Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Response To "The Poem"

(a response to a friend of mine who asked me what I thought of this poem)

First the poem:

I knelt to pray but not for long…

I knelt to pray but not for long,
I had too much to do.
I had to hurry and get to work
For bills would soon be due.

So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,
And jumped up off my knees.
My duty was now done
My soul could rest at ease.
All day long I had no time
To spread a word of cheer.
No time to speak of the Almighty to friends,
They’d laugh at me I’d fear.

No time, no time, too much to do,
That was my constant cry,
No time to give to souls in need
But at last the time, the time to die.

I went before the Most High,
I came, I stood with downcast eyes.
For in His hands God held a book;
It was the book of life.

God looked into his book and said
“Your name I cannot find.
I once was going to write it down…
But never found the time”

My response:

That first section tells us the core problem, and foreshadows what the entire poem will be about:  The person in the poem has a major issue of the heart.

Matthew 6:21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

It's easy for people to say that they care about something, but when they dedicate the majority of their time to things other than the "something" they claim to care about, they show their true colors.

One immediate example that comes to mind are diehard Facebook users.  The first thing they do when they get up in the morning is check to see if they have any new notifications, and then they start checking their feed or play a Facebook game.  Then they check it again before they start work.  Then they check it on their break.  Then they spend their entire lunch hour browsing their feed.  Then they check it quick before dinner.  Then they spend the rest of the night on there after they put their kids to bed.

Their treasure (and their heart) is in Facebook.

I know that can sound extreme and kinda brutal, but it's a sad reality for a lot of people :(.  And whether people want to admit it or not, when people obsess about things like Facebook or drugs or any number of things, they're "worshiping" those "things"; those "things" become a "god" in their life.  And God commands us not to do that (Exodus 20:3 - Thou shalt have no other gods before me.)

If we were to use the poem writer as an example, we might say that his/her "treasure" is in the "constant busyness of life" (sadly, many people are like this :(....  They always put their chores and busyness of life before the other things that should be more important).

The next verse that comes to mind is Luke 6:45 - ...for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

A paraphrase of that verse might sound like this:  "The words that someone consistently speaks are a direct representation of what's in that person's heart".  One example of that could be one of those people that everyone has experienced at one time or another - it's the person who's always got an attitude, never smiles, and they're always talking like their pissed off at everyone and everything.  Their outward appearance, actions and words are a direct representation of what's in their heart (they're miserable and unhappy).

The next verse that comes to mind is Proverbs 4:23 - Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

One way of interpreting that verse from Proverbs is like this: "Guard your gates (your eyes, ears, mouth, and essentially your spirit; what's coming in and going out) and guard your thinking, because your life will be directly effected by what comes in through your gates and what goes out from your gates".  Or, "be careful and thoughtful about every decision and action you make, because those decisions and actions will shape your future".

First and foremost, we have to guard our gates, because what comes in or goes out will have a direct effect on our thinking; and our thinking will shape everything else (I'll talk more about this a little bit later).

Let's look at our "gates" in more detail:
1. We should be guarding our eyes; we don't need to see everything that's possible to see in this life.  Some things are better left unseen (seeing a car wreck for instance, where a person's body is all mangled - or watching a horror movie).  Some people say they "love watching horror movies because they're so scary".  But when people watch horror movies, they're literally opening their hearts to a spirit of evil.

2. We should be guarding our ears; we don't need to hear everything that's possible to hear in this life.  Example: A child is born knowing very little about themselves and the world around them; they have to learn it over the course of their childhood.  Now let's imagine a child who lives in a home where the father is a miserable drunk.  If the father continually tells the child on a daily basis, "you're no good" or "you're never going to amount to anything", the child will be at a disadvantage of "believing" the lies that the father keeps telling him/her (Proverbs 23:7For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he).

3. We should be guarding our mouths; in more ways than you might imagine.  There's the obvious one where we should be careful about what we eat or drink (alcohol for instance is basically liquid poison that has seriously harmful effects on our bodies).  But there's another majorly important one: we have to be careful about what we "say".

Quick segue: God tells us in His Word (in Genesis 1) that one of the early principles/laws we should be aware of is the law of sowing and reaping.  There are MANY examples of this in the bible, but one that immediately comes to mind is Galatians 6:7 - ...for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  We can sow and reap good things, or we can sow and reap bad things.

There are MANY ways to "sow".  One way is by speaking words.  If a friend of yours is always talking negative (whether it's complaining, or talking bad about others, etc), if you keep hanging around that person, their negative words are going to have a negative effect on you (even if it's something as simple as "Man, listening to this guy complain all the time is bumming me out! I gotta stop hanging out with him because I don't wanna be bummed out every time he comes around!").

Another way to "sow" is by "thinking".  If a negative thought comes into our mind, and we make the mistake of entertaining it, it can eventually dominate our thoughts.  One example of this is a drug addict who wants to quit doing drugs, but he/she still wrestles with the initial "feeling of getting high".  If he/she makes the decision to stop doing drugs, but a thought comes into their mind about how good it would feel to get high, if they don't get rid of that thought quickly, he/she will continue thinking about it (entertaining the idea), which could eventually lead to getting high again.

Matthew 9:4 - And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?

If Jesus was with the person from our previous example, where the drug addict started entertaining the thought of getting high, He might say something similar to what He said in Matthew 9:4 ("Why are you entertaining those evil thoughts? They'll only lead to your destruction!").

4. OK, now let's talk about the last one; our spirit.  Just like our bodies need food and water on a daily basis to stay "fueled", our spirits need "food" on a daily basis as well.  We don't eat food and say "that'll keep me full for the next week", but yet so many "Christians" think they only need to "eat" on Sunday (when they go to church one day per week).  We can't "get faith" one day, and then expect to survive on that faith days later.  We need to be filling ourselves every day (getting faith every day).

Look at the example of when the Israelites were in the wilderness and they had to collect manna every morning (Exodus 16).  They couldn't collect "extra" and save it for the next day.  They could only collect once per day (except on the sixth day, but that's a different conversation all together), and they could only eat what they collected that day (they had to depend on each day for each day's supply).  It's the same with faith.  We can't go to church on Sunday, get filled up with faith, and then expect to make it the entire week off that one day of fuel.

Sorry, gotta segue again on that one, lol.  "Church" is not actually a "place"; it's "people".  WE as Christians ARE "the church" (the body of Christ).

OK, referring back to "faith" and how to get it:  The bible says that cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

There are three ways that "faith comes by hearing":
     1. We silently read God's Word (or the faith-filled, Holy Spirit inspired words of a godly friend) and we hear the Holy Spirit speak to our heart.

     2. We read aloud God's Word (or the faith-filled, Holy Spirit inspired words of a godly friend) and we hear the Holy Spirit speak to our heart while/through hearing our own voice speak.

     3. We listen to a pastor or friend speak God's Word (or faith-filled, Holy Spirit inspired words) and as we listen to the words being spoken, we hear the Holy Spirit speak to our heart.

OK, continuing on - let me reference our ears again: we should be guarding our "ears".  We don't need to hear everything that's possible to hear in this life.  For instance, there's a lot of music that sounds great, but the lyrics are horrible.  And worse yet, if we sing "bad lyrics", we're not guarding one of our other gates; our "mouth".

So many choices we make in life, especially when done consistently, will literally lead to life or death (spiritually and sometimes even physically).  So many of the decisions we make (whether it be to say something or not say something, or to do something or not to do something) can have a major impact on our future.  One of the most powerful decisions (and actions) we make are when we speak words.  For instance, people say "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me".  But you know what?... They're full of crap, lol.

The bible has a lot to say about the words we choose to speak (and keep in mind, this isn't a 100% exhaustive list - this is just some of the verses in the bible that talk about the tongue and the power of spoken words):
Proverbs 18:21Death and life are in the power of the tongue...

Proverbs 26:22The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 26:23 - Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.

Proverbs 26:24 - He that hateth dissembleth with his lips...

Proverbs 26:28 - A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it...

James 3:2-12 - For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.  Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.  Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.  For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.  Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

Psalm 52:2The tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.

James 1:19 - Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

Proverbs 18:4 - The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.

Proverbs 18:6-8 - A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.  A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.  The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 15:1-2 - A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.  The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

Proverbs 12:18-19 - There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.  The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

Proverbs 12:13-14The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.  A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth.

Proverbs 12:6The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.

Psalm 141:3Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

Psalm 34:13Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

Proverbs 26:20Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Proverbs 21:23Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.

Matthew 15:11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Proverbs 15:28The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.

Proverbs 15:4A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

1 Peter 3:10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile...

Make no mistake, spoken words are powerful!  Words and actions are seeds, and they can be positive and sown in good soil - or they can be negative and/or sown in bad soil.
(continuing on from my earlier comment of "I'll talk more about this a little bit later")
Here's another example of why guarding our gates (and ultimately our heart/spirit) is so important:

One of two things will shape the way we think: "the world" or "The Word".

1. Either the world will shape the way we think, or God's Word (His Truth) will shape the way we think (our minds / we're either going to have the mind of the world, or we're going to have the mind of Christ).  By the way, 1 Corinthians 2:16 says that, as "believers", we HAVE the mind of Christ (but we have to KNOW it, and we have to DO something about it).

Colossians 2:8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Be sure you are not led away by the teaching of those who have nothing worth saying and only plan to deceive you. That teaching is not from Christ. It is only human tradition and comes from the powers that influence this world.)

2. Our thinking shapes/produces our emotions.  You know how powerful "feelings" can be.  And negative feelings can have a major negative effect on us (and ultimately our destiny).

3. Our emotions produce our decisions (our "will").  Think about how powerful just ONE "bad" decision can be (for example: some people literally have decades of regret over one bad decision they made many years ago).

4. Our decisions produce our actions.  Think about this for a second: You know those times when you're faced with a decision, and you think about the possible consequences of making that decision, and then you act on it (you either decide against doing whatever it is you were considering doing, or you decide to do whatever it is you were considering doing).  That's why it's so important that our hearts and minds are in the right place (the right "frame"); so we'll make the right decisions (which lead to the right actions).

5. Our actions produce our habits.  A simple example of this one is someone who smokes.  The majority of people who smoke don't try it for the very first time and say "Oh man, this is great!".  They smoke multiple times before they get past the initial harshness and crappy taste, but before they know it, they're addicted and can't stop.  That's a perfect example of where I'm going with this whole thing: In a person's heart, they know, in their mind/thinking that smoking is harmful to their health (before they ever actually "decide" to smoke).  But if they don't let that truth shape how they "feel", then they'll make the wrong decision, which leads to the wrong action, which eventually leads to the wrong habit.

Let's look at a more blatant example:  I know how addictive my personality can be.  And I also know how addictive drugs like crack, heroin, meth, etc, can be.  Just knowing those two things protects me from ever doing down a road of destruction.

a. I know the truth, so it shapes the way I think.
b. My thoughts about how addictive and destructive drugs are has a direct impact on how I feel about drugs.
c. My feelings about drugs shape my decision (to NOT do drugs).
d. My decision to not do drugs protects my actions (I take the proper action; I steer clear of drugs).
e. My action to avoid drugs and not do them produces a daily habit of avoiding drugs and not doing them.
f. This leads to #6...

6. Our habits produce our character.  Someone who's got a solid handle on 1-5 (whether it's positive or negative) will end up being someone that you look up to, or someone that you feel sorry for.  You don't have to be "smart" or "a good person" to have a solid handle on 1-5.  Some people are experts at making poor decisions one after another.  But other people become good at making good decisions on a daily basis.

7. Our character produces our destiny.  And when I say "destiny", I don't just mean the last days of someone's life, or "retirement age".  We can arrive at our destiny every day of the week.  And ending up at the wrong destiny day after day will eventually lead someone to a place where their life is almost over but they have more regrets than they can count with regards to the way that they shaped their destiny over the course of their life.

Let me go back to talking about "faith" again for a moment.

Romans 12:3 says ...according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Notice it doesn't say "a measure", but it says "the measure".  God gives EVERY person THE measure (we all get the SAME measure of faith).  But how strong it becomes within us depends on how much we feed our spirits and exercise it (faith).

Hebrews 11:1 says Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

If we have "hope", but we don't have faith, we're only "hoping" that something may or may not happen some day in the future.  But if we have "faith", we HAVE the thing we're hoping for; it becomes ours immediately (we possess it).

Example:  As a believer, before I accepted Jesus' sacrifice (and all that He redeemed me for and from), I had a choice to make:  I could either believe what God says (and act on that belief by accepting the free gift of salvation), or I could refuse to believe what God says (thus acting on that false belief, being forever separated from God in this life and the next life).

That might seem like a confusing example, but here's where I'm going with it:  EVERYONE believes something.  They either believe something that's true, or they believe something that's false.  But either way, no matter what they believe in, they have conviction about their belief; which is actually "faith" (unwavering belief).  They're convinced that what they believe in is "right" (even if sometimes it's not).  So "faith" doesn't always have to be a reference to something "positive".  People have "faith" in wrong things all the time :(...

Side note (for people who say they'll just remain neutral):  In the song "Freewill" by Rush, there's a lyric: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice".  See, it doesn't matter what people say they believe in or don't believe in, or even if they say they're not going to make a decision - every one of those actions is a choice.

Let me expand on this some more:  Non-believers don't have an understanding of what it means to be a Christian, or "how to get to heaven".  And some of them don't want to understand, nor do they want to "go to heaven".  But there are some who are sort of on the fence; they like the idea of going to heaven, but they don't know what it takes to get there.  If they could learn more, they could eventually "make an informed decision".  These people have "hope" (hope that they might be saved someday), but they don't have faith; their hope has no substance yet - it's basically just a "wish" (it may or may not happen - it's just them hoping that something good MIGHT happen someday).  But if that person hears the good news of who Jesus is, why He died and rose again, and what His plan is for their life, their hope can be transformed into faith (and they can know for certain that they have what they believe).

This makes me think of two verses:
Mark 11:24Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

Matthew 21:22 - ...whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

I don't know about you, but when I accepted Christ, I didn't really "feel" any different inside.  And I certainly couldn't "see" God in the flesh or have a physical "claim ticket" from God that proved "You are 100% saved now!".  BUT, I knew in my heart that I was saved; I believed I had received, immediately.

Romans 10:10 - For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Here's another example to drive it home:  If you receive a legitimate call from a man named "Bill", and he works for a legitimate hotel franchise, and he legitimately tells you "You've just won a FREE three-night stay at one of our luxurious hotels.  We'll be mailing you an official claim ticket that you can present to the checkin staff when you arrive.  If you have any trouble, let them know that you got the claim ticket from Bill - here's my phone number as well (815-555-1234).", you may initially think to yourself "this is too good to be true!" (the same thing that many non-believers think the first time they hear about Jesus and salvation...).  But you know that the guy, the hotel, and the "award" are all legitimate - and when the official claim ticket arrives in the mail, you're like "Dang! Here's my official claim ticket!"

When you go to the hotel, you have an unwavering conviction that you're going to be staying there for free; you're expecting it.

Now let's say that, after you arrive at the check-in desk, there's a shady employee there and he's like "This is a mistake, you didn't win a free stay at our hotel.  I'm sorry, you're going to have to pay for your room. (maybe because he wants to rip you off for instance)".  You're gonna be like "I don't think so!  I have an official claim ticket, and I even have Bill's number if you'd like to call and talk to him!"

It's very much the same way with faith and salvation.  God Himself has told us (by His Word and by His Spirit) that He loves us and wants to have an intimate relationship with us, and He's freely given us the gift of salvation through the sacrifice that His Son Jesus made on our behalf.  And for those of us who have firmly believed what God has said and done, and we've received Him into our hearts, we're convinced that we're "saved" (unwavering belief - faith!).

Sometimes the devil will try to fill our heads with lies and get us off track (and ultimately get us to stop believing God and start believing satan and his lies instead), but just like that shady employee at the hotel checkin desk, we're like "Oh no you don't satan!  My salvation has been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus!  I've got my official claim ticket right here, and there's nothing you can do to keep me from it!"

This all started way back in the garden.  God demonstrated His Sovereignty (through all that He created) AND His Love (by creating us in His image and likeness). And after he created Adam and Eve, he proclaimed The Blessing over them AND their descendants (empowering them to prosper in everything that they said and did).  But then satan came along and started spewing lies; trying to get them to believe something other than what God said (which ultimately led to them being deceived).

There's so many things wrong in that early story - things I'd really like to talk more about (with regards to satan of course, and with regards to the way that Adam and Eve handled that situation), but I think that's another topic for another time, lol.

BUT, that doesn't mean I'm done just yet! :D

Another side note:  We believe in God without seeing Him.  Non-believers don't believe in God, because they can't see Him.  I've always been fascinated by this.  Not only because there are so many signs of God in His creation alone, but also because people believe plenty of other things without seeing...

OK, let's go back to talking about "faith".  The bible says "the just shall live by faith" in at least four different books (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38).  The quick "Shuey paraphrase" for that would be "the people who have accepted the free gift of salvation, and thus having been justified and in right standing with God, THEY MUST LIVE BY FAITH".

Ultimately, we need to be living examples of what James 1:22 says - ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

And having faith in what God says will often times mean "going against the grain" or believing in things that seem insane to the rest of the world.  But God never promised that things would always make sense - He's called us to believe and obey what He says, and He's promised to provide for our every need if we do that.

Let's look again at Hebrews 11:1, and let's pay close attention to the first three words: "Now faith is".

Faith is "now".  Faith doesn't say "someday".  Just like our salvation is "a done deal" the moment we believe and receive, everything else with regards to faith is the same way.

I'm gonna go off on a bit of a tangent, but hang in there with me.

Prior to Adam and Eve sinning, the world was perfect.  God created it perfectly (animals didn't kill and eat each other, hurricanes didn't destroy things, etc).  But the moment Adam and Eve sinned, "the curse" came into the world.  And God knew in advance that man's freewill would lead to things going awry - that's why He had to have a "plan B" (God's original plan, "plan A", was the perfect world He created, and mankind created in His perfect image and likeness.  But mankind also has a freewill, and He knew mankind would rebel against Him; mankind would ultimately try to define "good and evil" for themselves, rather than following God's example).

Revelation 13:8 says that Jesus ("the Lamb") was "slain from the foundation of the world".  God knew man was going to fail.  But because He loves us more than we could ever imagine, He provided (in advance) a perfect sacrifice that would permanently "seal our fate" (in a good way!) for anyone willing to believe and receive.

Another quick side-note:  Non-believers always make the comment "How can a loving God send people to hell!?".  The answer to that is not so simple to articulate, but it IS relatively simple, conceptually.

First of all, God created hell for satan and all the angels who willingly decided to rebel against Him (along with satan) - He didn't create hell as a "punishment" for mankind.

Second of all, God is a gentleman.  Just like a good man would never force himself on a woman who wanted nothing to do with him, God will not force himself on anyone who will not receive Him.  People who have willingly resisted God and said that they want nothing to do with Him, they will get exactly what they want in the next life because hell is ultimately a place where its inhabitants are permanently separated from God.  Why would God force someone to spend eternity with Him if they've spent a lifetime on earth resisting Him?  That would be like a man on earth pursuing a woman his entire life, all while she continues to resist him, constantly saying "leave me alone!", but then when they both die, he forces the woman to spend all the rest of eternity with him.  It makes no more sense in that example than it does for God to do the same thing with anyone on earth who refuses Him.

OK, back to "faith", again!  Now let's look at "healing".

God's Word says in 1 Peter 2:24 "by whose stripes ye were healed".  Notice it says "WERE healed".  Healing is a "provision".  It's part of the "salvation package".  When Jesus died and rose again, defeating sin and death, He redeemed us from "the curse" and everything that goes with it (sickness, poverty, etc).  1 Peter 2:24 is essentially saying "Jesus took all your sickness on the cross, buried it in His death, and defeated it when He rose again".  Matthew 8:17 also speaks of this by saying that Jesus "took our infirmities, and bare our sickness".

Galatians 3:13 - Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.

So if He took our infirmities, and bore our sickness, and if by His stripes we WERE healed (ultimately before the foundation of the world - before we were ever born), then we have to act on that truth - we know in our hearts and minds that God's Word is true, which should shape how we feel about that truth (convicted/convinced), and we should ultimately make a decision to act on what we KNOW.

Another quick segue: "Knowing" is not always "knowing".  Our circumstances can say "Dude, you're sick! You clearly have all the symptoms of a sick person (coughing, sneezing, stuffy head, etc)", but God's Word/God's Truth trumps circumstances.  I'm not saying that we have to deny circumstances.  If a cold has come against us, clearly there are physical signs of the sickness.  But what I AM saying is that we, as children of the Most High living God... we SHOULD be resisting sickness.  We don't deny its existence, but we SHOULD be denying its power and/or authority over us.  Sickness is not from God, which means it can only be from one place; satan.

James 4:7 tells us to "Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

When sickness comes against us, we have a choice.  We can either do like the world does and simply accept it as something that we supposedly have no control over, or we can act on the dominion that Christ empowered us with, and we can resist sickness; standing on our promised healing (part of our "salvation package").

Deuteronomy 30:19-20I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:  That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days...

We don't need to ask God to heal us.  He already did that before we ever existed in the physical realm.

When God's Spirit was moving upon the face of the waters, and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Genesis 1:2), God didn't say "Oh man, this sucks!  It's dark!  I wish it would be light!".  God used faith-filled words to speak "Let there be light", and there was light (Genesis 1:3).

It's the same with our "benefits" as believers.  We have to know what our benefits are, and we have to act on that knowledge (following the appropriate spiritual laws).

Notice in that last sentence, I said "spiritual laws" again (I said it way earlier in this letter).  Just like there's the "law of gravity", there are spiritual laws; such as "faith worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6).

Let me list a few verses about love and why it's so important:
Matthew 22:36-39Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

(another quick note: we as believers can't love God without trusting Him - and we can't trust Him without loving Him)

Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!

God IS love, and He wants us to walk in love because "love never fails".

OK, I'm gonna end it there, but I still wanna talk about some other things after you've had time to digest all of this (things like: God's command to Adam and Eve in the garden; Genesis 1:28 / "Identity" and how important it is; John 10:10 / "Confession" and what it really means).

Friday, September 1, 2017

How To Tell Where Your Life Is Headed

(from Terri Savelle Foy)

Have you ever felt trapped or stuck in life even though you've worked so hard to make a change?

Some people spend years trying to obtain the missing piece that will bring the breakthrough, cause transformation, and propel them to their dreams.

I meet people in conferences around the world who really want to see their life grow, some who are truly desperate for change.

We all have a God-given desire to increase, expand, and enjoy an abundant life. But that desire can turn into frustration when we're out of order with God's process to receive it.

This example will show you what I mean:

There was a young girl who was violated as a teenager, got in an abusive relationship, got pregnant before marriage, miscarried the baby, was diagnosed with skin cancer, betrayed, rejected . . . but one day, she started making positive declarations-she became her own best cheerleader.

 She began declaring things like:

    I'm loved by God.
    I'm confident.
    I'm forgiven.
    I'm courageous.
    I'm highly favored.

She said this over and over until her thinking began to line up with her words.

Today, this girl is a success coach to hundreds of thousands of people, the founder of a growing ministry, her books are sold all over the world, she helps women's safe houses and rescue centers across the USA, and she's writing this letter to you!

Even though God had forgiven me and had a plan for my life, I was stuck. But when I changed what I was saying, everything else began to change.

I want you to experience this same kind of transformational power. Become your own best cheerleader and you can live your dreams!

God has so many great things in store for you, but if you really want to know where your life is headed, listen to the words coming out of your mouth.

If you change what you're saying,
you will change what you're seeing.

How you talk to yourself determines how successful you will be. Period.

The words you speak can help you:

- lose weight

- get good grades

- achieve promotions

- close sales

- have meaningful relationships

- develop good habits

There's a reason God tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that life and death are carried through the power of our tongue. Let me give you an overview of what I call The 5 P's of a Personal Pep Talk.

(1) Positive. Simply put, avoid negative statements and speak what you want, not what you don't want. Don't say: I'm not overweight or I'm losing weight. Begin declaring: I'm at my perfect weight of 125 pounds; I am fit, firm, and muscular.

(2) Personal. Make scriptures/declarations personal to you. The most effective and powerful weapon you have is to speak God's Word out of your mouth. Begin to say, "God is working all things together for my good. I am blessed coming in and going out. I delight in the Lord and He gives me the desires of my heart."

(3) Present tense. We're prone to make declarations in the future tense. "I will make more money. I will get that job. I will have a baby." It places your faith in the future: one day, someday, just not now. Start your declarations with "I am, I enjoy, I have."

(4) Precise. Vague goals produce vague results. It's ineffective to say, "I am losing weight, I am making more money, I have better relationships." Be specific as you declare and release your faith.

(5) Passion. When you speak affirmations and declarations you're believing for, act as if it's already happened. Would you say it in a monotone, passion-less way? No! You'd say it with conviction and excitement! Your faith is the evidence of what you can't see yet in the natural . . . so speak it with passion!

There's so much more I want to share with you about this vital topic. . .

We're doing everything we can to help people make their dreams bigger than their memories and fulfill God's assignment for their lives.

There's certainly no way I could step out of my comfort zone and do all God has called me to do if I hadn't learned to give myself a pep talk.

There's something God wants you to accomplish during your time on the earth. A big step to see that become a reality is to begin using your words to create your world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ian's Revelations About Marriage

(an email my son sent to us)

WHY do people need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. Agreement to the match, not the approval of the church (as an institution, i.e. catholic church, the pope, etc.) or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, the church also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows (even out alone by the haystack), the church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the catholic church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illicitly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions within aristocratic families between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely ruled that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage, as in "why would they be living together if they weren't married." By the later part of that century, however, the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and exert more control over who was allowed to marry.

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce. Of course some of the more racist and discriminatory laws have been reversed today.

Governments want to regulate procreation and inheritance, as a way for the people in power to assert their superiority.

Then, governments began relying on marriage licenses for a new purpose: as a way of distributing resources to dependents. The Social Security Act provided survivors’ benefits with proof of marriage. Employers used marital status to determine whether they would provide health insurance or pension benefits to employees’ dependents. Courts and hospitals required a marriage license before granting couples the privilege of inheriting from each other or receiving medical information.

In the 1950s, using the marriage license as a shorthand way to distribute benefits and legal privileges made some sense because almost all adults were married. Cohabitation and single parenthood by choice were very rare.

Today, however, possession of a marriage license tells us little about people’s interpersonal responsibilities. Half of all Americans aged 25 to 29 are unmarried, and many of them already have incurred obligations as partners, parents or both. Almost 40 percent of America’s children are born to unmarried parents. Meanwhile, many legally married people are in remarriages where their obligations are spread among several households. Obviously people should be getting married, but do they really have to get married the way the government defines it? And how many of these statistics would line up better with a positive future if we changed the definition of marriage from the modern "license" to the "old school" union.

Of course this doesn't factor in worst-case situations like, some dude "marries" 8 women and it's valid because his local "church" approves. But we rather regulate it through the government and have a more stable system, albeit based on regulation, control, money, etc. Or would we rather regulate it based on principles of love, devotion, and righteousness.

Jesus didn't seem to have a whole lot of "political" opinions, but based on the way He told off the pharisees for oppressing people and making everything about money and control instead of God and actual people's feelings and emotions; I can't help but think that Jesus would be opposed to institutionalization.

Institutionalism tends towards reducing openness to self-evaluation. In institutionalism, "self-evaluation" comes down to the leadership judging the ordinary members, but not the institutional leadership themselves being subject to judgment. Yet the Bible teaches, "Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1). God tells the ordinary Christian to be skeptical about all teachings and to compare them to what the Bible says. Paul commended the Bereans who exercised skepticism towards his own teachings. "These (the Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11).  It's less honorable to gullibly accept whatever is taught, even if such teachings happen to be correct. Even Jesus said, "If I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me." (John 10:37).  He doesn't want gullible followers. Those He describes in the parable of the sower, "And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended." (Mark 4:16-17).

Adam and Eve were married weren't they? Did God put a Senate house and an Executive branch in the garden? Seems to me like marriage is pretty clearly illustrated in the same place God tells us His perfect vision, the basis of creation, our purpose, and even the meaning of life as we know it -- in Genesis; and in Genesis, what is our foundational depiction of marriage?

Only three components: God, Adam and Eve.

And ultimately that is what it boils down to.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 Scriptures to Help You Remain Thankful in the Midst of Pain

(by Kenneth Copeland)

"Chronic". "Nagging". "Debilitating". Those are the words often associated with pain. If you find yourself dealing with extreme pain and need encouragement, be sure to read Kenneth Copeland’s article, “3 Things to Do When the Pain Is Too Much”. In it, Brother Copeland shares his own healing from excruciating pain and the connection he discovered between gratitude and overcoming pain. And as you apply that lesson to your life, stand on these five scriptures that can help you remain thankful in the midst of your pain as you stand for your healing.

1.  Psalm 136:1: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
2.  Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.
3.  Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’
4.  Philippians 4:13: “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
5.  1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Don’t wait another day to begin thanking God for all the good things He has done for you…even in the midst of your pain. Let these scriptures serve as a starting point for your declarations of gratitude!

It was just after Labor Day 2004, and I was at the height of one of the most intense battles for healing I’d ever fought. A few days earlier I had ruptured a disc in my back. It felt like a toothache that was 4½ feet long—from my hip to the tips of my toes.

The experience left me mad at my legs.

It left me mad at the devil and anyone who came near me.

And I hadn’t slept in days.

Never had I hurt as badly as I did at that moment. All I wanted to focus on was the pain and getting free of it.

God met me in it, but in a very different way than I would have imagined. Below are three things He taught me to do when the pain almost seemed too much.

1.     Express Gratitude by Faith

I was on the back porch facing another sleepless night. One heating pad was wrapped around my calf. Another was wrapped around my thigh. Each was held on by a bathrobe sash. The heat was turned as high as I could get it. But nothing seemed to help—I was still lying there on my back crying.

I didn’t feel very grateful. I certainly didn’t look very grateful.

Right in the middle of all that pain, though, the Spirit of God dropped it into my heart to begin shouting out my gratitude for all my heavenly Father had done for me.

“Oh, Father, I’m so grateful to You! I’m grateful that my other leg doesn’t hurt. I’m so grateful my arms aren’t hurting, my fingers are all working well, and my head doesn’t hurt—it is sleepy, but it doesn’t hurt!”

In the midst of all that pain, by an act of obedience I expressed gratitude to God…by faith!

Instead of focusing on the pain and hurt, I filled my thoughts and mouth with gratitude for my life, for my family, for all the years I’ve been in ministry, and for every other good thing that arose in my spirit.

I started praising and thanking God and the more I praised Him, the less pain I had in my leg.

And as I was expressing my gratitude to Him, God began talking to me.

The more He talked, the better I felt. Each day I progressed; not one day was as bad as the day before.

There were a number of things that brought me to the place where complete healing manifested in my body. Thousands of my Partners; many believers from Spirit-filled churches; faith-talking, true healing-believing doctors; my family and friends; all added their faith to mine.

Nothing, however, had more impact than what began that night on the porch. The moment I began thanking God for all that was going right in my life, I was on my way out of the problem.

If you are experiencing pain, then I encourage you to make the decision to thank God for all the good things He has done in your life.

2.     Make the Decision to Focus on Gratitude

If you’ll think about it, we only have two real options in times of extreme pressure. Those options are to focus either on the problem…or the gratitude. In regards to pain, you cannot choose to focus on the pain you are experiencing and gratitude at the same time.

For instance, what happens if you have one sore finger? You may have nine fingers, your toes, arms, ears and numerous other body parts that are working perfectly, but that isn’t your focus. No. All you can think about is how you are going to get that one finger healed. You begin confessing healing scriptures and try to decide what else you need to confess or do, to stop the pain.

But if you don’t water those confessions with praise and thanksgiving, your focus on the one sore finger—or whatever problem—will continue to dominate your thinking.

If you don’t redirect your focus, the problem can consume you. So start giving God thanks for everything that is working right. Praise Him for all the good things He has done in your life. As you do, you’ll come to a place where you can release your faith and receive your answer.

“Yeah, but Brother Copeland, you don’t know what has happened to me.”

You’re right, I don’t. But I do know you’re breathing—not pushing up grass!

So just start thanking God for your life! Remind yourself that no matter what your circumstances are—it could be a whole lot worse. You’re not dead yet!

3.     Stop the Enemy With Your Praise

And this principle applies to far more than just receiving healing. Expressing gratitude by faith will change everything around you. It will change the whole complexion of your life.

I’m not saying the challenges will be over when you start filling the atmosphere with shouts of praise and thanksgiving. In fact once you begin praising God with purpose, you’ll become a prime target for the devil. Why? It’ll scare the daylights out of him when you begin operating in gratitude…and he’ll try to stop you.

He’ll use the only tactic he possesses. He’ll try to steal that word out of you by stirring up your flesh. Mark 4:16-17 tells us, “These are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard The WORD, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for The WORD’s sake, immediately they are offended” (KJV).

The enemy will try to get you to become offended. But that will only work if you have no root—if you’re not grounded in the love of God.

However if you are loving The LORD your God with all your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37) and expressing your gratefulness for all He has done, you are becoming rooted and grounded in love. That’s what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. He said:

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:16-19.)

Become so filled with His love that offense can’t come near you. Praise Him for His marvelous love. Praise Him, and as you do the enemy will be stopped cold because praise “stills the avenger” (see Psalm 8:2, KJV).

Fill your mouth and the atmosphere with gratitude—thank God for all He is, for all He has done and is doing in your life—regardless of the pain you are experiencing. You and the world around you will change!