What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter (John 13:7).
We have only a partial view here of God’s dealings, His half-completed, half-developed plan; but all will stand out in fair and graceful proportions in the great finished Temple of Eternity!
Go, in the reign of Israel’s greatest king, to the heights of Lebanon. See that noble cedar, the pride of its compeers, an old wrestler with northern blasts! Summer loves to smile upon it, night spangles its feathery foliage with dewdrops, the birds nestle on its branches, the weary pilgrim or wandering shepherd reposes under its shadows from the midday heat or from the furious storm; but all at once it is marked out to fall; The aged denizen of the forest is doomed to succumb to the woodman’s stroke!
As we see the axe making its first gash on its gnarled trunk, then the noble limbs stripped of their branches, and at last the “Tree of God,” as was its distinctive epithet, coming with a crash to the ground, we exclaim against the wanton destruction, the demolition of this proud pillar in the temple of nature. We are tempted to cry with the prophet, as if inviting the sympathy of every lowlier stem–invoking inanimate things to resent the affront–”Howl, fir tree; for the cedar has fallen!”
But wait a little. Follow that gigantic trunk as the workmen of Hiram launch it down the mountain side; thence conveyed in rafts along the blue waters of the Mediterranean; and last of all, behold it set a glorious polished beam in the Temple of God. As you see its destination, placed in the very Holy of Holies, in the diadem of the Great King–say, can you grudge that “the crown of Lebanon” was despoiled, in order that this jewel might have so noble a setting? That cedar stood as a stately prop in Nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of the latter house was greater than the glory of the former!”
How many of our souls are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trial have stripped and bared them. We see no reason for dealings so dark and mysterious, but He has a noble end and object in view; to set them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His Heavenly Zion; to make them a “crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God.”
I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see–
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.
Originally posted on Felons; An Endangered Species:
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz praised President Barack Obama for commuting the sentences of eight crack cocaine offenders Thursday, and said he should begin using the process more.
Obama has not used his commutation and pardon power much during his presidency, and chose to do so in these cases because of the disparity of sentences between crack and powder cocaine. Most convicted of using crack cocaine are black, while most convicted of using powder cocaine are white.
The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 cut those disparities, but the people whose sentences where commuted on Thursday were convicted prior to the law’s enactment. They likely would have gotten shorter sentences if convicted under the current law.
Thirteen others received pardons from Obama.
Okay, thank you President Obama… Now what do we do with these people who have been or will be released from prison?
While this is…
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Church looked exactly the way he thought it should. The ushers were in position. The people were assembling. The armorbearers were ready and waiting to serve. Yes, everything seemed just fine… until he stepped up to the podium to preach the word of the Lord.
That’s when he started to feel invisible discouraging forces attacking his mind. “Where is this coming from?” he thought just before he opened the service in prayer. Suddenly he remembered his spiritual maturity message called “grow up” from the week before and the warfare that followed. “He is too demanding! He doesn’t love us,” were among the thoughts raging against his mind — accusations from religious pew warmers.
So while the preacher had expected to find a crowd willing to receive him and the grace of God on his life, to his perplexity he entered a combat zone of religious mindsets, full of offenses, power plays and the traps and tricks of rebellious born again unbelievers. Despite the discouragement and in the face of rejection, he boldly preached his message and lovingly prayed for all the people at the altar call, including those who had complained about last week’s “grow up” call.
As he later reflected on this fervent Sunday morning service, he couldn’t help but feel the pain of being resisted by those he loved and so wanted to see spiritually grow in Christ. The battle was on in his mind, saying: “What’s the use of all this preaching? What am I doing all this for? They’re not taking hold of what God is saying.”
Sound familiar? When the “what’s the use?” thoughts in the mind hits the pastor several subtle symptoms manifest. First comes demoralization, a loss of spiritual identity where one no longer sees the benefits of laboring. It is called burnout, an exhaustion caused by a lack of progress that leads to feelings of ineffective leadership and a sense of failure. With hope deferred, the imagination “what’s the use?” begins to battle his mind.
Discerning the Signs of Burnout
Because of the feelings of rejection and being unappreciated, those affected by the “what’s the use” burnout find solace in isolation in order to protect themselves from others in ministry – especially those that may have attributed to the “what’s the use” spiritual attack.
Another attachment is apathy, a lack of desire to do the work of the ministry and that comes in the form of thoughts about shunning once-loved responsibilities. Lastly, defeatism manifests with feelings of having been beaten and abused and is part and parcel with the “what’s the use?” burnout.
If you’ve felt this way, then you may have been the prey of a carefully designed attack by the enemy to weaken and drain you and other Christian leaders of their spiritual fight and zeal. Although Kingdom Christian leaders are strong visionaries, this spiritual attack hits core convictions and is a cunning strategy of the enemy to get them to doubt their own callings and effectiveness in ministry.
The lack of finances, the frustration of leading an army of volunteers who are unwilling to submit to training, the pressure to somehow get it all done anyway – even if you have to do it yourself – and being taken for granted by those who are too familiar with you, are overwhelmingly discouraging.
From the bless-me-but-do-not-correct-me mentality to the spiritual warfare that rages in the heavenlies, a Kingdom leader has to contend on many fronts. He challenges the immaturity and instability in believers, even if it is uncomfortable. He brings correction, instruction, reproof and lovingly rebukes them as a father would his own children. This can make him the target of unfair abuse.
Paul, speaking of them said, “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death… ye are honourable, but we are despised… And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it. Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).
Not a pretty picture of ministry, yet a Christian leader endures all this to equip a single believer being motivated by love.
Lessons in Quick Forgiveness
Despite it all, he has the ability to press through and overcome the subtle warnings signs of spiritual burnout. He learns a lesson of quick forgiveness from Stephen, who prayed for his persecutors while he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:60).
Quick forgiveness doesn’t take the time to meditate on abuse. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs in the hidden compartments of the mind. By quickly forgiving his abusers the leader can keep himself unspotted by the “what’s the use” devil and steer clear from spiritual burnout.
Isolation is one of the symptoms attached to spiritual burnout. But what did Peter and John do when the religious council threatened them, charging that they should no longer speak to anyone in the name of Jesus? They found strength and refreshing in their own company. The Scripture says, “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them… And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-31). Like Peter and John, you can connect with those of the same heart and spirit and be stirred to go at it again and again, even in the face of religious persecution.
Encourage Yourself in the Lord
Sometimes, unfortunately, more often than not, leaders must learn to stand alone. So what do you do to keep from getting discouraged by the “what’s the use” burnout when no one is there to back you up, or to lend you support and comfort? One can glean from King David. In the midst of great distress, having lost everything, and having his own men seek to stone him, David encouraged himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6). He became strong in his spirit and acted valiantly on behalf of his people. He had two choices: succumb under pressure or lead the people into victory to recover all that was stolen from them. David made the right choice and so can you.
Running with Vision
Being the visionary that he is, the Christian leader must keep his eyes on God’s vision for him when standing face to face with the “what’s the use” spiritual burnout. The way Christ overcame the religious abuse against Him, is the same way the Christian leader can overcome it and its various symptoms. Scripture declares, “Looking unto Jesus… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:2-3). The joy set before the Christian leader is the vision and mandate God gave him to accomplish – to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry. Seeing the joy of the fulfillment of that vision will sustain him through the hardest of times.
Like the fervent preacher in our story, Christian leaders have a heart of love for the people. Yes, they want to see them blessed, prosperous, healed, but also matured and as he put it “grow up.” In order for him to be most effective, believers can allow him to be and to do what he is graced to do, which is to equip them for the work of the ministry.
Perhaps believers play an important role in combating the “what’s the use?” spiritual burnout. Think about it. If Christians in the Sunday morning service had done their part, then there would be no place for this spiritual attack in the mind of their preacher. Then, one would only come to an encouraging conclusion: Church is exactly the way he thought it should be.
Don’t worry if you have haters; Jesus Christ was perfect, and they still hated him! What should we expect being imperfect?
I think it’s important to first say a little about why loving your enemies is necessary. Jesus gives us the answer in verse 48. Based on everything that has gone before in this chapter (as well as the concept of loving your enemies), Jesus says you cannot be perfect without it. The word perfect in verse 48 comes from the Greek word “teleios.” And while “perfect” is a good translation, I think it distracts from the meaning here. Another way to translate teleios is “complete” or “mature.” So what I think Jesus is trying to say here is if you wanted to be a complete person, or a fully mature human being, loving your enemies is something that you have to do.
“They hating on me!” or “Haters are going to hate!” are common phrases that some use to justify reasons why someone or a group of people have an unfavorable opinion of them or their activities. The term “haters” has become popular in the last few years to describe others, but can you actually “hate” on yourself? Read some ways the person hating on you could be in the mirror.
1. Comparing Yourself to Others – If you are constantly comparing what you have or don’t have to what others do or don’t have, then you may be borderline hating on yourself. Comparisons may ignite low self-esteem and depression and have been one of the top five causes of why relationships end.
2. Not Listening to Your Inner Voice – Your inner voice, your conscience, or whatever you prefer to call it can be your saving grace for so many reasons. Usually, your conscience is based upon your mind and body’s history and best practices in each situation. Sometimes your natural reaction may not be your best reaction and it’s that inner voice that tells you to do differently. Listen.
3. Doing Just Enough to Get By – With the exception of trust fund babies, “self-made” successful people usually have a story of sacrifice, hard work, perseverance and dedication. The only person “doing just enough” hurts is yourself. When you can, do more, give more, show how much “more” you are than people realize.
4. Not Being a Man or Woman of Your Word – One of the quickest ways to get “realistic” haters is to lie about who you truly are. Saying one thing and not following through gives a false representation of who you truly are. Don’t allow others the satisfaction of misinterpreting you. Give them the real “say-what-i-do-and-do-what-i-say” self.
5. Not Believing In Your Ability – We can sometimes be our own worst enemy. Saying that you “can’t” or that something “never” happens to you is speaking to your own downfall. Use words like “I can” and “I will” to verbally affirm your current and future positions. Research has shown that those who visualize their goal on a consistent basis are 33% more likely to achieve those goals.
6. Saying That You Have Haters (When You Really Don’t) – Be honest with yourself: are people really “hating” on you or are they telling you the truth? Sometimes the truth hurts, but can lead to healing. It may do you good to take a look at what the person says (not how they say it) and see if it’s true. If it’s true, do what you need to do to be better. If it’s false, do what you need to do to stay strong.
Remember, announcing that you have haters rarely does anything to help your case, as nearly everyone has haters nowadays. The differentiating factor is how you rise above despite your obstacles.
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9).
God is looking for a man, or woman, whose heart will be always set on Him, and who will trust Him for all He desires to do. God is eager to work more mightily now than He ever has through any soul. The clock of the centuries points to the eleventh hour.
“The world is waiting yet to see what God can do through a consecrated soul.” Not the world alone, but God Himself is waiting for one, who will be more fully devoted to Him than any who have ever lived; who will be willing to be nothing that Christ may be all; who will grasp God’s own purposes; and taking His humility and His faith, His love and His power, will, without hindering, continue to let God do exploits.
“There is no limit to what God can do with a man, providing he will not touch the glory.”
In an address given to ministers and workers after his ninetieth birthday, George Mueller spoke thus of himself: “I was converted in November, 1825, but I only came into the full surrender of the heart four years later, in July, 1829. The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone. God, God alone became my portion. I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else. And by the grace of God this has remained, and has made me a happy man, an exceedingly happy man, and it led me to care only about the things of God. I ask affectionately, my beloved brethren, have you fully surrendered the heart to God, or is there this thing or that thing with which you are taken up irrespective of God?
I read a little of the Scriptures before, but preferred other books; but since that time the revelation He has made of Himself has become unspeakably blessed to me, and I can say from my heart, God is an infinitely lovely Being.
Oh, be not satisfied until in your own inmost soul you can say, “God is an infinitely lovely Being!”
I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian. I know “I AM” is nearer than I think, richly present in all my moments. You are connected to me by Love-bonds that nothing can sever. However My Lord, I sometimes feel alone, especially in performing the work “You” have called me to perform. Your Being is invisible which makes our union invisible, so I ask that “You” open my eyes to “Your” presence and I will feel safer to continue to trust “Your” calling associated with the work and visions “YOU” have predestined me for. This isn’t some sort of escape from reality; it is tuning in to ultimate reality. You are far more Real than the world I can see, hear, and touch. Faith is the confirmation of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality, perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.
I will be still, and I will behold in my dwelling place (Isaiah 18:4, RV).
Assyria was marching against Ethiopia, the people of which are described as tall and smooth. And as the armies advance, God makes no effort to arrest them; it seems as though they will be allowed to work their will. He is still watching them from His dwelling place, the sun still shines on them; but before the harvest, the whole of the proud army of Assyria is smitten as easily as when sprigs are cut off by the pruning hook of the husbandman.
Is not this a marvelous conception of God–being still and watching? His stillness is not acquiescence. His silence is not consent. He is only biding His time, and will arise, in the most opportune moment, and when the designs of the wicked seem on the point of success, to overwhelm them with disaster. As we look out on the evil of the world; as we think of the apparent success of wrong-doing; as we wince beneath the oppression of those that hate us, let us remember these marvelous words about God being still and beholding.
There is another side to this. Jesus beheld His disciples toiling at the oars through the stormy night; and watched though unseen, the successive steps of the anguish of Bethany, when Lazarus slowly passed through the stages of mortal sickness, until he succumbed and was borne to the rocky tomb. But He was only waiting the moment when He could interpose most effectually.
Is He still to thee? He is not unobservant; He is beholding all things; He has His finger on thy pulse, keenly sensitive to all its fluctuations. He will come to save thee when the precise moment has arrived.
Whatever His questions or His reticences, we may be absolutely sure of an unperplexed and undismayed Saviour.
O troubled soul, beneath the rod,
Thy Father speaks, be still, be still;
Learn to be silent unto God,
And let Him mould thee to His will.
O praying soul, be still, be still,
He cannot break His plighted Word;
Sink down into His blessed will,
And wait in patience on the Lord.
O waiting soul, be still, be strong,
And though He tarry, trust and wait;
Doubt not, He will not wait too long,
Fear not, He will not come too late.