do you want?”  Still there was no response.

Gathering his courage, Frank began to speak in soft tones.  “Sir, I don’t know why you have put yourself in my way tonight, but I have good news for you.”  The hold on his arm loosened slightly.  “You may not be aware that there is someone who loves you very much.  He lives in me an wants me to tell you that he understands and that he knows you are frightened and alone and that you don’t know what to do or where to turn.

He calls Himself the Way and I am His follower.  He knows that you thought to harm me by getting in my way tonight, but instead he wants to save you and has sent you to me, so that I could help you.  Won’t you please tell me why you are here and how I can help?”  For the first time, the man spoke, “My name is Stanley and I don’t know what to do.”

Frank thought he heard a sob escape from the man and he reached out and placed his hand over the hand the held him.  “It’s okay.  Let’s go get a cup of coffee and work this out.”

Today’s Lesson:

Frank knew who he had inside him.  He knew Him well.  Fear had tried to win the day when the tall anonymous man grabbed his arm, but he immediately turned to the One who lives in him and recovered his peace.  After whispering a brief prayer, he was able to share the Way out of the problems that Stanley was encountering.

This is what is possible to us when we lay aside religion and get to know Jesus.  He IS the Way, the Truth and the Light.  When the Way truly lives in us, we can be bold in the most threatening situations.  As long as we are alive, the love of Jesus can reach out.

Sometimes we are so busy judging the person who is in trouble that we don’t want to be around them.  There are many stories of people who go to church to find help only to be told they don’t measure up.  It is God’s job to judge the world and for believers there is ‘no condemnation.’  When we judge others, it clouds our thinking and keeps us from the love that sets us all free.

So the question for today is:  Are you in the way or is the Way in you?

Focus is One of the Words for 2013

Nick loved football.  Every season he would watch every game – college and professional.  If he had time, he would go to the high school games in his community.  He focused every spare minutes on the adrenalin-laced games and heaven help his wife and children if they got between him and the television screen.  He would berate them and they would feel invisible and rejected.  He knew the names of all the players.  Soon his fanatic fixation had become the focus of his life while the neglected relationships around him quietly brought him chips and beer.  At dinner, his wife would tip-toe in and leave the hamburger and fries on the coffee table and retreat.

Eventually the marriage fell apart and Mom and Dad went their separate ways.  The children hated the divorce, but when they visited Dad, he still spent most of his time in front of the TV.  They are grown-ups now and while they love their father, they don’t feel they really know him.  He had not only been a spectator of sports that gave nothing back but he had been a spectator in his kids lives as well.  Does he have regrets?  You would have to ask him.

Today’s Lesson:

In our lives the circumstances are somewhat the same.  God is somewhat like the children in this story because He wants our undivided attention.  He promises that if we will draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.  He is waiting for us to turn off the television, the computer, the radio and to shut out all other distractions.  Father wants us to come to our quiet place and seek His face.  In our worship, we can put our focus on Him  As we listen, we will discover that everything we need, He has already provided.   It is ours for the taking just as the love the children wanted to share with their Dad was there if he had chosen to draw near.

We are to come boldly before the Father God’s throne of grace confident that as we seek Him, He will not be lost in a spectator sport or any other distraction.  We are the focus of His plan.  He wants us to be a fully functional family who focus our lives and love on Him.  We find that the Bible tells us that in His Presence is fullness of joy.  As we focus on Him, He will meet us and we will be the beneficiaries of His love and attention.

What are your focusing on?

Minister of Death

The Pastor stood up in the pulpit.  He was a strikingly good looking man his hair graying a bit and a wonderful resonating voice.  He looked out over his congregation still reeling from the last counseling session is his office the day before.  How could anyone be so involved in so many sinful things?  He just didn’t understand.  Images had penetrated his mind that he just couldn’t shake.  He took a deep breath and began.

After an hour of coming against sin and admonishing everyone, by reminding them that every sin led to death, he begged them to give up anything in their lives that would cause them to come to judgment.  His own heart ached at the things he sometimes thought about.  He told them that “lust led to more lust, anger to more anger, dishonesty to more dishonesty, envy and strife to confusion and every evil work.”  He diagnosed their condition, but gave them no remedy.

He was quite worked up and the people sat in shock!  Their pastor had never before been so forceful.  Everyone sat in the pew, condemned and without hope.

This well intentioned pastor was a “minister of death.”

Today’s lesson:  When we try to be good enough, there is always someone to point out that our efforts are futile.  It is a misery that shows us exactly why God gave us the Law.   It is a bit like the diet started on Monday morning.  After you eat something that is not in the plan you just think, “Well, I blew it, I may as well finish that cake I made for the family.”

The purpose of the rules of the Law was to teach us that we can’t do it on our own.  All of our attempts, at keeping the whole Law,  end in frustration and disappointment.    Lifting up sin never leads us to freedom.  The Bible tells us that when we lift up Jesus, He will draw all of us to Him.

The pastor drew no one to the Lord that day.  He showed them their utter hopelessness without the Lord of Love.  His own sin loomed bigger and bigger as he spoke the words of judgment and condemnation over his listeners.

Jesus offers us grace which produces life.  Our job – our work is to believe on Jesus that God sent.  (John 6:29)  Our work is believing.  His work is doing in us what needs to be done.  Believing and trusting in Him sets us free.

So, do you want to be a minister of life or a minister of death?  Telling people all that they have done wrong never changes them.  We are told in Scripture that “the goodness of God leads people to repentance.”  Rom 2:4.  Repentance is a Bible word that means change.  It is turning away and turning around.  We look to Jesus instead of our sin.  We look to the Father instead of our own personal strength and ability.  We trust it all to Him.

As we turn to Him, His life – the ‘zoe’ life of God – grows bigger in us and we become freer and freer.

Why does the church minister death?  The Apostle Paul said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”  (Galatians 1:6, 7)  This precious pastor never meant to lead people to a different gospel and a different Christ, but ‘there are some who want to trouble us and pervert the gospel.’  There is a demonic realm that interferes with us and we must be ever vigilant.  He wants to steal our freedom and put us back under condemnation.

There is only one Gospel.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Grace and  Love.  It is not about our sin.  It is about how He purchased us out of sin with His own blood and lavished His grace upon us.  Now we share with Him all of theblessings that Father God has provided for us.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing therefore, choose life that both you and your descendants may live!’  Duet 30:19  It is a generational promise!

Father Longing . . .

The divorce happened when the children were young.  She hoped it wouldn’t be too hard on the kids but she watched as her son begged for them to try once more.  As young as he was, he felt like he had caused the rift between Mom and Dad, but it just wasn’t so.  His tender nature wanted peace and longed for the family to be one.  He ached but he didn’t let Mom see the depth of his pain. Dad moved out and moved on.

I don’t know when she first knew the extent of his pain, but by then there was little she could do about it.  She tried not to talk about her own pain within his hearing, but she was not always successful.  He longed for his father and he loved his mother.  He was a tender spirit and hungry for a family.  When Dad remarried and then later Mom remarried, he made every effort to fit in so that his desire for a family might actually happen.

When he married, he determined to make things work – at any price.  In the beginning, he and his wife got along well.  He indulged her.  They were a two career couple and all went well until they had a child.   As he neared forty, he thought they had developed as a couple and were strong enough to ensure a stable family unit.

 After the baby came, she became depressed.  Worse yet, they were totally unprepared for the difference in their child rearing philosophy.  The change in their relationship hit him like a baseball bat to the gut!  The wall between them got higher and wider.  One day, she announced that she was no longer interested in maintaining the relationship.  His world crashed.

People long to find that one relationship that fulfills and doesn’t wound.  Fear of being hurt keeps us from trusting and we isolate or we just have random encounters.  Once in a while, someone talks to us about Jesus but skepticism believes it is just one more road to disappointment.  No father, mother, or spouse ever proved faithful and by extension God must be the one who was ultimately responsible for the pain.  How can we trust the One who calls Himself Father?

Today’s Lesson:   What we don’t understand is that God is Love.  Really!  The love of God is rich and pure and measureless.  His loving kindness endures forever.  He longs for us more than we long for Him.  But like any relationship, He won’t force Himself on us. He waits for us to draw near.  Then He reciprocates.

Father risked giving us free-will so we could choose to love Him like He loves us.  So the boy who became a man and a father can choose to love Him or not.  He may not understand that it is the only answer that will satisfy,  If he continues on his own, there will still be a longing in his heart and Father God will never quit longing for Him.   He will quicken His servants to pray for the young man, his ex-wife and their child.  He will send some to lift up Jesus in their presence and so draw them to Himself. 

The condemnation this young father feels will keep him focused on himself.  He will lack confidence  and will live from his soul.  He will hunger for the approval of others.  At last, if he runs out of options, falls to his knees and calls on the name of the Lord from his heart and faith enters, the love of Father God will wash over him and he won’t remember why he didn’t call out sooner.

When this happens, it is the beginning of fulfillment of the longing in both this young man’s heart and in Father God’s heart as well.

If you have a loved one who is far away, keep loving them and praying for them.  I have received comfort from the song that says, “The boy is reachable;  the girl is reachable.  To God he’s visible.  All things are possible.  If God can reach His hand of love through time, Touch an old sinner’s heart like mine, The boy is reachable, I know he’s reachable.”

Related Post:

Deep Calls to Deep

Confirming Scriptures:

John 12:32
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

Ezekiel 34:16 

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick . . .

I Sam 2:30 – . . . or those who honor Me I will honor. . .

Deuteronomy 5:29
Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

Psalm 10:17
O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear

Psalm 13:5
But I have trusted in Your loving kindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

Psalm 14:1
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

Psalm 27:8
When You said, “ Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.

Psalm 37:4
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 69:32
The humble have seen it and are glad; You who seek God, let your heart revive.

Psalm 27:8
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

A Future and a Hope

Annabelle was so caught in the pain of her divorce that it colored every decision that she made.  It had come as a shock when her husband of eight years had decided she wasn’t what he wanted.  He wanted the pretty blonde neighbor.  She knew that he had been leaving in the night and coming back before morning, but she told herself he was troubled by work and was out walking to work it through.  The lie she told herself had been hard for her to believe but she didn’t want to face the truth. When he packed up and left, she had never felt so alone.

Since that day, Annabelle had been afraid to trust anyone.   She didn’t want anyone to get close.  She had been going to church and liked the idea that God loved her, but really didn’t feel the love.  People were nice, but she didn’t let anyone get close and if anyone tried, she would push them away. A woman named Ruth, kept coming to greet her and talk with her.  She would sit with her in church.  Annabelle tried to ignore her, but Ruth didn’t seem to mind her aloof attitude.  She just kept coming back.

One Sunday, Ruth took Annabelle by the hand and said that they were going to go out to lunch together.  Annabelle was so shocked by the touch of her hand, she just mumbled, “Okay.”  At lunch, she asked Annabelle, “Are you tired of living in the past?”  Surprised that Ruth knew what was going on, a tear slipped down Annabelle’s cheek and she looked at this woman who was making her face things. 

Ruth helped her understand that the God who loved her had provided her a future and a hope. “ Lay aside the fear and quit the past,” she said.  That day, Annabelle prayed with Ruth and she felt her heart melt.  Ruth explained that she was made brand new.  Her old life wasn’t who she was anymore.

Ruth explained, ” The future that God has provided you means that your old life has passed away.”  It would take Annabelle some time before she really began to understand in her heart what she knew in her mind.

As believers, we often don’t realize that  we don’t have a past anymore.  “Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”  We may still had some of the actions and feelings that we had before we were made new.  In I Corinthians 6:9, there is a long list of identities we had before our new lives in Christ.   The list includes idolater, adulterer, thief and drunk – but then it says, “And such WERE some of you.”  We may still act wrong (we might even think wrong ), but inside we have been made righteous and God will take the inside and bring it to the outside if we will just cooperate with Him.  When His Holy Spirit is in our hearts, He is not mad at us for who we were, and He has a future and a hope for each of us.  He wants us to have all the benefits of our new life.

Annabelle is no longer a rejected divorcée’; she is a child of the living God.  She is royalty.  She is a citizen of heaven.  When she realizes that the past is not her prison anymore and she begins to live the present based on the future, she will find that she is changed from glory to glory.  The past has no hold on her that she  doesn’t give it.

Today’s Lesson:  Begin to lay aside your past.  It’s over!  Romans 12:1 asks us ‘be transformed by the renewing of our mind.’  We have a role to play in finding out that the past is dead.  You may have some things to deal with because of it, but it is no longer your identity.  Father God will help you deal with the results of the old life while he teaches you about the benefits he has in store for you in the new life. 

He tells us in Jer. 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for a future and a hope and not to bring you sorrow.”  It goes on to say, ‘”Then you will call on me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.”

So, it’s up to you.  Live in the past and struggle with the pain; continue to live in fear of having feelings for someone and giving them the power to hurt you, and nuture your unforgiveness because it hurt so much, OR renew your mind and live out of the future promises while watching the present come in line.  In truth, if you call on the name of the Lord, He will answer and show you things you know not!

Life in the Spirit is a blast!  Will you give up your rights to the pain, bitterness and un-forgiveness of your life before Christ and determine to no longer identify with the pain of the past and choose victory in Jesus?  If you need help, please feel free to contact us by e-mail.

Related Sites:

Deep Calls to Deep

Confirming Scriptures:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a    11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  12Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  13And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  14And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity . . .

Romans 12:1-2   1I 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.  2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2 Corinthians 3:18
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Jeremiah 33:3
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Seek and See

Could the church be in the dark?  Could we be sitting in the pew or standing in the pulpit blinded to what God wants us to do?  Is it as if we are walking with a white stick to let everyone know that we lack vision.    The God of this world has moved in and blinded us.  We have become blind guides leading people who are hungry for more and we have nothing to give.

How did this happen?   Our hearts were once soft and pliable and then . . they began to harden.   We began to develop our own ideas and argue doctrine which divides the body.  We began to judge others that didn’t agree with our opinions.  We began to look like the world and the world couldn’t see any reason to join our ranks.  Worse even than that, there were many who had come in and were tired of the hypocrisy and the division and they exited the ‘fellowship’ becoming church hoppers or just staying home.

How could we have slipped so far below our privilege?  How do we return to our first love?  Somewhere in our heart of hearts, we know we have missed it, but pride and self-condemnation keeps us from the answer.  We must return to our first love.

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  And I will be found of you, saith the LORD:”

THE LESSON:

Today is the day of return.  The lesson today is simple.  Stop trying.  Stop striving.  Go into your prayer place and close the door, turn up worship music so loud you can’t hear your words and get on your face.  Judge yourself and you know you won’t be judged.

He isn’t mad at you.  He loves you and He is waiting for you.  He is waiting with forgiveness and love.  Don’t be afraid.  If you will seek Him with your whole  heart, He will enfold you in His presence.  He will give you rest and you will be refreshed.  When you seek, then  the hard shell will fall away and your heart will soften again and be pure.  The Scripture says, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”  Seek and see!

Confirming Scriptures:

Psalm 27:8
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

Psalm 34:10
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.

Psalm 40:16
Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified.

Psalm 83:16
Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD.

Psalm 105:3
Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.

Psalm 105:4
Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.

Proverbs 28:5
Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.

Isaiah 55:6
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Jeremiah 29:11-14a –    11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.   12Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.   13And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.   14And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity,

Matthew 6:33
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 7:7, 8  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Matthew 5:8   Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Wake up!

What time is it?  Isn’t the what we want to know when we awaken?  The time is nearer now than when you first believed.  We are in the last of the last days!

Sometimes you feel as if you are on a desert island and there is no one with you and no boat in site.  It’s time to learn to swim.

People in churches all over the world are waking up, stretching and looking at the clock.  They don’t know why they have been asleep, but they recognize that it is late.

When we named the ministry, Still Waters International Ministry, with the acronym S.W.I.M. we didn’t foresee this day, but Father God knew.  He knew that there would be a day when His people would wake up and want to go deeper with Him.  If you have been sitting in the pew at church and going through the motions;  you know that something is missing but can’t quite figure it out.  You are in the right place.  The time for sleeping is at an end!   The time is now!

Get up and join us as we share “Swim Life Lessons” bringing you back to your first love and going deeper with Him.  He is longing for intimacy with you. 

Today, the lesson is easy.  Stop the busy pace and open up the pages of the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the truth that is buried there.  Truth that you may know in your head, but He wants drop it into your heart.  He is a Lover and you are His beloved.  Begin today to return that love.

There is a river, that flows from the throne of God.  Come on in, the water’s fine!