Family Life & Christian Values

God’s perspective on the Christian family; the challenges and hurdles it faces in the midst of the culture wars in modern society.

SERVING ONE ANOTHER; THE TRUE SPIRIT OF GIVING

Volunteer, Volunteerism, Volunteering“In serving one another we become free,” is a line from the movie First Knight which is about King Arthur’s knights and round table of fame. It’s actually a good message for any generation and a true one. Many already know what it means and they live by it. It’s about serving one’s fellow man and how that service sets you free from being self-absorbed, or at least it can do that for those who serve with the right attitude and understanding. Some who serve do so with the goal of getting recognition from men, or to wield power over others. That’s not what Arthur had in mind, nor is it the right attitude.

The kind of service to others that blesses the giver as well as the recipient is serving others for the sake of helping one’s fellows, expecting nothing in return. Many have experienced the blessings that come from serving others in this manner, and once you get a taste of it, you’ll want more! One thing I’ve been shown, is that when you bless others the blessings always come back to you at some point. They may not come from the same person or place where you sowed your seed of blessing or in the same manner. They usually return to you from an unexpected source, at an unexpected time, in an unexpected way. Even so, that’s not the reason we should serve others. We serve others because in doing so “we become free,” or in other words, we are set free from self-centeredness and selfishness. A saying I love is what Jesus Christ told his followers, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” [1] That includes self-sacrifice of any kind, not only dying. When we serve others we in effect lay down our lives, giving of our resources, time, and energy.

To me, that’s what real freedom is. These days many believe it’s about being able to say or do whatever comes into their minds, but that kind of freedom is often self-serving and destructive! That kind of freedom doesn’t bless or set free, and it’s not the freedom our brave fore-fathers and mothers fought and died for on the world’s battlefields. Their service is a prime example of self-sacrificing service to others and it raises the bar, the standard of excellence, for the rest of us. The best way we can show them our gratitude is to follow their example by serving others with the same commitment, energy, and passion.

I like the idea of “becoming free” as a virtue we aspire to rather than as a right we’re born with. We aren’t born with a right to be free; we’re born to learn how to serve one another. We’re all given opportunities to acquire this kind of freedom and if we’re not serving others in some capacity whether large or small, then we’re not really living and we’re not truly FREE.

As I’ve once said, I’m not a big believer in making New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’m making an exception. My prayer and goal for 2019 is that it will be a year of LOVING AND SERVING our neighbors near and far. Jesus said that our neighbor is any man, woman, or child [2]. I believe that if everyone did this, the world would become a better place than it is at present. I know, some will say that’s impossible and won’t work because the world is only getting darker. At the root of that sense of futility often lays a life-time of negative experiences: broken promises, bitter disappointments, endless monotony, and unanswered prayers. Yet Jesus said that “All things are possible to him that believes.” [3] He never said that faith comes through our experiences, but through “hearing” His words! [4] Therefore, if we’re to have real faith, the kind that transforms darkness into light, we must “hear” His words, and true hearing isn’t just reading and quickly forgetting what we’ve read. When we truly hear His words, they will transform us so that we can become a blessing and a gift to the world – a veritable light in the darkness.

One last point; it’s easy to come up with a reason or reasons why you can’t serve God and your fellow man, but no matter what your station or condition is in life, you can find a way. Serving for the right reason brings blessings to both giver and receiver. Hear now the words of our Savior Jesus Christ who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [5], and go do it!

Debra R. Stout © December 25, 2018

FOOTNOTES:

[1] John 15:13
[2] Luke 10:29-37
[3] Mark 9:23
[4] Romans 10:17
[5] Act 20:35  I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. 

Bearing Unjust Criticism With Dignity

Girl covering her mouth Free PhotoEcc 3:7 “There’s a time to be silent and a time to speak” – Wrote the wise king Solomon eons ago. Notice how ‘silent’ is prominent; this is by design! God does nothing by accident. He’s making the point that we’re too hasty to speak and should keep quiet more often. Another king named David, shows us how to bear unjust criticism with meekness and quietness in the following biblical account. In it you’ll see the dignity and wisdom of not becoming defensive and argumentative, or slinging arrows back at your attacker. Though innocent in the current situation, David knew he was guilty of similar past sins so kept quiet rather than defend himself, and received the criticism as God’s chastisement. Sometimes we don’t hear God’s “still, small voice” gently correcting us, or worse, we ignore it so God has to take more drastic measures to get our attention. You see God doing this throughout Scripture, and I have myself experienced the latter on numerous occasions. Despite the seeming indignity of apparent unjust criticism, refraining oneself from striking back and remaining quiet is a dignified response. God’s ways are not our ways – Isa 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” It is a declaration of Adonai. “For as the heavens are higher than earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

2 Samuel 16:1 – 14

2 Sam 16:1  Now when David had passed a little beyond the summit, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth to meet him with a pair of saddled donkeys, and on them 200 loaves of bread, 100 clusters of raisins, 100 fig cakes and a bottle of wine. 
2Sa 16:2  So the king asked Ziba, “What are you doing with these?” Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and the figs are for the young men to eat, and the wine is for anyone who faints in the wilderness to drink.” 
2Sa 16:3  Then the king asked, “And where is your master’s son?” “Well, he’s staying in Jerusalem,” Ziba said to the king, “for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore to me the kingdom of my father.” 
2Sa 16:4  Then the king said to Ziba, “Behold, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.” “I bow low,” Ziba said. “Let me find favor in your eyes, my lord the king.” 
Shimei Curses David
2Sa 16:5  When King David arrived at Bahurim, behold, just coming out from there was a man of the family of the house of Saul—his name was Shimei son of Gera. As he came out, he kept on cursing 
2Sa 16:6  and flinging stones at David and at all King David’s servants, while all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and on his left. 
2Sa 16:7  Thus Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out! The man of bloodshed, the good-for-nothing! 
2Sa 16:8  Adonai has returned on you all the blood of Saul’s house, in whose place you’ve reigned. Adonai has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom—so see, your own evil has overtaken you, because you are a man of bloodshed.” 
2Sa 16:9  Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why let this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and take off his head!” 
2Sa 16:10  But the king said, “What have I to do with you, sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, it’s because Adonai has said to him, ‘Curse David!’ So who should say, ‘Why did you do so?’” 
2Sa 16:11  Then David said to Abishai and to all his officials, “Look, my son who came from my own body is seeking my life—how much more this Benjamite? Leave him alone and let him curse, since Adonai has told him. 
2Sa 16:12  Perhaps Adonai will look on my affliction and return good to me for his cursing this day.” 
2Sa 16:13  So David and his men continued on the way, while Shimei kept walking alongside the hill parallel with him, cursing as he walked, casting stones at him and throwing dirt. 
2Sa 16:14  Finally the king and all the people that were with him arrived weary, so he refreshed himself there. [Tree of Life Version]

Impatience and submission
Mephibosheth, it will be recollected, was the only son of Jonathan. Now, when David was a little past the top of the hill where he had worshipped God, he met Ziba coming towards him with two asses, laden with cakes of raisins and summer fruits, a skin-bottle of wine, and two hundred loaves of bread. Probably, when David first saw Ziba, he thought that Mephibosheth had sent this timely contribution, and the first thing that annoyed him was to find that this present did not come from him at all. No doubt there was a good deal more conversation between David and Ziba than is recorded; the crafty man made it very plain that it was he who had been so thoughtful for the “king’s wants; thus he led David on to suspect Mephibosheth’s loyalty; and when the king asked him plainly why his master was not with him, feigning probably great reluctance to speak against his employer, and pretending that only loyalty induced him to speak, he told the lie against Mephibosheth. David was very apt to judge hastily: he was a man of a very warm temperament, with strong affections, and passions that were easily excited. Here Ziba seemed faithful, and mindful of his sovereign, when Mephibosheth was said to be ungrateful; and thinking that he has found devotion where he expected nothing, and ingratitude where he looked for love, as it was in the case of Ittai and Ahithophel, and really forgetting in the moment of his flight, and when in danger of losing his own throne, that he has no power to enforce his sentence, he awards to the crafty Ziba all the lands of Mephibosheth.

How many times we are warned in Scripture against pronouncing hasty judgments; and which of us has not had to confess more than once that the bad opinion we have formed of some person was altogether erroneous? Again and again we have listened to unjust calumnies; we have thought there must be some truth in the accusation, some foundation for the slander, and we have acted very much like David here. David had gone but a few steps further before he encountered Shimei, another of the tribe of Benjamin. Bahurim is but a little distance from Bethany, on the other side of the Mount of Olives; but tilt they reached that spot, faint and weary, Shimei followed them with bitter curses. Now David had recovered himself; probably his conscience blamed him for his hasty ebullition of temper against Mephibosheth: and he may have felt that he had believed Ziba’s story too easily. At least, when he spoke like that, he had forgotten his early friendship, and the beautiful and disinterested love of Jonathan. Now we are to see David in a better mood; grace has once more subdued nature. Now, Shimei was uttering unjust words: David of course knew that he did not deserve them for no one could have been more forbearing to the house of Saul: and perhaps Shimei’s words reminded him, as well as Abishai’s impetuousness, of his own conduct to that family in times past; and hence his command of his temper at this moment. 

This man Shimei evidently had long hated David. He had been hoping there would be some reverse in his fortunes, and he rejoiced in his enemy’s downfall. But what does David do? He loses sight of Shimei altogether; he looks above the instrument to the Agent; he sees God’s hand in the matter, and to be angry, therefore, would be to be discontented with the providence of God. Oh that we could learn to follow David in this! There are numberless annoyances that happen to us all; and since “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” we must be prepared for trials that will peculiarly test our faith and patience. If you forget that “the Lord reigneth,” if you do not connect the providence of God with all that happens, the very smallest daily trouble may completely upset you, and you will be continually losing your temper. (C. Bosanquet, M. A.)

2 Samuel 16:5-13

Shimei the son of Gera; he came forth, and cursed still as he came.

The forbearance of David towards Shimei
I. The provocation David received.
    1. The most irritating by which the patience of man was ever tried. The reason why God was pleased to allow this insult to be added to the other trials of David, is obvious. He wished to teach him how low his iniquities had sunk him, and to show him that the cup of the Divine indignation against him was not even yet exhausted. It tells us that the servant of God must expect to meet with insults and provocations from his fellow-sinners. We are not dwelling among angels, but among men. We are living in a fallen world, in a world that has renounced the authority of the God of peace, and thrown itself under the dominion of the prince of discord. It would be madness, then, to think of passing through it, as though it were a world of love.
   2. The conduct of Shimei was cruel also, as well as irritating. The condition of David at this period appeared calculated to disarm by its misery the most inveterate of his enemies. We are ready to suppose in the hour of affliction that every heart must feel for us, and that the malice of our bitterest enemies must now for a season be changed into pity. But experience proves that the most afflicted are generally the most persecuted. Their calamities leave their adversaries nothing to hope from their favour, and little perhaps to dread from their displeasure.
   3. The provocation which David received was also undeserved. It here was indeed blood which cried from the ground for vengeance on his head, but he had never injured Shimei; and as for his having been guilty of the death of Saul, and his family, no charge could be more unjust. But the ungodly are always selfish. They judge of others, not by the laws of impartial justice, but by the standard of self-interest.

II. But let us turn from the cruel and irritating conduct of this disappointed Israelite, and consider the forbearance which David manifested.
   1. He received the provocation of Shimei with meek silence. He heard his accusations, and he knew them to be false; but he answered him not a word. There are indeed cases in which it becomes absolutely necessary to vindicate our characters at any risk from the calumnies of the ungodly; but these occasions do not often occur. When our enemies are much incensed against us, it will generally be found that to reply to their aspersions serves only to increase their violence, and perhaps to give them an advantage over us. Silence under provocation is safety. To govern our lips is, in most instances, to govern our hearts.
   2. But there may be silence where there is no meekness. No angry word may proceed from the lips, while the deadliest revenge is cherished in the heart. It is necessary therefore that we should observe, further, that David forgave the provocation of Shimei. His friends around him were incensed to the utmost, and were eager to vindicate the honour of their insulted monarch with their swords. Would the conduct of David have been either unlawful, or sinful, if he had commanded his attendants to take immediate vengeance on Shimei? It might not have been unlawful, for the laws of Judaea would undoubtedly have condemned the traitor, and the power of carrying them into execution was vested in David’s hands; but laws were not designed by God to gratify vindictive passions. It is as sinful to seek revenge by the arm of the law as to seek it by the violence of our own arm. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Conclusion.
   1. A review of this history, as far as we have considered it, is calculated to leave impressed on us a conviction of the power of true religion; its power, not only to touch the fears and hopes of the soul but the mighty power which it exercises over the dispositions, the temper, the heart.
   2. This history reminds us also of the dignity which a meek and forgiving spirit imparts. The Bible tells us that “it is the glory of a man to pass over a transgression,” and it gives us in this chapter a confirmation of the saying. Here, then, is a lesson for those who are striving to raise themselves to honour. You wish to be highly esteemed among men, and, in order to procure their respect, you imagine that no real or supposed insult must pass unnoticed, and that you must commence a struggle for superiority in rank and consequence. Is, then, the object of your wishes to be attained by such means as these? Impossible. Cease from the foolish attempt. Go and sit at the feet of David, and let him teach you that the readiest, the surest, the safest way to exalt yourselves is to lie low and be humble, to be “meek and lowly in heart,” to triumph over the pride and folly which have hitherto been leading you captive. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

Meekness under provocation
“The fruit of the Spirit,” said St. Paul, writing to the Galatians, “is long-suffering.” Long-suffering patience is one of the rarest of virtues, because it is so easy to be impatient. There is a story told of the great Athenian Pericles, which gives us a good lesson in patience. Hardly anything ever put Pericles out of temper. There was a man who railed at him throughout a whole day in the market-place before all the people, and this although Pericles was a magistrate. Pericles, however, took no notice, but went on hearing and dealing with the various cases brought before him until night fell. Then he set out for home, walking slowly. The man followed him all the way, uttering hard, untrue, and cruel words all the time. When Pericles arrived at his house it was quite dark, so, calling his servant, he ordered him to get a torch and light his defamer home. [The Biblical Illustrator By Joseph S. Exell, M.A., Published in 1900; public domain.]

David was guiltless of the crime of which Shimei accused him; but his conscience reminded him of other flagrant iniquities; and he, therefore, regarded the cursing of this man as a chastisement from heaven. His answer to Abishai’s proposal evinced the spirit of deep and humble resignation – the spirit of a man who watched the course of Providence, and acknowledged Shimei as the instrument of God’s chastening hand. [Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary; Published in 1871; public domain.]

A DAY THAT REVEALED CHARACTER
There may have been some truth in Ziba’s statement, but we should balance it with 2Sa_19:24. Shimei vented the spleen of the house of Saul. He probably referred to the recent execution of the sons of Rizpah, and perhaps suggested that David had been guilty of all the disaster that had befallen Saul’s house from the day of Gilboa. When men curse us, whether we deserve it or not, let us look past them to the permissive will of God. “Let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him!” When, through the treachery of Judas, the bitter cup came to the lips of our Lord, he said, “It is the cup that my Father hath given me to drink.” Pain and sorrow, treachery and hard speeches, may be devised against us by the malignity of an Ahithophel, a Shimei, or a Judas; but by the time these have passed through the permissive will of God, we may receive them as the strokes of His chastening rod, that we may partake of His holiness. We are not the sport of chance or human caprice. God deals with us as with sons. [F. B. Meyer/ Published in 1914; public domain.]

Summary – David’s encounter serves as a lesson that a person who appears to be unfairly criticizing us might be an agent of God’s chastisement, not necessarily for that moment, but for past wrongs we’ve committed but not yet acknowledged or repented of. We often don’t pay attention to God’s still, small voice gently correcting us because our minds are preoccupied, or worse we ignore it, which forces God to send us a stronger word of correction, say through an enemy who’s really just an instrument in His hand. When we belong to God, everything that happens to us has to go through Him before it can reach us, so to be angry is to be angry at the providence of God.“If you do not connect the providence of God with all that happens, the very smallest daily trouble may completely upset you, and you will be continually losing your temper” [1]. May we fully apprehend and apply this helpful lesson to our lives so that we can respond to unjust criticism with dignity, knowing that God may be allowing it as a form of discipline for our good. Often it’s to bring to our attention something we’ve been doing which we’re not fully aware of that’s harmful to others or to ourselves.

God wants us to know the reason for our trials, and we can know, if we ask Him about them. Bear in mind that God answers us in His timing not ours, so be patient but persistent, persistence counts with Him – Luk 11:5-9  Then Jesus said to them, “Which of you has a friend and will go to him in the middle of the night and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine has come to me on his journey and I have nothing to set before him.’ Then from within he may answer, saying, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, even if the friend will not get up and give him anything out of friendship, yet because of the man’s persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ‘Ask (and keep on asking), and it shall be given to you. Seek (and keep on seeking), and you shall find. Knock (and keep on knocking), and it shall be opened to you. [TLV]

God delights to answer our questions, for He loves us, having died to save our souls from destruction. Speaking of which, continual verbal abuse from someone who’s taking out his/her frustrations on you is destructive to your soul, and is therefore not heaven sent. There’s a world of difference between that and the occasional criticism which comes as correction from God. This is why it’s imperative that we seek God in prayer about our trials and not rely upon human reasoning – Pro 3:5-6 Trust 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. 

Debra R. Stout, April 7, 2018

Footnotes: 

[1] C. Bosanquet, M. A.

(All Scripture quotes are from the KJV unless otherwise indicated. Words of Christ are in red.)

Questions? Send an email to the address on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

WHY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS DON’T WORK

Generally speaking most people don’t have much success with their New Year’s resolutions. Even the strong willed have trouble keeping them and before long, they fail to keep one or more, maybe even all of them. Why is this the case? Well, I’m sure everyone has an opinion as to why, but the purpose of this blog is to focus on the spiritual side of life and to look at things from God’s perspective, as in “what saith the Lord.” 

Thus, from that perspective the reason why resolutions don’t work is because the effort is coming from one’s self, and is dependent upon the strength of one’s will. The human will is part of our flesh nature which is flawed and full of weaknesses. Bad habits ingrained in our flesh nature are difficult to change or remove. This is where the power of God comes in and the secret to overcoming bad habits is not trying harder because your own strength isn’t enough. While we need to make an effort, there are times when our own strength just isn’t enough and we need outside help. 

Rom 7:18  And I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing; for I have the desire, but I am not able to perform that which is good. 
Rom 7:19  For I do not do the good that I desire; but the evil which I do not desire, that I do. 
Rom 7:20  And if I do that which I do not desire, I am not working, but sin that dwells in me
Rom 7:21  So that, desiring to do good, I find this law: evil is natural unto me. (Get that? Evil is natural to you which is why you need supernatural intervention).

The secret to overcoming anything is not to focus on your faults and flaws, but on Christ. Understand that “It’s not by power, nor by might (human strength), but by My Spirit, saith the Lord” that a mountain shall be removed.” [Zec 4:6] A mountain in scripture can pertain to several things, but in this study and passage, a mountain is a metaphor for a problem that’s bigger than you, something which will require outside help if you’re to remove it from your path.

Many times we just have to lean harder on God and trust Him more to do what we in our own strength cannot do. It is written, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” If we seek Him we will find Him – Luk 11:9  And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 

To do that you need to turn to Him in utter humility, admitting that you can’t do it by yourself, that you NEED Him to help you. “Without Me you can do nothing,” said Jesus. You continue to seek Him in prayer daily, hourly, if need be, until you get the freedom you desire and that I’m sure God desires for you. Jesus came to set the captives free [Isa 42:7]. A captive is anyone who’s in bondage to sin. You might not be able to stop cussing for example, or smoking, or drinking, etc., etc. the list is endless.

Sometimes, no matter how much asking, seeking, and knocking you do, you still can’t get free. That’s the time you should be asking if you need deliverance from demonic bondage, and/or if you really want to be free from that habit, etc. The sad fact is that we often don’t want to get free from some bad habit because we enjoy it too much! Enjoying sinful habits arises from our sinful flesh nature we’re born with because it’s passed down to all of us from our first parents, Adam and Eve. This is why Jesus had to come clothed in a fleshly body to experience every temptation we’ll ever face and yet never once sinned, thus fulfilling the law of God perfectly. Jesus also came in order to redeem (buy back) our souls from inevitable destruction because of our inherent sinful natures which only His Spirit IN us can overcome! This dear reader is the best kept secret, not that God keeps it from us for it’s plainly written in the Bible, but because many don’t understand it when they read it there. “Christ IN you, the hope of glory” [Col 1:27]. What we need therefore to focus on, is seeking after the things of the Spirit every single day, and putting on Christ as we put off our flesh –

Rom 13:14  But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Rom 8:13  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 
Col 3:5  Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 
Col 3:6  For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 
Col 3:7  In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 
Col 3:8  But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth
Col 3:9  Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 
Col 3:10  And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 
Col 3:11  Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (See that? Christ ought to be our focus, not ourselves and what we think we can do without Him).
Col 3:12  Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering
Col 3:13  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 
Col 3:14  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 
Col 3:15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 
Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 
Col 3:17  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (So you see, we’re to do all for His Glory and nothing else).

Can you honestly say that you DO or have done all the admonitions contained in these fourteen verses? It’s a good place to start isn’t it? I believe that there’s enough to work on in just these fourteen verses to keep every believer in the world busy for the entire year. We all far so short in so many ways; if not for the GRACE and MERCY of God, none of us would ever see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Notice the action verbs, “put on” “put off” “let” and “mortify?” I’ll let (pun unintended) you look those terms up in your bible concordance or bible study software (which I strongly suggest you do for further insight), but let me sum this up by saying that it’s not a matter of FAITH versus DEEDS, but a matter of faith AND deeds. James the natural brother of Jesus wrote, Jas 2:17  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Jas 2:18  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 

Rules for Christian Households    –
Col 3:18  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. (Uh oh! I can just imagine the women’s libbers gasping for air right now, and sadly there are many in the household of God.)
Col 3:19  Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. (Men, your bitter and harsh treatment of your wives is often the cause of your wives being NON-SUBMISSIVE to you!)
Col 3:20  Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. 
Col 3:21  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. (Yes! Children are often provoked by their parents to REBEL against their authority through overly harsh and unjust treatment, or through just not being there for them, not listening to them, not giving them the emotional support and direction in life that they need. If this applies to you, then for their sake and yours, seek God and seek outside help as well. Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that you can handle it by yourself, don’t blind yourselves to the truth.)
Col 3:22  Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 
Col 3:23  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 
Col 3:24  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ
Col 3:25  But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. 

Have you ever asked yourself WHO you’re serving? Is it God? Yourself? Someone else? The answer may shock you, or it may not, but the answer is crucial to finding out where you stand. If you don’t know who you’re serving or living for, you’re no better than a blind person who can’t see where he’s going.

One of the keys to overcoming anything is to LIVE FOR THE GLORY OF GOD INSTEAD OF YOUR SELFISH DESIRES! I’ve tested this out in my past and found that when I was living for God’s glory only, everything I thought, said, and did revolved around that singular goal and it made the Christian walk so much easier. I quit smoking cigarettes because I realized that doing so was not only polluting my body (God’s temple) but was DISHONORING to Him when I bummed money from people to help pay for my bad habit! I also prayed to Jesus to help me quit and although it took about a year I did it without wearing a patch or taking man’s drugs. You see, when we struggle in our own strength to overcome some fleshly habit or sin, our focus is all ON those things and NOT on Christ. So when we switch our focus to Christ and to living for His Glory, we begin to naturally do the things that please Him. His Spirit living in us enables us to live by our ‘new nature,’ as it subdues our old, sinful nature – 2Co 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new

Often the problem is that our focus is too much on THIS WORLD. The word of God says –

Col 3:1  If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 
Col 3:2  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Look at all those action verbs!) 

In closing, I wish all of you a bright future, one that’s founded upon the Cornerstone which is Jesus Christ and not on anything or anyone else. I also want to express my deep concern over what I believe is the biggest oversight in the Body of Christ today, and that is the want of the hearing of God’s Word through extreme lack of regular and in depth study of the Bible. I’ve spoken to many believers in my time who’s knowledge of the Bible is so minuscule it’s a downright shame and they ought to be ashamed to call themselves a Christian because of it. Oddly enough, a few I’ve known personally obstinately boast of how they belong to Christ and are so blessed, yada yada, while they know practically nothing about how God thinks or FEELS about anything because they rarely or never read His Word. They don’t know how it grieves Him when they love this world and their pleasures MORE than Him, which they show by neglecting the reading of His precious words to run after their worldly pursuits and pleasures. Many so called believers are ignorant of God’s ways, His will, and of His instructions (Torah) on how to live right in this world. This is surely a crying shame. It disgusts and even angers me at times, and rightly so for it ought not to be that way among those who call themselves the Body of Christ. If you’re truly a member of His Body, how can you neglect the reading and studying of His words? Truthfully, it’s impossible no matter what you tell yourself. There’s simply no excuse for ignorance of God’s Word for those who can read and have access to a Bible. Excuses for not knowing and not doing God’s will won’t stand on Judgement Day [Mat 7:21-Mat 7:23]. Sorry if this offends your religious mentality but I’m here to tell you the truth, not tickle your ears. Those who care about their spiritual lives will take this to heart; God bless them.

If you feel you must make a resolution for the new year, then make it this ONE THING – TO READ AND STUDY THE WORD OF GOD until you know it backwards and forwards and can quote large portions of it from recall because you read it so often it’s become part of your permanent memory. (Yup, it’s true, you don’t even have to memorize it in the formal sense, but reading it often and meditating on it will write it upon your heart – deposit it into your permanent memory bank.) 

Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…. Deu 6:6  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: (Not sparsely, but RICHLY!) 
Deu 11:18  Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. Deu 11:19  And ye shall teach them [to] your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (In other words all throughout the day) 
Jos 1:8  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (This isn’t speaking of mere worldly success and prosperity but of spiritual success and prosperity which is far more important.) 

And don’t forget to live for God’s glory instead of your selfish desires. In so doing you’ll make great progress in your spiritual walk.

Debra R. Stout, January 2, 2018

“Where Have All The Fathers Gone?”

father reading from a bk to his girlWhere have all the father’s gone? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of every three — live in biological father-absent homes.

With the increasing number of premarital births and a continuing high divorce rate, the proportion of children living with just one parent rose from 9.1% in 1960 to 20.7% in 2012. – Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present.” U.S. Census Bureau July 1, 2012. 

One has to ask, Why’s this happening? How can a man father a child and just walk away? How can fathers be so cold-hearted, so uncaring of their own offspring? Do they have no sense of personal or moral responsibility? What has contributed to this crisis?

Some possible answers —

1) The government, via welfare programs, has taken over the responsibility of child-rearing which the father should himself carry; making it easier for a man to ‘walk away.’ Many single mothers don’t report non-payment of child support, or don’t go after the father for child support out of fear or other reasons. Some men are substance abusers, mentally unbalanced, or abusive, and should’t have access to mother or child. In these cases its best if the father isn’t around.

2) The moral climate of society in America, is one of disrespect and disregard for human life in general. I don’t think anyone could argue with that statement. Abortion and the obscene LGBT movement have played huge roles in the demoralization of society. Abuse such as you’ll read in the following article never gets reported on  mainstream news –  http://shoebat.com/2017/10/10/sodomites-adopt-baby-girl-they-shake-the-child-until-she-gets-brain-damage-beat-her-until-her-kidneys-fail-break-her-leg-and-then-finally-beat-her-to-death-over-the-course-of-months-while-cursing/

Read that story before you write me complaining about my justifiable criticism of the corrupting influence of gay/lesbians on our culture. As many others have said and I agree, gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children. Their lifestyles are abnormal and heterosexuals should not be FORCED to accept them as such. It’s time the rest of us wake up and demand OUR rights for a change and demand that OUR representatives honor them. It’s criminal that the majority allows these minority aberrant groups to rule over everyone else. Gay rights wouldn’t exist if our lawmakers had any courage and if they honored the supreme law of God instead of man’s inferior laws. Our main problem as a nation is that it has stopped honoring the law of God even removing all remembrance or mention of God from our schools, courts, and most public venues. America has become a Godless, materialistic, narcissistic, hedonistic nation whose children are fast becoming the most illiterate, rebellious, self focused bunch of brats who live only for the moment and what can give them the most thrills in life. While many of the world’s population is suffering all kinds of deprivations, all most American parents can think of is how they’re going to afford Christmas’s gifts for their already overly spoiled children. Why not teach your children how to GIVE to others in need instead of only on GETTING something for themselves. It really won’t hurt them, in fact it’ll teach them something many of them, from what I’ve witnessed, don’t have and that’s COMPASSION for others. Children are killing each other, their parents, and attacking their teachers these days, something they wouldn’t have dared to do in past generations. You can thank idiotic psychologists for poisoning our educational and medical institutions with their ideas on child rearing and parenting; ilk like Dr. Spock and Alfred Kinsey who conducted sexual experiments on infants and young children. http://www.wnd.com/2010/10/214105/  http://freemasonrywatch.org/truth.behind.alfred.kinsey.html  https://concernedwomen.org/kinsey-film-sugarcoats-his-record-glosses-over-child-experiments/  If these reports don’t sicken and disturb you, I submit to you that your conscience has been seared or you didn’t have one to begin with.

The Talmud is Babylonian https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpZjSZRUEhA of pagan origin and not of God, which is why I reject it – http://fathersmanifesto.net/talmudchildsexok.htm  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXMa0fKHkJc

These defenseless little victims of sexual abuse had NO VOICE then, but WE can be their voices now. Am I impassioned? You bet I am and unabashedly so. These innocent victims are the very ones Jesus said that we should HELP, and I believe that He will judge us one day if we turn our eyes and ears AWAY from them and do nothing about it. Child abuse has become an epidemic in our nation and if you have even one ounce of compassion in you, please join me in fighting this EVIL and CORRUPTING influence on our society by financially supporting people like Walid Shoebat who exposes it, and others like him who also minister to abuse victims such as https://stellasvoice.org/

What you many not know is that there’s a movement to LEGALIZE child-adult sex, not surprisingly right here in good old America – http://fathersforlife.org/dale/bauserma.html  So do you still think America is a God-fearing, Christian nation? Well, maybe your brain has been fried by drugs, copious microwaves from being constantly on your cell phone, or from watching too much propagandizing television to be able to think at all. 

3) Women are viewed as ‘sex objects’ by men, for the most part, and the media (movies, books, magazines, TV) exploits women as such, with little to no objection from themselves, society, and even the Church. From what I’ve seen, most churches today don’t preach about modesty, virtue, and a fathers obligation to his children born in or out of marriage. The Church et al has abdicated its responsibility to its members, to God, and to society, through its silence on these issues and should be doing more to assist single-parent households. – 1Jn 3:17 But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?

Mat 25:31-46 But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink? And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.  And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

4) Women themselves have a hand in their own demise through their passivity and/or by actively supporting their being portrayed as sex objects. They do this by adopting the lifestyles, behaviors, expressions, mindsets, work-ethics, aspirations, and fashions which the media and society suggest. Women in general dress provocatively in public; low cut and see-through blouses, heavy make-up, and skin-tight pants which show every curve and sometimes more. It’s become fashionable and acceptable behavior to accept a man’s proposal for sex before she’s had a chance to get to know him, and to continue having it without the benefit of marriage or commitment. Therein lies no protection for a woman, for whom sex is more than just a physical release no matter what the psychologists, agenda-driven social engineers, and media try to sell us. Women have lost more than their virginity from this immoral, dishonest, dangerous, and inaccurate boondoggle! They’re loosing their natural instincts to what their true needs are in relationships, or are repressing them because they’re buying the false images they’re being shown of what they ‘should be’ according to those who only want to exploit them and make millions off their beauty. Sex sells, but at what a price, more so to the women being exploited than to anyone else. They either knowingly or ignorantly, exchange their modesty for a phony sex image which robs them of their natural, innate beauty. Believe it or not, a woman’s modesty is what makes her truly beautiful! Modesty in women today has just about disappeared, which is a major loss for all. Children grow up thinking immodesty and self-exploitation is not only acceptable and normal, but even advantageous and desirable. The ‘new’ morality of today is turned around and upside down from what it was just fifty to a hundred years ago. Today, it’s almost considered a ‘virtue’ to dress and behave like a whore, to use your body and beauty to gain popularity, entice and control men, and or, to advance one’s career. Sure, hookers have been around for quite awhile but that life-style has mainly been looked upon as immoral. I wonder if that’s still true as women and young girls seem to be ever declining in modesty and moral behavior; loosing their innate sense of what it means to be a virtuous woman. – Pro 12:4 A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones. Pro 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Pro 31:30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

Some Stats & Studies on the Effects of Absentee Fathers on their Children —

Statistics consistently point out that children who grow up without their fathers are more likely to suffer from various social problems. Crime, drug abuse, abortion and school dropout rates are often directly related to father absence.

The biological relationship between father and child is well-established in the literature as a basis for paternal investment and, therefore, child well-being; however, the finding that the legal relationship between the parents is also linked to child well-being is a relatively new and important discovery.” http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=4210

– Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 44 percent of children in mother-only families.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011.

– Children living in female headed families with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6 percent, over 4 times the rate in married-couple families.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; ASEP Issue Brief: Information on Poverty and Income Statistics. September 12, 2012 http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/12/PovertyAndIncomeEst/ib.shtml

– Children of single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to commit suicide.

Sources: The Lancet, Jan. 25, 2003 • Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft, MD, Centre for Epidemiology, the National Board of Health and Welfare, Stockholm, Sweden • Irwin Sandler, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Prevention Research Center, Arizona State University, Tempe • Douglas G. Jacobs, MD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; and founder and director, The National Depression Screening Program • Madelyn Gould, PhD, MPH, professor of child psychiatry and public health, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University; and research scientist, New York State Psychiatric Institute.
http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20030123/absent-parent-doubles-child-suicide-risk

– Father Factor in Child Abuse

A study using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study revealed that in many cases the absence of a biological father contributes to increased risk of child maltreatment. The results suggest that Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies have some justification in viewing the presence of a social father as increasing children’s risk of abuse and neglect. It is believed that in families with a non-biological (social) father figure, there is a higher risk of abuse and neglect to children, despite the social father living in the household or only dating the mother.

Source: “CPS Involvement in Families with Social Fathers.” Fragile Families Research Brief No.46. Princeton, NJ and New York, NY: Bendheim-Thomas Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and Social Indicators Survey Center, 2010. https://www.fatherhood.org/fatherhood-data-statistics

**Click on this link http://fathers.com/wp39/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/fatherlessInfographic.png to see a ‘FatherlessInfographic.’

**An excellent resource which I HIGHLY recommend is, THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR FATHERING – a well designed site with plenty of resources and aides for fathers, including some free e-books and educational programs for your schools, community, and more. NCF was founded as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1990, with the purpose of “turning the hearts of fathers to their children.” Check it out at http://www.fathers.com/

Do it for your children, yourselves, and for future generations. Everyone matters and everyone can make a positive difference in the world, if they so choose.

~ Debra R. Stout, February 16, 2016

FYI – International Children’s Day is observed on June 01 annually. The World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland, proclaimed June 1 to be International Children’s Day in 1925. After the conference, different governments around the world decided to declare a day as Children’s Day to draw attention to children’s issues. Many countries chose June 1 which is why International Children’s Day takes place on that date. This text has been taken from www.cute-calendar.com

I Hear You Knocking, But You Can’t Come In!

Do you know that Jesus stands outside the door of your heart, knocking to get in so that He can fellowship with you? Do you also know that there are consequences for refusing to open to Him? Hear His words —

Rev 3:20  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Allow me to paraphrase this a bit – “if any man hears my voice and opens the door of his heart to me, I’ll come in and dine with him and he with me.”

dine = deipneō; From G1173; to dine, that is, take the principal (or evening) meal: – sup (X -per). “I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me – This is an image denoting intimacy and friendship. Supper, with the ancients, was the principal social meal; and the idea here is, that between the Saviour and those who would receive him there would be the intimacy which subsists between those who sit down to a friendly meal together. In all countries and times, to eat together, to break bread together, has been the symbol of friendship, and this the Saviour promises here.” [1]

Having a relationship with God entails the same dynamics of any personal relationship. In order to get to KNOW someone we must talk with them, ask questions and share our thoughts and feelings as well. Getting to know someone requires lots of time and effort. It isn’t quick and easy like speed dating, or the Bachelor TV show (ridiculously idiotic concepts in my opinion) in which both parties are flung into intimate settings and intimate relationships far too quickly, exposing their hearts to unnecessary hurt from not having adequate safeguards in place. Dear Reader, the purpose of Marriage is to provide the necessary protection for your HEART, so that you won’t suffer unnecessary hurt from sudden rejection and/or abandonment by one who hasn’t made a COMMITMENT to love and stay with you! Love today isn’t much more than physical attraction. In many cases couples merely live together and are intimate without a promise of fidelity or a commitment to stay, leaving hearts unprotected. Granted, there’s no guarantee that a husband or wife will uphold their wedding vows; divorce has been around a long time but it has never been God’s will – 1Co 7:10  And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband…

Mat 19:3  The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 
Mat 19:4  And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 
Mat 19:5  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 
Mat 19:6  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 
Mat 19:8  He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered (allowed) you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 
Mat 19:9  And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. 

Marriage between one man and one woman is God’s will for most – [2]. 1Co 7:2  Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Gen 2:24  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 

In God’s eyes, MARRIAGE is a COVENANT between two people which BINDS them together forever, not for as long as it’s convenient or pleasant. Marriage is not only a safeguard for your heart, but is the perfect environment in which to raise children. God’s will for a married man and woman is to “be fruitful and multiply” [3]. That’s always been His will and it STILL IS. Nothing has changed with God for He “is the same, yesterday, today, and FOREVER.” [4]

Marriage has another purpose; it unveils the mystery of oneness between God and His Church – Eph 5:31  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Eph 5:32  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Marriage may seem old fashioned or outdated to modern society, but it’s HOLY to Almighty God; a sacred union to be respected and guarded at all times, in every generation!

I believe there’s more than one reason I write about ‘marriage’ today, and it’s that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb of God is now ready, awaiting only for His Bride to come and dine with Him!

The Parable of the Wedding Feast —
Mat 22:1  And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 
Mat 22:2  The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 
Mat 22:3  And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 
Mat 22:4  Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 
Mat 22:5  But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 
Mat 22:6  And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 
Mat 22:7  But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 
Mat 22:8  Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 
Mat 22:9  Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 
Mat 22:10  So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 
Mat 22:11  And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 
Mat 22:12  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 
Mat 22:13  Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mat 22:14  For many are called, but few are chosen. 

The ‘chosen’ or ‘elect’ of God are those whom He ‘foreknew’ would keep His commands; these seek to please God regardless of the cost to themselves. The ‘called’ are those who’ve been ‘invited’ to the marriage supper, but REFUSE to come – But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise… They were TOO BUSY attending to their own affairs!

Likewise, those who refuse to ‘open’ when Yeshua comes knocking on the door of their hearts seeking relationship with them, are REFUSED entrance to His Kingdom —

Luk 13:23  Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 
Luk 13:24  Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 
Luk 13:25  When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 
Luk 13:26  Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 
Luk 13:27  But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 
Luk 13:28  There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 
Luk 13:29  And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 
Luk 13:30  And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. 

That last verse, Lk 13:30 is explained by Mat 21:31 (Jesus saith unto them) Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. Those who think they’re more righteous than certain sinners (as mentioned above) because they have an outer show of religion but whose hearts are full of wickedness, will find themselves LAST or ‘least’ in the kingdom, while the repentant ‘sinners’ who they looked down on, will be FIRST in the kingdom. ‘first’ = in rank, influence, honour / ‘last’ = of rank, grade of worth, last, i.e. lowest

Mat 5:17  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 
Mat 5:18  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 
Mat 5:19  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 
Mat 5:20  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. What were the Pharisees if not hypocrites? Mat 7:5  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.  hypocrite = hupokritēs; From G5271; an actor under an assumed character (stage player), that is, (figuratively) a dissembler

Men can fool other men with an outward appearance of righteousness through doing so called ‘good deeds’ and keeping various religious sacraments and rites, but they can’t fool God. God sees and judges the thoughts and intents of men’s hearts [5]. He readily forgives the penitent and contrite of heart [6], but hypocrites (who pretend to believe but really don’t) will be thrown into outer darkness with unbelievers, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth [7].

A STERN WARNING to PASTORS, BISHOPS, PROPHETS, APOSTLES, & TEACHERS:
Mat 24:42  Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 
Mat 24:43  But know this, that if the goodman (overseer; pastor, etc.) of the house (God’s household) had known in what watch the thief (false teacher, heretical doctrine) would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered (allowed) his house to be broken up. 
Mat 24:44  Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 
Mat 24:45  Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 
Mat 24:46  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 
Mat 24:47  Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 
Mat 24:48  But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; [8]
Mat 24:49  And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 

Note the contrast between a good and evil servant. A good servant ‘watches’ over God’s household, nurtures it, and doesn’t allow it to be ‘broken into’ – diorussō penetrate burglariously: – break through (up). He won’t allow a ‘thief’ to break in and steal the sheep through false doctrine. An evil servant does the opposite as he smites his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken! ‘smite’ = metaphorically to wound, disquiet one’s conscience; ‘eat and drink’ = metaphorically to devour, consume; ‘drunken’ = metaphorically one who has shed blood or murdered profusely. You can wound someone’s conscience by teaching them to sin against it – telling them to ignore what their conscience is convicting them of, and by living a sinful life-style thereby setting a bad example to those who look to you for guidance in matters of faith! You can murder someone’s soul by teaching that God’s commands aren’t valid for today, and therefore can be set aside. Who do you think God will hold responsible when those so taught end up in Hell? Who’s responsible for watching over God’s household, and sounding the alarm when he sees the wolf coming? The servant or overseer of God’s Household!

Mat 24:50  The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 
Mat 24:51  And shall cut him asunder (cut up by scourging, scourge severely), and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
Joh 10:12  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

Mat 7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 
Mat 7:22  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 
Mat 7:23  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 

The workers of iniquity won’t make it into God’s Kingdom. Iniquity = anomia; From G459; illegality, that is, violation of law or (generally) wickedness: – iniquity, X transgress (-ion of) the law, unrighteousness. Thus, the scripture here speaks of those who profess to know God but teach others to disobey and/or disregard God’s instructions; a very grave offense. Conversely, the truly righteous who DO His will shall enter the marriage and be glad – Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready!

 AMEN! The Lamb’s wife is preparing herself to live and reign with Him forever! She isn’t idle while waiting for Him, nor does she engage in IDOL worship with idol worshipers, but fully devotes herself to living according to His righteous decrees even when it isn’t convenient. If you refuse to open the door of your heart to Christ now when He comes knocking, He will likewise refuse to let you into His Kingdom when you go knocking on His door – Luk 13:25  Once the Master of the household gets up and shuts the door, and you’re standing outside and begin knocking on the door, saying, ‘Master, open up for us,’ then He will say to you, ‘I don’t know where you come from.’ [Tree of Life Version]  

Debra R. Stout, September 3, 2017

Footnotes:

[1] Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
[2] Some choose to remain single, like Paul – 1Co 7:6  But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. 
1Co 7:7  For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 
1Co 7:8  I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
1Co 7:32  But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord… 
[3] Genesis 1:22
[4] Hebrews13:8
[5] Hebrews 4:12
[6] Psalm 51:17
[7] Mt 22:13, Mt 24:51
[8] This passage is, in fact, “a parable,” though it is not expressly so called. The design is to show that his disciples should act as if they were each moment expecting his return. This he illustrates by the conduct of a servant who did not expect his master soon to return, who acted with great impropriety, and who was accordingly punished. ~ Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

*Words of Christ are in red text throughout.

 

 

THE POWER OF IMAGINATION

Related imageNever underestimate the power of imagination. While imagination is a gift from God, like every other gift, it can be used for good or for evil. When we imagine something, we create pictures and scenes in our minds that haven’t happened and aren’t real, but which affect our emotions, moods, even our words and actions. At some point we may end up doing what we’ve been meditating on. Paul addressed this when he wrote, “.. whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely….think on these things.” [1] Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; [2] This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. [3]

King David learned how his imagination could be used for evil when he didn’t turn his eyes away from the beautiful naked Bathsheba as she bathed on a nearby rooftop. David allowed lust for her to grow in his heart to such a degree that it overrode his love of God’s Torah which states, Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, ……[4] and drove him to have her husband killed in battle so he that he could marry her. The results for David and his new wife were disastrous; the child of their union died shortly after birth. Sin (breaking God’s laws) never yields good results. David allowed his lust to move him out of a place of trust for God’s provision (a wife) to covetousness which led him to murder by proxy of war [5]. Despite David’s slip ups, he was a man after God’s own heart. I love what he wrote, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD…[6] I think this is a good prayer to say every morning.

Our imaginations have power to bring about those things which we actively imagine. When we project pictures and scenes upon the screen of our imaginations, we begin an act of creation – of creating something new, something that hasn’t existed before. Just like God whose image we’re made in, God first IMAGINED the world before He CREATED it [7]. God gave us imagination so that we could envision and create things, all inventions have come about this way, but He wants us to use it for GOOD, not evil. Each imagination is as varied as the number of persons on the planet; no two persons are exactly alike. Granted, some have more lively and intense imaginations than others, but all have the capacity to dream or to imagine. Though what we imagine isn’t actually real, we may start talking and acting as though it was, which can have an effect upon us and others. We do in this sense, create our own realities. The Devil knows this so he constantly looks for ways to get a hold of our imagination to harness its power for his own nefarious purposes. Sadly, it’s not hard for him to do since we often submit our wills, minds, and emotions to him without realizing it. When you watch a movie your emotions are manipulated are they not? It’s a fact that movie directors and writers, know that if a movie doesn’t pull strongly on people’s emotions, the movie won’t be viewed much. This is why steamy novels and pornography are so popular because they arouse men’s fleshly appetites, and fill man’s innate desire for pleasure. Now, God gave us that innate desire for pleasure, but the Devil perverted it, as he has every other good gift God has given us. God gave sex to mankind that was pure, without lust in it, before the Serpent (the Devil) tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Serpent used Eve’s imagination against her by getting her to IMAGINE how eating the forbidden fruit could make her wise like God [8]. What curses they incurred for disobeying God’s command; plunging themselves and all mankind into an abyss of sin and misery. Their mistake was listening to the words of the Serpent instead of God’s words. All we need to know about living well is written down for us in the Bible. If we compare what we hear, see, and think, to what the Word says, we won’t become confused or get deceived about what’s right and wrong. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. [9]

Our imaginations are easily captured by what we see and hear through television and computer images; technology is advancing to take this ability to newer and higher levels than ever before. We are to be very careful about what we watch I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? [10], about what we hear “He that walketh righteously…… stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; “[11] God understands that our eyes and ears are gateways through which evil may enter into our hearts. Seeing that what enters our hearts can have serious ramifications, it’s imperative that we stay alert to what’s being projected onto the screen of our imagination at all times, whether by outside sources or ourselves. The images we project can come from four different sources; from God, our flesh nature, the world, and from the Devil or demons. If from God, the images will be light and good but if from the Devil, the world, or the flesh, they’ll be negative and dark; sadness, pain, sorrow, depression, suicide, revenge, murder, greed, lust, etc. [12] Thus, it’s to the Devil’s advantage to get us thinking “vain thoughts” [13] and projecting “evil imaginations” onto our minds so that he can defile our hearts and work wicked deeds through us. This is why Jesus said, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. [14] Jesus judges not only our deeds, but the THOUGHTS of our hearts as well. Man’s philosophy is that it doesn’t matter what you THINK, but only what you DO, but God’s Word says otherwise, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” [15]. Thus, what we meditate on tends to play out at some point in our lives, and or, may cause disease in our minds or bodies. Holding onto anger and grudges leads to bitterness which damages relationships and your health. It’s a scientific fact that excessive anger in a person often manifests in his or her physical body as high blood pressure, migraine headache, and heart failure. [16] Excessive fear may cause heart attacks [17]. In place of revenge, you can choose to forgive and let God meet out justice [18]. In place of worry, you can choose to trust God’s promises, and when facing lack of any kind, you can choose to trust God for his provision.

So the next time your flesh or the Devil tempts you to “imagine a vain thing” (vain=empty, useless) CAST it down right away; don’t allow it to linger in your mind, for if you do, you’ll be ensnared (caught as in a trap) by it and fall into sin. Jesus though pure in every way, still had to pray fervently with watching’s and fasting’s, that He might not succumb to temptation – as a man. Remember that while Jesus was the Son of God, He was also a MAN who was “tempted in like manner” (in every way) as we are, yet never once succumbed to temptation or sinned [19]. You should know that Jesus LEFT HIS GLORY (divine powers) in Heaven [20] in order to take on a body of FLESH such as mortal men have for a couple reasons. One was so that He could show us it’s possible to do the works He did, and to overcome temptation, by the power of the Holy Spirit alone. Of course, the main reason He left his glory in heaven, was so He could die on a Cross for you and me [21]. If He had retained all of His divine powers and come in a spiritual body, He would not have been able to die – a spirit cannot be killed so Jesus had to take on a flesh and blood body. It was the same with the Angels who “left their first estate” in Heaven to become mortal flesh so that they could “take wives to themselves” of the beautiful women they saw [22]. These “fallen angels” mated with human females producing offspring of hybrid giants called Nephilim, “men of renown” whom many ancient civilizations revered as ‘gods’ [23]. For some this is new and controversial material, but Scripture, along with copious historical data, supports these statements.

Summary —

Yahweh God made man in His image and likeness, so man has power to imagine and to create, just like God. Since what we meditate on will at some point play out in our lives, it’s imperative that we manage what we allow to be projected onto the screen of our imaginations [24]. While we can’t always control what we hear and see, we can choose what we meditate upon; we don’t have to allow evil thoughts or desires to linger in our minds and hearts [25]. We can choose to drink from the polluted waters of worldly wisdom and eat from the fleshpots of carnal pleasures, or from the pure streams of God’s Holy Spirit and Word. God has given us the power of freedom of choice, so that what we experience, be it life or death, is really up to us [26]. With freedom and power comes responsibility. May we chose wisely and use all that we’ve been entrusted with, for good and not evil. In the end, we will all give an accounting to Yahweh God for our choices.  

Debra R. Stout, July 24, 2017

FOOTNOTES:

  1.  Phil 4:8
  2.  2Co 10:5
  3.  Jos 1:8
  4. Deu 5:21
  5. 2 Sam 11:2-4
  6. Ps 19:14
  7. Gen 1:26-27
  8. Gen 3:5
  9. Ps 119:105
  10. Job 31:1
  11. Isa33:15
  12. Mt 15:19, Mk 7:21
  13. Ps 94:7, Jer 4:14, Mk 7:21
  14. Mt 5:28 ‘heart’ denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life
  15. Prov 23:7a
  16. http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/how-anger-hurts-your-heart  http://migravent.com/blog/5-anger-styles-that-trigger-migraines/
  17. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295664.php
  18. Rms 12:19, Deut 32:35
  19. Heb 4:15
  20. Jn 17:5
  21. Heb 2:9, 14, 16
  22. Gen 6:2
  23. Gen 6:4, Num 13:33, Deut 2:20-21, 1 Sam 17:4
  24. Pro 4:23  Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 
  25. ….. let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Eph 4:26
  26. I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing – Deut 30:19

 

 

WHEN GOD SAYS “NO”

Image result for FREE pictures of ancient sacrificial altarsHave you prayed very hard for something you want, only to find yourself waiting and waiting while nothing happens? You didn’t get the thing you prayed for and wondered why? After all, you’re a good little Christian who attends church services regularly, you may even be involved in the ministry of your church. You might be spending countless hours in intercessory prayer for others, and yet, your desired answer hasn’t materialized. You begin to question the Lord, or wonder if you’re praying amiss. Fact is, you might be, but it’s more likely that you’re not seeing the thing you’ve prayed for because the Lord has simply said “No” to your request.

Now, I know from personal experience that there are some things in life which we feel we just CAN’T live without if we’re to be happy and fulfilled. Many years ago I made a difficult decision that deeply affected several people possibly for the rest of their lives. The situation called for it, nevertheless I was emotionally distraught over it, and while my pain has lessened with time, it hasn’t gone away; it may never go away completely. In the midst of my crisis however, the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me that He was ‘doing something’ which I wouldn’t understand now. He spoke this scripture verse to me verbatim, “You do not know what I do now, but you shall know hereafter.” [John 13:7] How did I know it was a word from God? His words always fill you with His peace, and I know the voice of the Holy Spirit who lives inside me. Despite that word, years later, that decision came back to ‘test’ my devotion to the Lord, to see if I would keep Him FIRST place in my heart, or succumb to bitterness and anger over the loss I’d suffered, and possibly “draw back” from Him. It wasn’t an easy test; I so badly WANTED what I had given to Him (someone I loved dearly) to be a part of my life, but it was not to be – GOD SAID “NO.” At least for now, that’s His answer, and I must accept it if I’m to remain in the center of His will, and be at peace with Him and myself. When we fight against God’s decrees He may withdraw from us or we may find ourselves withdrawing from Him, and for those who know Him intimately, that brings pain far worse than the loss of any person or thing on this earth! No human relationship can meet the deep needs of your soul and spirit like the Lord Himself. In His presence is fullness of JOY, and everything that you need. Need doesn’t exist in God, for He fills all things with Himself. On another note, it’s perfectly acceptable to God for us to express our feelings whatever they are, to Him. He actually wants us to bring everything which concerns us to Him in prayer —-

Php 4:6  Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Php 4:7  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus

When we pour out our hearts to the Lord, we release our emotions in a safe place, to a safe Person, Who takes our inner turmoil and restores our souls with His peace. This is something I’ve experienced many times in my spiritual sojourn. Psa 147:3  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 

So, the truth of the matter is that we can live without those things we feel we MUST have in order to be happy. God will test us from time to time, to see if He’s first in our lives and if we’ll trust Him, or throw a fit and rant and rave at Him for not giving us our ‘dues’ so to speak. Who hasn’t on occasion, yelled at God in anger for some imagined neglect on His part, of his or her needs? While there’s ”no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” [Rms 8:1] one still needs to repent and ask God’s forgiveness when he realizes his error in falsely accusing Him of wrongdoing.  God is simply incapable of being mean, petty, selfish, cruel, unfair, etc.; for ”God is Love” in the purest and fullest sense. God deeply CARES about our needs and wants, but He sees the BIG PICTURE and the Future which we can’t see. Oftentimes, what we want so badly and get, brings us nothing but trouble, heartache, and loss. God allows us to have this experience again and again if necessary, until we LEARN TO COMPLETELY TRUST HIM WITH OUR LIVES.  He always has our best interests at heart, and “works all things together for good for those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose” [Rms 8:28].

God has a higher purpose for those who have received Him as their savior than just getting saved. Most haven’t been taught what that higher purpose is or what it entails. Apostle Paul wrote about it in Philippians, Romans, and Hebrews, but it seems this vital teaching gets little, if any, attention these days. God’s higher purpose for His called ones, is to conform them to the image of His Son Jesus Christ –

Rom 8:29  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  God won’t be satisfied until He sees His image fully formed in those whom He has chosen to rule and reign with Him when His Kingdom is established on Earth. But not all will qualify for that position. Those who are ‘chosen’ must undergo the strictest training and testing now, to prepare them to rule then; there’s no getting around this. The ‘many’ are all whom God has called, they comprise the general body of believers, while the ‘chosen’ are those who are willing to pay any price to “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” [Rev 14:4]. Their entire lives are “living sacrifices” unto God – Rom 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. This means that they hold nothing back from God. All that they are and all that they have, want, or need, is laid upon the altar as a sweet smelling offering unto Him, to do with as He pleases! That is full consecration, and it’s what Yahweh is looking for in each of His called ones. Yet, not all who are “called” will advance to “chosen” status – “Many are called, but few are chosen” [Mt 22:14].

Tests and trials, often in the form of delayed or unanswered prayers, are required in order for the believer to grow up (mature) into the fullness of what God has for him. As a child I recall hearing that old adage, ‘God knows best.’ At that time I didn’t give it much credence, but now I know it was a true saying. God does know what’s best for each of us, and IF we let Him be Lord of our lives, we’ll end up with His BEST. Sadly, that’s often not the case because we insist on running our lives our way, refusing to let Him correct and mold us. God is supposed to be the Potter and we the clay, not the other way around.

If you have ever had a difficult time accepting God’s “no’s” and fully submitting to his dealings in your life (and who hasn’t?), I highly recommend two books to you, “The Secret of the Stairs” and “Waterspouts of Glory” by Wade E. Taylor. The first is an in depth exposition of the biblical book, The Song of Solomon. Both are anointed by the Holy Spirit, and contain pure, deep spiritual truths which you’ll want to read again and again. I wouldn’t (couldn’t) part with my ‘used’ but almost ‘new’ copies which I found at Amazon for less than ten dollars each. These books give insight into the “why’s” of God’s dealings with those who are being conformed to His Image, chosen to one day rule and reign with Him in His Kingdom.  Anyone who’s been ”called” can qualify to be one of God’s “chosen,” but there is a price to be paid. Dying to SELF and crucifying the flesh is required of those who wish to attain to the highest and best, the HIGH CALL of God in Christ Jesus –

Php 3:14  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 

Mat 16:24 – 26 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 

Powerful words are they not? Fact is, not all will qualify to rule with Christ, for not all are willing to pay the price. If you are, God bless you as you seek Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. May you submit to ALL of his dealings in your life however painful, that you might become one of His “chosen.” Heb 12:6  For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. All of God’s dealings are for our ultimate good and His higher purpose, and because God is Love, we can trust Him completely to do what’s best for us.

Please feel free to write me with any questions or concerns you may have about this article.

Debra R. Stout © May 21, 2017

THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD

God began to speak to my heart the evening of March 10, 2017, as I sat still and quiet in my recliner. He began to tell me why the ‘fiery trial’ had come to me (earlier in the day I had asked Him WHY so many things were going wrong in my life).

He began by telling me that this trial was sent to refine or purify my soul; as silver or gold is smelted, the junk rises to the surface where the Refiner can then skim it off, leaving pure metal in the pot. He told me that I have two choices, to embrace it and advance, or fight it and stay the same. If I embrace it, the process will be easier to go through, but if I fight it, the process will be harder, and need to be repeated in the future. He said He won’t allow junk (impurities) into His Kingdom. Then He mentioned my impurities and said that they must go! 

He then directed me to Hebrews 12:5, and after meditating on it, He showed me that my walk was uneven; one day walking in the Spirit, another day, in the flesh! He wants our walk to be even and level, living in the Spirit day by day. 

Fiery trials are sent to cleanse the heart and soul of impurities, like wrong thoughts, words, and actions. As metal is purified by fire, so is the heart and soul of a man. When gold or silver was refined in ancient times, it was heated to a very high temperature which caused the impurities (called dross) to rise to the surface. It then could be skimmed off the top of the liquid metal, leaving an unmarred surface that reflected the image of the refiner, a picture of Jesus as the Refiner’s Fire. This trial came to me so that my impurities (which lay hidden most of the time) would surface, so that I would see them, repent, and ask God to remove them. Sometimes these types of trials commence a ‘crisis of faith’ – something else the Lord pointed out to me twice on the same day several days before this trial arrived at my door. Not by accident, I found the phrase, ‘crisis of faith’ in a book title I wasn’t even searching for, and in a book [1] I had in my personal library at home about Moses when God commanded him to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Moses’ encounter with Yahweh brought him to a ‘crisis of faith’ in which he had to choose between believing God and moving forward, or letting his doubts rule and refusing God’s call. If Moses had done the latter, he would have forfeited God’s plan for his life, and God would have found someone else to free the Israelites. Moses would have lost out on his divine destiny. Fortunately, Moses chose to believe and obey God. In like manner, God told me that I could either stay where I was (stagnate), or embrace the purifying process and advance! He said that if I receive and embrace it, the process will be easier to endure, but if I fight against it, it will be harder. The purifying process, like the refiner’s smelting, will be repeated UNTIL all the impurities have surfaced and been removed! In other words, if I fight against the loving, fiery trials the Lord sends for my ultimate good, it will delay my reaching perfection and cause me more pain in the long run. It’s like when a child stubbornly refuses his parents discipline and suffers severer punishments, and or worse consequences further down the road as a result. It’s easier to just submit to God’s discipline when he sends it.

God disciplines those He loves –

Heb 12:5  And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 
Heb 12:6  For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 
Heb 12:7  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 
Heb 12:8  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 
Heb 12:9  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 
Heb 12:10  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 
Heb 12:11  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 
Heb 12:12  Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 
Heb 12:13  And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 

And make straight paths for your feet,…. By “feet” are meant the walk and conversation of the saints, both in the church, and in the world, Son_7:1 and there are paths made ready for these feet to walk in; as the good old paths of truth, of the word and worship of God, of faith and holiness: and to make these paths “straight”, is to make the word of God the rule of walking; to avoid carefully joining anything with it as a rule; to attend constantly on the ordinances of Christ; to go on evenly in a way of believing on him; to walk in some measure worthy of the calling wherewith we are called, and by way of example to others.

Lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; a lame member, as the Syriac version, a lame member of the body of Christ, the church; or a lame person, as the Arabic version, a weak believer; one that is ready to halt, either through the corruption of nature, or through the weakness of grace, or through want of light and judgment, and through instability and inconstancy; lest such an one should, through the irregular walk and conversation of others, be stumbled and offended, and go out of the way, and leave the paths of righteousness and truth. God takes care of, and has a regard to such, and he would have others also, Mic_4:6. The Ethiopic version reads, “that your halting may be healed, and not offended”: that you yourselves may not halt and stumble.

But let it rather be healed; the fallen believer be restored, the weak brother be confirmed, the halting professor be strengthened, and everyone be built up and established upon the most holy faith, and in the pure ways of the Gospel. [John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible]

“In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” – Prov 3:6

The word ‘acknowledge’ is ‘yada’ – to ‘know, regard, recognize, perceive, experience, observe, be aware, comprehend, understand, learn, be instructed, and more. See Strong’s H2045

In all thy ways acknowledge him,…. Or “know him” (l); the Lord: set him before thee; have him always in view; consider him as ever present with thee, observing every step thou takest; and take not one step without his leave, and without his advice; ask wisdom of him who gives liberally; consult his word, and make the Scriptures thy counsellors, or the men of thy counsel, as in Psa_119:24; take him as your guide; observe the footsteps of his providence; follow the Lamb wheresoever he goes; walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; when things go cross and adverse, and not to your mind, submit to his sovereignty; and be still and know that he is God, that does all things right, for his own glory and his people’s good, Psa_46:10; and when things succeed, give him the glory of all; own his hand in it, and the bounty of it; acknowledge that all you have, in providence and grace, come from him;

and he shall direct thy paths; man cannot direct his own; no, not a man: this is a blessing from the Lord; who steps of his people, keeps the feet of his saints, and directs them aright in things temporal and spiritual, Jer_10:23. (l) דעהו “scito eum”, Pagninus, Montanus. [John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible]

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” – Psalm 119:105
Pro 4:24  Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. 
Pro 4:25  Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 
Pro 4:26  Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. 
Pro 4:27  Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil. 

Turn not to the right hand nor to the left – Avoid all crooked ways. Be an upright, downright, and straight-forward man. Avoid tricks, wiles, and deceptions of this kind. [Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible]

Ponder the path of thy feet,…. Consider well what path it is, whether right or wrong; or weigh it in the balances of thought, as Aben Ezra; or rather in the balances of the word, and see whether it agrees with that or not. The Septuagint version is, “make straight paths for thy feet”; to which the author of the epistle to the Hebrews seems to have respect, Heb_12:13;

and let all thy walls be established; so as to walk on steadily, constantly, uniformly, and not be easily moved out of the ways of religion and truth. Or, “let all thy ways be prepared”, or “directed”, or “disposed” (c); according to the rule of the divine word. Some render it as a promise, “and all thy ways shall be established” (d); when care is taken to look well into them; see 2Ch_20:20. (c) יכנו “dirigantur”, Tigurine version, Mercerus; “recte apparentur aut disponantur”, Vatablus. (d) “Stabilientur”, V. L. Pagninus, Montanus; “constabilientur”, Schultens. [John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible]

Ponder the path, etc., Pro_4:26. “Weigh carefully.” Act in haste and repent at leisure! Ask God to keep you back from presumptuous sins; and bear in mind the wise exhortation of Ecc_5:2. [Through the Bible Day by Day, F.B. Meyer]

In other words, consider well the course of your life, or the course of action you’re about to take (ponder the path of your feet). Let all your thoughts, words, and actions (ways) be prepared, directed, and ordered (established), by the Word of God. Ignoring it will yield negative consequences, and could result in ruin. May God’s sons escape such a fate.

May they all make their paths straight, and not despise the chastening of the Lord!

Debra R. Stout © March 11, 2017

Footnotes:

[1] “Experiencing God” by Henry T. Blackaby & Claude B. King, Chapter 3

Commercializing Christ’s Birth

 

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Christmas – ‘the happiest time of the year,’ a common refrain heard during the season of what is referred to as the time of Christ’s birth. What makes this holiday the happiest time of the year? Is it the birth of Christ or the exchanging of gifts which we’ve grown accustomed to? Just who or what do we celebrate? I’m sure many would say it’s not the gifts, food or drink, but the sharing of warm moments with family and friends that makes this holiday so special.

While that may be true, I wonder what Christmas would be like if no one exchanged gifts, but just spent time together remembering Christ’s birth? Would everyone still feel it’s the most wonderful time of the year, or, would they feel deprived? It would make for one very interesting experiment if people dared to try it, but I’ve not much hope for that since most are hooked on the excitement and expectation that gift exchanging engenders. Yet there are some brave souls who have pulled back, even disengaged themselves from much of the season’s rituals, alleviating themselves of the stress, and saving a bundle to boot. Right about now, I can almost hear someone screaming, “Scrooge!”

Movies like “Scrooge” are designed to heap guilt on people if they don’t give like they should. Who made up these rules anyway? A myth invented by men, many believe Christmas is based on Christ’s birth and that gift giving is based on the three Wise Men or Magi who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Fact is, there’s no hint in that biblical account, or anywhere else in the Bible, that the actions of the Magi were to be repeated. The Magi’s gifts were for travel expenses such as food and lodging for Jesus and his parent’s journey to Egypt, a one-time event. But who cares, gift exchanging is SO much FUN, right?

If the Magi aren’t used as justification for our ritual gift exchange, it’s jolly old St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus. At least using St Nick is honest, since gift exchanging began with pagan festivals like Saturnalia and Yule based on the ‘return of the Sun’ at the Winter Solstice. Ancient Roman Saturnalia festivities began on December 17 and concluded on the 24th, when gifts were exchanged. Homes and streets were noisy with banqueting, heavy drinking, and riotous behavior. ‘Gift-giving has its roots in pagan rituals held during the winter. When Christianity folded these rituals into Christmas, the justification for bearing gifts was redirected to the Three Wise Men, the Magi, who gave gifts to the infant Jesus. But in early modern Europe, it also had its roots in Christmas begging. During the holiday seasons, bands of young men, often rowdy, would “wassail” from home to home and demand handouts from the gentry, says Stephen Nissenbaum, author of “The Battle for Christmas.” Christmas involved an exchange between the social classes.’[1]

Another common refrain heard during Christmas, is that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Is He really? When families gather around their trees to open presents, how many talk about Christ’s birth or the Magi, even in Christian homes? Though many attend Sunday and Christmas Eve church services commemorating His birth, when they get home, their focus reverts back to gifts and other holiday trappings. It’s good for families to get together, but how has Christmas become the designated time of year for that to happen? The answer is simply, tradition or custom. But as Jesus once said to some Pharisees, Mar 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men…

While Christ’s birth is supposed to be the centerpiece, the commercial aspects of Christmas have pretty much overshadowed Him. Sadly, most of the world has commercialized Christ. Think about that for a moment. If true, this means that Christ is being ‘used’ to sell things to fill the coffers of merchants, and to satisfy man’s lust for material things! Is this not the commercializing or merchandising of Christ? The false notion that we give gifts at Christmas because Magi brought them to baby Jesus, gives people an excuse to spend excessively, get drunk, and overeat – all in the name of honoring Christ’s birth. When did Christ ever teach men to overeat, get drunk, or do anything in excess? He taught moderation in all things, and to give without expectation of a return. Tell me that most don’t expect a gift in return at Christmas, or don’t end up feeling disappointed by what they got, or feel they didn’t get enough. How much is enough anyway?

If we truly wish to honor Christ, shouldn’t we stop commercializing His birth? Why not just admit that we exchange gifts because we WANT to, not because the Magi gave gifts to baby Jesus? Now I know that many, if not most, Christians will balk at these facts, stating emphatically that it doesn’t matter what people did long ago, but only what we do now, and all that matters is our heart’s motivation. Dare we search our hearts to see if our motivation is to honor Christ’s birth, or to satisfy our wants? It can’t be both. Jesus taught denial of self – Luk 9:23  And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 

Could we not break away just a little from the commercialization and merchandising of Christ? It’s just too much. My mother shared with me that in her childhood days, most people hand made gifts to give to loved ones at Christmas. Their celebration was simple and frugal compared to ours today. It’s despicable how merchants have turned Christ’s birth, a HOLY event which took place in a lowly manger, into a massive commercial behemoth. Should Christians take part in this yearly exploitation of their Savior’s birth?

Besides, giving can occur any time of the year, whenever there is need, and without expectation of getting something in return. Jesus taught people to give to those who can’t pay you back, so that He may reward you at the Resurrection of the Just. Luk 14:12 When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. 

Luk 14:13  But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 

Luk 14:14  And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. 

Jesus also taught, “It’s more blessed (happy, joyous) to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

Debra R. Stout, December 15, 2016

Foot Notes:

[1] https://www.csmonitor.com/World/2013/1221/Christmas-How-did-gift-giving-and-caroling-get-started