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The Intents of our Hearts

Ezekiel 33:10-20

 11…As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?…13Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 14Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live…20Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.” – The Lord, God

 The words of God in the Book of Ezekiel spoke caution regarding confidence turning to complacency, taking this great salvation of God for granted as I enjoy the food, colors, and songs of this life perhaps more than I truly believe and look forward to the eternal life God has promised through Jesus Christ.  Am I a righteous man, saved by the Blood of Jesus Christ?  Yes, but if I think I am standing from day to day, perhaps I should take heed lest I fall.  If His words in my life are not mixed with faith unfeigned, might I not also fall as those true and original branches of Israel which fell in the desert when God proved them for forty years? 

Thank God for His mercy!  It must be true that He will never leave us or forsake us, and Jesus Christ is faithful and just to keep secure that which you and I have entrusted to him; even our eternal souls, this life and the life to come.  So it must be that, as a faithful friend or loving Father, as we drift into complacency regarding our salvation, or into that sin which flies in the face of His command to love God and love one another, that His great and gentle Holy Spirit leads and teaches and calls us back to the Door of the sheepfold; back to Jesus.  Thank God for ears to hear and eyes to see! 

Thank God that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that He is unwilling that any should perish, but that all should repent from sin, turn to Jesus, and receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life!

Ezekiel 33:30-32

“As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ 31 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. 32And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it.”  – The Lord, God

Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?”  How would you and I answer?  I’m pretty sure the response Jesus gave to Peter would be the same response He would give to us: “If you love me, then feed my sheep.”  If our faith in Christ serves no one but ourselves; if we are not truly and practically offering ourselves to God as a daily sacrifice; if we are ignoring those who have fallen by the wayside, by sin or by thieves, by the enemy, then are we caring for the sheep at all?  Are we seeking those which are lost?  I suppose another way to ask the hard question is: “Are we in this for ourselves, or for others?”  When we come to the table, are we thinking only of getting our own portion?  Do we not realize that Jesus laid it all down for us, even His life, but He had the power and authority to raise it up again.  So Jesus also has the power and authority to raise us up again.  If we fulfill the commands of Christ to love God and love others, we can with confidence lay down all we have and know that Jesus will raise us up again.  He multiplies mercy and sacrifice 30, 60, and 100-fold, and I am absolutely talking about decisions based on love and compassion which go light years beyond the value of supporting your local church through tithes and offerings.  It is the act of giving all, as the widow with her two mites, or the Samaritan who got involved and saved a dying man’s life, the times people risk something meaningful for the sake of Christ; for the Honor of the Name of God; and in response to the leadership and support of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  Risk giving in the name of Jesus!  Don’t flee when the wolves start howling!  Stand your ground against the enemy and know that the Blood of Jesus Christ, Your Testimony, and Your Willingness to Die (Revelation 12) are truly sufficient.   

John 10

7″Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  -The Lord, Jesus

Matthew 12

 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  -The Lord,  Jesus

Romans 2

 12For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. – Paul, by the Holy Spirit

II Timothy 3:1-7

“…in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self…, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” – Paul, by the Holy Spirit

II Timothy 4:3-4

“…the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” – Paul, by the Holy Spirit 

So it may feel that we’re on the edge of losing our salvation.  The scriptures above seem so relevant to our days and culture.  But the Word of God remains, and what is impossible with men is possible with God.  God is able to save through the matchless power of His Son Jesus Christ.  God has given us His word, and the hearing of it produces faith, and our faith in Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice of blood for our sins, gives us everlasting life and a peace which passes all understanding.  His Word is alive and will clear the fog and confusion of any situation, and His grace is flowing from His throne.  His grace is a prayer and a praise away, and thank God the Holy Spirit daily convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, continually leading us to the throne of grace.  The path is clear: in Christ there is no sin and no darkness.  He is light and life and truth and love.  Where there is sin there is darkness, and we have have an enemy who wants to destroy us.  Satan is the thief Jesus spoke of in John 10, and Satan’s intent is always to kill, steal, and destroy.  If there is darkness and sin in our lives Jesus is there to hear our confession.  He is our high priest, and we need no other  priest between us and God.  He is a prayer or a praise away, no matter where we are, and He knows and understands everything we go through; we can’t surprise or overwhelm Him no matter the depth of our degradation. 

Hebrews 4

 12 …the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I John 3

 4Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Third Day – Blackbird

But you’re ever hearing, never understanding
Ever seeing, not perceiving and your heart
has grown callous
You’re in a storm and lost your way
Won’t you fly to heaven and be saved today

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From Darkness to Light

April 8, 2010 2 comments

For the past fourteen years my early morning habit has been to seek the “proceeding Word of God” by reading the Christian Bible and praying.  I usually describe this time as “devotion,” as do many others.  The past couple of years, my devotion time has lasted thirty to sixty minutes.  There have been years past, different seasons in life, where it was much longer.  Most of this has to do with the demands of raising kids, getting to bed at a decent hour, and rising early enough to spend quality time with the Lord.  In the earlier years of devotion, I did lots of writing, mostly note taking on scrap papers and any notebook I could find, to somehow document what I felt the Holy Spirit of God was revealing to me through scripture and prayer.  Most of this fell in the realm of interpreting the spiritual meaning and practical application of God’s Word. 

My wife encouraged me many times to start a blog, to write about what I get from the scriptures, but until now, I didn’t feel that I could make blogging a priority.  But I read something in the scripture that created a strong desire in my heart to begin this blog:

“And I [Saul] said, Who are you, Lord?  And He said, “I am Jesus, whom you persecute.  But rise, and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose: to make you a minister and a witness of both of these things which you have seen, and of those things in the which I will appear to you; delivering you from the people and the Gentiles, unto whom now I send you, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.”  Acts 26:15-18 KJV paraphrased. 

So reading this on Saturday morning, March 20, 2010, I signed up for this WordPress blog.  I began writing, but failed to finish the post.  On the next morning, Sunday, I began devotion by opening the Bible with prayer that God would lead my reading.  Some would criticize Bible study which lacks a plan, and sometimes I read with predetermined intention, but sometimes I also open the Book without a plan because my faith is stirred to do so.  I do have faith that the Holy Spirit can lead me into truth by whatever approach He chooses, and also that He can lead my teaching in a way which overcomes my own limitations.  

Please forgive the digression because the important thing about that Sunday morning devotion was that it led to II Corinthians 4, where Paul is writing about how Satan has “…blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” and how “…God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” II Corinthians 4:4-6

I also read on that Saturday morning in Ephesians 5 that believers are charged not to partner with those who are in darkness:

“…for at one time you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.  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.'”  – Ephesians 5:7-14 ESV

In response to this extempore reading, I believed that God was trying to say something to me about darkness and light, I began to search for some related scriptures.  The scripture which spoke strongest to my spirit is Isaiah Chapter 29.  All twenty-four verses seem to speak a message to the people of our world today:

Jerusalem will be distressed and besieged.  There will be moaning and lamentation.  She will be brought low, and “…voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost, and from the dust your speech shall whisper” (verses 1-4).  Prior to the devotions which led to this focus of darkness and light, I had read Elie Wiezel’s Night.  I read it from 10pm to 1am one night.  Having begun the reading, I was not willing to put it down until I had heard the story of Elie Wiezel’s night, and the night into which all his family was lost, and the story of the Jewish people who suffered such a horrific nightmare in the Nazi holocaust.  In my mind and heart, to stop reading the work before it was finished would have been a sign of disrespect for all those who perished in that long night, and all who suffered but survived; all who are waiting for God’s just recompense against Satan, and against darkness.  I share this on the heels of Isaiah 29’s prophecy that Jerusalem will suffer because I do not want her to suffer.  Has she not suffered enough?  Has she not seen enough darkness throughout her generations?  I know that God’s light will ultimately be Jerusalem’s sun, and Jesus Christ will be her light, but it is difficult to bear the thought that she may have to suffer more than she has already borne.  

Isaiah 29:7 says that a time will come when all the nations that fight against Jerusalem and distress her “…shall be like a dream, a vision in the night.” 

As to the world, “Astonish yourselves and be astonished; blind yourselves and be blind!…For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes and covered your heads.” Isaiah 29:9-10.  How great must the darkness be which blinds us, closes our eyes, and covers our heads.  The Lord must wake us up!

“Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say ‘Who sees us?  Who knows us?’  You turn things upside down!  Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me;’ or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?  Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest?  In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see….and all who do evil shall be cut off….Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:  ‘Jacob shall no more be ashamed….and those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding.'”

I am sorry to say that I did nothing to document the thoughts above until now.  I let the words pass, the thoughts with them, and the days.  But God kept speaking.  On Wednesday, March 24th, I received an email from Christ for All Nations, the ministry of Rheinhard Bonnke, evangelist to Africa.  The title of the email was “From Darkness to Light! – Takum, Nigeria – Day 1 CfaN Hotline March 24, 2010.”  Evangelist Bonnke’s “Joshua” Daniel Kolenda, wrote the following on his blog:

Our journey to Takum yesterday was a very long one.  The “harmattan” (a dust storm from the Sahara Desert) covered Nigeria in a thick fog that blotted out the sun and grounded many planes…including ours for lack of visibility.  By the time we arrived here in Takum, it was 1:00 this morning.  We thought that surely everyone in town would be sleeping.  But to our surprise the streets were still lined with enthusiastic locals that had been waiting for many hours to welcome us (see the attached picture).  It is clear that this city is ripe for the harvest and we are here bringing in the sheaves.

Tonight, the first service began with Evangelist Bonnke preaching a powerful evangelistic message about repentance.  The people received it with Joy, turning “From darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God”.  –http://www.danielkolenda.com/index.php/2010/03/24/from-darkness-to-light-takum-nigeria-day-1/

Still, I don’t believe God had my full attention regarding this message of darkness to light.  I have little realized that I have been living by the proceeding word of God.  The demands of a very demanding new job, a 9-day family vacation and business trip to DC, two kids in their twenties, two in teens, and two toddlers (adopted from China over the past two years), and my willingness to allow all these things to take precedence over seeking God to understand His word, resulting in my turning a deaf ear to the Lord until the devotion of this morning, Wednesday, April 7, 2010. 

Although my custom each morning is to consult the Holy Bible first and foremost, I felt drawn to open a book called In Step With God, by Charles Stanley.  Although I love the wisdom God has given to Pastor Stanley, I’ve had the copy of this book for several months, and have only read small portions from time to time; a few minutes here, a few minutes there.  It has been at least two months since I opened this book.  So my first response was to ignore the urge to lift it from my nightstand, where it was sitting with several other books in various stages of reading progression.  But I did lift the book and take it with my Bible to a chair in the living room.  I still intended to ignore In Step With God and consult the Holy Bible first, but I picked it up and opened it to the page I had bookmarked by slipping in the fold of the dust cover.  On page 162, Pastor Stanley quotes Ephesians 5:1-8:

Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be partakers with them; for your were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.

On page 163, Pastor Stanley continues:

If sin or temptation is appealing to you, you have some work to do.  If you are tempted by an action and tell yourself, “No one will know, and if someone does, it won’t matter,”  you are positioning yourself for a spiritual fall.  Here is what happens: temptation comes, and most people try to rationalize their feelings.  Sin begins with a thought.  If this is not checked, it will grow into a feeling, and if we do not stand against it, we will end up giving in to it and acting on our feelings.  When this continues, sin quickly becomes a habit, and a habit becomes a stronghold for the enemy to establish a base camp in our lives.  A pure heart desires to be holy and righteous before God. 

These thoughts on darkness to light are not finished.  There is more to write, and I need to devote time to seeking the Lord in earnest.  I am grateful to the Holy Spirit for blessing me with a hunger for the Word, and filling that hunger even when I’m rushing out the door like a teenager who has no time for breakfast; maybe just a granola bar. 

This message of darkness to light speaks to all believers who are called to share the gospel to a world of unbelievers in darkness.  It calls to me personally to fullfil the ministry to which He called me.  The message of darkness to light makes me think more about the history of oppression and darkness which led to genocide in so many cultures, and continues to lead to it.  What are the limits of the darkness of evil which can blind the understanding of man, and kill the love that should lift his heart?  This message of darkness to light calls me personally to have a holy heart before the Lord.  I was not saved by such common things as silver or gold, but by the priceless blood of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Man and Son of God.  How could I partner with darkness when He is the One who has saved me from the power of Satan and turned me to the power of God?  Jesus has turned me from darkness to light.  Will I be as Lot’s wife, who looked back on the place from which she was saved?  Or will I keep my eye on the Light? 

More to follow….Jim

Categories: Christian