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Beloved Believer

Chapter 1

Church Awake

God has made a people for himself. God has breathed life into the
dead. God has called an army of people that He has made alive in His son
Jesus Christ. God has ears and he hears the silence of sleeping hearts.

Rev 3:1b – 3
“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you
are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to
die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
Remember, then what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.
If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know
at what hour I will come against you.”

Precious one of God, if the Fear of the Lord rises up in you at the
reading of these words, praise His mighty name and seek his mercy and
grace. We have practiced the religion of Christianity for a long time, here in
America. Practicing a religion is not what Christ has saved us to. We have
been saved to Jesus Himself; to know Him and love Him and to glorify His
mighty name. Many have not only turned from their first love but have fallen
asleep in the arms of the enemy. Our God is a great God and He gives us
much more than the meager morsels and constant accusations we receive
from the world and our enemy. Let us awaken to His love and promises of
victory and glory.
I do not know of a sadder life than to know Jesus Christ but to live for
the world. Those who knows Christ and chase after the things of the world
are doubly as sad as those who have never known Christ because not only
can they never gain what they are after from the world but in the chasing,
they give up the rest in Christ and so have a deep restlessness and a nagging
of the Holy Spirit telling them they are going the wrong way. Praise God for
His persistent nagging Spirit! God’s people seem to be falling right and left
to the lie of the enemy that the full life that has been promised to us is not
attainable. That what we have here is all there is. Life here seems pretty good
so we work hard at being content with what we know of Jesus and stray
further and further from His loving voice. Many of us who have been rescued
by our beloved savior Jesus Christ are living as if we are unaware of all that
he has bought for us with his blood. There seems to be sleepiness in our faith
in these days. Here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, many
in Christ do not live in freedom from sin and worldliness and there isn’t much
bravery displayed. God’s word indicates that an awareness and alertness is
necessary and to be without them is to be in danger.

I am convinced that God is working to arouse in His people an awareness of


His greatness and faithfulness that we have only given lip service to. I am
also convinced that God does not leave His work undone and that He always
has His way.

Awake:

How does a sleeping heart hear an exhortation? Does a sleepy heart


know it is sleepy? How does one who is asleep have any desire to be
otherwise? God’s voice raises the dead. He can certainly wake the sleeping.
We have to bank on God’s sovereignty and desire and knowledge. He alone
is able to speak to us in dreams. He alone is able to transcend any world at
any time anywhere. God uses many voices to enter our hearts and thoughts.
My hope is that He will use mine to encourage those who know the “nagging”
of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps something is not quite right or there is too little
joy and why does it seem so hard to grasp all those wonderful promises?
Satan may lull us to sleep with the warmth and comfort of the prosperity
offered us in this world. But take heart, Jesus has overcome the world! Jesus
does not lose those who are His.
When we were dead in our sins, God was able to enter into our hearts and
lives and give us the light of His word. He got the gospel to us and made
sure we received it and made us to belong to Jesus – forever. He saved us
and is still saving us. Let us be encouraged that God is not pleased with
sleepiness in the faith He has given us so surely He will not put up with it.
This may not sound so encouraging at first; especially if you are sleepy
hearted. It may sound like a threat but it is a promise for eternal good. God
is able and willing to awaken our sleepy hearts to once again rejoice in His
Son. We can take encouragement from God’s promises.

James 4:4b-5
Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself
an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the
Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that HE has made
to dwell in us” (caps mine)

It is God who made His Spirit to dwell in us. It is God who is not
pleased with us making friendship with the world. We can be sure that God
always has His way and that if His Spirit is in us we can be sure He will do His
work in us. So we can take comfort in his zealousness for the name of His
son Jesus and His claim that we will be conformed to His Image.

God is yearning JEALOUSLY!


Mark 13:33
“Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will
come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and
puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the
doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake – for you do not
know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at
midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning – lest he come
suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all:
Stay Awake.”

Four times in this short passage Jesus tells us to stay awake. Just in
case we think he is speaking only to the disciples at that time; he makes it
clear. “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay Awake.” Why would he bother
to be so adamant unless he knew the great danger that would come with
sleeping on the job?

Jesus says when the man goes on the journey he leaves his servants in
charge, “each with his work”. How many of us can say we are sure we are
doing the work Jesus has left us to do?

Romans 13:11-12
Beside this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to
wake from sleep. Our salvation is nearer to us now than when we
first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let
us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Paul tells the church here in Romans to wake up because we are nearer
to the end than when we first believed. How much nearer we are today!
Why do we sleep?

Eph 5:13-14
But when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for
anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Here is another exhortation to awaken and hear our Lord. We are


saved to be His light in the darkness of this world. This is not an instruction
for the unbeliever but for the church. Believer, we are fooling ourselves if we
think this does not apply to us today. Let us examine ourselves in our faith.

Sleepwalking:

The thing about sleeping is sometimes we can dream and in our


dreaming state we might twitch or mumble. Some, I have heard, even walk
around in their sleep and do things. We are happy and lazy in our warm
beds. So it is when a Christian is sleeping at the wheel so to speak. We
move and we speak and we may look and even feel O.K. but many of us are
just lolling around waiting to die so we can see Jesus. We were saved and
most would say they are forever grateful for that but there does not seem to
be an abundance of evidence of Jesus awareness in many Christian’s lives. It
is as though we think we already have the abundant life Jesus has promised
us. Do we really think He was talking about 2 cars, a nice house, and good
schools for our kids, and plenty to share when we feel “moved” to? I fear
that many, too many, do believe that. Reading any of the four gospels makes
it clear that Jesus was not talking about abundance of stuff and comfort and
ease but far, far more than we even know how to desire.
I hate to bring it up, but it is really about the big “P” word. I am
talking about Pride. It is pride that keeps us from realizing that we are not
really enjoying our relationship with Christ as He would have us to but just
walking in our sleep. We forget how loving and wonderful and merciful our
God is. We know we are not right with God but we are not convinced he will
have us. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, many seem to be hiding
from Him rather than running to Him. It becomes acceptable to not see God
moving in and around us. We believe a lie from Satan that the Joy of Jesus we
have been promised is all deferred to the time we get to heaven. Do we
really think we are just going to saunter in to heaven? Do we really believe
that we are just here to have as nice a life as possible until we are rescued?
God’s word says that is not the case.

We can justify, rationalize, spiritualize, analyze, pretend to be wise all we


want but when we read God’s word and ignore it or make it mean what we
want it to mean to fit our lives, we are putting our thinking above God’s and
last time I checked that was called SIN. We don’t want to admit our sin but
hide from God. We put our “knowledge” and instinct above His word. That
sounds like a certain serpent, to me.
We strive to “do “things to convince others and ourselves that all is
well in our hearts. When our hearts are cold and dark, Satan will do most
anything to keep us there. Often, he will heap up guilt at our lack of fruit.
This is bait easily taken because we are already not really speaking much
with God so we become unconvinced of His love and our freedom. Instead of
going to God with our problem we may find ourselves eager to just “do
“something. I am not saying that when God brings conviction of laziness that
we should shove it off as satanic. When God brings conviction, it always is a
sorrowful joy and He always offers Himself as the solution and there is hope.
Satan preys on our great pride and gets us thinking that we really just need
to do something. Sometimes we may feel like our doing will spur on some
activity in our hearts or that God will suddenly move in it and all we be well.
Other times we just move habitually. We have our own definitions of what it
means to be a Christian. “Good” Christians do good things therefore; if I am
active then my faith is O.K. Usually, these ventures are unfruitful because
God did not direct them in the first place. We feel guiltier about what we
didn’t say or do right. We didn’t really go in faith in the first place so we are
not surprised when it fails. This feeds in to our mounting pride because it
infers that we somehow could have done something godly on our own – we
just picked the wrong thing or didn’t do it right. Of course, at the time of
sleepiness none of this is obvious. We want God, but not enough; yet. We
can often feel like God’s leading is too mysterious and given only to others so
we don’t really expect Him to lead us to the good works that He has prepared
in advance for us to do, but we know we ought to be doing something
merciful and kind.
We “do” and then lay around for a while longer until we are convicted
of the lack of fruit in our lives and then instead of connecting to the vine and
going to the source we just try to manufacture fruit. Our hearts are not yet
desperate for the God that created us to be desperate and in love with Him.
The more we “do” on our own the less convinced we are of God’s greatness.
The more convinced we are of our failure and oddly enough this just makes
us more proud. We begin to pick at our every flaw as if we should be able to
do something about it. We are aware of our lack of prayer and reading God’s
word and it nags at us. Determined not to become too legalistic we resist the
idea of making ourselves sit in concentrated effort before God’s truth. We
press on and on and it becomes an ugly cycle. It does not take long before
we become the center of our focus. Beware, when you hear that you are
constantly berating yourself; you may be overly focused on your lack of
ability and mistake this for humility.

James 4:6b
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Is 30:18
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he
exalts himself to show mercy to you.

Our God loves mercy; he is quick to come when we call. He


understands our every fear and knows our every sin. He loves to hear from
His children. He is waiting to be gracious to us. We can have His favor but
we MUST fall to our knees.

We MUST seek His grace to repent and He will come to us quickly. There are
many lies of the enemy that we may fall to at any time. There is only one
truth. I believe it is crucial for us to understand the truth that opposes the lie
that tells us we are just doing fine.
Is it possible that many of you reading this feel like you are just
missing something in your spiritual walk? Maybe you see something in
others that you feel God has only for them and you are destined to
mediocrity.
Do you read the Bible with a sense that God gave massive amounts of faith
to the “super heroes” like Noah or Abraham, Paul or any others you may feel
inferior to, and that he has left you with the crumbs? That is a lie. Let us not
fall to the temptation of putting men over God. He has given each of His
children faith to walk with Jesus Christ. That is huge, if we realize and will be
honest about what “walking with Christ” really means.

2 Peter 1:3
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and
godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own
glory and excellence,

Let us seek to know the Lord

Misery loves company. Praise God that so does a Spirit filled, joyful
heart! Our churches are packed with Christians who are miserable in their
faith. I feel the need to be really direct here. It is so much more the norm to
be blasé about Jesus than it is to be radically in love or at least striving to be
radically in love with Jesus. I am grateful beyond words for God’s mercy and
patience for us all.
We have become so cautious about “not judging others” that we have
turned our backs on each other. When we are sleepy this way we want to
hear that it is O.K. and we don’t want to be alone in that. It is comforting to
find someone else struggling to pray and connect with God. I don’t mean
comforting in a way that spurs us on to be different but comforting in a way
that keeps us happy in our lazy nap. There have been many times when I
have confessed sin in my behavior or lack of joy in my life or just a general
feeling of not being close to God to other Christians and was told several
reasons why this was O.K. To my shame, I took comfort in this. I didn’t really
want to deal with it anyway so if someone else is relating to me in my sin and
they don’t think it’s much to worry about, why should I? I, again, to my
shame, have also been the one to try to make someone feel better about
their sinful selves. Sin isn’t necessarily or openly condoned but we are much
too casual about it and really don’t want to take the time and energy it may
take to lead that person to God’s word. We don’t really want to get messy
with mourning over their sin with them. We see their comfort as more
important than God’s honor. We don’t really love them because we too are
sleeping and so we are all just O.K. so long as it isn’t anything too overt or
obvious and even then it is not something anyone seems to want to get
involved in. For a Christian to live in a state of not being connected with
Jesus should be a great grief. Instead it has become the normal Christian life
for many. It is far too acceptable. It is too hard to see if someone is in that
state, you might say. Not if YOUR eyes are open!
God has made us to be connected. He has given us His spirit. Those
who are spiritual are to help those of us who are weak. It seems the spiritual
are pitifully outnumbered. If this seems a little brutal, that is certainly not my
intention.

Enough time has been spent patting each other on the back, building bridges
that go to hell and believing the lie of our age that “self esteem” is crucial.
God is working in the hearts of His people continually and mercifully. Are you
missing out on the joy He has for you?

Striving for “goodness” in others:


Another way we tend to live out the “Christian Life” without truly living
for Jesus is by attempting to teach those around us how to behave in “godly”
ways. Much work is done to show lost sinners how much better the world
would be if they would just carry out their lives according to the Bible.
Many dive into social and political arenas to try to raise awareness of what
the Bible teaches. I am certainly no one to dispute this or say that it is
wrong. God appoints His people to many positions; but if the goal is not to
tell and to teach that the human race is lost and dead in their sins and that
only Jesus can save them, then what is the point? We do not reflect the heart
of Christ by talking about the fruit that only he can make one bear and then
demand it of the unrighteous. Lot was tormented by the ungodly ways of the
people he lived in the midst of. If they had suddenly started behaving
(outwardly at least) according to what Lot said they should, would he have
been less tormented? 2 Peter 2:7 refers to Lot as “righteous”. If your
neighbors stopped divorcing and abusing their children, and drinking, and
cheating on their taxes because you told them all that was wrong, what will
you have accomplished? Maybe for some there is a sense of superiority.
Others may gain a feeling of accomplishing some good. Jesus did not walk
around handing out “to do “lists. He told people to repent: no apologies.
Abortion, murder, theft, homosexuality, growing sexual sins, these are
just some of the things that the god of this world, Satan, uses to hold people
captive to his will. That is what should torment us. People are dying in their
sins every moment of every day. That is what we should be grieved by. Many
of those held captive and in great pain this moment are chosen by God and
waiting for us to bring them the light of the gospel. That is what we should
be motivated by.

Lk 11:46
“For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves
do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

We have been given the very Spirit of God who gives us understanding
of His word. Let us wield the sword of the truth to fight the true enemy of all
of our souls
We can’t “save the world” in the sense of making it a better place.
Why would we want to? The great love of Jesus has not been poured out for
us to spend our energy trying to fix the world. Is it possible that American
Christians are full of love for the world? If the world around us would do
things our way it would be so much easier to dig in and settle down with
some sense of peace. I know God continues to convict and cleanse my heart
with regards to this sin. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
How do I love my child by teaching him or her how to behave
according to the Bible without making the greater priority the awareness of
their sin and, even more importantly, who can set them free? We may go to
great lengths to teach our children to repeat what they’ve been told and to
mimic behavior. What they need is God’s Spirit to sustain them.
Well-behaved children certainly are a blessing but if we are seeking to put
them in our crowns like little jewels to show how “godly” our lives are then
our vision is skewed. We need to examine our motives in teaching our
children and assess what we really want for them to know. We may be
teaching them that secular knowledge is more important than godliness. If
getting them into a good college and helping them achieve success in this
world is more important than spiritual success, you can be sure they know it.
God is generous and often makes paths for us that go through areas of great
education, good salaries, happy families and more! My point is that if our
concern for our children’s welfare primarily consists of how well they do here
on earth as the world sees success than we cannot hope they will see Christ
in us. Christ in us will expose our hopes for them to know Jesus and to live
Him. Many of us have children that are saved. Are they getting the message
that He is returning one day but until then they should settle in as well as
they can? Or do they know that each step, wherever they may go is directed
by God, for God? Do they speak of goals of wife, family, money, retirement,
and then just die?
Or do they gush with dreams of what awesome things God will show them
and let them be a part of when they step out into the great big world? If we
are living fully for God, our children will see us make decisions based on His
honor rather than what will bring the most success. Do we want to see our
children live “risky” lives full of God’s Spirit or would we rather they are just
“safe”?
The best thing any of us can do for our children is to snuggle up as
close to Jesus as is possible. We typically want more for our children than we
have had. If we are busy trying to wrestle as much out of this life as we can
get it is reasonable that what we will want for our children is more of this life
and what the world can offer than what we have had. We want them to have
a bigger “slice of life”. I believe it is a God given love that desires for our
children do better than we have. Whatever it is that we have worked the
hardest for and value most is what we are going to direct our children to.
The message of the world, especially to women, is to put ourselves
first. The happier you are, the happier your family will be. If you are satisfied
and healthy then your children will be also because you will be better
equipped to care for them. This runs against the grain of Christianity. Or does
it? Not if our greatest value and pursuit is Jesus Christ. We must put
ourselves first – on our faces before the Lord. If there is anything in us that
wants our children to know Jesus, we will desire to continually have Him in
the front of our minds. They must see Jesus in us and that doesn’t happen in
a vacuum. Whatever we hold most dear is what we will press on our children.
We must hold our relationship to Jesus above all if we have any hope of
communicating the precious salvation we have in him. Until our children are
saved by God, through faith in Jesus Christ, they are dead in their sins. They
are not lagging behind; they are not “Christians who just aren’t living it right
now”. They are among the walking dead. I hope that stings your heart like it
does mine. They will model themselves after their parents for the most part.
If Jesus is just a hobby for us, they may “put on” our religion and some will
wander miserably for years before realizing they never really knew Him.
Many never will realize it. We can continue to fritter away the time God has
given us but it will be at a price.
I am not suggesting that it is your responsibility to save your child,
that would make you… well, God. If you have a relationship with Jesus, you
have a responsibility to represent Jesus interests to your child, not your own.
Are we at times trying to protect our children from God? We certainly can’t
protect them from the world and teaching them to blend in as much as
possible isn’t doing them any favors. This is not our home!

1 Pet 2:11
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the
passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

We are sojourners here on earth. We are not supposed to feel all at


home and comfy. Our very nature calls to us to be “at home” and to be
comfortable; Jesus knows that. It is why He gives us His Spirit. He knows we
are prone to want to be as happy, healthy and comfortable as possible. All of
that is given to us in Christ. When we see HIS greatness our idea of comfort
changes and we have true happiness, true health of spirit and true comfort in
His arms. It’s a long haul, yes! But so is a drive across the country. You don’t
just stop and live in Iowa or something because you forgot where you were
going or for some reason it just doesn’t seem as appealing as it once did. This
is not our destination! We need to keep moving.
Let us pray, daily, for a fresh look at Jesus. Let us ask with reverence
and certainty for our hearts to be heated in love with Jesus. Let us think
about the home we have with Him and all Jesus did to obtain it for us.
Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for all that belong to him this very
minute. What a dishonor it is to Him that we are perfectly happy right where
we are. This is not the end of the rainbow!

Going :

One of the most wonderful things about living in America is the


freedom we have to hold public events for pretty much anything. Christians
have wonderful opportunities to express themselves here and to hold a
myriad of events. We’ve got retreats, conferences, seminars, concerts,
“revivals”, and “healing services”. We have made a little society of
Christianity. We practically have our own language.
Whatever ails you can be cured by a Christian event. For some, the
length of the list of the names they can drop adds to the reality of their
salvation. If we are not seeking Jesus to fill us up, this is one way we can try
to assure ourselves of our faith. We can deceive ourselves that we are
faithful by all the events we attend and the books we read. Before I met
Jesus, I didn’t even know there were “Christian Stores”. I went to a bookstore
to buy my first bible. I was clueless to the fact that there were radio stations
that played music about Jesus. I found it amazing that I could go to a
“Christian Store” and buy anything from a concordance to a key chain. I
remember thinking I had been made privy to a little underground world. I
had no idea there were so many Christians that they would actually have
their own businesses. We have Christian counselors, comedians, divorce
lawyers, mortgage companies, and doctors. You name it and someone will
“bless it”. God’s people are to work for their bread. If one has a business or
trade, it is a gift of provision from God. But if one is advertising his
“Christian” business as a means to a better or new money source, it seems
suspect that the goal is to glorify God. It is certainly not up to me to say that
these things are not beneficial, but it is a good idea to think about what we
are busy with and what benefit it has for the body of Christ. We have so
much freedom to speak freely about the grace given us in Jesus and yet that
is exactly what is heard the least. Maybe that is why we have so much
freedom to speak. We are no threat to the god of this world. I dare say we
are often, unknowingly, his allies.

The third chapter of 2 Timothy warns us of those who have an


appearance of godliness but deny its power. “Avoid such people.” Paul writes
to Timothy. We have at our disposal an abundance of instructions on how to
have godly families and businesses. There are many that can tell us what to
do in any situation and give a solution that meets the approval of other
Christians. If there is any event, book or song that leads us to repentance
and causes us to desire Jesus more, we should be grateful to God for that gift.
If these things cause us to think more about ourselves and our position and
how we can better ourselves and how glad we are that God just can’t live
without us then we should consider avoiding them. We would do well to
examine the goal of the advice offered. If it appears that the goal is to make
your life better, here on earth, it may not benefit you if you belong to Jesus
because He did not promise that for us. If the goal is to make you more
aware of God’s greatness, it is a great benefit to you and it will make your life
here better as well because this falls in line with the promises of God. There
is not a list of “good” or “bad” in this area. We must continually call out to
God to guard our hearts and fill ourselves with the knowledge of Him. God
delights to do us good and all our good gifts come from him. Personally, I do
not need to be encouraged to think more highly of myself than I ought. It
comes naturally to me. I am sick to death of turning on the radio to hear
someone sing about how special we are to God. We have fallen into the trap
of thinking that we all just need a little more self-esteem. The faith that God
gives does not say “you are good enough for God; He loves you just like you
are.”
The faith that comes from God through Jesus says, “I am good enough to
cover your filthy sins and because of me you are loved and accepted just as
you are.” Oh, how happy we are when we put our eyes on Jesus and see our
poverty before Him!

Matt 5:3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Our great God is eager to pour out His blessing on us through Jesus.
Matt 6:31-33
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘what shall we eat?’ or ‘What
shall we drink’ or “What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after
all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need
them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.”

Certainly, we don’t worry about food and clothing in this bountiful land.
We don’t really know hunger. We think it is a crime to not have three meals
each day. How many barely have one! The hunger we have is more urgent
than for food.

Hosea 4:6
My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge;

We have great pains and illnesses of soul that drive us to search out
comfort and advice. This life strikes hard blows of death, divorce, rebellious
children and we can desperately seek out the guidance of others. Let us cry
out to Jesus first and He will align our thinking with His and bring into our
lives those He has appointed to help us in our time of need.
God does not think your needs are unimportant. He cares about our
every need. He is willing to help us in every instance.

His love comes to us not because we are so special but because He has
given us the very special name of Jesus and that means everything. He is
ever about making the greatness of the name of Jesus known. If you have
been given His great name you can be sure He will be diligent to make you
see it as great. Call Him on it. In reverence and humility, call Him on his
zealousness for His Glory and you will see more of the greatness of God in
every situation. The wisdom of men is only as good as the degree of what
has been given them by God. If it is uncertain, pray, ask, read your bible and
God will lead you. It is a sad thing that the power of God is only seen as
great when we get a new car or someone is made well. His power is great
when you are potty training your toddler or talking to a cantankerous relative.
It is hard to remember that God knows the number of our hairs and that such
a great God is interested in the very details of our lives. We can’t very well
expect Him to trust those details to us, can we? We are not to be trusted –
only the Spirit of God can lead us safely through any given day.
We Christians here in America are a busy people. We are busy going
and doing and shopping. One thing we seem to be busy with is church
shopping. We are great shoppers! We have our lists of what we want and
what we deem we need and what we are willing to live without. It seems this
same method is applied whether shopping for groceries, a spouse or sadly, a
church. The idea that we are to find our local church family based on our own
desires rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit is just one more symptom of
how we have fallen prey to the thinking of the world. We put the needs of our
families in our own hands. We forget that we are sheep and often don’t even
ask the shepherd for direction. Certainly, our intentions are good but our
methods are not. When we are wise in our own estimation we leave
ourselves wide open for the enemy to tempt us to critical thinking.
Any local church is going to display less than godly qualities at some
time. If we are watching and waiting for that to happen we are missing what
God is doing in that place and missing our part in it. What does God say
about the church and our role in it? Plenty! We will not go into all that now
but we need to keep in mind that the popular approach in seeking a church is
possibly not the best. Many of us do not want to be connected to others. It is
a hassle, getting to know new people. Maintaining the masquerade of doing
fine when we aren’t or caring when we don’t can make us weary and it is just
easier to avoid it. After all, don’t we have to do that all week at work? Why
mess up the weekend? In asking a young lady if she knew a certain person
that attended her church, she replied that she did not; “I just go there for the
Lord” was how she put it. I was a little shocked. Can you attend church “for
the Lord” with no interest in the others going? Apparently, she thinks so and
I don’t think that opinion is uncommon.

Phil 2:1
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love,
any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete
my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in
full accord and of one mind.

God often meets the needs of His own through personal contact and
interaction with His own. It is usually humiliating and always time consuming
but absolutely more satisfying and effective than all the books and speakers
put together. It is God’s way. What is it that we are still here for anyway? If
church attendance is just another thing to do that makes us O.K. with God,
we may as well stay home and wash our cars. Many Christians are working
very hard to not be caught off guard. It is much harder to keep running
around that it is to run to Jesus and let it all go.

Your enemy, the devil, will have you think it is hard to get to God, that it
requires an impossible schedule of bible reading and prayer time that you,
frankly, have no desire for. Blessed brother and sister KNOW whom it is that
you believe.

Matt 11:28
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and
lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is
easy, and my burden is light.”

Who will you believe? If you are even a little weary of spinning and
toiling in your faith then go to the author and perfector of your faith. Do not
pay one ounce of attention to the thoughts that Satan will bring telling you
not to go, that you are O.K., that Jesus will just make it all harder. If you are
truly known by Jesus, you have eternity to be close to Him. But you only
have a brief time to participate in what He is doing on this earth. He has
called you to participate now. Will you hear Him and go to Him and let Him
give you rest? If you feel very, very far away – just ask. If all you can do is
ask “help”, ask for that. Ask again tomorrow and every time it comes to mind
and God will answer. He will because He said he would. Who are you going
to believe?

Romans 8:26-27
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know
what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts
knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes
for the saints according to the will of God.

Staying Away:

We are a needy people, fragile and deceptive. Some of us build walls


of money, others build fences of “good works” and yet others build up
barricades against the world made of disciplines and rules. I am talking
about those driven by fear of being tainted by the world and using the Bible
as a means to finding the right things to hem them in. Chasing after the
world and chasing after religion are not really different. Both are an attempt
to gain assurance that we our standing with God is O.K. We cannot
manufacture fruit. Only God can bring fruit forth from His branches that are
connected to the vine of Jesus Christ. All of our “won’t do’s” can become our
towers of refuge from the world. We can get so busy protecting ourselves
and our families from the world that we lose sight of those who are needy
and hurting within it. Hemming ourselves in can lead to temptations to take
credit for our “holiness” and to be critical of others. We may feel sorry for
those who don’t know the Lord, out there, wallowing in their sin, but that is
not the same as empathizing with them in their weakness and need, and
actually communicating to them the solution. It is easy to be removed from
people and to think they have brought on their own tragedy in forgetfulness
of our own desperation. When God is our tower of refuge, we are ever aware
of our need of cleansing and so are able and willing to see Him love others
through us. Keeping oneself pure has nothing to do with where you lock
yourself up but with whom you are locked up with. It is God who keeps us.
We will make mistakes whether others see us do it or not.
We need a renewing of our minds to keep us from being polluted in the
world. Those we are so afraid of associating with desperately need what we
have – the knowledge of Jesus Christ. They need us to let them in and be
willing to share our lives.
I do not suggest we go against the convictions of our hearts from God
that each family must have. It does seem, however, that these “convictions”
can be piled up around us as safeguards instead of God himself being our
safeguard. Worse yet is when they become “badges of honor”. It seems
there are times when we can be so eager to tell people of the things we don’t
participate in as if that proves something. What makes Christians different is
not what we have abstained from but the freedom we have. We have
freedom from the ruling of temptations within and without. If we have
opportunity to share why we don’t feel it is right to participate in certain
activities, let us start with how Jesus has set us free rather than how God has
locked us up. We deceive ourselves if we think that by keeping any of our
“rules” that we do anything in the cleansing or keeping of our hearts. Jesus
warned that unless the disciples let Him wash their feet they had no part with
him. (John 13:8). They had obviously been out walking – in the world, among
sinners, to be in need of cleansing. And even if they had stayed in, they
would have needed it just as much.

Mark 7:15
“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile
him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

Each of us has areas where we are weak in our faith. Let us seek the
wisdom of God in how to manage our households. Let us determine with
humility and honesty those areas we do not feel are best for us to enter into
for our benefit and for others.

1Cor 10:23
‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ’All things are
lawful,’ but not all things build up.

John 17:15 Jesus prayed


“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep
them from the evil one.”

Jesus prayed that we would not be removed from the world but kept
from the evil one in it. If he didn’t see fit to remove us – we shouldn’t either.
It is God who keeps us.

1 Cor 9:18
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all,
that I might win more of them.

Paul was not afraid to connect himself to those unlike himself. He was
not afraid his faith would wear off. Fear will drive us but love will lead us.
Perfect love will cast out all fear. May God’s mercy rain down on us to show
us our needs and weaknesses that we may see others as more like us in their
own fears and identify with them in their needs. May He impress on our
hearts the insanity of fearing anyone or anything other than Him – the one
and only mighty and glorious God of the universe. Let us ask God to check
our hearts with regard to the motive of keeping certain rules and regulations
and traditions. He who knows our hearts will be faithful to reveal what we
need to see. The question is whether or not we are willing to see what He
may show us.

Saying:
We walk in our sleep and we talk in our sleep. Hollow prayers and
hollow singing in worship do not honor God. We may feel that there is a
minimum that is expected from us. Expected by whom? Often when we feel
far away from God we go into auto-pilot rather than going to God. Our
prayers can become simply words of habit and the songs we would like to
sing from hearts of love can become a matter of duty.

Matt. 5:8-9 Jesus quotes Isaiah


“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from
me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the
commandments of men.’ “

Matt. 6:7
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles
do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

Let us remember that our heavenly Father hears our prayers, when we
pray to Him. If we are praying out of obligation or to impress others, we have
no promise that He hears us. Are we expecting to be heard? It is so easy for
us to be removed from the reality of God in any and every moment of our
lives. We have His word that He will not remove Himself from His children.
We so often fall to the temptation to go through the motions of religion. May
God awaken us to an awareness of our poverty. How can we worship Him in
song and honor Him with our prayers when we have no feeling for it? We
cannot base our faith on how we feel, true. However, if we have no feeling
for prayer, we will not do it. If we have no feeling for worshipping God in
singing His praises as a church congregation, we will only recite words like
children giving the “right” answers. We must confess our lack of affection for
God to God and ask Him, over and over, to ignite our hearts. Have we
become so accustomed to having no feeling toward God that we have come
to accept it as proper?
God has so much more for us than empty words and guilty hearts.
There is no point in being ashamed of what we cannot be without the Spirit of
God and so trying to cover it up. The shame is in not asking the Holy Spirit to
give us the affection for God that we naturally lack! If we find ourselves on
Sunday morning, or any morning, saying words to God that have no thought
or feeling, let us stop and be silent before Him. Let us be honest with
ourselves, God, and each other about the constant pull our flesh has on us to
draw us away from God and stop pretending that all is well so long as our lips
are moving.

Matt. 12:34b
“For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

How we try to wiggle around this truth by saying “the right thing” with
no real love for “the right thing”. Or we try to make ourselves holy by saying
nothing. Jesus gives us a beautiful opportunity here to gauge our hearts if we
will be honest about what it shows us. If we can speak, we are speaking
about something. We will talk about what and whom we love. The Bible
speaks so much about our use of words; it is a little overwhelming. Let us
use His word as a gauge to tell us what is in our hearts. It is a grievous thing
when God’s people gather together and talk about everything temporal and
few things eternal.

Merciful God, give us ears to really hear ourselves speak that we may be
broken in our hearts and repentant when our words indicate that our hearts
are full of anything other than you.

There is much that can be said about what is not said. How can the
body be built up if we withhold ourselves from each other? Pride can keep us
from being exposed to ridicule and the hassles of sharing what is going on in
our lives. It also keeps us from being built up and building others up. If we
are waiting for eloquence – let us be reminded of Moses and his self-
consciousness before God at the burning bush. Let God decide by His Spirit
and His Word what is proper to share and when. We desperately need a
desire for God’s Spirit to even begin in building up or being built up. It might
be good for us to focus on the level of desire in our hearts to draw near to
God and let Him draw us to others.

Desire for darkness:

One who sleeps desires the dark and is irritated with the light. So it is
when we are sleepy in our faith. We may harbor evil thoughts of selfishness,
have a critical way about us, display worldliness and always seek to justify
ourselves as the Spirit of God convicts us. The desire for darkness is the
motivation for much of our self-righteous behaviors
Focus on self is our sinful nature’s way of survival. We all will fight this
nature to the end. When we become our main concern and that settles into a
way of life for us, we are in the dark. In putting our selves first, there must be
a basis for that so we begin to criticize others as a means of lifting ourselves
up. We begin to stumble around in the dark. Now that we have established
ourselves as our lives focus, we busy ourselves in making ourselves happy.
At this point we have forgotten what it means to truly be happy and satisfied
in Christ so we return to our old way of filling up our lives. Certainly there is
temperance in our searching; that is part of our self-justification. We console
ourselves that while we probably aren’t really living for Jesus in the way we
ought to, we certainly are a far cry from the deeds of the unsaved and for the
most part we are still doing better than many “Christians” we know.
Things done in the darkness are things that are done in secret. Our
self- righteousness demands that the true state of our hearts be concealed
from others. We have lost touch with what is really important and feel
disconnected or maybe misunderstood by those whom seem to really want to
know how our relationship with God is going. We lack a desire for
accountability. It all just seems a bit too demanding. After all, we are busy
people. Who has time to read the Bible and pray? How sad it is when we
forget the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As our position in Christ
seems less and less real to us we lose our desire to be a vital part of the body
of Christ. When we are not seeing Him in ourselves, we aren’t seeing Him in
others either. We fail to see the point of spending time and energy on the
people in our church body. We will continue the charade so far as it soothes
our conscience. We will keep it together, at least publicly so that we do not
have to deal too closely with the people around us.
The problem with the natural conscience is that it does not hold up
well to long- term exposure. Many, who have not truly received Christ,
cannot stand under the pressure and are led away. Praise be to the one and
only living God! Were it not for His commitment to His Word and
consequently to us who have received his Spirit, there wouldn’t be a single
person who loves Jesus today. If you find yourself in this place of desiring
darkness, know you are not alone. Don’t let that knowledge be an occasion
to soothe yourself, but let it be an occasion to recognize that your nature is
the same as all human natures; contrary to God.

It must be fought, laid down, killed. God offers the power to accomplish
that. You do not fight alone, but you must fight. Your own thinking will not
bring you through to victory; you must take all of God’s word as true and see
yourself clearly in it.

Gal. 5:16-17
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of
the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the
desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to
each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Let us be encouraged in knowing that the Spirit of God is opposed to


our flesh. The Spirit of God is stronger than our sinful flesh, if He were not,
how could we even be saved?

One of the indications that we may be wandering toward a desire for


darkness and secrecy is a lack of desire and understanding of God’s word.
When we are sleepy, the last thing we want is for someone to fling on the
light! When we were children of the devil, our hearts were hard and void of
understanding. Those who knew God’s truth could be an irritation but only to
the extent that God was convicting our hearts of sin. Now that we are
children of the Most High God, let us embrace His conviction as a precious
gift. When we find ourselves desiring everything but spending time in God’s
word and talking to Him in prayer, let the red flags fly in our hearts that we
are being drawn into darkness. Is it possible that this may be one reason why
people feel so free to criticize the leaders of their church and others who try
to encourage them in their weak faith? I feel there may be many of us who
have wasted God given time trying to protect our dark cocoons. The last
thing we want in that state is someone who knows God’s word telling us what
we ought to be doing or feeling. Our pride will drive us to jealousy and
hatred; not exactly the work God has planned for us.
Satan loves to try to get us alone in the darkness and one of his tools is
to tempt us to play the victim. It is very popular in our society today to be a
victim of something or someone. Embracing false humility is a perfect way
for a backsliding Christian to be a victim. When we are motivated by self pity
this way we read God’s word with the idea that all the miraculous promises
are for someone else. If only we could just be like so and so.
We can cling to past hurts as if they somehow disable God from using us.
Putting stock in our personality faults and calling it humility is a disgrace of
God’s name. The Spirit of God is the same in all of God’s children! Much of
this is a cop out from submitting to God. Certainly, He has made us all
different. Paul exhorts us to desire the gifts of God and if someone else is
gifted and inspires us to pray for that gift with a God honoring motive – then
pray away. However, if we are waiting to turn into someone else or
submitting ourselves to one therapy after another to answer all of our
insecurities, we are missing a great opportunity to see God’s power in us. It
is God who has chosen the foolish ones. It is not as though we were all He
could get. When God makes a move through us that is totally contrary to
whom we are personally then He is magnified in us. Embrace your ugliness
so that when God changes you, you won’t forget it but will always be able to
testify to how He has worked in your life. As long as we live on this earth, we
will always be less than God’s word demands and what we desire to be. Is
that not, in part, the idea of us staying here? Why did God not just remove us
when He saved us? Why does He put up with us at all? Because the name of
Jesus is seen as great when we frail chosen ones love Him and adore Him and
talk about Him and teach His ways. I realize this is oversimplified for those
who are theology minded, but you get my point.

Another aspect of being a victim and copping out of our responsibility


in our relationship with God is the tendency to put it off on someone else.
Blaming someone else is as old as humanity and it is still a favorite. It
sounds a little like this: “My pastor isn’t what I need him to be. My husband
doesn’t do this or that. If only my wife would be such and such. Maybe when
my kids are older I will have more time. My boss has me stressed out. I don’t
make enough money.” When our hearts are sleepy we can be like children
waiting for Mom to get us up, dressed and fed. Wives; Jesus is the author of
your faith, not your husband. Husbands, it is God’s heart you are to pursue
above all, not your wife’s.
A true child of God cannot be truly happy away from Jesus. If your
heart is aching with longing for Him, take comfort in knowing your longing is
God’s Spirit in you. But don’t stop with that. Go to the one who gives
comfort and have your heart healed and changed. Do not settle for less!!
Ask for God to show you how amazing he is. The more you ask, the
more of Him you will see, the more you see, the more of Him you will know
that you need and so by his grace there is made a beautiful cycle of
dependence that he has designed for his glory. If you are headed the other
way; you don’t ask, you don’t see God’s greatness, you are less inclined to
ask and you go into a spiral of replacing Him with other things in your life.
You need to turn around; you need to repent. If you don’t know how to ask,
ask Him how. If you don’t know what exactly you need to ask for, ask God to
show you. If you don’t really want to ask but know you need to, ask him for a
desire to desire. Further still? Ask him for the desire to want to desire. Ask
him to break in to where ever you are. Have you become convinced that
you’ve gone too far for him to care? Don’t pretend to be otherwise; but ask
Him to open your eyes. We can only go from where we are. It does no good
to pretend we are so much further than we really are. If you are walking with
your Lord, you know it. If you’re not, I ‘m quite sure you have a desire, even
if it’s just a glimmer. If you’re not sure, possibly you are one of the many who
have grown up hearing the truth of Jesus and have never actually come to be
in a relationship with Him. Asking is still for you. Don’t waste time wondering
where you stand. Jesus knows where you are and what you need. Don’t wait
but go now to the one who is able to bring you into His family forever. Just as
Jesus was the only one who could die so that you could be forgiven, He is the
only one who can help you now. If you have come to realize you have been
living a lie, go to Him. He will not turn you away.

John 6:37
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to
me I will NEVER cast out”

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