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On Things Above

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”– Colossians 3:1 

When I think of all the battles I’ve fought since God redeemed me years ago in that Texas motel room, I remember and I’m very grateful to God. He not only enabled me to overcome, but helped me to recognize and process the priceless lessons. I am deeply grateful for a godly wife, best friend, and partner in ministry. There are no adjectives to adequately describe the depth of my love for her. She never wavered through all our struggles.

A lesson I learned, and have relearned and will continue to relearn, is Satan’s clever use of distractions. No one who has pushed God out of his or her mind with troubles or desires will know His will. Every trial is to bring us closer, purge us, re-focus our minds, and otherwise make us fit to know and obey God’s will. 

Without those lessons, the many non-expedient distractions would have made me a drained, religious, stuffed suit, hireling. I would likely be going through the motions of “pastoring” a church, with a cache of obligatory compliments, juggling everything to keep people happy, absorbed with entertainment, and everything else that ritual church meeting attendees expect from their pastor. I’d be in the thick of the political hoopla, wasting what little spiritual strength I had fighting useless battles on Satan’s battlefield and by his rules—just as he planned. I would never recognize that the encroaching battering ram I’m hacking with my wooden sword was actually the toe of a beast so large that when I look up, I am by comparison the size of an ant. Continue reading

Why are Christ-followers Suffering?

“Temptations, hidden snares, Often take us unawares, And our hearts are made to bleed, For many a thoughtless word or deed, And we wonder why the test, When we try to do our best, But we’ll understand it better by and by.” — Charles Albert Tindley, 1851-1933

 

For as long as I have been a Christ-follower, Christians have been trying to get rid of suffering. There is large heretical industry devoted to literally selling people on the concept of painless and ultra-comfortable Christianity. However, even when people deny that they believe the so-called Word of Faith/New Apostolic Reformation heresy, promoted by religious TV and Charisma Magazine, many individuals subliminally agree with the objective.

The objective is to live a suffering-free, prosperous, stress-free, Christianity and scoot into heaven at the end of a long and comfortable life. That is not the scriptural depiction of one that truly follows Christ. If such an objective is pursued, one may continue to call him or her self a Christian, but he or she is likely not a genuine Christ-follower.

It is not that Christ-followers wish to suffer. They do not flagellate themselves to fulfill the daily quota of pain. Neither do they purposely seek hardships so that more spirituality can be realized. However, the necessity of carrying one’s cross is not fulfilled by wearing religious jewelry or t-shirts. Continue reading

Suffering? Not alone! 

Elijah’s Complaint:

“And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” — 1 Kings 19:10

God’s response:

“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” — 1 Kings 19:18

Under the Juniper bush, Elijah discovered during his struggle with the feelings of isolation and rejection that he was not alone. God had 7,000 among the millions of apostate Israelites that had not compromised. It was a small percentage, but if they were nearby it would have been a comfort to Elijah. He was trained to face loneliness by the Brook Cherith. He was practically alone at the widow’s house. He was alone when he fought the battle with demonic prophets on Mount Carmel. So why did he feel depressingly alone afterward?

There are at least two reasons that the desperate loneliness gripped his mind. First, as anyone knows that has confronted demons or ministered to numerous spiritually needy people after preaching, one’s spirit can be drained of energy. The virtue (GK. dynamis, power) that goes out of them (Luke 6:19) must be restored by praying and seeking intimacy with God (Acts 1:8; GK. dynamis, power). An enormous drain on Elijah’s spirit occurred in his epic battle. He needed to be replenished—renewed. I have repeatedly experienced that condition and personally know and have ministered to friends that have experienced it.

Second, there did not appear to be a reward at the end of the battle. It seemed as if he had fought in vain. God sent fire upon the water-drenched altar and instead of being accepted as God’s prophet, Elijah was rejected and his life was in jeopardy. On a lesser scale, many Believer has poured out their lives and been harshly treated and betrayed by the very ones they helped the most. In a time of apostasy the absence of gratitude for sacrificial efforts will be scarce. In Psalm 73, Asaph lamented the disparity between the ungodly who appear to enjoy life while the faithful ones often suffer.

Sometimes we are drained by so many trials and suffering in our attempting to serve God faithfully, that we don’t realize other Believers are experiencing worse or equally harsh struggles. Many Believers feel alone and are struggling to make some sense out of the great apostasy that is occurring all around them. Numerous ones are also fight great battles with their health, lack of income, children that have rejected God, and are in despair.  If we don’t recognize that probability, we may develop “Juniperitis” and believe that we are the only ones truly serving God. That is not true. We are not individually THAT unique. Although they are few, God has a remnant of people “whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” Continue reading

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